Category: Getting Started Homeschooling

elementary schoolGetting Started Homeschooling

Getting Started Homeschooling Part 6- Elementary School

Y’all! I have loved every stage my children have gone through. Truly… I don’t know that I have a favorite age or stage as far as parenting goes. But as far as homeschooling… elementary school is my favorite. It is just the best! There is so much room for creativity and child- led learning. It is a beautiful time to get to know your kids… to explore their interests. To try new things. You can find your homeschooling groove during these years without fear of failing.

These are the years your child will take off with reading. I liken teaching reading to a light switch. It will turn on… but the timing may be different depending on the child. Once that light turns on, it is amazing. A child who struggled and struggled to sound out words and read full sentences will suddenly be checking out chapter books from the library and reading through them … and retaining the information. It is a little bit magical. I have watched this happen with all of my children. I have one child, who through circumstances beyond her control has learning issues, gain the confidence to read and loves it now. Her light switch was more like a dimmer switch… the light would go on and off and have different levels of brightness… but eventually it clicked and she reads like a champ! Trust me… it will come. I have a friend who once said the greatest thing she could do for her child is teach them to read. Once you do that, they can take more ownership of their education and learning. It opens the world to them!

So… How in the world do you get started homeschooling elementary school??? With so many great curriculum options, programs, online courses, books… where do you start???

Two things to consider… What kind of homeschooler are you? And what kind of student is your child?

Do you want a box curriculum to tell you what to do? Do you enjoy piecing together your own curriculum? Are you a schedule person? A morning person? Do you prefer a more traditional approach to school? Is your child a tactile learner (they have to touch everything)? A kinesthetic learner (they move all day long)? An audio learner (they learn through listening and get distracted by visuals)? A visual learner (they need to see all the things)?

You need to know yourself and know your child as you move into homeschooling. The elementary years are the best time (in my opinion) to figure all this out. Let me share a little of my personal story and then I will give you some resources to help you out!

When my oldest was five, I figured it was time to get serious about homeschooling and look into curriculum choices. I went to a homeschool conference. I highly, highly recommend you find a conference in your area to attend. Unfortunately, most of the conferences this year were canceled due to COVID-19. Hopefully next year will be different. Conferences are great because you become immersed with people who are speaking the language of homeschool. You get to see and touch the curriculum and books. You can ask questions of the vendors and really gather information to make informed choices… or you can be like me and buy all the shiny, lovely things that have that new book smell… only to bring them home, put them on the shelf, and leave them there, abandoned with the lingering hopes of being used.

ANYWAY. I went to a conference. I settled on My Father’s World first grade curriculum. We loved it. For me, I was deep in the throes of young motherhood. At that time, I had a five year old, a three year old, and a one year old. The days were busy and the nights were not filled with the sleep I needed. My husband was in the midst of getting his Masters in Counseling. I needed a curriculum that was laid out for me. I needed a schedule and boxes to check off. I needed someone else to tell me what to do. My Father’s World was great. We went on to use it for the next 3 years. We used the First Grade, Adventures in U.S. History, and Exploring Countries and Cultures.

Fast forward three years from the beginning of all this. Another child has been added to the crew. My husband graduated from his Masters program and we moved to Western North Carolina. We have settled in and even completed a year with of a co op with other families. We all did Exploring Countries and Cultures together. It was awesome! One of my favorite years. We were together with three other families. We would meet once a week and do the fun stuff… the cooking and science and art. My older two remember that year fondly.

Well… I ordered the next level of My Father’s World… Creation to the Greeks. Another solidly put together curriculum. But as I sat there looking at it, I realized my heart wasn’t in it. I was not excited about using it and I knew my kids wouldn’t be either. I ended up making a bold and scary choice. I sold the curriculum. I called my older two (then 8 and 5) to the table and gave them each a piece of paper. I asked them to write down what they wanted to learn about. Now… I kept my math curriculum… because I know my strengths and weaknesses. Math is a weakness and I know that without a solid math curriculum for my kids, it could mean disaster for them.

My oldest wrote that he wanted to learn about “how things work” and the next oldest wrote that she wanted to learn about “pandas.” By the way… this is the method that I have implemented every year since and for at least three years, she wrote she wanted to learn about pandas. So… if you ever need to know about pandas… I’ ve got you covered. I took the things they wrote down and started gathering materials. I utilized Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, the library, YouTube… I gathered materials to help meet the desires of my kids. We read books and wrote reports (language arts), we made models using legos, cardboard boxes, Hot Wheels Cars (STEM- Science), we did virtual tours of zoos, watched documentaries, and learned about China (Social Studies and History), and we painted and drew pictures (Art). Once we exhausted all we could about “how things work” and “pandas,” I asked them what was next and we did it all again.

Y’all… they LOVED that year in school. I would hear them in their room in the mornings talking about how they were so excited to “do school.” It was a really fun year and I learned a lot through the experience of letting go and trusting the process.

Resources for Homeschooling Elementary School

Curriculum Options (There are so many out there. These are just a few)

My Father’s World– Christian Worldview, Literature Heavy. $$

Sonlight– Christian Worldview, Literature Heavy. $$$

Book Shark– Secular Worldview, Literature Heavy. $$$

Abeka– More Traditional, Christian Worldview- Online and Offline Options $$

Simply Charlotte Mason– Charlotte Mason Based Studies $

Moving Beyond the Page– Secular Worldview, Hands On for Creative and Gifted Learners $$$

Time 4 Learning– Secular Worldview- Online $$

Easy Peasy– Christian Worldview- Online and Offline- FREE

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Christian Hero Then and Now Biographies– We used these as the spine of our year once. We would read the books and talk about the people, places, and things.

Schoolhouse Teachers . Com- This is a great resource offering over 400 courses for Pk- 12th with TONS of Parent helps! You can read more about it HERE and HERE.

Teachers Pay Teachers– You can find a plethora of resources through this open marketplace created by Teachers and for Teachers. My shop has a variety of No-Prep Printables. Just download and go!

Drawing Notebooks– I cannot stand having thousands of pieces of paper around my house filled with my children’s most amazing artwork. So… I buy them sketch pads. The art is contained and the temptation to chuck it in the trash is decreased. Drawing notebooks can also make great Nature Journals.

Legos! Oh my word… there is so much you can do with Legos! You can have free build. You can create challenges (Check out these building challenge cards in My Teachers Pay Teachers Shop), you can learn about a city and then have your kid build it with Legos. They can play quietly with Legos while you read aloud. The open ended options are endless!!

The Young Peacemaker Book– These are great years to work on character development. This book is a great resource for teaching your children about character and how to interact with others.

Final Advice

Two things that I think are CRUCIAL for your elementary age student… PLAY and READ! Read, read, read… and read some more. You read to them. Have them read to you. Play… allow time and space for play- directed and free. Let your child be bored. Boredom leads to creativity. Play is important. Don’t buy into the lie that your child is wasting time when they are playing. They are learning. Their brains are building. At the end of the day… if they have played and spent some time in a book… it has been a good day!

As far as how your day should look when you are homeschooling an elementary age student:

  • Elementary age students can complete their daily work in an hour… maybe 1-2 hours for upper elementary. Focused academics does not need to take much time.
  • Children thrive on schedules. Make sure your student is aware of your expectations. Your day doesn’t need to be scheduled to the minute, but have consistent rhythms. Maybe have book work time in the morning, free reading after lunch, chores, screen time, etc. Maybe make Tuesdays a library day and Fridays a field day.
  • If something is frustrating to your child, take a break and step back to see where you might need to slow down or speed up.

Other topics I’ll be covering in this “Getting Started Homeschooling Series” are:

free printableGetting Started Homeschoolingpreschool

Getting Started Homeschooling Part 5- Preschool

I LOVE Preschool! Those are some of the most precious years. My degree is in Early Childhood Education and I was a 4K teacher before I had children of my own. I absolutely love that age. They are so fun and so curious and say some of the most amazing things. When I was starting out teaching, the school where I was to work had formerly been simply 4th and 5th grade. The schools in the district were divided by grade. There was one school for K-1st, one school for 2nd-3rd, and one for 4th-5th. So… not only was my school not set up for little ones, 4 year old kindergarten was a completely new concept!

When I arrived a couple of weeks before school was to begin, I was shown my new classroom. It was completely empty! The furniture had been ordered, but wouldn’t arrive until after the school year had begun. I had nothing. No rug, no cubbies, no toys, no tables, no chairs… nothing. I started scavenging. I walked up and down the halls and took from the piles of discarded items other teachers were throwing away. I had a friend give me a few boxes of materials. A friend gave me a tub of Duplo Blocks. The toy store where I had worked for the summer went through their inventory and loaded up my car with a lot of items that could not be sold… CDs that we had used to play music in the store, items that had been used for story time or puppet shows, slightly flawed toys. I collected everything I could find for those next two weeks. I recruited my husband (who at the time was just a friend) to paint tables for me.

But wait… there’s more…

The school had no curriculum or plan for me to use. I was tasked with creating the 4K program for my classroom. The program was a new idea. Most of my students were half day preschoolers. I had a morning and an afternoon class. However, I had about ten students who would stay all day. These students were considered “at risk” and it was thought that they would benefit from double exposure to all the lessons.

Y’all. They put a brand new teacher into an empty classroom with no plan! I was thrown into the deep end! But guess what? I made it. The year was so much fun. I made a kitchen center out of cardboard boxes. Those Duplo Blocks were well loved and played with daily. We danced to songs from those old CDs. I covered the walls with artwork from my students instead of cute little posters. My assistant, my co-teacher, and her assistant were all brand new. We made some amazing memories as we stumbled through that year together. It was eye opening for sure. But some of the lessons I learned in that first year of teaching carried me when it was time to school my own preschoolers at home.

When someone asks, “What do I need for my preschooler?” ” How do I choose curriculum?” ” What should they be learning?”

This is my 3 step response:

  1. Read
  2. Play
  3. Explore

Let me say this LOUD AND CLEAR…. preschoolers do not need structured academics. Preschoolers NEED TO PLAY. They learn through PLAY. Let them PLAY!

Y’all listen to Mr. Rogers! Play is serious learning. It is not an easy out to let your preschooler play all. day. long. Unless your child is really excited about workbooks and sitting at the table to “do school,” don’t make them do it. My oldest liked to sit with me and do school for about one hot minute per week. He much preferred reading books about planets and building solar system models. He loved to explore the backyard and collect sweet gum balls. He rode his tricycle, climbed trees, built forts, rescued stuffed animals in danger, played with his sister, looked at books, read books, watched Little Einsteins and Sid the Science Kid. I learned from my experiences with him to not push school on my girls. The time would come for more focused academics. Preschool is a beautiful time to learn your children and see the world through their eyes.

I know this might seem tough. Especially if your non-homeschooling friends are sending their children off to preschool and posting all their super cute crafts on social media. You may feel like your child who prefers to play in mud puddles over learning to read is going to fall behind. I promise he or she will not fall behind. I promise PLAY is the most important. I mean… Albert Einstein said it… so… you can believe it.

When I potty trained my third child, she was much younger than my first two had been. They had been closer to three years old. They had potty trained very easily. I thought by number three I was a pro.

I was not.

It was a miserable experience. I had a newborn and was trying to potty train my not-quite two and a half year old. That child peed on me on a number of occassions. She wet her clothes regularly. She wet furniture regularly. It was MISERABLE. I thought I was going to ruin my relationship with this child. We tried every reward in the book…. nothing was working. Fast forward about six months. She decided she wanted to try to sleep through the night without a pull up. She had her eye on a pair of Hello Kitty boots. I told her that if she kept her pull up dry for five nights, she could have the boots. She came out every morning with a dry pull up and watched me check off the calendar. She was over the moon excited when she got those boots. Why did it work then and not before? She simply wasn’t ready six months prior. Because she wasn’t ready, it made the training that much harder.

I have seen in my parenting career that if my children wait until they are ready for something, the success rate is so much higher. Potty training, learning to read, riding a bike, playing the piano… If you just give your child a little time, school and life will go more smoothly. If you are getting push back from your child. If they are just not seeming to grasp a concept… take a break. Take some time off and come back to it later. When they are ready, they will take off! That was my story. I was a poor reader all through early elementary school. I was put in the lowest reading group and had to stay in from recess all through third grade. But when I finally figured it out… when my brothers spent time with me helping me learn… I took off and never looked back.

If you want to maintain a culture of play and direct a little more focused education, let me suggest you utilize Busy Bags. Busy bags are simple activities stored in a bag for toddlers or preschoolers so they are always ready to go! They are engaging activities that your child can do independently. They are great for playing during quiet time at home or to keep them busy while waiting at the doctor’s office. I suggest using zipper pencil pouches to store your activities.

Toddler Busy Bag Swap

This picture is from a Toddler Busy Bag swap I did with some families in our community several years ago. First, we generated interest among our local community, then everyone picked an activity, agreed on a date and time and the swap was on! Each person picked an activity to make and made multiple sets of that one activity. We each brought our items to the park and shared about what we had made.

1. Paint chip matching

2. A Button Snake… kids lace shapes onto a long ribbon.

3. A Lacing Toy… this awesome lady cut up a plastic dish drain and provided strings and pipe cleaners for endless play time. Toddlers can pull the string through the holes. Preschoolers can practice lacing and weaving.

4. Color Matching wheel … See below for the FREE printable that goes along with this one. Kids match colored clothespins to the color wheel.

5. Color Match circles… A Big circle is laid down with a color written on it. Kids match smaller circles with pictures done in the same color. (Example… the big circle says “green”… kids place a small circle with a green smiley face on top.

6. Pom Pom Push…. we also had this one at the previous swap. It is a huge favorite at our house. You take a small plastic container at cut a hole in the lid. Kids can push the pom poms through the hole. This mama put duct tape around the hole so no little fingers get cut with jagged plastic.

Preschool Busy Bags

1. Pom Pom Pick Up. The child has a container filled with pom poms and a set of tongs. The lid of the container has a hole in it. The child can empty the pom poms and then use the tongs or their fingers to put them back through the hole in the lid. This activity also came with a straw… the child can blow the pom poms around the table!

2. Homemade Play Dough… every kid I’ve ever met loves play dough. It just has so many great learning aspects… especially development of fine motor skills.

3. Felt Pizza… with order slips!! The child can create custom pizzas with this fun activity. They have crust, sauce and a variety of toppings. The activity also has order slips to make custom order and practice counting how many of each topping goes on the pizza.

4. Color Match Puzzles.

5. Spoon Matching with Shapes and Numbers.

6. Spell Your Name Bunting. This mom made personalized busy bags for each of the families that participated.

7. Block Puzzles. The child estimates how many blocks will fit in a certain shape and then does the puzzle to find the correct answer.

8. Paint Chip Color Match. My kids LOVED using clothes pins!

9. Lacing and Shapes. Children lace the ribbon through various shapes.

A favorite activity of my kids, when they were small, was making patterns with Duplo Blocks. You can create your own patterns using the Free Printable Below.

Please don’t stress, dear friends. The preschool years are tough… they are… but they are oh so fun! Preschoolers are amazing and come up with the best games. They have amazing imaginations and are so, so curious. You can teach your preschooler to listen to the rhythms of their body. They need play. They need rest. They need activity. They need calm. Teach them self awareness. Ask them what they want to learn. Explore with them!


Other topics I’ll be covering in this “Getting Started Homeschooling Series” are:

Getting Started Homeschooling

Getting Started Homeschooling Part 4- Routines and Schedules

Once upon a time, I participated in a panel discussion titled, “A Day in Our Homeschool.” It was a peek behind the curtain into the lives of several different homeschools in our community. The idea was, in part, to show how each homeschool is unique and the freedom that comes with customizing your school to meet your needs. At this time, our family had begun to adopt a more relaxed approach to homeschool. I believe my children were 9, 7, 5, and 3 at the time. The woman who went before me was beautifully type A and very organized. She shared charts and checklists accounting for every moment of her homeschool day from the moment her children woke until the moment they went to bed. I was thoroughly impressed, intimidated, and exhausted by her presentation. It worked for her, but I knew that something like that would never work for me. I have one child who would likely thrive on such scheduling, but for me as a mom… it would likely end up in a downward cycle of shame and feelings of inadequacy.

Why am I sharing this? Let me say it again… each homeschool is unique! You are the chief administrator of your school. I am not familiar with the laws in all fifty states… but I am fairly certain that even in the most regulated states, you still have some freedom to order your day. If you like schedules and order… please go for it!!! Write it out, make spreadsheets, get a planner, laminate…. go nuts! I have aspirations of being you, dear organizers! But my reality has proven that I am not a checklist, planner, spreadsheet kind of girl when it comes to ordering our homeschool life.

What are your expectations?

I have tried several different routines and schedules when it comes to homeschooling. I do believe that children need order. They need to know what is expected of them and be given the ability to meet that expectation. If you expect your child to complete an assignment in a certain way, but do not give them any instruction or guidance, your expectation will likely not be met. If I send my girls into their room and say, “Clean your room.” they have a different expectation than I do. They do the minimum which involves shoving things under the bed, shuffling items around, and throwing things in a corner or closet. However… if I take the time to present my expectations and train them in how to meet those expectations, the end result is much less frustrating. If I say to them, “I want you to clean your room. Put legos back in the tub, pick up dirty clothes, throw away trash, and put library books back in the basket. I want to be able to vacuum the floor when you are done.” they have much more clear instruction and are set up for success.

Children need to be taught. When it comes to establishing routines and schedules, consider what you as the instructor and parent can maintain and consider what your expectations as well as the abilities of your children include. Take the time to train. It is worth it, I promise.

Hold Loosely and Provide Wide Margins

When my youngest was about to turn three, we had just moved into a new home. I had taken a few weeks off of school to move, settle, and potty train said child. When the time came to resume school, I was refreshed and excited. I had a plan to gather for a morning meeting where we read a book, talked about the day, the weather, etc. I had a tri-fold board that included a calendar, a verse of the week, a weather chart, etc. As we were making our way downstairs to the school room, the newly potty trained toddler lost control of her bladder causing a stream to tumble down my stairs. She was wet, her clothes were wet, the stairs were dripping. I was so defeated. I had a vision of how I wanted our time to go and it was disrupted. I took her and put her in the bath, cleaned the stairs, and went to my room to hide under the covers. My husband asked what happened and I said, “I quit!”

Moral of the story??? Hold loosely to your plans. Make the plans, have the expectations, but hold loosely. Allow for disruptions… good and bad. Allow wide margins in your homeschool week to allow for those moments when your child, pre-teen, or teen just needs a break. Allow for moments of exploration- for nature walks, for turning over rocks and looking at bugs, for cooking, for cleaning (I have a child who LOVES to clean house), for getting lost in a book. Allow for playdates and library trips. Hold loosely to your plans for much learning happens in the in between.

Check out this post I wrote about Homeschooling with Wide Margins.

Tips for Creating Schedules

The image above was circulating Facebook when the quarantine was beginning. So many people who found themselved unexpectedly homeschooling were stressing because their child was finishing their schoolwork so quickly. They were wondering if that was ok? Was their child learning? Shouldn’t they be doing more? I agree with the above image for the most part. It is very generalized. It is a suggestion, not a hard and fast rule.

I hope, however, it gives you freedom to realize that your homeschool does not have to be a replication of a classroom or conventional school setting. With the individualized intruction you are able to give your child and the focused attention, they should be able to get their academic work done, and done well, in much less time that you would imagine.

Ok… here are a few tips to consider when establishing daily rhythms.

  1. Establish a routine, not a schedule. Establish a consistent rhythm. Are you a morning person? Do you prefer to get all your instruction and “school” finished early? Are you more of a night owl? When are your kids fresh and ready to learn? Is it a battle to keep their focus early in the morning? We generally start our focused learning around 9:30, breaking for a snack at 10. Early on in our parenting, we established a rhythm of afternoon rest. When they were little, that meant taking an afternoon nap. For my preschoolers, it meant having quiet time in their beds. They could look at books or play quietly as long as they stayed in their beds. My kids (now 15, 13, 10, and 8) still have an afternoon time of slowing down… it usually is when they take their screen time.
  2. Establish your expectations. I already touched on this. We all come into situations with expectations whether we realize it or not. You have expectations for your homeschool. Your partner has expectations. Your children have expectations. When those expectations are not met, there can be fall out and frustration. Keep open coversation. Be clear in your expectations. If you expect your children to complete all their school work before texting their friends, make that clear and set your child up for success (maybe have a designated spot for their phone or device to stay until school is completed). If you have a morning routine you expect to be completed like includes putting breakfast dishes away, getting dressed, brushing teeth, making the bed, etc. … make that clear! Allow time. Repeat instruction. Train and retrain. Respect your child’s expectations. Ask what they hope for in their homeschool and work to make it happen!
  3. Know where you are headed. What are your goals for your homeschool? Think about the long game. Think about the year. Think about the semester. Think about the month. Think about the week. Don’t be held captive by your goals, but have an idea of where you are headed. In North Carolina, we have to complete yearly standardized testing. I have a friend who is trained to administer the Woodcock Johnson. She comes, tests my children, and then goes over the results with me. I take it as a time to reflect on what worked in the year and to take note of areas where we need to work. I begin to plan a strategy to help meet individual challenges my children may have. We have some seasons in our year that are busier with outside commitments than others. In the Spring, my children typically participate in sports, theater, and enrichment classes. I adapt our at home instruction to account for the lessons they are learning in these other opportunities.
  4. Set a basic household schedule. This would include things outside of the realm of academic instruction. What does your daily life look like? Do you have babies and toddlers? When do they nap? How can you take advantage of their nap time to get some quality instruction in with your older children? When are your meal times? What outside commitments do you have? Is your homeschool a priority… how can you strategically use your day to meet the expectations you have for homeschooling?
  5. Keep Things Simple. Pare down on excessive tasks and keep those expectations realistic. Allow for moments of rest and free time and boredom.
  6. Don’t try to do everything, everyday. Remember… you are the chief administrator of your school. You can plan how your week needs to look. You do not have to do all the things every day. Maybe math and language arts are daily, but science, art, social studies are only once or twice a week??
  7. Delegate household tasks. If you are like me at all, you may suffer from “Martyr Mom Syndrome.” You try to do it all and then you guilt all those around you for not helping… but in reality, you did not invite them into help because you wanted to just do it yourself and make sure it was done right instead of risking it taking longer because of having to repeat or repair from the attempts to help. Are you tracking??? Guess what Martyr Mom… You can’t do it all! You can fake it for a while, but it will catch up to you. Something or someone will suffer. Take the time to train your children to help manage household tasks. As soon as they can reach the bottom of the washing machine to remove the clothes, teach them to do their laundry. Give them wipes and let them clean your table, your sinks, your counter. Give them a dust mop and let them go! Teach them what a baseboard is! Teach them how to put a trashbag in the trashcan, how to replace the paper towel roll. Increase the responsibilities as they get older.

If you are a planner. If you woud like to be a planner, check out these FREE planning templates:

Homeschool and Household Planner Pages from The Homeschool Mom.

The Ultimate FREE Homeschool Planner from Shining Mom

Homeschool Planning Resources from My Joy Filled Life


Other topics I’ll be covering in this “Getting Started Homeschooling Series” are:

CurriculumGetting Started Homeschoolinghomeschool helps

Getting Started Homeschooling Part 3- Choosing Curriculum

One of the number one questions I see being asked about homeschooling is “What curriculum should I use???” This is a pretty loaded question. The truth of it is, there is not a right or wrong answer. So many options are out there in the homeschool market and just like anything… some are great… some are … meh!

As a homeschool parent, you have the flexibility and freedom to put together curriculum, learning goals, etc. I know in North Carolina, there are no checklists of what your child has to accomplish in each grade. That is truly up to you as the parent. Public schools operate on standards… the standards were mandated by the state when I was teaching. I believe most schools now use the common core standards. Most homeschool curriculum do not even refer to such standards. You do not have to be bound by standards when you are homeschooling. Even in a more regulated state like Massachusets where parents have to have their curriculum, assessment plan, and intended of hours of instruction approved by their school district, there seems to be some flexibility in how those things can be accomplished.

To get started, you’ll want to ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you want a curriculum that is all inclusive? Meaning… do you want a box to show up at your house with everything you need for all the subjects, including a daily schedule and checklists?
  2. Do you want to piece your curriculum together?
  3. What type of homeschooler are you? Read THIS POST to understand a little more about different homeschool philosphies and methods.
  4. Continuing with # 3… what type of teaching style do you have? What type of learning style do your children have? Do you prefer a more traditional teacher led environment where you are in charge and present all the intruction, etc. Are your children auditory, visual, or kinesthetic learners. Are they more independent and self motivated or do they require more attention?
  5. What is your budget? You can homeschool on a shoe string budget… I promise you this. So many free and inexpensive resources exist. I have spent most of my homeschool career scouring the internet for resources, bartering my skills and time with other homeschool moms for help, networking at conferences to do curriculum reviews. If you are on a strict budget, never fear… you will be ok! If you have a large budget… congrats! The homeschool curriculum world is at your fingertips!
  6. What’s your worldview? Are you wanting a curriculum that teaches from a Christian worldview or a Secular worldview?

Time

When choosing curriculum, consider how much time you are wanting to go into your homeschool week. How much planning time are you budgeting? How much instruction? How much free learning? Creative play? Park time? Extra curriculuars? You want your curriculum to work for you. You’ll want to pick a curriculum that is in line with your time needs.

Structure and Freedom

Do you want to have everything laid out for you? Or do you want to have some freedom to develop your own resources? When I was a young mom, always pregnant or nursing… I wanted a boxed curriculum that told me what to do. My brain’s bandwidth was limited and I just did not have the creative energy to come up with my own learning goals or resources. We used My Father’s World for the first 3 years of our homeschooling journey. It was fantastic and affordable. My kids really enjoyed it!

Now that I am a little more seasoned and have been at this a while, I have learned my children. I have learned myself. We are a more ecclectic kind of crew. We are a more relaxed kind of crew and don’t like busy work. My children are highly invested in picking and choosing what they will be learning through the school year. One of our primary resources is Schoolhouse Teachers (dot) Com. This is a company that offers over 400 courses, written by a myriad of individuals. The courses cover preschool through highschool and include a TON of resources for parents. Read more about Schoolhouse Teachers HERE and HERE.

Schooling Multiple Ages

You will likely need to consider multiple ages and stages in your homeschool. Never fear… many curriculum are geared toward multi-age learning. There is no need to buy an individual curriculum for each child. Many people will teach the same social studies, science, history, etc. to all of their children while providing age/ level appropriate material for math and language arts.

You teach the same information, but allowing for various ages. Here is an example of how this has worked in our homeschool. One year, we chose to use the Christian Hero Then and Now books from YWAM as our spine… the thing from which everything else was built on. When we read the book about David Bussau, an entrepreneur from Australia who used his skills to teach business to people in South East Asia, I was able to create activities for my children at their level (at the time, they were 9, 7, 5, and 3). When we created a map of Australia, all four children had their own paper, but I expected more from the nine year old than from the three year old. I wanted the nine year old’s map to have landmarks and cities while I was fine with the three year old just coloring. We did family projects like Aboriginal style painting and writing a letter to Mr. Bussau. We did individual projects like creating a tourist brochure, doing a report on Australian animals, and more. Are you tracking with me?

Your youngest child will absorb more than you realize when you include them in the family work.

Strengths and Weaknesses

When choosing a curriculum, consider your own strengths and weaknesses. I don’t know anyone who is strong in all the subjects, all the time. I am strong in Language Arts and Arts, in general. Math and Science are not subjects where I thrive. I didn’t do well with them as a student and am struggling to provide solid and consistent instruction for my own kids in those areas now.

Because I struggle with math, I know that I need a solid math curriculum. I know that I cannot provide what my children need in that area without help. We have used Math U See the whole way through. My oldest started struggling when he hit Algebra and I will be getting him a private tutor in the fall.

I would encourage you to look into your local homeschool community. Are there groups that offer classes? Do you have friends who could join you in co-teaching? Maybe you offer to teach math and they offer to teach history?

It is also important to know your child’s strengths and weaknesses when choosing a curriculum. How do they learn well? If you have a very wiggly child, choosing an online program that requires sitting for long periods of time may not be the best option. If you have an easily distracted child, choosing a curriculum with a lot of frills and extra pictures, etc. may not provide the best environment to concentrate. If you have a self-motivated child, a curriculum with boxes to check and clear lessons may be best.

Don’t Stress!

I don’t know many homeschool moms who experience true love with the first curriculum they choose. You are not married to it and you don’t have to keep using it if it turns out not to be the match made in heaven you had hoped for. You can research all day long, look at curriculum pieces, borrow from a friend, read reviews, etc. .. but until you actually start using something with your children, you won’t really know if it is the right fit.

If you are worried about wasting all that money you just spent when you realize the curriculum doesn’t work, take to ebay or local buy/ sell/ trade groups. Someone will more than likely gladly take it off your hands!!!

Also… don’t abandon ship right away if you find the curriculum you chose isn’t working. There is something to be said about stick to it-ness. You could try using it less often, modifying your pace, supplementing with other things.

Research

As will all things homeschooling, I would encourage you to do your due diligence. You do not have to blindly choose a curriculum. You can find reviews galore on the interwebs!

I am part of the Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew. I regularly receive products to review in our homeschool. The crew that reviews the products is comprised of real life homeschoolers… a variety of styles, philosophies, and methods.

Cathy Duffy is a HUGE NAME in the Homeschool World! You can learn about all things homeschool through her reviews!

If you have an opportunity to go to a curriculum sale or a homeschool conference, you can get a hands on look at what you might be interested in.

Here is a list to get you started of some solid curriculum that either myself or my friends have found.

Classical Education

Veritas Press– Classical Education from a Christian Worldview

Classical Conversations– A Classical Co-Op that is active nationwide

Charlotte Mason

The Good and The Beautiful: Literature heavy. The Language Arts for levels 1-5 are available for FREE DOWNLOAD.

Ambleside Online: Free, but you have to buy the books.

Simply Charlotte Mason: Utilizes nature, composer, and art study. Heavy on “living” books.

School At Home (More Traditional/ Conventional in approach)

Abeka: Christian worldview, guided lessons, textbooks

Sonlight: Christian worldview, all subject packages, guided lessons

Bookshark: Secular worldview, all subject packaged, guided lessons

Unit Studies

Homeschool In the Woods: History units- hands on learning

Homeschool Legacy: Once a Week Unit Studies covering a variety of topics

UnitStudy.com: Downloadable content for a variety of subjects

Online Programs

Easy Peasy: Online, complete FREE Christian curriculum. Preschool- Highschool. Great for self-motivated, box checking kids.

Power Homeschool: “Power Homeschool is a program intended to aid parents in homeschooling their student. Parents may choose up to 7 courses at a time from numerous courses (grades PreK-12). Students are able to learn at their own pace under the supervision and assistance of their parent.”

Time for Learning: online, secular homeschool for preK-12th grade. Easy grading, student focused, and flexible with tools for parents.

Want to know a secret???

Some families don’t use curriculum at all! Say what?!?! It’s true. Some people piece together their learning materials based on interests and learning styles.

For us, it is a year by year process. I evaluate what my children need and try to buy or find resources that will best help them. Some year that looks like buying curriculum pieces and sometimes it looks like unit studies and field trips.

I keep open conversation with my children to help determine what their goals are. We build our year to meet both their interests and my goals for them.

Some companies and resources that I personally enjoy are:

SchoolhouseTeachers.Com : We can pick and choose courses from the large menu of options. The classes are self-paced.

Institute for Excellence in Writing: I was very, very hesitant to incorporate this into our homeschool life, but I heard the founder of the company speak at a conference last year and was so impressed with his philosophy of education. My son used the Student Writing Intensive Level C this year and really enjoyed it. CLICK HERE for THREE FREE WEEKS of Instruction from IEW.

Teachers Pay Teachers: This is a market place filled with resources made by teachers. Pro tip- every Teachers Pay Teachers store has to offer something for FREE!!! Check out MY STORE with tons of No-Prep Printables!

Beyond the Stick Figure: This is a complete drawing, painting, 3D art course for the whole family!

Reading Eggs: This online program has been great for my elementary and middle school kids. It is a wonderful supplement to any reading and math program. CLICK HERE for a 4 Week FREE TRIAL.


Other topics I’ll be covering in this “Getting Started Homeschooling Series” are:

Getting Started Homeschoolinghomeschool helps

Getting Started Homeschooling Part Two- Community and Socialization

If you want to get me fired up, tell me homeschoolers aren’t socialized. I think it is one of the laziest and most ill-informed arguments against homeschooling. It is the fall back question that people immediately ask when they find out someone is homeschooled, usually coming in a form like one of these:

How do you socialize your child?

Aren’t you worried about socialization?

How will they learn to interact with people?

This question comes up so often in the homeschool arena. Sometimes I think homeschoolers should be given a manual on how to field the frequently asked questions given by well-meaning and not so well-meaning third parties. Why is this so important? There is an underlying assumption that when you homeschool, your child will stay home all day and not get any time out in the “real world.” Let me tell you that this “issue” of homeschoolers being unsocialized is a non-issue. Homeschoolers are, in fact, socialized. They spend time around other children and adults in a variety of settings.

Let’s define the terms. What is socialization? Socialization is simply that process that allows an individual to learn values, language, culture, behavior, and social skills that allow them to function in a normal community. This is a process that begins in the home. Most people don’t question if a baby, toddler, or preschooler is socialized. So… why start when they hit kindergarten age?

In my experience, Homeschooling does affect the social skills of a student… in a positive way. I have worked with a variety of ages and stages in my life. I have worked in the public schools as a pre-K teacher and an in-school suspension teacher for elementary age. I also worked in an after school program for at risk upper elementary and middle school students. I have experience with camps, VBS, youth groups, homeschool enrichment classes… In my experience, homeschool students tend to be more comfortable moving and talking within a group of mixed ages and adults. They are confident and self-aware in a way that I don’t always see in their public school counter parts. I am not saying this is a black and white issue… there are always exceptions to the rule. I work with some amazing public school kids in our youth group.

Homeschooling your child gives them the opportunity and ability to interact with people of all ages and stages including siblings, friends, adults, and community figures. My kids have gone with me on errands that many adults handle during school hours… post office, hair salon, DMV, chiropractor, doctor appointments, shopping at the mall, dropping off donations at a thrift store, the dentist, the library, grocery shopping. They have real life opportunities to observe and participate in social ettiquette on a regular basis. These are things that books and simulated situations cannot fully teach.

I do not have experience homeschooling in every state in the United States. I do, however, know that it is legal in all fifty states. I know that homeschoolers exist in all fifty states. HERE is another great resource from the Homeschool Legal Defense Association. You can look up local support groups by state and by county!

When I was leaving for college, I got together with my youth leader and some other graduating seniors. He was encouraging us to find community… to plug into the campus ministries, etc. He told us that if there wasn’t a group to plug into, we should start one! My college had some great opportunities to connect with ministry, but even still I took the advice and and started a prayer group in my dorm. It was a sweet time of connection with girls who lived together and were doing life together.

Co Ops

If you do not have an established homeschool community around you, start one! It doesn’t have to be big and flashy. It could be you and one other family. Commit to meeting together weekly or every other week. Have some co-schooling time and some free play time. When we were still young in our homeschooling life, we joined a co op with three other families. We all committed to using My Father’s World, Exploring Countries and Cultures. We agreed to meet together once a week where we would learn more about a country and do some of the things that normally get put on the back burner… like art, science, and cooking. It was so much fun. We looked forward to that time every week. We had kids ages babies through middle school. They worked together. The moms split up the teaching duties. We shared the load and had a blast.

In our county, several co ops are availbale to homeschoolers. We have groups that are more social and groups that are more academic. We have some age specific groups and some that are open to everyone. Do you due diligence. Be brave and put yourself out there! Do Facebook and Google searches and see what homeschool groups are available. The first year we were members of our local association, I observed. I read the emails sent out so we knew what was happening, but we really didn’t get involved until year two. It takes time to build community…. time that is worth the investment. Our dearest friends have come out of our homeschool community.

4 H

4-H is an amazing way to find and build community. “4-H welcomes young people from all beliefs and backgrounds, empowering them to create positive change in their communities.”

If you’re not sure where to start looking for community, you could start with 4-H. CLICK HERE to search for your local 4-H. With the restrictions brought on us right now because of COVID-19, 4-H is providing many virtual learning opportunities.

4-H offers so, so many learning opportunities. In our county, we have groups focused on barnyard animals, horticulture, public speaking, community service, astronomy, horses, science, technology, and more. We have a local extension center that offers classes for sewing, cooking, gardening, embryology, and more.

Sports

We have participated in a few sports programs. My girls have played soccer through our local Parks and Recreation Department. All of my children took karate for a time from a local homeschool mom.

In our area, there are a couple of sports leagues just for middle and highschool homeschoolers. They require a lot of time and commitment. Most are travel teams.

Look into to other local sports programs… the YMCA, Upward Sports, Club Sports, Private Lessons, etc.

Park Days

One simple and organic way to build community is creating a park day at a local play ground. This is one of my most favorite things that our local homeschoolers have done. It started very simply… a few moms wanting to meet up for a play date. I’m not even sure when it became an organized event, but when there isn’t a world wide pandemic on our hands… or incelment weather, you can find a group of homeschoolers hanging out on Mondays at one of our local parks. Most people bring some chairs and a picnic lunch or cooler full of snacks. The moms find a nice shady spot in a central location to sit and chat while the kids play. Usually there are some blankets spread out for babies and toddlers.

The park where our group meets has a play ground equipment, a walking track, a big field, and a basketball court. It is perfect for all ages. The older kids will often head to play basketball or throw a frisbee, kick a soccer ball, etc. I know four square is a popular game as well. The younger kids play together on the play ground equipment.

My girls have met some of their best friends through park day. I have deepened relationships with other moms. The conversation usually revolves around homeschooling and mom life. And you know what… I totally count it as a school day in my book. The kids are outside, playing, spending time with friends. Looks like PE, Science, Social Skills, and more rolled up into one.

More Opportunities for Community

  • Music Lessons
  • Field Trips
  • Library Programs
  • Volunteer at a Local Soup Kitchen
  • Theater
  • Language Lessons
  • Summer Camp
  • Volunteer at a Pet Shelter
  • Visit a Nursing Home
  • Organize a Skate Party
  • Family Picnics
  • Homeschool Movie Night

What opportunitities do you have for community with other homeschoolers? Do you have a local support group? Do you have friends that are homeschooling? How can you plug in for your sake and for your kids?

Other topics I’ll be covering in this “Getting Started Homeschooling Series” are:

What other topics would you like to see discussed???