Kids (and Teachers) Don’t Need to Spend 8 Hours a Day on School Work Right Now

Experts agree: a few hours is enough.

Virtual School Schedule

A virtual learning schedule is not the same as a traditional school schedule. A virtual learning schedule is not the same as a traditional school schedule. We’re just going to keep repeating this until it sinks in for everyone, okay?

In all seriousness, we can’t expect kids to work online or offline for eight hours a day during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s why.

The pace of distance learning is different.

It probably doesn’t need to be said, but the structure of a normal school day is wildly different now that kids are learning at home. They no longer have the rhythms of lunch, recess, and special events. They aren’t walking through the hallways or stopping at their lockers. All of that time adds to a normal school day and isn’t built into a virtual one.

That isn’t to say that a traditional schedule is packed with fluff. Not at all. Kids receive a lot of direct instructional time in the classroom that they aren’t getting now. But experts say the hours don’t really translate to the home environment.


Experts say kids should spend less time on work.


People have shared the image below widely on social media. It features recommendations from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards which say that elementary students should have 1-2 hours a day of online instruction, middle school students 2-3 hours, and high school students 3-4 hours.

Other experts agree with these general guidelines. Meanwhile, educators are trying to find the right balance between synchronous—or “real time” lectures and discussions—and asynchronous work like projects and activities. These guidelines from Wisconsin are a good place to start, but they mean teachers may spend even less time teaching than students do on schoolwork. (They make up for it in planning of course!)

Under these extraordinary circumstances, we may need to set the bar even lower.

The reality is the days are hard right now for everyone. Kids might not have access to the necessary technology. They might be caring for younger siblings. They might not have support from busy parents who are also trying to work from home. In these circumstances, trying to replicate a traditional school schedule online may be impossible.

Plus, we need to honor all the other ways kids learn.

A child spending 1-2 hours a day on schoolwork is not just learning for 1-2 hours a day. Kids learn through play. They learn through talking with their families. They learn through cooking. And they learn through simply existing through a global pandemic. It’s time to honor those experiences, ease up on ourselves, and not try to mimic school exactly. We’re learning differently these days, and that’s okay.

We’d love to hear. What does your virtual learning schedule look like? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

Plus, how teachers are building classroom community online.

Kids (and Teachers) Don't Need to Spend 8 Hours a Day on School Work Right Now