Choose your Method
There are many many ways to homeschool. Many people find this the hardest part because there are SO MANY CHOICES! How do you decide what’s best? Well, take a breath and realize that there’s probably no one who knows your child better than you do. Also, whatever you choose doesn’t have to be permanent. If you try something for a while and it’s just not working, it’s ok to let it go and try a different method. There is a learning curve for homeschooling parents as much as homeschooling kids. Give your family time to find a rhythm that works for you. It will take time and that is OK.
Think about the way your child learns best. Most people fall into one of 4 categories:
Visual– this student learns best from charts, demonstrations, pictures, etc. They want to see the things they are learning about.
Auditory– this child learns best from hearing. They are especially apt at learning with songs or jingles. They prefer audio books and love music.
Verbal– This person learns best from reading or writing something themselves. They enjoy working independently.
Kinesthetic– This student learns best with hands-on projects. They crave freedom of movement while learning. They retain information better if they can move around while listening or reading.
Your child’s learning style may not match up with yours. My mom is a visual learner. So, when trying to teach me how to cook, she would say things like, “Add a little water until it looks right.” Or, “Watch how I do this and then you try.” I was floundering in the kitchen. After adding enough water to sauce to turn our lasagna into soup and spacing out while she was showing me things. I finally turned to her and said, “Can you just leave me alone in the kitchen with a cookbook and let me try to figure it out?” I’m a verbal learner. I just needed the space to do it on my own. I needed her to let me read the cookbook instead of showing me what it said. My son is an auditory learner. He’s the type that can hear something from a TV show and remember it months later. He’s much better at writing a difficult word if you spell it out loud rather than asking him to copy it from a page. He comprehends better if you read a textbook to him rather than having him to read it himself. He’s a great reader, well above grade level. But, he likes audio books. He says it makes the story come alive and he imagines the characters better on the audio version than the print version. Luckily, my daughter is a verbal learner too. So, I can relate to her way of doing things. If you have a kinesthetic learner, you are going to have to practice some patience. Bouncing knees, tapping feet, and clicking pens are actually part of their learning process. Their brain needs the movement to help retain the information. While this fidgeting may have gotten them in trouble at public school, you can give them freedom of movement at home. Let them sit on an exercise ball and bounce while you teach. Fidget toys, drumming, and standing while learning is a hard pill to swallow for moms and dads that came from a “sit still and be quiet” school background. But, kinesthetic learners will thrive if you let them move.
Ok, now let’s talk about learning philosophies. There’s a million. But, to make it simple, think about what you want school to look like for your family. What are your priorities. Do you think it’s really important for kids to spend lots of time outdoors? Do you think the most important thing is that they are well-read? Maybe you want your faith to be the cornerstone of their education. Do you think your child needs an education heavy on science and technology to compete in our fast paced world? Well, there’s curriculum options for all of the above.
Step 3-Choose your Curriculum
Let’s be real now. You may love to spend hours in the forest but, you’re working fifty hours a week and that just isn’t realistic. Or, you would love to do a boxed curriculum with a private tutor but, your budget isn’t going to allow it. That is ok. There are many many choices. Now is the time to be very honest about the amount of time and money you can put into this. Don’t feel bad about it. More money does not necessarily mean a better education. As far as time, think quality not quantity. Sit down and figure out when you can do school. Is morning better for your family or does it need to be in the evening? Does your older child really need to take initiative and learn independently so that you can work? Or, are you a stay at home parent with the flexibility to learn with your child? Also, do you want a Christian curriculum or an education free from religious ideas.
Just Open the Box
Some caregivers really like the idea of buying a full curriculum that has everything you need in the box. This is a great option. It takes some of the pressure off. You feel comfort in knowing they aren’t missing out on anything and you don’t have to make so many choices. Lesson plans are all made for you. Usually, there are workbooks to follow along with and teacher answer books. The downfall on this one is it can be very expensive. Here’s my list of suggestions for “boxed curriculum.” I’ve given you links to read more about each curriculum and also a link to Amazon to purchase curriculum.
Abeka: https://www.abeka.com/ https://amzn.to/3yHDTp4This company caters to Christian homeschoolers and private Christian schools. They have a parent led option or a video course option. If you really like the parent led option but, you can’t swing the price, know that used Abeka texts are super easy to find online. You can buy used for a fraction of the price.
Calvert Homeschool: https://www.calverthomeschool.com/ https://amzn.to/3MwM6CmThis one is available in print form for grades K-2. But, grades 3-12 are online. You pay a monthly fee. They offer a free trial period to try out the classes. You can access lessons anytime and they provide grading and placement tests. It is a secular company. It is essentially private school at home. They are especially great for high school because they are accredited, offer a high school diploma, and even do in-person graduations. If your child is an athlete, they have NCAA accreditation. Their coursework can be used for NCAA eligibility.
Oak Meadow: https://www.oakmeadow.com/ This is a print-based curriculum. They value artistic expression and hands-on learning and have accreditation if your state requires it. I personally like the book lists in this curriculum. Oak Meadow is secular. They really try to engage different learning styles and honor different developmental stages.
Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool: https://allinonehomeschool.com/ I have a couple friends who used Easy Peasy for years and loved it. The thing that’s different about it is; it’s a complete curriculum, totally online, and completely FREE. Its not a scam. I’m told it’s really great quality curriculum. The woman who maintains the site is a mom of six from Pennsylvania. PA is a much stricter state when it comes to homeschooling requirements and she exceeds PA restrictions. She is a Christian and this is a Christian based curriculum. She offers it at no charge because she views it as a ministry to make homeschooling available to all families regardless of their income or where they live. It’s an award winning site and definitely worth checking out.
Sonlight: https://www.sonlight.com/ This one is literature-based, Christian, and doesn’t rely on textbooks. It’s heavy on history and world cultures. It encourages lots of discussion and conversations between parents and children. This one is better for parents who want to be more involved in their child’s learning.
At Home Middle School– https://www.athomemiddleschool.com/ If you have a child in 6th, 7th, or 8th grade, check out this website. This one is completely free as well. We are currently using the Social Studies section for my twins, it includes required reading, comprehension questions, and videos to supplement the topic. We really enjoy the video portion. But, this website isn’t just Social Studies. It’s a full curriculum with easy to follow daily lessons. They even include electives. For example, eighth grade covers math, language arts, earth science, and social studies. But, it also includes poetry, coding, chess, great artists, and Spanish.
A Homeschool Buffet
If you want a more personalized education for your child, you can steer away from the all-in-one curriculum and tailor-make a plan that suits them. I’ll go through a few options in each subject to give you an idea of what’s out there. But, know that this is not a comprehensive list. There are literally thousands of options.
My own children use Saxon. https://amzn.to/3yJLfbI It is a spiral incremental curriculum. This means that a small snippet of new information is added each day and then the student reviews previously learned concepts. We were previously using a different program until I realized that the lessons my son learned at the beginning of the year were forgotten by the end of the year. Saxon doesn’t allow that because they are constantly spiraling back to review previous lessons. Saxon can be tedious. But, it is thorough. I also like how each concept is explained in an easy to understand way. For the most part, my kids can work through lessons independently. My son is naturally good at math. My daughter isn’t. She needs a lot of practice and patience. But, Saxon has worked out really well for them both and we plan to continue using it through graduation.
Math-U-See– https://mathusee.com/ https://amzn.to/3yHDTp4This choice integrates manipulatives into the curriculum. Manipulatives are hands-on items the child uses to visualize the equations in a more direct way. Think of counting blocks to understand addition. But, Math-U-See takes it further. Instead of just using manipulatives for early elementary, they use manipulatives all the way through high school. Integer blocks, fraction overlays, and algebra/decimal inserts are used from basic number sense through quadratic equations. So, this is a good choice for visual learners.
Life of Fred- http://www.lifeoffred.com/ https://amzn.to/3CCWfcf This is the odd duck of the math world. Life of Fred is unlike any math book you’ve seen. Books are not straight-forward lessons followed by drills. They are actually stories about- you guessed it-Fred. Fred is a 5 year-old boy genius who teaches math at a university. You follow along with his story and learn math concepts along the way. It is an unusual method. But, I know families that swear by it, especially if their child has a big aversion to traditional math books. This would be a good fit for some auditory learners.
Teaching Textbooks–https://www.teachingtextbooks.com/ https://amzn.to/3TbcUuE This company started by selling textbooks with corresponding discs to use on your desktop computer. They have evolved over time and now their newer products are completely digital. Essentially you are purchasing an app that works as a private tutor for your student. You’ll need to purchase a separate account for each child. But, they offer a discount to large families. This option is different because the parent is completely free from teaching. The program teaches and grades. Using multimedia and step-by-step tutorials, each and every problem is taught. It’s thoroughly explained but, if your child is still stuck on a problem, they can call and receive free additional tutoring by telephone. It’s the only program I know that get’s the parent completely off the hook when it comes to teaching math. So, if you struggle to understand math yourself and the thought of teaching it terrifies you- try Teaching Textbooks.
Khan Academy- https://www.khanacademy.org/ Khan Academy is a great way to supplement a math curriculum. It is an online platform that is completely free to use. There are lessons that range from pre-K through college level. If your child is struggling with a specific concept, you’ll be able to find a video to explain it several different ways. Khan has subjects other than math also and can be used as a stand alone curriculum. But, it isn’t spiral-based. This means that once a topic is mastered-you move on to the next topic without spiraling back to review.
Apologia– https://www.apologia.com/homeschool-science-curriculum/ https://amzn.to/3D4pR3C We’ve tried different science programs over the years but, once we discovered Apologia, we stuck with it. Apologia is written in a conversational tone which is different from the average textbook. They are also written from Christian worldview. Textbooks are titled Exploring Creation with Astronomy or Exploring Creation with Botany. They make it clear that they support Intelligent Design. There is an emphasis on experiment-based learning. Each textbook has a corresponding student notebooking journal that has additional hands-on activities, writing assignments, and lab reports. If your state requires a portfolio to display student work- this format makes it very easy to do that. If you have a younger child, you will receive a Junior notebooking journal. These have cut and paste activities to make mini interactive books, copy work pages, and coloring pages.
Exploring the Building Blocks of Science from Real Science for Kids– This is a secular science program. So far, they have books for kindergarten through middle school. Each book covers five core disciplines; chemistry, biology, physics, geology, and astronomy. A spiral teaching method is used. There is a student text, teacher manual, and a lab notebook included in each kit. There are plenty of experiments for each lesson (forty-four per year.) The lessons themselves are straight-forward and written in a way that is easy to understand.
REAL Science Odyssey- https://www.pandiapress.com/product/real-science-odyssey-life-level-one/ https://amzn.to/3TpvO0rThis is a secular science curriculum that covers evolution. The company motto is “Learn Science by Doing Science.” This curriculum comes with a suggested weekly schedule, supply lists, and answer keys for the instructor. There are lots of hands-on activities and most use items found around the house. The elementary texts are written for the instructor to read to the student. Then, as the student reaches high school level, the textbook shifts to being written directly to the student and encourages independent work. So, if you like the curriculum, you can stick with it.
homesciencetools.com– https://www.homesciencetools.com/This is a website, not a curriculum. But, it is worth mentioning because it’s such a fantastic resource. They sell really fun and interesting science kits, dissection materials, microscopes, as well as curriculum with reviews. They have teaching resources like printable worksheets and science projects organized by topic. It’s great for finding educational toys and manipulatives as well.
Story of the World– https://susanwisebauer.com/book/the-story-of-the-world-series/ https://amzn.to/3rZwD4v My favorite curriculum for elementary level history is the Story of the World book series. They are written by Susan Wise Bauer. They are a four volume set. They read more like a story than a textbook, making them much more interesting. What I really enjoy about them is that the books aren’t divided into American History, World History, etc. They are organized chronologically. Ancient History is covered first. Middle Ages comes next, etc. I think this method makes more sense. Activity books, test booklets, and audio versions are available to supplement learning. Also, because this series is so popular, people other than the author have been inspired to create products to use with the books. There are lists of Netflix and YouTube videos out there of videos to watch to correlate with each chapter. There are coloring books, mapping activities, and hands-on suggestions on hundreds of Pinterest boards.
Trail Guide to World Geography– https://geomatters.com/collections/trail-guide-to-world-geography https://amzn.to/3D4EaoX Trail Guide Books are especially great if you have students of different ages. So, if you have a 3rd grader and a 7th grader, you won’t have to buy separate curriculum for each child. All the kids will use just one book and then the questions are separated by grade level. You’ll need a book called https://geomatters.com/products/uncle-joshs-reproducible-maps Uncle Josh’s Outline Map Book for the mapping activities. https://amzn.to/3CGIXLD Even if you don’t have multiple children, this is still a great option because you’ll only really need to buy these two books and they will grow with your child. Younger kids can do the first level questions. As they are capable, they can tackle the higher level questions. Also, the maps from Uncle Josh’s are blank outline maps. So, just make a copy and use the book again and again. This makes for a very thorough and cost-effective curriculum.
Institute for Excellence in Writing– https://iew.com/intro-iew IEW Structure and Style https://amzn.to/3s5RdQF teaches your child how to write. It’s a fantastic program. It explains how to write an outline, how to take notes, stylistic techniques, etc. My children’s writing has improved by leaps and bounds with this program. It is a video course. Andrew Pudewa is the instructor. He is funny and explains things in a “formula” kind of way. There are checklists for the kids to follow and everything is very straight forward. We’ve also used Phonetic Zoo from this company which is a great spelling program for auditory learners. https://amzn.to/3T5tjAy
Reading Eggs– My family didn’t use this resource personally. But, it comes up again and again on message boards. it is an online program that uses interactive games and digital rewards to teach reading skills. They offer a free trial so you can try it before you buy it. https://readingeggs.com/
Handwriting Without Tears– https://www.lwtears.com/solutions/writing/handwriting-without-tears https://amzn.to/3MLsFpx The Learning Without Tears company is known for their handwriting program. It takes a child’s growth and development into account and teaches in a step by step way. It’s a popular program among homeschoolers and print and cursive editions are available.
Progeny Press Study Guides- https://stores.progenypress.com/These are Christian-based literature guides to children’s classics. K-12 grade levels are available. They include vocabulary, comprehension, critical thinking activities, and Biblical principle discussions. A complete answer key is included with each guide. Some of the available guides include; Sarah, Plain and Tall, Charlotte’s Web, Anne of Green Gables, and The Old Man and the Sea. https://amzn.to/3TfbdMz
Other helpful websites include rainbowresource.com https://www.rainbowresource.com/, christianbook.com’s homeschool page https://www.christianbook.com/page/homeschool? event=HPT&catid=1014667&cat=Homeschool&category=Homeschool, and Cathy Duffy Homeschool Reviews https://cathyduffyreviews.com/
There are so many ways to homeschool. You can truly tailor your child’s education to their needs and your family’s schedule.