Instead, establish a desk for your child. This is commonly the kitchen table. This way, Mom can teach and cook at the same time. If you like to sew or use the computer, put the children's "desk" in the same room where you spend most of your time. (We homeschool at the office -- the children have their own office desks.)
Instead, have your child develop a goal-oriented study method rather than a time-oriented study method. For example, our son knows that he needs to do one lesson in Saxon Math each day, along with reading a "section" in his Geography book, a lesson in Vocabulary, 20 pages in Homer's Illiad, and similar assignments in several other subjects. If he starts at 9 AM and finishes at 11 AM -- that's ok. If he takes until 5 PM -- that's ok, too.
Another tip is to help your child schedule his work from toughest subject (for most kids, that's math) to easiest subject. That way he starts fresh in the morning with a rested brain.
Instead, teach your children how to learn. Your role in homeschooling should be as a tutor or coach. Unless your child has special needs, he should learn 85 percent of his subject matter from his books, tapes, software, etc. You should only get involved to keep him on track and to answer questions when he's stuck.
Now, this can be a real issue with many kids who are moving from traditional school to homeschool. They are used to sitting in the classroom and being fed the knowledge. In this way, they are like the goose that is kept in a small cage and fattened for Christmas. However, you want to develop children that aggressively feed themselves knowledge.
Instead, pick one subject that you are very good at. English, Algebra, Civil War History, Cooking, Bible, or Carpentry. It doesn't matter. Take that one subject and teach it the first year your child is home. Don't water it down -- teach it as you would a college or technical school course. Make it tough, detailed, interesting. Make it clear to your child that this is the most important course for the year. Let the other courses drift for a month or so. But establish your credibility with your favorite subject.
Meanwhile, in the other courses, you will have time to learn and adjust to the new routine. Your child will have a chance to adjust also.
You don't. You have nearly complete freedom. If you read most state laws, they basically say that you need to school your children daily, you need to teach a wide mix of subjects, and your kids need to make reasonable progress on the standardized tests. OK. Now let's see what that means for a one-on-one teacher who spends the entire week.
In a traditional school setting, the teacher has 25 students with whom she spends either 5 hours a week (middle school), or 30 hours a week (elementary). That means that the typical elementary teacher effectively spends about 1 hour and 12 minutes a week with each student. The high school teacher spends about 12 minutes a week with the student. In a 180 day school year, your child gets about 216 hours of effective "teacher time" a year.
If you, on the other hand, spend a solid 2 hours a day with your child on formal education, then you are about eight times as effective as the elementary teacher, and fifty times as effective as the high school teacher. Don't sweat missing an hour here and an hour there.
But we haven't even looked at the whole picture. Actually, not counting sleep time, you probably spend about 100 hours a week around your children. You can teach on weekends and during holidays and summers. Thus, the available "teacher time" is much more -- almost 5200 hours a year!.
The way to homeschool is to teach continuously. When you drive down the road, talk about what you see. Why do leaves change colors? What are power lines? What is a synagogue? Why does it rain? When you are in the kitchen, teach cooking with fractions. A quarter cup and another quarter cup is a half cup.
We go to battlefields. We go to museums. We went to an ice cream plant. Saundra teaches while she sews. Our seven-year-old Jessie found out much about math and business this summer selling lemonade to the customers at the mechanic shop next door.
We hold our son to a rigid schedule on his math -- but he reads history as he likes it. He already knows more about ancient Rome than most adults, due to his reading of the Roman historian Livy.
Instead, try our concept. First, we work with our children on pre-reading activities -- alphabet, counting, colors, shapes, etc. until they appear ready to read. Then we focus on the reading terribly hard for 6 months. We've used several methods - we prefer phonics-oriented stuff, such as Hooked on Phonics. We follow up with the SRA Labs materials, and then by a few months of simply reading books, particularly in the Childcraft books. Saundra spends a couple hours a day with the new reader.
After a few months of simply reading, we come back to a curriculum. We put our kids on Saxon Math, and pull Abeka books or Comprehensive Curriculum to cover the basics. We think that kids who are in first through fourth grade do best if they stay on schedule with Math, and they read everything that interests them. We also borrow a tremendous amount of travel videos from the library. We also begin spelling. Everyday, the kids ride with me to the bank and we talk about their subjects on the way and back.
Around fourth grade or so, we begin guiding the reading a bit more. Since children who don't know better really don't know the difference, we have them read Pelican classics. Remember -- classic books are classics simply because they were well written and have something to say - without worrying about today's political correctness. Plato is much simpler to read than a modern book about Platonic philosophy - and available for less than $10. The best historian for ancient Rome was Livy, who lived at that time. Ceasar is a very simple read for a child with a military bent. The Robinson Curriculum is very helpful here.
About sixth grade, we begin to have serious science, history, grammer, and similar courses. After reading heavily, most children have an intuitive grasp of spelling and grammer, so these course come easily. Typing Tutor is used to teach this fundamental skill. A wide range of learning software is also used, as are videos, and directed readings in the classics and in the encyclopedia. For example, Churchill wrote a very interesting perspective on the American Civil War in his History of the English Speaking Peoples Also, we use the Lego Mindstorm robotic set to teach basic programming. Readings are also assigned in the Bible. Ian has become involved with the Civil Air Patrol.
As high school approaches, we use old college textbooks, Saxon math, Shakespeare, and outside courses. Augustine, CS Lewis, Plato, Aristotle, and others are used to give philosophy. Our children also work outside to earn money and more importantly, learn to work under others. Homeschool sports are also available. A friend teaches chemistry. I teach physics. Another teaches art.
Instead, your job is to focus on the meta-issues. How to schedule work. How to stay organized. Always rework problems you got wrong. (See How to teach Math for more ideas on that subject.) Use a clean sheet of paper. Use good lighting. You'll find that these issues are much more important than today's book lesson, and require a substantial investment of time.
Perhaps the most important use of your teaching time is draw together the "Big Picture". It is your job as parent to give your children a philosphy of life. You will teach this by example, yes. But you will teach it all the more effectively when you intentionally find examples in their studies to illustrate your philosphy.
For example, Horatio at the bridge. (In ancient Rome, one day Horatio found himself fighting against an invading army one day. His chosen point to fight was on a narrow bridge, sufficient for only himself.) I point out to my son that Horatio illustrates the power of one man who carefully chooses his place to give battle -- How one man can make a huge difference if he is smart and courageous. "Always look for key points in life where you can make a difference", I tell him.
My daughter bakes cookies. She has to halve the recipe, gets confused and doubles the oil. Oops! The cookies are a gooey, but tasty mess. "The lesson," Saundra explains, "is that details make a difference. You also have to work on your fractions."
Relax. Invite the public school kids in the neighborhood over for a few hours one Saturday and get to know them to see where they stand. Oh, they'll be a subject or two where they are studying more than your kids. But are they retaining the information? How are their manners? You'll soon remember why you homeschooled in the first place.
Take your kids to church. After a few months, see how your kids compare to those kids. And best of all, wait until the first standardized test results come back.
Find a homeschool group you're comfortable with. You'll wonder how you can possibly keep up with the schedule. But most importantly, you'll have friends who have already encountered the comments from relatives, the fear of failing your children, and the fights over schoolwork.