How Many Hours a Day Does it Take to Homeschool?

Every new homeschool mom has visions of hours and hours of their children sitting in chairs around the dining room table “doing school.”  The main reason for this idea is due to our only example, public school, where the better part of 8 hours a day is spent in some form of seatwork.  When we start formulating lesson plans and daily schedules, we end up modeling them after this public school example.  In essence, we end up with School At Home, rather than HomeSchool.

Yet, even after we realize we should not be modeling our school after traditional public school, it remains one of the top homeschool mom fears…

Are they getting enough hours in?

Granted, most of our states have some sort of guideline that sounds something like this:

Student attendance must be equivalent to the public school’s (i.e. 186 days per year, 1116 hours per year).

Just looking at those numbers can send shivers down your spine!

But, let me break this down for you and show you the reality behind these numbers and how you can stay sane through it all…

1.  Many states that require the above attendance do not require you actually keep track of it.

Yes, it is a good idea to have some sort of record showing your child actually does do some form of schoolwork, but to account for every single hour isn’t necessary.  If you still feel you need to have an attendance record, then make a spreadsheet with 186 boxes and every day you do school, write in the date.  However, this leads me to my next point…

2.  School hours for a homeschooler look MUCH different than they do for a public schooled child.

Nearly every single day is caught up in some form of teaching my children.  Food preparation involves math, character lessons, nutrition, not to mention home ec.  Playing outside often involves a science lesson.  Even taking the children to the store offers a myriad of opportunities to educate.  NONE of these LOOK like traditional school, yet they count.

Before you balk at what I just said, let me give you some perspective…

3.  If the public school can count standing in the line at the water fountain as “school hours”, then I can count the children sorting the recycling as school hours.

The 186 days and 1116 hours are a guideline.  Your children are not expected to be sitting in a seat for 6 hours a day doing workbooks.  That would force the state to hold a double standard that wouldn’t hold a candle in court.

Speaking of court…

4.  Get an HSLDA membership…just in case.

Most homeschool parents are responsible to a fault.  They have kept records and papers and know their child’s aptitudes and weaknesses like they know their own.  However, court can be ugly and a little piece of mind can go a long way.  HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association) IS that piece of mind.  Plus, they have a plethora of FREE information for their members that makes the annual fee well worth it.

OK, so all that said, how many hours does it take to homeschool…to really crack open the books and “do school?”

Depends.
(how’s that for non-committal?)

For our family, it looks a little something like this:

Kindergarten & 1st grade: 30-45 mins
2nd-4th: 1½-2 hrs
5th-6th: 2-4 hrs
7th-up: 4+ hrs

The hours all depend on the age of the child and the amount of “bookwork” you as the parent require. Our youngers do only Phonics and math.  Our elementary students do math, handwriting, a little grammar, reading, and participate in things the older children are doing.  Our middlers are adding more strenuous assignments, and our oldest children (only one so far) are independently working toward high school credits. (For more specific information on our homeschool, visit The Homeschooling Mother section of this blog–it only goes through 4th grade, but I’m slowly but surely adding to it.)

The rest of the hours are filled in with life-learning.  In fact, I’d venture to guess we put in WAY more than 6 hours a day, 9 months out of the year.

So, I’d encourage you to stop stressing about those days and hours and create a home atmosphere filled with rich learning opportunities. Teach your children to love learning.  From there, the hours will fill themselves in.

Subscribe to Raising Arrows

63 Comments

Leave a Reply

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

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

63 thoughts on “How Many Hours a Day Does it Take to Homeschool?

  1. Amazing… I just posted about homeschooling and how everyday life is a learning experience for children – if you’d like to check it out, here’s the post: http://danielandclara.blogspot.com/2010/07/homeschooling-integrating-learning-into.html

    I agree with you, about not having to spend so many hours sitting and learning from school books. In fact when a government official came to inspect my homeschooling for registration purposes, she told me there is no NEED to do as many hours as kids do in school because almost every part and minute of the day at home is a living learning moment!! No matter whether the kids are play-acting (drama) or reading books (English – literature, improving reading skills, expanding vocab, learning things from the story) or doing a jigsaw (learning patterns and fine motor skills, observation and so on)… every part of their day is learning, even when we parents aren’t involved! And most homeschooling mothers turn most of the day into a lesson of some kind or add an application (spiritual or otherwise) to everything!! :)

  2. Thanks for sharing this. My local homeschool menor recently tipped me off to the idea that I can either keep track of the hours OR the days. She suggested going with days, and not even dating the days, but just writing 1-180 and listing what we did.

    Still, I worried that I wasn’t spending enough time – with my to-be 1st and 2nd grader (!). But your layout of hours spent has put my mind at ease and made me think maybe I should back off a bit for now.

    Thanks again!

  3. Maybe I’m too ambitions, but it takes us longer than that. It’s a far cry from public school, though, where my kids would come home at 3:15 with an hour’s worth of homework or more. My older kids are 4th and 6th this year and they’ll do school 6+ hrs per day. My 2nd grader will do school for more like 5 hrs per day. I love that my kids can study subjects they wouldn’t have time for in school like Bible, Greek, Music, and Art. Even though we’ll be busy for most of the day, I think they’ll enjoy much of what they’re learning. Hopefully it won’t all feel like school, as you pointed out.

    Celee

    • Like I said, it is relative to what you, as the parent, require. We probably just have different scholastic schedules and priorities. I’m glad you chimed in with a different number, so readers can see the varying between homeschools. :)

      • And that freedom to do what we think is best for our own families is one of the best things about homeschooling!

        I live in Pennsylvania where the laws are pretty strict. We do have to track hours or days, with a day assumed to be 5 hours for primary, 5.5 for secondary. We are free to determine what activities are educational. A day of reading, swimming or going to the gym (or just going for a good run with the dog), practicing piano, doing some drawing and helping me in the kitchen could easily be a half-day to count. And, count those I do.

        • Pennsylvania was one of the states I thought of when I was writing this post. The laws there are strict, but at least you still get to determine what your day consists of. Just curious if you write much on your blog about specifically being a Penn. homeschooler?

  4. My kids (last year Kindergarten and 4th) spent on average 3-4 hours a day. BUT….not all of that is at the table of course. There were play breaks and snack breaks figured in. Also a lot of our curriculum is read-aloud (MOH, Apologia Elem Science) so that time was spent on the couch snuggled up or out in the yard looking at plants for botany. Math we do in the floor and at the table. So the hours of school work sound long but they are not that many hours of seatwork. Great post! We forget all the time wasters that are counted as school hours in public school….all the waiting in line and passing out papers and even lunch!

  5. Well said Amy!
    Life learning is such an essential part of a child’s education – something most public school children are missing out on.
    Blessings,
    Michelle

  6. As a public school {gasp :)} special educator, I’m very out of place posting a comment here, but I wanted to point out that just because I send my children to public school doesn’t mean that they are missing out on life learning. We are constantly doing things at home in the afternoon and evenings that many home school families do as part of their “school day.” The teacher in me makes the most of everyday opportunities and helps my children develop a love for continuous learning.

    • Julie,
      You are so right–although, not the norm, I’m afraid.

      I often tell people I was homeschooled even though I went to public school My parents were VERY conscientious of where we went and what we talked about and did on “off” hours. I’m probably one of the few children who ever brought germinated wheat to show and tell! lol

      Your children will reap great benefits from having such a hands-on mother! Thanks for chiming in. :)

    • Way to go, Julie! It is awesome that you are able to do this with them.

      Many parents are too busy, or their children are too busy doing homework and/or with sports to get the extra learning experiences at home. One friend who homeschooled, but later had to send her daughter to public school always homeschooled in the evenings. Her daughter absolutely thrived. Another never had time to add to their day as her children were always so busy with homework. They are lovers of Science, but never had time to do all their fun activities and the school hardly did Science at all. They are moving and she has just removed her children from p.s. for the rest of the year. They’ve already started back into their Science, Art and Music now that they have time again.

  7. Um Hi. Have I ever told you I love your blog? Oh, that’s right, I’ve told you about 50 times already. 51 times won’t hurt, right? I LOVE YOUR BLOG!

    Thanks for this! I (almost literally) felt a weight off my shoulder reading this! Thanks!

    Can you share what Math you do with your kindy’s and 1st’ers?

  8. We’ve been doing this a long time and I still sometimes panic. Thanks for the reminder that we are ALWAYS schooling…it just doesn’t look like the public school.

  9. I’ve been homeschooling for over 7 years now. I have found that over the years, our days have become longer. As I’ve added more children to our day (I have 3) and the children have gotten older – our days have become longer as well. When I only had a first grader, we were easily done before lunch time.

    Fast forward to this school year with an 8th grader taking high school courses, a 6th grader, and a 4th grader. My middle child is very artistic and all of my kids enjoy hands-on projects so we tend to incorporate those in our history studies. So, our days tend to be like regular school days in length but we do a wide variety of activities within that time frame. As well, more difficult and demanding courses like Algebra and other higher math courses, and high school lab science do take more time. One of the things my children love about our school days, though, is that when they are done, they are done for the day. They don’t have to worry about another hour or more of homework when they get home from swim team.

    Thank you for this post.

    Samantha

  10. Thanks for sharing this. When I started homeschooling my preschooler, I was trying to get her to sit still and focus for 2 hours a day. And I was failing miserably… It’s comforting to know that I don’t need to focus on “doing school” as much, but teaching throughout the day as opportunities arise.

  11. Thanks so much for this post. I wandered to your site after seeing a link at The Homeschool Classroom. My husband and I are taking the leap into homeschooling our 15 year old son this year. He has only gone to public school his entire life, so I am kind of nervous about the whole thing. But, I think that it’s the best decision for him and our family. And, I need all the help and advice I can get!

    Anyway…thanks again.

  12. I have just had an epiphany and it’s name is sonlight!!! We did a very ‘traditional’ program last year and it was hard to make a textbook chapter and worksheet last an ‘hour’. We now have a more learning friendly, reading friendly, laid back atmosphere. I encourage anyone to check out other programs and styles. We now have no trouble getting in 4-5 hours of ‘school’. Add in bible school, ‘farm’ school, swimming lessons, cooking school, and we are finally ‘on track’.

  13. Thanks so much for this reminder! This is our first year of homeschooling (kindergarten), and I’ve been kicking myself lately that we haven’t been getting much “official” school time in. But all of the other learning that we do definitely counts!

    Love your site – it’s such a welcoming place to be!

  14. Just what I needed to hear, and at the right time too :-) Yesterday was our official ‘Day 1′ and we didn’t spend as much ‘sit down school work’ as I thought we would (between housework, meals, 19 month old baby, naps, play time and life in general). However, when I started researching and organising all this info in my head and heart – one of my ‘big things’ is that I have always taught my children throughout everyday in many different ways. When my children started school, they both were advanced for their ages and even sometimes very bored at school from lack of challenging things to do. I never thought about it until I started feeling convicted to homeschool, but it is almost as if it is totally fine for children to learn in the family environment as part of everyday life, but once they turn 5 or so, we are suddenly unable to provide learning opportunities, resources and knowledge to be able to carry their education any further, lol. I really admire teachers and know that they would never had become teachers unless they were interested in teaching and advancing and influencing the lives of children… however I feel that it is ‘policy-makers’ that cause such problems with their ‘red-tape’, their regulations, jumping on the bandwagon of whatever the latest ‘research’ is… they are not the ones on the ground having to put all of these things into place, not having to try and nurture children that are crying or hurt without crossing any ‘teacher/student contact’ regulations, not the ones that see the effects of bullying on other children but are helpless to do much about it because of the latest ‘bullying policy’ – no one gets the help they need in that situation.

    Okay – ranting and raving over… for now, lol.

    Thanks for reminding me what is one of the foundations to our ‘homeschool’ in such a timely way.

    Warmest blessings,
    Angela

  15. LOVE YOU ! I am SO guilty of schooling a home rather than homeschooling ! 3 hours done – go play. We’re changing that up this year and working on some projects throughout the week, cooking together, serving each other, etc. So important not to get locked into a time frame !!

    p.s. FL dropped counting days when we started homeschooling, they don’t even track that anymore. I still do though !!

    • LOL – I think it is just in our human nature to revert to what we know. I even find myself thinking inside the box and wondering how I ended up there!

  16. Here’s another perspective – it takes as many hours to homeschool as it does raise children. It’s all learning! (smile) From a mom who schedules 4 mornings/week for sit down/directed learning time with the kids.

  17. Makes sense, the normal school classroom has about 30 kids to be attended to, if it was broken down to just 5 or so, school would probally go much quicker, like homeschool. I have a daughter who is 4, so I’ve been dipping more & more into homeschooling & learning from others & they say similar things as you do.
    Thanks for sharing,
    Karen

  18. I love this website! Thank you for taking the time to share with people like me who are homeschooling for the first time. My son is in the 9th grade and I homeschool him 4 hours a day broken up into two parts. Is this enough? I focus a lot on the core subjects even though he does othe work as well.

  19. I am thinking about home schooling. My daughter has begged me to do this since she was in Kindergarden. I myself never heard of it as I went to Catholic school K-8 grade then public high school. She is now going into 4 th grade. However, my son who is going to be 6 next week just completed all day kindergarden. He walked through the graduation ceremony as well. Yet, his teacher recommended holding him back as he is “not ready for 1st grade”. He is a young 6 year old. I had agreed with her until these last few days. We did not tell him we were holding him back, the school did not necessarily tell me to wait, but they also did not advise me to tell him either. Unfortunately he is now talking about going to first grade. We talked about doing K again and he said I am not going to do that, I am a first grader. I have a master;s degree in nursing. Is it possible for me to teach them? They are both in private school as my husband is against them going to public school. Yet, what better teacher then their mother at much less expense? Your comments are welcome…

    • Absolutely you are qualified to teach your children! What we forget is that teachers do not specified degrees, they have a degree in “education.” We absolutely love homeschooling and feel there is no better option out there for a Christian family, especially one that desires to grow closer as a family and closer to the Lord.

      • Thank you Amy. I continue to pray about this. My husband is not on board with home schooling. Nor is he on board for me changing my hours to part time. I am the bread winner of the family. Unfortunately, I no longer want that title. I have come to a point in my life where the spirit is leading me to be home with my family. I am praying for wisdom on how to do this finanacially as well as with my husband’s support. Thank you for your prayers…

  20. I hs my 12 yr old.. she has down syndrome. I love what u said about always questioning.. r we good enough!!! Brother does that happen to be allllll the time. She still has alot of trouble reading, and she is about 2nd grade there, but she is really good otherwise. I jsut read alot of the worksheet work to her; otherwise we would hs allll the time.
    This is what God told me to do, and I LOVE it. I still question , because she is the only child in the “class” if I am doing the right thing for her socially. Kids don’t except her very well, due to her speech delay, and her slow walking so…. my question to myself… Would she have more friends in spec. ed in school?? Would they not expect her to learn? sooo for now and probably forever we hs.

  21. I am so glad I found your blog. I started homeschooling my daughter this year. She has always went to public school and now she is in 6th grade. We are usually done in 3 hours. I started stressing today that it wasn’t enought but of course I am on the school at home mentality. It has been a hard adjustment from her going to public and her being homeschooled because you do get use to the public school’s schedule. My daughter has had to make adjustments with it also since she was so use to doing it that way for all of these years. I usually break up the week by doing different subjects everyday and that’s why I guess we are getting done earlier than I thought we would. Once again thank you for your blog and the encouragement that goes along with it.

  22. Thanks for this! I started homeschooling my preschooler and plan to continue through at least grade school. I was worrying that my son wasn’t having enough “sit down” work and it’s just ending with him crying because he doesn’t want to make anymore “A”s and me frustrated with him. So the opposite of what I want. Thanks for the time management help. I think I’ll focus more on learning throughout the day rather than force him to sit down and do worksheets all day long.

    • As homeschoolers we are looking for mastery, so the number of A’s he is writing isn’t nearly as important as the quality of the A’s he is writing. Your doing a great job, mama!

  23. Thank you! My 2nd graders teacher is having real problems with her, and my second grader isn’t liking school. Everything she is doing is pointing towards – she is bored, but teaching has to be the same for all kids in school settings. I’m seriously considering pulling her out of public school after I figure out how to homeschool and homeschooling her. Thank you so much for this post, it’s confirming my resolve!

  24. Hi, I know I’m commenting rather late on these posts but I will only start homeschooling next week. Florida is very lenient, pretty much pass on evaluation (not necessarily a test) and keep a portfolio ready for review by the district at any time… that’s all.

    But I’m commenting because my kindergartner comes home every night with 30 minutes of “at the table” homework so I was rather shocked to see that some parents only require their KG students to do 30-45 minutes for the entire day. I am more and more sold on homeschooling with everything I read.

    • Welcome to homeschooling! We love it! And, there is absolutely no reason for a 5 or 6 year old to have a whole day of sit down school plus homework. That would take the love of learning right out of anyone!

  25. I am still amazed at how short our school day is. I keep expecting it to lengthen out as the kids get bigger but we are still getting everything covered at just about 2 hours.

    • My daughter is in 6th grade and she is usually done in 2 hours. I sometimes worry that she’s not doing enough. I’m glad to hear that someone else is the same way.

  26. I cannot tell you what a RELIEF it was to read this post. I’m in our first full year of homeschooling (2 daughters – kindergarten and a two year old). EVERY DAY from August to December, it seemed guilt tried to invade my home with thoughts of us ‘not doing enough’. I was attempting to spend about two hours doing lessons, with ALOT of information to drive home. Of course, it was too much! I cringe just re-reading that statement! So, since Christmas break, I’ve begun simplifying our load. Getting back to basics and realizing that we don’t have to perform or keep up with anyone else has been a huge weight lifted. This, after all, is our home. The Lord has poured his love into me and my family through this shedding of expectation. I’ve focused more on TIME spent that schedule.

    Your post, which I found through a friend, comes at a very opportune time to confirm the route we are now taking. I thank you for helping me continue to sigh a big ole sigh of relief! God Bless!

  27. I have a problem. Our son is 13 and has adhd. He has been in school since kindergarten and this past October we pulled him out because he couldn’t keep up. This homeschooling is new to us and recently my son doesn’t reay want to do any school work. He would rather just play and be free. I tell him he can do that after his lessons. Seems like no one is happy here. Don’t know what to do!

  28. Your article made me feel much better about the length of time we spend doing homeschooling activities. This is our first year of homeschooling and my children are 10, 12, and 14. Now that we’re close to the end of the year, I’m stressing out a lot. I’m worried about not having an acceptable portfolio and being given a bad evaluation. I’ve had to learn so much this year and I just really can’t wait to get through it.

    Thank you for your article though..

  29. 4 hours sounds right for middle schoolers and up.. the key thing here is the learning doesn’t actually stop after hour 4, but the whole study/school environment does

  30. Thank you!!! I feel so much guilt when we do life learning and I don’t have the time in the day to actually fit in “real school”!! Thank you!

  31. FANTASTIC Perspective! Thank you!! If you can count waiting in the line at the water fountain… I can count the unofficial schooling that makes for 75% of our day just living and learning.

  32. Love your post! This is my first year ‘schooling at home’ for my 3rd and 5th grader. I say schooling at home because I’m going through a public online school. I thought it would be a good start but it’s miserable. We’re spending upwards to six hours a day and use the weekend to catch up! I’ve been doing research to find something different to do on my own but I’m completely overwhelmed. Thinking of using Sonlight or Oak Meadows. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!

    • Hello! I am not familiar with Oak Meadows, but Sonlight is a good living books curriculum. It’s a learning curve for sure, but think about who you are as a mom and what you hope to accomplish in your homeschool and then work toward that with your curriculum. And feel free to ask questions of others. Enjoy those children! :)

  33. My son is in home school because he was having difficulty in public school. He is being instructed 5 hours a day 5 days a week, yet, my mother and grandmother seem to think he’s going to end up an, “an adult with the IQ of a 4th grader” mind you he’s already in the 7th grade with every class on an 8th grade level except for reading which I’ve been working over time to improve. This article let me know that i’m on the right track. He’s only been doing this since October, too early to already consider it a failure.

  34. Thank u so much! Just came across your website and what a blessing! gave me so much hope reading your post. I’m a working mom and was wondering if i can homeschool my 3year old next year. I pray God allow me more free time but now i work from 8-5. Based on your post seems like i can do it even with the little time i have now. Thanks again and i pray God blessings for you and your family!