I remember when I first started homeschooling my daughter six years ago. It all seemed so overwhelming –
which curriculums to choose, what teaching philosophies to follow, and making sure we stayed on top of keeping our homeschool legal. I spent hours poring over websites dedicated to homeschooling, only to walk away feeling more unsure of how to teach my daughter at home.
Now, several years into it, the start of a new school year doesn’t leave me feeling stressed, and planning our curriculum doesn’t seem so daunting. I want to encourage all of you that may just be starting out, and even those that have been homeschooling for a while, but just want an easier way of planning it all out.
I want to help you feel prepared for each school year! I’ll show you exactly how I plan our curriculum for the entire school year, plus, the number one tool I use to know exactly what to teach for each grade. I’ll also share all our favorite resources we’ve used in our own homeschool over the years.
Making It Legal
Homeschool laws can vary widely from state to state. Be sure to check the laws in your state for requirements such as testing, portfolios, record keeping, etc., and for required number of days. We also recommend joining HSLDA for help keeping your homeschool legal. You can check homeschool requirements in your state at https://hslda.org/legal. Each year, I send this letter to the Superintendent of our school district, usually a few weeks before the new school year begins.
Prepping Your Calendar
After you’ve checked how many school days are required in your state, choose a start date and count on the calendar the necessary number of school days. Make a note of any birthdays, doctor appointments, or other days you need to plan around. Be sure to allow for any days off you’ll want for breaks around holidays or Spring break, or other planned vacations.
Make a list of any themes you want to use throughout the months or seasons during the school year. In past years, we have done an apple theme in September, a pumpkin theme in October, Christmas Around the World in December, etc.
Having an idea of themes for the year helps when planning projects and field trips. Here’s the planning sheet I use to keep track of my themes for each year.
Start by taking a basic subject and figuring out which topics you’ll need to cover for the grade level you are planning. For example, second grade math would include things like rounding numbers, recognizing fractions, and making bar graphs. Once you have all the topics for one subject, move on to the next until you have a list of all the topics you need to teach for the year.
My favorite resource for guiding what we study each year is Rebecca Rupp’s book, Home Learning Year by Year. We have used this book every year in our homeschool, and I’ve found it to be at least on-level with public school curriculum in our area, and many times, even ahead of grade level. I’ve ordered an updated version for our family this year since we have been using an older copy for several years.
Once you have a list of topics for each subject, start breaking those topics into smaller pieces for the student to learn. Again, Home Learning Year by Year is excellent in helping to identify individual pieces of knowledge or skills your child should be gaining through each topic. These will become the objectives you use to measure progress as you go through the year.
Going back to our previous example of second grade math, I would take the basic topic of fractions and break it up into exactly what they need to accomplish with fractions.
Here’s what it would look like for me:
2nd Grade Math:
__ Understand the terms numerator & denominator.
__ Recognize and write fractions from 1/10 to 1/2.
__ Know what fractions are equal to 1 whole.
Putting the objectives into checklist form makes it easy to mark off what has already been learned so you can move on to something else.
You can also check Common Core Standards by grade level at http://www.corestandards.org/read-the-standards/ if you prefer to follow Common Core objectives, as they are taught in public schools.
Gathering Homeschool Materials
Now we’ll use that list of objectives for each subject to gather materials and base our lessons to teach from.
Teachers Pay Teachers is one of my favorite places to look for worksheets, activities, and even complete lessons. I love that these are made by teachers and that the money goes directly to them. Many will offer free materials to give you an example of the quality of their work. The materials on Teachers Pay Teachers are very reasonably priced. I also love that I can reprint and reuse things I’ve purchased for my older child when the younger one moves up to that grade level, too!
Finding materials on their website is easy: just search the topic you’re looking for and narrow it by grade level.
There are a handful of websites that we’ve held subscriptions to over the years.
Some offer a free trial so you can test it out and see if it’s worth a subscription for you.
- education.com has a huge library of worksheets, games, and lesson plans for preschool through 5th grade.
- BrainPOP Jr uses animated videos, activities, and games to teach and reinforce a wide variety of concepts for math, reading & writing, science, social studies, and art & music for grades K-3. There is also a version that’s great for older students, BrainPOP, made for upper elementary and middle school grades.
- IXL is one of few sites that actually covers math & language arts for all grade levels from pre-K through high school. Science and social studies are available for grades 2-8. Spanish lessons can be added on to any membership plan you choose. The analytic reports are really helpful for checking your student’s progress and help address trouble spots.
- Outschool has been a new discovery for us recently. My youngest is interested in engineering, and in an effort to find more for him in that area we came across Outschool. They have a huge array of classes in subjects beyond the typical school curriculum. From arts to coding, yoga, cooking, nutrition, music, and finances, this website has classes on nearly any subject. They offer courses in more traditional school subjects, as well, for english, math, science, social studies, and world languages. You can use this link to get $20 off your first class through Outschool! With over 15,000 classes, there’s something of interest for everyone.
More Homeschool Resources We Love
- Scholastic Features games & printables. Prices on books here are so great. Plus, you can earn points to use on free books and class resources with each order! I set up a school account rather than a parent’s account.
- Barnes & Noble Nook Storytime Stories read by the author or other celebrities.
- No Time For Flashcards A huge resource for hands-on activities and projects to teach lessons across all subjects for preschool through elementary.
- National Geographic Kids Videos and games with info about animals, space, history, the 50 states, and countries around the world.
- Crash Course Kids on YouTube Science lessons for nearly any topic you can think of.
- San Diego Zoo Kids Live cams with video feed of animals at the San Diego Zoo, plus craft ideas, games, and stories.
- PBS Kids We especially like the games for math and engineering.
Books & Other Materials
- Usborne Children’s Encyclopedia Our favorite feature of this children’s encyclopedia is that it includes QR codes and Internet links to websites, videos, pictures, and quizzes.
- Usborne See Inside Your Body Bright, full color illustrations on every page, plus flaps to lift that reveal extra details.
- “If You…” Series books, such as:
- “Who Was…?” series Some of our favorites include:
- “The 50 States” books and materials:
- Counting Cubes for math
- Pattern Blocks (Tangrams)
I hope this helps you feel more confident in your homeschooling year! Homeschool doesn’t have to be something we push ourselves to just get through. It can be a great blessing for the whole family! Of course, there are days when the kids (or myself) just aren’t into it. But, having a game plan in place helps to minimize stress. Plus, Mondays are much less daunting when I’m not starting each week wondering what to teach next.
If you have any tips or resources you’d like to add, share them in the comments below! Homeschooling is easier when we have community support!