When Your Homeschooler Takes Way Too Long To Complete School Work

Shorter Homeschool Day Pin

Do you have a homeschooler who takes much longer to complete an assignment than it should?

Do they stare off into space? Fidget? Sketch pictures on their worksheets?

Claim they have to go to the bathroom, but they never come back…because they “forgot?”

Do you feel that you have to babysit them to keep them on task and focused? But you don’t have that kind of time?

Does the homeschool day stretch way longer than it should due to all the unfocused work?

My Experience With Homeschooling Kids Who Take Too Long To Finish Work

kid holding clock

In my own experience with homeschooling three girls, I have definitely had my fair share of kids taking WAY TOO long to finish schoolwork.

I have had a child spend 3 hours listlessly finishing 30 math problems because her brain was “tired.”

I have also had a child get lost in daydreams and spend 30 minutes doing one paragraph of copy work.

And still another child who uses avoidance tactics to even start her school work:

  • I just need to go to the bathroom
  • I have to get something from my room
  • I need to sharpen all the pencils first
  • I need to get a snack first

Why Homeschool Kids May Drag Their Feet To Do Their Work

girl doing school work

The traditional school environment (at least the one I was raised in), had a healthy dose of peer pressure to finish school work.

Everyone was working on the same assignment and the teacher was walking up and down the aisles to make sure you were on task and getting things done. I remember not wanting to be the last one to put my pencil down.

There were also minimal distractions. You couldn’t just get up and walk to the kitchen for a snack or walk outside to play. 

It’s not really like that in the standard homeschool environment.

Like at all.

Everybody is typically on a different grade level and doing all different assignments at the same time. 

The homeschool teacher may easily be distracted with making lunch, throwing in laundry, taking care of a toddler, or teaching another student…while a slow, distractable worker goes undetected.

The mom finds her way back to the student and is exasperated at how little work they have done. 

The day starts to stretch too long and the mom feels pressured to “cut her students loose” and not have them finish all their subjects.

Sound familiar?

But Wait! Aren’t Homeschoolers Supposed to Learn and Work At Their Own Pace?!

confused homeschooler

Yes and no.

Homeschoolers should be able to move through concepts at a pace that matches their educational needs. 

But that doesn’t mean spending an unreasonable amount of time on one assignment.

There is a BIG difference between a kid who is struggling to do an assignment because they don’t understand the material and a kid who is unfocused and distracted. 

As the homeschool mom, I am guessing you can make the distinction quite easily.

The struggling child needs more teaching support and the unfocused kid needs structure and accountability.

How To Motivate Your Kids to Finish Work Faster For A Shorter Homeschool Day

homeschooler doing work faster for shorter school day

As you can imagine, I was getting pretty exasperated with my kids moving slowly with their work. 

I wanted our days to be shorter so we could enjoy other things!

Thankfully, I came up with a solution that makes so much sense and really works for us. 

1. Set Time Limits For Subjects/Assignments

I told my oldest daughter that she had until noon every day to complete her math assignment. A timer would go off and I would confiscate her math book. 

I told my middle daughter and younger daughter that they had X amount of minutes on a timer to complete an assignment. 

When it comes to setting these time limits, think about how much time is reasonable, and then add 10 or more minutes.

Your student should not feel rushed. You just want to have a standard to keep them accountable.

****I am a big fan of using Alexa Skills for Homeschooling, so definitely consider having one on hand so your kids can set their own timers!

2. Move On to Other Subjects

Whether it is math facts, reading, or copy work, every kid has something they dread doing for school.

Do not let that eat up all their joy and love and learning!

Set the time limit and then let your kids start fresh on something new. 

Changing gears can help them avoid frustration and feeling like school is only that dreaded subject.

3. Assign Homework (Not What You Think!)

dog holding homework notebook

I told my child that when her math book is taken away at noon, she will finish the rest of the problems at the end of the day. After all her other subjects are done.

I told her to think of it as homework. 

I said the same to my other kids. If they can’t get the assignment done in a reasonable amount of time, that’s totally fine.

They can finish the rest at the end of the day. 


The homework is not a threat. I did not say it in a style of “this is punishment for not working fast enough.”

I explained that I didn’t want their other subjects to be neglected. We are just setting this aside and we’ll finish it at the end of the day.

I cannot stress how important it is to avoid punishment-style, anger-fueled tactics for homeschool work.

That will create a toxic power struggle. Not good. 

Our Results From Setting Time Limits On Subjects For Our Homeschool Day

stop watch timing homeschool work

We had immediate and kinda shocking results from trying this strategy to shorten our homeschool day.

My oldest child was working on her math assignment in her room and was irritated when I came into vacuum. 

“Mom, I only have until noon to finish, can’t you do that later?!”

She was suddenly eager to grab her math book and get going! Um, what?!

She finished with 45 minutes to spare AND her work was remarkably better. I’ll admit that I was worried she would turn in rushed, sloppy work, but it turns out that giving her a goal (with the possibility of homework) helped her to be so much more focused, productive, and efficient.

She admitted at the end of the day that it felt so good to get her math done and out of the way – it was one of her best homeschooling days this year!

My middle child finished a math worksheet with 15 minutes to spare. She FLEW through it and really seemed to enjoy “beating the clock.”

My younger child was excited to also have a timer (like the big kids) and felt great about finishing her work before it went off. 

Do You Need To Set Time Limits To Shorten Your Homeschool Day? Plus More Ideas!

yes sign

This is a great tactic to help focus your kids and keep them on task – even if you can’t be next to them the whole time.

Another option you might consider is to come up with a reasonable amount of time to finish – let’s say 20 minutes to finish an assignment.

Set the timer for 10 minutes to remind you to come back and check on them.

See how it’s going and help as needed. Make sure they’re on the right track and set the timer for the last 10 minutes. 

This is such a great way to teach your kids time management and prepare them for independent learning in the future. 

What are your methods for keeping your kids on task and focused for a shorter homeschool day?

Share in the comments!

Read Next:

Is your homeschooler refusing to do school work? Are you in a battle of the wills every day and thinking about quitting? You CAN stop fighting and still win the battle! Click to explore the reasons your homeschooler won't do work and exactly what to do to change your child's attitude.




One Comment

  1. Amber Peters says:

    THANK YOU!! This is such a simple solution to a hugely exasperating problem for both my son and me.

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