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How Long is the School Day in a Homeschool Program?

Instructor: Maria Airth

Maria has taught University level psychology and mathematics courses for over 20 years. They have a Doctorate in Education from Nova Southeastern University, a Master of Arts in Human Factors Psychology from George Mason University and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Flagler College.

There are often many questions associated with starting a homeschooling journey. This article responds to one of these questions: How long is a homeschool program day? Read this article to learn more.

A Regular Day in a Homeschool Program

It's normal for parents and caregivers to focus on planning out the school day before they begin a new homeschooling program. How long should a typical homeschool day be? This question is hard to answer directly. It depends on the situation. Every child is different and every situation/homeschooling scenario is different.

When deciding how long your school day should be while homeschooling, consider:

  • The age of the child.
  • The time constraints of the parents and child.
  • The physical and mental needs of the child.
  • Outings that will be taken during the regular school day.

While every homeschooling family adjusts to fit the needs of their family, one thing is fairly consistent, homeschooling families rarely spend a full six hours (as in a traditional 9 am to 3 pm school day) doing schoolwork.

Breaking Down the School Day

Some people believe that homeschooling should look like schooling from home, thus students should be at a desk for the traditional 6 hours of a school day. But that doesn't have to be the case. Let's break down how most children spend a typical day in school:

Non-academic activities Estimated Time Spent
Morning warm-ups 10 minutes
Transitions between subjects 5 minutes per subject
Transition times between activities 5 minutes per activity
Lunch 30 minutes
Recess 15 minutes (twice a day)
Time waiting for others to finish undetermined

A quick look at this list shows just how much non-academic time students spend when they are at school. There is also an undetermined amount of time a student must sit and wait for others to finish a given task before moving on to the next topic. The student must also spend time on tasks that are already mastered because the teacher gives an assignment to help those that have not yet mastered the task and all students are required complete the assignment.

It is clear that many students spend a large portion of the day at school doing menial, pointless tasks.

Another point to remember when thinking about time management and budgeting in a homeschool scenario is the incredible advantage of one-on-one instruction over a traditional schoolroom scenario where there are one or two teachers for dozens of students. Homeschooled children do not need to spend as much time 'at school' as traditionally schooled children spend at school.

Reviewing the Considerations for Time Budgeting in Homeschooling

As mentioned, there are many factors to consider before locking down a strict timetable for a homeschooling program.

The age of the child
Young children need more free time to play (and learn through play) than older students. Make sure that young children are getting plenty of free play time during the day. Older students can spend more time at school work, but they still need social time away from academic tasks.
The time constraints of the parents and child
Some children homeschool because they are involved in activities that take up a lot of time (like gymnastics or acting). In cases like these, the actual school time will be diminished to allow the student to have more time for the desired activity. Academic time may be intense, but short.
The physical and mental needs of the child
Students who are not physically or mentally prepared for long periods of time actively working on academic material should not be made to do so. Homeschooling is designed to be flexible in order to work for all students in the way that the student needs it to work. Flexibility is the key.
Outings that will be taken during the regular school day
Many homeschoolers have regularly scheduled outings such as social activities or field trips. These can include trips to parks, museums, theaters, music lessons, sports, or other excursions. The time traveling to and from these sites, as well as the time spent at the sites all count as school time. Don't forget that school is not just about time spent in front of a book or computer, it is any time spent in the endeavor for knowledge and learning.

The best answer to the question ''How long is the school day in a homeschool program?'' is, ''As long as it needs to be.'' Each homeschooling family will have different needs. Find what works for you.

For more information on homeschooling and guidelines for how to homeschool, visit:

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