My kids are asking why they need a full day at school when homeschool took two hours

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock Photo: Supplied

My kids have been back at school for a couple of weeks now, and it's all going pretty well – the fact that I now have to get out of my slippers for two half-hour windows each morning and afternoon notwithstanding. 

But there's an issue that's reared its head that has all three of my kids talking, and I have to say I don't blame them.

After home-schooling successfully for six weeks or so at two hours of lesson time per day, maximum, why are they are now expected to spend six hours every day at school?

I mean, it's a fair question. 

What's with all that excess time, they want to know. Why can't we just pop to school from 9am to 11am and then come on home in time to make fresh quesadillas for lunch and play Fortnite and watch old Friends reruns, just like the good old homeschooling days? 

I scrambled at first for an answer. Knowing I definitely don't want to be a permanent homeschooling parent and I desperately want my kids out of the house isn't enough reason for my children, apparently.

They don't care that I'm enjoying having my old home back, so I can go about my own day's work without someone asking where the scissors are, or if I can check their times tables. And it's certainly neither here nor there to them that I get to enjoy my morning coffee while it's still hot in sweet, sweet silence.

So in the interests of making the idea of being back at school more palatable – and credible as a use of time – I sat down with my children so we could look at exactly what they're doing with their days, and why it's important.

What else did you do at school today, I asked them, besides actual lessons?

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They stared blankly at me at first, until my nine-year-old son piped up with his favourite time of the school day: "had lunch?"

Right, and what else?

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It wasn't long before the three of them were on a roll. Between a year 10 class, a year 4 class and a year 2 class, my children played games, mucked around in the playground, watched their classmates give book reports, performed plays and watched their classmates do the same, went to the library, attended career planning sessions, met with the school counsellor, got to know new students, waited while other kids were learning stuff they'd already learned "ages ago" (that's their take, not).

"Well that sounds like a busy day!" I told them. "What were your favourite bits?"

Each had a different favourite part: lunch with friends, getting fresh books from the library, and making a new friend. But the one things those activities had in common was that they were thing they couldn't have been done if they were homeschooling. 

What do you think that means, I asked my kids. Do you think school is good for a lot more than just learning maths and English?

They begrudgingly agreed – they hate it when I'm right.

But the fact is, I don't just send my kids to school to get them out from under my feet, nor just to learn the periodic table. I send them because they learn social skills, see their friends and have a lot of fun. And just as importantly, I send them so they can learn to interact with, and learn from, people who are different from them. 

As for waiting for other kids in school to catch up, I don't mind that either. There will always be people who are ahead of you in life, and some who are maybe a little bit behind, and possibly who need our help. Learning to treat those people with compassion and patience is an important skill to learn too.

It wasn't until we were all locked down that I realised just how much my kids get out of going to school each day. And as much as I hate getting out of my slippers every morning and afternoon, the education my children receive – in academia and in life – is worth it. 

But that quiet morning coffee makes it pretty sweet too.