How Long Should I Spend Homeschooling Each Day?

A question I am often asked is how long I spend homeschooling my children each day.  For background purposes, my children are ages three and five.  Homeschooling (as I have probably stated in other blog posts) is simply home education.  And, as long as my children are awake, then they are learning! Life is an ever-changing process, and all humans must continue to learn every moment how to function in this process we call life.  So, in essence, my children homeschool all day and most of the night. Even while they are sleeping, they are often thinking (dreaming!) of new ideas and new experiences that we often discuss in the mornings over breakfast.

“But, really,” you might say, “how long do you actually sit down and teach?”  Well, here’s the deal.  We are creatures of habit.  And, because of that, most people learn best by seeing and reacting as well as putting ideas into practical use.  I mean, seriously, what do you do when you want to learn something new?  Perhaps you want to know about the culture in Spain.  How would you go about doing that?  Would you break out a textbook and have someone lecture you on the culture of Spain?  Would you then take a test on that lecture to prove to the speaker that you were listening?  Probably not.  Unless you have the time and money to visit Spain and experience the culture firsthand (that would actually be the best way to learn, and I guarantee you would never forget what you learned), then you would either contact someone who you know has been to Spain and simply ask them about their experience or you would research online or maybe even check out a library book or video all about Spain.

So since I believe that the best way to learn – really learn – is to experience something or research on your own, I am not a big fan of sitting and talking for hours on end about one subject and then filling out papers to “prove” that the information sticks.  What usually happens when we attempt to learn in such a way is that the information stays with us just long enough to pass the test. Then we forget at least half of what we “learned”.

My children are still so small that playing is a huge part of their learning experience.  So, we probably spend an hour or two each day sitting down and talking about “school” subjects and we do worksheets a couple times a week.  Why do I have them doing worksheets if I don’t believe it is the best way to reinforce information?  Obviously, they need to learn to read and write properly in order to function well in this world.  They also need the opportunity to discover any interest they may have in literary arts, coloring, painting, etc.

To recap, I try my best to make sure my children learn in a way that suits each of their diverse personalities; and, learning does not always involve long lectures and paperwork.  We are a moderately relaxed homeschool family who values education according to God’s intention for mankind.

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What Does an Eclectic Homeschool Look Like

There are many methods of homeschooling, and the eclectic style is generally a combination of at least two methods.  It doesn’t have to be any certain methods combined.  The word “eclectic” literally means:  deriving ideas, styles, or tastes from a broad and diverse range of sources.  So, eclectic homeschoolers may  take an idea or two from the Charlotte Mason method and then add an idea from the traditional method and add yet another idea from the Montessori method.  There are endless ideas and opportunities with an eclectic style.

 

Who can benefit from an eclectic style?  Just about anyone.  Not every family will fit into a single mold.  God made us each very different.  Because of this, not everyone looks at homeschooling in the same way.  And just as each family is different, so is each child.  So, a family of six children may use different methods.  To lessen the stress, the mother may find it easier to use a little of this and a little of that for each child rather than having Suzie follow the Charlotte Mason method and Johnny use the Montessori method while Annie learns in a traditional setting.  It would make much more sense to simply incorporate bits and pieces of each method into the homeschool as a whole, thus teaching eclectically.

 

Since an eclectic style is simply a combination of methods that works for your family, each eclectic homeschool may look very different.  There’s really no one way to be eclectic.  That defies the very meaning of the word!  Be eclectic, different, unique, whatever you want to call it… but be yourself!

Mistakes I Have Made as a Homeschool Mommy

Although I have only recently begun my journey as a homeschool parent, I have already made several mistakes.

 

Mistake # 1:  Buying way too many workbooks/textbooks 

When we first started homeschooling, I probably bought about twelve textbooks and workbooks combined.  For my kindergarten son!  After a few weeks, I realized that even though my son learns quite rapidly and is very advanced for his age, he doesn’t need all these workbooks.  And, he doesn’t like them either!

 

Mistake #2:  Trying to mimic a public school in my home 

Just about every new homeschool parent goes into “teacher” mode when she first starts educating her kindergartener.  But why are we homeschooling if we want to play school?  Kids need us to be parents – not teachers.

 

Mistake # 3:  Not taking my child’s natural learning preferences into account 

My son is a visual and hands-on learner.  Yet I was giving him worksheets all the time.  Worksheets are fine occasionally for him, but I was insistent in the beginning that he do worksheets every single day.  Thinking back, I now know that is why we both burned out on homeschool so quickly.

 

Mistake #4:  Planning separate studies for my children for every subject 

I used to do separate work with my three and five year old children.  Now we cover Science, Social Studies, Bible, Art, and some math as a family.

 

Mistake # 5:  Taking school so seriously

My children are three and five.  They learn best by playing at that age.  If Mommy is too uptight to play and wants them to work all day, it’s likely that the children won’t learn much at all.

 

Life is a learning process.  I am sure these won’t be my last mistakes.  But I will try my best not to repeat these things in the future.  We all want what is best for our children.  But we have to remember that they’re still children, so we need to let them be….

Homeschool Burnout

Burnout happens when you become tired and/or frustrated with doing the same thing over and over again.  Can it be prevented?  Yes and no.  There are things you can do to lessen your chances of experiencing burnout.

Humans are creatures of habit.  We often do the same things over and over because we have gotten ourselves in a routine.  Routines aren’t necessarily bad, but they can lead to boredom and then complete burnout.

 

Ditching routines can help lessen the chances of homeschool burnout.  Let every day be unique.

Use textbooks sparingly and do hands-on activities such as science experiments, puzzles, and board games instead.  If you or your children don’t do well with hands-on activities, plan a movie day.  Just make sure that the film is educational.  By the way, educational doesn’t have to mean dead and boring.  There are lots of fun videos especially for small children.  Check out PBS or Discovery Kids.  YouTube is also an excellent source.  Tired of movies and games?  Take a walk.  Seriously.  Get outside, and take the kids with you.  Look at the world around you, and talk about God’s beautiful creation with your children.  Explore nature and all its splendor.  If you don’t normally include read-aloud books in your homeschool, it’s not too late to start.  Even older kids will enjoy quality time with mom and/or dad while reading one or two chapters a day and discussing what the book is all about.  Children can journal as you read new books or paint a favorite scene from the book.

Children and adults alike get tired of the same old, same old; but when learning is a new adventure every day, homeschooling transforms from a dreaded necessity to an amazing adventure.