It’s funny how one day you’re a newbie homeschool parent with a little kid and a bazillion questions about the new educational adventure you’ve embarked on, and somehow in what seems the blink of an eye, you’ve become one of those “veteran homeschoolers” you looked at with envy all those years ago.
Now, we homeschool in Missouri, and our state’s law is currently (as of 2019) hours-based. So, we’re supposed to have a homeschool plan, and then we log hours they’ve spent. The requirement is for 1,000 hours with 600 of those hours in core subjects (400 of the 600 in the designated home location) and the remaining 400 in either core or non-core areas.
Each year as the beginning of the school year rolls around, I see parents asking frantic questions about logging hours and wondering how on earth they will ever get that thousand hours.
One thousand hours — it seems like such a big number.
But really, it’s not, especially once you discover “the magic questions.”
However, before I tell you what the magic questions are, let me remind you, homeschool doesn’t need to look like traditional school. Not just not a little bit.
Not. At. All.
In fact, not only does homeschool not need to look like traditional school, it shouldn’t look like a traditional box school — because if it does, then what in God’s green earth is the reason for homeschooling?
Homeschool — whatever your homeschool may end up looking like — should be unique to your family’s needs and desires.
Now…what are these magic questions?
Magic Question #1 is answered with a simple yes or no: “is s/he learning?”
Really — that’s it. Is s/he learning?
So, if your children are learning something, regardless of whether it’s something you’ve formally assigned or not, it’s school. It doesn’t matter if it’s a math worksheet, reading comic books, playing outside, sorting laundry, or watching a YouTube video.
If your daughter is teaching herself to how to do origami folding…it’s loggable time. If your son watches the birds at a bird feeder and learns how to identify them…it’s loggable. If everyone in the house gets obsessed with ancient Egypt and you attempt to mummify a chicken (yes — it can and has been done by a homeschool mom friend of mine!) … again, loggable.
Learning time is loggable time.
It didn’t take me long to realize that — provided you don’t squash it out of them — kids are naturally curious. It’s in their DNA. Some days it’s literally all they do — think up things to ask you questions about until you think your brain will literally drip out you ears.
Don’t believe me? Think about how many times your toddler asked you “why” something. Why is the sky blue? Why are there rainbows? Why do cats purr? Why do feet stink? Why is the sun hot? Why do chickens lay eggs? Why is grass green? Why are there bees? Why do I have to go to bed?
When you think about it, every single one of those questions is an opportunity for learning. Sure, when you explain why the sky is blue, the answer you give a 3 year old will differ from the answer for a 13 year old, but it’s still age-appropriate learning. That means, if your child meets the criteria for homeschooling, it’s “school.”
Magic Question #2, once you’ve answered “yes” to the “is s/he learning?” question, is “what’s s/he learning?”
Reading, language arts, math, science, social studies, fine arts, practical arts? Log it.
Your origami loving daughter is definitely engaged in fine art, but if you say, “Wow, that’s really cool? How did origami get started?” and she can tell you — or she goes and finds out because your question made her curious — then you’re looking at social studies time.
When you’re biking with your son and realize he’s identified two dozen different birds during the course of your ride, you know you need to be logging that bird time as science.
There you have it — the magic questions: Is s/he learning? and What is s/he learning?
Let the learning happen…then grab your homeschool log book and write it down.
Write it all down.
Note: homeschool laws vary from state to state, with some requiring more documentation than others, but looking at what they’re learning remains home educational bedrock.