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Thursday August 21st 2014

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How Can Homeschoolers Learn In the Morning As Much As Kids Who Are In School All Day?

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How Can Homeschoolers Learn In the Morning

As Much As Kids Who Are In School All Day?

BY SUSANNAH SHEFFER

homeschoolingAsk a child in school how much of the six-hour day that particular child spends in active learning, exploration, or engagement. How much time is spent getting one’s own questions answered or experiencing the “click” of a fuzzy concept suddenly becoming clear? If we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t even have to ask a child because our own memories remind us that much of the school day is spent waiting – waiting in line, waiting for the assignment to be handed out, waiting for the teacher to come help you, waiting your turn with a piece of equipment.

Children in school spend more time than we’d care to admit staring out the window, either because they’re not following the lesson and feel lost and confused and frightened of being called on, or because they already know what’s being taught but aren’t allowed to move ahead or do something else. Studies of how much time schoolchildren actually spend “on task” show that only a small portion of the school day is really spent in direct instruction. And even when a teacher is offering direct instruction, there are all sorts of reasons that it might not be reaching a particular child at a particular moment.

One indication that schools themselves recognize how little of the school day is spent “on task” is that when a school student is absent for an extended period – home with a broken leg or an illness, for example – and the school sends home a tutor to help the child keep up with the class, the tutor comes anywhere from two to seven hours a week, and that’s considered enough. (See John Holt’s book Teach Your Own for confirmation of these figures.)

Homeschooling Is Different from Schooling

Because homeschooling is so different from schooling – it’s individualized and flexible in schedule, pacing, and approach – comparing how much time homeschoolers spend “doing school-work” with how many hours a day school students are in attendance is really comparing apples and oranges. If you hear that homeschooling families only “work” in the mornings, what you may be hearing is that the mornings are when they sit down for formal lessons, or for quiet activities like reading and writing, or simply for focused time with their parents. But this tells us nothing about what they may be doing with their afternoons and evenings; going on field trips, getting together with other homeschooling families for a vast range of academic and social activities, volunteering at an adult workplace, having a great discussion at the dinner table or at bedtime, spending time on any one of a million independent projects. Even if it doesn’t look exactly like school, you can bet that a lot of learning is going on.

Books By Linda Dobson HomeschoolingBookOfAnswersSusannah Sheffer was editor of John Holt’s Growing Without Schooling. She is editor of A Life Worth Living: Selected Letters of John Holt and of Heinemann’s Innovators In Education series, which brings radical education classics back into print. Her own books include Writing Because We Love To and A Sense of Self: Listening to Homeschooled Adolescent Girls. You can read more answers from Susannah as well as dozens of other homeschooling innovators and pioneers in The Homeschooling Book of Answers edited by Linda Dobson.
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