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How many hours a day?

© Beverley Paine

From the outset, recognise that children are learning every minute of every day. They are like sponges - when kept wet they don't seem to mop up much at all, but leave them alone and when a puddle happens they soak up so much. Of course, the more 'puddles' they have access to the better, although I am not an advocate of the 'smorgasbord' approach to education.

Home education is more effective than classroom learning which less time needed on lessons. Plus you can take away the hours spent in managing and organising twenty plus other children that every school teacher has to take into account. If you set up your home so that thing are easy to tidy, within reach and accessible without needing your help to find them, you'll need a lot less time than any school teacher to impart the same skills and knowledge. And then, of course, not everything needs to be taught in the same way schools do - some happen much more naturally and in context of every day living.

If you learn to recognise the informal learning as it happens throughout the day and name it using educational jargon - either as a skill, attitude, concept, piece of knowledge from each each subject area - you will soon realise just how much of the curriculum is already embedded within a busy, productive normal household! From there is it is easy to add topics and concepts that you feel are essential and important to your children's education without getting bogged down with trying to fit everything into each day!

There is no need for a time table unless you or your child wants or needs one. Educational authorities across Australia realise that these belong in the classroom and serve to organise large numbers of people in relatively crowded conditions. We had a flexible timetable because it helped me to feel confident and organised. I used it in the same way I used the monthly calendar. Other people feel lost without a diary.

If the authorities want to see a schedule and you don't have one, offer an outline of a 'typical day' instead. Every day will be different, so create a 'typical' one that is most representative of how you normally homeschool.

Most families concentrate on maths and English in the morning, unit/themed studies in the afternoon as this generally suits the energy levels of younger children. Teens might prefer studying later in the afternoon or into the evening. If you are a night owl and your children are okay with staying up late too, then your homeschool day will probably start sometime after lunch! There is no hard and fast rules - whatever works for your family.

As you can see, home education is very flexible.

Keep records for a week, jotting down how long your children are busy doing their homeschool lessons. Add in the time they spend reading or playing on their own (these are educational activities too). Add in the time they spend watching documentaries on the television or listening to news services on the radio. Add in the time they spend doing the chores - either on their own or with you. Don't forget to add time spent with pets... Also write down how long you spent chatting to them, dicussing different thing that are important to them or you, problem solving, resolving conflict, etc. It is all educational! Divide the total number of hours by seven and you will know how many hours of instruction your children at getting being educated at home each and every day!

From this exercise it is easy to see that your children are getting a lot more one-one instructional time than any school child could ever hope to receive. Plus they don't have to wait in line, wait until everyone else is finished before they can continue, or share scarce resources.

And finally, here are some tips worth remembering that will help to ease the transition from school parent to homeschool parent:

  • Conversation is learning too. Make time for talking.
  • Chores and hobbies are part of the curriculum.
  • Spend some time with one-on-one learning with each child, if not each day, a couple of times each week.
  • Use themes and unit studies for mixed-age learning.
  • Make the most of media: documentaries, computer games, board games - these all teach too!
  • Have learning materials organised and easily accessible.
  • Get the children to help with chores - otherwise known as learning life skills!
  • Insist on time to pamper yourself, schedule regular dates with partner.
  • Be a role model for your children.
  • Parents are active learners too. Have a hobby.

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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.

Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.

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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine

The information on this website is of a general nature only and is not intended as personal or professional advice. This site merges and incorporates 'Homeschool Australia' and 'Unschool Australia'.

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