How many, how often and when? These are some oft-repeated questions when it comes to homeschooling hours. Flexibility is of course one of the key underlying principles behind homeschooling.
This flexibility applies not only to the curriculum but also to the number of hours. It is only natural that parents, especially if they have just started out on homeschooling should feel that their children should be at their books all the time when regular school-goers are at school. This is not only fallacious but can also be damaging and counter-productive.
One of the most ignored but glaring drawbacks of the public schooling system is the sheer waste of time and energy that it causes. Many periods are simply wasted away and the child effectively derives only 1-3 hours of study everyday. Then, there are days when the studies become too intensive and other days when it’s only games and no work at all. There is a lot of ‘invisible wastage’ involved here.
Early on in your homeschooling practice, work out a schedule. It is advisable to stick to the same hours everyday. A routine makes it easier to learn and gives structure to the learning experience.
It also tells the students that parents are strict about their learning. A routine also allows your child to free his mind from other activities and concentrate on studies. He knows that a particular time is strictly set aside for learning.
The actual number of hours that you need depends on the curriculum you have chosen and the learning style that suits your child. If you are dealing with a subject that seems to be more complex, you may need to sit with the child for a longer period. Using various techniques, it may be necessary to demonstrate what you are trying to teach. For instance, a lesson in Algebra may take more time than a lesson in English.
Homeschooling does not refer to the practice of sitting in front of the books and learning the printed matter. Field trips, watching documentaries, visiting factories and libraries also make up an important slice of the homeschooling process. It makes sense to intersperse these activities so that learning becomes fun. You may want to finish off the few hours of textbook learning in the morning and dedicate the afternoons to these kinds of activities.
Given the fact that too many public school hours are wasted in meaningless activities ranging from talking to extra-curricular activities, do not allow public school hours to dictate the time you should spend teaching your child at home. Remember that at home, he is getting a high-quality one-to-one time that is highly productive. About 1-3 hours of study is enough in the primary level. It is of course true that the more number of hours you put in, the more learning takes place. This is also the reason why homeschooling children are much smarter and more balanced than
regular school going children.
The School Year
Now that you have begun your homeschooling schedule, there are various questions that trouble you. Should you study continuously,take a number of short breaks or a long vacation? What about public holidays? When should you take a break?
The answer to these questions and many more like these are actually quite simple: Do whatever suits you best. This is one of the appealing benefits of homeschooling. You do not have a set pattern to follow. You do not HAVE to take that autumn break, or close shop for a prolonged summer vacation. Flexibility is the key here. For some practiced unschoolers, even a definite curriculum is not necessary because lessons are a part of their day- to-day life. But this may not be the case with beginners. Beginners may need to chart out their activities to fall into a pattern.
Before you plan the structure of your classes, consider some of the most important issues. What method of homeschooling will you be following, what is your teaching style and your child’s learning style, what are the work and play schedules, what are your vacation plans. Some families plan small 1-week vacations at different times of the year. Other families prefer to go away for a month or more. Consult with the members of your family, and chart out a holiday schedule that most suits you.
There are some positive benefits in following the traditional summer vacation schedule. Firstly, your children can benefit from the various summer activities, camps and classes. Your child’s schedule will coincide with that of his school-going friends. A summer job may be possible. A longish summer break also means that both parents as well as children get a break from their daily lessons. This could also be a major drawback, as it is sometimes difficult to get back on track once the classes resume.
On the other hand, there are some advantages to taking numerous small breaks in the course of a year. Firstly, children do not get bored since they get time to explore other interests. You can cover more topics in the extra time that you save. You can also take family trips and vacations during the less popular periods of travel. This means lesser crowd and better prices. But beware if your child becomes restless when other children are enjoying their long summer vacations.
As far as homeschooling is concerned, you and your family are the people in charge. Taking care of the individual needs of the child is the primary focus of this system. So, tailor the school year to suit your child’s needs. Periodic evaluation is a must. Set some realistic goals and see if you are able to achieve these goals. Most importantly, avoid burnout – both in yourself and your children.