The “When” and “Where” of Home-Schooling

This is the fourth, and final, post in my four-part series on “Getting Started in Homeschooling.” 

In bringing up the “when” of homeschooling, I could actually be talking about  a couple of different things.  When do you homeschool in terms of a “school year?”  What time of day do you homeschool and is this the same time every day?  The answers to these question will depend, at least in part, on what the laws are in your state in regards to homeschooling.  I live in the state of Florida which (thankfully) does not have any regulations that delineate a certain number of hours per day or days per year during which “schooling” must take place.  However, many states do, and I would advise you to become familiar with your state’s requirements.  You can find more information about your state’s homeschooling requirements at the Home School Legal Defense Association

If your state does have laws specifying a required numbers of hours/days that schooling must take place I would then encourage you to talk to veteran home-schoolers in your area who can give you ideas as to how you can best comply with these regulations while still allowing for flexibility in your home-school program.  The Home School Legal Defense Association’s website also has information on state (and international) homeschool support groups.

As a veteran homeschooler of over two decades I will point out (as other veteran home-schoolers would I’m sure) that education is not limited to a certain place and time.  Our thinking has become so entrenched in an institutional model that it takes a real paradigm shift to begin to recognize that opportunities to educate and to learn are all around us.  Don’t be limited by a schedule that looks oddly similar to the one the public school down the street practices (see my first post in this series “What is Home Schooling?” for more on this subject).

I think it would be safe to say that most people function best in a situation where there are generally outlined parameters that allow for flexibility.  Given that, I would encourage you to set up certain days and times where you will focus on certain subjects or courses while allowing yourself the flexibility to shift focus on days when mom is sick, or kids are sick, or dad has a day off that you want to spend doing a family activity, or relatives are in town, or some life event has happened that requires your immediate attention (such as a death in the family).  If you allow up-front for that flexibility then you will stress-out less when the unexpected (good or bad) happens, and you will find it easier to get back into a routine once life returns to “normal.”

I want to point out here that when I say “normal” I mean normal for YOU and YOUR family.  Over the course of homeschooling these twenty-plus years, the schedule I use in terms of what months I school, when I take breaks, and even what our daily schedule is, has varied widely.  At this point in time, my 17-year old son works almost entirely independently and he works on his schoolwork at all different times of day (including very late at night) depending on what works for him.  My 9-year old requires very little sit-down time “doing school” and we work with him whenever it works for us.  So when I say that I am a “relaxed homeschooler” or that I am flexible with my homeschooling program – I really mean it!

Just as I think it is helpful to have a general idea of “when” you will homeschool, it is also helpful to have a general “where.”  I strongly encourage new homeschoolers to set aside an area of their home where all their homeschooling supplies will be kept: texts, paper, pencils, crayons, art supplies – whatever you might be using for that year – find a place for it and then be consistent about requiring that at the end of the day, everything goes back in that place.  It will make your life that much simpler when you don’t have to start out each day hunting for what you need.

You might also want to set aside a certain place where you will conduct the majority of your schooling.  I did this for many years – using (for instance) a small formal dining room as our schoolroom in one house, and a fourth bedroom for our schoolroom in another house.  When we built the house we are living in now we built a large school/family room where the walls are lined with shelves full of books, toys, curriculum, you name it.  For many years my kids actually did their schoolwork in this room but in recent years I found that my middle son (now 17 years old) does not work well with distractions so he does his schoolwork on his bed!  And we work with my youngest wherever it happens to be convenient.  Again, structure plus flexibility is the key!

What suggestions would you offer to someone just starting out as to the “when” and “where” of  home-schooling?  Please share your experiences and if you are a homeschooling veteran, tell us if (and how) your homeschooling experience has changed over the years.

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  • I think if I was homeschooling I'd like to stick to specific hours. Routines are so important for kids… and this mum:) The site is looking lovelier by the day. Thanks for adding the handy LinkedIn and Twitter links. I can't suggest much now except maybe pointing out that it's free to subscribe. The home page has no RSS feed and on this page it would be good to close the gap between the RSS subscribe and the email subscribe box so space isn't wasted. That way you can even move the ads up higher to make them more clicked on and the Twitter/LinkedIn to the very bottom if you prefer. It depends what actions you want people to take most. Keep up the good blogging Anne. You've got a great base for your writing here.

  • annegalivan

    Thank you so much Annabel! You are always so encouraging!

    I think most home-schooling parents start out more structured until their confidence in their ability grows. I know that in my case, my children had desks that they worked at and we worked during a certain time of the day (I think from about 10-2) in the first few years of our home-schooling “adventure.” Over the years however, a number of circumstances intervened: the tragic death of my brother; a chronic illness that I developed; having a baby at 40 (!) – over time, simply out of necessity, I had to learn to relax and realize that everything would get done eventually. And it did.

    But again, by the time I had been home-schooling for a decade I had figured out what was critical, what was helpful, what was simply nice or fun to do but not necessary. My two older children proved to me that their educational experience had been much more than adequate (one has a Master's degree; the other earned his Bachelor's degree at the age of 20 with a 4.0 GPA). So even though my approach is much more relaxed than it was when I was starting out, I feel confident I am preparing my two younger children as well.

    I will let my daughter (my “webmaster”) know about your suggestions for positioning of widgets etc. I thank you again for your input. I appreciate it very much!