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.