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FREE Homeschool Resources Discovered from all over the world

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BTDT Homeschool was created with a heartfelt mission: to empower and give back to the secular homeschool community.

Through our informative podcasts, blog posts, daily inspiration, and a wide range of free printable tools, we aim to empower you on your homeschooling journey.

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These are FREE Homeschool Resources that we have discovered or used in our own homeschool. If a link does not work, please let us know by sending an email to us as info@btdthomeschool.com

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Free Resources:

Tax basics: Teens who work part-time jobs need to understand the basics of taxes. This FREE Tax unit study has a teacher guide, student worksheet, and free poster. Ages 13+

Pre-Writing: FREE 24-page pre-writing tracing sheets. PreK

Guitar Chord Posters & Fingers Guide. This FREE 47-page pdf guide will help your new musician 🎶 All Ages

Mr. Popper’s Penguins unit study. Free 35pg pdf. Ages: 6-12. Read Mr. Popper’s Penguins Book Reviews

Teaching with math manipulatives helps concrete math concepts. This FREE 38-page pdf has the following printable manipulatives: Base 10 blocks, fraction blocks, fraction tiles, geoboards, pattern blocks, dice templates, block grids, dot templates, algebra tiles. All Ages

Apple unit study: Lots of interesting activities in this FREE 15-page pdf. All ages.

FREE 10-pg pdf with Fall Equinox Activity pages. Ages 7-13

Learn about the Science behind fall EQUINOX MYTHS with this FREE 3-page pdf that includes simple science experiments debunking superstition. AllAges

Fall Equinox: Teach how the Earth’s tilt, and its position in orbit around the Sun, determines seasons all around the globe with activities with this FREE NASA pdf. Ages 5-11

50 Bucket List Ideas for Autumn Activities (pdf). All ages

Teach Prefixes, Suffixes, and Root Words with this 112-page FREE pdf unit with TONS of games, worksheets, and activities. Grades 3-8

9/23/2023 is the first day of Fall! 🍁Enjoy this FREE 23-page Fall Packet. Kindergarten

Trees: learn about different trees with this FREE 25-page pdf activity pack🌲🌳 Grades 1st-5th

Climate Change: On September 20, 2019, students from 185 countries staged the world’s largest-ever protest on climate change led by Greta Thunberg. Teach about climate change and the role of nature in creating resilience with this FREE 44-page lesson plan. Grades 9-12

Spiders: learn about spiders in this FREE 26-page unit study. 1st-5th

Teach Consonant sounds with this FREE 49-page pdf workbook. Grades 1–2.

Women in STEM: learn about these innovative women and their contributions to STEM by downloading one or all of these FREE posters. You can have your child research each one to learn more as unit studies. Grades 3-12

Ancient Greece Study: timelines, worksheets, vocabulary, and more in this FREE 177 page study. Grades 5-8

Hispanic Heritage Month: Tons of FREE activities and printables in this 190-page pdf to celebrate and learn about Hispanic Heritage Month 9/15-10/15. Grades K-12

Mexican Independence Day 9/16: Have your family pair up in teams or assign these FREE pdf print worksheets with photo challenges for each child. Grades K-12

SEASONS: The change of seasons allows for many different types of work, food, celebrations and recreation. Plants and animals also change their ways with the seasons. These FREE Journal pages show the effects of weather changes on how we live. Grades 4-8

Learn about Monarch Butterflies before the Great Migration with this FREE 34-page pdf lesson & activity pack. Grades K-2

Animal Farm Unit Study. This 51-page FREE pdf study guide explores the world of Animal Farm with comprehension questions, analysis, group discussions, debates and writing exercises, plus a vocabulary list. Grades 9-12. Check out Animal Farm Book

Solar System: Make a book with a tab for each planet in our solar system with this FREE 11-page pdf booklet. Grades 2-5

Quill is a non-profit providing FREE literacy activities building reading comprehension, writing, and language skills. Quill does have some paid reporting features that would make sense for a large school or district, but the bulk of what they provide is free, and perfect for homeschooling. Grades K-12

NASA’s Space Place is an awesome FREE site with interactive games, projects, crafts, and facts about space. Content is grouped into five sections: the sun, Earth, solar system, space, and people and technology. An additional parents and educators tab offers classroom activities, printable posters, and more. Ages 7-14

Genealogy is a lot of fun and kids can be introduced to their family roots by making a family tree. Get FREE step-by-step directions on how to make one. Also, get FREE instant download templates. Young kids can make a simple version with immediate family and pictures. Grades preK-12

Kindergarten Learning Packet: This 49-page FREE pdf Packet made for a school has phonics, math games, songs, and other activities and can easily be used in homeschool. Grades K-2

September 11th Lesson 9/11: teaching the history of the attack on the World Trade Centers to children is difficult. This short BrainPOP video (with additional info) is a great resource to help children understand. SENSITIVE but age-appropriate. Grades 4-8

The Internet Archive is a fantastic FREE resource with a MIND BLOWING amount of information AND it’s one of your best resources for Research Papers with great search tools. This non-profit organization’s stated mission is “universal access to all knowledge.” They provide access to digitized materials: 28 million+ books and texts, 475 billion+ web pages, 14 million+ audio recordings (including 220,000 live concerts), 6 million+ videos (including 2 million Television News programs), 3.5 million+ images, 580,000+ software programs. There is also an Open Library, where you can login and borrow books for 14 days. All Ages

Healthy Teen Relationships: 18-page pdf guide helping your teen form healthy relationships and look for red flags.

Writing Templates: FREE 40-page pdf templates for helping and inspiring young writers with pre-writing skills and writing. Grades 3-8

Periodic Tabel Bingo: Learn the periodic table in a fun way with this FREE pdf BINGO Game. Grades 7-12

Learn about Community Helpers with this FREE 22-page colorful pdf sort and classify play mats. Grades preK-2

ROCKETRY: if your child is into rockets or wanting to learn about them, you can get together with model rocket flyers in a NAR Section near you — a lot of them have building sessions, launches, and more. My kids were both into rocketry and we were members of our local rocket society for years. It was completely FREE but this may vary, depending on each local chapter 🚀 All Ages

The Levels of Classifications of Living Things: Cut out and BUILD with this FREE 8-page pdf document. Grades 3-8

To Kill a Mockingbird UNIT STUDY: This is such an excellent classic book that teaches important lessons on division and unity. Use this 21-page FREE study guide and make it an entire unit study. Grades: 9-12

Place Value Activity Package: this is a fantastic FREE 115-page pdf activity pack—full of games, spinners, and a variety of activities to help concrete place value and number sense. Grades 1-6

WWII Visual History: 84 years ago today Nazi Germany Invades Poland, Starting World War II. You can use this FREE interactive which provides a complete overview of worldwide events leading up to, during, and after World War II. Articles, photos, and videos. Grades 6-12

Hurricane Tracking Chart: learn about Hurricane patterns by tracking current hurricanes in real time with this FREE pdf tracking chart with plotting instructions. Grades: 2-7

Minecraft Airport Design Challenge: with specific instructions from the FAA STEM Program, students design and build a model airport in MINECRAFT—New challenge starts TODAY! with Deadline 12/31. Grades K-12

Moon Calendar: make a moon phase calendar with this FREE pdf with instructions from NASA. Grades: 3rd-12th

Basic Auto Care: Teach your teen about basic auto care with this FREE 18-page step-by-step pdf Teen car maintenance and repair guide & checklist. Ages 14+

Dental Health: FREE 208-page pdf unit study with tons of activities (CREATED FOR A DAYCARE, so just SCROLL DOWN & use the relevant pages). Grades: PreK-1

Student News: The World from A to Z is a FREE Daily 9min news segment with summary of world events, stories that are interesting to students, and silly puns. If you’re not familiar with Carl Azuz, we love him and watch every morning to kick off our school day! Grades 6-12

MATH Competitions: Registration for MAA’s American Mathematics Competitions (AMC) program is open! Students in grades 6, 7, and 8 participate in the AMC 8. The AMC 10/12 is the first in a series of competitions that eventually lead all the way to the International Mathematical Olympiad. AMC Competition Dates: AMC 10/12 A: November 8, 2023, AMC 8: January 18-24, 2024

Ancient Egypt Game Senet: learn how to play Senet with this FREE printable boardgame and directions: Grades 1-12. You can learn more about the history of this game in Ancient Egypt in this YouTube video

Today commemorates the 60th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech. Use this 8-page FREE printable for activities, and print this mobile for FREE so your child can craft their own dreams. All ages

Poetry Guide & Workbook: Guide your child into the world of poetry using this FREE 73-page easy-to-follow format poem workbook. Includes format worksheets and poem examples. Grades: 5-12

History of Money: In this 45-page FREE pdf unit lesson, students learn a brief history of the origin of money as well as the history of money in the United States of America. Includes a lot of fun money worksheets. Grades: 2-6

Tons of FREE Science posters & worksheets with answer keys on this website. The pop-ups are a bit annoying, but everything is instant download with no sign up. Physics, chemistry, biology, physical science. Grades 7-12

Jesse Bear Unit Study: This was one of our favorite books when my kids were little and you’re going to love this FREE 28-page pdf colorful unit study. Grades: PreK-1. This goes with this Jessie Bear book

Emotional Workbook: The New Zealand govt developed this FREE pdf activity book for children whose parents are physically or mentally ill, but it has tons of activities and colorful worksheets about helping children deal with their feelings and overall well-being. Ages 5-12

Sight Word Lists: Teaching high frequency & sight words? Here are some creative and fun ways to teach and keep your kids engaged with FREE printable word lists. Our favorite is the sight word parking lot game! PreK-3rd

PSAT Guide & Practice: 11th GRADERS: The PSAT is both a practice SAT and the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test (NMSQT). Each October, 11th (and 10th) grade homeschoolers can take the test through their local high school. If you want your Junior to take this exam, contact your local high school ASAP as deadline is fast approaching. The test is $18. You can find more information through College Board website. Khan Academy and College Board have partnered to bring you info & FREE test prep (you will need to create a free account)

Comic Book Templates: Bring art and creative writing together with these FREE 28-page pdf Comic Strip Template Pages. ALL ages

Conservation Lessons: FREE Lessons that address biological interactions, terminology, the impact of reforestation and urban trees on human health, and more. Each lesson plan has a teacher’s guide, student sheets, and videos. Ages 11-14

Lego STEM Activity: FREE 8-page LEGO Build Challenge Cards Print on card stock and make a family challenge or use one at a time for school warm-up. Grades K-12

New Driver Contract: Do you have a new or soon to be teenage driver? Some parents like their teens to sign a safety contract to help them commit to family and safety rules. This FREE pdf teen driving contract can help ease your nerves. 16 Years+

100 Field Trip Ideas: Are you looking to incorporate Field Trips into your school year for more hands-on learning? Here are 100 ideas. All Ages

Morning Basket Planner: Do you want to do a morning basket but don’t know where to start? Download this FREE pdf morning basket planner to help you get in the habit. A Morning Basket is a time in the day when everyone in the family can come together and learn together about specific subjects. All ages can homeschool together doing activities. The concept of the morning basket is derived from the ideals of the Charlotte Mason Homeschool method, but it is easily adaptable to many different styles of education. Grades: PreK+

Musical Dice: Learn to play and read music in a fun way 🎶 Print these FREE music dice pdfs onto cardstock paper (color optional), cut out, and assemble using tape. IDEAS: Game 1: Students must determine the number of beats the rhythmic value is worth in order to determine what number they have rolled. Game 2: Test your beginner’ ability to find the keys on the piano. Game 3: Review scales, arpeggios, and cadences with advanced students with the 12-sided Keys die. All Ages

Big Scholarship $$$ for Seniors: Each year the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation awards 250 scholarships valued from $4,000 to $20,000 to high school seniors based on character, personal merit and commitment. Applications opened Aug 1 with deadline of Oct 31. Good Luck Seniors!

The Walt Disney Family Museum’s Education Page has a ton of FREE lessons/resources you can instantly download. Drawing, animation, flip books, and more to inspire your child to make their own creations. All Ages

Ocean Life: Learn all about life in the ocean with this FREE 42-page pdf unit study from the Fort Wayne zoo. Animals, water cycle, fresh versus saltwater, on the surface, and more. Grades 2-6

Scratch Guide: Do you have a child that wants to learn programming? This FREE 35-pg step-by-step guide will teach them how to use Scratch. Ages 6-16. I posted about it before, but if you missed it, Scratch is a FREE programming language created by MIT where kids can create their own interactive stories, games, and animations.

Modern States is a grant funded organization on a mission to provide “Freshman year for free”. After you take the FREE online course, if you pass the CLEP exam, they refund your test fee too earning college credit for free. Grades: 9-12

Cooking Basics: Teach young children about safety in the kitchen and basic cooking skills with this FREE 24-page pdf unit. Comes with easy-to-follow recipes and handwashing poster. Ages 2-6

Teach Entrepreneurship & Business with these FREE pdf lessons from Scholastic & Shark Tank. Grades: 6-12

ChessKid is free to join and use. Kids can play unlimited games against other students. Play, learn, and have fun with this FREE chess site for kids. There is a premium version that isn’t necessary to enjoy their platform. Ages 6-13

Photography Lessons: Teach your kids photography with this FREE 70-page pdf with 16 lessons each with a photo assignment. Your child will learn photography fundamentals, aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and specific photo technique. Ages 8+

BBC Bitesize is a website full of so many FREE resources covering a wide range of school subjects. Ages: 3-16

The Open Learning Initiative (OLI) is a grant-funded group at Carnegie Mellon University offering FREE online courses to anyone wanting to study a subject at their own pace. You must create a free account to access courses. These do not count towards college credit but can be used to meet High School course credits.

Geocaching is a FREE treasure hunt that is happening all over the world. This modern day treasure hunt will get you and your kids outside learning about their environment and incorporating math, map, and critical thinking skills. All Ages

Make Creative Writing part of your school year. NaNoWriMo is FREE and can make writing fun by allowing for all of the creativity without any of the stress, logistics, and red pen marks. The Young Writers Program has tons of FREE resources and your kids can participate in their event each November with smaller writing challenges year-round. Grades K-12 National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo) starts on Nov.1. It’s an empowering approach to creative writing. The challenge: draft an entire novel in just one month.

Free Art Posters: You can request free art posters from the National Gallery of Art.

Make a Rhyming Peg Board: Make a literacy game that combines practicing fine motor skills with learning rhyming with this FREE 5-page pdf template. Grades: preK-2

Magic Book: Kids can learn a lot of critical thinking skills by learning and performing magic tricks. This 30 pg FREE pdf has some great tricks and tips with illustrations. Ages 7+

All About Presidents activity book. 13 page FREE pdf. Grades 3-6

TED-Ed is a FREE web-based platform created for teachers with 1000s of video lessons and follow up reading and questions (multiple-choice and open ended). Ages 6-18

Build narrative skills with these FREE story cubes. Print on card stock for durability (pdf). Ages 4-10

Your High Schooler can compete to win a $25,000 scholarship at the National Constitution Bee on Oct 23rd in Brentwood, TN. Two free study guides for the competition or just use them to learn in your homeschool. Grades: 8-12

Math Games for littles. Fantastic 40-page pdf guide with step-by-step instructions for engaging our littlest homeschoolers in early math skills. Created by the University of Melbourne for small groups but can be implemented easily in your homeschool or with a group of friends. Ages 3-6

Celetial Hike: Help you child understand distances in space. Grades: preK-4

Spelling City is an online, interactive way to practice customized lists of spelling words. You can sign-up for a FREE account and create your own spelling list or choose from lists created by other users. Your child can also play word games to practice the assigned words. They offer a free and paid account.

If you like to use textbooks for high school, this US Government Complete Activity Pack is 128 pages and FREE covering the entire course that will meet your high school credit. 9th-12th. This accompanies this McGraw Hill US government textbook (Amazon):

Life skills and Self-awareness skills lesson and activity guide addressing critical thinking, emotional, and social skills. This 124-page FREE curriculum is designed for independent and group activities, but can be adjusted for your home as necessary or used in a co-op. Grades 5th-9th

Freezer Meals are a big time and money saver! This 78-page pdf will be a BIG Help in your homeschool. I did an all-day cooking event with another homeschool mom years ago, and it lasted Aug-Dec!

Whole Kids Foundation guide with 35 FREE lessons and activities to engage kids in an exploration of fruits, vegetables and healthy eating. Grades: Pre-K-5th

NASA Earth Observatory Resources: I was looking for stuff on biomes when I found this section of NASA’s site. It has tons of free resources and links to even more!

MIT offers 2,000+ of their college STEM programs online for FREE. Through this program, you may read through the syllabus, course materials, lecture notes, assignments, exams, videos, and more, as if you are taking a course straight from MIT (you won’t get college credit or a diploma; they are offering the knowledge only ). You can use this for high school credits or supplement extended learning or use the material to create your own course. 9th-12th

Smart Shopper: Teach your kids how to be a smart shopper using their critical thinking skills comparing products & prices and also about how to meal prep with this FREE 75-page unit study with 7 lessons/activities. Ages 10+

Free Homeschool ID: Every year I use the easy and free form they have on this website to make my student and teacher ID. I just print it at home and laminate it.

Human Anatomy Activity – You can trace your child’s body on a large paper and have them learn about their body’s systems with this FREE 27-page pdf. Older kids can get detailed. All ages.

Kids CAN learn Japanese (and other languages) with this FREE course. Learn basic grammar with the text, audio and colorful illustrations. Lots of other cool resources like cooking, culture, and more on this site. You can go lesson by lesson on the webpage or you can also download all 48 Lessons in one 61pg pdf. My son was really into anime when he was 7 and wanted to learn Japanese. It was so hard trying to find something that he could do. I hope some of you find this useful! All Ages

Age-appropriate FREE Health Lesson plans that include discussion questions, activities, printable handouts, quizzes, and answer keys for teachers. Grades: PreK-12th

JeopardyLabs is a FREE game quiz template site and a fun way to learn and review concepts. There also have pre-built quizzes.

Scratch is a FREE programming language created by MIT where kids can create their own interactive stories, games, and animations. Both my teens are programmers and scratch is where they started! Ages 7-16. Here’s a a step-by-step guide to build your own computer games with Scratch and you can also find YouTube videos.

Beast Academy math pdfs: variety of Games, Cards, Graph paper, & diff printable Rulers. Grades 1st-12th

Telling Time FREE No Prep Dice Game (pdf). Grades 1st-3rd

Guess in 10 game has a free online printable version on all categories. All Ages

Postcrossing is a FREE project where you to send and receive postcards from random people around the world. It’s a great way to learn about geography and other cultures. All ages

Watabou Procgen Arcana: This website lets you randomly generate fantasy maps of realms, cities, building plans etc. It’s supposed to be for role playing games.

This FREE 180pg Dungeons and Dragons rule book WITH character sheet templates is a great place to start playing. Ages 12+

Complete Free Home Economics Kitchen Skills Course covering safety, terms, chopping, nutrition, & basic cooking with quizzes. 5th-9th Grade. *This is created by a non-secular family so there is mention of the author’s faith.

TinkerCAD is a FREE web app for 3D design, coding, and electronics. Our library has a 3D printer and we take designs my kids create on a flash drive. Easy! But it’s fun just to create designs.

Horrible Histories has been one of our favorite book series. You can make a unit study for Terrible Tutors with this FREE 51pg teacher pack. Ages 8+. If you’re not familiar with it, read about it here: Terrible Tudor book

Periodic Table: This is a collection of FREE pdf printable periodic tables. Grades 7th-12th

Zearn Math is a FREE online math curriculum. I’ve not used it, but I know homeschoolers who have. Grades K-8th.

Geologic Time Scale: Eons, Eras, Periods, & Epochs. The Geologic time scale explained with a FREE printable. Grades 3rd-12th

FREE Word Search Puzzles online or print w/NO POPUPS. You can also create your own. Brain warm up! 4th-12th

Destinos is a FREE Spanish course taught in story form in 52 episodes. Under each video lesson, link to practice & quizzes. High School 9th-12th

Subject Explorer AI Tool: This FREE AI tool allows you to type in an activity (i.e. grocery shopping, gardening, etc.) and it tells you what ‘school subject’ it falls under or what ‘ concepts’ your child learned. K-12th

FREE Magic Tree House book series lesson plans. MTH books are great first chapter books my kids loved. Ages 6-10

Poetry 180 is a FREE resource created to encourage daily poetry reading. Start your new school year with a daily Poetry Teatime (and snacks!) 8th-12th

FREE Shark Week resource to learn about sharks in anticipation of SHARK WEEK starting on July 23 on Discovery. 🦈 This year’s Shark Week will include Aquaman himself, Jason Momoa, as host! 🔱 Shark Week is an annual television event that celebrates all things shark-related and has helped educate people and increase conservation efforts of sharks.

Download your FREE pdf hurricane tracking charts. Studying weather patterns and tracking hurricane’s is a favorite with my kids. All Ages

Cell Size and Scale: ZOOM IN from the scale of a coffee bean ☕️ all the way down to a carbon atom ⚛️ We have something like this at our local science museum and my kids love it. All Ages

This FREE Interactive is really cool and shows the size of biological structures in context.

FREE audiobooks for Kids from 8 different websites/apps – both classics and modern stories. All Ages

Lava In a Cup: Learn about the chemistry of LAVA LAMPS and make your own with this free 4-page pdf. Grades: preK-3rd

Comic Creator: See 120 Years of comics and create your own with this FREE pdf mini unit. Ages 7-10

Junior Ranger badges through the Nation Park Service. Since Covid a lot of them are available online and we’ve reached out to the parks as we’ve completed badges- some will email us back with more info or mail brochures and things from the parks. Craft Knife blog is our favorite for finding new places to learn about, it has everything that can be earned online.

Lego Life is a Free magazine mailed to your home 5x/year that has comics, activities, posters and other content. Ages 5-9

The U.S. Currency Education Program has tons of FREE educational resources on their website to download AND have mailed to you. Grades K-8th

Big history project is a FREE course that covers 13.7 billion years of history. Grades 6-10

ReadWorks is a FREE online platform designed to improve reading comprehension skills for homeschoolers. (almost free – requires donation you set $) It offers a wide range of reading materials, exercises, and lesson plans. K-12. I’ve never use this and not sure how “school-y” it is, but I know some homeschoolers that have used it

Best FREE Library offering! UDEMY! Thousands of libraries can connect patrons to thousands of video-based courses in business, technology, software, and personal development—and more than 10,000 courses are taught by instructors in their native language (French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish plus seven additional languages). This top collection, curated from 150,000+. Check your local library. Grades 9-12

Make homeschool IDs quick with the FREE easy form on Homeschool Buyers Club. They also do group discounted curriculum buys with homeschoolers all over. They used to be called Homeschool buyers co-op. All Ages

Free SAT practice Khan Academy and College Board teamed up to bring this free SAT PREP resource. Grades 9-12

Starfall is an app & website with educational activities, games, and songs. It covers reading, math, music, and social skills. It has a lot of FREE content but also a paid part. Grades: PreK-3

Learn Geography for FREE with Seterra. It’s is a Free website and App that has interactive map activities to master geography through fun games and quizzes. Over 400 games in 40 languages. Ages 8+

Create your citations with this FREE citation generator. You can also learn about all of the different citation formats. Grades 6-12

FREE math worksheets with answer keys from Math Aids that can be printed without signing up for a subscription. All Ages

Learn to type for FREE on EDclub. All Ages

Free guitar lessons and more from Justin Guitar. Grades 1-7

All 100 Bill Nye episodes completely FREE. If you’re not familiar, these are a homeschooler favorite! Nye combines the serious science of everyday things with fast-paced action and humor. He visits many places relating to the episode’s theme, showing interviews of people talking about their work and other contributions. Ages 7+

We’ve been using the FREE app Trello for years and realized many people don’t know about this super handy tool for Homeschool and personal organization & meal planning. It’s very user friendly and you can share ‘boards’ with your kids as they check off their assignments/chores. 5min video how do use Trello in your Homeschool. All Ages

Wild Kids Nature magazine is FREE to read online or print. Each issue features foraging information and botanical coloring pages for wild edible or medicinal plants, nature journal pages, seasonal poetry, and more. All Ages

Detailed College Application Organizer Free from BTDT to keep up with all the admission and financial aid deadlines for each application (Google Sheets). Grades 11-12

Alison offers over 4000 completely FREE self-paced courses you can use for high school. IT, life science, languages, business, finance, humanities, so many! The photography course is a favorite among homeschoolers. Grades 9-12

The Crash Course has created thousands of FREE videos on a wide variety of subjects, including history organic chemistry, math, study skills, literature, world history, business, biology, philosophy, theater, ecology, and many more. Grades 7-12

Khan Academy has FREE lessons. Math, language arts, science, history, AP, SAT, MCAT test prep, computing, arts & humanities, life skills, economics, and more. Grades K-12

FREE Instant Download Math Lessons from the Actuarial Foundation (made for classroom so you can modify for your homeschool). Grades 4-8

Free Interactive ‘Real-World’ Math Lessons for Middle School from Scholastic. Grades 6-8

The Art Sherpa contains over 600 FREE step by step video art lessons for beginners. We’ve used it many times to host our own paint parties! Grades 3-12

049. Internships, First Job, Money, Entrepreneurships

049.

Internships, First Job, Money, Entrepreneurships

Episode 049:

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Show Notes

In the ever-evolving landscape of education and career development, one group of young individuals is redefining the conventional route to success – homeschooled teenagers.  With flexible schedules and the freedom to tailor their education to their unique interests and passions, these teens are making a big impact! These kids aren’t tied to a classroom all day allowing them to get school done in a fraction of the time with plenty of extra time in their day. They are gaining real world experiences with part time jobs, internships, and even embarking on entrepreneurial ventures.

In today’s episode we’re going to be talking about helping your teen navigate the path to success. We’re going to be talking about the valuable lessons and challenges they face as their education intersects the adult world of jobs, business, money, and other exciting opportunities.  Whether you’re a homeschooling parent seeking guidance on how to support your teen’s aspirations, a homeschooled student eager to embark on your own journey, or simply curious about the dynamic world of young entrepreneurship and career development, hopefully this episode will help get you started.

What is an internship and how can students begin to look for one? (4:40)

An internship is a period of work experience offered to a student, apprentice, or trainee to gain work experience or satisfy a certain requirement. Internships are generally fully monitored learning experiences and may be paid or unpaid. Participating in an internship isn’t a new concept. Although we don’t hear about them as often, they are still considered a powerful addition to a high schooler’s transcript and their toolbelt of life skills.

There are several reasons your teen may want to seek out an internship:

Exploration: Internships are designed to offer hands-on training and real-world insights, so they enable teens to explore different career paths within their field of interest. It’s a chance to gain exposure to various roles and responsibilities and help them clarify their career goals.

Learning and Skill Development: Interns have the opportunity to acquire and develop practical skills, knowledge, and competencies related to their chosen field. This hands-on experience can complement their academic education. 

Networking: Internships help build professional networks by connecting teens with experienced professionals in their field. Building these relationships can be valuable for future job opportunities. For some, internships serve as a steppingstone to full-time employment with the same organization. Many companies use internships as a recruitment tool to identify potential future employees.

We have several friends who have already had ready jobs out of college or right after high school graduation through companies they interned with.

Resume Building: Internships provide a valuable addition to a resume. Employers often look for relevant internship experience when hiring, as it demonstrates a candidate’s practical understanding of the work they’ll be doing.

Transition to Full-Time Employment: Internships can vary widely in terms of duration, compensation (some are paid, while others are unpaid or offer stipends), and the level of responsibility given to interns. They can take place in various settings, including corporations, non-profit organizations, government agencies, research institutions, and more. Additionally, internships can be part-time or full-time, and they may be available during the summer or throughout the academic year.

Overall, internships can be a great opportunity for teens to gain practical experience, test the waters in that field, and prepare for future career success. Finding an internship as a high school student can give valuable experience that can help them gain real-world skills and explore potential career paths.

How Do You Find Internships?

First, have your high schooler identify their interests, skills, and career goals. What fields or industries are they interested in? What skills do they want to develop? Knowing this will help narrow down internship opportunities.

Network! Encourage your teen to talk to friends and family members (or friends and colleagues of family members) who might know of internship opportunities. If you outsource any classes, have them talk to those teachers. Sometimes, personal connections can lead to great opportunities.  They can also reach out directly to local companies, non-profits, or government agencies to inquire about internship opportunities. They can send emails, make phone calls, or visit in person. 

Many websites list internship opportunities for high school students. Some popular platforms include:

Teach them how to create and keep the résumé updated. We talked about that extensively in our high school documents episode.

Depending on their field of interest, joining relevant professional organizations or clubs might provide some networking opportunities and internship leads.

In this high school series, we created an episode and post about extracurricular and volunteering. If they are taking these opportunities with organizations related to their interests, those can be potential steppingstones to finding an internship. It allows them to build connections and gain relevant experience. Get your FREE Extracurricular Workbook.

Due to the rise of remote work, some companies offer virtual internships that can be done from home. This can expand the range of opportunities available to high school students. Non-profit organizations and local governments often have internship programs for students interested in community service or public administration. Sometimes, local colleges or universities offer internship programs for high schoolers. Your teen can check to see if those kinds of programs exist in your area. 

Like we mentioned, you’ll want to help your high schooler create a professional resume and cover letter that highlights their skills, interests, and any relevant coursework or extracurricular activities. They can submit these when applying for internships. If they secure an interview, help them prepare by practicing common interview questions and conducting mock interviews. Confidence and good interview skills can really make a difference.

Finding an internship can be competitive, so encourage your child to keep applying and networking, even if they face rejection. Each application and interview can provide valuable experience. Remember that internships for high schoolers may be unpaid or offer minimal compensation, so you’ll want to keep that in mind. It’s often an extension to their education so even if they don’t get pay, the experience can make all the difference. It’s also important to ensure that the internship is safe and appropriate for your child’s age and maturity level. Always verify the legitimacy of the organizations offering internships and prioritize safety and ethical considerations.

How do you support your teenager in a new job? (13:24)

Starting a first job and earning money is an important milestone for a teenager. It’s an opportunity to learn valuable life skills and develop financial responsibility.  It might also be a way for them to socialize and gain experience in something that they are interested in. 

Where do your teens even find jobs?  A lot of teenagers start in restaurants, or doing things like babysitting, and pet sitting.  They can give music lessons, or swimming lessons, and be a lifeguard.  The possibilities are endless. 

Key things that are important for a teen who has just started their first job:

Budgeting: Help your teen create a budget to manage their income. Teach them to allocate money for essential expenses (e.g., transportation and savings) and fun money (e.g., entertainment, hobbies). Teach them the importance of living within their means and staying out of debt. 

Teen Finance Book Recommendations:
Personal Finance for Teenagers and College Students by Tamsen Butler
The Essential Money Skills Handbook for Teens By Scarlett Rivers
You Need a Budget: The Proven System for Breaking the Paycheck-to-Paycheck Cycle, Getting Out of Debt, and Living the Life You Want
The Graduate Survival Guide: 5 Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make in College
Money Skills for Teens: These Are the Things About Money Management and Personal Finance You Must Know But They Didn’t Teach You in School

Savings: Encourage them to save a portion of their earnings regularly. Opening a savings account can help them separate their savings from their spending money. Our bank allowed for my kids to open savings accounts at 10 years old and we took advantage of that program. They offered a lot of incentives for younger kids to learn about money. They even had a really great website with games to teach about financial literacy. You want them to learn the concept of short and long-term savings goals. Encourage them to set financial goals. These could include saving for college, a car, or a special purchase they’ve had their eye on. Setting goals can motivate them to save and manage their money wisely.

Financial Education: Teach your teenager about basic financial concepts such as interest, taxes, and inflation. This will help them make informed financial decisions in the future. Depending on their income and the tax laws in your area, they may need to file a tax return. Help them understand their tax obligations and teach them how to file. Look at their pay stub with them and teach them what all the numbers mean, including deductions for taxes and any other withholdings. They will also need to know what things to fill out on their new hire documents.

Responsible Spending: Discuss responsible spending habits. Teach your teenager to differentiate between needs and wants. Encourage them to make thoughtful spending decisions rather than impulsive purchases. Emphasize the importance of avoiding unnecessary debt. If you can’t afford it today, don’t buy it. Teach them about the risks of credit cards and loans and the impact of high-interest debt on their finances.

You may also want to have that college discussion now and talk about what you intend to cover and/or if you will expect your teen to front some of these costs. If your teenager plans to attend college, explore options for saving for tuition and other expenses. Discuss financial aid, scholarships, and the potential need for student loans.

Work Ethic: Remind your teen about the importance of a strong work ethic. Really, this is stuff you’ve been teaching them all along. Punctuality, responsibility, and a positive attitude are essential skills for work, and in life. At work, showing these qualities can lead to future job opportunities and promotions. Balancing work, school, and extracurricular activities can be challenging. Help them develop effective time management skills and check in with them to ensure they don’t become overwhelmed.

Use their first job as an opportunity to explore potential career interests. Discuss their experiences, what they like, and what they don’t like about their job. This can help them make more informed career choices in the future. I think there are certain jobs everyone should work at least once, if for no other reason than to have an appreciation for the people who do these jobs every day, and to learn what you don’t like!  You should definitely do your turn in food service and customer service.

Career Planning For Teens by Seth Hicks

Giving your support and having open communication are crucial during this time. Encourage your teenager to ask questions and seek help when needed. Sometimes teenagers think they know everything, but they’ve never done this before, they’re going to need guidance. By helping them develop good financial habits and life skills early on, you’re setting them up for a more secure and responsible financial future.

What is Entrepreneurship and how can I encourage my teen along this pathway? (23:08)

Entrepreneurship refers to the process of creating, developing, organizing, and managing a business or startup venture with the aim of achieving financial profit, social impact, or both. Entrepreneurs are individuals who take on the risks and responsibilities of starting and operating a new business or introducing innovative solutions to existing problems or markets. Exploring business opportunities as a teenager can be an exciting and valuable experience. 

Homeschooling is a natural way to develop and encourage teen entrepreneurs, find business opportunities and learn to develop business skills. Statistically more homeschooled children go on to develop their own businesses than public schooled kids. This is because most have learned from a very young age to be independent thinkers and learners. If they have an idea, they have time and the ability to find the resources they need to answer the questions and pursue their goal.

10 Steps to Your First Small Business (For Teens): A step-by-step guide for any teen to start their own business by Adam Lean
Teen Entrepreneurship: The #1 Book for Teenage Entrepreneurs by Jack Rosenthal

There are so many ways that teens can get started. Encourage them to think about what they are passionate about. Entrepreneurship often starts with an idea or a problem that needs solving. What are they genuinely interested in or concerned about? This could be a hobby, a social issue, or a personal interest.  Understanding the fundamentals of business is essential. Your teenager can start by reading books (we will have our complete list of titles in our show notes), taking online courses, or enrolling in dual credit classes related to business and entrepreneurship.

Many organizations and local business associations offer workshops and seminars for young entrepreneurs. These events provide valuable insights and networking opportunities. Networking can also lead to opportunities. You might also think about finding a mentor who has experience in entrepreneurship can be incredibly beneficial. A mentor can offer guidance, share their experiences, and provide valuable connections.

Download all 40 Business Ideas for Teens

Encourage your teen to begin with a small venture or project. This could be a neighborhood lawn care service, teaching piano to younger students, selling handmade crocheted stuffed animals on Etsy, or a tutoring service. Starting small allows them to learn without taking on too much risk. Use the list we created to help them brainstorm and refine a business idea. It should solve a problem or meet a need in the market. They can conduct market research to understand their target audience and competition. And then you can use our teen startup packet to teach them how to create a basic business plan that outlines their goals, target market, marketing strategy, budget, and revenue projections. While it doesn’t need to be overly complex, having a plan helps them stay organized.

If their business involves a product, encourage them to create a prototype or Minimum Viable Product (MVP). This allows them to test their idea and gather feedback from potential customers. A friend of ours used to crochet those cute stuffed animals and sold them to other homeschool teens at Park Days, and eventually started to sell them at a farmer’s market that led to an Etsy shop. She’s so talented and she works fast, but she couldn’t keep up with demand!

Establishing an online presence through social media is crucial for most businesses today. Teach them how to create a professional online presence and use social media for marketing. They can also create their own free website. Teach them how to do that. There are so many great free tutorials on YouTube. Take advantage of them! The business world is constantly evolving. Encourage your teenager to stay informed about industry trends, new technologies, and changing consumer preferences. 

Depending on the nature of their venture, your teenager may need some initial funding. They can use their savings, ask for a small loan from family members, or explore crowdfunding platforms for fundraising. Make sure they understand any legal requirements for operating a business in your area, such as permits, licenses, and tax obligations. Entrepreneurship involves taking risks, and not every venture will succeed. Teach them that failure is a part of the learning process, and it’s important to analyze what went wrong and apply those lessons to future endeavors. “Failure is success in progress.” – Albert Einstein

While your kids are exploring entrepreneurship, work and internships, it’s crucial for them to continue their education. A solid educational foundation can complement their working journey. It’s all about having a growth mindset. Remember to provide guidance and support throughout the process. All of these things can be extremely rewarding, but they can also be challenging. Our job as homeschoolers is to guide our children not only through curriculum, but to help them develop valuable skills and gain real-world experiences.

This Week’s Freebie:

048. Music and Art in Your Homeschool

048.

Music and Art in Your Homeschool

Episode 048:

TWO WAYS TO LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE:
1. Click PLAY Button Above ^^ to listen here.
2. OR Listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

In a world driven by technology and academic excellence, it’s so very easy to overlook the significance of art and music education for our children. So often we are hyper focused on the three R’s- we want our kids to be strong readers, we want them to excel in math, we want to make sure we are hitting the STEM subjects so they can get into a great college or career. It is a sad reality that “Fine Arts” is one of the first subjects to get dropped whenever our homeschool schedules get out of whack. We might also be balancing multiple students or bogged down with outside classes and extracurriculars and it’s easy to just push art and music to the back burner. Or maybe you are not artsy, or your kid is not, and you wonder if this even matters.

But it does matter! And it’s so much fun!  No matter what style of homeschool you use, art and music can be woven into your year. The study of great works of art, the listening to uplifting pieces of music, and the freedom to be creative in any subject can enrich and expand what we already offer to our children. Introducing art and music might even make you fall in love with these subjects, and possibly inspire YOU to get creative.  A lot of people may not see the importance of art and music especially for children.  They might think it’s boring, a waste of time, or for more mature students.  But these creative disciplines play a vital role in shaping young minds, fostering holistic development, and nurturing skills that extend far beyond the canvas or the stage. And it’s never too early to expose young children to the arts.

Why is Art and Music Study for Children so Important? (6:37)

  • Cognitive Development

Art and music education has been proven to stimulate various cognitive functions, enhancing a child’s ability to think critically and problem-solve. When children engage in artistic or musical activities, they learn to analyze complex patterns, and use their imagination. These skills not only benefit their academic pursuits but also prepare them for real-life challenges.

  • Emotional Expression

Art and music provide a safe and expressive outlet for children to convey their emotions and feelings. Whether through painting, playing an instrument, or singing, these creative forms allow kids to explore and articulate their innermost thoughts. This emotional release can be particularly beneficial for children who find it challenging to express themselves verbally.

  • Creativity and Innovation

Nurturing creativity in children is crucial in today’s rapidly changing world. Art and music encourage kids to think outside the box, explore new possibilities, and develop innovative problem-solving skills. These disciplines foster a mindset that values uniqueness and diversity, which is essential for success.

  • Improved Focus and Discipline

Learning an instrument or creating a piece of art requires dedication, practice, and patience. These disciplines teach children the value of hard work, perseverance, and time management. As they strive to master their craft, they develop essential life skills that will serve them well in any endeavor.

Learn & Master

We’ve been so happy with the Learn & Master Programs
Quality private instruction WITHOUT the expensive private lesson price!
  • Cultural Awareness

Art and music are powerful tools for introducing children to different cultures and traditions. Exposure to diverse artistic expressions and musical styles helps broaden their horizons and fosters a sense of empathy and respect for others. This cultural awareness is invaluable in promoting tolerance and global citizenship.

  • Enhanced Communication Skills

Engaging in artistic and musical activities encourages effective communication. Whether collaborating on a group project, giving a presentation, or performing in front of an audience, children develop the ability to convey their thoughts and ideas with confidence and clarity.

  • Stress Reduction and Emotional Resilience

Art and music provide a therapeutic escape from the pressures of everyday life. Engaging in these activities can reduce stress and anxiety in children. The act of creating something beautiful or playing soothing music can have a calming effect, promoting emotional resilience and mental well-being. If you want to give your kids a well-rounded education, art and music study for children is just as important as mathematics, science, or language. These creative disciplines foster so much development and growth, emotional expression, creativity, and a host of other skills that prepare children for success in an increasingly complex world. Let’s prioritize the arts and music in our children’s education, recognizing that they are not just extracurricular activities but essential components of a holistic learning experience. By doing so, we empower the next generation to become individuals who can contribute positively to society and find fulfillment in their own unique ways.

Music

Incorporating Music into your homeschool (10:15)

Incorporating music into your homeschool curriculum can be a fun and enriching experience for your kids.  Music not only enhances their creativity, but also offers so many educational benefits. Through the years we’ve done a variety of things to bring music into our home. This can even start before your child is even born. Singing and playing music to your baby helps develop a deeper connection with them. Make up songs for everything- getting in your car seat, waking up, cleaning the house.  When not singing, provide instruments like a lap harp, to a maracas, to drums. Both my kids love music, but one has chosen to pursue music professionally. I made an entire year’s curriculum around music for him in middle school-and his year-end final project was building his own guitar. 

Music Appreciation: Start by just introducing your children to a wide range of music genres. Listen to classical music, jazz, pop, folk, and world music. Discuss the differences in style, instruments, and emotions evoked by each genre.  Just having music playing in the house or car is a great way to expose kids to music. And don’t be afraid to reach outside of your own comfort zone to introduce different types of music. There’s a good chance that your child has different taste in music, so expose them to all kinds of genres.

This Composer Book Series was a favorite for both of our families:
Getting the Know the World’s Greatest Composers

We also choose to explore the works of famous composers and musicians pretty early.  You can find all kinds of fun picture books at the library about your favorite musicians and composers, and we loved the Beethoven’s Wig cds- they are classical music set with lyrics that are pretty catchy and very memorable.  I love being at the symphony and one of my kids says I know the words to this song!

Beethoven’s Wig: Sing Along Symphonies

Musical Instruments: Consider offering your children the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument. And this doesn’t have to be expensive. You can choose to do private lessons, but there’s also a lot of online lessons that are very affordable like on outschool or you can do lessons on DVDs. Instruments like the piano, guitar, violin, or even the recorder are good choices for beginners.  Have a big basket of musical instruments in your house.  You’ll be surprised at how popular these toys are!

Accordion with 10 Keys Button Accordion
Natural Wooden Percussion
Instruments Musical Toys
Lap Harp
Kid’s Toy Violin with 4 Adjustable Strings and Bow
Click N’ Play Toy Trumpet and Toy Saxophone Set for Kids – Create Real Music

Singing: Singing can be a wonderful way to bring music into your home. Encourage your children to sing along with their favorite songs or learn new songs. Singing helps develop pitch, rhythm, and language skills. You can incorporate singing into your daily routines, such as singing a “Good Morning” song or singing during chores.

Wee Sing Nursery Rhymes and Lullabies

Singing can also help teach reading. Karaoke was one of the ways that I taught my youngest how to read. Put a karaoke song on YouTube, give them a microphone and the reading instruction is done for the day!

One of the ways I taught my kids how to read is with Karaoke!

Karaoke Microphone

We took a couple classes when the kids were really little- Kindermusik and then Music Together.  They are super fun mommy and me classes that really help introduce kids to music.  I mostly took them for my toddler but my baby liked them so much- we did these for a long time.

Music Theory: Teach the basics of music theory, like reading sheet music, understanding notes, rhythms, and scales. There are so many resources for all age groups and skill levels. You really don’t have to be musical yourself to teach this. I will link some great resources in our show notes. 

A Unique Step-by-Step Visual Guide & Free Audio App to Help Your Kids with Music (Grades 1-5)

Music History: Explore the history of music, including different periods like Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary. Learn about famous composers and musicians, their life stories, and the cultural context of their work. I did musical composer unit studies. I’ll link those books – They are so good for elementary age kids. 

Kids World Playground CD
A Child’s Introduction to the Orchestra: Listen to 37 Selections While You Learn About the Instruments, and the Music.

Create a Music Corner: You can dedicate a space in your home for music. Musical instruments, a music stand, Music note posters, a whiteboard for composing, and a collection of music books.

Music Posters for your Homeschool Room

Music-Based Activities: Incorporate music into other subjects. You can also use songs to teach math concepts like memorizing multiplication tables or use historical songs to learn about different time periods. 

Grammar Songs (You Never Forget What You Sing)

Field Trips and Concerts: Attend local music concerts, performances, and musical theater productions. There are many symphony performances catered to kids and families.  Some may feature popular songs, like Star Wars and other recognizable movie scores.  

Star Wars Performed By the London Symphony Orchestra

We’ve also done an instrument petting zoo where you can try out instruments. There’s also a lot of great museums and historical sites dedicated to celebrating music. 

Music Challenges and Projects: Organize music-related challenges or projects. For instance, have your children compose their own songs, or research a specific musical era and present their findings. 

Online Resources: There are also numerous online resources, apps, and educational platforms that offer music lessons, interactive activities, and quizzes. Take advantage of these resources to enhance your music curriculum. We’ve really enjoyed Learn & Master! There are some wonderful Music options on Outschool

Collaborative Activities: Encourage your children to collaborate with each other or with friends. They can form a band, write songs together, or create musical performances for a homeschool co-op or groups. There are even homeschool options for this in a lot of areas.  We have a homeschool marching band, orchestra and such in our area.  

My son was in School of Rock for a few years, and he met a lot of those kids there. He also does open mic nights and loves to perform. You don’t even have to perform; you can go and listen to some of the local artists. 

My kids played with a local Irish Music school for years.  They played in session bands at festivals and concerts and my kids competed at Irish dance competitions in a music category.  We have friends whose kids busk on weekends for cash, too.

Christmas Sing-Along Car-I-Oke

Remember that the goal is to make music an enjoyable part of your life. Encourage creativity and exploration, and allow your kids to pursue their musical interests and passions. Incorporating music into your homeschooling routine not only enriches your children’s education but also provides them with a lifelong appreciation for the art of music. Whether they become musicians or simply enjoy listening to music, the skills and knowledge gained from a musical education can have a lasting impact on their lives.

ART

Incorporate Art into Your Homeschool (26:40)

Like with music, you do not need to be terribly artsy to Incorporating art and artist study into your homeschool curriculum.  This  can be a rewarding and enriching experience for your children. It not only fosters creativity but also helps them appreciate the rich world of art and the artists behind the masterpieces. 

Artistic Pursuits is a favorite Art Curriculum we both used with our children:
Artistic Pursuits

Start with the Basics:

In the early days you can just start by having an art corner with supplies- like a basket of paper, tape,  scissors, and markers. This was available to them all the time, and sometimes my kids would wake up before me and create 800 paper airplanes or drawings of the exact same thing and sometimes my house was overrun with little pieces of cut paper. I promise, it won’t always be like this. Remember that it is really about the process not the product.

Blick has the best Art Supplies
AND they always have clearance items!

Later you can start getting into art more deeply by beginning to explore:

  • the fundamentals of art, such as color theory, perspective, and various artistic techniques.
  • Explore different art forms, including drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, and more.
Preschool Art: It’s the Process, Not the Product!
How to Talk to Children About Art
  • Art History:
    • Introduce your children to the history of art by studying different art movements and periods (e.g., Renaissance, Impressionism, Cubism).
    • Learn about famous artists from different eras and their contributions to the art world.
The Annotated Mona Lisa, Third Edition: A Crash Course in Art History from Prehistoric to the Present
  • Famous Artists:
    • Choose a different artist to study each month or semester. Dive deep into their life, works, and style.
    • Your kids can create a dedicated artist notebook or portfolio for each artist, where they can document their findings and create their own artworks inspired by the artist’s style. Ambleside Artist Study
  • Art Appreciation:
    • Visit art museums and galleries to see famous artworks in person, or take virtual museum tours online. Last year we did an entire school year of teen art programming at our local museum.  Check and see what’s available in your area or ask a museum to do a class.
    • Analyze and discuss famous artworks, exploring their symbolism, themes, and historical context.
Why is Art full of Naked People
  • Art Projects:
    • Allow for creative freedom by letting them interpret the artist’s work in their unique way.
Learn & Master Painting is the best home instruction course available to learn to paint with oils and acrylics.
Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art Experiences in the Styles of Great Masters
  • Artist Biographies:
    • Read biographies or watch documentaries about famous artists. Discuss their life stories, struggles, and inspirations.
    • Use these stories as a way to teach perseverance, dedication, and the importance of following one’s passion.
Miro (Famous Artists) by Antony Mason. Ages 9-12
  • Art Journals:
    • Have your kids keep an art journal where they can sketch, paint, or collage their thoughts, feelings, and observations.
    • Encourage them to use their journals to experiment with different art techniques and record their artistic progress.
  • Art Appreciation Challenges:
    • Create challenges or assignments related to specific artists or art movements. For example, ask your children to create a piece of art in the style of Vincent van Gogh or Jackson Pollock.  
    • Host art exhibitions within your homeschool group or family and showcase your children’s creations.
  • Online Art Lessons: We’ve really enjoyed the painting instruction from Learn & Master.
  • Field Trips and Workshops:
    • Attend local art exhibitions, workshops, and art classes to provide hands-on experience and interaction with the local art community.
    • Seek out local artists who might be willing to give your children private art lessons or studio tours.
  • Art Books and Resources:
    • Build a library of art books, both for learning about artists and for practical art instruction.
    • Utilize online resources, such as art history websites, virtual art galleries, and instructional videos. You know one of my cheap art hacks is to buy end of year calendars and then sneak quality art prints into my kids bathrooms!
Kids Magnetic Art Frames Changeable – Front Opening
  • Cross-Disciplinary Learning:
    • Combine art with other subjects, such as history (study the art of a specific time period), literature (illustrate scenes from books), or science (create art inspired by natural patterns). 
    • Fibonacci Sequence: This sequence is closely connected to the golden ratio and frequently occurs in various facets of human life. The Fibonacci sequence can also be in the pattern in which sunflowers generate new cells for seeds and even in our own solar system, where the Fibonacci series is used to determine the distances of moons of certain planets such as Saturn, Jupiter, and Uranus. The Fibonacci sequence can also be in the pattern in which sunflowers generate new cells for seeds and even in our own solar system, where the Fibonacci series is used to determine the distances of moons of certain planets such as Saturn, Jupiter, and Uranus. Learn more about Fibonacci in Art in this YouTube Video.
Math Art and Drawing Games
40+ Fun Art Projects to Build Amazing Math Skills Ages 7+
Science Arts: Discovering Science Through Art Experiences
  • Celebrate Creativity Encourage your children to explore their creativity freely, whether through drawing, painting, or other art forms. Display their artwork in your homeschool space to create a gallery of their creations.

Incorporating art and artist study into your homeschooling routine not only nurtures your children’s creativity but also helps them develop critical thinking skills, cultural awareness, and a deeper appreciation for the arts. It can be a dynamic and engaging way to enhance their education and broaden their horizons. What a fun way to learn!

The Art Sherpa on YouTube
is our Favorite FREE At-Home Paint Party

TWO Freebies This Week:

047. Socialization: Will My Homeschooler Be a Weirdo?

047.

The “S” Word
Socialization

Will My Homeschooler Be a Weirdo?

Episode 047:

TWO WAYS TO LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE:
1. Click PLAY Button Above ^^ to listen here.
2. OR Listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

Homeschooling is becoming more and more mainstream, but myths, misinformation, and misconceptions about homeschooling are still all too common. It’s inevitable that all homeschool parents will hear a comment like “Homeschoolers are weird and poorly socialized!” More likely, they will hear it 87,000 times.  Everyone from your partner, to grandparents, to the stranger in their grocery store checkout is going to have an opinion on it.  And you may have concerns and doubts about it, too, especially after hearing this question over and over again.

In today’s episode we are going to talk about the S-word! SOCIALIZATION. Socialization is a valid concern.  But it’s also one of the biggest myths about homeschooling.  The myth of socialization when it comes to homeschooling is a common misconception that suggests homeschooled children miss out on crucial social experiences. Some people are concerned that homeschoolers will never learn common social etiquette and participate in group activities. Or that they won’t learn how to do things like standing in a line, waiting your turn, sharing, and other manners and habits.  There are also concerns that they will miss social cues, not know how to talk to other people, or behave.  And there are concerns that homeschoolers won’t have opportunities they may get in public school- like clubs, sports, and other activities.

Homeschooling can provide a rich and diverse social environment.

Homeschooled children do engage in social activities such as sports, music – like band and orchestra, clubs, and community events. These activities enable them to interact with peers and adults from all kinds of backgrounds. Additionally, homeschoolers have flexible schedules which allow them to explore real-world learning opportunities. People are starting to notice, and studies are proving that these opportunities allow these kids to foster strong interpersonal skills unlike if they were in a classroom all day. They are out in their communities every day, shopping, running errands, going to the post office, talking to neighbors, hanging out with friends, and tons of other opportunities we’re going to get to. 

Everyone likes to talk about socialization like it’s only a positive thing, too, but the truth is, there’s a lot to be concerned with when it comes to socialization.  When people ask if we are concerned about socialization, we respond that of course, we are!  We are totally concerned about bullying, peer pressure, and exposure to age inappropriate content. Homeschooling offers a more personalized and positive socialization experience, as it allows children to avoid a lot of negative peer pressures and bullying that can sometimes occur in traditional school settings. Not that these things don’t happen to homeschoolers – they do, but it’s often easier to nip that behavior in the bud as it happens, because you are right there.  This is something that is so much easier to do in a family group setting than it is when you find out about something that happened at school days later. Also, being present and modeling appropriate social behaviors and teaching your child if they say or do something inappropriate, can be corrected right there on the spot.

Overall, homeschooling’s socialization myth has been debunked many times over by the multitude of opportunities for social growth and development available to homeschooled kids.

What is socialization and why is it important for everyone? (7:04)

One of the things you will notice when you start getting these comments about socialization is that people often throw that word out without actually knowing what it means or what they mean. Is socialization being in a classroom with 30 kids from your neighborhood really replicating what you’ll experience in real life?  Of course not, traditional school and maybe a nursing home are the only places this segregation happens.  In your job, in your neighborhood, in public, you are always going to be surrounded by people of all ages and so many different backgrounds.

And it’s not that we don’t think socialization is important. Socialization is crucial for everyone for several reasons:

  • Social Skills Development: These interactions develop important skills, like communication, cooperation, empathy, and conflict resolution. These skills are crucial for success in both personal and professional life.
  • Emotional Well-being: Socialization provides emotional support and a sense of belonging. It can help children develop a healthy self-esteem and mental well-being. Friendships and social bonds can provide a strong emotional safety net.
  • Cultural Awareness: Socializing with a diverse group of people exposes children to different cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives, which fosters more cultural awareness and embracing people of all walks of life. 
  • Learning from Others: Interacting with peers allows children to learn from others’ experiences and perspectives. It can broaden their horizons and encourage intellectual growth.
  • Teamwork and Collaboration: Many aspects of life, including work and sports, require the ability to work effectively in teams. Socialization provides opportunities to learn teamwork and collaboration skills.
  • Conflict Resolution: Socialization involves dealing with conflicts and disagreements, which are valuable life skills. Learning how to navigate conflicts constructively is essential for personal and professional relationships.
  • Preparation for the Real World: children will eventually need to navigate the real world outside of the classroom. Our communities are full of diverse people and social situations. Socialization prepares them for this reality. When you think about it, a classroom is actually an artificially structured system. There are probably a lot of parents of kids in public school who worry about their children making it in the real world. Homeschooled kids get far more opportunities to interact with all different kinds of people.
  • Networking: Building a social network from a young age can be beneficial in various aspects of life, including career opportunities and personal connections.
  • Coping with Peer Pressure: Socialization allows children to learn how to handle peer pressure and make informed decisions, which is especially important during the teen years.
  • Building Friendships: Friendships formed during childhood and adolescence can be some of the most enduring and meaningful relationships in a person’s life. Socialization helps children build and maintain these connections.

It’s important to strike a balance between socialization and academics, ensuring that kids have plenty of time with friends while still receiving a quality education. Homeschooling families are so creative and often find ways to combine socializing with learning to ensure that their children develop both academically and socially. 

What are some ways that homeschoolers find social opportunities? (10:53)

One of the things that we often tell people is that we do have a problem with socialization as homeschoolers.  And that problem is that with so many extra hours in our day, it’s easy to overschedule yourself.  We sometimes struggle to find time to be at home and get our work done! One of my initial reasons to homeschool is because I wanted to give my kids more opportunities Beyond what a school can offer – I wanted to give them the world — but the world is big and it can really fill your calendar quickly!

Scroll down to download our free full list of 100 Ways to Socialize your Homeschooler:

Homeschoolers have so many different avenues for socialization that can help them build meaningful relationships and develop those important social skills:

Local Homeschool Groups: search out local homeschooling support groups and co-ops where families meet regularly for educational and social activities. These groups often organize field trips, classes, and group projects.  

We’ve talked often about our park day groups which is really where we laid that foundation for friendships. And so many of the group activities and clubs we started later, came from these original park day groups.And we did so many parties with these now lifelong friends- not back to school parties, Easter Egg Hunts, Christmas potluck dinners, Halloween Parties, and Valentine exchanges. 

And later- we have been part of groups that put on dances- “what about the prom is a common homeschool question that we have all been asked.  Usually when we have kids so young, prom isn’t even on the horizon!  Well, they can go to the prom!  And there’s also Graduation- some mom friends and I worked so hard and put together a grand event– I think it was about 15 kids, and since my daughter also earned her associates degree in high school, we did the big ceremony at the community college too. And then I also hosted a big bash with all the kids she grew up with.  

Keep in mind that every kid is different, and they may not want a big graduation ceremony or a big party and that’s OK too. At 17 and 18, they probably have a pretty good idea how they want to celebrate. So, make sure you bring them to the table. That can be hard sometimes for parents because this is our celebration too.  Make sure you aren’t projecting your own feelings onto your kids. This is their moment. 

Extracurricular Activities: Homeschooled children can participate in extracurricular activities like sports teams, art classes, music lessons, dance classes, band, or theater groups within their community.

You should check out our FREE Extracurricular Workbook. We’ve listed over 100 ideas and step-by-step ways to help your child find some extracurriculars that they will love. 

Community Classes: Enrolling in classes at local community centers or libraries can help homeschoolers meet and interact with peers who share their interests. We love our libraries!  I started when my kids were toddlers, taking them to library story time. We’ve also done a lot of rec center classes- they are low cost and low commitment.  We’ve used that as a way to try things out without getting sucked into a multi month session if the kids want to quit after two classes.

Volunteer Work: Volunteering is also an excellent way for homeschoolers to give back to their community and make new friends. For years, we volunteered at an Alzheimer’s and dementia center and some of my kid’s friends are 90 years old. I absolutely love that my kids don’t care if you’re 2 years old or 90 years old. Age is irrelevant to them. We’ve often volunteered with other kids who are passionate about similar causes- we put together food bundles at food bank, we did a homeless coat drive, we got together with other families and wrote letters to veterans, we did a book drive for an underprivileged school and all the homeschool kids read the books to these young children. We also did meals on wheels when my kids were very young – Cameron was in his car seat, walking up and ringing the doorbell. Sometimes we would talk for a long time to these people. They were often very lonely.

My kids do a lot of nursing home gigs as Irish dancers especially during St. Patrick’s season- they absolutely love interacting with the seniors in these communities.  

Online Communities: There are also so many opportunities for homeschoolers to connect with others through online forums, social media groups, and virtual clubs or classes. We’ve talked about how online friends can be absolutely real and valuable.

Local Events and Clubs: you can also participate in community events and clubs, like 4-H, or you can participate in youth groups. My kids do Youth and Government through the YMCA.  Both of our kids have done scouting.  

Part-Time Jobs: Older teens can get a part-time job and learn a lot of valuable skills. They learn how to cooperate as a team and make new friends. A job can also provide exposure to a variety of situations as they learn to navigate working with others. And homeschoolers can work during the day. In high school, my daughter was able to earn her associates degree and work a full-time job to buy her first car, and still have plenty of time for friends. 

Family and Friends:  Don’t discount family!  One of the reasons I started homeschooling was because I had 2 kids under 2 and then 3 under 4.  I didn’t have the same social need for a preschooler that a parent of an only child might have.  My kids were a group almost from the beginning.

Time spent with extended family members and close friends are more social opportunities for homeschoolers. These family gatherings and playdates are the best!  And those private play days are such wonderful memories for me. Through the years, my kids’ best friends’ parents have been MY best friends. These are some of my favorite homeschool times. 

Field Trips: Homeschoolers often go on educational field trips to museums, zoos, historical sites, and nature reserves, where they can interact with both their peers and experts in various fields.

We love field trips and have an awesome episode with 100 Top Field Trips. Personally, I’d rather go on a field trip to learn hands on, than do a worksheet! I also created this super cool field trip guide you can download for free.

Online Classes: Some homeschoolers take online courses or virtual classes, where they can collaborate with teachers and students from around the world. We have loved Outschool!

Outschool is an educational platform offering over 100,000 Interactive Online Classes for every age group from 3 to 18 years. You can use it as full academic classes or supplements.
Learn More >>

It’s important to note that homeschooling can be tailored to each child’s needs and preferences, allowing families to create a socialization plan that aligns with their values and educational goals while providing ample opportunities for interaction with others.

Are traditionally schooled children better socialized than homeschooled kids? (26:18)

In those younger years homeschooling takes less than an hour. Even when our kids were earning their associates degree in high school, they never did more than 4 hours of school each day. This allows for more opportunities for positive social interactions. All of the social opportunities that we just talked about that homeschoolers are experiencing during the day when they’re not in a classroom, have given them experiences and more opportunities for socializing and learning these skills. 

It’s important to note that the social development of any child is influenced by a lot of factors, including their individual personality, their family environment, and the specific homeschooling or traditional school experience they receive.  And unfortunately, as homeschooled parents, the pressure is all on us.  Our kids are a reflection of us.  If your school kid grows up to be a troublemaker or outcast, you can blame the school environment. But nobody questions whether or not kids in school are socialized. Let me tell you, being put in a building with peers of your same age and socioeconomic background is not necessarily socializing. But for homeschoolers, it’s all on us.

So let’s talk about some of the differences in socialization between traditional school kids and homeschooled kids.

Here are some considerations:

Homeschooled Kids:

  • Varied Experiences: Homeschooled children have more flexibility to engage in a wide range of social experiences, including interacting with people of different ages, cultural backgrounds and perspectives, promoting diversity and tolerance.
  • Individualism: Homeschoolers feel minimal peer pressure to conform or fit in and are encouraged to express themselves and have a voice without social pressures. Homeschooling can provide more one-on-one time with parents or educators, potentially addressing specific social needs and positive guidance. 
  • Limited Negative Influences: Homeschooling can minimize children from negative peer pressures and bullying and provide guidance when needed.
  • Tailored Learning: Homeschooled children can learn at their own pace, especially those with learning differences, reducing the stress and social anxiety that can occur in a classroom setting. 

Traditionally Schooled Kids:

  • Structured Environment: Traditional schools provide a structured social environment with limited real-world experiences. Students learn to navigate various social situations and hierarchies with a large student teacher ratio affording minimal guidance. 
  • Peer Interaction: From an early age, kids learn how to be like others and conform, at the cost of neglecting or even never discovering what it is that makes them special. In a school environment, peer pressure can dictate things from how to look and sound to how to act in order to be accepted by the peer circle.

In Conclusion

There is a large body of research focused on determining whether homeschooled or traditional schooled kids are better-socialized. The research has found that being homeschooled does not harm socialization skills, and in fact, more and more studies are indicating that homeschooled children score more highly than children who attend school on measurements of socialization.

Ultimately, whether homeschooled or traditionally schooled children are “better” socially depends on the individual child, the quality of their educational environment, and their unique social needs. Some homeschooled children thrive socially, while others may face challenges.  It’s up to you to figure out what best works for your family and child. Similarly, traditionally schooled children can excel socially or encounter difficulties.  When someone asks you if you are worried your kids will be weird.  Ask them if they knew any weird kids from school. We all did! Here’s the thing.  My kids were going to be weirdos whether they went to school or not.  Sorry kids, but that is genetic!

The key is to provide opportunities for socialization and development. Many homeschooling families actively seek out socialization opportunities for their children to ensure they have well-rounded experiences. There is no one-size-fits-all answer to whether homeschooled kids are better socially than traditionally schooled kids. Social development is a complex and multifaceted process influenced by various factors, and both educational approaches can provide valuable social experiences when done thoughtfully and with the child’s best interests in mind.

It’s easy for those outside the homeschooling community to look at these students as “different” or “socially awkward.” But much of that sentiment results from simply not having any real knowledge of what homeschoolers actually do. Homeschool parents don’t tie their kids to a desk for 8 hours. They’re cuddled on the couch reading books, they’re learning at libraries, at museums, they’re interacting with residents at senior centers, with other families and fellow students. They’re experiencing real-life situations and conversing with many types of people from all walks of life. They play Little League, nerf battles, video games, text their friends, join clubs, and are free to be themselves with opportunities beyond what they could get in a school environment.

This Week’s Freebie:

Download the Complete Socialization List HERE (pdf)

045. High School Socialization, Friendships, and Dating

045.

High School Socialization, Friendships, and Dating

Tune in today as we answer these questions and more!

Episode 045:

Click PLAY Button Above ^^ to listen on our website or listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
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High School Series >>

Show Notes

Socialization, friendships, and dating are such important roles in the holistic development of high schoolers, and this holds true for homeschooled students just as much as their traditionally schooled peers. During the teen years, friendships become even more important as our children are growing in their understanding of the world and where they fit in it. Recognizing the significance of nurturing meaningful friendships and exploring healthy dating relationships can empower homeschooled high schoolers to build vital life skills, emotional resilience, and a strong sense of identity as they transition into adulthood. 

The Youngest BTDT Babies on Campus for Dual Credit Courses
November 2014 vs. August 2023

These socialization aspects of teenage life are not merely about having fun and passing the time; they are essential for emotional, social, and psychological growth. While homeschooling provides many advantages, such as personalized education and flexible schedules, it can sometimes present challenges when it comes to social interaction. But we need not fear that our teens will be “limited” socially by being schooled at home during these years. That is short-range thinking. The social possibilities for homeschoolers are endless, really. All it takes is a bit of creativity and willingness to make it happen. 

How much time should my high schooler spend with friends? (6:12)

The amount of time your high schooler should spend with friends can vary greatly depending on their individual personality, needs, and commitments. Not every child has the same need for interactions. And the same goes for parents.  If you are an introvert and your child is not, you are going to have to make some effort to facilitate social interactions for your child.  That may mean stepping way out of your comfort zone! 

Family Dynamics

Also, consider your family dynamic.  If you have more than one child, or those of varying ages and interests, this sometimes requires some massive scheduling on your part. Likewise, don’t forget the importance of family time. It’s essential for your child to maintain a connection with the family unit. Consider setting aside specific times for family activities and bonding. 

I have been a fan of The Chicken Soup Series forever. I love that they made a teen version. Being a teen is hard – and this book makes them feel like they are not alone. This book is filled with stories that will make you laugh and make you cry. It will act as a best friend, keep you company, motivate you, and reassure you that other teenagers have been through the same ups and downs and have come out okay.

Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul

Academic Responsibilities

High school students will have academic responsibilities that should be a priority, especially if they are college bound. Encourage your teen to establish a balance between schoolwork and socializing.  Luckily, as homeschoolers, we do have the flexibility of setting our own schedules, so social activities don’t have to be limited to weekends or evenings.  

Extracurricular Activities

If your child is involved in extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs, theater, or music groups, they may naturally spend more time with friends during these activities. This is beneficial as it combines socializing with personal interests and skill development.  Socialization needs will vary from kid to kid, and as your child gets older, they may naturally want more independence and private time with friends, outside of these activities. It’s essential to strike a balance between allowing them this independence and ensuring they still meet their responsibilities and obligations at home and school.

Open Communication

You really want to make sure you maintain open communication with your high schooler about their social life. Encourage them to share their plans and needs with you and be willing to listen if they have concerns or questions about how much time they should spend or want to spend with friends. There are definitely times when we feel over scheduled and over socialized, and we had to dial everything back in and then there were times where we felt the opposite.  

Opposing Schedules

High school gets tricky because a lot of kids have fine-tuned their interests, everyone is going different directions, and doing different times of schooling or classes, and sometimes you may even stop seeing some of your best friends due to opposite schedules and activities, or if they’ve chosen to go to public school at this point. When that’s been the case, we have always encouraged our kids to try to schedule times to hang out with those friends and to open the door to new friendships. That happens to everyone – even us as adults. Friendships come in and out of our lives. Gone are the days of easy park days where you just show up.  Sometimes you really have to make an effort to plan things and stay on top of schedules to ensure it happens.  If you kids can’t or don’t want to do that, you may have to!

Healthy Relationships

You really want to ensure that the time spent with friends is healthy and positive. Know the company your child keeps, and discuss any concerns you may have regarding peer pressure, negative influences, or unsafe behaviors. Take an active role in meeting their friends and chatting with them – and their parents. Keep an open dialogue with your kids. They’re starting to branch out and spend less time with family and more with friends. One of my favorite things about homeschooling is establishing a strong bond from a young age, so that we always have an open dialogue. You want your children to feel safe telling you things.

It’s also more important for your high schooler to have a few close, meaningful friendships than to be constantly surrounded by friends. Encourage them to focus on nurturing these deep connections.  We always try to stress quality over quantity.

Safety and Setting Boundaries

You also need to make sure your child understands the importance of safety and setting boundaries in their social interactions, both online and offline. Teach them to make responsible decisions about where and with whom they spend their time. This is especially important for kids who spend a lot of time online.  We try to talk a lot about not oversharing information, being cautious of potential scammers and fake people, and just guarding your online interactions, in general. We have a responsibility to teach our kids to think critically. Teaching them online safety can sometimes be especially hard for us because our kids usually know way more about tech and online things than we do!  So do your best to stay current so that you can discuss this stuff with your kids. 

Overall Well-Being

Pay attention to your child’s well-being. If they seem overwhelmed, stressed, or exhausted from socializing, it might be a sign that they need to scale back and prioritize self-care.  Talk to your kids about stress management – nutrition, hydration, healthy sleep habits. If they seem lonely, down, or moody, you definitely want to address that and do what you can do to help them-some of these highs and lows are completely normal with teenagers as they feel all the feels. But pay attention when things seem off more than normal.  Even though they are older, they often need guidance navigating relationships and activities.  

If your teen is new to homeschooling and maybe came out of a difficult school situation due to bullying or negative social interaction, this is even more important and can be a huge adjustment.  Keep trying and do what you can to assist.

Different Needs

Lastly, remember that every teenager is different. Some may be more introverted and prefer less social interaction, while others may be extroverted and thrive on frequent social contact. Respect your child’s personality and adjust expectations accordingly. Again, this is one of the many advantages to homeschooling, that we can customize our approach to socializing just like we can with academics. Ultimately, the amount of time your high schooler spends with friends should align with their personal needs and interests. It’s important to maintain a healthy balance between socialization, academics, extracurricular activities, and family time while allowing your child to develop the social skills and connections that are so important for their well-being.

What can I do to help my high schooler develop meaningful friendships? (16:24)

Helping your high schooler develop meaningful friendships is important for their social and emotional development. But where do you even begin finding friends and developing these relationships?  Like we mentioned before, high school can get tricky even if you aren’t new to homeschooling because kids tend to split at this age- their interests are more fine-tuned, they may be involved more heavily into other groups and activities, and their time is precious, too.

Look for local homeschooling groups or co-ops where your high schooler can meet other homeschooled students. These groups often organize activities, classes, and events that provide opportunities for social interaction.  Even if you have been involved in a group for a long time, you may want to consider branching out to other groups and seeing what else is out there. We belong to a lot of groups and they all have a different dynamic and vibe, and bring something else to the table.

Encourage your child to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports teams, music groups, art classes, and community service clubs. Not only are these essential for just being a well-rounded person, but these activities can also help them meet like-minded peers who share their interests. 

In today’s digital age, online friendships can be just as meaningful as in-person ones. A lot of parents who really limit online interaction and are very strict about kids not having phones, social media, etc. While you do want to make sure your child is protected, technology is our future and kids are going to find their way to it eventually- with or without your blessing. Ensure your child has access to safe online communities, forums, or social media groups where they can connect with other homeschoolers or friends who share their hobbies and interests. 

One service that I’ve used for years is called QUSTODIO. When my kids first got devices around middle school age, I really struggled with online safety and protection, and I eventually found this great tool that allows me to monitor apps and websites from my phone. I can even see what websites they visit and block sites from my phone! As they’ve gotten older, I’ve dialed back the monitoring as they have learned online safety but if you’re struggling with this, I would highly recommend this.

Keep your kids safe online:
Learn more about Qustodio>>

Engaging in volunteer work is another great opportunity. It not only allows your child to give back to the community but also offers more chances to meet people who share their passion for making a difference. We also really like scouts for this. It’s great for kids who want organized opportunities with a lot of fun and group activities. 

Look for local classes or workshops related to your child’s interests or hobbies. This can be anything from dance classes to coding workshops. These environments often foster social interaction. Your local recreation center is a great source for this, as well as your local libraries.   Library classes and activities are typically free even if you don’t have a card and a lot have reciprocal programs with neighboring city libraries, too.

If your child is old enough, a part-time job can be an excellent way to meet new people. Working with peers can help develop social skills and build friendships. Sometimes these are great learning opportunities to help your kid figure out what they want to do- and what they don’t want to do! 

One challenge for homeschoolers that do dual credit, is that their on-campus peers are often a lot older than they are.  While we are ok with them swapping numbers or meeting up on campus after class for study related things, we do let our kids know that they need to be upfront about the fact that they can’t really socialize with them outside of class. 

Make sure your child has the necessary social skills to build and maintain friendships. Teach them effective communication, active listening, empathy, and conflict resolution. And while it’s important to support your child in building friendships, it’s also crucial to respect their autonomy. Allow them to choose their friends and give them space to develop these relationships, while still talking often about positive interactions and safety. This can be hard for some parents! Just do your best to keep communication lines open with your child. Encourage them to talk about their feelings, experiences, and any challenges they may be facing in the process of making friends.

This is a bit older but still a relevant and helpful resource for parenting in our “Tech World”. In iRules, Hofmann provides families with the tools they need to find a balance between technology and human interaction through a philosophy she calls Slow Tech Parenting. In the book, she educates parents about the online culture tweens and teens enter the minute they go online, exploring issues like cyberbullying, friend fail, and sexting, as well as helping parents create their own iRules contracts to fit their families’ needs.

iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know about Selfies, Sexting, Gaming, and Growing up

Building meaningful friendships can take time, so be patient and don’t push your child too hard. It’s normal for the process to have its ups and downs. And when you’re a teenager, these shifts can sometimes feel very extreme from happy to sad. Like we mentioned earlier, the quality of friendships is more important than the quantity. Encourage them to focus on building deep, meaningful connections with a few individuals rather than trying to be friends with everyone. Building friendships is a skill that takes time and practice, so continue to provide support and guidance.

Should my high schooler date? (24:46)

Deciding whether or not your high schooler should date is a personal and often complex decision that depends on various factors, including your child’s maturity level, values, and your family’s beliefs and guidelines. 

You really need to assess their emotional and social maturity. Are they capable of handling the responsibilities and potential challenges that come with dating Like communication, compromise, and understanding boundaries? I would encourage you to sit down and have an open and honest conversation about dating. Ask them about their thoughts and feelings regarding dating and really listen to them. In a couple of years, they’ll be young adults and they’re going to be off doing their thing without consulting you, so use this time to help them and influence them in a positive way.  As your teen grows, you can be there to help them work through different situations or challenges. Talking to them about relationships and consent will help them understand how to take care of themselves and others. Remember that your child may not always feel like talking or opening up. Be patient and make sure they know they can speak to you about anything. 

Sheldon and Amy’s Relationship Contract

Mentioning consent always makes me laugh thinking about Sheldon and Amy’s relationship agreement in The Big Bang Theory. It’s so funny when he draws up the contract about when they can and can’t hold hands. Or that short video about tea and consent (*warning F-Bomb) when somebody changes their mind about having tea.  

Tea and Consent

Give your child some examples of healthy and unhealthy behaviors – watch these videos with them. They are humorous, but it’s a serious topic that needs to be addressed. Chat with them about how consent comes across in words and body language. If someone seems uncomfortable with something or says no, it’s important to listen.

Discuss with them what a healthy relationship is. It’s when both people are:

  • Caring
  • Considerate
  • Kind
  • Encouraging

You want to teach them about red flags in a relationship like:

  • Controlling
  • Isolating the other person (they might discourage them from seeing friends)
  • Passive-aggressive or unkind
  • Self-centered, not considering the other’s needs.

Talk to your child about respect. Speak about gender equality and spotting sexual harassment It’s our job to educate our kids well beyond academics. These are conversations that should be happening from when they were young, but if they weren’t, start today. This goes well beyond dating. These are things that teach them about respecting others and themselves.  Be sure to get your FREE Healthy Relationship E-Guide>>

Be aware of potential peer pressure or external influences that might be motivating your child to date. Encourage them to make decisions based on their own feelings and values, not solely to fit in or meet others’ expectations. This is another positive of homeschooling. Many homeschooled kids haven’t really had to succumb to peer pressure. From early on, they were encouraged to have a voice and be heard, and that carries through not only in their teen years, but for the rest of their lives.

Consider your family’s values and beliefs regarding dating and relationships. Different families have different approaches, and it’s important to align your decision on dating rules with your family’s values. Model healthy relationships and communication within your own family. Your child will learn a lot about relationships by observing how you and your partner interact.

Sometimes, focusing on building strong friendships during high school can be a more suitable approach for teenagers who are not yet ready for dating. But if you decide to allow dating, set age-appropriate boundaries and rules. Depending on your child’s age and your comfort level, you might choose to supervise their early dating experiences more closely. These could include curfews, group dates, and guidelines for physical affection. Or no closed doors when in bedrooms, and not being at someone’s house when parents aren’t home.  As they demonstrate responsibility and maturity, you can grant more independence. Be clear about your expectations.

Ultimately, the decision to allow your high schooler to date should be based on their individual readiness and your family’s values. Keep in mind that every teenager is different, and what works for one may not work for another.  Emphasize the importance of maintaining a balance between dating, academics, extracurricular activities, and family commitments. Ensure that dating doesn’t interfere with their responsibilities. It’s crucial to maintain open communication with your child, listen to their concerns, and provide guidance and support as they navigate the complexities of dating and relationships.

This Week’s Freebies:

FREE Teen Healthy Relationship E-Guide (18 pages)
Get your FREE Extracurricular and Volunteer Workbook

We created this group as a way to share FREE resources all over the world with NO SPAM:

BTDT Homeschool Free Resources
Join the Group for Free>>

Show Notes

If you’re brand-new to homeschooling, be sure to visit our GETTING STARTED Page

This is the 8th Episode in our
HIGH SCHOOL SERIES

Socialization, friendships, and dating are such important roles in the holistic development of high schoolers, and this holds true for homeschooled students just as much as their traditionally schooled peers. During the teen years, friendships become even more important as our children are growing in their understanding of the world and where they fit in it. Recognizing the significance of nurturing meaningful friendships and exploring healthy dating relationships can empower homeschooled high schoolers to build vital life skills, emotional resilience, and a strong sense of identity as they transition into adulthood. 

The Youngest BTDT Babies on Campus for Dual Credit Courses
November 2014 vs. August 2023

These socialization aspects of teenage life are not merely about having fun and passing the time; they are essential for emotional, social, and psychological growth. While homeschooling provides many advantages, such as personalized education and flexible schedules, it can sometimes present challenges when it comes to social interaction. But we need not fear that our teens will be “limited” socially by being schooled at home during these years. That is short-range thinking. The social possibilities for homeschoolers are endless, really. All it takes is a bit of creativity and willingness to make it happen. 

How much time should my high schooler spend with friends? (6:12)

The amount of time your high schooler should spend with friends can vary greatly depending on their individual personality, needs, and commitments. Not every child has the same need for interactions. And the same goes for parents.  If you are an introvert and your child is not, you are going to have to make some effort to facilitate social interactions for your child.  That may mean stepping way out of your comfort zone! 

Family Dynamics

Also, consider your family dynamic.  If you have more than one child, or those of varying ages and interests, this sometimes requires some massive scheduling on your part. Likewise, don’t forget the importance of family time. It’s essential for your child to maintain a connection with the family unit. Consider setting aside specific times for family activities and bonding. 

I have been a fan of The Chicken Soup Series forever. I love that they made a teen version. Being a teen is hard – and this book makes them feel like they are not alone. This book is filled with stories that will make you laugh and make you cry. It will act as a best friend, keep you company, motivate you, and reassure you that other teenagers have been through the same ups and downs and have come out okay.

Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul

Academic Responsibilities

High school students will have academic responsibilities that should be a priority, especially if they are college bound. Encourage your teen to establish a balance between schoolwork and socializing.  Luckily, as homeschoolers, we do have the flexibility of setting our own schedules, so social activities don’t have to be limited to weekends or evenings.  

Extracurricular Activities

If your child is involved in extracurricular activities such as sports, clubs, theater, or music groups, they may naturally spend more time with friends during these activities. This is beneficial as it combines socializing with personal interests and skill development.  Socialization needs will vary from kid to kid, and as your child gets older, they may naturally want more independence and private time with friends, outside of these activities. It’s essential to strike a balance between allowing them this independence and ensuring they still meet their responsibilities and obligations at home and school.

Get your FREE Extracurricular and Volunteer Workbook
Open Communication

You really want to make sure you maintain open communication with your high schooler about their social life. Encourage them to share their plans and needs with you and be willing to listen if they have concerns or questions about how much time they should spend or want to spend with friends. There are definitely times when we feel over scheduled and over socialized, and we had to dial everything back in and then there were times where we felt the opposite.  

Opposing Schedules

High school gets tricky because a lot of kids have fine-tuned their interests, everyone is going different directions, and doing different times of schooling or classes, and sometimes you may even stop seeing some of your best friends due to opposite schedules and activities, or if they’ve chosen to go to public school at this point. When that’s been the case, we have always encouraged our kids to try to schedule times to hang out with those friends and to open the door to new friendships. That happens to everyone – even us as adults. Friendships come in and out of our lives. Gone are the days of easy park days where you just show up.  Sometimes you really have to make an effort to plan things and stay on top of schedules to ensure it happens.  If you kids can’t or don’t want to do that, you may have to!

Healthy Relationships

You really want to ensure that the time spent with friends is healthy and positive. Know the company your child keeps, and discuss any concerns you may have regarding peer pressure, negative influences, or unsafe behaviors. Take an active role in meeting their friends and chatting with them – and their parents. Keep an open dialogue with your kids. They’re starting to branch out and spend less time with family and more with friends. One of my favorite things about homeschooling is establishing a strong bond from a young age, so that we always have an open dialogue. You want your children to feel safe telling you things.

Get your FREE Teen Healthy Relationship E-Guide. Learn strategies to help your teenager find meaningful friendships, navigate dating, learn how to set boundaries and spot red flags, and empower them with skills to form deep connections:

FREE Teen Healthy Relationship E-Guide (18 pages)

It’s also more important for your high schooler to have a few close, meaningful friendships than to be constantly surrounded by friends. Encourage them to focus on nurturing these deep connections.  We always try to stress quality over quantity.

Safety and Setting Boundaries

You also need to make sure your child understands the importance of safety and setting boundaries in their social interactions, both online and offline. Teach them to make responsible decisions about where and with whom they spend their time. This is especially important for kids who spend a lot of time online.  We try to talk a lot about not oversharing information, being cautious of potential scammers and fake people, and just guarding your online interactions, in general. We have a responsibility to teach our kids to think critically. Teaching them online safety can sometimes be especially hard for us because our kids usually know way more about tech and online things than we do!  So do your best to stay current so that you can discuss this stuff with your kids. 

Overall Well-Being

Pay attention to your child’s well-being. If they seem overwhelmed, stressed, or exhausted from socializing, it might be a sign that they need to scale back and prioritize self-care.  Talk to your kids about stress management – nutrition, hydration, healthy sleep habits. If they seem lonely, down, or moody, you definitely want to address that and do what you can do to help them-some of these highs and lows are completely normal with teenagers as they feel all the feels. But pay attention when things seem off more than normal.  Even though they are older, they often need guidance navigating relationships and activities.  

If your teen is new to homeschooling and maybe came out of a difficult school situation due to bullying or negative social interaction, this is even more important and can be a huge adjustment.  Keep trying and do what you can to assist.

Different Needs

Lastly, remember that every teenager is different. Some may be more introverted and prefer less social interaction, while others may be extroverted and thrive on frequent social contact. Respect your child’s personality and adjust expectations accordingly. Again, this is one of the many advantages to homeschooling, that we can customize our approach to socializing just like we can with academics. Ultimately, the amount of time your high schooler spends with friends should align with their personal needs and interests. It’s important to maintain a healthy balance between socialization, academics, extracurricular activities, and family time while allowing your child to develop the social skills and connections that are so important for their well-being.

What can I do to help my high schooler develop meaningful friendships? (16:24)

Helping your high schooler develop meaningful friendships is important for their social and emotional development. But where do you even begin finding friends and developing these relationships?  Like we mentioned before, high school can get tricky even if you aren’t new to homeschooling because kids tend to split at this age- their interests are more fine-tuned, they may be involved more heavily into other groups and activities, and their time is precious, too.

Look for local homeschooling groups or co-ops where your high schooler can meet other homeschooled students. These groups often organize activities, classes, and events that provide opportunities for social interaction.  Even if you have been involved in a group for a long time, you may want to consider branching out to other groups and seeing what else is out there. We belong to a lot of groups and they all have a different dynamic and vibe, and bring something else to the table.

Encourage your child to participate in extracurricular activities such as sports teams, music groups, art classes, and community service clubs. Not only are these essential for just being a well-rounded person, but these activities can also help them meet like-minded peers who share their interests. 

In today’s digital age, online friendships can be just as meaningful as in-person ones. A lot of parents who really limit online interaction and are very strict about kids not having phones, social media, etc. While you do want to make sure your child is protected, technology is our future and kids are going to find their way to it eventually- with or without your blessing. Ensure your child has access to safe online communities, forums, or social media groups where they can connect with other homeschoolers or friends who share their hobbies and interests. 

One service that I’ve used for years is called QUSTODIO. When my kids first got devices around middle school age, I really struggled with online safety and protection, and I eventually found this great tool that allows me to monitor apps and websites from my phone. I can even see what websites they visit and block sites from my phone! As they’ve gotten older, I’ve dialed back the monitoring as they have learned online safety but if you’re struggling with this, I would highly recommend this.

Keep your kids safe online:
Learn more about Qustodio>>

Engaging in volunteer work is another great opportunity. It not only allows your child to give back to the community but also offers more chances to meet people who share their passion for making a difference. We also really like scouts for this. It’s great for kids who want organized opportunities with a lot of fun and group activities. 

Look for local classes or workshops related to your child’s interests or hobbies. This can be anything from dance classes to coding workshops. These environments often foster social interaction. Your local recreation center is a great source for this, as well as your local libraries.   Library classes and activities are typically free even if you don’t have a card and a lot have reciprocal programs with neighboring city libraries, too.

If your child is old enough, a part-time job can be an excellent way to meet new people. Working with peers can help develop social skills and build friendships. Sometimes these are great learning opportunities to help your kid figure out what they want to do- and what they don’t want to do! 

One challenge for homeschoolers that do dual credit, is that their on-campus peers are often a lot older than they are.  While we are ok with them swapping numbers or meeting up on campus after class for study related things, we do let our kids know that they need to be upfront about the fact that they can’t really socialize with them outside of class. 

Make sure your child has the necessary social skills to build and maintain friendships. Teach them effective communication, active listening, empathy, and conflict resolution. And while it’s important to support your child in building friendships, it’s also crucial to respect their autonomy. Allow them to choose their friends and give them space to develop these relationships, while still talking often about positive interactions and safety. This can be hard for some parents! Just do your best to keep communication lines open with your child. Encourage them to talk about their feelings, experiences, and any challenges they may be facing in the process of making friends.

This is a bit older but still a relevant and helpful resource for parenting in our “Tech World”. In iRules, Hofmann provides families with the tools they need to find a balance between technology and human interaction through a philosophy she calls Slow Tech Parenting. In the book, she educates parents about the online culture tweens and teens enter the minute they go online, exploring issues like cyberbullying, friend fail, and sexting, as well as helping parents create their own iRules contracts to fit their families’ needs.

iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know about Selfies, Sexting, Gaming, and Growing up

Building meaningful friendships can take time, so be patient and don’t push your child too hard. It’s normal for the process to have its ups and downs. And when you’re a teenager, these shifts can sometimes feel very extreme from happy to sad. Like we mentioned earlier, the quality of friendships is more important than the quantity. Encourage them to focus on building deep, meaningful connections with a few individuals rather than trying to be friends with everyone. Building friendships is a skill that takes time and practice, so continue to provide support and guidance.

Should my high schooler date? (24:46)

Deciding whether or not your high schooler should date is a personal and often complex decision that depends on various factors, including your child’s maturity level, values, and your family’s beliefs and guidelines. 

You really need to assess their emotional and social maturity. Are they capable of handling the responsibilities and potential challenges that come with dating Like communication, compromise, and understanding boundaries? I would encourage you to sit down and have an open and honest conversation about dating. Ask them about their thoughts and feelings regarding dating and really listen to them. In a couple of years, they’ll be young adults and they’re going to be off doing their thing without consulting you, so use this time to help them and influence them in a positive way.  As your teen grows, you can be there to help them work through different situations or challenges. Talking to them about relationships and consent will help them understand how to take care of themselves and others. Remember that your child may not always feel like talking or opening up. Be patient and make sure they know they can speak to you about anything. 

Sheldon and Amy’s Relationship Contract

Mentioning consent always makes me laugh thinking about Sheldon and Amy’s relationship agreement in The Big Bang Theory. It’s so funny when he draws up the contract about when they can and can’t hold hands. Or that short video about tea and consent (*warning F-Bomb) when somebody changes their mind about having tea.  

Tea and Consent

Give your child some examples of healthy and unhealthy behaviors – watch these videos with them. They are humorous, but it’s a serious topic that needs to be addressed. Chat with them about how consent comes across in words and body language. If someone seems uncomfortable with something or says no, it’s important to listen.

Discuss with them what a healthy relationship is. It’s when both people are:

  • Caring
  • Considerate
  • Kind
  • Encouraging

You want to teach them about red flags in a relationship like:

  • Controlling
  • Isolating the other person (they might discourage them from seeing friends)
  • Passive-aggressive or unkind
  • Self-centered, not considering the other’s needs.

Talk to your child about respect. Speak about gender equality and spotting sexual harassment It’s our job to educate our kids well beyond academics. These are conversations that should be happening from when they were young, but if they weren’t, start today. This goes well beyond dating. These are things that teach them about respecting others and themselves.  Be sure to get your FREE Healthy Relationship E-Guide>>

Be aware of potential peer pressure or external influences that might be motivating your child to date. Encourage them to make decisions based on their own feelings and values, not solely to fit in or meet others’ expectations. This is another positive of homeschooling. Many homeschooled kids haven’t really had to succumb to peer pressure. From early on, they were encouraged to have a voice and be heard, and that carries through not only in their teen years, but for the rest of their lives.

Consider your family’s values and beliefs regarding dating and relationships. Different families have different approaches, and it’s important to align your decision on dating rules with your family’s values. Model healthy relationships and communication within your own family. Your child will learn a lot about relationships by observing how you and your partner interact.

Sometimes, focusing on building strong friendships during high school can be a more suitable approach for teenagers who are not yet ready for dating. But if you decide to allow dating, set age-appropriate boundaries and rules. Depending on your child’s age and your comfort level, you might choose to supervise their early dating experiences more closely. These could include curfews, group dates, and guidelines for physical affection. Or no closed doors when in bedrooms, and not being at someone’s house when parents aren’t home.  As they demonstrate responsibility and maturity, you can grant more independence. Be clear about your expectations.

Ultimately, the decision to allow your high schooler to date should be based on their individual readiness and your family’s values. Keep in mind that every teenager is different, and what works for one may not work for another.  Emphasize the importance of maintaining a balance between dating, academics, extracurricular activities, and family commitments. Ensure that dating doesn’t interfere with their responsibilities. It’s crucial to maintain open communication with your child, listen to their concerns, and provide guidance and support as they navigate the complexities of dating and relationships.

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044. Hidden Agenda in Homeschool Groups and Organizations

The Hidden Agenda Behind Homeschool groups and Organizations

044.

Hidden Agenda in Homeschool Groups and Organizations

Tune in today as we answer these questions and more!

Episode 044:

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Show Notes

As seasoned homeschoolers, we have noticed that the pandemic and sudden influx of homeschoolers over the last few years has unfortunately attracted some nefarious and predatory companies into the curriculum market.  But we also know that there are a lot of differences in types of homeschoolers, in general- we’re not a homogenous bunch by any stretch, and so it is important to be able to sift through the enormity of the information out there to find just the right fit and path for your family.  At the end of the day, we could all be homeschooling for completely different reasons, but we still don’t want to see anyone fall prey to a scam, or spend money on a program or organization that isn’t going to be a good fit or helpful to their family.

It goes without saying that transparency varies between organizations and online groups and companies, and finding conflicts of interest can be daunting. By honing your critical thinking skills when evaluating, and being mindful of biases, you can navigate the complex landscape of information and make more informed judgments. When looking at homeschool organizations, groups, and curriculum purveyors:

Investigate ownership

Examine the ownership of the organization. Determine if there are any potential conflicts of interest based on the political or corporate affiliations of the owners. Media consolidation or bias can influence the content and presentation of news.

Scrutinize funding sources

Investigate the funding sources for them. Look for any financial ties or affiliations that may influence the information presented. Consider whether the funding sources are vested in a particular outcome or narrative.  Is this a spin-off group that is owned or operated by a different, larger company with a different viewpoint? And don’t just look at who donates or sponsors them, who do they donate to or sponsor?  Do you want your money going to these other groups?

And likewise, what are their connections?

You want to examine any potential affiliations that individuals posting or the organization may have. Does a financial or professional relationship impact their objectivity or bias? Do they feature a review or advertisement from a public figure that has nothing to do with education?

Is it a real person with experience?

Sometimes in these homeschool groups, there are brand new profiles with only a couple of Facebook friends and/or a stock photo. You can easily search in a group if somebody posts repeatedly promoting a certain product. That’s a red flag. It’s also typically against the rules of most groups to post without identifying that you are affiliated or employed by the company that you are promoting.  

Evaluate disclosure statements

If a homeschool organization lacks transparency or has incomplete disclosures, that’s often a red flag. If I can’t even identify what the company’s worldview is, there’s a chance that they aren’t even aligned with your family values. And if they aren’t, you won’t want to purchase their product. 

Cross-check multiple sources

Verify information by seeking diverse sources and experiences. Relying on a single source or outlet increases the risk of biases or conflicts of interest. Use that search bar!  See what other users are saying.  Don’t trust the company or organization to vouch for themselves.

These are simple things you can do to determine whether a company or group is legitimate and worthy of your membership and money.

Do I need to join HSLDA? (6:54)

(Homeschool Legal Defense Association)

So, one of the biggest things you will see on posts and pages about getting started in homeschooling is the advice to immediately join HSLDA (or other state- focused homeschooling associations).

Back in the early 1980s, home education was widely illegal, and still typically fell under truancy laws and statutes—which govern compulsory education—in many states. In response, a batch of lawyers founded the HSLDA and over the decades have pursued the abolishment of homeschooling regulation and oversight. They’ve largely succeeded. Not only is homeschooling legal in every state, in some states parents are not required to notify anyone of their intent to homeschool.

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) defines themselves as  a nonprofit organization in the United States that advocates for the rights of homeschooling families and provides legal support to homeschooling parents facing legal challenges. The organization’s stated mission is to preserve and protect the right of parents to educate their children at home. However, some critics and observers have speculated about potential hidden agendas or broader motivations behind the organization’s activities. 

They are primarily a lobbying group

Lobbying involves advocating for specific policies, legislation, or regulations to government officials in order to influence the decisions and actions of lawmakers. HSLDA advocates for laws and regulations that support the rights of homeschooling families and parents who choose to educate their children at home, but their lobbying efforts typically revolve around issues related to homeschooling regulations, parental rights, and educational freedom. This can include advocating against overly restrictive regulations or requirements that could impede parents’ ability to homeschool their children. Often though, there is an underlying agenda to promote conservative Christian values and religious beliefs through homeschooling. They may be more focused on shaping the curriculum and educational content according to these values.

HSLDA’s Homeschool Foundation is a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an organization that drafts model conservative legislation for distribution to state legislatures. They are on ALEC’s education taskforce.

Kathryn Brightbill is the policy analyst at the Coalition for Responsible Home Education, an organization founded by homeschool alumni who seek sensible homeschooling reforms.  She says this about HSLDA:

“HSLDA has had an outsized role in shaping homeschool culture, including secular homeschool culture. Whatever noble motivations they may have had to help homeschoolers at the organization’s outset, their belief that children don’t have rights — only parents have rights — combined with their decision to take parent’s claims at face value instead of vetting the cases they choose, has made them an organization that enables child abuse and educational neglect.” 

Their focus on policy and legislation also has an impact on public education: There are concerns that a strong homeschooling movement, supported by organizations like HSLDA, might lead to decreased funding and support for public education, potentially weakening the overall quality and accessibility of education for all children. We are already seeing this happening with school choice and voucher legislation and the destabilizing of the public school system. 

They do not serve all families

Unless you are a Christian family there’s a very good chance that HSLDA will not represent you. They will take your money through membership, but they will not represent you. It’s so important for anybody giving money to them to know that your membership dues put them under NO obligation whatsoever to give you any legal aid. There is no guarantee, no policy in place that your membership money entitles you to any legal assistance whatsoever. They can choose to represent you, OR NOT, for any reason they see fit.

In the majority of states, the homeschooling regulations are relatively simple. If you get confused or run into minor trouble, most states have a statewide organization that can help you. It’s very rare for people to really run into trouble with the state over homeschooling, but if you do, it’s likely you’ll have to get your own lawyer anyway. Like here in Texas, CPS is not going to investigate a family JUST because of homeschooling.

They have a particular agenda and a particular view of homeschooling to advance. They have a conservative political agenda and sometimes insert themselves into issues that have absolutely NOTHING to do with homeschooling. In particular, they are anti-gay. They have never been subtle about their dislike of the LGBTQ people or their impassioned advocacy to ensure that LGBTQ communities are denied human rights and education. In 2004, HSLDA promoted a constitutional amendment that would ban gay and lesbian couples from not only the institution of marriage but also civil unions. (view the amendment). We are inclusive homeschoolers, and we embrace the LGBTQ community and it is a slap in the face after so much work has been done in these communities to create equal opportunities for all families. 

They use fear tactics to drive membership

I can’t tell you how many times I have seen posts from or about HSLDA that describe some crazy homeschooling story and how HSLDA had to step in and fix it and then everyone is like, this is why you should join.  Social workers and child protective services are consistently portrayed as “evil” and people who “abuse their power.” HSLDA has used resources like the Court Report and email alerts and Facebook posts to “fuel fear and distrust of government.” They act like you are facing certain doom if you don’t have their “protection,” but the reality is you don’t need them. So long as homeschoolers follow whatever regulations exist in their states (these vary from nothing at all to requiring annual portfolios), they’re almost always fine. 

Parental Rights Extremism: While HSLDA primarily focuses on homeschooling rights, some critics suggest that the organization’s advocacy for homeschooling rights might be part of a broader agenda to expand parental rights, potentially including the right to make medical decisions for children, even in cases where those decisions could have negative health outcomes.

7 Steps to Choosing Curriculum
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Minimal Government Oversight: HSLDA is known for advocating against government regulation and oversight of homeschooling. Critics contend that the organization’s push for minimal government involvement might be motivated by a desire to limit the ability of authorities to ensure that homeschooled children are receiving a well-rounded and comprehensive education. This can contribute to abuse.

Isolationism and Control: There are concerns that HSLDA’s support for homeschooling could potentially enable some families to isolate their children from diverse viewpoints and experiences. Critics worry that this isolation could lead to indoctrination and limit children’s exposure to a range of perspectives.

Almost all of the information they provide is also available for FREE

Seriously.  You do not have to pay for a membership when all of the information is available online. HSLDA has developed a brilliant strategy: fear mongering. A fear-based decision is not a logical one. The best way to overcome these fears they have worked so hard to put into our heads is to educate yourself on your state laws. Be proactive and be your family’s advocate. We have a handy guide on our website where we give a summary for each state and a link to each state’s education department. Join homeschool groups in your area, hone those critical thinking skills, and know that knowing your rights is your family’s best defense. 

Look up your state’s homeschool law>>

What does religious, secular, and inclusive really mean? (17:13)

When it comes to homeschooling, the terms “secular,” “inclusive,” and “religious” refer to different approaches and types of educational materials used in the curriculum, homeschool groups, and homeschool social gatherings. Here’s a breakdown of each category:

Secular Materials: Secular homeschooling materials are those that are not tied to any particular religious belief or doctrine. They focus on providing education from a non-religious perspective, emphasizing a neutral and objective approach to academic subjects. Secular materials aim to be inclusive of various beliefs and worldviews, focusing on facts, critical thinking, and a well-rounded education without a religious bias.

  • Secular Materials:
    • Ideal for families who want an education without a religious bias or who have a diverse range of beliefs.
    • Emphasizes critical thinking, scientific reasoning, and a well-rounded education.
    • Generally well-suited for families who want to expose their children to a variety of viewpoints.

Inclusive Materials: Inclusive homeschooling materials take into account the diversity of beliefs, cultures, and backgrounds among students and families. These materials strive to represent a wide range of perspectives, experiences, and identities. Inclusive materials acknowledge and respect differences, fostering an environment where students can learn about and appreciate various viewpoints and cultures.

  • Inclusive Materials:
    • Suited for families who value diversity, cultural awareness, and open-mindedness.
    • Fosters an environment of tolerance and respect for different perspectives.
    • Can help children develop empathy and an understanding of global issues.

Religious Materials: Religious homeschooling materials are rooted in a specific religious faith or belief system. They incorporate religious teachings, values, and perspectives into various subjects across the curriculum. These materials are often used by families who want to provide a religious education that aligns with their faith. Religious homeschooling materials can be tailored to different denominations and belief systems, allowing families to integrate their religious beliefs into their children’s education.

Religious Materials:

  • Chosen by families who wish to integrate their religious beliefs into their children’s education.
  • Provides a foundation for spiritual and moral development aligned with specific religious teachings.
  • Tailored to families who prioritize passing down religious traditions and values.

So to further complicate things though, there are some homeschool curricula or groups that are designated as “neutral.”  While by definition, “Neutral” homeschool materials should refer to educational resources that are free from bias, whether it’s religious, political, or cultural, we often find that instead Neutral materials aim to *avoid* promoting any particular ideology or perspective.  We see this most often in science curricula, where providers are hesitant to promote facts, for example, about evolution, so as to not dissuade people who believe in creation from buying their products, or vice versa.

book of centuries
Are you a Secular homeschooler?
View our Book of Centuries for the Secular Homeschooler>>

But we also see this in religious curriculum companies, who may market a neutral or secular program in order to secure more customers.  It’s important to note that just removing bible quotes or religious content does not make a program secular.  You cannot erase an overall worldview.

This can get really tricky for secular schoolers though, because over the years some secular groups have gotten really strict about these definitions.  You have to understand that when we both started homeschooling, there weren’t a ton of truly secular options out there.  We had to adapt a lot of things and there might still be things we are ok using because we know and like other parts of the program or there is nothing else like it out there. But younger homeschoolers have seen the advance of truly secular programs and may be unwilling to compromise.  And that’s great, we should demand and advocate for the things we want to invest in and get what we want.  But, sometimes those rules can be too strict or rigid and we’ve seen secular providers get deemed not secular, for one small thing. We think we should do our best to fully support secular providers, but still be open to using what works for your family. 

And of course, this disparity isn’t just between religious and non-religious materials.  You also have to be careful when purchasing religious materials as these are not all the same either. The terms “old earth” and “young earth” refer to differing viewpoints on the age of the Earth and the universe within the context of creationism. These viewpoints often come up in discussions related to science education, particularly in the homeschooling community. The differences between old earth and young earth perspectives are primarily centered around the interpretation of scientific evidence, geological processes, and religious beliefs.

Old Earth Perspective:

  • The old earth perspective holds that the Earth and the universe are billions of years old, as determined by scientific evidence such as radiometric dating, geological layers, and astronomical observations. This viewpoint generally aligns with mainstream scientific consensus and the theory of evolution. In an old earth perspective, the creation days described in religious texts may be interpreted as symbolic or metaphorical rather than literal 24-hour periods. In homeschooling materials that incorporate an old earth perspective, you might find references to geological time scales, discussions about fossils, and explanations of the various scientific methods used to estimate the age of the Earth and the universe. These materials typically aim to reconcile scientific understanding with religious beliefs by interpreting religious texts in a way that allows for an ancient Earth.

Young Earth Perspective:

  • The young earth perspective asserts that the Earth and the universe are relatively young, often interpreted as around 6,000 to 10,000 years old, based on a literal reading of certain religious texts. Advocates of this viewpoint reject the scientific consensus on the age of the Earth and often reject evolution in favor of creationism. Young earth proponents may present alternative explanations for geological features and radiometric dating methods, often rooted in a belief in a global flood event. Homeschooling materials that follow a young earth perspective might emphasize a literal interpretation of creation accounts, present counter arguments to mainstream scientific theories, and promote alternative explanations for natural phenomena. These materials typically align with religious organizations or ministries that advocate for young earth creationism.

Ultimately, when selecting homeschooling materials, it’s so important to align your choice with your family’s values, beliefs, and educational goals. It’s sometimes baffling to see people make big purchases without fully researching this simple idea of worldview. Or choose a free curriculum that doesn’t align with their family. Don’t do it, it’s not worth it! No matter what your worldview is, I would think you would want to know what they are purchasing. Consider what type of education you want to provide for your children, and choose materials that support those objectives. It’s also worth noting that some families blend different types of materials to create a well-rounded and personalized curriculum.

Now of course, there is a big difference between not quite grasping the importance of worldview in your choices and downright getting scammed.  So let’s talk about it.

Nefarious homeschool curriculum purveyors and how to avoid them. (25:54)

This is again something that really started to become a problem since Covid. Maybe, before doing our own podcast and so much research, we didn’t notice it as much, but there definitely was a surge because of a sudden awareness in an untapped market.  Especially following the pandemic, when you had a ton of people that were desperate and looking for answers quickly, it was prime time for companies or people to take advantage.

Like we mentioned earlier about using your critical thinking skills to determine the legitimacy of groups and organizations, we recommend taking the following steps before purchasing a curriculum or program:

Website and Online Presence

Check the company’s official website and online presence. Legitimate companies typically have professional websites with clear information about their products or services, contact details, and terms of use. Did their website just go up in the last couple years?  Can you find information about their company prior to that?  Is their name very similar to another popular curriculum that is actually legit, but so close in name that you may accidentally buy the wrong one.  That’s not an accident! 

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Does the company have a website that attracts certain vague key words?  One company we’ve been seeing in particular recently had a web address that read like “online homeschool curriculum” when it’s a company that only provides pdfs.  They recently changed the address when that came up (though you can still route to it through there).  This was and still is a very popular keyword/s that new homeschoolers would search.

Does the company advertise deceptively by putting fake profiles in homeschool groups or even setting up fake homeschool groups themselves in which they can block any negative commentary about their products, or advertise without regard to the rules?  One such company set up a homeschooling group in each state that they run.  They also got mad that they were banned from a popular middle and high school homeschooling group and set up their own with a very similar name.  Not surprisingly, we’ve both been banned from this company’s fake groups for calling them out! 

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Typically homeschool groups have rules about spam and advertising.  It is not considered appropriate on most groups to provide affiliate links or links to groups without indicating it as such or disclosing that it’s your company.  There is a very popular homeschool company that pays people for posts with links.  Several groups have made rules that you cannot mention that group with the clickable web address you have to  say “company name DOT com”, spelled out.  It made me completely wary about the company in general when I found out they market like that.

There is a local husband and wife with a homeschool business in which the husband will come on posts and talk about it vaguely, never mentioning his wife’s business.  They’ve been banned from a couple groups for deceptive marketing practices.

Contact Information

Ensure that the company provides valid contact information, including an email address, phone number, and physical address. Legitimate companies are going to be transparent about their location and how to reach them. Legit companies are also usually pretty open about who the experts writing their programs are, too.  They usually want you to see that their writers are actual people that have some kind of advanced education or relevant experience in the subject that they are writing about.  They probably have an actual photo of the real person, much like an author bio does on any other book.

Reviews and Testimonials

Look for reviews and testimonials from customers who have used the company’s products or services. Online reviews can provide insights into the company’s reputation. Make sure the reviews and awards won are from actual legitimate reviewers and resources.  We’ve mentioned Cathy Duffy before as a great source for curriculum reviews.  One such predatory company lists themselves as award winning, though the only link to their award is from a website that they also own, and all of the other reviewed items are companies with affiliate links that also benefit that particular provider.

Pay attention to the company’s overall professionalism, including the quality of their website, branding, and communications. Legitimate companies tend to invest in a professional image. A couple of these companies are so easy to pick out once you notice them because not only are they not professional, but they have the same style to everything they put out from supporting websites, posts, and even their fake profile pictures.

Business Registration and Customer Support:

Check if the company is registered with relevant authorities in its jurisdiction. Legitimate companies often have official business registrations and licenses. Contact their customer support with any questions or concerns you might have. Prompt and helpful responses are indicative of a legitimate company.  

A very popular homeschool company last year made a big change in how you could use their product, resulting in tons of homeschoolers losing their students’ work and records.  When parents complained online, they were blamed for using the product incorrectly, their posts were deleted by the company, and then the owner came on and doubled down with some very ugly comments about homeschoolers. They lost so much business when this happened. We never looked at them as a resource in the first place considering the owner was in a cult and lacked professional education experience, but a lot of people were willing to overlook that for the bargain monthly fee.  You get what you pay for, folks!

Search for companies in homeschool groups and see the ones that do not provide as promised, and then do not refund when they said they would. Also, when you see a post or recommendation, click on that person who is recommending to see if they are also contributing to the community or are they just promoting this product?

Red Flags

Be cautious of companies that ask for personal or financial information upfront, make unrealistic promises, or pressure you to make quick decisions.  Lifetime memberships?  I would seriously advise against buying anything marketed as a lifetime membership. Kids grow and mature and the things and methods that you want to use to teach your children often shift as you progress in homeschooling. So often people are stuck with a lifetime membership that they can’t use because it doesn’t even work for their family anymore. 

What about a program that is for sale this week only?  Deeply discounted?  Sometimes these programs are actually always for sale, you just happened to pop on right then. It’s like going to a store with your 20% off coupon.  It’s not that you are actually getting 20% off, they just upcharge 20% and you paid the actual price.  But everyone likes to feel like they are getting a deal, right?

The Best and Worst Homeschool Buys
Don’t waste your money on things your don’t need! Check out our Best and Worst Homeschool Buys>>

We ultimately decided not to name names in this episode because these are businesses that make money and can probably afford lawyers whereas we are doing this as a passion project and exist to help others.  We’ve already seen how they block and delete comments online. You are totally welcome to message us before buying and verify that that is not the company we are talking about though.  *Wink wink* We’ve got your back!

How do I find out if a group is right for my family? (37:00)

So, what about in person groups or local homeschool co-ops, university model schools, pods?  A lot of states have very loose regulations about how many people a person can homeschool, whether you can homeschool people that aren’t your kids, how many students constitute a school and are then subject to health and other local business and insurance regulations.  Following the pandemic, a lot of options in alternative schooling and social groups popped up.  Determining whether a homeschool group is the right fit for your family involves careful consideration of several factors. 

Research Options:

Start by researching the homeschool groups available in your area. You can use online homeschooling forums, social media groups, local community centers, and homeschool association websites to find potential groups. You may like to search with words like secular or inclusive.  If these are not included, you can assume the group is a religious one as a default.

Activities and Offerings

Look into the activities and offerings provided by the group. Some homeschool groups focus on field trips, social events, co-op classes, and extracurricular activities. Assess whether these align with your family’s interests and needs.

Goals and Philosophy:

Consider your family’s homeschooling goals and educational philosophy. Different homeschool groups might have varying approaches to teaching, curriculum, and learning styles. Ensure that the group’s values align with your family’s educational goals. Remember that homeschoolers are all very different- some families may want to outsource more than others.  Some may want to outsource academics, or some may only want to do extracurriculars.  Make sure you are on the same page with the rest of the group. Make sure the world view is a match.  Don’t sign your child up for a science class that uses Christian content if you want a secular class. Learn more about Finding Your People

Membership Requirements:

Check the membership requirements of the group. Some groups might require a certain level of commitment, participation, or financial contribution. Make sure you are comfortable with the group’s expectations. Some groups have strict rules that you may not have qualms about, things like dress code, for example, even for parents!  Many religious homeschool groups require a statement or faith, and some people are so desperate for a social outlet that they are willing to sign this, even if they don’t believe it.  Many times, these statements are discriminatory against certain people, often there are specific anti-LGBT statements.  These are not the groups for me.

Inclusivity and Diversity:

Check whether the group is inclusive and open to families of different backgrounds, beliefs, and homeschooling styles. A diverse group can enrich your homeschooling experience. Also, carefully look through mission statements.  There is a local university model school here that has a very vague inclusion statement that leaves out significant groups of people.

Size and Composition:

Consider the size of the homeschool group. A larger group might offer more diverse activities and opportunities, but it could also be overwhelming for some families. A smaller group might provide a more intimate setting but with fewer resources. And you don’t have to just be part of one.  We are part of several groups, and they all have a little something different to offer.

Location and Schedule:

Evaluate the location of the group’s activities and events. Consider the distance you need to travel and whether the timing of events fits your family’s schedule. Remember that the myth of socialization!  It can be super easy to over schedule yourself with activities.  While many of us are willing to drive for awesome things in the beginning, that may not be a workable option long term.

Parent Involvement:

Consider the level of parent involvement required in the group. Some groups might expect parents to contribute in various ways, while others may have a more relaxed approach. Many people post looking for drop-off co-ops.  Co-op means co-operative and implies that parent participation is a must.  And don’t be afraid of parent participation- it can be very rewarding.

Trial Participation or Attend a Meeting or Orientation:

f possible, attend a few events or activities hosted by the group as a trial before committing. If the group offers orientation sessions or informational meetings, attend one to learn more about the group’s structure, goals, and expectations. This will give you a firsthand experience of the group’s dynamics and whether it suits your family. Some groups even require this of you before you attend.   Give it more than one chance, too, if the vibe isn’t quite there the first time.  You may meet your new bestie family on the third go! Reach out to current members of the homeschool group and ask about their experiences. Their insights can provide valuable information about the group’s strengths and potential drawbacks.

Trust Your Instincts:

Trust your instincts and how you feel about the group after gathering information and interacting with its members. If something doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to explore other options. Remember that every family is unique, and the right homeschool group for one family might not be the best fit for another. Take your time, gather information, and prioritize what aligns best with your family’s values.

This Week’s FREEBIE:

043. Top 10 Books Every Homeschool Parent Should Read

Top 10 Books Every Homeschool Parent Should Read

043.

Top 10 Books Every Homeschool Parent Should Read

We’ve had a lot of homeschoolers reach out to us asking for our favorite book selections they can read to help them on their homeschool journey so we created this list of our absolute favorites just for you!

Tune in!

Episode 043:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

Whether you are just starting or thinking about starting to homeschool or you have been homeschooling for many years already, there is so much value in reading books about homeschooling.  Even as old-hands, we have a couple favorite books that we often reread every year just to get re-inspired and motivated for the upcoming school year.  

Also, every week we do a “Favorite Book Friday” social media post (Follow us: BTDT Facebook and BTDT Instagram). Oftentimes, these books have something to do with the current episode, but even if it’s a topic that we know a lot about, we like to stay current and keep a fresh list of books that we’ve read ourselves so that we can share them with you. We always feel a little weird about sharing a book we haven’t read so we really do try and read all of them, or at the very least, post books that lots of friends have recommended. The list we are going to present today is a combo of our personal favorites and books that seem to frequent everyone else’s favorite lists.

There’s so many reasons to read and continue reading homeschooling books.  For one, it can really help you to understand all the different homeschooling methods out there. Homeschooling approaches vary widely, from traditional to unschooling, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, and more. Books can provide insight into different methods, helping parents identify the one that aligns with their values, teaching style, and their child’s learning needs.  Our homeschool style has changed a lot from when we first started. Just like parenting, we have evolved and grown and we always try to keep an open mind to new ideas and methods as our children’s learning needs have changed. 

We talk in our Getting Started page and in our 7 Steps to Choosing Curriculum episodes how knowing your homeschool method/style is really going to help you narrow down curriculum choices and there are a great many books that offer recommendations for curriculum, teaching materials, and resources.

Homeschooling involves careful planning and organization to ensure a well-rounded education. There are a lot of books that can guide parents on creating schedules, setting goals, and tracking progress. And we especially like the ones that talk about maintaining home and day to day activities, too, because this really is an entire lifestyle. 

So many families have turned to homeschooling because their children have special needs or different abilities that were not being met in traditional school and  benefit from homeschooling one on one. Books can offer guidance on overcoming these challenges specifically in your homeschool.

Some parents worry about socialization and extracurricular activities when trying to make that decision about homeschooling.  A lot of homeschool books talk about the pros and cons of homeschooling/traditional schooling and can really ease your mind and offer ideas and insights into these different concerns. Reading books on homeschooling can really boost your confidence by providing a deeper understanding of the educational process and dispelling some of those myths and misconceptions. Some of these books are also going to provide insights into the long-term outcomes of homeschooling, including college admissions, career paths, and the development of well-rounded kiddos. 

Homeschooling is a huge decision that affects a family’s lifestyle and dynamics. Reading books can help parents make informed decisions by considering various factors and potential outcomes.  This is one of the things we really encourage parents to do while deschooling – which is a vital step to a successful homeschool after withdrawing your child from a school environment. Read, read, read! Learn more in Deschooling 101

Remember that while books are a valuable resource, they should be used alongside other sources of information, such as online forums, local homeschooling groups, and educational websites, and podcasts like this one! Each family’s homeschooling journey is unique, so finding the right resources and support is essential to create a successful experience for you and your kids.

Top 10 Favorite Books (10:31)

1. John Taylor Gatto “Dumbing Us Down”

“Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling” by John Taylor Gatto is such a thought-provoking critique of the modern education system. Drawing from his experience as a long-time teacher in public schools, he argues that compulsory schooling suppresses individuality, creativity, and critical thinking. 

He delves into the hidden agenda of education, revealing how it has become more about social control and conformity rather than fostering true learning and personal growth. Gatto challenges the traditional model of education, suggesting that it stifles students’ curiosity and innate desire to explore the world. Throughout the book, he advocates for a more personalized and student-driven approach to education, emphasizing the importance of self-directed learning and real-life experiences. 

While some may find his ideas radical, “Dumbing Us Down” is really an eye-opening read that can spark important conversations about the purpose and effectiveness of our modern education system. It will make you question the status quo and consider alternative approaches that empower students to become active, engaged, and critical thinkers. It’s an older book- published in 1992.

2. John Holt “How Children Learn” 

3. John Holt “Teach Your Own”

John Holt’s books, “How Children Learn”  and “Teach Your Own,” are timeless classics that have profoundly influenced the homeschooling movement. (And when we say timeless, these were originally written in 1967 and 1981). Holt talks about the natural ways that children absorb knowledge through curiosity, play, and self-discovery. He draws from his observations as an educator and advocates for a child-centered approach that respects the individual pace and interests of each learner. 

In “Teach Your Own,” Holt collaborates with co-author Patrick Farenga to provide practical guidance for parents considering homeschooling as an alternative to traditional schooling. They emphasize the importance of fostering a nurturing and supportive learning environment at home and encourage parents to trust their instincts in facilitating their child’s education. Together, these books present a powerful argument for respecting children as active participants in their own learning journeys and highlight the benefits of a more flexible, self-directed, and personalized education. Holt’s insights and wisdom continue to inspire parents and educators alike, offering valuable perspectives on how children truly learn and the potential rewards of embracing a more natural, child-led approach to education. 

4. Raymond and Dorothy Moore “Better Late Than Early”

“Better Late Than Early: A New Approach to Your Child’s Education” by Raymond and Dorothy Moore was actually required reading for parents joining our homeschool co-op in North Carolina with younger than school age kids. This book really challenges conventional wisdom by advocating for a later start to formal education. They argue that children’s natural development and readiness should dictate the timing of formal schooling, favoring a more relaxed and child-centered approach. They present compelling research supporting their stance, highlighting potential negative consequences of early formal education on children’s physical, emotional, and intellectual well-being. By emphasizing the significance of hands-on learning, exploration, and play during early childhood, the authors provide a refreshing perspective on education. 

While the book may not appeal to everyone, especially those who prioritize academic rigor from a young age, “Better Late Than Early” offers so many insights into the potential benefits of allowing children to mature naturally before introducing structured schooling. It encourages parents to be attuned to their child’s individual needs and readiness, promoting a more holistic and balanced educational experience. 

5. Julie Bogart “Brave Learner”

The Brave Learner

“Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life” by Julie Bogart is an empowering and heartfelt guide for homeschooling parents seeking to create an enriching and joyful learning experience for their children. With a warm and encouraging tone, Bogart shares her insights as a seasoned homeschooling mother and founder of the Brave Writer. The book explores the concept of “Brave Learning,” where the emphasis is placed on cultivating a love for learning, fostering creativity, and nurturing curiosity. She encourages parents to embrace a more relaxed and flexible approach, tailoring education to each child’s unique strengths and interests. Throughout the book, she offers practical tips and engaging activities that parents can easily incorporate into their homeschooling routine. 

Furthermore, “Brave Learner” delves into the importance of family connection and making learning an integral part of everyday life. This book is not just about homeschooling; it’s about cultivating a family culture that values growth, exploration, and the celebration of each individual’s learning journey. “Brave Learner” is a compelling read that will inspire and support homeschooling families in creating a thriving and authentic educational experience for their children.

6. Rebecca Rupp “Home Learning Year by Year”

“Home Learning Year by Year: How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum from Preschool Through High School” by Rebecca Rupp is an indispensable guide for homeschooling parents seeking to craft a comprehensive and flexible curriculum tailored to their child’s individual needs. Rupp’s book offers a well-organized and practical approach, covering various age groups from preschool through high school. The book provides valuable insights into age-appropriate learning activities, subject recommendations, and educational milestones for each grade level. 

She emphasizes the importance of nurturing a child’s curiosity and interests while ensuring a solid foundation in core subjects. The suggested resources, reading lists, and project ideas make it easy for parents to plan engaging and well-rounded lessons. Whether new to homeschooling or experienced, “Home Learning Year by Year” serves as an invaluable resource, empowering parents to confidently navigate their child’s education journey and foster a love for learning that extends beyond the traditional classroom setting.

7. Emily Cook “A Literary Education”

We can’t really talk about Emily’s book without starting out by talking about Charlotte Mason’s original book series. Her educational series is a wealth of timeless wisdom and insights into a holistic and child-centered approach to education. It consists of six volumes and this series lays out Mason’s educational philosophy and methodology in a comprehensive and accessible manner. Mason’s ideas revolve around respecting the child’s personhood, fostering a love for learning, and presenting a wide range of living ideas and living books to capture the child’s imagination. She emphasizes the importance of short lessons, outdoor exploration, and cultivating good habits. Through her writings, Mason advocates for a rich and diverse curriculum that includes literature, the arts, nature study, and practical life skills. Her approach places a high value on narration as a means of encouraging children to absorb and assimilate knowledge actively. The series beautifully intertwines philosophy and practical advice, making it a valuable resource not only for homeschooling parents but also for educators seeking to create a nourishing and meaningful learning experience for their students . These are really old- 1886!  But Charlotte Mason’s educational series has stood the test of time and continues to inspire and shape progressive educational practices that honor the unique potential of every child’s mind and spirit.

Now some people really struggle with the old books and there are a lot of adaptations of her ideas. As a homeschooling parent or educator seeking to cultivate a love for literature and a deeper understanding of classic works, “A Literary Education: Adapting Charlotte Mason for Modern Secular Homeschooling” by Emily Cook is a valuable and insightful resource. Drawing inspiration from the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason, Cook presents a secular adaptation that resonates with a wide range of homeschooling families. The book offers practical guidance on how to incorporate living books, narration, and other Charlotte Mason-inspired methods into a modern homeschool curriculum. Cook skillfully navigates the complexities of literary analysis and presents practical strategies for fostering critical thinking and meaningful discussions around classic literature. 

The emphasis on cultivating a living relationship with books and allowing children to form their own connections to the stories they read is a refreshing and engaging approach. “A Literary Education” serves as an excellent companion for both novice and experienced homeschoolers and it offers a wealth of ideas and tools to create a rich, literary-focused learning environment. 

8. Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise “The Well-Trained Mind”

“The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home” is an essential resource for homeschooling parents seeking to implement a classical education approach. Written by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise, the book offers a well-structured and comprehensive guide, providing clear steps and practical advice on designing a rigorous and balanced curriculum at home. The authors emphasize the importance of a classical education’s three stages – the grammar, logic, and rhetoric stages and they explain how to tailor the learning process to suit the child’s developmental needs. “The Well-Trained Mind” not only introduces parents to the classical model but also offers a wide range of subject recommendations, teaching techniques, and educational resources. 

While the classical approach may not resonate with every homeschooling family, the book remains a valuable reference for those interested in a time-tested and intellectually stimulating educational philosophy. Its detailed guidance and thoughtful insights make it a valuable addition to any homeschooling parent’s library.  

9. Peter Gray “Free to Learn” 

“Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life” by Peter Gray is a compelling and thought-provoking exploration of the innate drive for play and its profound impact on children’s learning and development. Gray, a prominent psychologist, challenges the traditional education system and argues that children learn best when given the freedom to explore, play, and pursue their interests autonomously. Drawing from extensive research and real-life examples, Gray makes a convincing case for the importance of unstructured, self-directed play in cultivating creativity, problem-solving skills, and emotional intelligence. 

He examines the detrimental effects of overly structured schooling, emphasizing the role of play in fostering resilient, self-reliant, and motivated kids. “Free to Learn” offers a fresh perspective on education and it urges parents and educators to embrace a more natural and child-centered approach that allows children to thrive and flourish as curious and engaged learners.

10. Amber O’Neal JohnstonA Place to Belong”

Amber O’Neal Johnston, a homeschooling mother of four, shows parents of all backgrounds how to create a home environment where children feel secure in their own personhood and culture, enabling them to better understand and appreciate people who are racially and culturally different. A Place to Belong gives parents the tools to empower children to embrace their unique identities while feeling beautifully tethered to their global community. This book is a guide for families of all backgrounds to celebrate cultural heritage and embrace inclusivity in the home and in our communities. Socially conscious parents today are looking for a way to authentically embrace the fullness of their diverse communities. 

A Place to Belong offers a path forward for families to honor their cultural heritage and champion diversity in the context of daily family life by:

    Fostering open dialogue around discrimination, race, gender, disability, and class

   Teaching “hard history” in an age-appropriate way 

   Curating a diverse selection of books and media choices in which children see themselves and people who are different

   Celebrating cultural heritage through art, music, and poetry

   Modeling activism and engaging in community service projects as a family

Additional favorites:

Obviously, it is hard to narrow down books to just one list of 10 because there are so many more great books out there.  As always, we would love to hear from you if you have additions to this list or comments and feedback about any of these books.

“Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids” by Kim John Payne and Lisa M. Ross

“The Call of the Wild and Free: Reclaiming Wonder in Your Child’s Education” by Ainsley Arment

A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning” by Karen Andreola  (this is actually a favorite of mine- it is not secular, but it is easy to just skip over the bible chapter).

“The Montessori Method” by Maria Montessori

“The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World as Your Child’s Classroom” by Mary Griffith

“The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling” by Rachel Gathercole

“For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School” by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

“The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education” by Grace Llewellyn

“Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners” by Lori McWilliam Pickert

This Week’s Freebie:

Download your FREE Companion Workbook

041. Gaining Confidence as a Homeschooler

Gaining Confidence as a Homeschooler

Whether you’re a new homeschooler or have been homeschooling for years, every one of us has encountered fear and worry at some point. In today’s episode 041, we are going to be talking about building the confidence in yourself and giving you the tools you’ll need when you’re struggling and needing assurance.

* How do I know when to start homeschooling?
* How do I teach subjects I don’t know?
* How do I build up my confidence as a homeschool mom?

Episode 041:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes:

We all want the best for our children. Whether you’re a new homeschooler or have been homeschooling for years, everyone experiences fear and worry at some point. Sometimes when we have friends whose children are excelling in a certain subject, or sport, and we see their highlight reel on social media, it can be intimidating. But we all have these moments! We all feel uncertain about all our life choices at one point or another, it’s not just homeschooling.

There are a lot of reasons why people feel uncertain. This may be a brand-new road for them or sometimes it’s a matter of how aware we are of our own shortcomings. I struggled in math for years, and now I was taking on the responsibility of TEACHING math?! Or we struggled wondering if we would have the patience required to sit through lessons. Was I capable? How in the world was I ever going to teach upper-level science when I didn’t even understand it myself? It’s completely normal to lack confidence in something that you’ve not experienced before. Even if you’ve struggled with a subject in the past, you can be an exceptional teacher because you’re passionate about learning and teaching it now.

A big reason that people struggle with this is when a concerned and unsupportive friend or family member, or even a spouse puts doubt in their heads and tells them that they are incapable of such an undertaking. There are all kinds of stereotypes about homeschoolers out there, but most are simply NOT true. You are capable of homeschooling your children, and setting them up for success in homeschool, in college, and in life. It may be best to spend less time with unsupportive people.

We talk about dealing with naysayers in Episode 011. All About Family

If you have an unsupportive spouse, it’s important to listen to each other and your concerns – both of you. Homeschooling is a family decision and it’s an entire lifestyle. Let the results of all that you and your kids accomplish speak for themselves. Be patient with your partner as they grow to accept and hopefully embrace this new life. Have confidence in yourself and move forward and know it takes some people longer than others to get on board. Remember, they also have your kids’ best interest at heart.

Socialization: Episode 047. Socialization: Will My Child be a Weirdo?

Remember that there is no one more qualified to teach your children than you are. You’ve been teaching them all their life. In this episode, we are going to be identifying some strategies to help build your confidence but really the best way to grow in confidence as a homeschool mom is to DO IT. When we’ve decided that this is the best path for our children, if we are so terrified of making mistakes that we never try homeschooling or quit at the first sign of challenge, that is the real failure. If you are new to homeschooling, check out our Homeschool FAQ Guide.

There are so many reasons that families choose to homeschool.  Some families have concerns about safety and their child’s well being and want to have more control over their socialization (possibly they have gotten caught up in the wrong crowd or bad influences that are affecting them negatively)  or they may want to incorporate their beliefs, whether that be religious or cultural beliefs. Children who have had negative experiences in traditional schools, like bullying or social challenges, or feeling like a failure when they couldn’t keep up can thrive in homeschool.

Some parents are interested in customizing their child’s educational experience to meet their child’s individual learning style, pace, and interests. Some parents believe that they can provide a higher quality of education than what is available in the local public or private schools or theory may prefer alternative education philosophies. This personalized approach can lead to better academic outcomes.

Especially for children with special learning needs or learning disabilities, homeschooling can provide a more supportive and tailored educational experience. Gifted children also benefit since you can provide a more challenging or advanced curriculum. 

Families with non-traditional lifestyles, such as frequent travel or remote living, may find homeschooling to be a more practical educational option.  Homeschooling offers flexibility in scheduling, allowing families to create a learning environment that accommodates travel, family commitments, and other activities. Homeschooling allows for increased family bonding and more time spent together, strengthening parent-child and sibling relationships.

Every family’s decision to homeschool is unique and personal. Each family’s reasons and motivations may differ based on their specific circumstances, values, and beliefs. We always like to point out that every homeschool family is different.  A lot of the time, we may be homeschooling for completely opposite reasons. But at the end of the day, we believe ALL parents CAN homeschool.  You really just have to want to.

Create an entire Homeschool Lifestyle!

How do I know when to start homeschooling? (13:23)

Deciding when to start homeschooling is a significant decision that depends on several factors, including your child’s age, developmental readiness, family circumstances, and your personal preferences. Here are some indicators that it might be the right time to start homeschooling:

Maybe you have always planned to homeschool?  Consider your child’s developmental stage and readiness for formal learning. Some children may be eager to learn and show signs of readiness at an early age, while others may benefit from more time in a less structured learning environment. Once you’ve made a decision to homeschool, I know how exciting it can be, but I would encourage you to not let your eagerness overshadow your child’s readiness. We see a lot of parents wanting to start formal lessons when their child is clearly showing signs that they aren’t ready. This can often lead to frustration for both you and them. Young children learn and retain information best through play-based learning. 

If you have concerns about the traditional education system, such as the curriculum, teaching methods, or class sizes, and safety homeschooling can provide an alternative approach that addresses these concerns.

If your child has specific learning needs or interests that are not adequately met in a traditional school setting, homeschooling can offer a more personalized and tailored learning experience.

Consider whether you have the time, energy, and willingness to take on the role of a homeschooling parent. Homeschooling requires dedication and active involvement in your child’s education. Lessons may not take long, but homeschooling is more than academics. Your kids need to get out in their community and be with friends hanging at the park or playing board games, getting hands-on at the museums. Remember, learning doesn’t stop when the school books close and choosing to homeschool is a lifestyle. 

Assess the availability of support networks, such as homeschooling communities, co-ops, and online resources. Connecting with other homeschooling families can provide valuable support and social opportunities for both you and your child.

Ensure that you are aware of the homeschooling laws and regulations in your country or state. Familiarize yourself with any necessary paperwork or reporting requirements.

If you’re unsure, you can start with a trial period of homeschooling to see how it works for your family. This will allow you to assess whether homeschooling is a good fit before committing to it long-term.  If you’re pulling your child from a school environment that was not working for them, it’s important to spend some time going through the process of Deschooling.  We have an entire episode about that but in summary, it is a process to help your child transition into homeschooling if they’ve been in a school environment. If you are deschooling, download your FREE 90 Deschooling and Boredom Ideas List.

Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all answer, and the decision to homeschool should be based on what you believe is best for your child and family. Take the time to research, reflect, and discuss the idea with your partner and any other involved parties before making a final decision. But also remember that like we talked about in our deschooling episode, don’t be afraid to take that plunge. You don’t have to keep your kid in a bad situation because you feel like you don’t have a plan. You aren’t going to ruin a 4th grader by pulling them now and going through the process of Deschooling while you figure things out. 

How do I teach subjects I don’t know? (19:00)

You do not need to be an expert in any subject to adequately teach your children.  Teaching subjects you don’t know as a homeschooler can be a bit challenging, but it’s also an excellent opportunity for both you and your children to learn together. Here are some strategies to tackle this situation:

Scripted Curriculum:  Many curricula are totally scripted- the entire lesson is laid out for you with your questions and answers. This takes so much of the pressure off! And speaking of curricula- there’s a million options out there (we just did an episode on the 7 steps to choosing curriculum) so don’t feel like you need to come up with something on your own. Visit our Curriculum Guide>>

Hands on Learning:  So many children, especially young ones learn best with hands-on activities. We did so much of this with my kids. With math for instance, If you can count and recognize numbers you can teach a 3 year old math. Use objects to help your child visualize counting. Read books with numbers and counting. Point things out in everyday life.

Online Resources: Use online learning platforms, educational websites, and tutorials to learn the subject with your child. There are numerous resources available for various subjects, including math, science, coding, languages, and more. Khan academy is one we use often when we have trouble with a math or science problem and need a better explanation.  BrainPOP is an excellent resource that we have used for years.

BrainPOP
We LOVE BrainPOP!

Along with that is….Educational Apps and Software: Explore these tools that provide interactive learning experiences for your children. Many of these are designed to be self-guided, making it easier for your kids to explore subjects independently. While we don’t advocate for online programs for little kids, there are a lot of cute supplementary apps and programs that can help with things like reading. Starfall is a good option for younger kids.

Online Courses and local classes or tutoring: Consider enrolling your children in online courses or outsourcing to a local teacher or tutor who specializes in the subject you are unfamiliar with. This can provide them with expert guidance and support in their learning journey. We used both Outschool for all kinds of subjects and Thinking Reeds for upper-level science and math.

Co-ops with Other Homeschoolers: Connect with other homeschooling families who have expertise in the subjects you’re less familiar with. Organize study groups or cooperative learning sessions where kids can learn together under the guidance of parents with more knowledge in those areas. 

Library Resources: Utilize your local library to find books, DVDs, and other resources related to the subjects you want to teach. Libraries often offer educational programs and workshops, which can be beneficial for both you and your kids. Use Libby at your local library

Field Trips and Real-Life Experiences: Whenever possible, incorporate field trips and real-life experiences related to the subject. Visiting museums, science centers, historical sites, or nature reserves can enhance learning and understanding. We have an entire resource page on field trips that is totally awesome! Download your FREE Field Trip Packet

Documentaries and Educational Videos: Use educational documentaries and videos as supplementary learning materials. They can provide valuable insights and explanations on various topics. We love Crash Course, and Horrible Histories Videos, and Donuts and Documentaries Monday!

Horrible Histories explores the side of history that they don’t teach you about in school! From the Vicious Vikings and Awful Egyptians to the Slimy Stuarts and Terrible Tudors, Horrible Histories covers the funniest, yuckiest and most gruesome bits of history for kids.

Horrible Histories
Horrible Histories Video Series >>>
Horrible HistoriesBooks
Horrible Histories Book Series>>

Encourage Independent Learning: Foster a love for self-directed learning in your children. Provide them with the necessary tools and resources, and encourage them to explore subjects on their own with your support and guidance. Encourage your children to ask questions and explore their interests. Facilitate their curiosity-driven learning, and let their interests guide the direction of their studies.

Learn Alongside Your Children: Embrace the journey of learning together with your kids. Show them that it’s okay not to have all the answers, and that learning is a lifelong process. While you may not be an expert in a particular subject, you can still teach core skills like critical thinking, problem-solving, research, and communication. These skills are valuable in any subject area. It’s important to model that we are also continuing our education as adults- we never really stop.  Remember, homeschooling is about creating a nurturing and supportive learning environment. Embrace the opportunity to learn alongside your children, and you’ll not only gain knowledge in new subjects but also set a wonderful example of lifelong learning.

How do I build up my confidence as a homeschool parent? (27:18)

Building up your confidence as a homeschool parent is essential for creating a positive and effective learning environment for your children.  A lot of homeschool parents talk about how they NEVER believed they were capable! Maybe you didn’t do well in school yourself, but you are your child’s parent and the person who loves them the most in this world, so you are the best person to be teaching them! You will know what’s best for them and the fact that you know you want to homeschool is a sign of that.

  • Set Clear Goals: Define your objectives for homeschooling. Knowing what you want to achieve will give you a sense of purpose and direction, making it easier to stay confident in your decision.
  • Educate Yourself: Continuously learn about homeschooling methods, curriculum options, and child development. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to handle challenges and make informed decisions. Top 10 Books Every Homeschool Parent Should Read
  • Create a Supportive Learning Environment: Organize your homeschooling space to foster a positive and engaging learning environment for your children, which will also boost your confidence as you see them thrive.
  • Start Small: Begin with manageable tasks and gradually expand your responsibilities as you gain confidence. Don’t overwhelm yourself with too much at once.
  • Be Flexible: Homeschooling may require adjustments along the way. So Stay open to trying different approaches and adapting your methods as needed.
  • Join Homeschooling Communities: Connect with other homeschooling parents through online forums, social media groups, or local support networks. Sharing experiences, tips, and encouragement with like-minded individuals can be very empowering. Don’t hesitate to seek advice or guidance from experienced homeschooling parents, educational consultants, or even therapists. Having someone to talk to can help you gain perspective and new ideas. 
  • Attend Workshops and Conferences: Participate in homeschooling workshops, conferences, and seminars to gain new insights, meet other homeschooling parents, and stay motivated.
  • Celebrate Achievements: Recognize and celebrate both your children’s and your own accomplishments. Acknowledge the progress you make, no matter how small it may seem.
  • Embrace Mistakes: Understand that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process. Instead of being discouraged, use them as opportunities for growth and improvement.
  • Reflect on Your Children’s Progress: Keep a record of your children’s achievements, their academic progress, and personal growth. Sometimes just Reviewing these positive outcomes can remind you of how far you’ve come and the significant value you bring to their education. 
  • Trust Yourself: Remember that you know your children better than anyone else. Trust your instincts and intuition when making decisions about their education.
  • Self-Care: Take time for yourself. Set aside time for relaxing, hobbies, exercise, and activities that recharge you. You know I love my sports! A well-rested and balanced mom is better equipped to handle all those homeschooling challenges.
  • Practice Patience: Be patient with yourself and your children. Homeschooling is a journey, and progress may not always be linear.

By incorporating these strategies, you can gradually build your confidence as a homeschool mom and provide your children with a fulfilling and enriching educational experience.  Confidence is a journey, and it’s okay to have moments of doubt. We all have these feelings at one time or another! Embrace the challenges, celebrate the successes, and enjoy the process of learning and growing together. Take some time to write down all the reasons why you have chosen to homeschool. In these moments when doubt and fear surface, go back and read and reflect on the big picture. It’s essential to remember all the reasons why you chose to homeschool in the first place. Homeschooling is not something you have to do, it’s something you choose to do because you know in your heart this is the right path for your family. 

This Week’s Free Resource:

040. Homeschool Extracurricular & Volunteering

High school extracurricular and volunteering

Extracurricular
& Volunteering

Adding extracurricular and volunteer hours isn’t only fun, it helps create diverse and interesting students and makes them stand out on college applications and job interviews.

* Should extracurricular activities go on the transcript
* How many volunteer hours should a high schooler do?
* Do hobbies count as extracurricular subjects?

Today, we will be answering these questions and more!!

Episode 040:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

If your student is college bound, you have probably spent a lot of time agonizing over putting together a transcript of robust classes and grades so that you can showcase the rigor and variety of education experience your child has been busy with.  But colleges and universities are not only interested in academics, but they also want to see well-rounded applicants who participate in a variety of activities and are active members in their community.  Admissions staff are often looking for students who understand how to build into a community because this can help build good college culture. Colleges like to know that homeschool high schoolers are not just sitting at home but know how to contribute to the world around them. There are all kinds of ways to build that “Total College Package” that will make your student a super desirable candidate. Volunteering and participating in a variety of extracurricular activities not only helps build good character, but they build great transcripts too! 

Get your FREE transcript templates>>

But remember there’s only one absolute must in all of this.  And that is to follow your state homeschool law. There are plenty of kids that get into college that were homeschooled without this extra, but it definitely helps you stand out. It’s also important to check the college requirements and put those into your plan. But beyond that, everything you do is your choice.

State Homeschool Law Guide>>

And even if your child is not college bound, participating in extracurriculars and community service is still an excellent way to figure out their future path and to contribute to society.  So don’t discount this important step of their educational journey. It will help create memories that these homeschool graduates can talk about in job interviews, too. Interviews often start with “Tell me about yourself”. Your new graduate that may not be college-bound will have plenty to talk about!

But there are so many more reasons to participate in these activities.

Skill Development:

These opportunities will help your teenager develop a wide range of skills beyond what is taught in the classroom. These activities can help enhance their leadership, teamwork, communication and time management skills. It also helps them home in on those critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

  • College Applications: Participating in extracurricular activities and volunteer work can significantly strengthen your college applications. Admissions officers often look for well-rounded applicants who have demonstrated their commitment and passion outside of academics. Your involvement in such activities can make you stand out from other applicants and showcase your dedication and interests.
  • Personal Growth: Extracurricular activities and volunteering offer opportunities for personal growth and self-discovery. Your high schooler can explore their interests, passions, and talents. These things are going to allow them to develop a sense of identity and purpose. These experiences can also help build their confidence. It really doesn’t matter what kind of extracurricular activities your kids choose to do, there are so many options, and each one is going to help them to develop resilience and learn to be adaptable – these are all really important qualities for success in life.  
  • Networking: Participating in extracurricular activities and volunteering can help you expand your social network. You’ll meet people with similar interests, make new friends, and connect with mentors who can provide guidance and support. Networking is valuable not only during high school but also in college and beyond, as these connections can lead to future opportunities.
  • Community Engagement: We have always made volunteering a big part of our homeschool. Volunteering allows your kids to give back to the community and make a positive impact on others’ lives. Volunteering cultivates empathy and compassion. It also gives you a sense of social responsibility, it exposes them to different social issues. These kinds of experiences really help our kids to understand the world beyond their immediate surroundings.
  • Exploration of Interests and Passions: Extracurricular activities provide a platform to explore and pursue your passions. Whether it’s joining a sports team, participating in a debate club, or engaging in artistic endeavors, these activities allow you to discover what you truly enjoy and what you may want to pursue further in the future.
  • Stress Relief and Balance: High school can be academically demanding and stressful. When our kids are involved in extracurricular activities and volunteering, it can provide a much-needed break and serve as a healthy outlet for relieving their stress. It can help create a balance between academics and other aspects of life, and it gives them a sense of overall well-being.

Remember, it’s important to choose activities that genuinely interest you and align with your values. Quality matters more than quantity, so focus on a few activities that you’re genuinely passionate about and commit to them wholeheartedly.

How many volunteer hours should a high schooler do? (10:13)

This number of volunteer hours that highschoolers do varies depending on their personal goals and how much time they have available. While there is no specific requirement, many aim to complete between 50 and 200 volunteer hours. A general guide is to aim for 10–15 hours per month during the school year, and as much as possible over the summer. Remember, there’s no specific number but it’s a good idea to shoot for enough to gain valuable experiences and make a positive impact. 

Here are a few factors to consider:

  • Personal Interest: Engage in volunteer activities that align with your interests and passions. Choose causes or organizations that resonate with you and where you believe you can contribute meaningfully. When you are genuinely interested in the work you’re doing, you are more likely to commit and enjoy the experience.
  • Time Availability: Consider your academic workload, extracurricular commitments, and other responsibilities when determining the number of volunteer hours you can realistically dedicate. Is your student working to try to save up for a car? That may be 20 hours a week really cutting into their free time for volunteering. It’s important to strike a balance with all your commitments while maintaining their academic performance and overall well-being.
  • Requirements and Recommendations: Some schools, scholarships, or programs may have specific requirements or recommendations for volunteer hours. It’s advisable to check with your school’s guidance counselor or college admissions offices to see if there are any guidelines to follow. However, keep in mind that the quality of your volunteer experiences is generally more important than the sheer number of hours.
  • Consistency and Longevity: Rather than focusing solely on the number of hours, consider the consistency and longevity of your volunteer commitment. Demonstrating long-term dedication to a cause or organization can be more impactful than sporadic involvement. It shows commitment, responsibility, and a deeper understanding of the cause you’re supporting.

Ultimately, the goal of volunteering is to make a positive impact and gain valuable experiences, so it’s more important to focus on the quality of your volunteer work rather than getting caught up in meeting a specific hour quota.

 Should extracurricular activities go on the transcript? (13:26)

So while you definitely want to include extracurricular activities with your application materials, the transcript is typically not the place for it.  You want to keep academic achievements and coursework as essential components of a transcript, while extracurricular activities highlight their involvement, skills achieved, and interests beyond the classroom.  These activities go on a resume or a second page or often, there is a space on the school application, or Common App where you can list all of this information.  Including this information can give colleges, universities, or future employers a well-rounded view of your abilities, dedication, and character.

High School Documentation Episode>>

Common App>>

When listing extracurricular activities on your resume or in your application documentation, consider providing the following details for each activity:

  • Name of the activity: Clearly state the name of the extracurricular activity.
  • Duration: Specify the period during which they participated in the activity (e.g., years or semesters).
  • Role or position: Indicate any leadership positions or significant responsibilities they held within the activity.
  • Description: Briefly describe the nature of the activity and their involvement. Highlight any notable achievements, awards, or recognition they received.

Remember, the goal is to provide a well-rounded picture of your high school experience, so focus on including activities that demonstrate your skills and passions! Examples of extracurricular activities you may want to include are sports, clubs, community service, volunteering, music or arts-related activities, leadership positions, part-time jobs, internships, or any other relevant activities. All of these can help you stand out and showcase your holistic development and commitment beyond academics.

 Do hobbies count as extracurricular subjects? (15:46)

So while hobbies may not typically fall under the traditional definition of extracurricular activities, they can still provide valuable insights into your interests, skills, and personal development. Especially if your hobbies are particularly relevant to your field of study or demonstrate important qualities, it may be worth considering including them.

Download the ENTIRE list of 105 activities >>

Maybe they align with their academic interests or showcase skills that are transferable or applicable to their desired path? Have their hobbies had a significant impact on their personal growth, character development, or community involvement? If their hobbies have led to noteworthy achievements or contributions, they can and should be mentioned. It’s essential to maintain a balance and focus on including activities that provide the most comprehensive and compelling representation of your abilities, interests, and accomplishments.

Many people worry about extracurriculars because maybe they have a kid who isn’t sporty or particularly artsy or crafty.  That’s ok!  There are so many different avenues for extracurriculars and there are few rules about what counts.  It’s your homeschool- you decide what is important and worthy.

Cameron building a guitar.
Perfect hobby for a musician!

Sports

The first thing that typically comes to people’s minds are sports. And just because your student is homeschooled doesn’t mean they don’t have opportunities for team and individual sports.  While in some places homeschooled kids can participate with local school teams, in other areas support groups have formed homeschool teams in basketball, soccer, baseball, volleyball, track and field, swimming, tennis, martial arts, dance, cheer, and more. There are also independent teams- rec and club level in many communities that offer these same services.

Golf was a lot of fun for my daughter
My son really enjoys ballroom dancing

Group Activities 

Personal interest clubs – Dungeons & Dragons, board game club, programming club, engineering club. My son was a member of the Texas Robot combat club for a few years and built combat robots from the design and a CAD program to 3-D printing, the chassis to mounting the servo and programming the remote and weapon. He actually won a couple of really cool competitions.

Government groups/Speech & Debate:

Model United Nations (MUN) is an educational simulation activity in which students role-play as delegates to the United Nations (UN) and simulate UN committees or other international bodies. MUN aims to provide participants with an understanding of international relations, diplomacy, and the workings of the UN. During a Model UN conference, students represent different countries or entities and engage in debates and discussions on global issues. They research their assigned country’s policies, they prepare position papers, and engage in negotiations with other delegates to find solutions to complex problems. Participants must articulate their country’s positions, negotiate with other delegates, and draft resolutions that address the issues being discussed. 

Model United Nations: https://www.un.org/en/mun

Model UN Representing Italy
Resolution: Water Desalinization…PASSED!

In a Youth and Government program, participants take on roles such as legislators, judges, lobbyists, journalists, or executive branch officials. They simulate the functions of government bodies, such as the state legislature, judiciary, or executive branch, and work together to propose, debate, and enact legislation, make judicial decisions, or carry out executive functions. The program aims to provide young people with firsthand experience in how the government operates, and it helps foster a deeper understanding of democracy, civic engagement, and public policy. Participants gain insights into the legislative process, develop critical thinking and public speaking skills, learn about policy issues, and engage in debate and negotiation.

Youth and Government: https://www.ymca.org/what-we-do/youth-development/education-leadership/government

youth and government
Our Youth and Government Conference at the Texas State Capitol

These gave our kids “student council” experience, too, which they went on to use in college on their university student council groups or sorority/panhellenic leadership.

Robert’s Rules of Order

Robert’s Rules of Order is a book that outlines the rules of parliamentary procedure. It is used by many organizations to help them conduct their meetings in an orderly fashion. The book is  useful for youth organizations as it can help them learn how to run meetings for their clubs or organizations.

Academic competitions

Participating in academic competitions, such as mathletes, science fairs, and opportunities include Jr. Achievement, Scholastic Bowl or National Quiz Bowl, Math and Spelling Bees, and Odyssey of the Mind competitions, or speech and debate tournaments can challenge and showcase a student’s knowledge and skills in specific subjects.

Odyssey of the Mind: https://www.odysseyofthemind.com

Destination Imagination: https://www.destinationimagination.org

Shakespeare Competition: https://www.esuus.org/esu/programs/shakespeare_competition/about/

Poetry Out Loud: https://www.poetryoutloud.org

National Quiz Bowl: https://www.naqt.com/about/quiz-bowl.html

Mathletes: https://mathleteschallenge.com

Spelling Bee: https://spellingbee.com/faq/how-do-i-enroll-if-there-no-home-school-associationgroupco-op-my-area

Speech and Debate: https://www.speechanddebate.org/nationals/

Junior Achievement: https://jausa.ja.org

4-H Groups

High-school students can form 4 H clubs in your homeschool group. Your children can raise livestock, collect insects, decorate cakes, or learn woodworking. There are literally hundreds of projects for children to try. They can compete at the county fair with their annual project. Parents are closely involved with the whole process. Leadership is carefully taught as each club is run by the children using “Robert’s Rules of Order.” Only children vote in these meetings.

4-H: https://4-h.org

At our recent homeschool expo I met the guy who runs the lone Texas 4 H Center- just 1!  In Georgia we had several and they are worth the trip.  4 H is an awesome organization and they often will do group events for a very small group- like 10 people.  That can be 3 homeschool families!

Texas 4-H: https://texas4hcenter.tamu.edu

Georgia 4-H: https://georgia4h.org/4-h-centers/

Scouting

Scouting can be a great source of leadership training.  Merit badges include excellent units of study and mastery to add to your curriculum. An Eagle Scout for boy scouts is an amazing accomplishment and girl scouts have the Gold Award which is a prestigious honor that recognizes exceptional leadership, project management, and commitment to making a sustainable and positive impact in their community. Similar to the Eagle Scout rank, earning the Gold Award requires a Girl Scout to complete a series of requirements, including identifying a community issue, developing a project plan, gaining necessary approvals, implementing the project, and measuring its impact. It also involves demonstrating leadership skills, engaging with community members, and dedicating a significant amount of time and effort to the project.

BSA also offers Venture Scouting. This is a great option for teenagers that have never been involved in scouts or are continuing on. It is a co-ed program for young men and women aged 14-20. It focuses on adventure, leadership, and personal development through activities such as outdoor adventures, community service, and skill-building. And they offer Sea Scouts as a program that emphasizes nautical skills and water-based activities. It offers opportunities for young men and women aged 14-20 to learn about sailing, boating, and water safety while fostering leadership and teamwork.

Girl Scouts https://www.girlscouts.org

Boy Scouts: https://www.scouting.org

Navigators: https://www.navigatorsusa.org

Sea Scouts: https://seascout.org

Venturing Scouts: https://www.scouting.org/programs/venturing/

My daughter’s Venturing Scout Troop backpacking for 10 days in the Arizona Mountains:

My daughter was the lead navigator!

Civil Air Patrol

If your teenager enjoys the thought of helping others, wearing a uniform, and flying airplanes, then the Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program might be a good fit for them. This is an auxiliary organization of the U.S. Air Force. Cadets learn aeronautics, aviation, military drills, marching, survival skills, and first aid skills. Uniforms, gear, and equipment are included at no additional charge. Cadets are promoted on their own merits through testing and achievement.

Civil Air Patrol: https://www.gocivilairpatrol.com

I did this when I was in high school.  I was also part of an emergency services department as a ham radio operator.  I went out on calls and would do things like communicate with 911 and direct traffic.  It was an arm of our county sheriff’s department.  Check and see if your city has a similar program.

Community Programs and Classes, fine arts

Your student may enjoy being a part of a theater production or orchestra.  One of our kids is a musician, and took lessons and performed with School or Rock for years. He has since moved onto classical guitar, but it was a good stepping stone for him to get in front of an audience and learn stage performance. He wants to pursue music, and he loves jazz and classical music so he performs weekly at an open mic night here in North Texas. And he started to teach guitar to younger students. Some of our kids are fiddle players.

School of Irish Music: http://schoolofirishmusic.org

School of Rock: https://www.schoolofrock.com

Here is Cameron performing with one of his School of Rock Bands

Check your local recreation center catalog for a variety of classes. Fitness groups like Crossfit or a weightlifting class can be great, too.

Book Discussion Groups

Many homeschool students form book discussion groups. Book selection can be made by the students, with parental input. This gives the students a chance to learn more about “give and take” or Socratic discussion, public speaking, and how to defend their position in a non-threatening atmosphere.

Community Service

There are many ways teens can become involved in serving their community, such as hospital volunteer work, helping at an animal shelter, visiting a nursing home, doing yard work for an elderly neighbor, reading to neighborhood children, etc.

 They can get great experience working on a political campaign. We canvassed for a very popular senate election a few years ago.   Kids as young as 15 can be poll officials in our county election office.  During the 2020 presidential election the most experienced clerk was actually a young man in his 20s who had started working there in high school as a teen.

Journalism and publications: Students can create or join in a school newspaper, join a yearbook committee, or literary magazine, where they can develop their writing, editing, and design skills.

Leadership programs: Leadership programs such as Junior ROTC, National Honor Society, or leadership clubs provide opportunities to develop leadership abilities and contribute to the school community.

ROTC: https://www.usarmyjrotc.com

National Honor Society: https://www.nationalhonorsociety.org

Entrepreneurship or business clubs: Students interested in business and entrepreneurship can participate in clubs that focus on developing entrepreneurial skills, organizing business competitions, or engaging in fundraising activities.

Apprenticeships or Internships or part time jobs

Activities abound, but don’t overlook the unique opportunity you have to involve your teens in your adult life! Do you own a business? Train them to be your assistant. Are you a craftsman? Take on an apprentice! Our lovely podcast jingle was written and recorded by my lovely 16-year-old apprentice. Students can seek internships or part-time jobs in fields related to their interests or career goals, gaining practical experience and skills. Like I talked about my son teaching guitar lessons. 

So hopefully, if you aren’t already encouraging your child to explore extracurriculars and community service, we gave you some ideas of where to start!  These are the kinds of activities and experiences which really stay with you your entire life and have so many benefits all around.

This Week’s Freebie:

Workbook Lists 205 Activities with Links>>

039. First Day of Homeschool

It’s Back to Homeschool!

First Day of Homeschool

Celebrate your first day! Whether you’re schooling year-round or following a traditional schedule, create a special and memorable first day!

* How do you celebrate your first day of homeschool?
* What are some “NOT Back to School” traditions?
* How do you start your first lesson?

Today, we will be answering these questions and more!!

Episode 039:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

It’s back to homeschool! Whether you like to school year-round, or follow a traditional school schedule, there’s usually a time when you take a significant break and start back with a new curriculum, new supplies, and lay out new goals for your year. Back-to-homeschool is such an exciting time! It’s the perfect time to establish a good routine. 

If you’re brand-new to homeschooling, be sure to visit our GETTING STARTED Page to walk you through Step by Step!

It’s a good idea on the first day to let your kids take some time to thumb through their new curricula and resources. Some families may be totally stoked by seeing their new year’s program coming together. But if your kids aren’t thrilled with flipping through their new books, it’s okay! Some kids might find it a little overwhelming to see an entire year of school work and all the books and projects laid out on the table- even all the FUN ones you selected you know they’ll love. 

And maybe you have children who have lost their joy for learning? If you have recently withdrawn your child from school, we talked about how essential it is to go through a process of Deschooling. Typically, when people are pulling their kids up from school it’s because they are in an environment that’s not working for them academically or emotionally and going through this step is really going to set your Homeschool up for success so don’t skip it! Deschooling 101 >>

But once you have gone through this, they still might not be completely thrilled about homeschool – hopefully they are! Remember, you’re a homeschooler! You have the power and flexibility to tap into their interests and excite their learning once more!  You have the opportunity to create a fun homeschool first day to get the momentum started. Planning Your Homeschool Year >>

School Year Planner
Download your Free Planner Templates

Find your families natural rhythm is Episode 009. Schedules, Routines, and Rhythms

How do you celebrate your first day of homeschool? (5:58)

Celebrating your first day of homeschooling can be so much fun.  You can set some great traditions and make some really special memories. But before we get into some of those fun traditions, we put together some tips that are going to really help set you up for success:

10 Top Tips for a Great First Day of Homeschool

1. Don’t plan to teach EVERYTHING on the first day

It’s really important to ease back into your school schedule slowly. A lot of seasoned homeschoolers would tell you to start with just a few subjects and slowly add in more later in the week or even over the next few weeks. Relax and enjoy those first few days of school. Your children will have a much better attitude about starting school.

2. Take a picture

Those kiddos in the camera lens are the reason for all of the hard work.  They are absolutely worth it. A lot of people like to take it while their child is in their PJs all day long, or on their front porch, or at the donut shop. Taking a picture really drives home how fast they are growing and how fleeting these years really are.

Scroll down to get your FREE First Day of School Photo Signs

3. Plan a special breakfast

One of the great perks of homeschooling is that we have more freedom over our day. Take advantage of it by taking the time to go out for breakfast while other kids are waiting for the school bus. Or pick up some donuts and sit on your front porch while you wave at the school bus! You could also cook a special breakfast. Plan whatever feels special for your family – you could put together a waffle bar, have pancakes and sausage, make an omelet bar, or have that special sweet cereal that maybe you usually say no to. 

You can make Alphabet Letters with this
Pancake Pen >>

4. Plan a fun activity

  • Some people like to create a school year vision board together. If this is something you want to do, have all the supplies on hand and ready like posterboard and stencils or stickers. Together with your kids, you each can reflect on your personal goals for homeschooling. You can talk about what you hope to achieve and write them all down.
  • Design a schedule for your homeschooling activities together with your kids. Make it visually appealing and display it prominently in your learning space.
  • A lot of people like to bake cookies or a back to school cake – Home Economics 101! You could also take some of those treats to a nearby fire or police station.
  • Decorate your classroom together.
  • We’ve always created a homeschool binder and use dividers between subjects. If this is something you also want to do, you can spend some time having your kids decorate their binder.   
  • You could create a treasure hunt for them to find their curriculum all over the house.
  • Board games are a great way to start. We always play a boardgame on the first day of school! We have a great List of Educational Games. Your kids may not even know they’re learning! You can even make your own with these FREE Boardgame Templates >>
  • Water balloon fight or Silly string fight
  • All those museums are finally empty and waiting for you so plan an outing and go see that new exhibit.
  • Enjoy a day at a park with your new homeschool group.
  • Do an Art Party or do self portraits. Free Art Party with The Art Sherpa >>
  • Have a Poetry Tea Time
  • Go swimming – most pools are still open and with public school back in session, they are all yours!
  • Meet friends at the park or at a coffee shop to play board games.
  • Spend the afternoon at the lake. Your kids can break in their new literature book in a hammock. 
  • Encourage journaling or artwork where you can express your thoughts and feelings about your first day. This can serve as a keepsake to look back on as you progress through your homeschooling adventure.
  • Do an activity related to your curriculum. You can get really creative with this! For example, if you’re studying history, you can create a timeline. If you’re learning about simple machines in science, build a Lego car and create a ramp and have a race. You could also do simple experiments. Make slime for chemistry or erupt volcanoes. You can go anywhere with this! More Free Science Ideas with downloadable activities
  • Outdoor exploration: Take advantage of your flexible schedule and go on a field trip or nature walk to celebrate your first day. Observe and document your findings. For little ones, we have a free nature scavenger hunt you can download.
  • Finally, if you’re not too exhausted, end your first day of homeschool with a family game night or watch a movie. You could even choose a movie related to a subject you’re learning about. 
The fancy journal I put in my son’s Not Back to School Basket last year. He LOVED it!

The possibilities are endless!

And don’t stop the homeschool fun after your special celebration! Make fun a priority as you create a relaxed learning environment for your kids to thrive. Learn how to keep learning fun >>

5. Complete First Day of School/All About Me Questions 

Get your FREE First Day of Homeschool Packet with Questionnaire >>

Kids grow and change impossibly fast. Sometimes it’s hard to see it day to day, so I have my kids complete a First Day interview every year on the first day of homeschool. I save it and we all reflect on the changes of the previous years after they fill it out. They are always so amazed on how much they have changed and grown and quite frankly, I am too! I just wrote a blog post called The Bittersweet Beauty of Homeschooling: from Little Feet to Flying Wings. One night last week I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t sleep. I bawled my eyes out when I wrote this post reminiscing when my kids were little. Sometimes in all of the chaos and the whirlwind of it all, it can be hard to see just how fast everything is moving. They change so fast, so document it.

The Bittersweet Beauty of Homeschooling

6. Don’t forget to plan for lunch

You will be busy all morning with the excitement of the new year, projects, games, and teaching so either plan something quick and easy or cook lunch as part of a homeschool lesson.  I usually plan something really simple. Or you could pack a lunch and have a picnic and chat about your first day and what you’re looking forward to this year.

7. Read together

Reading together is one of our favorite homeschool memories. Choose a new read-aloud together and start each morning reading a chapter to get in a groove of a new routine. Maybe set up a new read aloud space or cozy corner in your house, fill a new bookshelf or basket with some special new reads.  Get some fluffy blankets, or a bean bag chair, or a new light. Check out the Top 50 Books for New Readers and Favorite Books for Middle Schoolers

8. Get the kids moving

Homeschool does not mean sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day. But it can be a little less active than running around all summer. You can ease that transition by planning something to get the kids moving. Get out in nature and take a hike, do a YouTube yoga routine, turn off the music and have a dance party, go play tennis together, go biking, or roll some exercise dice. Take them to the gym or if they are driving, let them go to the gym by themself. 

Exercise Dice >>

You may also want to Arrange meet-ups with other homeschooling families or friends who are also starting their homeschooling journey. Share experiences, tips, and celebrate together.  This really sets the tone for how social homeschooling will be- this is great for kids new to homeschooling and worried about that aspect.

9.Be Prepared and Routine-Minded

Set up a comfortable and organized learning area or dedicated education space in your home. Decorate it with colorful posters, motivational quotes, and any other items that inspire you. Remember, you’re setting the stage, take time each night before bed or on Sunday night to gather your materials and lay out your week ahead. 

You are beginning to set the stage for your entire school year. Consistency is important, but know that things are going to go wrong, so instead of having a very rigid schedule, be more routine-minded.   Even if you’re not a brand new homeschooler, this is a new year and you’re still figuring things out so be gentle on yourself and be patient with your children. They are still learning the expectations you have of them so if things aren’t perfect, give them gentle reminders. It’s going to take some time. And chances are if you’re not a brand new homeschooler, the expectations are going to be more than the previous year as they are one year older. 

Carl Azuz student news: World from A to Z

10. Prep/Plan Dinner BEFORE

You will be TIRED so make this easy on yourself, prep the instant pot the night before. Or start a tradition by ordering pizza for dinner on the first day of homeschool. 

jello ce;;
The year we kicked off NOT Back to School by making a candy Jello Cell >>

What are some Not Back to School Traditions? (27:19)

Homeschooling provides the opportunity to create unique traditions that celebrate the start of a new academic year. We’ve done so many “not back to school traditions” through the years.  

“Not Back to School” party:

One thing we really loved (and still love) is a Not Back to School Party. These are so much fun and so easy to plan.  If there isn’t one in your area, throw one together yourself.  Organize a picnic in a local park or your backyard with other homeschooling families. It’s a chance to connect, share experiences, and build a sense of community.

Not Back to School Basket:

I always make a “not back to school” gift basket for my kids. I put it out when they are still sleeping so it’s always a surprise when they wake up in the morning to find all the goodies. I put in lots of snacks, science kits, their FREE school IDs (Homeschool Buyers Club), fancy pencils, phone chargers, silly string, or water balloons. They are older now, so sometimes I like to put in Starbucks or Amazon gift cards, a fancy journal, and buy them. They each get their own Nutella jar, and on the Nutella say you can print custom labels for each grade. Download your FREE Nutella School Labels >>

Magic Pencil with Erasures >>
I can’t wait for my mine to arrive!

A few of our Not Back to School Baskets over the years:

New Pajamas: 

We always make a big deal about getting new pajamas for homeschool.  It started out as a bit of a joke for our couch school, but the grandparents look forward to our silly pajama first day of school photo every year!

Time Capsule: 

Some people like to create a Time Capsule where everyone puts in items that represent their current interests, aspirations, and goals. You can bury it or store it away to open at the end of the year or on a future milestone. 

Top 25 Homeschool Essentials
View our Top 25 Homeschool Essentials

Theme Day: 

Choose a theme that relates to a subject or topic you’ll be studying during the year. Dress up, decorate your learning space accordingly, and engage in activities, games, or experiments centered around that theme.

Homeschool Olympics or field day: 

Organize a friendly competition with other homeschool families. You can set up an obstacle course and do all kinds of physical activities, you can do team challenges, or also intellectual games. It’s really a fun way to promote teamwork, sportsmanship, and friendly rivalry. 

Curriculum Unboxing: 

Treat the beginning of the academic year like an unboxing event. Gather all your learning materials, books, and resources, and unveil them with excitement. It adds an element of anticipation and enthusiasm.

Volunteer or Community Service Day: 

Dedicate a day to giving back to the community. Find a local organization or charity where you can volunteer together as a family, contributing your time and efforts for a good cause. A school backpack/supply drive or stuffing event is also a great way for our homeschoolers to see how lucky they are!

Reflection and Goal Setting:

Take time as a family to reflect on the previous school year and set goals for the upcoming one. Talk about everything you achieved, the challenges you faced, and all the aspirations you have about the new year. We talked earlier about creating a vision board. This could be part of that. If you do create one, display it in your homeschool room to remind you of your goals.

Remember, the traditions you establish can be as unique and individual as your homeschooling journey. They should reflect your family’s values, interests, and educational goals. Feel free to adapt and create new traditions that resonate with you and make the start of each homeschool year meaningful and exciting.

How to start your first lesson? (35:12)

Starting your very first homeschool lesson can set the tone for a successful and engaging learning experience. 

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to begin:

Prepare the learning materials:

Gather all the necessary books, worksheets, or any other resources you’ll need for the lesson. Ensure that you have everything organized and readily accessible. There’s nothing worse than sitting down to do a project and finding out you are one ingredient short!

Set up the learning environment:

Create a comfortable and focused learning space. Remove distractions and provide a clean area for studying. Organize everything so it’s easily accessed and promotes a positive learning atmosphere. 

Review the lesson plan:

Take a few minutes to review the lesson plan or outline for the day. Familiarize yourself with the reading and activities you have planned.  It helps you answer the very important question- how much longer will this take?

Warm-up activity:

Start the lesson with a warm-up activity that captures their attention. This could be a short discussion, lighting a candle, or morning basket. It could be going over and reviewing what you learned the previous day or the previous school year if this is your very first day. You could also warm up by playing an educational game that’s relevant to the lesson.

When you’re ready to begin, start by introducing the new topic or concept. It would be a good idea to provide an overview of what will be covered and why it is important or interesting. Try to use real-life examples, visual aids, or stories to make the topic relatable and engaging. This is where we pull in things like our timeline for history, or lab journals for science. 

Interactive instruction:

Engage your child actively in the learning process. Use a variety of instructional methods, such as discussions, demonstrations, videos, hands-on activities, or interactive online resources. Encourage questions and discussion to foster deeper understanding. I also like to give my kids something to do with their hands while listening to readings- a handicraft basket, quiet toys, coloring, etc.

If you have kids that are old enough to be independent or if you need to have one working on one thing by themselves while you work with another, this is where you can  assign exercises, worksheets, or projects and provide guidance and support as needed.

Assess understanding:

Assess your child’s understanding periodically during the lesson. Use informal methods like questioning, discussions, or short quizzes to gauge comprehension. This will help you identify areas that may need further clarification or review.  

Wrap up the lesson:

Assign any independent work for the next day or that they need to work on one their own. Or have a discussion about what you’ll be doing the next day or in the future with this lesson.

Remember to be patient, flexible, and support your children as you navigate your lessons or curriculum. If things aren’t working, adapt your teaching style to suit their needs and learning preferences or incorporate other resources to help them understand the concept you’re trying to teach. By starting your first homeschool lesson with enthusiasm, organization, and effective communication, you’re going to establish a positive and productive learning environment for your entire family.

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