Homeschooling is a big time commitment, so it makes sense that many people who are considering homeschool wonder how much time it takes. The answer is that it varies tremendously based on many factors. The beauty of homeschool is that it is individual, and so every homeschool looks different. How many children are you homeschooling? Do you take lots of field trips? What are the ages of your children? Do you do classes online? Do you go to a co-op? What curriculum do you use? All those things and more are influences on the amount of time it takes. Another factor, and a very important one, is the length of your child’s attention span. On that topic, I would like to offer a bit of a time guide for gauging the time it takes to do bookwork based on the age of your child. Keep in mind, this would be bookwork or comparable activities with manipulatives ONLY, it does not factor in other types of learning experiences that you might want to include in your homeschool. Also, this is NOT absolute! If your child is super fast and gets her work done really quickly, great! That’s what makes homeschool awesome – she has time to do other things. If your child struggles or is meticulous and takes longer, great! That’s what makes homeschool awesome – he has the luxury of being able to take his time. Embrace this truth about homeschool: it is what you want it to be and what you and your children need it to be. There is no one-size-fits all or right way to do it. So, use the guide below to help you get an idea of the time needed, but realize that ultimately, YOU are the expert on what your child needs. Observe your child and listen to him or her and tailor your homeschool accordingly. The one caveat to this is that your state (if you live in the United States) might have a time requirement for homeschool, so make sure to check before you begin. This is a great resource for learning about your state’s homeschool laws and requirements: https://hslda.org.
Preschool ages: 5-10 minutes spent on a topic such as numbers, shapes, colors, letters etc., total time of 15-30 minutes, plus more time for reading, reading, reading! Formal instruction is not really needed at this age. Learning through books, dialogue, exploration, and play is sufficient if you don’t want to start “school” at this stage.
Kindergarten: 10-15 minutes per subject, total time of 30 minutes to an hour plus reading, reading, reading! Exploration, play, and lots of outdoor time are still excellent ways to learn at this age and should be emphasized over bookwork.
Early Elementary: 15-20 minutes per subject, total time of 1-2 hours, plus reading.
Late Elementary: 20-30 minutes per subject, total time of 2-3 hours.
Middle School: 30-40 minutes per subject, total time of 3-5 hours.
High School: 30 minutes to an hour per subject, total time of 4-6 hours.
Now, if you are new to homeschool and you have three or four children of different ages, don’t tally up all those hours and expect that to be the time commitment needed. Your young child will need you for 100% of their school time, but even kindergarteners and first graders can usually do some work independently, and your child will be able to work more and more independently as they grow and mature. Also, you can do many subjects as a family, which I strongly recommend. Science, history, and foreign language are subjects that can easily be adapted for group learning that addresses many different levels at once.
Along with daily instructional time, when considering your time commitment as a homeschool parent, you have to factor in time to review/grade/correct your child’s work, and preparation time. There are some curricula that are completely open-and-go, so little to no preparation is needed. Some homeschool parents design their own learning experiences, which takes more time.
One more thing to consider when estimating your time commitment is time for social experiences. This might not take much time at all if you live in a neighborhood full of children that play together, or it might take more time if you need to plan and travel to social events so that your children can spend time with other children.
If this all seems overwhelming, I want to offer a word of encouragement. I homeschool five children that range from preschool to high school. We start school work around 8 in the morning and finish around noon. My high school kid will often keep working past that time, and often begin before that time, but he can do so independently, so I can be done even if he isn’t. Because we can work so efficiently at home, we have the flexibility to take field trips and go on outings once a week if we want to and still keep up with our bookwork. Of course your homeschool will look different, but if I can do it, so can you! That doesn’t sound too bad, does it?