You can homeschool in less than two hours per day

When someone first envisions homeschooling, the first thought is often a family replicating the school environment at home. Lessons start promptly at 8:30am, with children working studiously around the kitchen table until a break for lunch at noon. After the lunch break, lessons continue until 2:30pm. Then the homeschool day is over. But, for a large and growing number of families, homeschooling looks absolutely nothing like this. For example, homeschooling families who identify as unschoolers make no distinction between living and learning. Children learn from the day they are born. You can’t stop them. Other homeschooling families believe in incorporating some structured academic activities into their days and weeks. Even so, these families tend to have a lot of free time to play, explore, and go on adventures compared to families with children in traditional schools. Homeschoolers are often asked how they have time to do everything. Where does all their time come from? Let’s compare the amount of structured learning taking place during the school year with the time it takes for homeschoolers to accomplish the same thing.


Our local public school district has 181 school days per year. There are also two scheduled half days, bringing the total full school days to 180.

The district also has 14 days of scheduled standardized testing, with each individual student spending no more than 5 days on testing. Let’s assume that our hypothetical school students will spend 5 days in testing and not have their education disrupted by testing on the other days. That brings the number of school days to 175.

Based on my personal experience attending school, I will also subtract the first day of school, the two days before winter break and spring break, and the entire last week of school, as those days are usually spent watching movies, having class parties, and managing a large group of children who are some combination of giddy, exhausted, and hopped up on sugar. That brings us to 165 days per year.


Let’s get down to the daily level. Our elementary schools begin at 7:45am and end at 2:50pm, which makes the day 7 hours and 5 minutes long. Students get half an hour for lunch and half an hour for recess. That leaves 6 hours and 5 minutes of instruction. Nothing gets done in the last 5 minutes of the day, so let’s call it an even 6 hours. 

In our local elementary school’s first grade classrooms, there are five blocks of morning lessons in the four hours before lunch. Subtract 10 minutes for the beginning of the first lesson and transitions between lessons, which includes explaining instructions to a group of 20+ students, handing out supplies, and getting everyone organized. That brings us down to 5 hours and 10 minutes.

After lunch there is another block of academics. We can subtract another 10 minutes for getting organized again after recess, bringing us down to 5 total hours per day.

Next, they have 50 minutes of “specials,” which is usually art, physical education (P.E.), or library time. We already spend several hours at the library each week, so I can subtract that time. My kids also spend at least an hour a day doing art projects and at least another hour or more running around outside, so I’m going to subtract those minutes. That takes us to 4 hours and 10 minutes a day.

The final 20 minutes of the school day are read aloud time. We spend far more than 20 minutes reading together each day, so we can subtract that too. We’ve arrived at a total of 3 hours and 50 minutes of formal academic instruction each day.


To sum up the calculations so far, kids in our local school system are spending 165 days per year engaging in 3 hours and 50 minutes of formal academic instruction. That’s 632.5 hours of instruction per year. We can lop off a few additional hours for morning announcements, school picture day, dealing with crowd management, that half hour lecture every teacher gives the class at some point when they are losing their minds (who can blame them?), the Halloween party, passing out the Valentine’s Day cards, pizza parties for “good behavior,” celebrating birthdays, and so on. If all those things together take an average of one hour per week, in a 36-week school year, that’s 36 more hours gone, bringing the total instruction time to 596.5 hours.

For homeschoolers who have a relaxed lifestyle, the weekend/weekday distinction is not as important as it is for schooling kids. There is no stressful week to recover from. There is no need to catch up on sleep or finally get some time in nature. These things happen throughout the week. When the living and learning divide isn’t so stark, formal lessons can happen throughout the week without much stress. But, even homeschoolers need a break sometimes. Suppose a homeschooling family does a little schoolwork each day of the week, but takes one month off each year without any formal lessons. That leaves 335 out of 365 days.

Fitting 596.5 hours of instruction into 335 days requires 1.78 hours of formal lessons per day. That’s about 1 hour and 47 minutes every day,with an entire month of vacation each year. Let me say that again. ONE HOUR AND 47 MINUTES. You could do an hour in the morning and another hour in the evening. Or double up with 3.5 hours one day and take the next day off.

To replicate the instruction taking place in the school system, you can homeschool in one hour and 47 minutes per day.


Many homeschooling families take this a step further, noting that some of the instruction that happens in school is not particularly efficient. For example, you can spend hours upon hours teaching a young child what a noun or a verb is, with no guarantee that the information will stick, or you could tell them once a few years later when they are interested, and they will remember it forever. It’s also the case that many of the current instructional practices are not empirically validated. For example, lists of spelling words organized by content area vocabulary tend to have only temporary effects. Translation: learning words for spelling tests usually goes in one ear and out the other. On top of that, students who are either ahead of or behind the rest of the class in any given subject will not get much out of some of the lessons in school. Homeschooling allows you to target the learning to YOUR children’s abilities, which makes for much more effective learning.

With the above scenario in mind, you can easily lop off another hour and bring your homeschooling lessons down to about 45 minutes a day. Homeschoolers can spend their free hours learning to play musical instruments, playing sports, cooking, volunteering in the community, reading, watching documentaries, learning a foreign language, spending time with friends and relatives, traveling, taking lessons, or simply relaxing.

With all those opportunities out there and waiting, it’s hard finding the time to go to school.

Special thanks to Monkey Mum Blog for the inspiration.


12 thoughts on “You can homeschool in less than two hours per day

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  1. I’ve danced with the idea of homeschooling or moreso unschooling for a few years now. For some reason I still have this fear I can’t teach them what they need to know and my lack of organization makes it hard to take me serious ha.

    How do you know what should be taught at what age, are you determining that or are you using a curriculum?


    1. I wrote this close to a year ago when we were unschooling my oldest who was kindergarten age. I didn’t worry about any kind of curriculum or standards — my thinking was that what she really needed was time to play with friends, spend time outside, and enjoy reading (being read to). It worked perfectly for us that year. The following year (this year), we decided to start her in an alternative school 3 days/week for first grade. They do follow a currriculum, but there are no tests or grades. She loves it! So for how we are kind of hybrid homeschooling-unschooling-alternative schooling. To make a long story short, I think you can only take things year by year, or maybe even season by season.


  2. This was exactly what I needed to hear. I question sometimes if I am doing my daughter justice with homeschooling and yet looking at the unschooling perspective has opened my eyes to something greater! Thank you for this wonderful post!


  3. This slowly dawned on me, particularly when a friend with kids brought them over during spring break. “Do they have spring break?” I replied that no, they really don’t. No summer break, no winter break, no weekends…we really are learning all the time, on the kids’ schedule!


  4. hi i just stumbled on to your post doing a bit of research on homeschooling. my husband and i are taking the leap into uncharted territory with our oldest, she quite advanced in her academics in public school but our district refuses to bump kids into higher grades when they show they can handle a bigger challenge. our daughter is going on to 3ed grade this 2018-2019 school year although she is reading at an assessed grade 7 level and her math is somewhere between grades 5-6. and her science is all over the place but she has a massive love of zoology and medical sciences so we decided that home school would be a better fit for her as she wont have to spend as much time waiting on her age equivalent peers to catch up to her. as my husband is not comfortable with the unschooling method we have chosen a Distance learning school that’s a little more open to parents choice on how the teaching happens but has a core curriculum that’s referred to as a guide mostly. i was hoping to find some information on what a typical day of academic study looks like, do you go through all subjects or have them rotate through the week


    1. I bet homeschooling will be a great option for her! We used an unschooling approach for kindergarten, and then for first grade opted for a hybrid model of 3 days/week at an alternative school and the other days at home. On the non-school days we participate in a tiny homeschool co-op one day and do Forest School another day, so our lessons are still very much impromptu. Our friends who use a curriculum tend to do about an hour a day of whatever subject the kid is interested in that day, and their kids are right on track. A great resource for what a typical day looks like for lots of homeschoolers is the group Secular, Eclectic, and Academic (SEA) homeschoolers. You will get lots of great perspectives there!


  5. My two teens and one pre-teen do about two hours per day, four days a week, maximum. We take time off during the mainstream school holidays as well. I am trying to get them into more interest-based learning so Mr 16 watches documentaries on subjects that interest him – he has only been homeschooled since the start of May and he has already mentioned that what he has learned he would never have learned in school!

    We haven’t been homeschooling very long (Miss 14 began halfway through 2017 and Miss 12 began in February this year) but I would recommend it to anyone.

    Sometimes I think we’re not doing enough, but they are much happier, more relaxed, and loving life.


    1. That’s great to hear! My kids are still in the early elementary years, so I always love to hear what homeschooling looks like for teenagers. My own high school years were ok in that I wasn’t completely miserable and I was prepare for college, but overall so much of what the world has to offer was hidden from us. I hope to expose my kids to much more of the amazing things the world has to offer.


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