Where Do I Start with Homeschooling?

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You made it through the school year “homeschooling” your children and either you’re saying “never again”, or you are now considering homeschooling this next school year.  There are differences between coping with an unplanned and potentially chaotic quarantine school at home and planning for a homeschool experience in the fall.  If you’ve questioned your ability to homeschool based on your experiences with this recent lock down, don’t. There is no comparison between having something ill prepared and untested foisted upon you in addition to all the other stresses and planning for your own successful homeschool.

What will schools look like?

There are good reasons to consider homeschooling in the fall given the current requirements for children to return to school. The CDC has issued recommendations for reopening schools and they include having children wear masks all day, bringing their own food to school, discouraging sharing of supplies, staggering arrival and drop-off times, and students remaining 6 feet apart at all times. We’ve already seen stores install arrows directing movement through the store and it wouldn’t be a stretch of the imagination to see this in schools as well. We’ve also seen adults “peer” policing for wearing masks and no doubt, children will follow suit.

Your school system will decide how to manage these recommendations, but I suspect we’ll see some pretty consistent implementation methods. Following the CDC recommendations for strategies to prevent COVID spread gives schools some perception of legal cover. If they follow CDC recommendations, lawsuits are less likely to result from re-opening the schools. We live in a litigious society and there’s institutional safety in implementing procedures that are consistent across the country.

Related:  What Will Schools Look Like After COVID?  Prison Camps.  They’ll Look Like Prison Camps.

What are the laws?

As you make the decision to homeschool, check your state and local requirements for homeschooling. Use this searchable map for homeschool organizations and laws in every US state. The Home School Legal Defense Association also has a searchable map for your state and shows options for how to manage in states that are more highly regulated.  If you’re in Canada, check out this resource.

How do I begin to figure out how to homeschool?

Just as there are a score of teaching methods, there are many ways to homeschool. Perhaps the reason why you want to homeschool defines what method you choose for your children. Parents choose homeschooling for various reasons. Some choose to homeschool for religious reasons. Others choose homeschooling to ensure their children are challenged or are better supported in their learning. Others choose homeschooling to ensure their child’s safety or to help them escape bullying. Some families homeschool because they can’t afford a private school.

There are many valid reasons to homeschool. Some parents choose a predetermined curriculum with videos and grading done by the issuing school. Others choose a more modified version in which the parent grades assignments. Still others research and put together their own curriculum, while others choose unschooling. What is unschooling, you ask? This site can answer your questions.

What about curriculum?

With the resurgence in homeschooling in the 1970’s, there wasn’t any curriculum. Parents cobbled together their own or bought used books from public or private schools.  Many homeschoolers were Christians, and many of the earliest curricula reflect those values. Now, there is a universe of choices to help you in your homeschool experience. It can be overwhelming to try to figure out what will work for you and your children. Start reading and talking to veteran or current homeschoolers.

The links below are ones respected friends or I have used.

  • Cathy Duffy Reviews has been for many the best review of homeschool curriculum for years. Many of her books are no longer available on Amazon. You can order directly from the company and often in e-book format.
  • The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Fourth Edition) Fourth Edition I have not used this book, however, friends have highly recommended it.
  • You Can Teach Your Child Successfully: Grades 4-8 2nd ed. Edition  is by far the best advice I’ve ever read on homeschooling.
  • Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons We taught both our kids to read with this method and they still enjoy reading today as young adults.
  • Real Science 4 Kids presents science as integral to other learning with fun experiments. We used the “Focus On” series, but many people like the “Building Blocks” format.
  • Mary Pride’s Complete Guide to Getting Started in Homeschooling  I am not familiar with this particular book, but we did use many of Mary Pride’s materials when formulating our approach to homeschooling.
  • Singapore Math is a system of teaching math mastery and is best used from the beginning so that both the child and the parent learn the system, which is very different from how math is typically taught in the US. We did not use this system, but friends who were in the STEM field highly recommended it.
  • We used Saxon Math in middle school and beginning high school years because my children wanted to attend public high schools and Saxon tracked well with the school math curriculum.
  • Timberdoodle was our go to for educational toys and they have morphed into selling curriculum that may be worth checking out.
  • HearthSong has many educational toys, but you can just as easily contact an appliance dealer for a free refrigerator box for your kids to convert to a fort or ask for scrap pieces of wood from the local wood yard for the children to create things with hammer and nails. Public schools often sell their old equipment. We acquired a couple non-working microscopes and other mechanical items that my oldest enjoyed bringing back to life.
  • Calvert curriculum is a well-respected comprehensive Catholic curriculum. I haven’t used this, but I do know many people who are very happy with it.
  • Sonlight is a Christian curriculum that we used in the early years because of its international view. There is a heavy focus on reading: both the parent reading aloud and the child reading at their level. Perhaps the best thing you can do is to read aloud to your children. We read every night and worked our way through many books, including Tolkien’s works, C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia (twice), many missionary biographies, and one of our favorites, The Little Britches series.
  • The Khan Academy is a free resource for learners, parents, teachers and school districts worldwide. I have heard it is helpful and is especially useful for high school students. If you have used Khan Academy, please share your experience in the comments below.
  • The Five Most Important Money Lessons to Teach your Kids discusses what you can teach your children about managing money from the youngest ages. Schools, in general, do not teach this, you should.
  • Duolingo offers language learning in an interactive format. I have used this in advance of traveling to another country to familiarize myself with the language.
  • Grasshopper teaches how to code in a fun and enjoyable format and I liked the interface.

Find descriptions and reviews by homeschoolers on just about any curriculum and publisher here.

Another great resource is a homeschool convention. Typically, there will be keynote speakers, along with lectures from vendors. While the conventions may be postponed this year because of COVID, the organizations that sponsor them are still active. I began going to homeschool conventions when my oldest was two and got practical information while doing my own research. Used bookstores can be a tremendous help in finding both curriculum and homeschool support groups. Public libraries will sometimes order books if you request them or may have a reciprocal arrangement with another library system in which they can offer the book for checkout. Abebooks.com is a great resource for both used and new books if you know what you’re looking for. Amazon and eBay are always options as well for both used and new books and videos.

Find your people

Homeschooling may be met with lots of resistance from friends and family. In our case, my parents were both educators so the choice to homeschool was met with derision.  There was no help offered, in fact there was a lot of discouragement expressed. Fortunately, we had many friends who homeschooled and they became our lifeline.

We joined a co-op, explored playgroups until we found one that fit our family, attended rehearsal performances of the arts for children during the daytime at our local performance center, and met other families at the park once a week for lunch and playtime. Our kids took music lessons, played on teams, and were part of church groups.

We found our people and you need to do the same. Who are your people? Find them and you can support each other.

Well, that’s all well and good, but both of us have to work to support our family.

I agree that in the last 20 years, it’s become more difficult to have one parent at home. However, an argument can be made that it’s not efficient to have both parents working either. With both parents working, someone has to take on the tasks of running a household, maintaining cars, paying bills, grocery shopping, cleaning and cooking. Someone also has to take on the task of caring for preschool age children or retrieving children from after-care in schools. When both parents work, the life tasks are not fewer, yet there is less time to accomplish them, leaving less time to build a relationship with each other. There is a continual pull between what you instinctively know is necessary and right for your family and what your employer demands. It can become a rat race and suck the life out of all who try to maintain it. A case can be made that both parents working with children in daycare does not advance financial health.

I’m a single parent, where does this leave me?

Being a single parent is the hardest job I know. Not only do you need to provide for your family, but homeschooling would be an additional responsibility that occupies what little free time you have. If homeschooling is something you want to try, let me suggest a couple of things. Find like-minded parents with whom you could share schooling responsibilities. If you are able, work later hours and spend the daytime hours with your children. Better yet, see if you can work from home. Find a family member who can help you care for the children while you’re at work and homeschool when you get home. Perhaps there is a Grandma in your life who would love to homeschool your children. Be creative. What are the potential options open to you?

What about all our living expenses?

Living expenses can be high and may go higher if the increase in food prices continues, but do we really need to maintain our current lifestyle? Could we downsize, eat out less, be happy with the clothes we have, take a walk around the neighborhood or have a picnic in the park for entertainment? Do we need that large TV to be happy? Do we need all those expensive video games and gaming systems? Choosing homeschooling is choosing a lifestyle that is different. It is choosing to resist the hype in advertisements that we need all that stuff to be happy.

When our kids were little, we’d watch Veggie Tales. One of our favorites was the one with Madame Blueberry and Stuff Mart, which was ultimately a lesson in thankfulness. It also demonstrated how we think we can buy happiness. It was really more a lesson for me than my children! I’ve learned that the more stuff I have, the more I have to maintain, store and protect.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating an austere lifestyle. I am suggesting if we dial back what we think we need, we can save a lot of money, which opens up other possibilities. For example: one of the parents not working, being able to save money for things that really matter, and living a more simple, less-stressed lifestyle.

When you don’t have as much, improvise and use what you have.

Interestingly, in this quarantine situation, I’ve gone back to many things I did when my kids were little and we had less income. Things like washing out plastic bags or containers and reusing them, letting a potential purchase “incubate” for a time and save up before I make a buy/no-buy decision, carefully planning meals to create a new meal with the leftovers, and doing simple things like taking a walk and noticing the birds and flowers to enjoy life.

I ask you, do we really need everything we have? Do we encourage each other to acquire new “stuff” because we want to conform to a norm or because we think we deserve it? I challenge you to think about it and consider the possibilities. I truly believe a shift in this paradigm can open up a world of possibilities.

What do you think?

What are your thoughts on the homeschooling lifestyle? If you are a current homeschooler, please share your thoughts in the comments below. If you’ve homeschooled and have adult children, your comments are especially welcome! If you are considering homeschooling, use the comments to ask questions and discuss options.

About Linnea

Linnea Johnson has her MA in Curriculum and Instruction and has taught preschool students through adults on topics including music, English as a 2nd language, technology, business, and personal finance.  She now works in technical business development with universities.  She and her husband homeschooled their two active sons, who went on to careers in mechanical engineering and entrepreneurship. Her greatest joy is spending time with her family, cultivating a little urban farm, and traveling with her husband of 31 years.

Linnea Johnson

Linnea Johnson

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  • I home schooled my youngest son 3rd and 4th grade together in 11 months to catch up to grade after being flunked along with almost his entire 3rd grade. I later found out the school was working to start classes for kids who couldn’t do the regular classes. Turned out most of the flunked kids ended up home schooled or church schooled. All excelled.
    I opened a church school the next year preK-12 with volunteer teachers. Operated 22.5 school years. Very rewarding. Students did well. Emphasis was on reading but all subjects were covered well. Reading is essential for life long learning.

    • Clergylady…it would be interesting to hear the details of how you set up your school and curriculum choices. You have a lot of experience and wisdom to share.

  • Classical Conversations is what my family went with. We asked around and chose this as our homeschooling “system”.

  • checked out Khan academy once on some history stuff – not a home schooler just a history wonk. I do not recommend, what I read made the public school history stuff look conservative. Revisionist history.

    • I have not been impressed with Khan Academy either. For some things like maybe math, but would use other curriculum for history etc. We visited Classical Conversations and it was not a good fit for us as far as my son’s learning disabilities. Also, too intense and a lot of parental involvement, some is needed, but what they required was a lot. A family needs to go with what will work best for them and their kids.

      We used alot of eclectic curriculum: KONOS up till middle school, Essentials in Writing (awesome!), History Revealed by Diana Waring, Math U See, Keys for Math, Apologia Science, various literature classics, biographies and more. It can be trial and error, but what didn’t work, I sold on eBay later and bought what would work used on eBay if I could find it there or elsewhere.

  • I am a public school teacher and just took 2 surveys of my thoughts of returning to school next year. WOW, Who knows what my district will come up with or what others will come up with. My suggestion is to home school if at all possible. You will not only get a better-educated child but you will have the power to influence your child/ren the way you want. Reading is paramount. Will it be easy. NO NO NO. But keep to a schedule, be diligent and you will do well. You will most likely have fun once you get used to it. You are already your child’s first teacher. Use those teachable moments we can no longer use in the classroom because we don’t have time because we have to “get through the curriculum”. Homeschooling gives you the power to teach the subject matter you want and also the time to have those teachable moments. Enjoy your children. Thank you Linnea for such comprehensive suggestions for how parents can homeschool.

  • You might want to include the Ron Paul Curriculum. It is taught by world class professors and doesn’t shy away from Western Civilization. And it is $250 per year and $50 per class, so about $500 per year. No books and NO WORK for the parents. It is an excellent self-study program, especially for motivated students.

  • I home schooled 3 children for many years, 4th grade through 12th grade. Over the entire period, we had many ups and downs with very different personalities in my children. The single most important take away is to have structure in the home. If your children will not listen to you now, they will not listen when they are doing school. I adapted the curriculum to meet the needs of each child. But having the routine of a certain time to rise each day, what things needed to be done before we started school for the day, what needed to be accomplished before the end of the school day or attending playgroup, etc. was what helped me (and them) keep everything moving forward. Days that we were off of our structured routine were a horrible mess with little being accomplished. We had scheduled lessons and activities outside the home which included sports, theater, music lessons, and children’s choir (I used a planner for both, but it was also flexible to meet the needs of everyone). One of the favorites was joining 4H clubs through the county extension office (I think only for children over 8). Archery, orienteering, sewing, pottery, Toastmasters, as well as animal husbandry.. hundreds of interesting and well taught or self taught activities plus social interaction with children who had the same interests. In High School several families would join together to teach science based or higher math subjects that are more difficult (now we can find videos on most anything, but not then). We also were able in the later H.S. years to have them take some classes at the local community college, everything from Chemistry to foreign languages. When they went on to college, they had a semester or more of credits to transfer to their 4 year program. We were not 100% successful. One child who was/is a bit of a rebel made our school classes a battle ground and ultimately wound up attending the local high school. A mutual decision as we chose loving one another over arguing with one another. He is still finding his way. The other two graduated home school, went on to college and have successful careers in nursing and the bio-tech industry. It was not easy, but it was rewarding. I hope this helps in some way. Under the current academic atmosphere and Covid -19 I would highly recommend home school. There are so many more resources and choices available today.

  • I have a five year old and I have just started using the kindergarten 2 series ( for 5-6 years old) from Christian Light. I have to say I think they are excellent, especially if they already know the fundamentals, but they need reinforcing. I really appreciate the continuity in the workbooks. And she loves the Activity books part of it.

  • I homeschooled all three of mine the first two K-12, the third 1-12. They are one year apart in age and the last has special needs. I like others, used a variety of curriculums: Abeka, Horizons, Math You See, Apologia, PA History from S Kemmerer (in 4th and 7th, required by PA laws) and Life Pacs (in history for a couple of years when they were young). I used a couple of others for a while, but switched because they did not work for the kids or bored me too. One of the benefits is that if it doesn’t work for your child you can change the curriculum or adjust it. As they got older, they choses to block learn some classes. They were usually done their English and literature classes by Thanksgiving or Christmas. When we went on vacation we would often stop by museums or historical places and it was considered a day of school (field trip). Even going to the theatre counted as a day of school.
    My child with special needs, well, I made up the curriculum as I went along. One year I used the planets they gave out at Chic-Fil-A kids meal. They were intrigued by them, so I added to it by getting an electronic game that has to do with planets, I hung planets from the ceiling in their room and things like that. They learned about the planets that year and could name them all.. A huge achievement for that child. I used Love and Learning to learn sight words. The first year they learned 26 words. A child from the special needs class they had been in, who was two years further along in school, learned his first 60 sight words in school that year. They had special needs services in the home as well as at the school for as long as they needed.
    As others have said you can use the community college to receive high school and college credits at the same time. For socialization there is 4H, Girl/Boy Scouts, homeschool co-ops, homeschool choir, sports as well as participate in community events and other things. Studies show that homeschooled children are more socialized up and down the generations and not just the peers their own age.
    In the end, two were college grads, one graduated with a 3.9 GPA from an ivy league university.

  • We homeschooled our two children K-12 and it was the best decision we ever made. Our children are both responsible and self-reliant. Our daughter is an EMT/Fire Fighter and our son is finishing his master’s degree in history and working in a museum. This article is quite thorough. The resources listed are solid. I’d also like to recommend the book Home Learning Year By Year by Rebecca Rupp, Ph.D. as a guideline for seeing what skills are generally taught in each grade. This will help parents to see what material to cover and which curricula might help them meet those goals. Regarding the financial impacts of homeschooling, it does cost money to buy curriculum and it is a huge hit to the finances that one parent often must work less outside of the home (or not at all) in order to spend time homeschooling the children. However, we found the sacrifice was well worth it. Moreover, one does avoid the expenses of school such as fundraisers, teacher gifts, and the obsessive need to have everything “everyone else has.” My best advice is to focus on reading, writing, and math and not worry too much about covering every subject. Math, especially, needs to be completed regularly and consistently to make progress. A child who can read, write, and compute well will be well-prepared for any academic pursuit. Homeschooling is definitely a lifestyle in that every

    • moment is a teachable moment. Homeschooling is also great for teaching children practical life skills because they are around while one is doing practical things. For example, both of our children are quite good cooks. They have their own culinary niches (our son loves to smoke meat and barbecue while our daughter likes to make vegetable dishes and bake). Our daughter also knows how to knit. Our son can do basic woodworking. Both children can build a fire without matches, do laundry, iron, and make basic household repairs. Both can sew by hand and with a machine. Homeschooling usually takes less time per day than traditional school because there isn’t as much wasted time (e.g., disciplining other kids, lining up, collecting homework, etc.). This time can be productively used to learn new skills or enjoy hobbies.

  • ConnectionsAcademy.com is another option that I’m keeping on my list in case homeschooling becomes necessary for us.

  • Has anyone tried The Good and Beautiful curriculum? I am considering homeschool this fall and came upon this while researching Kentucky homeschool. It looks wonderful and comprehensive, a one stop shop. Any help would be appreciated.

  • Wonderful article! We homeschooled K-12. We took our journey step by step; year by year. When we first started we didn’t have the wisdom or insight to know how evil the academic world would become. The homeschool curriculum and supplies availability was very thin when we started years ago. For product reviews* and other hands-on testing insights, here is a pleasant site to visit for homeschool helps. (*Sonlight and Timberdoodle, etc.) (I don’t receive any commission with this recommendation) 🙂

  • Madame Blueberry , one of my favorites as well. Best article on homeschooling I’ve read . We homeschooled for several years . I try to encourage people to do it also. Thank you , Laura

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