Homeschooling Badly: Twenty Minutes of Homeschooling is Like an Hour of Public Schooling

WhenCowsKidsCollideby Mel cross posted from her blog When Cows and Kids Collide

Truthfully, I have no idea who started this theme, but nearly every homeschool blogger has a post dedicated to why 20 minutes of homeschool is the equivalent of 60 minutes in a public school.

For today’s post, I’m numbering homeschooling blogs that I’ve linked to.  (1) is Guilt Free  Homeschooling, (2) is Raising Arrows, (3) is Raising Olives, (4) is In A Shoe, (5) is Smockity Frocks and (6) is Large Families on Purpose.  Guilt Free Homeschooling isn’t specifically CP/QF; the remainder are.

The rationale has two assumptions – one stated and the other unstated.

Stated Assumption: Public schools are filled with inefficiencies that reduce the amount of time my homeschooled kid would be learning.

  • Homeschooled kids can move on as soon as they understand a concept and don’t need to do repetitive practices.  (1)
    • There is benefit to practicing a new skill to increase retention, speed and depth of knowledge.  The trick homeschooling bloggers use to make this idea seem acceptable is they use an example where the expected depth of knowledge of a skill is shallow.
      • Carolyn at Guilt Free Homeschooling uses the example of not drilling capitalization of sentences and ending sentences with periods once a student knows how to use this.  First, I don’t remember doing endless worksheets on that topic.  I think I remember doing a worksheet in about 2nd or 3rd grade and then being expected to capitalize and punctuate correctly on writing assignments.  Second, more advanced math and science topics often start with very simple examples to teach the basic process then move to more complicated problems.  When I teach students to balance chemical equations, I start with simple equations where each element shows up in one molecule on each side of the equation like  Ca + O –> CaO before giving them something with elements showing up multiple times on each side like C6H12O6 + O2 –> CO2 + H2O.  Once they had mastered that, I started adding polyatomic ions.   When the required depth of knowledge is less shallow, levels of repetition are required to reach the final standard.
  • Sorting recycling is as much of an educational practice as waiting in line for the drinking fountain (2).
    • Or sharpening pencils or waiting for the teacher to help other students or going to and from lunch.  You get the idea.   I’ll fully admit to having some inefficiencies in my day when I was teaching in public schools.
      • My high schoolers had 18 minutes of passing time total among 6 hours of the day.
      • Sometimes, I would be using specifically colored markers to illustrate anatomical diagrams or how a cellular process worked and a marker would die.  The students would lose as much as 15 seconds as I replaced that marker from my stockpile in my desk.
      • Twice, I had my projector that I was going to use for a Powerpoint lecture die and I took a full minute to grab a paper copy of the notes for the Powerpoint and a marker to work on the board instead.
      • Sometimes I had three or four students who needed help at once.  Those poor souls had to wait as long as 5 minutes to get my attention!  A few never got my attention because they asked the kid next to them who showed them what to do.
      • And now, the greatest horror.  Some students finished early!  Being the lackadaisical teacher I was,  I only had a few options available to the kids.  They could work on missing work for my class that was less than one week old.  They could do work for another class.  Or – gasp – I did let them do nothing sometimes for as long as 10 minutes near the end of class!  *hangs head in shame*
    • Reality check: I had bright, inventive, non-conformist teenagers who needed to get caught up academically.  I scheduled every damn minute I had to have those kids working on something so that I could spend my time poking and prodding the two or three kids who were refusing to do anything.
    • Reality check two: I’m not unusual in that respect.
  • I was the best teacher ever when I taught in a public school and I couldn’t do anything for my advanced students so obviously no one can. (5a, 5b)
    • Digging around on her blog, Connie taught 4th grade in public schools.  This means that somewhere in her district – and possibly in the same building as she was – there was a 5th grade teacher.  She didn’t need to recreate the wheel or write an entire new curriculum for the precocious kid; she just needed to borrow from the next grade.  If she didn’t want to do that, she could have asked the 5th grade teacher the following question “What’s the one (book or subject area) that you would LOVE to teach the students but don’t have time to do?”  Get a copy of the book – or a copy of an age-appropriate book on the topic – and give it to the student to work on.
    • Ironically, I also taught for 8 years.  I put together my first advanced subject for a student when I was at year 0.5.  I had a student who was strongly interested in medicine and wanted an anatomy physiology class.  I found a high-school level anatomy/physiology book in the book room.  I assigned her the chapter and chapter end questions (which I hated doing, but I didn’t have time to make a great curriculum from scratch) and added a “real-life” topic project at the end of each chapter. (One was to pick a community health issue like diabetes and create a pamphlet that could be distributed at a local business like a barbershop.)  I wrote traditional tests for her based on the chapter material and weighted the project and tests together for her assessment grade.  By the end of year three, I had two zoology credits, two botany credits, and a credit of physics ready and waiting for advanced students.
    • Reality check: I’m not unusual in that respect.  I was a gifted kid.  My first-grade teacher gave me chapter books with different worksheets.  In second-fourth grade, we had encyclopedias in the classroom so I would help myself to one when I had finished whatever assignment and would read up on human anatomy.  By fifth grade, I just brought library books on whatever my personal topic of interest was to do while other kids were finishing up.  By 6th grade, I was placed in advanced leveled math that kept me busy enough between other subjects I didn’t need to bring anything extra.
Unstated Assumption: My homeschooling system is so efficient that my kids don’t need to spend nearly as much time a day in academic learning as a public school kid does!
  • Raising Arrows‘ kids get < 2 hours a day in K-4th grade, 2-4 hours a day in 5-6th grade and >4 in 7th-12th grade.
  • Raising Olives’ kids between 4-12 years got a maximum of 3 hours of schooling a day while the 13-15 year olds got 3.5 hours a day – but that requires accepting 1 hour of Bible reading as an academic subject.
  • In A Shoe starts school some time after 10am and seems to plan that the younger kids will be finished by 2pm and the older kids be done by 3pm or they will miss out on free time which is the chunk of time remaining after using the kids for manual yard labor but before dinner.  Assuming lunch is prepared by Mom and eaten while studying, this could be as long as 4 hours for little kids and 5 hours for older kids – but I don’t know how late school day can start, either.
  • Smockity Frocks kids get 1.5 hours of schoolwork in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon for 3.5 hours a day.  (She never shows her entire schedule on any post labeled as homeschooling, but I watched her video on chores and counted the blocks labeled for school subjects.).
  • The absolute absurd award, however, goes to Large Families on Purpose!  When her oldest girls were 8 & 9 years old respectively, they were scheduled for 4 hours of homeschooling a day.  Two years later, the same two girls had dropped to 3 hours of homeschooling a day. By age 12, the eldest daughter was teaching herself four 7th grade subjects in 2 hours a day while spending 3 hours a day feeding babies under two and preparing breakfast and lunch.  Her 11 year old sister got 3 hours for teaching herself 7th grade while having as many as 5 hours a day for chores.
We all have our priorities; mine was making sure my students learned academic material.  Blogs like these show how quickly the same parents who rail about academic failings in public schools ignore their failures to educate their own kids.
moreRead more by Mel
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Mel is a science teacher who works with at-risk teens and lives on a dairy farm with her husband. She blogs at When Cows and Kids Collide She is also an very valuable source of scientific information for us here at NLQ. Mel is also blessed with the ability to look at the issues of Quiverfull with a rational mind and break them down to their most basic of elements.


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