Thursday, May 24, 2018

How Long Does It Take to Homeschool?

Mention homeschooling and many people immediately picture a classroom at home with parents handing out assignments at a chalk board and their children working busily at a desk. The idea of keeping up this scenario all day, every day, seems very daunting. “HOW do you DO it?” these people admiringly ask.

The answer is simple: We don’t do it that way.

When you stop to think about it, many of the trappings of institutional schooling are simply there for crowd control. Desks keep children stationary in their places so the teacher can keep track of them. Chalk boards make it easy to instruct 40 people at one time. Requiring a student to raise his hand to talk is a way to keep a crowded classroom quiet.

So many of these trappings are completely non-essential time-wasters as far as education is concerned. Standing in line. Moving from classroom to classroom. Waiting for the bell to ring. Passing out papers to the whole class. Taking test after test, with the purpose of helping the teacher keep track of what each student actually learned. NONE of this is necessary in homeschooling.

There’s a difference between “schooling at home” and “home schooling.” There is no reason to bring school home. School is crowd control, dumbed down to the slowest person in the class. Home education, on the other hand, is a parent customizing the learning process to their child’s needs.
No child needs formal education for 8 straight hours a day! Even institutional schools aren’t actually giving 8 straight hours of education. For every 3 hours of actual instruction, they’re giving about 5 hours of crowd control, mindless crowd activities, and unnecessary tests.

How Does Homeschooling Work? - Elementary Level
A typical day of elementary education in our family was something like this. We got up, had breakfast and then spent an hour on chores - doing “home ec” by helping Mom make beds, clean the kitchen, and tidy the house. Then we had school time until lunch. If we needed to write things, we sat at the kitchen table. If we needed to read things, we sat on the couch, laid on the floor, sprawled in the grass outside or flopped on our beds. If we needed to interact with Mom on a subject, we sat together wherever was convenient. “Manipulatives” and science experiments were with simple things like blocks, beans, or other household supplies. Our curriculum was basic and inexpensive and Mom supplemented with her own little worksheets if we were confused or needed more practice. (Nowadays a homeschool mom can easily download free printables online.)

After lunch, we were on our own to use our creativity and energy in playing outside, doing crafts, reading fun books, or playing instruments. Though there were rules about good behavior, this time was largely unstructured. Yes, we sometimes got bored. But you never told Mom you were bored because she gave you chores! Instead, you used your brain to come up with something interesting to entertain yourself until supper. No electronics - we didn’t have a TV or VCR and computers were still in their infancy. After supper, we had read-aloud time with Mom or Dad and then went to bed.

How Does Homeschooling Work? - Junior-High School Level
When we hit our junior high and high school years, school time was longer as the workload was heavier. Academics time might last another hour or two after lunch. But often the time it took was up to us. I can remember days when I moaned and groaned over a math assignment or reading I didn’t want to do. I managed to drag the process out till nearly supper time. But that was my own fault. On days when I was motivated to finish on time so I could do my own projects, I was usually done by 1 or 2 pm.

Yes – even with a heavy course load of physics, calculus, biology, history, economics, literature, political science, and music. Mom worked out a doable plan where subjects we went through quickly were on the schedule once or twice a week, while subjects that took us longer were on the schedule every day, in small doses. This way we could finish all our books within the year.

Homeschooling Is Flexible 
Each homeschooling family can choose a schedule that works for them. Many homeschoolers keep their homeschool going year-round. This gives them the opportunity to take longer breaks at Christmas or other family holidays, while still finishing the necessary school work. Though we didn’t go year-round, our family always took a month off a Christmas, for instance, and used the time to focus on extra crafts, holiday baking, and making special gifts for people.

Homeschoolers have the advantage of being able to plan their field trips and vacations around times that work best for their family, instead of being tied to an institution’s schedule. For instance, we did a lot of our sight-seeing when public school was in session, thus cutting down on the crowds and sometimes saving money on admission prices too.

Homeschooling allows you to take time off for illness or work around family problems. It allows you to take two weeks off to go visit an ailing grandma or spend a few weeks on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Europe. You can homeschool on the road, at your doctor’s office, or even at your own office if your workplace allows children.

Homeschooling lets a parent slow down on a subject their child is struggling with, or speed up on a subject they have easily grasped. I remember every year Mom bought literature books from two curriculum providers because we were voracious readers and always managed to get through two year’s work in one year! Now math, on the other hand, was a subject we often spent doing through the summer even when other topics were done, because it just didn’t come as easily. Homeschooling gave us that flexibility. We learned our academics far more thoroughly this way, instead of being forced to go at a generic classroom pace.

How Much Time? What Works For You!
To answer the opening question, how long does it take to homeschool? It’s simple: It takes just as long as your family needs. You can customize it to fit into your lifestyle. Education is not limited to a classroom. In fact, a classroom often limits education!

So put away those out-dated paradigms of hours of classroom work. Take all the time you need for your children’s academics – and you will find that it needs far less than we’ve been led to believe!

Written by Heather Sheen
Originally published in the Times Examiner, Greenville, SC

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