Homeschooling, a Report From the Trenches – Part 1


    by N.C., Survival Blog:

    I was surprised to see that homeschooling was a topic of interest for SurvivalBlog but given homeschooling’s growth over the last few years, I ought not have been.

    So first, why should you listen to me? Well, I was homeschooled K-12, graduated college, got two advanced degrees, taught at the university level, and am now homeschooling my own kids. My wife’s much more practical choice of major means that this is the logical choice for us. I am a homeschooling success story and I believe in it enough to shoulder the cost and the work (as my children shoulder the risk) of me homeschooling them.

    TRUTH LIVES on at

    I want to start with a word of warning: there are no guarantees. I’ve seen my share of homeschoolers who went crazy in college, who were unable to do the work of college, who wound up as NEETs (Not Employed Educated or Trained), or who wound up as uneducated manual labor. So I’ll say it again: there are no guarantees. Your kids (and mine) will eventually measure themselves against the world and if we’re lucky they’ll crawl away bleeding instead of being maimed beyond recognition.

    An analogy I often use to explain many of the homeschoolers who went crazy in college is that they were like goldfish, raised in a crystal bowl with pure water for 18 years….then dumped into the Hudson River, raw sewage and all. It was “mutate or die”. So keep that in mind. Your student has to interface with the world as it is not as it should be.

    On some level, the failures I saw were down to not having the skills to independently navigate the world. Some of the failures were because they didn’t know how to navigate an alien culture and alien worldviews. In at least one case I saw it seemed mainly bad luck. That happens too. For all of them though, they each found something with which they couldn’t deal. Maybe it was social skills, perhaps it was romantic pitfalls, perhaps it was failure of self-discipline in dealing with deadlines and difficult rules, perhaps was running into an idea or culture that shook their foundations, for some it was finding acceptance in a new tribe, but whatever it was, they failed in their attempt to independently interface with the world.

    If you are homeschooling you have a unique opportunity to lay an amazing foundation of virtue, skills, knowledge, and understanding in your children but they will each launch into a world where free choice and hard luck abound. It was for us. It will be for them.


    I’ll preface by saying that I keep track of hours studied and comply with my state’s requirements for home education. Your state may be more or less stringent but I suggest exceeding the requirements.

    My children (lower elementary right now) begin the day at 6:15, breakfast, stretching, making beds, brushing teeth etc lasts until Mom leaves for work at 7:15. They begin with a half hour of free TV, this is not part of the school day yet. I use that half hour to exercise.
    7:45 the day begins with a half hour of reading, if my exercise runs long they can do this without help. We alternate days between free reading and reading for the current science unit.
    8:15 mathematics
    9:00 recitation, we work on memorizing classic poems and scriptures.
    9:30 handwriting/spelling
    10:00 logic (deductive, inductive, computer programming, chess etc depending on the day)
    10:30 recess
    11:00 art or science depending on the day, hands-on11:45 lunch
    12:15 educational tv (varies depending on age, eyewitness documentaries and the like)
    12:45 free reading
    1:00 writing (stories, reports, poems, annotated bibliographies depending on day & age)
    1:30 history/Social Studies (progresses in units)
    2:15 they knock off for the day
    this represents 6 hours of instruction time on an average day which translates to about 146 days to complete the required hours of instruction where I live.


    Much as I would like to follow this day rigidly I can’t. They are both taking 2 courses at the local school (things like art, music, gym) so I have to chauffer them back and forth 3 out of 4 school days. Travelling like that changes the nitty gritty as do homeschool meetups and field trips. Some subjects (foreign language instruction, grammar, health) aren’t in this basic schedule but are included in the course of a week. What doesn’t change is the 6-7 hours of instruction I perform and log with the children.

    External considerations will force you to adapt whatever your default schedule is. I prefer working in half hour sessions with a 5 min break between sessions. However, because my children take some courses at the local school, I have extended some sessions to be 45 min long. They need to be able to focus for 45 min because the school will expect them to do that.

    I also adapt the sessions depending on where the children are. “Strike while the iron is hot” will be your watchword. If she hits a groove and is excited to keep going with regrouping, you can bump the schedule down and do a second session of math. If you need to swap your history session with your math session you can do that. If she pulls off a hard math problem perfectly halfway through the session, you might decide to reinforce that by praising her and giving her the rest of the session to free-read. You may extend a session by 5 minutes so that he can finish the math problem or sentence he’s writing. You may decide that the session’s work was inadequate and it must be repeated. These are all calls you have to make as the teacher and the flexibility of homeschooling lets you make those calls.

    The backbone of your homeschooling program is structured flexibility. Structure is good and necessary. I need the schedule (and the 5 min breaks) as much as they do. On the other hand, an overly rigid schedule will not survive contact with reality. Too much flexibility (and too lax standards) can result in a kid who can’t make the cut in the real world or college. It’s a balance. Your job is to take advantage of the flexibility homeschooling offers without losing the structure that all of you need.


    I started this harshly and I did so for a reason. I worry that many of the new crop of homeschoolers are coming in thinking it’s going to be an easy thing that solves all their worries about their children. If you come in like that you’re going to be sorely disappointed. This is not a magic bullet. There aren’t any of those. So what I have to say next may surprise you:
    You can do this.
    I’ll say it again:
    You can do this.
    I mean it.

    My mother only has a high school diploma, she homeschooled me and now I hold a PhD. You don’t need a PhD to do a good job homeschooling. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on curriculum and memberships to give your children a solid education. Hard work and a love of learning will see you through.
    This is a job that involves a lot of hard work on your end. There are going to be days you hate it and think you bit off more than you can chew. It’s work and the stakes are high. But the rewards are many. I believe in well done homeschooling, especially in the early years. Learning how to learn was the single most indispensible tool I had throughout my extensive academic career and is still serving me now as I homeschool my own children.

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