Core vs. Non-core: The Art of Proper Logging :

by Linda Bromeier

Editor's note: The following explanation of Missouri core hours and logging is one of the best I've read. It was written in response to a recent email request from a new homeschooler asking for clarification on what constitutes "core" hours.

New homeschoolers can read the Missouri laws regarding homeschooling for themselves by going to the nearest branch of the St. Louis County Library, and looking in the Reference room for the Missouri Statutes. The librarian can assist you if you cannot find them. Look up Chapter 167, which deals with Pupils and Special Services, for the laws on homeschooling.

The law states that "the parent shall offer at least one thousand hours of instruction, at least 600 hours of which will be in reading, language arts, mathematics, social studies, and science, or academic courses that are related to the aforementioned subject areas and consonant with the pupil's age and ability." Key words here are "instruction," meaning the parent has to impart knowledge to the student, and "academic," meaning courses involving book learning.

From the perspective of a certified teacher, language arts means English grammar, writing, spelling, and penmanship. Social studies means history, geography, economics, anthropology, and psychology. Science includes general science in the lower grades and earth science, biology, chemistry, physics, botany, astronomy, etc. in the upper grades. Foreign language counts as language arts.

Religion is generally con-sidered a non-core subject. Music, a non-core subject, would include piano, or instrumental lessons, choir, and studying works by great musicians. Fine arts, a non-core subject, would include such things as craft projects, painting, sketching, etc. Physical education, a non-core subject, would in-clude organized sports or games, skating, bowling, tennis lessons, etc. Household skills typically taught to girls -- such as cooking, sewing, embroidery, etc. -- are considered home economics, and would be non-core. Skills typically taught to boys -- such as woodworking, auto mechanics, household repairs, etc. -- are considered "shop" or "practical arts" and would be non-core. Learning computer keyboarding or useful programs can be considered instruction in computer science and would be non-core.

Be careful, though, when logging hours -- there must be "instruction" for the time to count. For example, some hours in gardening or animal care may qualify for science, but only log those hours in which your child was learning something. The first few times he holds a baby chick, observes its appearance and behavior, and feeds and waters it, he is learning about birds. How-ever, when it becomes a routine chore or recreation, it is not really "instruction" and should not be counted as school hours. Playing computer games does not count as "instruction" (it is primarily recreation, even if the child uses the keyboard a little). The same applies to other subjects. If you have just studied Mozart in class and have your children listen to some of his symphonies, it counts as "instruction." If your children listen to music on the radio, it does not count because no instruction is taking place.

Regarding field trips, a good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if a public school would be likely to go there as a learning experience. If yes, than you can too. Log field trip hours in the subject area most applicable. A visit to Missouri Botanical Gardens is science, the Art Museum is fine arts, the local fire station is social studies, and so forth. A visit to a different church could be considered a religion field trip if you spend a little time walking around the church and "instructing" your child about the saints or stained glass images. Watching a National Geographic special about the ancient ruins of the Aztecs counts as social studies; watching "Raiders of the Lost Ark" doesn't count.

Linda Bromeier, mother of seven, is a 13-year veteran homeschooler and a Missouri Certified Teacher. She is also a regular speaker at our annual Catholic Homechool Conference.