Time Wasted In School: The Core Classes

In part 1 of this series, I examined time wasted in schools core classesall of the time spent outside of class during the 7 total hours in the school building.

Part 2 described the wasteful nature of electives.

In part 3, we will be moving on into the core classes. Surely less time is wasted in such important classes as Math, English, Science, History, and foreign language.

It's harder to actually assess how much time was wasted in these classes, as it would fluctuate depending on teacher and time of year. However, in pretty much every class I've been in, only about half the class is actually spent on actual instruction.

What I've learned about teachers, is they like to talk. I may have had to teach myself most of Honors Algebra II, but I did learn a lot about my teacher's personal life, credit card debt, and opinions on social issues.

For example, she once expressed her opinion that she didn't think it right that the woman should always have to take her husband's last name when married. This led to class time being consumed with debate on this issue, not mathematics. Debate is nice, but not when you're paying a lot of taxes to be taught Math.

What was especially frustrating was when we would get to the end of the class time and the teacher hadn't finished teaching all the material. She would blame us for being too talkative, and then just tell us to figure out the rest of the material for ourselves and do the homework (homeschooling).

Even at public school, it's up to students to learn

There was no going back. She couldn't teach the rest of the material the next day because that would put us behind schedule and we would never cover all of the yearly material.

So if we ran out of time, we ran out of time. Missed something? Too bad, you must learn it on your own, or not at all. I still recall one day when she got so mad that a number of students for looking at the clock that she simply stopped teaching and just stood in front of the chalk board with her arms crossed. Very immature, spiteful, and harmful to the students who actually did want to learn.

In my AP chemistry class—which was two periods long (an hour and a half)--the entire first period was spent going through a boring and confusing power point. Several of my classmates would fall asleep during this portion of the class. These weren't underachievers either. This was AP (college level) chemistry. I struggled to stay awake myself. It was the end of the day, the lights were off, and the teacher was speaking Greek.

The second period of the class was just for us to work on homework. However, since 90% of us had no idea what the teacher had said, we weren’t capable of completing the homework. Instead, we just took turns copying the answers to the homework out of his answer book—which he let us do—then we talked the rest of the class, or worked on homework from other classes. At home, we would then go over the answers and try to figure out how in the world the teacher had arrived at them.

Chem Guy

Chem Guy: one of the greatest men of our time, fo sho!

In order to overcome the lack of teaching, I bought an online Chemistry course to help teach me, and I watched a lot of youtube videos by “Chem Guy” (who was my Chemistry savior).

I spent about two hours every night on chemistry homework, and was getting nothing from class. I essentially had to teach myself college chemistry as a sophomore in high school.

The result? I got an “A-” in the class, but only a 2 out of 5 on the AP test, which means I didn't get college credit, which was the whole point of the class. It also goes to show that grades don’t always reflect learning. One would think that an “A-” in the AP class would correlate to passing the exam. Not the case, and yet grades are all that matter in the public school system!

Many times I questioned myself about what the point of even having a teacher was if you just had to learn everything on your own, anyway.

Of course, not everyone did learn on their own, and these were the people who would get the “B”s and the “C”s. Sure, some of the responsibility is on them for not putting in the work, but they are were expecting to be taught. They were victims of the system. Conditioned to sit back and be fed what they needed. The students who received all “A”s; however, they succeeded because they got a tutor, or they spent an inordinate amount of time doing homework and studying and learning on their own.

Again, nearly all of my classes could be cut in half, with half the time spent  on instruction, or “teaching,” and the other half spent on doing homework or figuring it out on your own—or more commonly—burning time. So much time was wasted.

This 50/50 split wasn't true in all of my classes. I did have one class that was chock-full of fun and productive teaching and instruction, but that was a very unique and exceptional class. Because of this common 50/50 split in time, our 4 hours and 15 minutes of remaining educational instruction time is cut down to approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes.

This roughly 2 hours isn’t all the time spent learning, but it’s all the time spent being given instruction by teachers, which is supposedly what sets public school apart from homeschooling.

All the other learning that takes place during the school day is generally left up to the student, and quite frequently, students choose not to do homework. You can find ways to get decent grades without doing homework or putting in much effort. Even if you are a hard worker, and do want to commit yourself to learning, it’s hard to learn much in an environment as wasteful and inefficient as the public school system, especially when your peers are likely to ridicule you for "trying". Public school hurts poor and good students alike.

Most of my learning occurred outside of class, doing homework or studying the textbooks on my own.

Sound like a typical day of homeschooling to anyone?

Ever wondered how kids could be locked away inside the school building for hours on end and still have more work to do at home? It’s because the system is so inefficient, and wasteful. There shouldn’t be a need for homework, but there is.

Also, what should be noted is that there was much that was not factored into my estimation. I didn't count all of the times where the “class clown(s)” would act up and cause the teacher to hesitate or get distracted and go off on a tangent.

I'm also not counting the times where a teacher would have to have a conversation with a student, “out in the hall,” when the rest of us would just have to sit and twiddle our thumbs in the awkward silence.

There were also school assemblies and pep-rallies, which were a complete waste of time, but we always looked forward to them for exactly that reason—time off from school work. Fire drills, tornado drills, lock-down drills, real lock-downs, delays for weather, early dismissals because of weather are all time wasters, but they did not factor into my estimation.


Lockdowns: Putting all the kids in one spot so the killer doesn't have to work as hard.

I’m also not counting the days completely lost to substitute teaching. Days with substitute teachers are rarely productive or educational. Indeed, I’ve had some subs that didn’t even know anything about the subject they had to teach.

Substitutes simply follow the instructions left by the teacher, which means assigning busy-work or telling students to read their text books.

This usually results in an entire class period of teenage socializing.

Following up on a tip from a former public school teacher about the frequent occurrence of substitutes I discovered the following statistics. Up to 10% of teachers are absent on any given school day, and about 5 million students nationwide in some 274,000 classrooms have a substitute teacher on any given school day.

There is a lot of time wasted in public school, and this is not only my belief. Ask a typical student, ask a typical teacher; they'll tell you the same thing if they're being honest. They may not have taken the time to actually add everything up, but the majority of people will at least have the vague idea that, “yeah, a lot of time is wasted,” but most students, and even most teachers are okay with this.

Finding ways to waste time has even become an art-form to many students. After all, the alternative to wasting time is actually doing hard work, or pointless busy-work, which isn't fun.

Also not factored into my estimate is all of the time wasted on false and detrimental instruction, like the views taught in “Health Class” on sexuality, or the teaching that the only significant “achievement”  of Ronald Reagan was the Iran Contra affair, or being taught Darwinian Evolution is science and the reason we're all here today.

Of the 7 hours spent locked away inside a public school building, approximately only 2 and a quarter of those hours are really spent being given instruction. Nearly 5 hours are wasted.

With all the time wasted in public school, is it any wonder that America is falling behind the rest of the world academically?

Is it any mystery that other nations are outscoring America in every subject?

We need more education and less school

I recently saw this quote from the writer and Youtube celebrity, John Green: “Let me explain why I like to pay taxes for schools even though I don’t personally have a kid in school: I don’t like living in a country with a bunch of stupid people.”

Now, Mr. Green’s point is valid, but it is mis-made. What he is really arguing for is education, not public school.

Education is very important.

What Mr. Green must not realize (maybe because he went to a private boarding school, not a public institution) is that public education is a very poor means and environment for acquiring a solid education.

There are much more efficient and cost effective alternatives. We must also forsake the idea that time and learning are directly related. It is not necessarily true that the more time spent doing something the better you become at something. Practice does NOT make perfect. It is perfect practice that makes perfect, and our public schools are rarely providing the kind of effective practice that students need to improve. 

We all know the public education system isn’t working. Even our illustrious president recognizes the current system is a failure, but his solution of throwing more money at schools will not patch up the holes. But, I’m sure the money would be put to good use,  like for acquiring more flat screen TVs to add to school collections, or possibly the purchase of new computers for students to play “Crush the Castle” on during study hall.

Money will not solve any of the problems which are the fruits of a fundamentally flawed system. That’s like throwing money at a ship building company committed to constructing boats out of Swiss cheese.

If you're a homeschooler, I hope this series has equipped you with a better understanding of the reality of the public school system, and provided you with more ammunition to fearlessly articulate the superiority of home education.

Sure, time can be wasted in homeschooling too, but it’s likely the time not being spent on academics is being spent on something that is at least worthwhile, unlike at public school.

If you're a public schooler, then I hope maybe your eyes have been opened. Your school is not giving you as much as they say they are. What you do with that knowledge, is up to you.

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The Modest Mom

A Mama's Story


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Hi! I’m Reagan, the second eldest of the Ramm Children, and husband to Haley Ramm.

I’m a speaker, coach, and writer dedicated to helping families develop and pursue their own family enterprises, so that they can live the truly best life that God intended for them.

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  1. This was very well written and incredibly accurate. I will say that having spent the first 14 years of my life in the north of this country and the last four years of high school in Texas, the north is much better about not wasting time. I had a firm understanding of social issues, a concrete foundation in Spanish, I was in advanced English classes and I kept up well in pre-algebra in middle school. I came to Texas and literally RE-LEARNED everything I already knew with the freshman in high school that all thought the information was much too hard. On the whole my high school was EXACTLY like you described with an addition of coaches as teachers who could not care LESS about the subject they were teaching and only looked forward to the game their team was about to play. I went on to university expecting to have to catch up to the other students only to find out that freshman classes in college were ALSO A waste of time. At least at the public colleges I attended. I had a lot of life situations happening and ended up transferring colleges FIVE times.. I will tell you Abilene Christian University and Harding University were the only two who treated me like I could learn and keep up with my own homework and tests like an adult. The public schools nagged the students into doing work and reminded them constantly about tests and papers coming up. The teachers in the public universities (particularly the University of Texas at Arlington) were horrifically rude toward anyone who didn’t agree with them. 90% of my teachers were hard core feminists and atheists who felt the need to embarrass and harass anyone who disagreed with their extreme ideas. I guess that’s what I get for choosing to study ENGLISH. For some reason that entails religious discussions and endless papers about how the entire world hates and oppresses women and all they stand for. (It’s funny, in my life, the most hated and oppressed I ever felt was by the actual teachers who were trying to open my eyes to how hateful and oppressive the rest of the world was toward me..) Interesting isn’t it? Great blog. And I home school my two kids for some of these exact reasons.

    • You are exactly right! I have plenty of experience with “Re-Learning” as well, as I’ve jumped around from different curriculum and schools. I also attended college at Ohio State, and you are definitely right that a lot of the Freshman classes are pretty pathetic. In fact, a lot of the ones I had to attend were little more than Liberal brainwashing sessions. So I know exactly what you experienced.

      I actually wrote an article about one of these sessions:

      I’m glad you homeschool!

  2. Excellent article. I attended high school 25 years ago (whew!) and I still remember how a huge amount of time every day was wasted. I had a few good teachers who did teach for the entire class period and were pretty strict about everyone getting settled right away and keeping things academic the entire time, but they weren’t the norm (and they were always the AP or honors teachers).
    I’ve been homeschooling my children for over 6 years now, and we’re typically done for the day by lunchtime with any instruction. My oldest spends an hour or two doing his actual work during the afternoon.

  3. Turns out my 7 year old 2nd grader is getting more “instruction” time in homeschool than the average high schooler. Makes me feel better!

  4. Most public schools need a good bashing! Everything said is exactly what I experienced the whole four years I attended high school THIRTY years ago! Not much has changed. I can recall the overcrowded hallways, substitute teachers, disruptions, time wasted, etc., etc. Class clowns taking away learning time. Students throwing books, paper balls at the substitute teacher in the name of fun. Now you have homeroom teachers reading Harry Potter to your kids just for fun. I am blessed that I can homeschool my children. Life is too short to waste eight hours a day for five days every week…sitting in a classroom and getting fed what little the teachers are feeding them. They could do better.

    • I think that Harry Potter is a very educational book and movies. (Mostly the book though). Though the idea of witchcraft does not go along with christian beliefs, you have to understand and explain to your kids it is fictional. Harry died to lord Voldemort and came back to life (symbolism of God and dying for our sins. It also shows virtues of hard-work and love. Who friends are, How to deal with bad people and understanding a lot of metaphors the world lives in today. I think explaining to your kids the witchcraft is simply fiction and it is there to make it look cool and add entertainment. But it is not real.

  5. Wow! I am glad the public schools where I live are NOTHING like what you are describing. I have one child who has graduated college in three years because of the excellent teaching from her high school teachers. I also have another child who is currently in high school and will graduate with 8 college classes already finished. I am proud of the educators in my home town. They do a wonderful job. I am sure there is some time wasted but they do a fantastic job. I am sure most adults waste a lot of time during their day.


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