Required Hours? Relax!

Home-educating moms often express anxiety about how to meet a homeschool law's "required hours" rule. There's much I could say on the whole topic of state-mandated requirements of any sort, but I recently had some particular thoughts about this "required hours" issue that I believe warrant serious reflection. The numbers will vary but the principle is constant.

The state-mandated number of "required hours" for homeschoolers where I live is the same as is required of kids in the government school system (and in private schools) - as it should be if hours are to be dictated at all, since homeschoolers should not face a more draconian rule than any other child in the state. But in the system the hours are based on children's attendance in buildings - whether their bodies are present or not - not actual "instructional hours."  Kids typically spend six-and-a-half to seven-and-a-half hours a day in their school buildings, but the hours-mandate here comes out to a little less than five hours a day. That indicates that the rule doesn't account for lunch time and recess. And I can attest - from having taught here in a public high school for four years - that the number of hours is based on high school kids' presence in six classes a day (with each class being about 50 minutes long). Then that same number is just applied to middle school and elementary and comes out to 4.86 hours a day - in whatever manner each school arranges the time.

Obviously, that doesn't mean kids are actually engaged in learning for that whole time. In fact, even in an organized high school class, one can eliminate from instructional time at least five minutes after a bell rings for getting settled, and another five to 10 at the end. Additionally, we all know how much wasted time and/or kid zone-out time happens in the middle of lectures and in a typical elementary classroom, too.

But the system says if the kids are there, the hours count. So...by that same standard, if our homeschooled kids are with us (or with someone designated by us according to the homeschool law's parameters), their hours are counting. Thus, if we assume a child is awake for 14 hours a day on average and that our learning year is legitimately 365 days, not just 180, even if we're not always doing bookwork (because the rule is based on when our kids are present in the "school," same as with the system), that means we have 5,110 "school hours" in a year. And even if we remove three hours a day for meals (since the system appears to not count "lunch hour"), that's 4,015 hours. Of course, we homeschoolers can legitimately count our kids' "recess" time (as physical education/health/fitness), but even if we eliminate that, it's clear that we really have plenty of time by the system's standard of measure - i.e., that hours count if the child's body is present.

So...the lesson of the day in terms of time for us - in any state with "mandated hours" or even "mandated days" - is simple: Don't fret about it for even a minute. The fact is that homeschool hour- or day-mandates use the system's rules and stick them onto homeschoolers. We get freaked out by that when we shouldn't, because we can and should take the bureaucrats' rule and make it work for us. If they're going to say they have a right to mandate anything to us - which is, again, the topic for another discussion - then we can use their definitions to our benefit. They define attendance as the presence of the children's bodies, so we can too. Fair is fair!

So relax and enjoy your freedom. You've got the hours covered without even thinking about it...probably at least three to four times over.


mjcarley said...

Yay! Thank you for saying what I've long thought. Even though we don't have to count hours in our state, I do hear a lot of people saying that you have to have a certain number of hours to count a class. I've always thought there is no way p.s. students are spending that many hours actually studying a subject. This gives me much relief and confirmation in what we are doing in our homeschool. Thanks, Tina!

Miss Tee said...

It took me a long time to figure this out for myself. I wish I'd had someone point this out to me my first year or so in. The time I spend with my kids is so much better and much less stressful since my lightbulb moment. haha!

My Family said...

I agree completely with the idea presented here, but for record keeping sake, we have to log how many hours went into each subject area. That's where it gets a little stickier.

My Family said...

What are your thoughts on faithfully reporting schooling in that light?

Tina Hollenbeck said...

My Family: If your state homeschool law mandates that you log hours for each subject, then you should comply - but that is not true in most states. It's also possible to aim to look at your days differently - to purpose to see if there is any "school subject" content in various non-bookwork activities you do and then to categorize that time (again, if it's a clear mandate in the law; absent that, there's no reason to be that picky). For example, years a go a friend logged some time her child watched the "Diego" DVDs - not other ones but there was definite elementary-level science in that particular series. So it "counted." It's a matter of deciding that your kids really are learning the whole time they're awake and looking for specific opportunities to document if legally necessary. I always tell people to follow the exact letter of their state homeschool law - but not one iota beyond - because state laws are a hoop to jump through but are NOT our ultimate authority - and aiming to think as outside the schooled box as possible every day. It's a hard transition to make if one's thinking is very "schooled," but it gets easier with practice.

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