Don’t doubt yourself. You are doing an AWESOME job!
When someone first envisions homeschooling, the first thought is often a family replicating the classroom environment at home. Lesson start promptly at 8:30 am. Children work studiously in desks in a “school room” set up in their house. The family takes a lunch break at noon and then lessons continue until 2:30 pm. However, this image doesn’t resemble the majority of homeschooling families.
First of all, there are so many different types of homeschoolers…. Traditional, classical, unschoolers, Charlotte Mason, Reggio Emilia ……. In addition, many homeschooling families believe in incorporating some structured homeschooling activities into every single day of the year. Yes, weekends, vacations and summers. But wait – when I say “homeschooling activities” it doesn’t equate to a textbook or workbook. Homeschooling activities are often natural learning. Visiting museums. Nature walks. Playing educational games. Reading books. Visiting other countries.
Incorporate Fully Into Your Life
Homeschoolers are often asked how they have time to do everything. If you incorporate homeschooling fully into your life – it is simple!
But before we discuss this, let’s compare the amount of structured learning that happens in a brick and mortar school. Now – if I reflect back to ummm (yes, I am dating myself) … 1988 – when I first set foot in a public school as a teacher….. I saw just how much time was not used in a productive manner.
Doing The Math At School: It All Adds Up
Most public schools have 180 days a year. Typically, at least two of these days are half days. This reduces us to 179 days. Then, there is standardized testing. The average amount of days for standardized testing per student is five. Our total is down to 174 days.
Based on my own personal experience attending school and teaching at a public school, I would also subtract the first day of school, two days before winter break, the day before spring break and the entire last week of school as those days are usually spent watching movies, having class parties and managing a large group of children who are some combination of giddy, exhausted and simply had too much sugar. We are now at 163 days.
Let’s look at these 163 days on a daily level. Typically, elementary schools begin at 8:00 am and end at 3:00 pm. That is a seven-hour day. Students get 30 minutes for lunch and typically two 15-minute recesses. This is now six hours a day. Out of the six hours a day, there is at least 15 minutes in the morning as students arrive and 15 minutes in the afternoon that students are organizing, getting settled etc. We are now down to five and a half hours.
Everyday elementary students have “specials” (art, music, library, physical education, computer lab etc.). These classes are typically 50 minutes long. In addition, there is the transition time of going to these classes (walking in the halls) both ways. Homeschooler do these activities as part of their daily life – so we do not need to count this in “academic instruction” time. Let’s subtract an hour. Now, we are at four and a half hours.
Four and a half hours for reading, writing, math, science and social studies. We all know that in-between lessons – there is at least five minutes of wasted time.
We are down to FOUR HOURS. Four hours x 163 days of school. To sum up calculations so far, kids in the local public school are spending approximately 652 hours in some sort of formal instruction. Wait – we forgot about school picture day, Halloween parties, Valentine parties, Winter Holiday Concerts, Special Events, assemblies for fundraisers (we know you love those!) pizza parties for good behavior, classmate’s birthday celebrations (even if only singing to the birthday party) etc. I think it is fair to say that we can average at least one hour a week on these “incidental” moments. There are 36 school weeks in a year (four quarters of nine weeks each). This means we need to subtract another 36 hours from our 652. This leaves us at 616 hours of instruction (if not less). Yes, the average elementary student is engaged approximately 616 hours a school year.
Efficiency Begins At Home… School
Now, let’s look at homeschoolers. Typically, home education is relaxed. There is no stressful week to recover from. You can run errands, do appointments, participate in sports, art, library etc during the week. However, yes, even homeschooling families need a little break sometimes. Let’s pretend you take one month off each year without any formal lessons, coops, extra-curricular enrichment etc. 365 days minus 30 days leaves us with 335. If you do some sort of education on these 335 days a year – working with the 616 hours of time that a student attending school is doing…. That is just under two hours of homeschooling a day! TWO HOURS. Do you realize that to replicate the number of hours done in public school – you need to work less than two hours – 335 days a year.
And… homeschooling is more efficient. Instruction that happens with your child is not geared to the “average” student. It is geared to where they are, and they are allowed to move at their own pace. You do not have to wait for the five students who need further explanation or if your child needs additional time – you have the freedom to give it. Homeschooling allows you to target learning to YOUR child’s abilities, which makes learning much more effective.
The Enrichment Factor
Additionally, I would like to put a final thought in your head. Most homeschoolers have their children engaged in enrichment classes throughout the year. Writing. Tech Camps. Language Programs. Enrichment Gifted Programs. Enrichment College Programs. Reading/Book Clubs. Sports Programs. Music and/or Art Enrichment.
I am going to share with you personally …. My daughter spent more time AWAY from home during the summers taking advantage of every low cost (and many were free because of scholarships) program we could find. Concordia Language Villages. Brown University STEM. Naval Academy STEM. THINK at Univ of Nevada. JHU – CTY. Davidson Institute. Then, there was soccer camp and Summer in the Arts. My daughter’s feet didn’t touch the ground during the summer. SHE wanted to take advantage of it all. And most of these programs LOVE homeschoolers because they are fully engaged in what they choose to do. If you add up the hours during the summer of learning – activities – enrichment – she hit at least half of the 616 hours during summer alone! Seriously.
The next time you are worried if your child will not get “enough” if you homeschool them. Look at the cold hard numbers. Homeschoolers do more – hour by hour – than any child in school. In addition, the material that homeschoolers do are geared for their level vs. the “average student” – therefore – homeschoolers are using their time effectively.
I strongly encourage everyone to create a poster that says 2 HOURS A DAY. If you prefer to look at it without including summers and “time off” – your poster should say 616 HOURS. Every time you doubt yourself…. take a look at it! You are doing an AWESOME job!
Eva Goldstein-Meola is not only co-founder of Open Tent Academy, but an instructor as well as a former homeschooling mother. She has lived in New Jersey, Florida, Western Massachusetts, Northern Virginia and now resides just outside of Jerusalem. Eva holds a Master’s Degree as a Consulting Teacher of Reading and Writing, IEW certification and a Bachelor’s Degree as an Elementary Teacher. She has also been involved in education since 1986 as a Private Tutor, Teacher, Reading Specialist, Homeschooling Mother, Homeschooling Teacher and Business Owner of an Online Education Consortium.
In addition to teaching, Eva enjoys cooking, baking, playing Settlers of Catan, traveling with her husband Jonathan, Broadway Musicals and reading. Eva teaches a variety of literature and IEW writing courses for Open Tent Academy.