When you homeschool, it’s easy to get obsessed with the word “normal.”
By its very nature, homeschooling is countercultural, so from the first day you start classes, you’re not normal, culturally speaking. Because you have no paradigm or standard from which to work, you can easily get into the habit of asking yourself,
“Am I doing this right?”
“Is this normal?”
“Should I be doing things a certain way?”
And you start looking around at the way other people do things, and while this isn’t a bad thing from a research standpoint, we rarely leave it at the research level. We compare Their kids with Our kids, Their curriculum choices with Our curriculum choices, Their schedule with Ours. Some people go out of their way to push themselves into other people’s faces, holding themselves, and their way of doing things, as the gold standard for everyone else.
Don’t fall into this trap.
If you want to figure out what your homeschooling day should look like, the first question to ask yourself is this,
“What does my non-homeschooling day look like? In other words, what does a typical day in our household look like?”
That’s a very good place to start.
We knew a family of six that did not begin functioning until 10 in the morning. That’s when everyone got up and started asking about breakfast. Another family — it woke up at 5:30 — looked down on the dirty half-dozen, subtly “encouraging” with Proverbs that referred to slothfulness and sleeping late. This same family shut down at 7 p.m.
Our lazy family, however, energetically read, ran, studied, wrote, played games, and just did general stuff until midnight, when they crashed. Every child had a certain amount of schoolwork to get through and they got through it, some of them finishing at 2 p.m. and others working until 7 or 8.
Aside from mis-quoted Bible verses, the major communication to this family was that their lifestyle was not normal, and that if their children did not learn to get up early like everybody else, they would not succeed in life.
“We developed this schedule because of my husband’s work hours,” the matriarch told me. “He worked the graveyard shift and slept late into the morning. We shifted our hours so that the kids got up later and stayed up later, and they were able to see him more.”
So, for this family, their weird schedule was normal. And apparently not all jobs require you to rise at 4:30 a.m.
So, how long of a day should your homeschooling day be?
Well, that’s customizable too, with designated study time being significantly shorter when you’re talking about young children, and progressing to longer — or more subject matter — when the kids get older. Keep in mind the length of a public school day — 7 hours — and deduct three hours for lunch, distractions, class changes, attendance, and all the time inhalers involved with moving teeming bodies of human beings from one room to the next.
That leaves you roughly four hours of highly concentrated time with which to work, again, taking into account the age of your child. We always looked at the big, yearly picture, asking ourselves — what do we want to accomplish this year with this child? and purchased the necessary books or resources to reach for that goal. We then loosely, and realistically, divided up each math book, science text, and volumes of literature over a period of 7-9 months to determine how much needed to be done each day to, hopefully, finish the book (do you remember, ever, finishing a text book in public school?)
And then we watched the kids. Were they mentally exhausted at the end of the day? Or were they bored because there wasn’t enough to do? Usually it’s something in between, and we adjusted the work load to something they could consistently, and with quality, finish in a 3-5 hour total time frame, taking into account a 9 – 15 year old student.
That worked for us, and it was fluid — because part of the benefits of homeschooling is that you are not obligated to adhere to a rigid code and schedule set up to keep large educational establishment smoothly running.
It’s Home. School. Both words matter.
When it comes to homeschooling, you probably can’t do wrong by relaxing, since
our default tendency is to get tight, really really tight. One of these areas we obsess about is writing, investing in all sorts of grammar sheets and essay workbooks and research projects, but it doesn’t have to be as difficult as we make it.
I taught my kids how to write — and write well — with the information I later put into my book, Grammar Despair: Quick, simple solutions to problems like “Do I say him and me or he and I?” This inexpensive, easy to read volume is used in college level writing courses — you know, the ones you’re training your kids to get through some day. At $8.99 paperback ($5.99 Kindle), it’ll be one of the least expensive resource materials you’ll buy this year.