How Many Hours Does Homeschooling Take?
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Today, I continue my interview with homeschool author and conference speaker Donna Conner. I’m so grateful to have had Donna share her experience and wisdom with me during the last few weeks. If you missed the first three parts, make sure to check them out:
- Is Homeschooling a Good Choice for Families with Only One Child?
- Socialization and Homeschooling an Only Child
- Challenges and Solutions for Homeschooling an Only Child
Homeschool Passion: In your book, Homeschooling Only One, you give guidelines for the number of hours parents can expect to homeschool depending on their child’s age (on p. 30). Can you talk about those guidelines? What are your recommendations, and how do they change as a child matures?
First off, the guidelines are just that—guidelines. They are not set in stone. They are an idea, something to start with, so as not to start with expectations of an 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. schedule. Each child will be different and might not be ready for as many hours as their age may indicate. Or they may need/want a bit more to explore the next chapter or the next problem. We do not want to ever squelch an interest or that love of learning. These guidelines will be/should be more of a jumping-off point. It should become instinctual for the parents. It’s not like we pull out a stopwatch and click when we begin to teach for the day, and then stop it after seven or eight hours. In fact, I hope no one does that!
Teaching your child should be an “all day” affair. They are learning all the time, no matter what a clock says. The hours I suggest won’t necessarily be consecutive. In fact, it might be better if they weren’t. However, you definitely want to break up the schooling over the course of the day, especially when they are younger. Remember, you are your child’s expert, and no one loves them and wants the best for them like you do. Your homeschool can look totally unique and different from that of other families.
That said, these are the guidelines I wrote in my book:
Ages General Idea of Homeschooling Hours
4-5 No more than 1 hour a day; 15 min. at a time, alt. fine motor skill & gross motor skill activities.
6-7 1 – 2 hours a day total; 15 – 20 min. same alternation as above.
8-10 2 to 3 hours a day total; 20 min at a time, same alternation as above.
11-13 3 to 4 hours a day total; 20-30 min at a time, same alternation as above.
14-18+ 4+ hours a day total; 30+ min at a time, same alternation as above if needed.
Again, these hours are only guidelines—but if you are concerned that it’s “not enough,” remember each child is different. You will probably have to adjust for your special, unique child. Perhaps fewer hours/minutes a day, or you may need to give the child what he wants and give him more time in the classes he’s devouring in delight. And it might not be a complete schedule change for every day, for the whole year. It could be a half hour less today and an hour more tomorrow, vice versa, or it might be fairly consistent, except for a few minutes here and there.
Also, having only one student takes nothing like the time that an institutional setting with 30+ children takes. Schools don’t have enough time to spend on each and every student. Teachers (most if not all) love teaching and love children. They do the very best they can. But the logistics just aren’t there for the teacher to spend more than a very few minutes of one-on-one time with each of their students.
Ages 4-7: They don’t need a whole lot of time. Each family does it differently, but you can do the first 15 min. in the morning, then 15 min. before/after or even during lunch. Another 15 min. in the afternoon and possibly that last 15 min. after dinner. In the in-between time, real life is happening—errands, chores, fixing meals, and such. Each class or subject, should be short and fun. When you finish the minutes you’ve allotted for each class, then that class/subject/book is closed until the next day. You do not have to finish every problem on a page. You really ought to try using a timer and shutting the book when it goes off.
Be creative in how you cover the subjects you want to teach. For example, you can talk about geography using educational placemats during meals. in the last couple of years of this age group, I gave my son control of when he would do which class. My only request was that he did math first or second, when he was fresher and (hopefully) less likely to dawdle in it.
Ages 8-10: Children are still in early elementary. The hours they need depend on the child, but the “school day” should be moving to a bit more time on each subject, preparing for more in-depth study that they will be getting as they move onwards towards high school material. Allowing your child to have some control in their schooling is a good step, if you haven’t already done that in the last age group. Deciding when they will do what class gives them ownership and something within their power for their own education. If they feel they don’t have any power, it’s possible that they feel out of control and have little interest in doing school. Even knowing how important the classes really are, we don’t want to push too hard and have their day too regimented. Proceeding gently yet with enough authority is helpful here. They haven’t quite proclaimed their independence yet. When I was educating my son at 10 years of age, I thought he’d never be independent of me. He needed me to sit right beside him. Didn’t need much input, but I couldn’t read or cross stitch—only sit. That’s what he needed, so that’s what I did.
Ages 11-13: This group is equivalent to middle school. A little more responsibility is given to this group. At this point, the work requires a bit more in-depth work or research. So although you are “doing” school with him for 3 or 4 hours in the day, he may see the need to work on some “homework” sometime before or after his “school day.” This is not for every class, of course, but you are introducing the idea that some work might need more time other than those 3-4 hours. (The extra work shouldn’t take more than an hour or an hour-and-a-half. This is, after all, introducing larger projects.)
You may find, sometime in this age group, your child may want to strike out on his own and take more control of his education. My son, Mike, at the age of 12, decided/discovered that he could be done with school by lunchtime, if he got up and got to his work, instead of waiting for slow-moving-in-the-morning mom. In a short 2 years, he went from needing my presence at every turn to needing very little input from me. It will happen to you at some juncture of your homeschooling journey. Be encouraged!
Ages 14-18: These are the years that a child does high school work in preparation for college or a job, hence more hours have been slowly integrated into his day (probably from the year he turns 12 or 13). Essays and research papers will probably need to be worked on during after-school hours. The 4+ hours are really more in the hands of your high schooler than they are in yours. You will, most likely, be giving assignments and correcting work. However, different styles of homeschooling may mean less “schoolishness” and the child might be working with you to divide the work he needs to do (e.g. how many pages need to be read in a day). Both of you can create a schedule of assignments for each day or each week, so that he has input and you know that there is a certain amount of accountability. They might possibly be correcting their own work. Remember, your homeschool is as unique as is your child. No two are going to look exactly alike.