Isn’t Homeschool a Lot of Work?

by Ivory Soap on 05/19/2011

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photo by jimmiehomeschoolmom

Homeschool is a mystery to those who don’t do it. Isn’t it a lot of work? It depends. It depends on the number of children you have, their ages, and the curriculum you choose.

Age of children

Kindergarten through third grade is a lot of parent-assisted learning. However, the day is much shorter than for, say, a fifth grader. As the child ages, there’s less and less participation required to get through the work. However, that means that for young children, you have to find something to entertain them for the rest of the day.

Number of children

If you have four young kids, all in different grades, it will be a lot of work in the early years.  But, as they become more independent in their reading, it becomes easier (assuming you don’t have to stand over them to get them to work.)  But one time saver to having your kids piled together is that you can combine subjects.  Art, music, and read aloud literature are all the same for my kids.


If you were to try to replicate a school day at home, it would take you all day. Recess, quiet time, story time, bathroom breaks, lunch time, etc. But, homeschool is only counted as actual work time.  So homeschool is almost always shorter than regular school. However, apart from that, the day can vary greatly depending on the amount of information your curriculum wants to cram in their little heads.   (Almost all of them lay the whammy down in 7th and up, so I’m mostly talking here about k-6.)

Some curriculums have seven subjects each day, forty minutes each, even in first grade.  Others have even more subjects with less time allotted to each.  Some have very few subjects and very little time on each, choosing instead to emphasize unstructured natural-world-observation (read: play outside) in the early years.  (That’s mine.)  It has no science or social studies for k-1.  Those are added in grade 2 and are very limited.  It adds Latin and really cranks up the history in grade 3.  For literature, we listen to classics on audio in the car or I read aloud.

And the name of the “style” of the homeschool often tells you nothing.  Mine is a “classical curriculum.”   There are classical curriculums that require hours and hours per child each day (even for 2nd grade!) and some that require ONE hour for second grade.  Mine is the second type.

My Experience

Math is a long worksheet each day.  Once we have that done, the day is half over.  Handwriting is a quick exercise in a little book.  Poetry and Geography are mostly oral recitation.  Religion too, but every week there is a little lesson to read.  Each kid has daily reading in an easy reader.  Both have a fairly involved phonics lesson.  Science, Social Studies, Art and Music are each once a week for about 15 minutes.  Literature is read aloud and totally my favorite.  In order of time spent, emphasis is on:  Math, Phonics/Reading, Religion, Memory Work

Back when I did a Charlotte Mason-ish curriculum, the main focus was literature:  science literature, history literature, geography literature, multiple types of fiction literature, religion literature.  LOTS of reading aloud.  Lots of time spent.  It was so delightfully rich, but my emphasis was on getting through all that reading, not the 3R’s.  It showed.

What Does My Day Look Like?

The short answer is:  I nurse like it’s my job.  Kids have summer all year except for two hours each day.

3AM–Nurse baby and snooze.

6AM–Nurse baby and snooze.  Hubby sets up any conscious children are on Netflix watching a cartoon so Baby and I can sleep.

8AM–Kids are up, fixing their own breakfast, destroying my kitchen, more cartoons.

9AM–I’m up long enough to make coffee, feed the animals, fuss at the kids about the kitchen, and go back to nurse baby. Big kids go outside to climb willow tree and chase chickens. Maybe ride bikes. Riding goats not allowed.  After feeding baby (again), I write.

The above activities continue until I’m done writing and ready to do school. Could be before or after lunch, but here’s one like today:

11AM–Heavy snacks.  Two kids is playing legos, one is making something out of popsicle sticks.  More writing since baby is napping.

12PM–Stop writing.  Haul out the homeschool bag and kids started on math, baby on knee or asleep, preschooler playing legos.

Math—about 20 minutes
Handwriting–5 minutes
Poetry memorization–5 minutes

2nd grader’s–States/Capitals memorization, Phonics, Reading, Religion, and possibly science or social studies (one day each) while 1st grader and preschooler play outside

1st grader’s–Reading and Religion while 2nd grader and preschooler play outside or legos.

1:00-ish Disorganized lunch, if we didn’t snack all the way through homeschool.

More playing outside: riding bikes, burning leaves with magnifying glasses, funerals for any dead little animals they find, hula hoops, scooters, jump ropes etc.  I feed baby.

3:30 or 4PM–Grammy or friends in the neighborhood come home. If it’s Grammy, then they go to choir or karate, if Monday or Thursday, play in neighborhood. I start cleaning and doing major chores, making dinner, feed baby.

6-ish–Dinner.  More play with friends or games at home with us.  More nursing the baby.

8PM–Bedtime routine

9PM–Nurse baby

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Myrnie May 19, 2011 at 3:16 pm

My goodness, I’m glad you wrote this! We have a newborn, 2, and 5. The 5 is in Kindergarten this year, and your comment about nursing like it’s your JOB…cracks me up 🙂

Portia McCracken May 19, 2011 at 6:53 pm

I’d say your kids are very lucky to have you for a mom. Wish I’d had one like you.

Mary May 19, 2011 at 9:37 pm

Thank you so much for this post. My girls are 4&5 years old, and I have a 3.5 month old baby. I too nurse like it is my only job. We just decided to homeschool (even though I’ve been doing work with my girls for a while). This makes me feel better that we spend most of the day outside and not hovering over books.

Ginny May 20, 2011 at 6:34 am

My youngest is almost two but I remember the nursing days really well. We cyberschool the kids (in my preschooler’s case it’s basically the same as homeschooling) and even at that I look at the schedule you have here and I’m just amazed at your organization and ambition. I’m especially impressed that you are finding time in this schedule to write. That is a humongous struggle for me. Lots and lots of kudos from here.

amy May 22, 2011 at 4:01 pm

thanks for posting this. my daughter is three and i’ve been toying with the idea of homeschool. how do you know which curriculum to choose? what advice do you have for a newbie? how did you learn about this…and what to do?

Jody May 23, 2011 at 7:48 am

Love it. We need to do a little more work year round on handwriting. What do you do?

Nicki May 24, 2011 at 7:42 am

I had a nurser like that! My current baby is so laid back that we could forget about her if she wasn’t so cute and sweet. And yes, homeschool revolves around baby.

My 5 year old only does reading, Bible and catechism right now. His older sisters have much more work, and he listens in to our read-alouds, but I’m getting him to the point of reading on his own, then we’ll start Math. I’ve decided to rotate his 3 Rs. : )

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