FAQ: As a homeschooler, how do I know when we’re doing enough? Spending enough time, doing enough subjects, giving the kids a “good education”?
Enough is such a subjective question! The culture around us is always saying “more” and that as moms we should be doing “better”. It’s even more tempting to ask the enough question when we catch ourselves comparing. Measuring our children against the kids in public school, private school, and of course the other homeschoolers you know. Their kids are doing this and that. Their kids wake up at 6 am to start school? Their kids are already taking college classes?? I must not be doing enough!
On one hand, it is possible to not do enough.
As homeschoolers who are solely responsible for our kids’ education, we do need to take that responsibility seriously. It’s not fair to our kids if they are the bottom of our priority list and we literally can’t bother with their academic needs. You certainly can’t think, oh whatever I do the kids will turn out fine! Homeschooling and raising kids does take effort and intentionality. But we can’t be motivated by external pressure- instead we should be motivated by a true love for our kids and what is best for them. It’s recognizing where our motivations come from and where we get our standards of success. It’s learning to set the bar at the height that is right for your family.
Julie Bogart from Bravewriter suggests that if we set the bar high for ourselves, then our kids will follow. You can’t expect your kids to dho what you won’t do! She calls this stealth-attack learning. If we can’t bother to do what we’re asking our kids to do, then maybe we need a different approach.
On a practical level for young kids (under 8), enough for me has been an hour -ish of formal, sit-down school: phonics practice, math practice, writing every day. If you are diligent in daily practice of those skills, that’s enough formal work. Some days they will get it and other days you feel like nothing has been learned, but there’s something valuable in practice. The other part of the day are reading, more reading, projects, and hands-on learning and whatever else your day brings. And plenty of time left to play, pursue their own interests, and outside activities.
With older kids, that daily practice time may increase as the skills get more difficult. But the principle remains the same- setting the standard of success to what it right for your specific child. Then as they enter high school, the bar of “enough” is often set by all of the above plus what their plans are after high school.
As you look through curriculum, especially math and language arts, you can see what kind of skills kids that age generally learn. Are they making progress through those skills? Do you see growth? All kids will learn at a different pace, so it’s not about a timetable, and more about following their own curve. Because growing academically is like their physical growth- there’s times they seem stuck at a certain size and then out of nowhere they just sprout up. There’s been times with my kids that we’ll be working on a certain skill and they just don’t get it. But if we’re consistent with working on it (as the last of my patience is tried!!!) then it could be a year later, bam! it all begins to click. Sometimes we want them to learn each skill every day as neatly laid out in a workbook but in real life it’s not always that cut and dry!
But when I think about enough- I think more about all the hours our kids have when they are not doing formal schoolwork.
The questions I would ask when thinking about enough:
Are they being read to enough? Being read to daily is like that daily multivitamin or power food smoothie, whatever you do! It covers all the bases and so many skills in one punch. And you can never read aloud too much! When in doubt, read aloud just a little bit more.
Do they have enough down time? In our search for the enough we want to give our children more when really we need to work on giving them less. The goal is to give them enough time to say “I’m bored”. Out of that boredom is where their best ideas will be born. Out of that downtime is when they will let their thoughts wander, they can daydream, and their creative juices will flow. It’s in that time that they get to be a child.
Are they still curious? Are they asking you a ton of questions about the world? Answer their questions with passion and they’ll get enough. Childhood is all about wonder, don’t let them lose that too soon!
Are they developing an interest or skill that they want to go deeper with? Let them pursue those things to the extent that your family’s schedule and finances can handle. Going deep in one thing is better than going shallow in everything. So much learning happens as a child delves into a topic deeply, and that deep learning transfers to their study of other subjects.
Are they getting enough quality time with me, and the primary adults in their lives? Have I looked into their eyes and listened to all the wonderful and interesting things they have to say, and not just muttering hmmm-mmm while they ramble? Are they getting enough time to watch me, “adulting”, for lack of a better term? Kids need to be able to watch and learn the world of adults. Whether that is running errands, doing paperwork, chores, serving others, or listening to their conversations. Telling them what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. So so much of their education comes from watching and modeling the adults around them. Make sure they have plenty of good adult role models in their lives!
Enough to me is when they start driving the ship of their own education.
Instead of looking to mom and saying “What should I do next?”, they begin to ask, “Can we do this?” “Can we make that?” “Let’s study this” and my favorite, “One more chapter!” Then you know you have whetted their appetite for learning. You’ve done enough when they have satisfaction in a new skill learned and a job well done. You’ve done enough in your homeschool when they ask, “Can we do this again tomorrow?”