I seen lots of moms worried recently over how much time is enough time for a homeschool day. I STRESSED over that exact thing our first year of homeschool and occassionally that worry still rears its ugly head. I am so blessed to have a close knit group of friends that also homeschool. That is really important if you are going to take this journey. You need other moms to support you, uplift you, and remind you that everything you are going through is 'normal'.
So onto the issue of time. Each state requires a different amount of time for schooling. In general this is a set number of days and hours each day. If you are going through an umbrella school or online option, your requirements may be different. In general it's good to realize these are a guideline and not meant to intimidate you into making your 5 year old sit at a table and do worksheets for 4 hours straight. Think logically and realize that you need to do what works for you and your child/children. That's one of the HUGE benefits of homeschool.
So when we pulled Apple from public preK she was spending about 6 hours at the school each day. I felt obligated to give her 6 hours of instruction at home. That was just insane for a 4 year old. Wasn't happening! I thought about it, prayed about it, and consulted other homeschoolers about it. I began to peel away the layers of that 6 hours she had been spending at school. She was served breakfast and lunch there. She stood in lines for the bathroom, washing hands, etc. A large portion of their afternoon was spent at stations playing with sand or doing puzzles. She spent time in the library and computer lab. She had PE and recess (basically the same). She also had snack time and rest time. She was only bring home maybe 2 or 3 worksheets a WEEK from preK. Her time spent actually learning at a desk was very limited.
So how do I reconcile that with my state's time requirement? The same way a school does. Movies can be very educational. Don't laugh because I'm being serious! Not all movies are educational. In her short few weeks at school there were several movies she told me she watched that I saw no educational value in AT ALL. However even some Disney movies can be educational if used as part of a theme or lesson. My kids watched The Lion King yesterday and I counted that as school time. Why? Because I watched most of it with them and we talked about Africa (social studies) (and bonus because we thought about and prayed for our special missionary friends there) and we used the movie to review our animal classifications we have been learning in science. Each time a new animal appeared on the screen Apple and Speedy shouted out if it was a bird, reptile, mammal, etc. To go deeper we discussed again that monkeys have tails and apes do not so the crazy monkey is actually a monkey!
What else counts for school time? We play on the playground with friends, it's recess/ PE. We do several field trips throughout the year and they are all very educational. Last year we went to a farm for their Fall Fest, and we will go back this year. We are looking into visiting a local dairy and more! You can visit a fire station, train station, library, zoo, museum, art show, play, and they all count as school time because your children are learning, they are soaking it all in.
Go for a nature walk for science, go talk to a neighbor that is from another country, join a postcard penpal program, think outside that box that we settle into so easily! Let your kids put on a play for you. Let them play with playdoh, blocks, legos, and lincoln logs. Pull out the paint, crayons, markers, and scissors to see what they can create. Give them a poster board and some glitter and ask them to make a display about whatever you've been learning. Let them make macaroni necklaces or glue beans on a paper to review shapes, letters, and numbers. Get creative!
But most of all, don't get bogged down or discouraged about your time. You know if your child is learning or not. At the beginning of the school year choose which subjects you think are the most important. Lay down a framework for how much your child needs to learn in that subject during the semester or the year. The easiest way to do that is to buy a curriculum. Buy a workbook from Sams Club or a whole year's worth of lessons from BJU. Either way get your hands on the information you want to present and then break it down into weeks and then into days. If your child is a super fast learner like Apple, then somedays they will be done with "desk work" in an hour. Fill the other time with supplemental education. Once they are able to read, then let them read! Give them a book and let them read for an hour.
Do they like computers? Find an educational game site and let them have at it for 30 minutes. We even have some educational DS games for our kids. They play them for 30 minutes and it goes into the planner for the day.
Look I in no way consider us to be "un-schoolers." We are definately more traditional, but I do realize that kids learn through play and hands on activities. I'm so grateful I had friends let me know that those count. As the teacher, you need an uplifted fresh attitude everyday or school will become tedious for everyone involved!
I hope this has been an encouragement for you! If not, read Psalm 23. You might even know it by heart. That's our newest memory verses in our class!