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

Homeschooling Badly: Twenty Minutes of Homeschooling is Like an Hour of Public Schooling August 7, 2017

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

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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  • Friend

    Yes! “The same parents who rail about academic failings in public schools ignore their failures to educate their own kids.”

    Many of these parents also make a virtue of limiting education, while complaining that public schools don’t provide an adequate education.

  • Mimc

    I knew a homeschool family with six kids that was just like that. The mother once said to me “the lower grades are easy because you can just pick up workbooks at Walmart”. Yet she would rail about how public school didn’t challenge kids and it was all worksheets all day.

  • Rob Tanner

    Such a good point about the “mote” of public school deficiencies versus the “beam” of unqualified homeschool moms’ deficiencies. However, I would hold that public school deficiencies is just the backup excuse for homeschooling while unqualified. The real reason is avoidance of secular humanism and any idea that might encourage actual thinking, and limiting exposure to those heathen PS kids.

  • AFo

    My school follows a block schedule, so I have my students for 80 minutes at a time. In just one class I’m giving my students an in depth lesson on a particular text or topic that’s almost equal to the amount of time these homeschool kids are spending on their total academic day. As for lag time, yes, it can be hard to plan for a period that long, and there will almost always be students who finish early. Luckily, in English class, there’s always the next chapter to read ☺

  • Tailored

    5 hours a day for chores? For a kid? WTF!?

  • Nea

    Sorting recycling is as much of an educational practice as waiting in line for the drinking fountain . Oh? Is there much interaction with people not just like you during the sorting? Because standing in line, going to and from lunch/class was an entire education in:
    – conversation
    – making/keeping friends
    – learning about things I/my parents weren’t familiar with

    (My father has always said that living in a college dorm is so educational that it ought to have academic credit. Having done so myself, I think he’s right.)

    I couldn’t do anything for my advanced students. Um… seriously, people brag about being bad and unimaginative teachers? Wow.

    Although I will confess, I’m public schooled all the way, and there *was* a time when I had only 1 hour of class a day. The days were Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; all my other college classes had been scheduled for Tuesday and Thursday that semester.

  • Nea

    And now you know why so many homeschool families assume that the boys will do manual labor when they grow up.

  • guerillasurgeon

    I taught for about 25 or so years and what we call “low decile” schools. I sometimes had bright students, and some of them actually came from good homes. But some didn’t. I remember one year the only kid in my class who I was sure was going to pass the exam at the end of the year disappeared. Apparently his parents had kicked out of home for selling drugs. There were a couple of other kids in the class that could have passed if they’d had some basic literacy help. But that had only just been introduced and was only available for the first 2 years of high school. Pity, because they enjoyed the subject. Stuff like that happened all the time, but overall the kids got a reasonable deal I thought. Given the parents incomes and lack of education, our exam results were pretty good. My son attended after I had left, and he did all right. Dammit, I’ve lost the thread and I’m not quite sure what point I’m supposed to be making here – oh well. It may come back to me and I may have to come back and edit. 🙂

  • Anonyme

    The last one astounds me but it’s a shade less extreme than the Duggar family, where the girls are not only substitute moms, but also get to teach the younger kids.
    My four older siblings and I were all homeschooled, but we had outside activities like dance class or horseback riding. We also could take supplemental courses at community colleges when we were teenagers, and my parents always never used my older sisters as substitute moms/teachers. They had to help out when needed (and so did the boys) but weren’t expected to spend hours feeding, clothing, and watching the younger kids.

  • Rachel

    My favorite semester in my undergrad years was when I squeezed all my classes into Tuesday/Thursday. That semester I was either doing an internship for course credit or an independent study where I was watching Spanish-language films and writing weekly reflections, so I only had to take 3 formal classes and I squeezed them all in on those 2 days. They were long days but so satisfying.

  • Mel

    Unfortunately, that’s not unusual at all for the oldest few kids in a large QF family.

    My dad grew up in a large Catholic family – 8 kids in 11.5 years with no multiple births. It worked because 1) everyone ate oatmeal for breakfast with personal choice of additions 2) after breakfast, all kids over about 6 went to school leaving Nanna with a baby, a toddler and a preschooler to keep an eye on while she did basic housework and started dinner prep, and 3) the older kids kept an eye on the baby, toddler and preschooler while she finished dinner.

    A homeschooling family has to add one additional meal prep and clean up every day in an overcrowded house where the “bigger” kids don’t leave. Oh, and homeschooling. But home schooling the oldest few kids often takes a back burner to having those kids cook, do laundry and care for the youngest in the family because a single adult can’t do all of the family chores AND teach at the same time.

    It’s almost like people in the past realized that the most effective way to teach academics was to hire some people to teach larger groups of kids which freed other adults to tend to household chores or hold jobs….. 😛

  • smrnda

    I’m wondering if we need a different word to describe educations like yours other than ‘home-schooled.’ Or else we need to quit letting people who are just having the kids do chores all day and only occasionally educating call what they are doing home schooling.

  • smrnda

    When you mentioned English, literature is a subject where you might actually need a classroom with enough people to have a decent discussion. Those discussions can also be just as important as reading the material, and it can be valuable to get a variety of perspectives.

  • Tawreos

    They have to talk up what they do, since what so many of them never do is teach any kind of critical thinking skills. You can’t have a kid using those during the bible reading portion of the day. Poor homeschooling would explain why so many trolls seem to think that if something remotely resembles a language then it is good enough.

  • Mimc

    I had a semester were I had a class ever other hour on Mon, Wed, Fri and Tues and Thurs totally open. I hadn’t planned it that way but it worked well for me internship schedule.

  • MarquisDeMoo

    “A few never got my attention because they asked the kid next to them who showed them what to do.” – Nothing quite so rewarding and confirmatory of knowledge than selling it to someone else or working it out together……..

  • Mel

    Your family did homeschooling really well. I hope your parents are proud of the good work they did with the five kids because homeschooling well is hard work for the parents involved.

  • Speedwell

    I used to teach IT software classes to Texas engineers in a corporate setting. One of my favorite exercises was “use any means at your disposal to find the correct answers to the questions on this worksheet”. Mostly people restricted themselves to solitary searches of the database. Some mavericks worked with the person next to them. But my favorites were the person who called his department secretary and had her read him the answers out of the reference books in his office, and the person who called a colleague who had taken the class the month before and asked for a scan of his completed worksheet. Now we’re talking. 🙂

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Yeah, that really sounds pretty damn “efficient” to me. Did I ever have idle time in school or time where I had to wait for a teacher’s help? Of course! But I would say that it definitely helped that none of my teachers were also charged with doing my family’s laundry or caring for my little sister. Because they weren’t trying to be teachers while also being homemakers in high-demand homes at the same time.

    Also, that thing where sometimes a kid gets help from another kid instead? Is much easier when all the kids are at the same grade level. Peer-to-peer help is not a replacement for the work of a professional adult teacher but it’s a great and important supplement that is harder to come by when you have no classmates, just siblings who are all learning different material.

    How on earth do they figure that this system is more efficient than school? It just has different inefficiencies. Plus, those inefficiencies in traditional school are not a total loss. Homeschoolers poo-poo concerns about socialization but kids learn a lot during non-instructional time–if these people are so keen on the idea of life skills as equivalent to academic subjects, they should be all about it.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Also, the lower grades are NOT easier. That kind of teaching often involves introducing entirely new concepts to kids (like literacy), rather than helping them gain more sophisticated mastery of concepts they already have. They both have their own challenges–I have done both, although I taught littles in extracurricular settings–but the challenges of teaching younger kids are not lesser than the challenges of teaching older kids. I hate this idea. You aren’t automatically good at teaching first grade subjects just because you don’t personally, as a grown adult, find beginner reading and arithmetic easy. And if you’re just throwing worksheets at kids, you’re doing it wrong. That is not enough for most kids, even precocious and autodidactic ones.

  • Mimc

    I could not agree more. Teaching read and math literacy would be hard. I’ve never done it myself but I do remember learning it and it was definitely more complicated than “do this workbook”. In fact the only time I did nothing but worksheets all day was the 5 years I spend in Christian school. When I was in public school they were a pretty small part of the day.

  • SAO

    States should require that homeschooled kids take the state proficiency exams with some consequences for failing.

    Many schools I’ve seen think 2 hours of homework is acceptable for a 7th grader. The idea is that the kid learns skills at school and practices them at home for mastery.

  • Mimc

    I think that is probably too much homework. Kids need time for hobbies and down time too. Often extracurricular activities can help them find a career or just a lifetime source of enjoyment.

  • smrnda

    Given how much peer to peer help and collaboration is necessary in real life, I think it needs to be encouraged a bit more. I’m not sure how a home-schooling parent would really replicate it either, unless they enrolled a kid in classes or some kind of cooperative.

    There is also something about learning from teachers who aren’t heavily emotionally invested parents or working with peers who are not siblings or really close friends. Eventually, that’s going to be life, in school or in work. Kids benefit from involved parents, but I can’t imagine what it must be like to reach the age of 18 and not once had your performance or competence evaluated by anyone other than a parent.

    With inefficiencies, the usual gripes are either 1. the kid who needs extra attention who must wait or 2. the kid who gets done easily who needs more of a challenge. But I’m not sure that all home-schooling is better for those kids. The kid who has to wait for help at the school might just never get it at home, and the kid who ‘gets done early’ just gets put to work by the parents.

  • smrnda

    This is also a time when knowing about learning disabilities and developmental delays and such is really vital, and your average parent simply won’t have any training in that area.

  • Mimc

    I doubt very much my parents would have be able to recognize my absence seizures for what they were. It was my preschool teacher that know almost immediately that I needed to see a neurologist.

  • Kevin K

    The proof, of course, is in the SAT scores, in achievement beyond the home school environment, including outside of the churchy bubble these people are in, success at jobs and life in general. I’ve seen kids of Quiverful parents. They’re isolated and quite alone aside from their siblings.

  • SAO

    I think there’s often too much homework, but as a point of comparison, it’s telling.

  • crden

    Um, no, teaching literacy and numeracy is more complicated than that, and that’s assuming the kids don’t have any problems.

    I have one kid who needed challenge, and needed it badly. Some teachers coped with it better than others. Instead of writing a sentence for each spelling word, he usually chose to work the spelling words into haiku, he decided he didn’t like the boxes to be filled in on math worksheets so he wrote MN for mystery number and then used algebra to solve for the mystery number, he needed people to discuss the things he read with him, etc. He would go on jags about things he saw as moral issues, doing things like using a month worth of show and tells to present information about the importance of bees in the ecosystem. Some teachers rolled with him pretty well. Others didn’t so much, but he needed interpretation and discussion, the opportunity to have people gently correct his notation and definition of new ideas, and the like. The public schools have been able, in later years, to stretch with him, providing him with dual enrollment when needed to do so. There are limits to how early we want to rush him into the working world, and he’s had some really valuable opportunities to engage in activities that aren’t the easiest thing for him. Because he’s talented, he’s needed other people to bounce ideas off.

    I have another kid who’s dyslexic, and I can assure you that just throwing workbooks at him would’ve been wildly inappropriate. He would’ve learned nothing and just cried in the corner. The learning disability affects him everywhere, of course.

    I’m very glad my children have had access to educational professionals with skills and training I don’t have myself. I am quite aware that it’s not easy to teach things that seem obvious to me. 🙂

  • crden

    “Um…seriously, people brag about being bad and unimaginative teachers?”

    That was my thought as well. Of course, I’ve known at least one who did. I know another who had left teaching to be a stay at home mother and said she wouldn’t know what to do with my kid. She admitted that it was probably a sign that although she loved kids, teaching might not have been her best path.

    Edited to add: Also, I agree with you on the conversation stuff. One of the things I most valued about my public school education when I got to college was the fact that I was forced to interact with people from different socio-economic, religious, etc, backgrounds as peers.

  • crden

    I’m also confused about how much time they think public schooled kids spend in their lunch period. My kids had a full twenty minutes for lunch when young, and that included waiting in line. Kids were encouraged to bring water bottles to school with them, which meant there wasn’t much lining up at the water fountain happening. Our school district eliminated recess, something I think was a real mistake.

  • crden

    I think the latter should be the case.

  • crden

    “Homeschoolers poo-poo concerns about socialization but kids learn a lot during non-instructional time”

    Moreover, navigating group work successfully takes practice. Taking in the idea that not everyone is like you and that’s okay, well, that takes practice. Understanding that there’s more than one valid way to interpret something is valuable. Getting your work evaluated by someone who doesn’t have the same emotional connection to you that a family member would is valuable and takes practice.

  • crden

    Well, yes and no. I’ve known private high schools that topped out at the math used on the SAT, for example, because “the proof is in the SAT scores.” I’ve taught their students, and those kids were poorly served. My kid did quite well on the standardized testing, but he’s currently taking integral calculus, French literature, and other similarly advanced coursework at the local public school. The SAT and ACT aren’t going to measure that stuff.

  • Kevin K

    That’s why I only used that as ONE metric. If you look at the REST of my post, I listed quite a number of OTHER things as well.

  • smrnda

    The extent to which college professors are detached from students is a huge shock to many students. We’re judged more for our research and mentoring graduate students, and that often leaves little resources available for undergraduates. High school teachers can seem overly involved on a personal level, but I suspect that college professors are mostly too busy to care.

    Community college instructors tend to occupy a place a bit in the middle. They are there to teach, but they are teaching adults. At the same time, they’re expected to be a bit more hands on and encouraging of students.

    I suspect part of the reason why earlier teachers are more likely to be mad or disappointed is that, dealing with kids, there’s more of a power imbalance.

  • zizania

    My son’s last semester of high school consisted of nothing but Culinary Arts (which he loved and excelled at) and Art (which he didn’t like, but needed to graduate). He really enjoyed that term. He recently graduated, at age 31, at the top of his class in Carpentry at the local college. As he struggled so much in school with his ADHD, he was thrilled to discover that he could succeed at learning. I could never have home-schooled him successfully, even if I hadn’t had to work full time.

  • Mimc

    I think we got 25 minutes for lunch and 3, 10 min recesses. So 8:15 to 3:15 with an hour of free time is still 6 hours of instruction time. Sorry to hear your school eliminated recess. That’s terrible. I don’t know how they can justify taking away break times from little kids when even adults are legally entitled to breaks.

  • crden

    I had serious concerns about that as well, @Mimc. It wasn’t something the teachers in the lower grades wanted to do AT ALL — they really wanted recess. The kids survived, but I think they would’ve been better able to concentrate with a few breaks from directed activities.

  • Derk King

    We had an hour or so of “study hall” all through junior and high school…so homework would amount to an hour at home.

  • I would prefer to see data on the topic and separating proficiency and growth is also important, so I would like the comparison to include both. I wonder if such detailed studies exist. Hmm.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    Such studies would require the cooperation of the homeschooling parents, so we can pretty much rule out that ever happening.

  • For growth, probably, but for proficiency, not so much. While college is not really “higher education” these days, we can look at things like rate of college attendance, proficiency upon entrance, etc for college students. We can also look at the growth rate in college and see how the past home school students perform in comparison to traditional route students.

    Plenty of home school parents would I am sure would also be fine being part of a study on growth outcomes.

    ** Edit: We could also look at incomes of people and see how they compared based on whether they were home schooled or went through the public school system. This would have to be adjusted for socioeconomic condition during upbringing of course.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    During my years in fundytown. I knew exactly two types of homeschooling families. 1 – The college educated mothers with fewer children to educate who did such outstanding job with education that their children ended up with full scholarship to places like William and Mary or UVA. 2 – Mothers who had so many children and such little education themselves that they were overwhelmed and only put a small amount of time and effort in homeschooling, meaning any child that even wanted to go to college had to take at least a year or two of remedial classes at our local community college.

  • Your personal experience does not constitute reasonable evidence for anything. Your anecdotes and biases are noted however.

  • Suzanne Harper Titkemeyer

    I know it does not constitute proof. Just saying it seemed to me for the twenty years I was in that culture that it was either very good or very bad. There does not seem to be any middle ground in any of the narratives of others I’ve read through here either.

  • I was yelled at for reading ahead.

    I had issues with that teacher.

  • Tom

    Actually, regarding modern schooling on the socialisation point, I’ve always thought it very strange that we expect kids to learn adult behaviour by interacting almost exclusively with other kids in an environment where the adults are vastly outnumbered and at times absent entirely, as if this were the most natural outcome in the world. It may be better than homeschooling, which potentially offers as little as no socialisation with non-family whatsoever, but it still seems far, far from ideal.