Am I doing enough? That is the question I would ask myself and it’s the question many new and perspective home education parents worry about. They have experienced fighting with their kids to do school homework up to 3 hours a night and can’t imagine themselves fighting with their kids to do 6 hours of home-school work a day.
Like many unschooling parents, we started off doing “school-at-home.” We tried to replicate the classroom in our home. We wanted to be sure to follow the grade-by-grade curriculum so that if we quit this little experiment called home education, we could be sure the kids wouldn’t be “behind” if they went back to “real school.”
We partitioned out the year’s curriculum work and found that we could get the worksheets and assignments done in very little time. Of course, there were the days the kids refused to do the work and argued, dawdled, and cried. I was crying too, after moments of temper flare-ups threatening the kids with “I’m going to send you back to school and then the teacher can fight with you to get this done,” and of course, a lot of yelling thrown in. There were also good days that we did a science experiment, filled out the worksheet to cement their learnings, checked off the box on the school board outcome sheet, and two weeks later, the kids totally forgot the core concepts and the experiment. I was thinking…”what is the point if they forget it all? I’m wasting my time and energy teaching someone else’s agenda that they have no memory of because they are not interested in it.” We slid into unschooling.
Why on earth would the kids go to school for 6 hours a day and have 1-3 hours of homework every night, when we were done in 30 minutes in home education? Was I doing enough?
Yes, and you are doing enough too! Even if you don’t unschool and want to follow the government curriculum, Home Education generally takes about 1/10th of the time that kids spend in school. How much time should home education take? Kindergarten should be play and learning social skills, so that would take all day, because that is life. Grades 1-6 should take about 30 minutes of seat work a day, not including reading for fun or field trips. Grades 7-9 should take about an hour a day. Grades 10-12 for high school diploma credit, should take about 2 to 3 hours per day for 2 core subject courses and 2 option courses on a September to January and a February to June semester basis. And no homework! I’m basing this on my 5 kids who started home education in grade 1, and 2 and then slid to unschooling but by choice entered and exited the school system through online and classes at various times in their childhood. All 5 kids received honours marks in their self-designed high school credit programs.
Why does home education take so much less time? There are several reasons for this:
- There is no busy work in home education. Parents give their kids pre-tests and if the kids know the concepts, they skip the assignments and move on to the next concept they don’t know.
- Unlike teaching in a classroom, there is no government mandated amount of time that parents are forced to “instruct” their kids, so they don’t have to stretch out the “instructional time” so that it is justified by taxpayer funding. Home education parents do not require school for their childcare.
- Unlike teaching in a classroom, or online, you can use experiences to teach which include fun activities like board games, videos, discussions, projects and field trips which bring learning to life. Ditch the boring worksheets and plant a garden, or watch “Don’t Look Up!” and have a thoughtful discussion after. There are lots of ways to check off the boxes of learning.
- In home education, you can skip things that you consider irrelevant, such as requiring every child in grade 10 math to learn how to use a micrometer. You can skip really boring facts, skills and activities that won’t stick in your child’s brain, but that they can truly learn when they really need it and it brings meaning to them.
- There is an incredible amount of waiting time in and around school. Imagine the difference between throwing a dinner party at home for thirty people, and just having a quick supper with your child. The difference in time and energy spent is just like the difference between classroom/large group learning and home education. It takes much less time to move 1 child through the day’s activities then it would 30 children in a classroom. A person planning a dinner party for 30 people needs to plan the guest list, menu, decor, wine, table settings, serving pieces, and a seating plan. They need to invite, shop, store, cook, serve, and clean up. It involves a lot of work and preparation. Alternatively, a person eating alone or with a partner might slap together a sandwich and eat it over the sink or enjoy a quick bite at the table. Either way, everyone gets fed. That is what a home educator can do. Learning, just like eating, can be effectively done on a large or a small scale.
Why do school kids learning online have to spend so much time in front of the screen and in assignments? Because the school system is mandated and funded to provide 1000 hours of instruction during the approximately 200 school days between September and June. That means a lot of busy work and a lot of waiting around since the classroom kids are at all levels. This fulfills the instructional time requirement. In addition, online teachers can’t see how children are doing by visual assessment, so most of the assignments must be written and text-based for them to provide an evaluation of learning and prove that learning (and funded teaching) has taken place.
But you don’t have to do that at home when home educating. You can be efficient and provide a personal program for your child that takes more or much less time. You can enrich their learning with experiential activities. You can observe very closely their “AHA!” moments and you know exactly where your kids are at academically and socially by watching them. Yes, you are doing enough!