Homeschooling is Taking All Day! What Do I Do?

This topic is going around Marsha Johnson’s Waldorf Home Educators Yahoo list, but it must be something in the air because one of my best friends and I have been having this conversation for weeks.  Apparently it is on the collective consciousness of the homeschooling community!

My schedule with having two out of my three children in the upper grades (which I consider grades 5-8) is quite different than it has been in the past.  Right now, it essentially boils down to the fact that I DO have to keep an eye on the clock.  I am torn about that, because part of homeschooling is the ability to sit and ponder and think and go “deeper” but if I do that with one child who takes four hours and  can only do that with me sitting right there, no one else gets what they need.  Also, because of our large age gaps, I cannot really combine much at this point.  Please see my back post about homeschooling the large family for some talk about combining in Waldorf homeschooling, because there are lots and lots of ways that you typically can combine!  There are broader age categories for things than typical in a Waldorf School!

Some mothers are masters at having all children working on main lessons at the same time in the same room.  I wish I could do that but I don’t seem to be able to do it;  my children can’t concentrate that way and neither can I.  So I don’t approach school  that way, but it can be a helpful approach for so many. Instead,  I approach it as what does that child  need from me directly, what can they do on their own and how do I encourage that (which also takes time and planning)  (and no, my oldest really wasn’t adept at this until sixth-seventh grade, my now fifth grader is a little more independent, and I have a feeling our third child will be the most independent worker of all – so LOOK at the temperaments and personalities of the children in front of you, and look carefully at how YOU are encouraging independent work from your child once they are past the nine year change), and what is essential in terms of building capacities for that particular child.

So, right now I essentially start with a walk for everyone (which I had given up for a long time and have now come back to it), but I keep it short.  By 8:45 our fifth grader and I are doing our main lesson.  Our eighth grader is doing independent work (piano practice, outside distance learning Spanish class homework)  and then working with her younger brother.  At 10:15, I work with our littlest member and our oldest does her independent math work and our fifth grader rests and reads independently for school. (In the past our older children did circle time with our youngest, but not this year.  We may go back to that next year).   At 11:00 I start with our eighth grader and our fifth grader can finish any work needed and then play with her little brother.  We eat lunch at 12:30 and rest.  We come back a few afternoons a week for handwork with a read-aloud, and a few one on one times for special subjects for both older child – for our eighth grader this happens to be World Geography and in the spring it will be Civics and for our fifth grader it is extra lesson activities and math.  On those days, school does go “long”, but I expect that with an eighth grader in the house!   Also, three days a week I work an extra forty-five minutes in  with our eighth grader on math that “would be in a block” and/or Life Skills.  Know the homeschool laws in your state; are there requirements for hours a day or year to be completed?

I think the key to having less full days with younger children in the early grades is 1- to make sure you really get through the “main lesson” part  early on in the day , if having it done early works for you.   2 – do not schedule your home school like a Waldorf School with too many different periods and such – you are one person and will have to be “on” for all those different lessons – remember,  homeschooling is and should and will be different than a school environment 3 – be prepared so you can be efficient – have your drawings done ahead of time, but also draw with your child, know what you are teaching, know what your child really needs and is the essential for that child at that time 4 – remember that for homeschooling to work long-term you have GOT to take care of YOURSELF and the family in terms of meals, rest, exercise and so forth – so resting after lunch, having time during the week to do what YOU as a person  outside of being a mother and homeschool teacher need to do is VITALLY important! and 5 – remember what pieces of “real life” in your real home nurturing schedule are developing capacities – cooking is so much math; playing games can also be logic and math and reading; writing grocery lists and thank you cards are developing skills – start thinking outside of the school box and finally 6 –  yes, you may need to keep an eye on the clock.   Some families are content to go all day, but many have other things to do either for other children in the family or for the home, etc.  The rhythm of school has to work for all of the family in order to be sustainable.

Please do share your experiences.  Help your fellow homeschooling mothers!


9 thoughts on “Homeschooling is Taking All Day! What Do I Do?

  1. Pingback: » Homeschooling is Taking All Day! What Do I Do?

  2. Hi Carrie
    Thank you for this. I truly feel HS should not take all day but for my 5th grader he needs 20-25 hours a week of school. This year I am trying a different approach and so far am feeling it is th best for us. He is working with a checklist for much if the daily and weekly work. He has a deadline. I am pre reading more and also only doing one dwg a week w him.
    I do think burn out is very real. And that we need to prioritize if w have more than 2 grades to teach. God has given us 24h in a day and does not expect more. I am grateful we have the options and can be mindful of how we plan our days. A privilege.
    Carrie 🙂

    • Carrie,
      Please don’t discount all the real life hours you do things as part of school too,plus that independent work! That is as important as the book work. I like your ideas of checklists, and many fifth graders can handle that. I also agree with limiting the number of drawings – I see in many Waldorf Schools the main lesson books have about eight to twelve (summary and drawings together) total, and I know many Waldorf homeschoolers who put many more than ten things in their main lesson books for a block. So I think that is another place to consider…

  3. I smiled when I first read this, as I have been following that thread with interest! I definitely do not discount life-learning, but I, too, have a 5th grader who is not yet independent and tends to be slow through her work. I only have 2 children, but that leaves my 7 year old hanging and he has never been terribly strong at being/playing independently without interrupting. What an excellent post, all things I have been pondering, and I read with gratitude that I am not alone! Warmly, Nicola

    • Hi Nicola,
      I think one thing to consider with the children that are in fifth and under, and even those fifth to eighth grade, is that independently working is often an emerging skill in the homeschool environment. So, I think if your child is slow in main lesson book work and unable to work independently on drawings or writing summaries, etc., it is super important to consider the workload you are assigning. It should be an amount of work that child can actually get done in a main lesson period, or you need to be willing to stop and pick up tomorrow and stretch it over two days. I think this takes experience in teaching the upper grades. I am much better at it now than I was the first time through, and of course every child is different.
      I think you will come up with just the right solution for your family!
      Blessings and hugs,

    • Thank you, Carrie. Yes, agreed. I am very careful with the workload I bring to my children. My eldest is a spirited child who has taught me a tremendous amount about when and how much to push and when to step back. I read an article recently about Waldorf homeschooling that suggested a main lesson be a powerful 10 minutes, with the remaining main lesson time for discussion and independent/cooperative work. It left me thinking…

  4. Hi Carrie
    Yes I completely agree about the learning in every day life and value it highly. I have slowly increased the academic demands each year. And slowly teach independence in very small steps. He is delighted so far w the autonomy in how to space the weekly work. We meet every morning for one hr for lesson time and then so I can hear him re tell his readings and we can discuss. I include all this and bible reading etc in 20ish hours of school per week.
    Biggest change I have made is to move from defined blocks. I am finding that freeing as it was such a stress to read something in time to work w it fully within the defined weeks. Now we are overlapping much more. So much easier w the 4 kids in the mix and much more efficient use of time. Will see how u feel at the end of the year though lol 🙂

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