How Long Does Homeschooling Take?

Have you ever noticed that when you wake up late and you have to be somewhere in an hour, you magically get ready twice as fast as usual?  Or that if you usually do a task in two hours but one day you have four hours in your schedule, the same task oddly takes twice as long?

I can’t speak for everyone, but in my experience a lot of activities fit this model: things generally take as much time as you give them.

One area where I see this most acutely is in homeschooling.  When I have to go to a meeting or we have an appointment at 10am, we can get the core of our school work done in a flash, but on days when I’m home from dawn to dusk, we often wind up finishing the last subject right before bedtime.

For the most part, I think that’s OK.  It’s nice to know that when push comes to shove, we can get a rigorous education under our belts in a few hours a day.  And even on days when  we have lots of time, I find that it helps to do school in blocks.

To that end, I separate our school work into three tiers: core work, which, if we don’t do it, means I don’t count it as a school day, priority read-alouds, and other reading and activities.  If we’re in a hurry, I know that core work and priority read-alouds will take about 2-2.5 hours and we can put off the other reading and activities until later in the day.    If we’re really busy, it doesn’t frustrate me if the “other” tier only happens two or three times a week.  Or, we might pick and choose from items in the other category.  For us, for now, this means of balancing structure and flexibility is working out.  In case it helps spark ideas or answer questions, I’m including a more detailed description below.

Core Subjects:

I don’t count a day as a school day unless we do math, reading, and grammar.  While we definitely have days when the kids are lollygagging and being difficult, on days when we have to get done, they rarely act that way.  I think it helps them to have a goal as much as it helps me.  In a pinch, we can get through core subjects in a little over an hour.

Reading: Hannah reads a chapter or two aloud from whatever book she’s working on (15 minutes) and Jack does a lesson from The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading
(15 minutes).

Math: Hannah does a lesson from Saxon Math 2; Jack does a lesson from Saxon Math 1
(20 minutes).

Grammar: Hannah just moved into First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind
which includes grammar, poetry memorization, copy work, and narration (however many lessons we can get through in 15 minutes) and Jack is working through Explode the Code 3(10 minutes).  Hannah also works on her Spelling Plus
list and dictation (15 minutes).

Logistics: I find it’s easiest to enforce diligence by having a set order of events.  I’ve experimented with letting the kids pick which subject to do next and it didn’t work for us, although it might for others.

First, Hannah does her spelling page independently while I work with Jack on math and Sarah works on tracing her name.  Then I read Hannah’s dictation sentences to her as I can while Jack is working on math.

Next, Hannah does her math independently (I explain it to her first, but she’s really quick and generally just reads it herself) while I do Jack’s reading lesson and Sarah colors or plays with pattern blocks or otherwise amuses herself quietly.  If Jack finishes reading before Hannah finishes math, I get him set up with his Explode the Code page, which he works on independently.

Then Hannah reads a chapter or two of her book aloud to me (I think reading aloud is an important skill) while Jack finishes Explode the Code.

Finally, we do a couple of lessons of First Language Lessons together.  This all takes a little over an hour on a good day, assuming no one has a tantrum or an attitude problem.  🙂

Priority Read-alouds:

Core read-alouds vary, but currently include Bible, history, science (Apologia Astronomy), poetry, an Aesop fable, a nature study book, a tall tale or nursery tale, a section from a book about orchestras, a review lesson from Prima Latina, and some pages from a Mother Goose book.  Depending on how everyone is doing and how much time we have, we might narrate some or all of these selections, or I might ask questions for them to answer orally (45 minutes).

Other Subjects/More In-Depth

On days when we need to get out the door, we put off the other school work for later in the day.  Sometimes that means we read for an hour before bed, but that works out fine.  In fact, lots of days when we did the other subjects right after the core subjects in the morning, we read for an hour before bed anyway!  If we’re not in a rush, we may take longer on our core subjects, playing math games in addition to lessons, reading longer selections from our core books, and so on.  The time we spend on this category really varies widely from day to day.  Some days lend themselves to hours spent reading on the couch together, and some days the kids want to be outside for hours so we read a bit during lunch and before bed.  This is a flexible section.

History and Geography: In addition to our core read-alouds, we also read other history books, about different countries or cultures, and a chapter out of Our Island Story, which is a great history of England.  The kids listen to a Story of the World CD before bed and during afternoon quiet time and whenever they are just playing around in their rooms.  We sometimes listen to Classical Conversations history songs and do map work including states and capitals, tracing the US map, and so forth.

Science: We read a chapter out of a nature study book like the The Burgess Bird Book
or The Burgess Flower Book.  If I’m feeling really ambitious, we might do a  science project out of one of the myriad experiments for kids books I have around.  We might also read a book from our preschool science favorites.

Latin: We might do a little more with Prima Latina, listen to Song School Latin, or sing John 1 in Latin (our Classical Conversations Latin for this semester).

Literature: We read a page or two of whatever Shakespeare story we’re working on out of a children’s anthology (Lambor Nesbit – both free on Kindle) – right now it’s Two Gentlemen of Verona.  We also read from whatever chapter books we have going, some fairy tales, poetry, and things like that.

Music and Art: We are enjoying Opera 101, which is not a kids book but it’s interesting, and we listen to classical music.  Hannah practices piano every day.  We read books about artists and attempt picture study.  Although I’m not a crafty mom, the kids do a lot of drawing with markers lately and sometimes we get out the paints and whatnot.

Preschool: Sarah is only three and it would be a shame to cut her out of all the great reading we did when Hannah and Jack were little, so I try to read 10 or so preschool books from the great collection we amassed over the years.  These include classics from the Sonlight and Ambleside lists, as well as other classics and interesting books organized by topics.  Sarah is also working on writing her name and has learned the sounds the letters make, so she gets a reading/phonics lesson a couple of days a week to reinforce the letter sounds.

If you homeschool, do you separate work into blocks/categories, or do you do everything at once?  How do you balance structure and flexibility?


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.  Also, please know that I do not post things like this to imply that I have things all figured out.  I don’t – and chances are our days will look nothing like this in another couple of weeks because we keep adapting to new circumstances and stages.  I post about homeschooling because I find it helpful to read similar things from other bloggers, and because above all this blog is for my memories and I like to have snapshots of how things are.

12 thoughts on “How Long Does Homeschooling Take?

  1. Funny . . . I was just coming to your blog today to read through your homeschooling posts. I wanted to cross-check with what you’re doing . . . I’m gearing up to officially start AO Year 1 this coming fall and have been wondering how to re-organize our day with a more scheduled routine (with what will be an almost-2 year old). Zoinks. It should be interesting.

    One thing I’ve been pondering is using SOTW as the history spine vs. Our Island Story. It makes sense to me to cover the entire world’s history vs. the history of Great Britain alone. You have researched this longer than I have . . . any clues as to why AO suggests Our Island Story as the core history spine? I don’t get it. Would you suggest using it as scheduled (because it does seem interesting . . . I got it from the library), but broadening the scope of world history with SOTW? I’m curious to hear your thoughts, as you’ve been on track for a few years now.

    1. We did both. I think SOTW is an excellent spine, but Our Island Story is SO great and has very short, manageable, “living story” chapters with lots of great adventure and detail. I think the drawback to AO year 1 is that it’s not totally chronological, and they don’t use every chapter in Our Island Story. So we’re still reading it and loving it. I would say, do both!

  2. I loved reading this post. We are also gearing up to officially start homeschooling M this fall (and X will tag along, at age 4). I am looking into SL as our core but am not sure what extras to get to round things out. After all, SL’s complete curriculum comes with science but we never did science for K and we turned out fine. 😉 I love reading what other people are using – it gives me a reference point for my own children and the level they are at. We love “Explode the Code” here, too. I started M on it but she was so far past them when I started that we never finished (she took off reading on her own), so I will use them for my son.

    1. If you’re using SL’s K core doesn’t it come with the science read alouds like How Small is a Pygmy Shrew or is that PK 4/5? We love the read alouds from their list.

      I don’t think Explode The Code is a great way to teach reading, because for most kids the ability to read comes way before the ability to write. Hannah stopped ETC because she got bored of it. I’m using it with Jack as phonics reinforcement and because he still has a long way to go with his handwriting and it’s a good daily practice. He reads way past the level in ETC, but the fact that the reading is easy for him helps him feel more motivated to do the writing practice.

      1. I am actually ordering Core B which is a first grade core. The SL cores do not come with science but the curriculum package does (as well as math and a few other resources). This is fine with me because I wanted to choose some different things anyway, and not be bound to using all their materials. I think we’ll just do some simple experiments and nature study once or twice a week to fill in.

        1. If you have space for nature study read alouds we have really liked the Burgess Bird Book and Burgess Flower Book (there is a Burgess Animal Book too) – they are short story type chapter books that introduce details about different animals and plants. I learned a lot and the kids stayed interested as well. Now they are always trying to figure out which birds are which!

  3. Mine are not in school officially yet. My oldest is four, but I still have certain things that I consider “core.” For us right now it is working on reading (very brief) with my son and then reading aloud about 8-10 books. We also have on chapter book read aloud.

    Thanks for the peak into your homeschool life! I always love great inspiration.

  4. Since we do the CM schooling, we keep our lessons short and mix up the order regularly. Some days we start with math and then go to reading then handwriting then history then piano then nature study, we keep them short and finish by lunch most days. We do composer study and art study’s on one day but talk about them during the week and they are out and displayed.
    We were going to follow AO but we chose HUFI instead because of the way they did the history and how it paired with CC for us. However, we added The Island Story this year because HUFI uses it later and I really liked it.
    We just switched from Sonlight to HUFI so we are still finishing up Sonlight’s book list as extra read alouds. I’ll probably still use their lists to add certain books as Sonlight and Beautiful Feet have such great literature picks.
    Thanks for sharing your day.

    1. What is HUFI? We did AO Year 1 and part of Year 2 this year, but next year we are going to use Tapestry of Grace because it ties in nicely with cycle 1.

      As far as CM lessons: we do keep lessons short but I try to vary the type of thought or activity called for rather than varying the order. My kids respond well to knowing what comes next, but I do think CM made a strong point about not overtaxing small kids with too much of the same thing at once. I have read the first two volumes of her writings, but i can’t remember if she said her schools varied order or just type of work.

      1. I’ve got to learn to check the box about replies so…months later I saw this.
        HUFI (Higher Up and Further In) is a break off of AO. Very similar to and inspired by AO but with American History emphasis in the beginning rather than English history. We are loving it btw. We use AOs artist study rotation and will use AO composer study rotation after this year (this year our 3 terms are orchestra, ballet, and opera as a whole, next year we’ll begin actual composer studies). We are making a MY AMERICA book with the American history and i love it. The World History is pairing well with CC too, which is nice. I have read several of CM original work and yes, they went to school 6 days a week and they did change the order of the lessons to keep things mixed up with passive learning followed by active and so on. So we try to do that as best as possible and that works well. And living books are so great, I just love them. I was using CM Geography book but had the chance to review A Child’s Geography and love it, so we switched.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

CommentLuv badge

A Spirited Mind HomeAboutReadingWritingParenting

Thank you for joining the conversation at A Spirited Mind! Please keep your comments kind and friendly, even if you're disagreeing with me or another commenter. Comments that use inappropriate language, or that are cruel, threatening, or violent will be deleted. I'm sure you understand!