How long should homeschooling take each day?
This is one of the most common questions I get asked, and the question I asked most often when we were getting started ourselves. I wanted to be able to picture our days, map them out, so I could know what to expect. Over the past four years, though, I’ve come to understand veteran homeschoolers struggle with answering this. For us, the answer can be as short as an hour to as long as all day long. After all, we are always learning, aren’t we? But to try and make it a little less abstract, let’s dig into this question!
When I first considered homeschooling, I figured our days would mimic school. Rookie mistake #1. I knew we’d do school Monday-Friday, beginning early in the morning and continuing until we got through mid-afternoon. But as I got into it, I relaxed my strict expectations and began to embrace the flow of our days, both in schedule and in scope of subjects. I understood that some days we’d read books most of the day, while others we’d do double math because we got in a groove, and other days watching Shark Week would count as science. The ebb and flow works for us and ensures the kids are consistently learning and stretching their minds without feeling beholden to a strict schedule.
How long do you do school for each day?
My initial answer isn’t really an answer because the way we approach homeschooling now is that we are doing it all the time. We are lifeschooling. We learn by what we listen to in the car. We solve math problems while grocery shopping. We talk about chemical reactions while we bake cookies.
Yes, we have formal curriculum (check out our first grade and third grade picks here), but honestly we do those mostly for my own peace of mind. It’s so clear to me that the learning that actually sticks in their brains takes place during everyday life, out of necessity. Want to know what time your friend is coming over? Better learn how that clock works. Want to buy new art supplies? We should probably learn how money works. Want to write a letter to your friend that she can actually read? Handwriting and spelling become pretty important!
However, I imagine this question is directed towards the formal learning. So let’s chat about that.
Typically, a good rule of thumb is that formal seat work should amount to +20 min per grade level. Formal seat work is the work that is done in a workbook, textbook, or on computer, that requires a child to sit still and read, write, focus, and solve problems.
You can start with 20 minutes of formal work in preschool — of course formal preschool work might look like 5 minutes spent on coloring, 5 minutes spent reading a story, 5 minutes spent tracing numbers and letters, and 5 minutes of counting objects or another math game. And all those activities don’t have to happen all in a row, back-to-back. In fact, it’s best to space them out a bit.
Using this rule of thumb, by the time you get to 4th grade, a child will probably have approximately 2 hours of formal work to do. A middle schooler could have around 3 hours, and high school could take between 4-6 hours. But of course, every child and family is different, so your unique experience will vary. In my experience, each day varies a bit, too. We might be rolling with writing one day and go a little lighter on the subject the next day.
Our day looks like this (in an ideal world):
- 8:00– Wake up (breakfast, dressed)
- 9:00 – 12:00– morning block (math, outdoors, body movement, chore charts, language arts)
- 12:30– Lunch and read aloud
- 1:00 – 2:00– afternoon block (science, Tea Time, geography/history, art, etc).
- 2:30– The kids are encouraged to learn, explore, and do things on their own. We sometimes have activities in the afternoon so it’s usually free play until we leave for those. Free play for them lately has been a lot of Barbies, playing detectives and solving mysteries, drawing and coloring, and fort building.
So how long should homeschooling take each day? The beautiful thing is that we’ve gotten to the place where it’s really hard to separate school from life. Does bedtime reading count as read aloud time? Absolutely. But what about counting their piggy bank money and finding out how much more they need to save before they can buy the Barbie dreamhouse? Does that count as math? Again, absolutely in my mind. What about writing, addressing, and mailing letters to their cousins? Is that language arts? For sure.
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