Time Wasted In School Part 1: Outside of Class

It’s a common fear I’ve heard expressed among those who homeschool: too much time is wasted, or more specifically, “Are we doing as much as the public schooled kids are doing?”
I’m not going to juxtapose these two different modes of education in this post; however, I will give an account of my experience in the public schools in regards to how and where time is spent to illustrate just how much time is wasted in our government-provided education institutions.
I can’t speak for everyone’s experience in public school, all I can speak on is my own experience in the schools I was in. Now, just what kind of public schools did I attend? According to Newsweek, all three of the high schools in my school district—including the one I attended— are considered to be among the best high schools in the country. As the school district’s website says, “The district has received the State of Ohio’s highest possible rating, Excellent with Distinction, for nine consecutive years, bolstering its statewide reputation for academic and extracurricular excellence.”

I attended the public elementary, middle, and high schools in this top school district. You would be hard-pressed to find better schools in the country. So if there is any public school standard you want to compare your homeschooling with, I would say you can’t go wrong with my school district.

And yet, as “perfect” as these schools are, the amount of time wasted is unbelievable.
With this post, I decided I wanted to add up the time spent in school each day, and subtract from that total all the time wasted in order to come up with a rough estimate for the actual amount of time spent being instructed. In other words, how much time is spent “learning” from the direct instruction of the school teachers? I’ll use my high school as an example since I just recently graduated, and it is still fresh in my mind.
According to the school website, school hours are from 7:55 AM – 2:42 PM, however, what is not factored into that is the time getting ready for school, waiting for the bus, and riding the bus. Buses usually come pretty early in order to get in and get out before the commuters start showing up. Prepping for school, waiting for the bus, riding the bus, and arriving early at school adds at the very least an additional hour to your time in the public school system.

That gives us a little under 8 total hours a day taken up by school (assuming you have no extracurricular activities, which I did.) No academic instructiontakes place during this prepping/arriving time, so that leaves us a little under 7 hours spent in the school building. From that number, we have to subtract a half-hour for lunch. There is no instruction during that half-hour, unless you count learning poor manners, and perhaps some new and exotic obscenities to add to your vocabulary.

There are also four-minute intervals between classes to allow students the time to actually walk all the way across the building to get to their next class. My school was so big, you rarely had enough time to actually stop at your locker to retrieve the books you needed, and to then get to your class (thankfully, the backpack ban was repealed my Junior year.) 
Some people had the bad luck of having multiple classes on opposite ends of the building, and they would have to carom back and forth between them. With so many students, shoulder-to-shoulder stand-still human traffic jams in the hallways were a common occurrence, which would always slow you down. Additionally, many would stop to socialize with their peers, causing further delay. However, I will not factor in all the times students—including myself—were late for class. I’ll just assume that these four minute breaks between classes were always four minutes.
Since there were 8 periods, that means there were 7 breaks. That’s roughly another half-hour in the school building not spent learning. We’ve already lost an hour off of our original 7 spent in the building, and are now left with only 6 out of the 8 total hours spent daily in the public school system.

This is not, however, where the time wasting ends. Stay tuned for more parts in this series!

Click here for part 2

1 Comment

  1. gah! I hate the human traffic jams

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