From Public School to Homeschool: What Counts as School?

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From Public School to Homeschool: What Counts as School?

In public school, it’s easy to quantify school time. School time is from the time you arrive to the time you leave, approximately seven hours or so.

Defining school hours gets a little murky, though, when we begin talking about homeschool. Let’s take a look at this curiosity.

How Long Are Public School Hours?

Public school is about seven hours each day, Monday through Friday. However, during the course of a school day, we can easily chisel out lunch time and the after-lunch break or recess as not being actual learning time.

Then, what about all those transition times...

  • five minutes between each class
  • bathroom breaks
  • water fountain breaks
  • assemblies
  • time passing out and taking up permission forms and other paperwork
  • school announcements

What about early finishers? How about fun field trips?

When we analyze the time spent actually learning, we can find quite a bit of gray area in public school as well. So let’s start this conversation with the fact that actual time spent schooling is fluid, and much of it depends on the student’s choices of how they use their time.

What Defines Educational Time?

In the homeschooling world, some of us tend to believe that we can’t count certain activities as school. We may fret over what is truly school time.

Those of us who have to turn in hours to our state education department can be plagued by indecision over what qualifies as educational time.

  • We may spend an entire day on a field trip to a state park and wonder if we can count it as school.
  • We spend an hour cooking with our children and instead of viewing it as part of our child’s education, we may be tempted to tack on an extra hour at the end of the day to do the so-called real work. 

However, education really cannot be quantified. It makes us feel better to do so, but if we took an honest look at a well-rounded education, none of us could actually say how many hours we spend each day educating our child, not even our public school children.

Does a well-rounded education end at 3:30 pm? Of course not! A child who shadows their father during a home improvement project or rides a bike down their street is still educating themselves. I would argue that most of life is education

So Really, What Counts as School?

I think that’s the mindset shift that we all need to make, whether you homeschool or send your child to public school. Education does not stop when the child leaves the building, and education does not begin when the child opens the workbook. Education is about teaching the whole child many different skills and teaching them to be a productive adult.

I have always felt that anything that prepares children for becoming an adult can be counted as school hours. Think life skills and knowledge... anything under that umbrella should be counted as school hours.

However, everyone—even adults—needs rest and play, so I also believe that we can count certain amounts of that as well. I truly believe that if you sat down to add up a child’s hours going toward their education, you would have a shocking number. We would all be surprised to see just how many hours could be counted for educational time. 

What If My State Requires Hours?

Many of us do need to quantify our school hours due to state laws. So how should we do the impossible and quantify our child’s education in something as small as hours?

My best advice is to do the same as public schools. Figure your usual weekly schedule, count up your hours and multiply by 36 weeks. That is an estimate of your actual school time. But I urge all parents to know in their hearts that the true amount of education they are pouring into their child is not contained within a school day. Instead, it overflows into every facet of life.

We have to shift our mindset to reflect this new way of thinking about education. Education is absolutely un-quantifiable.

Everything is education.

Every hour of every day educates a child. Now, how we use those hours is our choice, but we are constantly teaching our child with everything that we do, constantly preparing them for life with the use of every hour. 

So, what truly counts as school you ask? Everything.

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