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Homeschool in Less Time Each Day

Are you overwhelmed with your daily homeschool schedule? Do you feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day? (About a dozen people have told me recently that they feel this way.) Here’s a mom who shared those feelings, and this is what she learned and what she did about it.

The daily schedule for Form II {grades 4-6} looked so…simple. 8 subjects covered in 3 hours daily. Why was “school” taking us so long each day? … I began to understand that Mason’s students were required to give focused attention to a subject for a certain period of time – not a certain number of pages. … It is better to leave the term’s work unfinished than to rush the pupils through for the sake of having finished the work set.

Remember, dear mothers: Our goal should be to set our children on a trajectory of the love of learning for a lifetime, not to get them “through everything” in 13 years.

About Becky Aniol

Becky holds a bachelor's degree in English literature and music, a master's degree in Christian education, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Christian education. She taught classical upper school grammar, literature, and history and lower school composition and grammar for two years, elementary school music for one year, and Kindermusik classes for four years before the birth of her children. She now loves staying home with her four children, Caleb, Kate, Christopher, and Caroline and homeschooling them classically.

13 Responses to Homeschool in Less Time Each Day

  1. Surely when we have the inestimable privilege of teaching our own children at home, we should be prepared to invest a considerable amount of time in it? Trying to rush through work in 3 hours in the morning does not seem to me to be honouring to the Lord. Homeschooling one’s children is probably the most important thing a mother will ever do. We need to give it the time it deserves. Often, what children need is more time – in fact, it has been said that for a child, “love” is spelled “T I M E”! What are the children going to do when they are finished their 3 hours for the day? We are supposed to be raising a generation of godly young people, and it is a massive privilege to be able to do so – let us not neglect our duty because we want to spend the time on some other activity.

  2. Alison, thank you for taking the time to comment. By linking to this article, I don’t mean to suggest either that we rush though our homeschool or that my time with my children is finished when the academic portion of our day is finished. (And if you read again, you’ll notice that she doesn’t suggest that either. Time after academics is spent in nature and doing handicrafts and practicing instruments and reading for pleasure.) This approach is actually the opposite of rushing. It’s working more SLOWLY and teaching to the child rather than teaching to get through an entire lesson or book just because someone somewhere has decided that this comprises a standardized lesson. It’s taking 20 minutes to capture your child’s whole attention rather than frustrating the young child doing a lesson for 45 minutes to an hour, thus allowing them to establish a habit of wandering attention. Furthermore, there’s more to investing in your children than doing academics with them. There’s making TIME to take walks with them and appreciate the wonder of God’s creation, there’s allowing them time to exercise their imagination by giving them time to play and draw and read, etc., there’s making time to cultivate an atmosphere of peace and beauty in your home by doing housework together and cooking together. Surely there is more to a mother’s duty than homeschooling. Lord forgive us if we lose the HOME in the homeschool. Let us make our homes something more than a school at home. Let us educate through more than academics.

  3. It sounds like unschooling to me – and unschooling in South Africa has been a disaster, with children not achieving their Matric qualification and being denied the opportunity to further their education at a university or college. Many just send their children back to state school, where they are actually below the standard required there (and believe me, in South Africa that standard is already low!) When we talk about “academics” what do we mean? Surely we don’t mean the basics – reading, writing and arithmetic – that every child should have mastered by the end of Grade 3, and which takes time, drill, patience and dedication? Or do we mean just basic knowledge about God’s creation and about history? Doing homeschooling in the garden may work for the little ones, but by the time the child is heading towards his teens he certainly needs to be able to engage in book learning. Let us not forget that God gave us a written Word, one that requires a considerable ability to grasp abstract concepts, as well as considerable ability in language. Yes, this can be “boring” at times. Yes, it takes time. No, it can’t be done on outings, field trips and enjoying the scenery. But surely we need to be able to do this with our children as well as the other? The two are not mutually exclusive. I included field trips in my homeschooling situation, but most of the time was spent on hard work, mastering the material. Imagine a pastor telling his congregation that he doesn’t want them to sit and listen to a “boring” sermon – he would prefer for them to go for a stroll in the outdoors and “communicate” directly with God there? How would they learn the basic doctrines of the Church, much less the details? The same applies to homeschooling. We need to be committed to doing a thorough and excellent job with our children, not whatever is easiest or most pleasant. Let us not shirk our duty to them and to our Lord.

  4. Not anything like unschooling. A wide feast of academics including everything from reading, writing, and arithmetic to foreign language, science, and both national and world history to music appreciation and art appreciation and poetry to Shakespeare and Plutarch (for citizenship/character lessons) and so much more, all chosen by the teacher, and all through books (as well as living connections in subjects like science by getting out in nature). As a matter of fact, living books are the backbone of the curriculum. You can see my post about living books for more on that. It is hard work, it is mastering the material, it is most definitely through and excellent. It is also Good, and True, and Beautiful–consistent with God’s character and His Word. It does not treat the child like a data receiving machine but like a human being created in God’s image.
    Feel free to browse through the curriculum at Ambleside Online: or look at all the subjects done each year at
    Before you say that this method shirks our duty to our children and to the Lord, I’d encourage you to actually look at it.

  5. Sorry, what I was actually referring to was the idea of doing all this in a short time every day. That is where the problem lies. No matter what you include in your curriculum, you do need an adequate amount of time for it. Children can’t be rushed. I’m sorry if I came across as criticizing the curriculum itself – that was not my intention. I thought the issue under discussion was time, not content.
    We also offer a comprehensive curriculum based on the Biblical Christian worldview and centred on the character qualities of God. It is of a high academic standard and definitely needs enough time. We recommend at least 5-6 hours per day, more in the high school years if you include homework. I don’t see how anybody could get through the work in less time than that, and it just becomes an exercise in frustration for those who try. The unschoolers of our country say that the problem is having a curriculum at all – one should just do whatever one feels is right at the time, and that can be done in three hours in the morning. This discourages those who are faithfully trying to give their children the best homeschool education they can.

  6. Thanks for the clarification. You seemed concerned by both the time and content, based on your comments about only reading, writing, and arithmetic. I definitely don’t condone educating by feelings or having no curriculum. But I would again reiterate that there’s no sense of rushing–because education is a life. Certainly there is a sense of preparation for upper grades and college, but there’s also a deliberate effort to be less pragmatic than that. If we are truly educating to instill our children, most importantly, with wisdom and Christlikeness, then we must do this in a way that does not cause the child to stumble because of us causing undue frustration dragging lessons on past their attention capabilities. Yes, we slowly build their attention span, but that doesn’t mean that we have to bow to educational standardization (which was implemented in America, at least, to eliminate the parent and the church from education). The lessons for the day take a certain allotted amount of time, not a certain amount of pages. We don’t bow to the standardized lesson because only we, as the teacher, know how our child is grasping the subject. Better to do school longer into the summer or even not go to college at 18 (older or even younger is fine; that college must happen at age 18 is an EXTREMELY modern concept). I might even turn the tables and say that the parent who insists on spending long hours on academics simply because they feel they need to get through all the “grade level” books by the end of the year so that they can get through all the books by age 18 is the one rushing, albeit probably unintentionally. Better each day to take 20 or 30 minutes of focused attention and do the lesson over several days (or maybe you fly through two lessons in 20 minutes because your child totally grasps that particular concept) than to spend a long time just because you feel you HAVE to get through Lesson 12 today, or whatever. Again, there is no rushing the child through. We simply stop when the allotted 20 or 30 minutes are over, regardless of whether we have completed someone’s idea of a lesson, and resume the next day. This may seem like we never get through anything, but that never seems the case. By respecting my child’s attention–by the acknowledgement that BOTH of us will bring our COMPLETE attention to the subject at hand, knowing that it will be over shortly–we get through quite a bit in that time and with understanding and lack of frustration. And we remain fresh for the subjects to come. Perhaps these posts may offer some clarification:

  7. No problem – I always say that we need to give the child the time he needs. If he needs to spend more time, and the day’s schooling is over (as long as a reasonable time constitutes the day’s schooling), by all means leave it over until the next day. With our curriculum, we specifically tell our Moms to take the time the child needs, especially if there are problems. We send exams twice a year, but the child doesn’t need to write them until he is ready. We will mark them whenever they come in. If he needs an extra three or six months to get through the grade, by all means give it to him. It is better to make sure that the foundation is securely laid than to finish a year’s work in a year! This, however, is not the same thing as trying to squeeze all the work into “three hours in the morning” because we have more attractive things to do with the rest of our day, and because we want to “get school over as soon as possible”. This is what I am talking about. We need to take this task very seriously and give it our absolute best, knowing that it is probably the most important thing we will ever do.

  8. Incidentally, my comments about reading, writing and arithmetic were not about content – I was merely asking if that is what is meant by academic. I wanted some clarification about what you meant. The word “academic” is thrown around these days, with the clear implication that it is somehow “unspiritual” or wrong. We need to know what we are talking about. So I was not talking about curriculum at all – I was talking about time, which is the topic under discussion as I understand it.

  9. I do agree that the term “academic” is thrown around. For clarification, I would say that above I was referring to academic in the sense of all the “school” subjects that that require that we are seated and totally concentrating, the things which we are actively working on knowing and understanding. But I would also say that all those subjects are studied with the purpose of becoming more Christlike in thought, word, and deed. Therefore, though we set aside a dedicated time for those subjects each day, they are not somehow separate from the rest of life.

    And again, I would only reiterate that doing school work in 3 hours daily does not require “squeezing,” and nobody is suggesting that we have “more attractive things to do with the rest of our day” or that we want to “get school over as soon as possible.” I obviously cannot speak for the author of this article, but sometimes the things that need to be gotten to are far LESS attractive–laundry, perhaps, or cleaning. However, the mother needs to make time to do them. The mother, as a human and as an example to her children, also needs to make time to be nourishing herself through reading and other meaningful activities. That’s not to say that she considers those things “more attractive” but that she needs to be growing as a person not remaining stagnant in her own understandings of God and His world. The mother is able to give a better “best” if she is thus regularly engaged. I would say that the overall rearing of our children (moreso than homeschool alone) is probably the most important thing we will ever do, but that involves so much more than sitting at a table teaching them. It involves creating an atmosphere of peace and beauty in the home, which often does not happen if the mother feels like she is spending the entire day on homeschool teaching. If 5-6 hours a day still allows for peace and beauty in a clean home and gives the child time to exercise their imagination and read, I won’t take issue with that. That, then, is working for that family. But many mothers have told me that they feel like they can’t keep up with everything with that many hours of homeschool–keeping house, tending to toddlers and infants, and still have time to spend with their husbands. They haven’t read anything but children’s lessons in years. Their children have no time for instruments or nature or free reading because so much time is spent doing school lessons. To those mothers I say, it doesn’t HAVE to take that long at lessons if you schedule in minutes rather than in pages. I don’t believe that taking homeschool very, very seriously and giving it our absolute best requires 5-6 hours a day, but you and I may just have to agree to disagree. We are not stopping lessons after lunch because we have something “better” to get to. We are stopping because 1) we’re done with what we allotted for the day and 2) life is more than school lessons and Christlikeness comes through more than spending time sitting at a table. We never stop educating, but we do stop table lessons.

  10. We probably agree on the basics, but I would just like to say that paying attention to academics and teaching our children all the other things that they need to know in order to develop as mature adults are not necessarily mutually exclusive concepts. In other words, we can do, and need to do, both. I myself have six children, fourteen grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and have been involved in education most of my life. When I was homeschooling four of them (while it was still illegal here in South Africa) I managed to attend to their schoolwork and gave it my full attention for the necessary time (a full school day) as well as do quite a lot of other things as well. The children were organized into “chores” in the morning, and all our housework was done by 8.00 a.m. when we started school. Whenever there was a birthday (eight in the year) we took a day off and went on an outing. The afternoons were mostly free to do other things – they didn’t even have homework until about Grade 10 because they worked so hard during school time it wasn’t necessary. There were challenges, but it worked. It can be done – it just takes some thought and organization, as well as commitment to a very important task. When homeschooling was first legalized in 1996, I had the opportunity to talk to many groups of mothers, and often the question was, “What if the Mom doesn’t do a good job and the children just do less than they should?” My answer was always that people who were committed enough to undertake the education of their children would make sure that the work was done properly. Then in about 1999 the unschooling movement hit us. Suddenly Moms were told that it is “bad” for children to have to “sit at a desk” like a “schoolroom”, and that they should be “directing their own education in the garden”. This caught on like wildfire. Now, twenty years later, we are beginning to see the results of that philosophy, and they are not good. Most of them quoted Charlotte Mason in support of their basic laziness, but I am sure Charlotte Mason would not have agreed with the application of her ideas! So I feel quite strongly about this, because I have personally seen young people who have been damaged, and considering they came from Christian homes, I feel it was a huge waste of those precious years, when they could have been developing a proper Biblical worldview. Not that we can educate children into becoming Christians – we know that is not possible – but at least we can give them the information they need, and which the Holy Spirit can use later in their lives.

  11. I totally agree with all of that.

    We do certainly have unschooling here in the US, but I think the much larger majority here have a really hard time breaking away from feeling like homeschool must look like classroom school. In large part that is probably fueled by the school curriculum available here that has simply been passed off to homeschoolers as if the busywork and the vast number of worksheets, etc, that might be necessary in a classroom must be completed by a homeschool child. Parents here often don’t give themselves permission to use the curriculum as a tool rather than being a slave to it. Obviously unschooling is the pendulum swinging too far in the opposite direction. Charlotte Mason said that education is “an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life”–but it has to be all three, not just one or two of those.

    There will always be the question of whether moms will do a good enough job. In the US, that is where all of our education problems started. Horace Mann, et al, had good intentions but didn’t trust parents (and churches) to do a good enough job, so he advocated for government controlled education (which, because of separation of church and state, could not include biblical doctrine). I feel like we can offer parents options that will lead them in the right direction, but we can’t be the Holy Spirit for them. Ultimately, whether they complete their “book learning” in three hours or six, they are accountable to God for rearing their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord and doing their very best for His glory.

  12. Amen to that! May the Lord continue to bless you and your husband in your ministry for Him. I have really appreciated his input when it comes to music in the church, and it is really nice to find that you are so involved in homeschooling! I hope one day we can meet – I am sure we will find we have a lot in common. God bless.

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