How many hours a day should I spend homeschooling when my kids are small?

I asked myself this question many times when I was a new homeschooling mom, and my three older children were just beginning preschool, Kindergarten and second grade. Browsing through curriculum catalogs, websites, and blogs felt overwhelming because there just seemed like so much to do!

How much is practical to tackle in a single day with a preschooler? With a 5-year old? With a secondgrader?
Thankfully, I brought this question to my friend, a veteran homeschooling mom with four teenage children.

She was wise enough to tell me, “Kristy, if you’re spending more than an hour or two a day of formal school time with your little ones, then you’re probably over doing it.”

That seemed too simple! An hour or two a day?

I thought about it for a while, talked things over with my husband, and decided to take my friend’s suggestion to heart. After all, I admired how her kids were turning out… it seemed “safe” to follow her advice!

That year was an exceptionally busy one for our family, and included two moves in a twelve-month period, a ministry relocation, and lots of changes in our lifestyle as we discovered food allergies with several of our small children.

Simplicity became a gift!

Our days centered around a morning school schedule that included about two hours worth of structured learning after breakfast, book time, phonics review and educational playing for my young children.

My preschooler played with Thinking Putty and Wedgits while his older sisters “did school” at the dining room table and the baby napped.

I look back on that year and and am so thankful for each morning we spent around the table in that little, sunlit dining room.

We tackled each day with our white boards, a few school supplies and learning games, and a simple routine that carried us through a busy season of life.

These days are much more settled for me, and in many ways busier. I now have four school aged children, who range in ages from Kindergarten to sixth grade, and a very busy little toddler.

Homeschooling takes about four hours of our morning, but I never stray far from my friend’s wise advice to keep things simple during the little years.

There is still plenty of time for books, crafts, learning games, outside activities and creative play.

If you live in a state that requires a certain number of school hours per day, here are a few ways to implement “school time” into your every day living with littles.

Don’t forget to include these activities in your required school time!

  • Helping cook with Mom
  • Creative play and dress up
  • Educational games and DVD’s
  • Outside time in the yard or at a park
  • Trips to the library
  • Field trips to the zoo or a museum
  • Book time (either read aloud with Mom or just looking at picture books)
  • Listening to music during quiet play time
  • Learning to tie shoes, button a shirt, or dress self
  • Chores around the house (making the bed, putting away toys, setting the table)
  • Coloring, paper dolls or other creative expressions
  • Homeschooling co-ops or play dates with friends

All of life is learning!

Don’t overlook the little moments and seemingly insignificant things when you’re busy nurturing little ones. Give them room to informally learn and explore, and never be afraid to simplify formal school time!

Here are two of my favorite reading resources for the mom with little people: