How Long is Your Homeschool Day?

Planning your homeschool day. Tips for keeping your sanity while remaining productive.

Days can quickly become long if there are too many activities and materials to get through. For this reason, keeping your school day limited to four hours or less is ideal. The four hours should include any activities where the child is actively engaged and must focus on completing a task. Text and workbook work, lectures, and direct instruction are best reserved for this four hour work period. Children who still are not able to work independently can reasonably finish their academic day within four hours. A rule of thumb is, the younger the student, the shorter the day.

Children who are able to work independently may not take four hours to complete their studies, but they are able to exceed the 4 hour frame if desired or necessary.

Independent workers are defined as students who are self-directed and not dependent on guidance by the primary educator.

The average adult has an attention span of about 10 minutes. Great presenters and trainers know that a shift or change in content must occur about every 10 minutes to recapture and hold a mature audience’s attention. What about children?

It can reasonably be concluded that the younger a person, the shorter the attention span. So essentially, you have just a few minutes before your child checks out. Less if what you are wanting him to do is boring.

How Do You Know You Have Lost Them?

  1. Restlessness

  2. Passive resistance

  3. Half-hearted effort

  4. Easily distracted, unable to focus

  5. They tell you directly, or act out

The behaviors listed could easily be mistakenly labeled as ADHD, when really it is a simple matter of unnatural and unreasonable behavioral expectations.

Students in classrooms are expected to sit still and pay attention for hours on end, and we wonder why so many have difficulty.

Sometimes we must knuckle down and focus on a difficult, boring or unpleasant task, and for those times, an age appropriate time limit should be set.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with breaking tasks up into 10 - 20 minute chunks. Students should work for 10 minutes, then enjoy 15 minutes free time. Ideally, free time should include active movement, as it stimulates the brain and will help students to focus.

Movement is important for the brain because when we sit for more than 20 minutes ‘blood begins to pool in our feet and in our seat’ (Sousa 2015, p. 43.) Movement causes the blood to pump faster around the body which allows more oxygen to reach the brain. Without good oxygen supply the brain becomes sluggish and maintaining concentration becomes harder. e-Teaching June 2016 (19) – researched and prepared for ACEL by Katrina A Harte


Brain Breaks:

  1. HIIT style workout - burpees, jumping jacks, mountain climbers, push ups

  2. Dancing, Just Dance

  3. Race or obstacle course

  4. Ride bikes

  5. Soccer, football, basketball, swimming, or other high intensity sport

  6. Jump rope

The possibilities are endless. The key is to get moving.

Ideally, learning should be fun; something students look forward to. It shouldn’t be something they must endure for unnaturally prolonged periods of time. When learning becomes a power struggle, or like pulling teeth, it is absolutely time to stop and reevaluate.

When a task is fun or challenging, students can focus and cocentrate longer, and they retain more of the information.

For example:

Play games

Make it a fun challenge or contests

Do experiential tasks (go and do)

Make a change of scenery

Grab them by their emotions - When you feel, you care. When you care, you're more likely to engage. Use humor, a story, or shock and awe as a way to get thier mind's gears moving.

How can you minimize the amount of time spent forcing your child to sit still and concentrate?

Again, there are times when we all must sit still and concentrate on a task longer than we would like. It is not being suggested that time for traditional school tasks, like textbooks, workbooks, and assigned reading shouldn’t be scheduled or included. On the contrary, an alternative is being presented for times when sitting still and focusing have become too much.

Incorporate Learning in Your Daily Routine

Again, the possibilities are endless. It really comes down to finding what works best for your family and lifestyle. Below are a list of suggestions. Please note, they all share a common theme: they all encourage activity together.

Doing things together isn’t always fun, but it makes for great opportunities for discussion, pondering life, sharing wisdom, and perspectives, understanding. It’s organic, natural, and one of the easiest and most effective learning tools.

  1. Cooking and Baking together

  2. Sharing meals

  3. Running errands, shopping

  4. Going for walks or hikes

  5. Watching tv, YouTube, or movies as a family offers a plethora of enriching conversation starters. (Author’s note: I am ashamed to admit that The Simpson’s and Futurama provided some of the most memorable and profound conversation starters for my family.)

It might be annoying now, but when your kids are grown you all will look back fondly on the times spent together. No one ever remenisces about the workbook they used when they were a kid.

Suggested Schedule

Option 1: Follow your local school district’s school calendar.

Go to your district’s website and print off their school calendar. There is absolutely nothing wrong with using the public school’s schedule. All the usual holidays and breaks are already built in, making it a quick, simple, and efficient scheduling option.

Finally, if you live in a state where you must keep track of attendance, following the school calendar ensures your child will meet requirements. making it a quick, simple, and efficient scheduling option.

Option 2: Six weeks on, 1 week off, year round

Reserving Mondays for field trips.

If you are involved with groups or clubs, reserve meeting and play days.

Option 3: Touching the Plate

Block a chunk of time for a few important practices. For example:

60 min. Reading

60 min. Play

60 min. Math

A Word About “Strewing”

Strewing is making a variety of books and other learning materials easily accessible to encourage learning. Essentially, it is the “strewing” of books and materials around, in a subtle effort to catch the child’s interest and attention. This is a great idea, provided that your child’s other options are not more appealing than what has been strewn.

I have seen strewing work beautifully. Kids were engaged all day.

I have also seen strewing backfire. Kids would bypass strewn materials in favor of playing video games and surfing computer screens.

The key to successful strewing is interest.

Patrice’s Old Mom Moment

When you are in the thick of parenting, time seems to move slow. It feels like dirty diapers will beckon forever, kids will never sleep in their own bed, and that life will always be dictated by children. Then one day, you wake up and it’s all over. The house is quiet. The kids are grown. Childhood is short. Hang in there. The time you spend now is worth it!

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