organize

058. Time Management, Stress, Organization, Study Skills

Time Management, Stress, Organization, Study Skills

Stress is normal! With all that your high school student is likely to have on their plate (balancing classes, assignments, college applications, extracurriculars, a social life, and more), it’s normal that they’ll experience stress from time-to-time. Understanding how to manage the stress they feel is an important skill for your teen to learn – during the high school years and throughout their life. Tune in to help your teen manage all the things and keep their stress in check.

This is the 12th and final episode in our HIGH SCHOOL SERIES

Episode 058:

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

Show Notes

If you are homeschooling a high schooler, you already know that navigating the intricate balance between academics, extracurriculars, and personal life can be tricky. Add in college applications, part time jobs, and social opportunities, and it’s no wonder some of our teens can feel overwhelmed and anxious about their future. With a focus on time management, organization, stress management, and study skills, we will explore some strategies and tools in today’s episode to aid in your student’s quest for academic success while maintaining a healthy lifestyle in the realm of homeschooling.

Let’s face it, High schoolers have a lot going on!  From expectations and normal pressures of academics to extreme feelings of stress, understanding how to manage the stress they feel is an important skill for your teen to learn – during the high school years and throughout their life. Stress is normal! With all that your high schooler is likely to have on their plate (classes, assignments, college applications, extracurriculars, a social life, and more), it’s normal that they’ll experience stress from time-to-time. 

Homeschoolers often experience less stress than students in traditional schools because they have more time available to them, more flexibility, and are less likely to compare themselves to others, but they probably still feel a lot of these same pressures!

How can our high schoolers deal with stress? (4:27)

Let’s talk about some ideas for high school students to deal with stress: 

  • Keeping a journal
  • Getting plenty of exercise
  • Eating healthy, regular meals and drinking plenty of water. 
  • Making sure you get enough sleep 
  • Meditating, deep breathing, or mindfulness, and monitoring their self-talk. 
  • Channeling their energy into sports or creative pursuits such as music, art, theater
  • forming meaningful relationships or friendships helps reduce stress. 
  • Reaching out to friends or family members who help you cope in a positive way
  • Staying organized and teaching your teen to create routines can be helpful. We are going to talk more about this today!
  • Limiting excess caffeine in soft drinks or coffee
  • Making time to do fun things
  • Spending downtime relaxing 

With so many big life decisions ahead, getting through high school happy and whole can definitely feel challenging at times. It’s easy to see why so many high school students feel stressed. The good news is that there are solutions. Adopt the strategies above, take a deep breath, and remind them it’s not forever!

Dialectical Behavior Therapy has helped millions of teenagers since it was developed just over 30 years ago! The DBT Skills Workbook for Teens: A Fun Guide to Manage Anxiety and Stress, Understand Your Emotions and Learn Effective Communication Skills. This Workbook takes your teen on a journey going through four quests to learn the four key skills in DBT.

Sometimes a big source of stress can actually be due to a lack of time management.  I know this well as I am a lifelong organized procrastinator!  I work best under pressure.  But every time I get through yet another project this way, I vow not to do it again next time. Mastering time management is an essential skill that not only cultivates discipline but can really help your teen maximize study time more efficiently. By establishing structured routines, setting clear goals, and teaching the value of efficient scheduling, you can empower your teens to take ownership of their education while also allowing for a healthy balance between their academic pursuits and personal growth.

Parental involvement in homeschooling time management is not a solitary endeavor. It entails open communication, active listening, and a keen awareness of your high schoolers’ individual progress. Some will be more mature and independent than others. By consistently assessing their growth and helping them to adapt the schedule and approach you will be helping to teach them self awareness and how to manage their stress. 

How can we help our teens manage their time wisely? (9:57)

Here are some time management tools and techniques that can set your highschooler up for success:

1. Homeschool Planner:

Using a dedicated homeschool planner or digital app like Google Keep organizing lessons, assignments, and activities. This helps them stay on top of their responsibilities and ensure they have plenty of downtime and time with their friends.

2. Time Blocking:

Time blocking is a simple yet effective way you can teach your teen to take control of their time. They can implement a time blocking strategy where they allocate specific time blocks for different subjects. This prevents overloading on a single subject to ensure balance. Time blocking asks you to divide your day into blocks of time. Each block is dedicated to accomplishing a specific task or group of tasks, and only those specific tasks. Instead of keeping an open-ended to-do list of things you’ll get to as you can, you start each day with a concrete schedule outlining what you’ll work on and when.

The key to this method is prioritizing your task list in advance. The free resource I created this week is a time blocking template that your highschooler can use as they plan out their day. Scroll Down to download! This method really does add hours to your day! It’s so effective. Time Finder is the app that I use when I’m on the go instead of using the paper template but I find the paper easier for teenagers to use.

3. Set Realistic Goals:

Teach them to set achievable goals for each day or week. It’s an essential skill to learn how to break down larger objectives into smaller, manageable tasks. This can prevent them from feeling overwhelmed and provides a sense of accomplishment as tasks are completed.

Most students believe that straight A’s can be achieved only through cramming and painful all-nighters at the library. But Cal Newport knows that real straight-A students don’t study harder—they study smarter!
How to Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less reveals for the first time the proven study secrets of real straight-A students across the country and weaves them into a simple, practical system that anyone can master.

4. Weekly Planning:

Set aside time daily and each week to check in and go over assessments and progress. This helps them maintain a clear overview of what needs to be covered. Be sure to include extracurricular and fun with friends outside of academics. These are really important!

5. Flexible Routine:

Teach them to adopt a flexible routine rather than a rigid schedule. More than likely you’ve been doing this all along. This will teach them to accommodate variations in assignments and unexpected events.

6.Prioritize tasks:

Learn to differentiate between urgent and important tasks. This skill helps in managing workload efficiently and reducing stress.

Your involvement plays a vital role in helping them learn these skills. You can address their individual strengths, interests, and challenges, which will promote a deeper understanding of subjects and encourage a lifelong love for learning. You know we love to say that! 

How to teach study skills, note taking, organization, and other executive function skills?  (16:49)

As students enter into the high school years, they also need to add effective study skills and habits.  They must master skills like:

  • reading for content and not just for pleasure
  • note taking
  • researching
  • finding knowledgeable mentors
  • communicating with others to find out what they need to know
  • honing memorization techniques
  • practicing computer skills
  • identifying and utilizing helpful online resources

Homeschool high schoolers have a unique opportunity to learn some of these skills to suit their individual learning styles and schedules. Here are some effective strategies for homeschool high schoolers to cultivate good study skills and be more organized:

  • Create a designated study space: Establishing a dedicated area for studying helps in maintaining focus and organization. Ensure it’s free from distractions and equipped with necessary materials.
  • Develop a schedule: Design a timetable that includes study sessions for various subjects, breaks, and extracurricular activities. A structured routine aids in time management and consistency.
  • Encourage the use of checklists: Using checklists for daily or weekly tasks can help your teen visualize what needs to be done and experience the satisfaction of checking items off the list as they complete them.
  • Break tasks into smaller steps: Teach your teen to break down larger tasks or projects into smaller, manageable steps. This method helps in avoiding overwhelm and encourages steady progress.
  • Utilize various learning methods: Experiment with different study techniques such as mind mapping, summarizing, flashcards, or teaching concepts to someone else. Find what works best for individual comprehension.
  • Practice active learning: Engage in discussions, take notes, ask questions, and participate in activities related to the subject matter. Active involvement enhances understanding and retention.
  • Take regular breaks: Incorporate short breaks during study sessions to prevent burnout and maintain focus. Breaks can re-energize and improve productivity.
  • Promote decluttering: Assist your teen in decluttering their space regularly. Encourage them to get rid of unnecessary items and organize belongings in a way that makes them easily accessible.
  • Model and encourage organization: Set an example by staying organized yourself. Show your teen how you manage your schedule, maintain a clean environment, and handle responsibilities.
  • Provide guidance, not control: Offer guidance and support rather than micromanaging your teen’s organizational efforts. Encourage independence by allowing them to make their own decisions and learn from mistakes.
  • Develop effective note-taking techniques: Find a method that suits the learning style, be it Cornell notes, bullet points, or visual diagrams. Good notes aid in better understanding and revision.
How to Be a High School Superstar: A Revolutionary Plan to Get into College by Standing Out (Without Burning Out) provides step-by-step instructions to help any student adopt the relaxed superstar lifestyle—proving that getting into college doesn’t have to be a chore to survive, but instead can be the reward for living a genuinely interesting life.
Learning How to Learn: How to Succeed in School Without Spending All Your Time Studying; A Guide for Kids and Teens teaches teens about the importance of both focused concentration and letting their minds wander, how the brain makes connections between different pieces of information, the value of metaphors in developing understanding, why procrastination is the enemy of problem solving, and much more. 
Are you tired of struggling with exams and feeling overwhelmed by your studies? Do you wish there was a way to improve your grades and achieve exam success without all the stress? With Study Strategies for Teens: A Teenage Guide to Exam Success and Getting Better Grades as your guide, , you will learn effective study techniques, develop essential time management and organization skills, and gain the confidence needed to conquer exams and become a straight A student.

Note taking is a big question I see come up often on high school forums- it’s almost like none of us can remember or picture how this works outside the classroom. We ended up doing a bit of a deep dive on different techniques and thought we could share some popular note-taking methods:

  • The SQ3R Method: An acronym for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review. It involves a comprehensive approach to studying a text, starting with a survey of the material, formulating questions, reading actively, reciting or summarizing key points, and finally reviewing the material. Learn more about SQ3R.
  • Cornell Method: This method involves dividing the paper into sections: a section for notes, a section for cues or questions related to the notes, and a summary section at the bottom. It encourages active engagement and summarization of key points. Learn more about Cornell Method.
How To Take Great Notes Quickly and Easily is a very easy guide for teenager. (40+ Note Taking Tips for School, Work, Books and Lectures. Cornell Notes Explained and more!
  • Outlining Method: Structuring notes hierarchically using bullet points or numbering. It involves organizing information into main topics, subtopics, and details. This method emphasizes the relationship between different ideas. Learn more about Outlining Method.
  • Mind Mapping: Utilizing visual diagrams to represent concepts and their relationships. It starts with a central idea or topic and branches out into related subtopics, creating a visual representation of connections. Learn more about Mind Mapping.
  • Charting or Tabular Method: Organizing information into tables or charts with columns and rows. It’s useful for comparing and contrasting different elements or presenting data in a clear format. Learn more about Charting.
  • Sentence Method: Writing down key points or phrases in complete sentences. It involves summarizing information in a coherent narrative format, making it easier to follow when reviewing. Learn more about Sentence Method.
  • Flow Method: This method involves jotting down notes in a continuous flow, without much structure. It’s useful during lectures or when information is presented rapidly. Later, these notes can be organized into a more structured format. Learn more about Flow Method.
  • The Feynman Technique: Explaining complex ideas in simple terms as if teaching someone else. It involves identifying gaps in understanding and revisiting complex concepts until they can be explained in straightforward language. Learn more about Feynman Technique.
  • The Charting Method: Creating columns and rows to organize information, often using headers and bullet points. It’s useful for comparing and contrasting different elements or categorizing information. Learn more about Charting Method.
  • Annotation/Highlighting: Underlining, highlighting, or annotating text in books or articles with personal comments or key points. This method helps in quickly identifying important information for later review. Learn more about Annotation and Highlighting.

Our kids did an awesome study skills camp with a fellow homeschool mom that taught several of these techniques.  Choosing the most suitable note-taking technique depends on personal preferences, the nature of the information being recorded, and the context in which the notes will be used. Experimenting with different methods can help individuals find the one that best fits their learning style and enhances their understanding and retention of information.

By actively supporting and guiding your teen through all of these above strategies, you can help them develop strong organizational skills that will serve them well in academics and throughout their lives. 

This Week’s Freebie:

Help you teen stay organized and reduce their stress by Time Blocking
Download your Free Template

Unit Study Ideas

Unit Study Ideas

Unit studies can truly light up your homeschooling journey, offering a wonderful alternative or addition to your regular curriculum. They can open up a world of possibilities allowing you to follow your child’s interests and curiosities wherever they may lead – and it’s often in these explorations that the most magical learning moments happen.

Feel free to shape your unit study as broadly or as narrowly as your heart desires. My suggestion? Let it flow organically; don’t stress about fitting subjects into a unit just to tick off a checklist. The beauty of learning unfolds best when your unit study feels like a natural adventure into a new topic.

To help kickstart your journey, we’ve put together a list of inspiring ideas. Plus, we’ve crafted a handy-dandy, absolutely Free Unit Study Template tailor-made just for you (bottom of this page).

Learn more about creating a unit study in Episode 056. How Do You Create a Unit Study? Ready to dive in and make learning a delightful experience? Let’s get started!

Your spine book will be your main go-to when you start working through your unit study. Within it, you’ll be able to find topics or rabbit holes to meander down.

Here are some examples of spine books:

Animals

Animal-Related Topics
Adaptation
Endangered species
Animal habitats
Hibernation
Food chains

Specific Types of Animals
Birds (general)/Backyard birds
Bees
Butterflies
Bugs
Spiders
Bats
Frogs
Penguins
Dogs/Cats
Monkeys
Dinosaurs
Farm animals
Sea animals
Sharks
African Animals
Dinosaurs
Reptiles
Amphibians
Mammals

Plants

Plants (in general)
Trees
Flowers
Edible plants
Gardening/Landscaping
Pumpkins
Apples
Leaves
Anatomy of plant cells
Fungi

Life Science

General Life Science Topics
Human anatomy and physiology
Evolution
Bacteria and viruses
The five senses

People

People/Groups of Historical Significance
Explorers
Pioneers
Indigenous People
Suffragettes
Civil rights leaders
LGBTQ+ History
Egyptians
Aztecs
Mayans
Romans
Greeks

The Work People Do
Composers/Musicians
Artists
Inventors
Writers
Presidents/Prime minister
Community helpers
Healthcare workers
Archaeologists
Scientists
Inventors/Engineers
Architects

Specific People
Albert Einstein
Amelia Earhart
Clara Barton
Harriet Tubman
Helen Keller
Leonardo Da Vinci
Mahatma Gandhi
Marie Curie
Martin Luther King Jr
Maya Angelou
Mother Teresa
Mozart
Shakespeare
Marco Polo
Joan of Arc
Hatshepsut
Nelson Mandela
Pablo Picasso

Geography

The continents
Africa
Antarctica
Asia
Oceania/Australia
Europe
North America
South America
The Arctic

Countries
Australia
Brazil
Canada
China
Egypt
England
France
Germany
India
Israel
Indonesia
Japan
Mexico
Nigeria
Pakistan
Ukraine
Spain
United States

Landforms, Biomes, and Bodies of Water

Seas and Oceans
Ponds, Lakes, and Rivers
Coasts and Beaches
Mountains
Forests/Rainforests
Deserts
Volcanoes
Glaciers
Tundra
Volcanoes
Rocks and Minerals

Space Science

Space (in general)
Earth
Solar system
The moon
The sun/stars
Aliens
Black Holes
Space Travel

Meteorology and Weather

Seasons (general)
Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall
Ecosystems
Weather (in general)
Hurricanes
Earthquakes
The water cycle
Snow/Sleet
Clouds

Physics

Physics (in general)
Force and motion
Simple machines
States of matter
Light spectrum

Chemistry

Chemistry (in general)
Periodic table
Chemical reactions
Crystals

Transportation

Transportation (in general)
Transportation Infrastructure
Automobiles
Contruction Vehicles
Trains
Aircraft
Motorcycles
Boats
Rockets
Auto design

Computers/Technology

The Internet
Computers
History/Evolution of Phones
Energy production and harvesting
Photography
Artificial intelligence
Robots
Game Design
Website Design
History of Animation
Music Composition/Recording
Graphic Design

Time Periods/Significant Historical Events

Ancient Egypt
Ancient China
Indus-Valley Civilization
Mesopotamia
Middle Ages/Medieval Period
Viking Age
The Renaissance
Age of Discovery
Elizabethan Period
Industrial Revolution
World War I
The Great Depression
Pearl Harbor
World War II
Decades 50s/60s/70s/80s
The American Civil War
The Gold Rush
The Fur Trade
The Silk Road

Holidays/Events

Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Christmas
Hanukah
Kwanzaa
Diwali
Bodhi Day
Feast Day of Our Lady Guadalupe
St. Patrick’s Day
Halloween
Day of the Dead
Easter
Yule
Elections
Olympics

Activities

Gardening
Baking
Scrapbooking
Finances (Budgeting, Investment)
Recycling
Sports
Starting a Business
Interior Design
Fashion
Cooking/Baking
Interior Design
Fitness/Nutrition
Artistry (painting/scultping/Jewelry/etc.)
Performing Arts (dance/theater/band/etc.)

Literature

Magic Tree House Books
Roald Dahl books
CS Lewis books
Little House on the Prairie
Charlotte’s Web
Harry Potter
Tolkien books (The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings)
Shakespeare
Poetry
The Wind in the Willows
Anne of Green Gables
The Giver
Red Badge of Courage
Bud, Not Buddy
Wonder
Esperanza Rising
George Orwell Books

Get your FREE Template (pdf)

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:

038. How Do You Homeschool Kindergarten?

how do you homeschool kindergarten

How Do You Homeschool Kindergarten?

Kindergarten is such an exciting time for both parents and kids! Maybe the idea of homeschooling is completely new to you, or maybe you’ve been researching the topic for a while and have finally decided to pull the trigger.

* How do you begin?
* What does my Kindergartener Need to Know?
* What does a day in the life of a homeschool Kindergartener look like?
* What curriculum should I use for my Kindergartener?

Episode 038:

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

Show Notes

Kindergarten is such an exciting time for both parents and kids! Maybe the idea of homeschooling is completely new to you, or maybe you’ve been researching the topic for a while and have finally decided to pull the trigger. 

Be sure to check out our Getting Started in Homeschooling page. There you will find all kinds of resources like finding balance between multiple children, dealing with naysayers when you’re starting off, socialization questions, and more to guide you as you begin. 

How do you begin homeschooling kindergarten? (3:34)

Kindergarten
Curriculum Guide >>

The first step is to find out what your state requires. Every state has different rules for homeschooling, so it’s important to research your state’s homeschool laws. And note that there is often a difference between what a state requires for homeschoolers and what a state requires of public school students.  Sometimes, these may not be the same things at all.  In many states, there is a *minimum* age in which a child *can* register for public schooling and then there is a *compulsory* age for when they *must* start school. Kindergarten is often not required at all.  So don’t get too wrapped up in thinking you absolutely have to have your child homeschooling with a full curriculum at 5.  In many states, the compulsory age is 6 or 7 so you may have another year or more.

What does my kindergartener need to know? (6:26)

Our kindergarten advice doesn’t really vary that much from our preschool advice other than adding a Learn to Read Program if they are ready. Our preschool advice is to read lots of picture books together, do messy art and science projects, cook in the kitchen, have lots of imaginative/building toys- blocks, Legos, trains, etc.  Spend a ton of time outside- go for nature walks.  Get binoculars, magnifying lens, specimen jars and some local bird/wildflower/tree identification guides and take them with you.  Sing, dance, play musical instruments.  Get a tub of dress up items.  Play board games for math.  Preschool is so much fun!

Our podcast episode and webpage What should your Preschooler Know? has fantastic ideas that work just as well for 5- and 6-year-olds. It’s packed with valuable information and even includes resources that celebrate the power of play in education. This playful path to learning is such a joyous journey for your child. It allows them to develop age-appropriate skills without any pressure or need for perfection.

Homeschooled kindergartners engage in a wide range of activities and lessons that are designed to foster their early learning and development. While homeschooling approaches may vary, here are some common areas of focus for homeschool kindergartners:

Basic Literacy Skills: 

Kindergartners learn foundational skills in reading and writing. They explore letter recognition, phonics, and phonemic awareness. They practice writing letters, words, and simple sentences. They also develop listening and comprehension skills through read-aloud sessions and discussions.

Emergent Reading: 

Kindergartners are introduced to early reading strategies. They learn sight words, practice decoding simple words, and engage in guided reading activities. They explore age-appropriate books for new readers and stories, building their reading fluency and comprehension.

Math:

Kindergartners focus on developing their numeracy skills. They learn number recognition, counting, and basic addition and subtraction concepts. They explore shapes, patterns, and measurement. Hands-on activities and math manipulatives help them understand mathematical concepts in a concrete and engaging way.

Science and Nature Studies: 

Young children are naturally curious about the world around them, so science and nature studies should be incorporated into their curriculum. They should explore basic scientific concepts with Hands-on Science Activities like weather, plants, animals, and the five senses. They engage in simple experiments, observation-based learning, and nature walks to nurture their curiosity. 

Social Skills and Emotional Development: 

Kindergartners learn important social skills such as sharing, taking turns, and cooperating with others. They develop their emotional awareness and understanding of their own feelings and those of others. They engage in activities that promote empathy, kindness, and problem-solving skills.

Best Tips for homeschooling kindergarten (16:52):

1. Read a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction books every single day.

2. Keep lessons short.

3. Go outside for field trips, museum visits, and exploration.

4. Be flexible with time and routines. Take a break from the curriculum to follow their interests.

5. Review & Revisit.

6. Get creative when teaching concepts. 

7. Use a lot of hands-on activities. 

8. Have lots of play and social time. 

Art and Creativity: 

This age is perfect to provide opportunities for artistic expression and creativity. Do lots of art projects using different mediums and explore imaginative play through dress up. These kinds of activities help them with so much development. Like fine motor skills, expressing their ideas, and fostering their creativity

Physical Education: 

Physical activities and playtime are important for kindergartners’ development. They engage in gross motor activities, games, and exercises that promote coordination, balance, and overall physical well-being.

KINDERGARTEN SKILLS CHECKLIST

This age learns best through a combination of structured lessons, hands-on activities, play, and exploration. The focus is on fostering a love of learning and building a solid foundation for future academic pursuits. It’s also a time when they are developing socially and emotionally.

We know that parents want to know exactly what to do and what skills to master so we’ve come up with this list. We’ve found that combining resources likeHome Learning Year by Yearand What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know along with a combination of basic state standards helps us set goals for language arts and math for each grade.

My kids learned all about money and different coins with this Fun Cash Register

Kindergartner skills to master:

 These goals can become your benchmark for the year, allowing you to use various resources and activities to achieve them. This checklist can let you be interest-led while still meeting academic goals. Remember, there’s no “BEHIND” in Homeschool, so choose goals that fit them best.

Scroll down to download the complete list!

We have an entire episode about schedules, routines and rhythms where we talk about organizing your day.  While a rigid schedule is definitely not needed for small children, including kindergarteners, many kids do benefit by having a pattern to their day.  Kids like to know what is happening next and also having an informal routine or rhythm can really help make your day move more smoothly.

A day in the life of a homeschool kindergartner:

Here’s a sample schedule for a homeschool kindergartener. Keep in mind that flexibility is key, and you can adapt this schedule to fit your child’s needs, interests, and your family’s routine.

8:30 AM: Morning Routine and Circle Time

  • Start the day with a morning routine (getting dressed, brushing teeth, etc.).
  • Gather for circle time, where you can sing songs, recite rhymes, and discuss the day’s plan.
Create a morning routine with this Interactive Calendar and Weather Pocket Chart

9:00 AM: Literacy

  • Focus on literacy activities such as letter recognition, phonics, or sight word practice.
  • Engage in read-aloud sessions or shared reading activities.

9:30 AM: Math

  • Introduce mathematical concepts through hands-on activities, counting exercises, or simple addition/subtraction games. 
  • Use manipulatives or visual aids to support understanding.

10:00 AM: Snack Break and Free Play

  • Provide a nutritious snack and allow some time for unstructured play or exploration.

10:30 AM: Science/Nature Studies

  • Explore science topics related to nature, weather, or animals. Download your FREE Hurricane Tracking Charts
  • Conduct simple experiments or engage in observation-based activities.

11:00 AM: Art/Creativity

  • Encourage artistic expression through drawing on paper or sidewalk chalk, painting, or crafting. 
  • This develops creativity and fine motor skills.

11:30: Physical Education

  • You can do things like dancing, yoga, kicking a ball outside, going for a hike, riding a tricycle, or just simple exercises.
  • Play active games that promote coordination and gross motor skills.

12:00 PM: Lunch Break and Outdoor Time

  • Have a healthy lunch together as a family.
  • Spend time outdoors for fresh air, homeschool park day, with exploration.

1:00 PM: Social Skills and Emotional Development and Good Habits

  • Focus on activities that promote social skills, empathy, and emotional awareness. If you’re at a play day, help your child learn to share, and how to be a friend. You could also go on a field trip with friends to a museum or a wildlife refuge. These interactions were cornerstones for us at that age. 
  • Engage in conversations. If you’re home, you can role-play or play cooperative games or do a puzzle together. 
  • Model good manners and practice doing chores and habit formation

1:30 PM: Theme-Based Learning

  • Choose a theme (e.g., community helpers, seasons, or animals) and explore it through various activities.
  • Read books, watch educational videos, or engage in hands-on projects related to the theme.

2:00 PM: Independent Reading/Quiet Time

  • Have books that your children love available all the time and encourage them to read or do quiet activities like puzzles or drawing. Many children aren’t reading yet, but they probably have their favorite book memorized and love to look through them.
  • Provide a cozy space and quiet exploration. We always had an art area with paper in colored pencils that were available all the time. Remember, learning doesn’t stop when school is over. Kids are always learning and having these things available keeps them engaged.

So keep in mind that even though we listed times here, this doesn’t mean that you must be doing these activities for the entire time slot until the next one.  Really, kindergarten shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes to an hour to accomplish a day.  But you can do a few minutes here or a few minutes there.

how long does it take to homeschool

This is just a suggested schedule, and you can modify it according to your child’s needs and your family’s routine. Flexibility is key, and don’t forget to include breaks and playtime throughout the day. Kids are going to learn more and retain more when they are interested in what they are learning so don’t be afraid to follow their lead. 

What curriculum should I use? (25:19)

We know how exciting yet overwhelming it can be to find the perfect curriculum for kindergarten. But here’s the thing, you don’t really need a formal curriculum at this stage! Remember, the skills we listed earlier are just a guide and many of the skills can be mastered through play. Research actually suggests that play-based learning is the way to go for young children like yours. You can create a rich learning environment right within the comfort of your home.

But we know that some of you are still going to want to buy a curriculum and get started. And that’s ok too! But I understand that you might still want some structure and reassurance that your child is covering important areas of kindergarten. Be sure that you spend some time deciding WHAT you want to teach and HOW you want to teach it. To help you, we’ve created 7 Simple Steps to Choosing Curriculum to guide you to find the perfect fit for your family.

So, let’s explore some popular publishers who offer homeschooling curriculum for this stage. 

Browse Through Our Full Kindergarten Curriculum List >>>

Blast off to Reading!

We really have made it a point to not recommend specific curricula on our podcasts and one of the reasons why is that it’s an ever-evolving thing.  Curriculum companies come and go, some change resources, and there are constantly new things coming on the horizon!

We’ve used Universal Yums for years. My kids LOVE them!

Universal Yums is a fun way to learn about geography and different people!

We’ve both been homeschooling a long time and who knows if we would have used some of the things, we did in favor of a lot of the things that have come out since.  So, this list comes to you with either our personal recommendations, or recommendations from other secular resources that we follow.  We keep an eye out and stay current on what’s new, and or what may be debatable or problematic with certain programs,

Facebook Resource Group:

As we mentioned before, homeschoolers really love to help each other out and share free resources. Many local groups do curriculum swaps and there are a lot of Free homeschool resources Facebook groups. Just this week we created a brand-new Facebook group for the sole purpose of sharing free and low cost homeschool resources. Since the popularity of homeschooling has grown so much since Covid, a lot of our go-to groups have been flooded with SPAM and it can be hard to sift through all that.

Homeschool Freebies & Support  for PreK-12
We created a new group called Homeschool Freebies & Support for Pre-K-12th. Join us and get all the goods!

This Week’s Freebie:

037. 7 Steps to Choosing Curriculum

7 Steps to Choosing Curriculum

There are a lot of things to consider when deciding what to use. Don’t waste time and money on curricula that doesn’t work for your family. By following the 7 STEPS that we lay out for you, you will be able to find exactly what works for you to set your homeschool up for success. We also discuss how homeschooling looks different at different ages and more.
Tune in! 

Episode 037:

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1. Click PLAY Button Above ^^ to listen here.
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Scroll Down for this week’s Freebie:
Curriculum Comparison Sheet (pdf)

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

Show Notes

As veteran homeschool moms, we understand the challenges of sifting through the myriad of curriculum options available. There’s an overwhelming amount of options out there and it’s hard to decide just where to begin. Going online and searching homeschool curriculum is going to give you over one million results. This is why you want to spend time figuring out WHAT you want to teach and HOW you want to teach it. This will help narrow down those options and help you to find the perfect program for your family without wasting a ton of time, effort, or money.

If you’re withdrawing your student from a traditional school environment, be sure to check out our Deschooling episode, which is a vital step you don’t want to skip before you’re even thinking about curriculum. Deschooling is fortunately something you can do WHILE researching and deciding on curriculum.  Do not feel like you need to have this all planned out in advance and leave your child in a bad environment that isn’t working before withdrawing them from school. During this time, it’s important that you take this time to deschool too! The easiest way for us to get out of that ‘Public School Mentality” is to educate ourselves by reading about homeschooling and creating Lifeling Learners. You can do that with these TOP 10 Books Every Homeschool Parent Should Read.

Choosing curriculum 

We often see questions like: “what is the best curriculum for 5th grade?” or “what curriculum do you suggest for my 10 year old?” And of course, people are super keen to jump in there with suggestions right away. But those suggestions are what works for *them*. Before we suggest anything to you, we need more information!

Choosing a curriculum is so personal, so take recommendations as a list of places to check out but know there’s no such thing as a “best” curriculum, regardless of price. The best curriculum is the one that fits you and your family!

And before you even start down the path of choosing a curriculum, decide if you will (or need to) follow the state’s curriculum outlines, do your own thing, or a combination of both.  Consider what subjects you want to make sure you cover – like core subjects-math, reading, and writing and what things you personally consider as extras. Involve your child! Ask them and consider their interests and curiosities.  

From there you will want to follow the next 7 steps:

Step 1:
Check with your State Requirements (6:00)

The first step is to find out what your state requires. Every state has different rules for homeschooling, so it’s important to research your state’s homeschool laws. And note that there is often a difference between what a state requires for homeschoolers and what a state requires of public-school students.  Sometimes, these may not be the same things at all. To make this easier for you, we created a complete guide: State Homeschool Laws, and we summarize all this information including compulsory age and subject and testing requirements, which can vary from state to state. Don’t worry if your state has stricter rules; remember that homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, and you absolutely are within your rights to do this! 

Look up your State Law

In some states, homeschool students may need to track attendance or hours, and keep certain kinds of documentation of work completed. Students may be required to take standardized tests or complete evaluations or provide documentation of meeting certain standards. Knowing your state’s requirements is going to help you choose the right curriculum. You’ll want to strike a balance between what your state expects and what works best for you and your family. Remember, you have the freedom to tailor and individualize this – this is one of my favorite things about homeschooling! You’ve got this!

Step 2:
Determine your Homeschool Style and Philosophy (7:40)

To determine your home, school, style and philosophy, it’s important to understand your core beliefs and values regarding education. When choosing a curriculum, you need to find one that aligns with your philosophy, values, and worldview. Here are some points to consider:

Do you want a Secular, Non-religious curriculum

You may prefer a curriculum that focuses on academic subjects without any specific religious influence. Secular curriculum is designed to provide a neutral educational experience, free from any particular religious worldview.

There’s a lot of reasons why families choose Secular Curriculum – even a lot of religious families choose a secular curriculum.

There are so many different types of faiths and religions and often the creators and the program don’t align with a family’s beliefs. Those families typically choose a curriculum without religion, and then teach their moral, ethical and religious values outside of a curriculum.

Or you may want a Faith-based

Curriculum: On the other hand, if incorporating your religious beliefs into your children’s education is important to you, you may opt for a faith-based curriculum. These curricula integrate religious teachings and values into the academic subjects.

Each family has unique preferences and approaches to homeschooling. Familiarize yourself with different homeschooling styles:

Traditional Homeschooling

  • Follows a structured and formal education model similar to traditional schools.
  • Involves textbooks, workbooks, and teacher-led instruction.
  • Focuses on following a predetermined curriculum and meeting specific learning objectives.

Classical Homeschooling

  • Draws inspiration from ancient Greek and Roman education methods.
  • Emphasizes the development of critical thinking, logic, and rhetorical skills.
  • Follows a three-stage model known as the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric).

Charlotte Mason

  • Focuses on living books, nature study, and the development of good habits.
  • Values a broad and liberal arts education, incorporating subjects like literature, art, music, and nature.
  • Utilizes narration and short lessons as common practices.

Montessori Homeschooling

  • Emphasizes hands-on learning and self-paced exploration.
  • Provides a prepared environment with carefully selected materials that promote independence.
  • Focuses on sensorial experiences, practical life skills, and individualized learning.

Waldorf Homeschooling

  • Emphasizes a holistic approach to education, nurturing imagination, creativity, and emotional development.
  • Incorporates artistic activities, storytelling, crafts, and rhythm into daily lessons.
  • Often discourages the use of electronic media especially in the early years.

Unit Studies or Project-based Learning

  • Integrates multiple subjects into a themed unit of study.
  • Explores a specific topic or concept across various disciplines.
  • Allows for an in-depth and comprehensive exploration of a subject.

Eclectic Homeschooling

  • Combines various approaches and resources to create a customized learning experience.
  • Allows families to pick and choose from different methods, curriculum materials, and teaching styles.
  • Offers flexibility and adaptability in designing a personalized education.

Relaxed Homeschooling

  • Takes a laid-back and flexible approach to learning.
  • Focuses on creating a low-stress environment and allowing children to learn at their own pace.
  • Emphasizes fostering a love of learning rather than adhering to a strict schedule or curriculum.

Unschooling

  • Emphasizes child-led learning and natural curiosity.
  • Encourages children to explore their interests and learn through real-life experiences.
  • Learning happens organically through everyday activities and self-directed exploration.

Online Schooling/Outsourcing

  • Not really a philosophy, but a delivery method
  • Focus is on traditional skills and content but delivered in a more tailored way, allowing for parents to be more hands-off
  • Could include live online classes, asynchronous classes, video lectures, or software based learning
View our Curriculum Guide>>

Remember, these descriptions provide a general overview of each homeschooling style, and there can be variations and combinations of methods within each approach. Feel free to explore and adapt different approaches to create a homeschooling experience that best suits your family’s needs and educational goals.  Some people start off with one method, and totally regroup as their child gets older.  Some may even use a variety of methods with different children in their own home. And that’s the beauty of homeschooling: customizing your experience for your student. There is no right or wrong choice when it comes to selecting a style and curriculum. 

Step 3:
Set a Budget (15:59)

Setting a budget for your homeschooling materials is a smart move. Here are some simple steps to help you stay within your budget:

  • Determine your maximum budget: Decide on the maximum amount you are willing to spend on homeschooling materials. This will help you prioritize your expenses and make informed decisions.
  • Research curriculum costs: Take the time to explore different curriculum options and compare their prices. Look for affordable options that fit your budget. Check online resources, educational stores, or ask other homeschoolers for recommendations.
  • Consider additional materials: Keep in mind that some curricula may require extra materials like books, software, or supplies. Factor in the cost of these additional items when evaluating the overall expense of a curriculum.
  • Plan for extras: Think about other activities or resources you want to include in your homeschooling journey, such as outside or supplemental classes, field trips, projects, or unit studies. Allocate a portion of your budget for these additional experiences. Get your FREE Field Trip Bundle
  • Use budgeting tools: Look for homeschool planners or organizers that include a detailed budget section. These resources can help you keep track of your expenses and stay on top of your financial goals. 

More on Homeschooling on a Budget>>

Really do ask around to other experienced homeschoolers about what kinds of costs you can expect to incur. There are plenty of affordable and effective curriculum options available, and even free resources. But at the same time, mind the old adage “you get what you pay for.”  Expect to pay for the curriculum purchased because the person who made it put work and talent into that.  A lot of homeschool curriculum is written by other homeschool families and this is how they have been able to afford homeschooling. Remember, sticking to your budget doesn’t mean compromising on quality education. By being mindful of your budget and making informed choices, you can provide a great homeschooling experience without breaking the bank.

Step 4:
Learning Style, Needs, and Preferences (19:16)

A curriculum may fit your budget and homeschool values well, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for your student. Every child has a unique learning style, and homeschooling offers the flexibility to tailor their education accordingly. Consider each child’s unique struggles and needs before you select a curriculum. Schools often rely on workbooks and textbooks and traditional group teaching methods, but homeschooling opens up a world of alternative approaches.

Here are some key points to consider when selecting a curriculum that best suits your student’s learning needs and preferences:

Individual Learning Needs

  • Take into account your student’s specific learning needs, strengths, and weaknesses.
  • Consider their preferred learning style, whether they learn best through visual, auditory, or hands-on methods.
  • Think about any specific learning challenges or areas where they may need extra support or accommodations.

Personal Preferences

  • Recognize that what works for one child may not work for another.
  • Each child has their own interests, learning pace, and preferred methods of learning.
  • Consider their preferences for interactive activities, group work, or independent study.

Age and Developmental Stage

  • Keep in mind that what was effective for an older sibling may not be the best fit for a younger one and all kids mature at different ages.
  • Consider age-appropriate materials and activities that align with your student’s developmental stage.
  • Adapt the curriculum to match their readiness and abilities.

Learning Styles

  • Visual learners: These students benefit from visual aids, diagrams, and illustrations to understand and retain information.
  • Auditory learners: These students learn best through listening, verbal explanations, and discussions.
  • Kinesthetic learners: These students learn by doing and engaging in hands-on activities, experiments, and physical movement.

Flexibility and Adaptability

  • Remember that homeschooling allows you the flexibility to tailor the curriculum to meet your student’s needs.
  • Be open to adjusting and customizing the curriculum as you go along, based on your student’s progress and feedback.

By considering your student’s unique struggles, needs, and preferences, you can select a curriculum that is engaging, effective, and well-suited to their individual learning journey. Don’t be afraid to explore different resources, experiment with various approaches, and adapt the curriculum to create a personalized learning experience that supports your student’s growth and success.

Step 5:
Determine your Level of Involvement (23:07)

Some curriculum options provide detailed lesson plans and do most of the teaching for you. You can supervise and offer support as needed. Other options give you more freedom to teach in your own way while providing a basic overview of concepts. There are also options that fall somewhere in between, allowing you to customize your teaching approach. When it comes to choosing a curriculum for your homeschool, it’s important to think about your level of involvement.  

how long does it take to homeschool
Keep in mind that homeschooling doesn’t take as much time as public school

Consider how much time you have available for homeschooling, especially if you have other commitments or work from home. If you’re juggling multiple children and working full-time, you may prefer a curriculum that requires less instructor involvement and is more self-directed. If you have more time to dedicate to one-on-one instruction, you may opt for a program that requires more hands-on teaching.

Remember, the goal is to find a curriculum that fits your unique situation and allows you to create an effective and enjoyable learning experience for your child. Don’t feel overwhelmed by the options—there are plenty of resources available to help you make the right choice. Trust yourself and consider what works best for your family’s schedule and teaching style. 

Step 6:
Methodology (25:38)

Mastery vs. Sprial

Mastery approach (where you work on a particular set of skills until you have mastered them) or spiral (different skills are worked on at the same time but continuously circled back to as you slowly build abilities)? Teacher-directed instruction or student exploration? Much like identifying your homeschool philosophy, understanding your teaching method is also crucial.

What is most important to remember when considering the teaching method is the match between the student, the teacher, and the subject.

  • Research has shown that students with a learning disability benefit from teacher-directed, error minimized, mastery instruction in the affected area of disability.
  • Science often lends itself to more discovery in the structure of lessons allowing for student exploration with a spiral review of needed supporting concepts.
  • As students mature, they often need less structure and thrive off of more self-directed exploratory learning. In contrast, some less mature students need more structure and guidance to their learning.  
  • Many students find hands-on learning to be the most engaging, but some others find it confusing and overwhelming.

Reflect on the subjects or topics that you feel confident teaching. Recognize the areas where you may not feel as comfortable or knowledgeable.

Adequate Instructor Support

If there are subjects or topics that you lack confidence in teaching, look for a curriculum that provides ample instructor support. Choose a program that offers clear explanations, teacher guides, instructional videos, or additional resources to assist you in teaching those subjects.

Consider outsourcing: local brick and mortar, tutor, online

If you feel less confident in certain subjects, you may want to explore other options specifically designed to teach those subjects. Online platforms or tutors can provide expert instruction and guidance in areas where you may need extra support. Many communities now offer local brick and mortar à la carte classes.

Remember, it’s completely normal to have strengths and weaknesses when it comes to teaching different subjects. The key is to find a curriculum that aligns with your comfort level and provides the necessary resources to support your teaching journey. With the right curriculum and additional support, you can confidently guide your child’s learning and ensure a well-rounded education.

Step 7:
Research and Try before you buy (28:47)

Research and Read Reviews: Look for curriculum reviews from trusted sources, such as homeschooling websites, blogs, and forums. Read testimonials from other homeschooling parents to gain insights into how well a particular curriculum worked for them. 

www.Youtube.com

www.cathyduffyreviews.com

Once you follow the 7 STEPS for choosing curriculum, you will look for reviews from trusted sources, such as homeschooling websites, blogs, and forums. Read testimonials from other homeschooling parents to gain insights into how well a particular curriculum worked for them. Cathy Duffy’s website and 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum is a resource that can help narrow down the choices

In the future episodes, we are going to be doing some curriculum unboxing so you will be able to see up close as we look through the pages of a variety of resources.

Explore educational resources beyond traditional textbooks, such as novels, board games, documentaries, museums, local theater, non-fiction books, DIY projects, online courses, movies, Legos, encyclopedias, and more. Think about the activities your child enjoys in their free time and find ways to integrate their learning style and interests into academic subjects. Download your FREE board game templates!

When researching curriculum, you can also sample lessons. You can do this by viewing them online on the supplier’s website. You can often see sample lessons and reviews on YouTube. This will give you a glimpse of the teaching style, content, and overall structure of the curriculum. If samples are not readily available, don’t hesitate to contact curriculum suppliers and ask if they can provide you with sample lesson pages, either digitally or through mail. Getting a firsthand look at the curriculum will help you assess whether it aligns with your teaching style and your child’s learning preferences. Learn tips and tricks to Keep Learning Fun!

Another valuable resource is the homeschooling community. Connecting with other homeschoolers through forums or social media groups can also provide you with insights and recommendations based on their first-hand experiences.

Once you have access to sample lessons and insights from the homeschool community, it’s time to test-drive the curriculum with your child. By working through a few lessons together, you can assess how well the curriculum engages your child and whether it meets their specific needs. Pay attention to their level of interest, comprehension, and enjoyment during the lessons. 

And, like we mentioned earlier, if you’ve unenrolled your student recently, give them time for Deschooling. There’s a good chance that if you’ve just pulled them out of school, there’s not a curriculum on this planet that is going to engage them. They need to decompress from the environment that you just pulled them out of that potentially killed their love for learning. That’s why it’s so important to not skip this step!

Homeschooling can be a tremendous gift to your children—a personalized educational experience tailored to each kid’s interests, abilities, and learning styles. But what to teach, and when, and how? Especially for first-time homeschoolers, the prospect of tackling an annual curriculum can be daunting. In Home Learning Year by Year, Rebecca Rupp presents comprehensive plans from preschool through high school, covering integral subjects for each grade, with lists of topics commonly presented at each level, recommended resource and reading lists, and suggestions for creative alternative options and approaches.

Choosing curriculum looks different at all ages and stages.  (33:00)

It’s important to know that a child’s biological age does not always correlate with their “readiness” and their ability to comprehend a concept or develop a skill.

Preschool/Kindergarten (Ages 2-6)

It’s about learning through life and play. This age range is ideal to pick some simple goals for – things like life skills, language development, large motor skills (climbing on the playground) and some basic fine motor skills (how to hold a crayon.) This age should be non-pressure, non-stress for learning.  Everything can be learned via play.

This can be the start of early academic goals – such as learning to recognize letters and sounds or understanding and recognizing numbers up to 5. Another goal could be to learn how to print their name. This age group is also the perfect time to have goals around easy chores such as emptying the dishwasher, cleaning up toys, and putting laundry away. Be sure to check out our PRESCHOOL PAGE and Teaching your child HOW TO TO READ page and episode where we give a lot of tips and free resources for those early years.

Elementary learners

Elementary age homeschoolers are learning foundational skills in core subjects such as reading, writing, and mathematics. In language arts, they focus on phonics, vocabulary, grammar, and writing skills. Reading comprehension and fluency are also essential aspects of their literacy development. In mathematics, they explore basic operations, number sense, fractions, geometry, and measurement.

Science may include more hands-on experiments and observation-based learning and social studies is introduced to help them understand the world around them. Art, music, and physical education are also valued components of their education. Homeschoolers at this age are encouraged to pursue their personal interests and engage in independent reading. They may explore topics like space, dinosaurs, oceans, or any other subjects that capture their curiosity. The aim is to foster a love of learning, encourage critical thinking, and develop a strong foundation for future academic pursuits.

Top math Games
Learn Math Concepts with GAMES!

Middle School

If you have a new middle schooler, this is a great time fostering more independence. Middle school homeschoolers continue to build upon the foundational skills they acquired in elementary school while expanding their knowledge across various subjects. They explore more complex concepts and begin to develop critical thinking and analytical skills. Middle school homeschoolers focus on enhancing their reading comprehension, engaging in literature studies and developing effective writing abilities. They learn to solve more complex equations and concepts and expand their scientific knowledge and develop their understanding of scientific principles. They develop an understanding of government structures, citizenship, and civic responsibilities. Many middle school homeschoolers begin learning a foreign language during this period and have the opportunity to explore various elective subjects based on their interests. These can include art, music, computer science, coding, physical education, health, home economics, or other specialized subjects that allow them to pursue their passions. 

Overall, middle school homeschoolers aim to develop a solid academic foundation while nurturing their critical thinking skills, independent learning abilities, and self-motivation. They are preparing for the transition to high school by acquiring a broad knowledge base and honing their study and organizational skills.

High School 

High school is generally where classes get more specialized. In general, classes are divided into two sections: core subjects and electives. Core subjects are math, sciences, language arts, and social studies. Planning a general overview of the full high school experience can be helpful to organize what subjects you are going to complete when. There is also a lot finer tuning involved in planning high school curriculum as you begin to really focus on and prepare your student for what is going to happen after high school and beyond.  Our high school series will walk you through this entire process and go into a lot more detail than what we have time for in this episode so definitely give it a listen. 

BTDT HIGH SCHOOL SERIES

Lastly, when choosing a curriculum, think about setting specific goals. For example, what do you hope to achieve or what do you want your child to learn? About life? What is the purpose of education? What is your ultimate goal for your child? 

There are lots of wonderful curriculums out there, but sometimes as fun as they may seem, these curricula may not help reach your goal and your goal may change based on the means of your family. A lot of homeschoolers like to create a vision board for the year. We talked about this in our planning for your school year episode. Learn more about Planning Your Homeschool Year>>

Remember, finding the perfect curriculum is a journey, and it’s okay to make adjustments along the way. If you discover that the curriculum you initially chose isn’t the best fit for your child, don’t worry. Homeschooling grants you the flexibility to switch to a different curriculum that better suits their learning style and needs. The key is to approach the curriculum selection process with an open mind and a willingness to try different options. By taking the time to explore samples, seek advice from the homeschool community, and test-drive the curriculum, you can make an informed decision that sets your child up for a successful and enjoyable experience. Homeschooling offers incredible flexibility and the opportunity to tailor your child’s education to their individual needs and interests. Embrace this flexibility and adapt your approach as you discover what works best for your child. Remember to enjoy the journey and celebrate the unique experience of homeschooling together.

Facebook Resource Group:
Homeschool Freebies & Support  for PreK-12
Join the No-Spam Facebook Group

As we mentioned before, homeschoolers really love to help each other out and share free resources. Many local groups do curriculum swaps and there are a lot of Free homeschool resources Facebook groups. Just this week we created a brand new Facebook group for the sole purpose of sharing free and low cost homeschool resources. Since the popularity of homeschooling has grown so much since Covid, a lot of our go-to groups have been flooded with SPAM and it can be hard to sift through all that. So, we created a new group called Homeschool Freebies & Support for Pre-K-12th. Join us and get all the goods!

This Week’s Freebies:

036. Applying to Colleges and Finding Scholarships

College Applications and Scholarships

Applying to Colleges and Finding Scholarships

College isn’t cheap and transitioning from homeschool to a four-year university may seem overwhelming and you probably have a lot of questions but don’t worry! We’re going to walk you through the application process and the best way to get some extra cash to pay for it all!

-How do I choose colleges to apply to?
-How do I begin the application process?
-Where do I find scholarships?

Episode 036:

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

Show Notes

We’ve talked a lot already about designing your 4-year plan and mapping out future goals. Your teenager may be opting for a future in the military, trade school, entrepreneurship, or the workforce and maybe college is not part of their plan.  Or maybe they are considering going to community college and then transferring to a university which can often be a huge savings for families choosing this route.

They may even be considering a gap year. Several students we know chose this pathway.  For some, it was because of the pandemic, for others, their students possibly needed time to save up money for future schooling. Others chose service programs like Americorps. Another student friend is doing a foreign language program abroad.  There are so many options. But for those who are college bound, thinking ahead to college can be an overwhelming prospect.  

How many applications?

While there is no exact formula or a perfect number of schools to submit your applications to, most students apply to 4-8 universities.

Safety School (2-3)

Sometimes called “back-up schools,” are schools you’re practically guaranteed admission. In general, safety schools have high acceptance rates. 

If you are new to homeschooling, be sure to check out our Getting Started Page where we step you through the entire process.

Target School (2-3)

Sometimes called ”match school” your grades and test scores should fall into the accepted range of the school’s most recently admitted class. While acceptance isn’t guaranteed, you should have a 40-60% chance of getting accepted.

Reach School (1-3)

If your grades and academic credentials fall in the lower range or below a school’s average from the previous year’s accepted students, then that school would be considered a “reach school” (also called a Dream School).

How do I choose colleges to apply to? (6:46)

Choosing a college to apply to can be really exciting for your teen but it can also be a challenging decision. It’s important to remember that this is their path, and they are the ones that are ultimately making the decision. Your job is to guide them and help them through this process. So, talk to them and have open discussions and dialogue. To help you through this process, we’ve put together some steps to help narrow this down for them. 

  1. Identify priorities: you’re going to be making a list of your priorities to guide your decision-making. Think about what factors are important to them in choosing a college. Consider things like academic programs, location (maybe they want to live in a sunny, warm state?), campus culture, extracurricular activities, size, cost (obviously, this is a big one for a lot of families!), and any other criteria that matter to you in a college. 
  2. Research colleges: Look for colleges that are going to align with the priorities you laid out. You’ll want to consider factors like academic reputation, majors and programs offered, faculty expertise, campus facilities, student organizations. Books like Fiske Guide to Colleges and the Princeton Review: The Best 388 Colleges are a great way to see ratings and criteria. Scroll down to view our list of college websites and resources.
Fiske Guide to Colleges
The Princeton Review: The Best 388 Colleges
  1. Tour some campuses: If it’s feasible, try to tour the campuses of the colleges you’re interested in. Visiting a campus will provide insights into the atmosphere, campus life, facilities, and overall vibe of the institution. Many offer information sessions so take advantage of those. You can take the official campus tour, and talk to current students and faculty, and just explore the surrounding area. Often the tour guides and people working in the visitor center are students themselves and love to share about their experiences.If you don’t know where to start with this, visit a few of the college campuses that are closest to you, even if your kiddo is pretty sure they don’t want to go there.  You definitely want them to have an idea of what to expect and be able to have a baseline for that. Even though you can do some of these tours online, it pales in comparison to being on campus and taking it all in.
  2. Seek guidance and advice: Talk to friends, family members and homeschool parents who can offer insights into the college selection process. They may have recommendations based on your academic strengths, interests, and career goals. You can get advice from people you know who may have attended or have knowledge about different colleges or a college on your list.  Reach out to current students or alumni of the colleges you’re interested in. Ask questions about their experiences, campus life, academic rigor, and career outcomes. Their perspectives can provide valuable insights that might not be available through official sources. Many out of state schools have local or regional representatives or alumni groups.  We met with a traveling advisor about one school, and we attended an alumni event for another school and it’s a great way to get a great vibe. You can also join the school’s social media pages for information.  Look at what kinds of clubs and activities they offer.
  3. Consider financial factors: College can be a significant investment, so it’s essential to consider the financial implications. Evaluate the cost of tuition, fees, room and board, and other expenses. Research scholarships, grants, and financial aid opportunities offered by each college. Consider your financial situation and weigh the affordability of each institution. Have an honest heart to heart with your children about yours/their financial situation so they understand from the get-go what their options truly are.
  4. Review admission requirements: it’s essential to meet the admission requirements for each college you’re considering. We talked about this in a couple of our other high school series episodes. Specifically checking with the college admissions to ensure that your 4-year high school plan will meet those. Check the necessary standardized test scores (SAT, ACT, and others.), GPA requirements, prerequisite courses, and any other criteria. It’s also important to have a realistic understanding of your chances of admission to each institution. Definitely look to see if they have special requirements for homeschoolers.  Also consider whether you have a solid chance at this school.  Many schools charge to apply and that adds up quickly.  An average student might not want to waste time applying to a college with a 7% acceptance rate.
  5. Consider your long-term goals: Think about your future career aspirations and how each college can contribute to your academic and professional growth. Look for colleges with strong programs and resources in your area of interest. Consider internship opportunities, research facilities, and alumni networks that can help you advance your career. If your child knows what they want to major in already, you can research what schools are ranked highly for that.  
  6. Trust your instincts: After conducting thorough research and gathering information, trust your instincts and listen to your gut feeling. Reflect on which college resonates with you the most and aligns with your goals, values, and aspirations.

Remember that the college application process often involves applying to multiple institutions to increase your options. Be sure to meet application deadlines, submit required documents, and give yourself enough time to complete the process for each college you choose. Good luck!

How do I begin the application process? (16:56)

The college application process can be stressful with numerous tasks and decisions involved. However, with some planning, you can navigate the process more smoothly. We’ve laid out some strategies and tips to help you manage everything, including your stress level during this time:

  1. Start Early: Begin your preparations well in advance. Give yourself ample time to research colleges, understand all those admission requirements, and gather all the necessary documents. Our high school documents episode in this series lays all that out for you. Starting early will allow you to spread out the workload and avoid that last-minute stress. Many people recommend things like using essay prompts for writing assignments during the summer or late junior year so that you already have things prepared for application season.  You can also get on Common App a couple years before you actually need to. 
  1. Break It Down: Divide the application process into smaller, manageable tasks. Create a timeline or checklist with specific deadlines for each task, such as researching schools, writing essays, gathering recommendation letters, and completing all the forms. Breaking down the process will make it feel less overwhelming. Make a spreadsheet with all the schools and all of their dates so we could figure out which things need to go where.  There’s a lot of information in a lot of places so it can get really overwhelming. Keep all your application materials, deadlines, and important documents well-organized. And definitely utilize those digital tools, like Trello. Staying organized is going to give you a sense of control and reduce anxiety.

TRELLO is a free app that keeps me organized: https://trello.com

  1. Practice Self-Care: Make sure to take care of your physical and mental well-being during this period. Get enough sleep, eat nutritious meals, and engage in regular exercise or activities that help you relax and unwind. Taking breaks and pursuing hobbies or interests can help alleviate stress and maintain a healthy balance. 
  1.  Manage Expectations: Remember that the college application process is competitive, and rejection is a possibility. While it’s essential to aim high and work hard, it’s also important to be realistic and have backup options. This is one of the reasons that we recommend applying to safety, target, and reach schools. Keep in mind that there are SO MANY colleges where you can receive an excellent education and have a fulfilling college experience. 
  1. Seek Support: Reach out to parents or homeschooling forums for guidance and support. They can provide valuable advice, or review your application materials, and help you stay organized. Sometimes, simply sharing your thoughts and worries can provide relief.  This is where we all really feel the stress because it all reflects on us as the homeschool parent.  If they were in school and somehow everything went downhill, we can blame that, but the pressure and focus is 100% on us!  (It isn’t really, but it sure feels like it!) Remember, you are not alone in this process, and many others, including both of us, have successfully navigated college applications. Reach out for support when needed, and stay organized. 

How do I pay for college? (25:43)

There are several ways people pay for college, and the methods can vary depending on personal circumstances and the country’s education system. Here are some common ways people finance their college education:

It’s worth noting that the availability and specific details of these options can vary by country, educational institution, and individual circumstances. It’s advisable to research and consult with financial aid offices or student advisors at each specific college or university for more detailed information about financing options.

The first place people typically look to help with college is through scholarships and the biggest are often offered through the schools themselves. It’s important to know that VERY few graduates get full ride scholarships. The National Center for Education Statistics study entitled National Postsecondary Student Aid Study found that even though 70% of undergraduates received some financial aid, only .2% received $25,000 or more. 

  1. Personal savings: Some individuals or families save money specifically for college expenses. This could involve setting aside a portion of their income or making long-term investments like a 529 to fund their education.
  2. Scholarships: Scholarships are financial awards given to students based on various criteria such as academic achievements, athletic abilities, or specific talents.
  3. Grants: Grants are similar but are usually need-based. These do not need to be repaid, making them highly desirable sources of funding. The FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is completed by current and prospective college students in the US to determine their eligibility for aid. The FAFSA is different from the CSS Profile, which is also required by some colleges. 

Federal Pell Grants: https://studentaid.gov/understand-aid/types/grants/pell

  1. Student loans: Many students rely on loans to cover their college expenses. These loans can be obtained from government organizations or private lenders. Students are required to repay these loans after completing their education, typically with interest.
  2. Work-study programs: Some colleges and universities offer work-study programs that provide part-time employment opportunities to students. Through these programs, students can earn money to help cover their educational costs. So many of these opportunities keep the college running and at the same time help students pay for their education.
  3. Parental support: Some parents (or other family members) financially support their children’s college education by covering some, or all, of the expenses. This can be through savings, income, or borrowing on behalf of their child.
  4. Financial aid: Colleges and universities may offer financial aid packages that include a combination of scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study opportunities. Financial aid is typically determined based on factors like family income, assets, and the cost of attendance.
  5. Employer assistance: Some companies or organizations provide tuition reimbursement or educational assistance programs to their employees. This benefit allows individuals to pursue higher education while working and reduces the financial burden.
  6. Military Grants & Scholarships: There are several paths to financing college that come from previous service in the military or from a parent or siblings service.

Military Grants and Scholarships

If you’re an active servicemember, Veteran or if you’re a child of a military family, there are several financial scholarships and grants available to support you in covering your college expenses. These opportunities are designed to assist you in pursuing higher education and achieving your academic goals.

These are federal government programs, like the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, that can provide assistance. Additionally, nonprofit veterans’ service organizations, such as the Pat Tillman Foundation, offer scholarships and grants tailored to support individuals like yourself. Some educational institutions also offer direct financial aid options.

Scholarship Scams

Unfortunately, there are numerous scams making the rounds seeking to take advantage of unsuspecting students. Fraudsters prey on needy scholarship applicants and attempt to steal money, banking details, personal information, and more. Thankfully, there are ways to spot these schemes so you can avoid wasting your time and use it to focus on real scholarship applications. 

Here are 8 tips on spotting and avoiding scholarship scams:
  1. Question if it’s too good to be true
  2. Be wary of a sense of urgency
  3. The promise of exclusive information should be a red flag
  4. Question money-back guarantees
  5. Ignore claims of unclaimed funds
  6. Watch out for claims of affiliation with a reputable organization
  7. Learn to spot phishing emails and websites
  8. Don’t hand over personal or banking information

Where do I find college scholarships?

It’s important not to miss the joys of homeschooling during the high school years because you’re so stressed about scholarships. Finding scholarships for college can be a time-consuming but worthwhile endeavor.

Scholarships in Summary

We have listed some websites below for reference, but we highly recommend you don’t waste too much time but instead get this book: the Ultimate Scholarship Book. It’s updated twice per year. It has several thousand scholarship listings, and the opening chapters are gold for the advice they give. There are 13 indexes in the back so you can search by race, major and disability status separately.

Ultimate Scholarship Book
The Ultimate Scholarship Book

For local scholarships, I recommend that you look up your community foundation. Most are titled (your city/region) community foundation. Most have a scholarship portal where you can do a general app.

Professional organizations are also a good way to go. Many will probably be in the book, but you can google for them

Law firms also provide scholarships. No, you don’t have to be a law student to apply. Most just want you to write an essay on a topic that is relevant to their practice (i.e. importance of not drinking and driving)

See if your college of choice financial aid department has a scholarship portal.

Note: As a best practice, keep a copy of all the essays you write and reuse them for later. You would be amazed at how many prompts are the same/similar.

  1. Check with the College: Start by exploring scholarship opportunities offered directly by the colleges or universities you’re considering. Many institutions have their own scholarships, grants, or financial aid programs available to incoming students. Visit their financial aid office or check their website for information on scholarships specific to their institution.
  2. Use Scholarship Search Engines: Online scholarship search engines can be valuable resources for finding scholarships that match your profile. Websites like Fastweb, Scholarships.com, and College Board’s Scholarship Search offer comprehensive databases where you can search for scholarships based on your interests, background, field of study, or other criteria.
  1. Research Local Scholarships: Investigate scholarships offered by local organizations, community foundations, businesses, or nonprofit groups in your area. These scholarships may be less competitive than national ones, as they are often limited to students from specific regions or schools. Community organizations are great resources. For example, 4H and even our local orthodontist have a great scholarship! Local libraries are usually a great resource for information on these opportunities.
  2. Explore Professional Organizations: Many professional associations, industry-specific organizations, and trade groups offer scholarships to students pursuing careers in their respective fields. Research organizations related to your intended major or career path and check their websites for scholarship opportunities.
  3. Utilize Social Networks: Inform your network of family, friends, and mentors that you’re seeking scholarships for college. They may be aware of specific opportunities or connections that could assist you in your search. Additionally, consider joining online forums, groups, or communities focused on college scholarships to connect with others who can share resources or advice.
  4. Employer Programs: If your teenager has a job, check with their employer or parent’s employer and inquire whether your employer or parent’s employer provides scholarships for employees or their children. Many companies offer scholarships as part of their benefits packages or corporate social responsibility initiatives.
  5. Research National Scholarships: Look for national scholarships that are open to students across the country. Organizations like the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, or the National Merit Scholarship Program offer prestigious scholarships to deserving students. Research their eligibility criteria and application processes.

The Gates Millennium Scholars (GMS) program, now known as the Gates Scholarship, is a prestigious scholarship program funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The program provides scholarships to outstanding minority students pursuing undergraduate degrees. The website serves as the platform for the application process and provides information about the scholarship.

The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation is widely recognized for its prestigious scholarship program and the significant financial support it provides to selected scholars. The scholarship covers a substantial portion of educational expenses, including tuition, fees, books, and room and board.

The National Merit Scholarship Program is a prestigious scholarship program that recognizes and awards scholarships to high-performing students based on their PSAT/NMSQT scores. The website has information about the program, scholarship opportunities, and the selection process. It provides comprehensive details on eligibility requirements, application deadlines, and steps for becoming a National Merit Scholar.

  1. Scholarship Books: Check with scholarship directories and books. My favorite “The Ultimate Scholarship Book” provides extensive lists and details on various scholarship opportunities. This book is so thorough! 

Favorite College Website and Apps

College Board Big Future

Big Future is an online platform provided by College Board, offering resources and tools to help students explore and plan for their college education. It provides information on colleges, majors, scholarships, and financial aid, allowing students to search for schools based on their preferences and compare them. Additionally, it offers career exploration tools and guidance for test preparation, making it a comprehensive resource for college-bound students.

Cappex

Cappex is a reputable platform that offers college and scholarship search services for students, including new graduates. It provides a comprehensive database of colleges and universities, as well as scholarship opportunities.

College Navigator

College Navigator, provided by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), is a widely regarded and reliable platform for exploring colleges and universities in the United States. It offers comprehensive data on institutions, including information on programs, admissions, financial aid, and more. The best part is that College Navigator is completely free to use, making it an excellent resource for students, parents, and educators seeking detailed information about colleges without any associated costs.

Unigo

Unigo is a popular platform that provides college reviews, scholarship information, and resources for students exploring higher education options. While Unigo offers free access to a range of college-related content, they also have a premium subscription service.

RaiseMe

RaiseMe is an online platform that allows high school students to earn micro-scholarships from participating colleges based on their achievements and activities. It can be a helpful tool for students looking to earn scholarships and explore college options.

Scholly Search

Scholly Search is a popular scholarship search platform that helps students find relevant scholarship opportunities. It offers a user-friendly interface and personalized scholarship matches based on the student’s profile. While Scholly Search does have a subscription-based service called Scholly Premium, which provides additional features and benefits, the platform also offers a free version that allows users to access and apply for scholarships without any cost.

HBCU HUB

HBCU Hub is a comprehensive online platform that provides information and resources specifically tailored to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). It offers a range of features, including college profiles, scholarship opportunities, virtual campus tours, and a community forum. HBCU Hub is free to use.

College Scholarship Calculator from College Raptor

The basic features of College Raptor are available for free, allowing students to access important information about colleges and estimated costs without any cost. However, College Raptor also offers a premium version called College Raptor Premium, which provides additional features and services at a cost. The free version can still be beneficial for many students.

Scholarships.com

Scholarships.com is a widely recognized and free search platform that provides access to a large database of scholarship opportunities for students. It offers a user-friendly interface and allows students to search for scholarships based on various criteria such as academic achievements, interests, demographics, and more.

Fastweb College Scholarships

Fastweb offers a comprehensive database of scholarships from different sources, including corporations, foundations, and educational institutions. Fastweb is free to use.

Niche

Niche provides a wide range of information and resources for students and families navigating the college search and selection process. It offers college rankings, reviews, and data on various aspects of colleges and universities, including academics, campus life, and student experiences. Niche is free to use but also offers some premium features for a cost.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop is a highly regarded website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration. It offers a wealth of resources for career exploration, job search, training programs, and employment information. Completely free to use, it provides users with access to tools like career assessments, occupation profiles, salary data, job search resources, and training program information at no cost.

Things to know when evaluating financial aid offers

1) Make a spreadsheet so you can compare various aspects of the award. Scroll down to download the one we created for FREE!

2) How much grant money vs. loan money is each school offering?

3) Are the grants renewable in subsequent years?  If so, are there GPA requirements, major requirements, academic progress requirements?

4) Will the grants received be the same amount in subsequent years?  Be aware that some schools give the most grant money the first year with reduced amounts in years to follow.

5) What kind of loans are offered?  Subsidized are best.  Beware of parent plus loans, which require families to have good credit, and which can cost double the loan amount in interest.  

6) If a student or parent is considering taking out loans, what will repayment look like?  You can estimate this by using the Loan Simulator at studentaid.gov.

7) If work study is listed, be aware that work study is dependent on the student finding an acceptable on-campus job that fits their schedule.  A work study job is not guaranteed.

FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is a crucial resource for students seeking financial assistance for higher education. It is a form that students must complete to determine their eligibility for federal and state financial aid programs, including grants, loans, and work-study opportunities. FAFSA helps assess a student’s financial need and enables colleges and universities to determine their financial aid package. It is important because it provides access to various forms of financial aid, making college more affordable and accessible for millions of students each year. FAFSA deadlines vary, so be sure to submit the application as early as possible to maximize aid opportunities.

Remember to carefully review the eligibility requirements, deadlines, and application processes for each scholarship you consider. Pay attention to any essays, recommendations, or additional materials required, and make sure to submit your applications on time. Keep track of the scholarships you apply for and maintain a calendar to stay organized throughout the process. Lastly, be persistent and try not to get discouraged if you don’t receive every scholarship you apply for. Scholarships are really competitive, but the more you apply to, you increase your chances of securing financial assistance.

This Week’s Freebie:

035. Best and Worst Homeschool Buys

The Best and Worst Homeschool Buys

Best and Worst Homeschool Buys

We interviewed hundreds of seasoned homeschool moms with real stories and real advice. Tune in as we spill the beans on what worked, what didn’t, and how to make your homeschool budget count!

What do you regret buying early in your homeschool journey?
-What do you wish you purchased earlier?
-What are your best homeschool buys?

Episode 035:

Scroll Down for your FREEBIE:

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

Show Notes

Most homeschoolers are on a pretty strict budget. Many are in a single income household and don’t want to break the bank with curriculum and school supplies.

As a single mom on an extremely strict budget, I need to be very deliberate about what I spend my money on. I’m sure my budget is even tighter than most.

In a previous episode, we discussed whether or not you can afford to homeschool and we gave a lot of tips and tricks for saving money and cutting corners.  And it’s great to save money but you’re not really saving money if you’re buying things that you really don’t need. Sometimes we buy things that we really don’t need or wish we bought something different that would’ve worked better in our home school and spent our money more wisely. 

So in this episode, we went to the source and asked hundreds of seasoned homeschool parents how they *wish* they had spent their money better. What do they wish that they never bought? What do they wish they had bought sooner? Or which item that they bought did they maybe wish they bought a different version of? We discuss real tips from hundreds of real homeschoolers that have been there, done that. These are real parents with real advice, but we wanted to give them their privacy, so we have numbered each parent for anonymity. 

What do you regret buying early in your homeschool journey?  (5:18)

Mom 1

So many of the moms that we talked to said that they wished they never bought a full box curriculum.  Time and time again they said they wished they waited to see what worked best for their children and for themselves. Over and over again they said they would have saved 100s of dollars. A lot of people are super excited at the prospect of homeschooling but also overwhelmed at the same time and these nice shiny, full curricula packages can look like the answer to your prayers, but often, they don’t work for every child, or a child who is learning things at different levels.  

Mom 2

Another mom was super excited about the curriculum she bought but later it turned out that her child hated workbooks and basically sitting still….ever! She laughs about it now, because she said the thing she bought first was something they never used. A lot of people think that workbooks and worksheets are the answer because that’s what they’ve seen coming home from school as homework, but those are often busywork.  Some kids do a lot better being more hands on or project based or by reading and verbally narrating what they’ve learned.

She said she wished she took more time to figure out the best way for them to structure their days and find out what her kids like best.  She said she learned that homeschooling doesn’t have to look like “school.”  There’s a reason that your child isn’t in school and that’s because it didn’t work for them or your family, so replicating public school at home doesn’t make sense. Creating your own space and structure is a major advantage of homeschooling but for a lot of people it really takes a mental switch! We have an episode called “what is a homeschool lifestyle” that we’ve gotten a lot of great feedback about that has helped so many new homeschoolers rethink education and what they want for their child and family so I would encourage you to listen to that. 

Mom 4

She regrets getting subscriptions and apps that say they claim they’ll be an easy solution and your child will learn everything they need to know. She said her child lost interest, and refused to do them. Anything with ‘easy’ in the title or description should be approached with caution. A lot of those programs are again filler and busywork- it looks like they are functional, but they aren’t.

Mom 5

She also regrets purchasing an AIO (All in One) curriculum.  She felt like she was capable and good at planning homeschooling for her preschool and elementary aged kids but got nervous about middle school and made a big purchase that bombed.

Trust your strengths!  There’s often not a whole lot different than these older grade levels and you know your kids by now if you have been homeschooling a while.  If you are new, consider trying before buying so you can figure out what style best matches your student. Many of them have sample lessons you can download for free and give it a go. Or possibly you could borrow a curriculum for a week from a friend and give it a trial run. 

There is all this talk about dry erase markers, but I find them incredibly difficult to wipe off laminated sheets or pockets. I prefer wet-erase markers that way, I can wipe them off completely clean with a damp cloth.

Mom 6

She regretted spending money on books without checking the library first or making sure they really loved them (like were they going to be well loved?).  We know as homeschoolers, we quickly run out of book space.  And when you have too many, it can be distracting and keeps you from finding the one you want sometimes.

She also recommended not purchasing things that could be obtained from her local buy nothing group- ask big, you never know what people are willing to share. This mom said that she wished that she asked more from her ‘buy nothing’ group because she later found out that there were so many people unloading books for free that she could’ve easily used. 

Buy Nothing Groups

Also, a homeschool group here in North Texas we’ve been a part of for many years has a lending library, and they lend everything! Microscopes, science kits, musical instruments, curriculum, hobby supplies, everything! Many people don’t take advantage of it. A lot of these things were donated by older members to use and help out. Homeschoolers are notorious for helping each other, so take advantage of that and pay it forward when it’s your turn. 

Mom 7

She bought all of these small baskets and classroom organizers. She said they just take up space now because they keep everything, they need each week in a laundry basket.

Mom 8

She said when her kids were 4 and 5 years old, she got a couple of school-desks (you know, seat + desk attached, with a rack under the seat for books) at a surplus store. She said her kids loved them, but never, not once, used them for anything truly “school work-ish. They ended up being outside toys eventually. 

Mom 9

She said that she regrets buying a full curriculum, classroom decorations, and coloring books. I am totally with her on the coloring books.  We somehow had a million- mostly because grandparents and other people love to give them, but my kids never wanted anything to do with them.  

Mom 10

She regrets buying a million cheap plastic pencil sharpeners and random Costco workbooks.  She also regrets buying a preschool curriculum for her oldest.  It’s easy to get swept up in getting started, but your later kids will benefit from not starting formal work so early and they end up learning all the same things anyway.

What do you wish you’d purchased earlier? (18:02)

Mom 1

She also wished that she had purchased a large, detailed map of the world and US first. She said it was the single most thing that I had been the most helpful when teaching. That and/or a globe are really helpful and much younger kids really get more out of these than we think they will. It’s a great reference when talking about geography, history, and science. Around the World in Your Homeschool

Our kids learn so much about different countries and cultures with
Universal Yums!

This is one of our favorite Maps to see all those details:

Laminated Giant Map of the World (46 x 80)

Mom 3

I wish I would have done more play based and adventures with my oldest back in Kindergarten and first grade versus curriculum/seated work. She also said that she wished she found like-minded secular homeschoolers early on in her journey. That’s one of the things that we have listed in our 10 Things episode– finding your people is really a key part of homeschooling.  You definitely need support and tapping into a local group early on can mean everything.

Mom 6

She said she wishes that she had encouraged her children’s love of learning and done more field trips, and always had science and art supplies on hand for those spurs of the moment projects.  This is something we’ve talked about in multiple episodes! We love field trips.  We’ve also talked a lot about making an art area somewhere in your house, where kids can just make things whenever the creativity strikes them.

Mom 10

She said she wished she had gotten sooner: electric pencil sharpener- is this a theme or what?  

Mom 11

She wished she had gotten school work display options earlier- she said she somehow thought they would have less items since they weren’t in school anymore and she quickly got overwhelmed.  She felt she was prouder of the things they created at home and really looked for a way to showcase those things.

She also mentioned library cards- not everyone knows your kids can get library cards when they are little.  They are usually free and part of your parent account.

Analog clocks and analog watches are really po;ular. A lot of times we don’t realize every clock in our house is digital until we start learning how to tell time.

Analog clocks and analog watches are really important to teach time. A lot of times we don’t realize every clock in our house is digital until we start learning how to tell time.
Timex Kids Watches

Analog Clocks kind of go along with Math Manipulatives, in general.  We are both big fans of lots and lots of math manipulatives for learning all kinds of concepts from counting to money. Check out of Top Math Games!

I’d also recommend Headphones- these can be great for listening to music or audiobooks for your kids or can be used to tune other family members out.  We are all together a lot so sometimes not having to hear a chatty sibling or someone eating can help preserve peace in your home.

These headphones were recommended by my teenager’s music appreciation professor at the local college and we LOVE THEM!
Sony MDR-ZX310AP ZX Series Wired On Ear Headphones with mic

What are your best homeschool buys? (28:24)

Mom 5

She said the 3 things she’s so happy she purchased day one and has used everyday are her printer, book binder and laminator. 

Homeschoolers that have this BOOK BINDER unanimously agree it was one of their favorite purchases:
MAKEASY Binding Machine, 21-Hole, 450 Sheets, Book Binding Materials Kit

If you do not want to bind yourself, you can also take books to Office Depot and have them cut the binding off and 3-hole punch or spiral bind. 

She also said that she wished she would have purchased PDFs of everything when available instead of hard copies. She said she learned it can be a lot easier to print from a pdf and use between multiple kids and now she’s stuck scanning and printing pages from her hard copy curriculums. You can also laminate or put consumable pages in plastic sleeves so that you can use dry erase and then clean off for the next kid.

She also said she recommends anything that encourages their love of learning/makes it easier for you to continue, like field trips and science/art supplies to have on hand for spur of the moment learning.

Mom 9 

She wishes she bought earlier: good printer, piano, sewing machine, and memberships everywhere. Memberships are a great gift, too- that’s an option for grandparents to give for gifts when we definitely don’t need more toys! And we talked about museum reciprocal programs in our field trip episode, so it really is the gift that keeps on giving.  

I use my printer every single day. Having a good printer is a must for me and the Cannon Pixma is one has been really good to us. I even use it to print photos – our first day of school phots goes in the book right after I take it! I save a ton of money on ink by buying the generic version and it lasts forever.

Canon Pixma MG3620 Wireless All-in-One Color Inkjet Printer with Mobile and Tablet Printing. A cost-effective reliable printer we have used and been very happy with

Mom 11

I’m super glad I bought an Ecotank printer, a laminator, and rolling carts! See- printers and laminators may be all you need!  I also love a great rolling cart- we have that on our homeschool essentials list.

EcoTank Wireless pringers are a favorite among homeschoolers. This one specifically was recomentd by numerous moms:
Epson EcoTank ET-2800 Wireless Color All-in-One Cartridge-Free Supertank Printer with Scan and Copy

Mom 12

Functional storage is necessary! This mom talked about having her husband put in fancy floating shelves everywhere only to realize that books are heavy, and they had a lot of them.  Some really great bookshelves and storage systems were what she really needed instead.  Ikea has great, handy systems that are cheap and easy, and shelves are also often a great item you can find free or cheap at moving sales or on marketplace.

She also mentioned having a CD player or Alexa.  I know most of us stream music now, but a lot of secondhand curricula still includes cd’s so having a player is handy.  Some newer cars don’t have them anymore either.  

When our kids were little, they loved having their own CD players in their rooms. We have this one and it’s lasted a long time:
Magnavox MD6924 Portable Top Loading CD Boombox with AM/FM Stereo Radio-CD-R/CD-RW Compatible, LED Display, AUX Port, Programmable CD Player

We hope these real tips from real homeschoolers that have been there, done that, will help you keep a tighter rein on your budget and save you from making regrettable purchases.

This Week’s Freebie

We don’t have a specific FREE resource that goes with this week’s topic, but we created these FREE resources to help bring fun to your homeschool over the summer.. Enjoy!

The Ultimate North Texas Homeschool Resource List

BTDT Homeschool North Texas Resources

BTDT Homeschool North Texas Resources

Maria and Nicole at BTDT Homeschool are thrilled that our podcast, website, books and free downloads, and blog posts have been an inspiration and resource for thousands of homeschoolers. As an effort to continue to pay it forward to our own community in North Texas, we decided to create this resource list dedicated to helping our local families find secular resources that align with their family values. This evolving list is a work in progress, and we encourage you help us to continue to update it with accurate information.

Check back frequently as this list will be updated frequently. We will do our best to ensure accuracy. If you know a secular or neutral resource in North Texas that is not included or a correction, please send us an email with that information to: info@btdthomeschool.com

Keep in mind that many businesses offer resources afterschool and during the weekends. This list is dedicated to homeschool resources during the school year and during normal public-school hours or a specific resource beloved and catering to homeschoolers. If you don’t see what you are looking for, feel free to take the initiative and reach out to local businesses and ask them to start a homeschool class. There is a good chance that you could create a new resource in your community: Art, Music, Sports, Engineering, Tutoring, and more.

Stay proactive and be your child’s advocate!

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.

New to Homeschooling>>>

What are some reasons to choose a Secular Resource?

Choosing a secular resource may be the right fit for you. It may surprise some people but there are Religious and non-Religious families that seek out secular resources. It isn’t just atheist homeschoolers who are looking for these resources for their children. Families usually chose secular resources or choose a secular curriculum for the following reasons:

1. You aren’t religious

There are many homeschool families who homeschool for non-religious reasons.  There is a growing body of homeschoolers who do not follow any sort of religion. These families usually homeschool due to schedule issues, or because they believe their children can get a better education at home. Some homeschoolers may have been raised in a religious home and want to move away from a religion they see as harmful, but still have a personalized faith they want to teach their children on their own terms.

2. Maybe you are religious but not Evangelical Christian

Many homeschoolers of faith are Islamic, Jehovah’s Witness, Jewish, Wiccan, Catholic, Mormon, or follow some another religion. Many homeschool resources follow traditional Evangelical Christian beliefs, which may not be a fit for your family when you follow another religion.

3. You don’t follow the young earth theory

The most common reason homeschoolers seek out secular curriculum and local resources is that they do not believe in the Young Earth science theory. Young Earth theory states that the entire world is somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 years old, with the world just getting started with the first recorded stories from the Bible. Current scientific theory refutes this claim offering evidence that the earth was formed somewhere around 4.5 billion years ago.

4. You may have a special circumstance

For many families that have a child with special needs or learning differences, homeschooling may be the best choice.

5. You may want to prepare your children like a traditional school

The traditional school system is secular. Religion is not taught in most public schools and universities. Some parents would rather keep religious instruction separate from other subjects in school or teach all world religions equally.

Top 25 Homeschool Essentials
See photos of our homeschool room over the years>>

The Ultimate North Texas Homeschool Resource List
For Secular and Neutral Homeschoolers

The Ultimate North Texas Homeschool Resource List

Learn more: Homeschool Lesson Planner & Ultimate Organizer
Learn more: Book of Centuries for the Secular Homeschooler

Homeschool Lesson Planner and Ultimate Organizer

BTDT Homeschool Lesson Planner and Ultimate Organizer

Introducing the BTDT Homeshool Lesson Planner & Ultimate Organizer – the essential tool for every homeschooling family! This 187-page planner is all about tailoring it to your unique needs and making your homeschooling journey a breeze.

A homeschool planner is a tool designed specifically for homeschooling families to help them stay organized and track their progress. It typically includes various sections and features to assist with lesson planning, scheduling, record-keeping, and tracking academic goals. 

Whether you have one child or a bustling homeschooling household, this organizer is here to keep you super organized and on top of things. It’s like having your personal homeschooling assistant! Completely customized and flexible planner that adapts effortlessly to your homeschooling needs. Say goodbye to scattered records and hello to an all-in-one solution! With everything in one place, you can easily access all your information as you move through the school year.  

Planning your homeschool lessons has never been easier. Our user-friendly design makes planning a breeze, allowing you to map out your curriculum with efficiency and precision- whether you are a child-led unschooler or a scheduled parent, the flexibility will work for you and your kids.  

Stay on top of your homeschooling schedule effortlessly, empowering you to focus on what truly matters – educating your children.  

Our planner empowers you to track anything and everything related to your homeschooling journey. From attendance and grades to extracurricular activities and field trips, you’ll have a comprehensive overview of your children’s progress.  

Page by Page view of the BTDT Homeschool Lesson Planner & Ultimate Organizer

What is included in this planner?

We’ve taken the time to include detailed instructions on how to use this planner effectively, but let me give you a friendly overview of how it’s organized: 

PART 1: REFERENCES  

  • Resources list from BTDT Homeschool- Including: BTDT Homeschool podcast, getting started in homeschooling, tips, free downloads, and more to help in your homechool journey.  
  • Password Tracker 
  • Membership/Subscription Tracker 
  • Field Trip Tracker 
  • Attendance Tracker 

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.

New to Homeschooling>>>

PART 2: MAKING A PLAN  

  • Curriculum & Resources Brainstorm 
  • Literature Selections and Rating 
  • Planning For the Year Ahead 
  • Monthly Goals and Accomplishments 
  • Quarterly Term Goals 

PART 3: BUDGETING  

As parents research how to get started homeschooling, budgeting is a top concern. Families want to know how much it will cost to homeschool. Preparation for the costs will minimize the stress that can affect your homeschool efforts and overall success.  

Several factors determine how much it will cost to homeschool. These include the number of children, the grade level, the type of curriculum you select. Each family will have different homeschool requirements, so providing a dollar figure before evaluating your family’s needs is difficult. Your Homeschool Budget is listed in an organized way so you can stay on track and not bust the bank:  

  • Curriculum Budget by Subject  
  • Outsourced Classes/Workshops/Etc.  
  • Summary Budget  
  • Annual Household Bill Tracker  

PART 4: THE SCHEDULE  

  • Monthly Focus Dashboard 
  • Monthly Schedule 
  • Weekly Lesson Planner for 12 Months 
  • Grade Tracker/Student Checklist 

PART 5: REFLECTIONS  

  • Year-End Reflections 
  • Year In Review 
  • Notes 

Get yours today!

Transform your homeschooling journey by staying organized and on track with the ultimate organizer! With 187 pages, staying on top of your schedule has never been easier, giving you the freedom to focus on what truly matters – educating your children.

Homeschool Lesson Planner and Ultimate Organizer

$11.95

031. Planning Your Homeschool Year

Planning Your Homeschool Year

When should I plan for the next school year?
Do I have to teach all subjects?
How do I organize my homeschool room?

Tune in this week while we discuss these topics and more!

Episode 031:

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

Show Notes

Does the idea of making your plan for the next school year stress you out? Do you need to teach every subject? And how should you organize your homeschool room?

We are getting to that time of year!  Some of us are bored with our current curriculum or program and ready to move on to the next level or try something new. And some of you might be brand new to the idea of homeschooling and organizing your school year. If you are a homeschooler that follows a traditional schedule, you may be counting down the days until summer.  Some of us may be all stressed out because our friends are asking which class we all want to do together in fall and we are still thinking about next week.

Homeschool planning can seem like an overwhelming endeavor—especially if you’re not sure where to start. In this episode, we are going to help you to feel confident as you embark on your homeschool journey and help you to organize your year. We’ve compiled some helpful insights to make this process more simple and stress-free to create a solid homeschool plan for the upcoming school year.

 Here are some great ways to jump into your planning in a simple, non-stress way:

1. Create a Mission Statement

Before you dive deep into creating an entire homeschool plan, we encourage you to reflect on the reason you chose homeschooling for your family. From there, you should develop a mission statement, which is a long-term overarching vision for your homeschooling journey. This statement should be rooted in your key values and apply to everyone involved. For example: “To instill creativity, curiosity, and a love of learning through meaningful educational experiences both at home and in the world.”

2. Set Student Goals

Now that you’ve established your “why” for homeschooling, you can move on to setting goals for each child. Goals are more specific, measurable, and time-bound objectives that you want your kids to accomplish in the year ahead. It’s easy to become overly ambitious when homeschool planning. Having goals will help you prioritize your lessons and keep your students on the right track. 

We’ve compiled all our favorite things over the years on the
BTDT Homeschool Amazon Wishlist:

Here are a few quick tips for successful goal-setting:

* Focus on each child’s individual strengths, weaknesses, and interests

* Pick no more than three goals to pursue (too many can get overwhelming)

* Be sure to track progress and revisit goals on a regular basis

Knowing your goals will help you with the next phase of homeschool planning—selecting subjects.

3. Choose Your Subjects

Once you have your goals in mind for each student, you’re ready to choose which subjects to focus on this year. While this may be dictated by the homeschooling laws in your state, there’s usually some room for discretion. Using your state’s regulations and your goals as a guide, write down a list of the subjects you plan to teach each student.

Some people like to stick to the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic and build from there.  If you have high schoolers, you may want to go back to look at your 4 year plan and check off credits.  

4. Select School Materials

The next step in the homeschool planning process is deciding what educational materials you’re going to use. Before you opt for the first curriculum a friend or group recommends, though, be sure to consider your mission statement, your homeschool style, and your child’s learning style. Having these in mind will help you find the best fit for your family.

We’re going to be diving into choosing curriculum and walking you through that process, but for today as we discuss making a plan and organizing your school year, these are basic things to consider before settling on any school materials: 

  • Would you prefer a prepackaged, “open-and-go” curriculum from a single publisher?
  • Do you work from home? How much parent involvement does the curriculum require?
  • What is your child’s learning style? Does your child work well independently? Are they easily distracted and need you there to refocus them?
  • Will you find free resources from the internet or library, or adopt an eclectic approach?
  • Are there outside opportunities, such as a co-op, online class, or college dual-enrollment that would be a good fit for your child?
  • Are you looking for an online school versus traditional homeschooling? This is a good fit for some people.  But it can also be restrictive if you want a more flexible schedule to do some of those daytime homeschool activities with friends when you need to be online. Most younger children are typically going to learn better with hands-on interactive learning so you may want to consider limiting too much computer time with those younger years. 
  •  If you are new, you also want to consider your worldview as well as homeschooling style, this will help narrow down choices immensely.  We talk about this in our getting started episode.
  • If you really want to see the curriculum in person, see if local friends have it, visit a homeschool store. Most people have a lot of luck on YouTube. Almost every curriculum has a YouTube review or you can see it up close

Remember, if you feel that a certain curriculum doesn’t meet your child’s needs, feel free to switch to something out at any point during the school year! You don’t have to stick with any materials that aren’t working for you. We also suggest choosing flexible curricula so that you can modify the materials however you see fit. I’ve often skipped parts of a lesson that I know was a skill already mastered. So don’t waste time on unnecessary filler. And on the flipside, when something from the lesson really piques your child’s interest, run with it! Spend extra time on that and dive deeper. They are going to enjoy learning and retain information when they are really interested. Remember, one of our ultimate goals is to create lifelong learners. Those moments of curiosity are opportunities. 

5. Organize Your Supplies

One of the biggest hindrances to a smooth-running school day is having to waste time looking for necessary supplies. The key to avoiding this? Have a specific spot where all of your school materials are neatly organized.

We encourage you to pick a place in your home that can be the designated “school supply area.” This can be an office space, closet, or even just a corner of the dining room. Then, get a shelf and storage bin for each student so they can easily grab their materials at the start of each day and return them once finished.

6. Develop a Schedule

Creating a schedule is another key aspect of homeschool planning. This ensures that you stay on track and maintain consistency throughout the year. There are a number of questions that you should ask yourself while developing your schedule, including:

  • Do you plan on homeschooling year-round, following a traditional academic year, or doing something else entirely?
  • How many days will you be schooling each week? Five days? Four?
  • Will you be teaching all subjects each day or adopting a loop schedule?
  • How many hours do you want to spend doing school work each day? Most people with a traditional school setting tend to be overly ambitious with this. When you have such a small student/teacher ratio you don’t have to spend as much time schooling.

We recommend:

  • Pre-K-1st: 0-60 min a day
  • 2nd-5th: 30-120 min a day
  • 6th-8th: 90-180 min a day
  • 9th-12th: 120-240 min a day
how long does it take to homeschool

Keep in mind any important obligations, like extracurricular activities or jobs, when establishing your homeschool schedule. Be sure to make room for your non-negotiable fun things, like park days or clubs.  Consider your schedule’s big picture, too.  I knew that I was always going to have a hard time reining kids in after hiking group or co-op, so those days needed to be otherwise clear, or have one easy thing after.  The beauty of homeschooling is having that ability to manage your own time.  If you want to stack Monday and hit it hard in order to have a better week, go for it. 

7. Embrace Spontaneity

One of the greatest gifts that homeschooling offers is the flexibility to adjust your schedule as you wish. That said, it’s helpful to plan for spontaneity by allocating some breaks in your homeschool plan. Last-minute opportunity for a trip? Go for it! Kids feeling burnt out? Play some hooky and get back into schooling tomorrow—or even next week!  If you plan ahead for those spontaneous scenarios, it will allow you the freedom to enjoy some time off or handle unexpected life events without school-related stress.  This is one of the reasons that I really love to do school year round.  There is no pressure to stick to a calendar.

100 Awesome Homeschool Field Trip Ideas
Download our FREE Field Trip Pack

When should I plan for the next school year? (13:21)

The great news is that your homeschool plan doesn’t have to be fully fleshed out before you can get started. Of course, your goals should be planned before the start of the school year, but try not to get too hung up on this. You are the administrator and can adjust as circumstances change. Having your subject and curriculum plan in advance is also ideal, as it gives you time to become comfortable with your materials. On the other hand, one of the main benefits of homeschooling is having the ability to add or change subjects and curriculum during the school year. So, if you haven’t found that perfect writing program yet, just wait and add that subject in a bit later rather than make an impulsive decision.

When the actual lesson planning happens is a personal decision and that’s up to you. While it isn’t necessary to plan all of your lessons for the year in advance (as things will undoubtedly change), having a rough idea of what you want to cover at certain points throughout the year can be helpful. We suggest doing the actual lesson planning one week in advance. That way, you can easily make adjustments based on appointments, friend hang-outs, field trips, extracurriculars, and so on. 

My family is really project-based. Whether I created a curriculum myself or bought it, I always kept a running list of supplies that will be needed on my phone. Sometimes you’ll be too busy to pre-organize and there’s nothing worse than sitting down Sunday night to quickly write out your week and realize that you’re short of an ingredient or a supply for a project or activity. So when I’m at the store, doing my normal shopping, I will glance at my list to make sure I didn’t forget a supply for the upcoming week. 

I’m an all or nothing person- sometimes if I plan too much in advance and then get off schedule, I am likely to bag the whole thing!  So, rather than do too much and then get all frazzled, taking things in smaller chunks is a better method for me.  And you can have a long term plan and short term plan.. Whatever works for you.

The point is, don’t let homeschool planning be a source of anxiety. Take a deep breath and take it one step at a time. One week at a time. You’ve got this!

If you are new to homeschooling, you do have a couple considerations to make as you begin planning.  The first thing you’re going to need to do is familiarize yourself with your state’s homeschool requirements.  Are there subjects that you are required to teach?  Do you need to keep records or work towards an end of year test or portfolio evaluation?  Some states have strict requirements, some like ours are very vague.  

So you will need to decide if you will (or need to) follow the state’s curriculum outlines or do your own thing. 

Are you new because you have an up and coming homeschooler? As you planned, obviously the age of your child is going to matter. If you have a very young student (3-5), learning happens through life and play. This age should be non-pressure, non-stress for learning and is ideal to pick some simple goals – things like life skills, language development, large motor skills (climbing on the playground) and some basic fine motor skills (how to hold a crayon.). 

If you’ve not checked out our preschool page, be sure to do that. From there, you can listen to our preschool episode and the page has tons of ideas for facilitating learning through play in your home. We also have a lot of free resources you can download including morning and evening, routine charts, a nature scavenger hunt, and more!

Next, regardless of age or experience, consider putting together a general overview of what you will teach and learn throughout the year. Consider what subjects you want to make sure you cover – like core subjects-math, reading, and writing and what things you personally consider as extras. Involve  your child! Ask them and consider their interests and curiosities.

Think about what topics you would like to learn through a unit study. Unit studies are a great alternative, or a complement to a curriculum. They give you an opportunity to pursue an interest or curiosity to wherever it takes you, and this is where some of the best learning happens. I have always favored unit studies. We would incorporate them through the school year but before high school we have always schooled year round with short days and lots of breaks. When our main curriculum was complete, we would deep dive into all kinds of topics. Over the years, some of the unit studies we’ve done: 

penguins, civil rights leaders, volcanoes, the light spectrum, space, native American tribes, human anatomy, and more.  

Make sure that your goals are developmentally appropriate and personalized to your child. A vision board can be a great way to plan in a creative way and get your kids involved. A lot of homeschoolers like to create a vision board for the year. Involve your kids in this activity! Your child can cut/paste pictures or words of things they want to accomplish or attempt throughout the year. If you don’t want to do a vision board, just brainstorm together on a whiteboard or piece of paper. You can divide it up into sections to focus on, like academics, unit studies, social, physical fitness, financial, personal, etc. This is a great way to see what their goals are, and to help them figure out what steps they need to take to get there. If your child is needing inspiration, they can go to outschool.com and look through courses. 

You can go to our electives page on our website and look through some of the “out of the box” ideas for electives. Write a list of favorite topics or subjects they are curious about, then see how you can use these in your school year. 

What kind of extracurriculars do you want to be involved in? Board game group, scouts, co-ops, music, lessons, robotics club, book clubs. Does your teenager want to get their driver’s license, a part-time job, a volunteer job? What about an apprenticeship? What about social meet ups? And friend time? 

Sometimes I like to do a theme for the entire year. I talked about unit studies a minute ago and this is like an entire school year of unit study. One year we I did an entire American music history year. We learned about American music from the early native, to swing and ragtime to modern hip-hop. We made a leather skinned drum, read books about the Beatles and Scott Joplin, watched Jamie Foxx in the motion picture Ray and visited the rock ‘n’ roll Hall of Fame and Graceland. It was an entire year of a unit study I put together. We still did math, but almost everything else we learned was themed for the year. It’s by far our favorite school year ever. 

Homeschooling offers the opportunity to approach learning and teaching differently than the traditional school system. There are lots of educational methodologies that we can choose from – even that we can mix and match from – to provide a very well rounded, thorough learning experience for our child. 

Choosing curricula is the one step that tends to overwhelm, panic, and stress people out and can be one of the hardest steps to take while homeschool planning. There are SO many choices out there. There can be too many choices. Going online and searching homeschool curriculum is going to give you over one million results. That’s why we really recommend having some things (like worldview, homeschool style, what kind of materials you prefer) locked down in advance.  This will definitely help narrow your options.

We are going to have an episode specifically guiding you on how to choose curricula and we’re also going to be spending a lot of time reviewing and making curriculum suggestions. But in today’s episode, we really want to focus on organizing your calendar and setting up your child for success throughout the school year. You want to spend time figuring out WHAT you want to teach and HOW you want to teach it and this can help narrow down those options.

Get creative with their courses, projects and hands-on learning. There are also a lot of amazing classes and programs, digital and printable resources, and other unique options to choose from like Outschool or in your community.  

We have our own super cool Book of Centuries and timeline figures– those can be a fun way to add in history.  On our website, you can find all kinds of resources to help you plan from reading logs, to field trips writing review sheets, and high school documents. Most of it is totally free.

Maria’s Homemade Timeline:

Let’s also talk for a sec about physical planners. I like to spend my Sundays making my Blueprint for a beautiful week~that’s when I lay out my schoolwork, look over our activities and obligations, make my menu plan and grocery list, etc.  You can do this anyway you want. And we’ve talked about letting your older kids find the method that works best for them.  Our kids are growing up in a much more digital age than we did.  They may totally cringe at the idea of a paper system, so be flexible.

Planner

Homeschool planet

Trello

Google Keep

Cozi family calendar

Do I have to teach all subjects? (28:20)

People often ask if they need to teach every subject to their child. Again, you need go back to your state’s requirements.  Are there subjects that you are required to teach?  Do you need to keep records or work towards an end of year test or portfolio evaluation?  Most states allow you to make a lot of these decisions, but there are a few that have strict requirements. 

Some people also like to keep an eye on what public school standards are for each grade level.  We didn’t do this, but it may be something you want to do if you think your child may return to school at some point or if you just want a general idea or where you are.

Here is a very General Overview of what subjects are typically covered in school:

  • Languages –English language arts:  including reading, writing, grammar, poetry, prose, literature, creative writing, report writing as well as developing oral presentation and reporting skills.

Foreign languages: while typically introduced in high school, you can opt to begin these at any time in your homeschool.  We talk about this in our Q&A episode.

  • Mathematics – including the basics (adding, subtraction, multiplication, division, fractions, decimals), algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus.
  • Science – including Biology (plants, animals, human body), Physical sciences (physics, chemistry)
  • History – state history, world history and country specific history.
  • Geography – including earth sciences, astronomy, regional/cultural studies, map work and weather.
  • Technology – including product development, using/interacting with technology (PC, internet, home and kitchen appliances etc.), programming/software.
  • Economic sciences – including money management, entrepreneurship, investment, business and management skills (time management, project management).
  • Arts – including the practical application (painting, drawing, playing an instrument, theater, dance), appreciation and history of the arts and music environment.
  • Life skills – this can include everything else one needs to properly survive in the world e.g. Home maintenance, health and nutrition, first aid, safety skills, relationship skills, communication, conflict handling, study skills, etc.

Some of these subjects you are going to find repeat in some form or fashion every year.  There may be specific ones that you save for a certain age or level. 

*One of our favorite pieces of advice is to not waste a ton of time trying to teach something to a kindergartener that you can spend 5 minutes explaining to a second grader.*

So you do not need to teach all subjects, every year.  Pick and choose the things that you need to cover, the things you want to cover, and build your overall plan from there.

How do I organize my homeschool room? (33:33)

We have said many times that you really do not need a physical classroom or the perfect pinterest homeschool space to facilitate learning at home.  There are all kinds of ways that people creatively fit their homeschooling books and supplies into small spaces and learning does not at all have to happen at a desk or table. Ours often happens on the couch, or in bed. In fact, we’d caution against trying to replicate a school classroom in your home.  That can be a waste of time and money.  Instead, concentrate on things like making supplies accessible all the time for when inspiration hits. It’s just another way to keep learning fun. Remember, learning doesn’t stop when you close the curriculum, children are learning all the time.

Your learning space will depend on several factors. It will depend on the size of your homeschool space if you have it, how many children you have, and the type of homeschooling you and your family participate in. 

Check out our TOP 25 Homeschool Essentials:

Top 25 Homeschool Essentials

One of the things I recommend, as well, especially if space is a concern, is having only the items out that you are using in that school year.  For a lot of us managing different aged or leveled children, this could mean you have a lot of books and resources going just for that year.  Do yourself a favor and stash stuff you are saving for later, or hand me down items for a younger sibling somewhere else and make it part of your yearly planning to rotate things in and out.

Hopefully this episode has put you at ease and has inspired you to start planning your next homeschool year.  Homeschool planning does not need to be stressful but it can seem like an overwhelming endeavor.  We want you to feel confident as you embark on your homeschool journey.

Peek into Nicole and Maria’s homeschool rooms through the years:

This Week’s Freebie:

School Year Planner
FREE Homeschool Year Planner Templates
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