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Homeschooling and Efficiency

Normally I post a baking recipe on Wednesdays, but today I wanted to address a question that came up in the comments on yesterday’s post.

Erika was the first one to ask, but lots of other people wondered the same thing. Here’s Erika’s question.

Just out of curiosity (I’m not familiar with how homeschooling works), but is it common for homeschooled children to only do schoolwork for 2 hours a day? I see on your schedule that school started at 9 and stopped at 11. I think my elementry school day (back in the day!) went from 9-3. Just curious, please don’t take this as any sort of criticism – clearly you are doing a great job raising your family!

Before I talk about homeschooling and efficiency, I want to say a few things.

-I really appreciate the spirit of this question.

Thanks for not assuming that I’m raising a crop of illiterate, uneducated people. 😉 All of you were very gracious in your questions about this topic yesterday (save one, whose comment I chose not to publish), and I am grateful for that.

I should also tell you that when we first started homeschooling our children, my husband (who went to public school) was a little bit nervous about how quickly we got our work done, so you are not alone in wondering about this! Of course, he’s come around now that he understands more about how homeschooling works and now that he’s seen how well it’s working for our kids.

I didn’t include every detail of our school day in yesterday’s post.

Just like I didn’t talk about everything that my husband did yesterday, I also didn’t talk about all the school work that got done…I just mentioned the work that I was involved with. Joshua and Lisey do the vast majority of their schoolwork independently. So, Joshua started his schoolwork before 9:00 that day…I just didn’t get around to starting with Sonia until 9:00.

The number of hours we spend doing school each day varies.

Some days we do more, some days we do less. Some days we are really efficient and focused and we get our work done fast. Other days, either the kids are I are more distracted, and we take longer to finish.

-As several other commenters pointed out, learning doesn’t only take place while we are doing formal schooling.

For example, Joshua and Lisey set their alarm last night to go off at 3:00 am because they wanted to watch the meteor shower. As another example, when we watch condensation form on our cups of water in warm weather, we talk about why that happens.

And often, when my kids ask me something I don’t know, we look up the answer. We listen to a variety of music at breakfast and lunch, and we talk about the music and the composer, often looking on the globe to find out where the composer lived and worked.

Also, we read books (fiction and non-fiction) from the library in our free time, and I think that reading good books is one of the best and most enjoyable ways to learn.

These are just a few examples of the way that learning spills over into our “non-school” hours.

Ok! Now, to answer your question, yes, it is very common for homeschoolers to spend significantly less time doing formal schoolwork than their counterparts at traditional school. The reason for this is that homeschooling is very time-efficient.

There are a number of reasons for this. First, doing anything with one child is simpler than doing it with 15-20 (or even doing it with 10!). It takes time to get a group of children to even sit down altogether, let alone to get them busy doing work. This is not to besmirch the skills of school teachers, as I know I wouldn’t be half as efficient if I had to walk 10 children through a year of school.

Secondly, a child working by himself can move at exactly his own pace. This means that if Joshua comes across a concept in a subject that he grasps easily, he can finish his assignment quickly and move on to the next subject. In a traditional school setting, a child that finishes an assignment early still has to wait for the period to be over or for the rest of the class to be done.

Incidentally, I think that being able to finish early by working efficiently is a wonderful benefit to a child. I know that when I was being homeschooler, it was very motivating to know that if I buckled down and got my work done, I would have more free time to play.

Thirdly, homeschoolers can get all their academics done back-to-back. As I mentioned above, my children can go straight from subject to subject, which saves them a lot of time. They also are able to avoid some of the not-so-educational things that eat up time in a traditional school. In most schools, children don’t actually spend every minute from 9:00-3:00 doing schoolwork, so it’s not quite fair to compare a 6-hour day at school to our days at home.

At school, there are lunch breaks and recesses and gym class and bus time and time spent moving between classes. My children don’t have to travel at all, of course (unless you count walking from the breakfast table to a desk!), and they can do most of their work in one place. We do have lunch (if you count that, my children were “doing school” for more than two hours in yesterday’s post) and of course my children run around outside to play, but these things are usually done after we are all done with our formal schooling.

I hope that answers the questions you all had about this topic, but if you’re still left wondering something, do feel free to leave a comment, and I’ll try to clear up any confusion.

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Lindsey M.

Tuesday 14th of October 2014

Thank you so much for this posting about homeschool. I have been homeschooling my now 6th grader on and off since 2010. This is because my husband lives in Ecuador and cannot immigrate at this time to the U.S. due to the way the law is written. Anyway, my son loves going to school so when we are in the U.S. I always enroll him in the same school he has always gone to but when we are abroad, as we are now, I homeschool him. I have always just tried to go from the curriculum that his school district has for what ever grade applies at the time. He is often done with his work in just a couple of hours and when I review with him he has retained the information, but your post make me feel better that the time he takes to complete his work is normal and he is not just rushing through to get done. Thanks again!


Friday 10th of October 2014

I admire your home schooling sooo much! If I could change ONE THING about how I raised our son, it's that I would have totally kept him out of the school system.

AS you point out, learning does not take place mostly in a chair at a desk.Kids learn MORE about MANY REAL THINGS, from life itself and parental guidance!

Baking= learning how to measure, how chemistry works , nutrition, ALL AT ONCE!

Building a cabinet in the garage:Measuring, planning, wood, tree history, social time with one's mentor ,socializing (Dad, Mom, a neighbor who knows woodworking..)

NATURE: For instance, a nice morning hike= PRICE LESS in the learning and also the lift of SPIRIT that goes with being able to be out on a trail on a quiet Monday morning..

I could go on and on but I am preaching to the choir!!

Schools provide distractions,very bad foods in their cafeterias! unsavory influences at times (both through students AND teacher who may not be very nice!!) I had to role play how to avoid drugs, how to deal with bullies, how to figure our algebra with a teacher who was sub par,etc.. it took SO MUCH AWAY from true learning..

Hurray for you! Your children are lucky!!!!

Annette Pruefer

Friday 10th of October 2014

Hello, in my country, we do not have homeschooling, so this has always been fascinating to me. I wonder, you do look over your childrens work, when they are finished and - so I read it - discuss it with them, answer questions and whatever comes up. Do you give your children the topics they are to do (I mean the two older kids/teens) on the end of schooltime or in the morning? Some you will, like repeating topics, that proved difficult, but in general? Do you say: tomorrow you look into Algorithms for math, photosynthesis for science, tenses for Grammar? Or do you tell them in the morning, before they start? Your post, by the way, was the best explanation of how a homeschoolday would/could work I have found so far. And I do agree with you, the actual learning time per individual kid varies. It even varies from topic to topic. For instance: I was quick with history, german, english, french, religion, but slow with maths, geography, science (biology, chemisty, physics). Oh, another question, do you do history? And is it world history or "just" American history? Thanks a lot!


Wednesday 29th of May 2013

This is an older post but I was re reading some, of them and this is one of my favorites.I think home schooling is just the most exciting and fruitful thing a family can do together! I did not home school my son.He's all grown up now.. I really wish I had.. YOUR DAY with your children and they multiple ways they get to learn is just so much more awesome than a classroom, hard chairs, programmed recess, bus time,etc. and all that distraction!!!!!!!

I hope more families decide to live frugally, in a manner that allows them to home school.. and be home during their kids formative years. I was a SAHM and wow..would never have given that up for ALL the money in the world!!!!!

You are awesome!!


Monday 7th of January 2013

I'm so glad I came across this.. You have really helped with my Descision to home school my son Joshua, he is 12 and really doesn't like the school environment he never has (the complete opposite to his sister) he has Health problems so misses a lot of school I've been pondering the idea for about 6 months wondering if I could do it if he would grow up happy which is what I'm most worried about. After reading your blogs I've decided well 99% sure I want to give this a go I am 100% committed to making it work and so is josh I just hope I'm doing the right thing for him:-/ it's an exciting thought though:)

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