Saturday, July 10, 2010

Counting days or hours?

Here in Pennsylvania, homeschoolers are required to document time spent on educational activities. We need 180 school days, or 900 hours (990 for 7th grade up). Because of the way my family lives and homeschools, it's really hard sometimes to determine if we've had a full day of school. Every single day has some educational time in it, but maybe not the 5 or 5.5 hours required by law. A day spent mostly at home at the kitchen table doing bookwork is easy; so is a day at a museum. But what about a day where we don't really sit down and do schoolwork but spend time playing piano, drawing flowers at the arboretum, reading encyclopedias for fun, and working on Scout merit badges? We can't walk around with stopwatches, taking care to click when we are doing something educational, and click again when we stop.

This is why I think tracking days or hours is silly. It doesn't work for most homeschool families. But, there's that law. I don't guess it really works all that well in school either; if 5 hours are required why are school days 6 or 7 hours long? There has to be a way to account for all the empty time. And note that the law just says "educational activities" but nothing about learning. Of course no one, not even the State, can force people to learn.

Some people just assume their kids get the educational hours every year just by existing (and reading and studying and doing stuff). They don't want to be bothered with figuring out school days and what counts and what doesn't. I agree with them, but I can't document it that way. I can't take a 180-square grid and just put every date in there till it's full. I tried it once, but I just couldn't do it; it felt sneaky to me. (That says more about me than it does about people who count this way, I think.)

On the other hand, I once knew a mother of four who counted hours. She was driving herself crazy - she admitted it - and hated homeschooling because of it. But she said she didn't know of a better way to be accurate. I am already too far down the road to insanity to want to add pressure to that accelerator. Still, it is appealing, in some ways.

One year I did as a friend of mine does: she counts any day that includes math, reasoning that if her kids did math, they also did other educational activities, and that even if they didn't, it would even out over time. That's fine, but we do sometimes have days where all I require is math. I wouldn't want to count a day in which the kids did a math lesson and then played Xbox car racing the rest of the day. OK, that's never happened, but it could.

So I thought this year I would track hours, despite the possibility of insanity. That way if someone spent, say, 1/2 an hour at a piano lesson and an hour at the gym, but didn't really do much else that seemed, well, educational enough (gah!), I'd log 1.5 hours. I tried that for 3 days. That didn't work either. The line between educational activities and regular life is just too blurry.

So once again I am in a quandary. I will just have to look at each day and take it on its own merits. "Real" school days - days where we sit down and do math and read history together - will be easy. But on other days, days with lots of reading, music, gym time, project work, cooking, and maybe a little math and some composition (Scout merit badges require some written work, and I love them for that), I'll just have to watch my kids and determine at the end of the day if it I can count it as half or full.



Kerri said...

Hmmm.. I guess it would come down to whether you believe a Christian owes slavish like obedience to the state or not, and whether deception is a legitimate tool for the righteous in response to tyrants...

But I think they are sneaking in a time audit on you and I wouldn't feel too bad about coloring in the squares.. Or at least some of them.

I mean if he was actually playing x-box all day then that would be one thing. But you know you do actually put in the time, it's just figuring out which of those times to put down, and the burdensome feeling that the state is peering over your shoulder into your family life...

Mrs. Darling said...

We have to record days now that the kids are enrolled in the homeschool charter school. But interestingly enough the teacher that the kids meet with once a week doesnt even care what you did for the day. If you got out of bed then you went to school because school is in the home. I have heard other homeschoolers who just count the five days then keep a portfolio of sample work in the chance that they are audited by the state.

I keep every paper the kids do in individual three ring binders divided by subject. I end the year with a minimum of 6 binders for each kid and they are stuffed full! Thats really all the state wants; just proof that the grade level work is getting done. I wouldnt sweat which days are school days or not. They all are. Just keep the work to prove it.

Marbel said...

Yes, there is a fine line sometimes between slavishly obeying a tyrant and submitting to authorities.

I just like to do things right. I don't like to sneak or cheat or even feel like I might be doing it. It's my father in me, what can I say? :-)

Mrs. Darling said...

Think of it this way: if a public school child goes to school that day they have attended school and it counts as a day regardless of what they get done in that day. When your children get out of bed they are at school regardless of what they get done in a day! :)

Marbel said...

Mrs. D, that makes total sense when you say it. I don't know why I have such a block about it.