Finding the Time to Homeschool

By , May 30, 2015

Even though Aly recently left college (see Aly Graduates!) I still think a lot about homeschooling, unschooling in particular. A while back I wrote a rather long piece about finding time to homeschool, a major concern for many parents considering taking a more active role in their child’s education. It offers a simple test to see how much time you really need to match most public education.

If you’re considering homeschooling your children, but worry about how to fit supervision into your schedule, try a simple experiment: Tell your child’s school that she will likely need to stay home from school for a month. Tell them this will happen in two weeks, and request a list of school work so that your child won’t fall behind during the absence.

Most schools will provide this information in short order. Once you receive it, look the work over, and generously estimate how much time it might take to complete. When you’ve arrived at a figure, ask the teachers for their best time estimate for the tasks.

What you learn by doing this will likely surprise you. Almost without fail, the time estimates will amount to very little—an hour per weekday at most, usually only two or three hours a week!

A major weakness of institutionalized learning is its need to accommodate so many students. The problem centers around two major issues, each directly affecting the other: different learning abilities, and discipline.

Each lesson must adapt to a variety of learning abilities to be effective, requiring extra time. Even in small classrooms the differing needs of individuals slows the learning process for the group. Learning can only proceed at the comprehension rate of the slowest learners.

As this happens, discipline becomes a factor. Notice that the biggest troublemakers in class are often the brightest students. They grasp the lessons so quickly, they become bored waiting for the class to catch up, so they act out to entertain themselves. Conversely, students who realize that they are not learning fast enough to keep up with the class are likely to create discipline problems to compensate. Whatever the source, the need to discipline further slows the learning process.

When a student learns individually, only one learning style need be considered. Even if multiple children homeschool, far fewer styles must be considered than in a classroom. Related students are also likely to have similar learning styles and needs. This makes homeschooling far less time-consuming than institutional learning.

Add the unavoidable fact that schools keep children safe and occupied (relatively) while working parents are away from home. A typical school day fills as much of the average work day as possible to accommodate society’s needs.

This, then, is the secret of homeschooling: a full day of classroom learning can be condensed into an hour or less! Most homeschoolers spend far less time completing curriculum than they would in school.

This is why so many homeschoolers go to college before they’re 18. They completed prep school in a fraction of the time it takes to accomplish within the school system.

Homeschooling works well with conflicting schedules because the process of taking responsibility for one’s own education is educational in itself. One of the most valuable skills any successful homeschooler will learn is how to develop the self-discipline to complete homeschool lessons, and the ability to schedule their own activities. Even the youngest homeschoolers can take important steps toward these skills from the very beginning. As they develop, the needs of the curriculum will have a diminishing effect on family work schedules.

The care with which you choose your homeschooling curriculum will help diminish or remove scheduling conflicts. If you plan to use a packaged curriculum, review the sample materials critically. Look for time-filling activities that may be designed not so much to educate, but to occupy students. These activities are less common in homeschool curricula, but they do exist. If you find a curriculum you particularly like, but see too many such activities, talk to the company. Find out how flexible they are, whether activities can be omitted without jeopardizing grades or other evaluation criteria. Many curriculum providers will work with you to ensure that their products suit your needs.

Human beings are self-educating creatures. We cannot stop learning! It is a natural, lifelong process. Properly nurtured and allowed freer reign, each child’s instinct to teach herself will lead to a far better education than is likely to be earned sitting in an overcrowded classroom, competing with other students who are so numbed by institutionalized learning that they can’t help but interfere with their peers’ efforts to better themselves.

The question becomes not “will homeschooling my child affect my work schedule,” but “does my child deserve anything less?”

2 Responses to “Finding the Time to Homeschool”

  1. joanna says:

    Hi Mark! I feel like I need to weigh-in here. From a teacher’s perspective, there is a LOT more that goes into a lesson than just the worksheet that can be sent home…a healthy classroom environment has students figuring things out, learning from each other, asking questions, experimenting. In my experience, it’s difficult to condense that into something to be sent home (and teachers are generally very busy, so another request can feel like a lot), so what IS sent home usually is, as you have observed, very simple and does not require a lot of time to complete. I am generally open to homeschooling, but think it’s important to consider if what schools send home is truly representational of the work that students would be missing while in school.

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Joanna, I absolutely agree with you.

    I hope readers will forgive, but for reasons that will shortly become clear, the majority of blog content lately has been, shall we say, out of context. If one explores our other posts on homeschooling, hopefully one gets the sense that while we homeschooled Aly, that in no way implies that we disparage the public school system or public school teachers in general terms. Michelle and I both come from multiple generations of educators, and have nothing but respect for our country’s teachers (okay, not nothing–a whole lot of sympathy, too!). We try to make clear that homeschooling, particularly unschooling, is NOT for everyone. Most parents, in our opinion, simply lack the ability to homeschool, and far too many people who fall into that category homeschool their children, to the serious detriment of society. We train and pay teachers to educate our children (often far too little of either). We need to trust them to do so in most cases.

    The thesis here is that for those who would homeschool, and might do so successfully, but hesitate due to time constraints ought to try my experiment. My best hope is that the experiment will fail–that in their local public school the issues I raise here do not apply. However, I suspect that in many districts, this will be right on.

    There is absolutely more to teaching than merely what is taught. I am the first to defend those dedicated teachers who nurture and inspire education in students. I would not be where I am today (i.e. a fair bit beyond what one might infer from this blog alone) if it weren’t for a long list of such teachers who, for my sake, either led, followed, or got out of the way.

    As the blog ages (what, 6 years now and counting?) context becomes an increasing concern. I forget that revisiting topics needs adequate links to older posts. If this post has a flip side, it must be Unschooling: Repaying a Debt of Gratitude. If anyone hasn’t read this set of essays, I humbly request that you do so now. You’ll get a sense of how we agree with Joanna, even though we chose a different educational path for our daughter.

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