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Updated: Apr 12, 2022

From the get-go, let me state very clearly I AM NOT ANTI-SCHOOL. I am not against teachers (who for the record I think do an amazing job!) Traditional school settings work perfectly for many kiddos and each family makes a conscious decision about the right style of education for themselves.

I am wanting to address the fact that over 12 years of home educating my 5 kiddos, one of the most common questions I get asked is about HOW MUCH TIME we spend learning at home doing 'book work' compared to the time that would be spent learning in the same way at school.

So let's have a chat about that. Our philosophy for homeschooling is that learning happens ALL THE TIME: 24/7/365 (ok minus sleeping time). We are eclectic home schoolers which means that we do a mix of natural and more structured-style learning.

We have rhythms for our day but the days themselves vary.

Some mornings my kids are up at 7am reading a favourite book, watching a documentary or writing a letter to a friend. Sometimes they sleep in and after waking, cook up a hot breakfast, do their chores tending to animals and other industrious responsibilities and on those days our 'book work' time might start a bit later. Sometimes we do 6 hours straight of more academic style activities like researching, reading, discussing, analysing information, summarising ideas, documenting, get the drift. Some days my kids write essays other days they build Minecraft worlds with ancient architectural structures. Sometimes we don't do any formal book work yet the learning still continues on. We garden and experience scientific notions without a text book in sight. We read an historical novel and learn about the struggles of our First Nations Peoples. We create artworks painting by the river whilst recalling Impressionist Monet's en plein air landscapes and talk in geographical terms about France being in Europe.

It's ALL learning. We have the opportunity to learn all year round.

If they are cooking and reading a recipe, they are learning about following sequential ordering. If they are walking around an art gallery, they are practicing important things like patience, observing and developing critical thinking skills. If they are working on a project they are passionate about, they are learning about what they love, about responding to their natural sense of curiosity, about self-regulation and engaging their senses.

And before anyone says that this style of learning won't set my kids up well for the future, I'll just say that all three of my older children are working in their chosen fields, are studying and are the youngest of workers in their workplaces. All of their bosses have commented to us about their levels of competency and engagement in their work. Perhaps they have become responsive in their work environments because they have had the freedom to learn in ways that have honoured their needs and personalities. I don't know. Maybe that's another post for another day ;)

Here's the thing.

Homeschoolers are often told they are not spending enough time on academic work compared to the 6 hours a day that a child in a traditional schooled setting is spending. They are questioned over the face to face hours of instruction at home compared to the face to face hours a child receives at school.

I'm going to pose to you that just like many homeschooled kids aren't doing structured bookwork style lessons each day, neither are traditionally schooled kids.

And I'm not saying this is a bad thing.

I'm saying you can't point the finger at home schoolers not doing enough face to face time without considering HOW much face to face time is actually spent during the school day in a traditional setting.

Let's break down the traditional school day. This doesn't take into account time spent in a day travelling to and from school.

Let's assume the average school day is 9am-3pm which is 6 hours.

Deduct 1 hour for lunch.

That leaves you with 5 hours.

Deduct 15 minutes for recess.

That leaves you with 4 hours and 45 mins.

Deduct 20 mins for settling in and calming down from schoolyard play time, for taking the roll or 'homeroom' time.

That leaves you with 4 hours and 25 mins.

Deduct 25 mins for a morning assembly (this happened daily when my daughter was in school).

That leaves you with 4 hours.

Deduct 1 hour for group activities or library, formal PE lessons, bush dance practice, computer time, etc.

That leaves you with 3 hours.

Deduct 5 mins for PA announcements and belling ringing time.

That leaves you with 2 hours and 55 mins.

Deduct 10 mins a day walking in between classes, transitions and lining up.

That leaves you with 2 hours and 45 mins.

Deduct 15 mins a day for a teacher having to deal with kids misbehaving, being rude, disrupting class etc.

That leaves you with 2 hours and 30 mins.

2.5 hours of face to face time for bookwork shared between a single teacher and their many students. Let's say there are 10 kids in a class. 150 minutes (2.5 hours) divided between those 10 children leaves 15 minutes of face-to-face time with each of those 10. And if there are more? You know that means less time.

Again, I'm NOT having a go at teachers (I'm in awe of my teacher friends!) I'm simply saying that home schooling 'time' should not be compared to 6 hours spent at school. Are kids still learning at school in their lunch breaks? Yes of course! Are they learning to wait patiently when the teacher has to tend to another student? Definitely.

I'm making the point that people assume that book-based, desk-based learning happens for SIX full hours a day at school and that home schoolers don't measure up to this. And that logic is flawed when you break down the actual time spent working face to face in structured style learning.

The two things I want to leave you with are:

  1. home schoolers - don't worry about trying to jam your days full of curriculum because you think your child is missing out compared to a child learning for 6 straight hours at school in a classroom. Don't compare. Do what you need to do for your child in your home.

  2. traditional schoolers - please stop comparing home schoolers' days with the notion that kids at school are sitting down for 6 hours of face to face time.

Once again. This is NOT a judgement post saying homeschooling is the one and only way of educating a child. If it reads that way to you I apologise and send you kindness. It's not intended to upset but to encourage and just provide food for thought.

Happy learning, Lusi x

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