Little Book of Homeschooling Cover

Little Book of Homeschooling


Should you Homeschool?
Either you have had it with arguing with a public or private school about the, "educational needs" of your child(ren), or you always questioned the wisdom of turning over your precious child(ren) to the "system." Now you’re wondering if you "can" homeschool. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 U.S. states, with regulations. But in all states it is doable.

Now, "can" you do it? Yes, studies of homeschoolers and public schoolers show that even if you let the child follow their own inclination in educating themselves, you and the child will do a better job of educating your child than the public schools or private schools. Public school is very good at doing what it was designed to do, create factory workers for the Industrial Revolution. Although, not the best in the world, still adequate in most ways. The question you have to ask yourself is, "Is that what I want for my child?" Do you want your child to be a factory worker? Or, do you want your child to be innovative, creative, self motivated, goal directed, and future oriented? If you answered yes to the second question, you can do this, you need to do this, and you want to do this. You can homeschool!

Feeling like you're doing something that is wrong:
When you begin:
After you have sent in your district's paper work, and school has begun in your local community, or after you have withdrawn your child/children from public school in disgust, you may feel like you are doing something wrong. This will be true especially if the local authorities (teachers and principals) have told you can't homeschool because (insert reason here).

No one really talks about this feeling. You will have people who ask, "Why aren't your kids in school?" This will add to the feeling you are doing something wrong. Your relatives or neighbors may be skeptical of homeschooling and ask questions like, "won't the authorities come after you?" and this will add to the feeling that you are doing something wrong.

List serves you belong to will have many long-time homeschoolers on them, or scared beginners, and the chit chat will focus on practicalities such as how to file forms, when and where meetings are held, and who to know. But the uneasy feeling that you are doing something wrong is not mentioned much.

The feeling has several sources:


  • You are doing something that is different from what is socially expected (this is a biggie).
  • You are doing something that is probably different than from what you expected.
  • You are doing something that is different from what your relatives expected, and this will include neighbors and friends.
  • You still have vestigial memories of homeschoolers in the news for violating some law.
  • Strangers ask you questions about why your children are not in school.
  • You have your own fears about whether or not you can really do this well, and worry that you will ruin your children.
  • You have heard of news stories where parents have claimed to be homeschooling as part of a larger abuse case. This is rare but it does happen. Parents are either not homeschooling but claim to be, or homeschooling is irrelevant to the abuse allegations.


These feelings will pass as you become more comfortable with what you are doing with your children. You will see your children relax, and you will relax too. Knowing what "method" you are using helps (although, I've never seen someone use a pure method, but usually a combination, or "eclectic method"). This gives you a name you can use when non-homeschoolers ask questions. Since they don't know any of these methods they will usually stop asking questions when you seem to know what you are talking about.

The other thing that helps mitigate the feeling that you are doing something wrong is time. As time passes and no one comes to your door and asks you questions about what you are doing, you begin to relax and see that there are no authorities out to get you. For the most part public schools and public school officials find homeschoolers irrelevant. If you are not part of a homeschool assistance program (or dual enrolled) they receive no funding for your child and they would rather pretend you do not exist.

It is a good idea to let neighbors and those close to your home know you are homeschooling just so they don't make assumptions about why your kids are not in school. But don't engage them in theological discussions about the benefits and drawbacks to homeschooling; it just isn't their business. In time they will see your children as an asset to the community.


These feelings will pass. It may take time. It may even take years, but the feeling that you are doing something wrong will pass. As time goes by relatives will see that your children are receiving an excellent education and begin to sing your praises. Neighbors will see your children are the well-behaved ones in the area. The support you so desperately now need will be there when you no longer need it so badly; isn’t that just like life?


Seek out other homeschoolers to get you through this time of insecurity at the beginning of homeschooling. List serves and local support groups are helpful. Almost everyone knows someone who homeschools; listen to them and ask for names. If you don’t have a local group, think about starting one.

First and foremost. Assign age-appropriate chores and have the children do them before breakfast. This way they are out of the way for the day. If you spend your first homeschool year accomplishing this, you have made real progress.

Later in the day have two sessions of ten-second tidy. Everyone picks up as much as they can and puts it away in 10 seconds. Have one before they go out to play, and one before dinner.


Do basics in the morning, or right after chores and breakfast, this way the children are rewarded with their own interests later in the day when they have completed their basic work.


Let children have some portion of the day or week to pursue their own interests academically. Let them research a topic that interests them.


Let them see you engage with their curriculum. Children find interesting what you find interesting.


Make sure curriculum is at the child’s success level. If the child is not finding success at the level you are instructing at, go a level lower until the child begins to find success. Be willing to chuck curriculum that is not working for your child. Don’t worry about the wasted money; if he or she is not learning then the money has already been wasted. Children can not build on failure or a feeling of failure.


Find some perspective: Your child will probably live to be at lest 80 years old barring major illnesses; whether he learns subtraction this year or next will matter little when he is 55.


Record everything: Take pictures, write notes, journal, write stories, draw pictures, but record everything they do, both for your records, yourself, and for the child; it is a gift you can not imagine to have these years documented when your child is an adult and raising their own child.


Keep records for yourself, your child, your school district, and your in-laws. When anyone wants to know what you are doing, you can show them in painful detail; they won’t bother you much after that.


Buy cheap. Wait for sales, go to the dollar store, wait until a month after school starts and hold your breath and go to Wal-Mart, Target, or Walgreen’s. Go to yard sales while the weather is good; call it a field trip. Include the children in the adventure of spending the least to get the most supplies. Don’t be fooled into the back-to-school buying frenzy at the start of each public school year.



Teach your children good manners. More than anything else this is what people will notice about your children. This is what people mean by socialization, whether or not they know it; this is the difference they are looking for. Manners will cover all kinds of perceived differences between your children and public school children, and people will remember those polite home schooled kids.

Yours: Ask yourself if what is frustrating you would bother you if it were someone else’s’ child. Are you asking too much of yourself and/or your child? Ask yourself if it will damage your child to wait another week, day, or year to cover this material.


Your child’s: Sometimes children need to struggle to learn a new concept. If your child is willing to keep trying, and then support him or her; if he or she is willing to stop and try again later, it is time to stop. If your child is in tears, not much is going to be learned; come back to it later.
Remember that break times are not doing nothing, they are times when concepts are consolidated and your child may have an insight when doing something completely different.
Take a week or two off if the schooling is going poorly; kids need vacations too. Take an “In Town Vacation,” and visit little shops you never go to, libraries you’ve never noticed, or attractions such as parks or even the dump. But keep it simple. Start back with something the child can do and work up to the problem material.

Make a schedule: It is a good exercise to break the day up into hours and half hours, list the times, fill it in with activities and work times; then you have something to vary from, and you will. View it as a suggestion from yourself.

Set goals for your homeschool year: You will meet some and miss some. Some will be important and you will find you meet these, others seemed important when you thought of them, but when you don’t meet them you will see their relative unimportance. If it is truly important you can make it a goal for next year.

Library Books:
Set library books aside in a special place, mark on the calendar when they are due. Do the same for videos. You can use up more homeschool money paying library fines…

Responses to non-homeschoolers:
Have a set response to use with people who ask about homeschooling and why your kids are not in school; this will save you time later not thinking about what you should have said when they asked.

The School Year:
Take an extra week off before starting school in the fall and enjoy relaxing while your friends with children in public school are stressing about back to school. Take your end of the summer vacation that week and enjoy the lack of crowds at local attractions.

Mixing family life with homeschooling
: Make family holidays and events times to study culture and traditions; call it social studies or history. Someone getting married? Study marriage ceremonies in different cultures or religions… This is when the kids are open to something relevant in their own lives.

In Grades K-8 science can be nature studies. Go outside and look around, keep a nature journal and have children write down or draw what they see. In Grades 9-12 children need 3 sciences, general, biology, and chemistry for college prep, a good background in nature is a boon.

Remember that learning is not linear. Addition, subtraction and multiplication and division may come slow to some children, and then they zoom through higher math, the trick is to not make them hate math before that.

History: Humans are story-making creatures. We all love stories. History is the story of what happened before. Don’t make history a drudge by making dates more important than the story behind the event. The dates can be looked up or learned later, like in college; the story is what is important.

Language Arts: This is the one subject that is more important than the others. A love of reading will carry a child so far, if I had only one subject I could teach my child, I would choose language arts. Communication is so important, now more than ever with so many forms of communication available. Language skills are used in all careers and courses. Let your children see you read, read to them, let them read to you, and let them see you write. Read their writing, and let them read their writing to you. If your child can read and understand what he reads, he can teach himself almost everything else.

General Learning:
In every situation teach your children to ask themselves these five questions:
  1. How did this (insert event) come about, what caused it? (thumb)
  2. Can I describe this (insert event) to another person, what would I say? (pointer)
  3. How does this connect to other (insert event) similar events? Did something like this ever happen before? (middleman)
  4. What have I learned that I didn’t know before? What is new to me? (ringman)
  5. How can I use what I have learned here in another (similar or different) situation in the future? (pinky)
One for each finger and thumb. This becomes the five paragraph essay later.
Start simple:
preschool – 2nd grade
What happened?
  1. What can I tell mommy or daddy about it?
  2. Is this like anything else I know?
  3. What did I learn?
  4. Can I use this in the future?
2nd grade-6th grade:
  1. What happened here?
  2. How would I explain it to someone who was not here when it happened?
  3. What things like this have happened before?
  4. What did I learn about or by what happened here?
  5. How can I use what I learned in the future?
7th Grade-12 Grade
  1. What were the events that led up to what happened here?
  2. How would I describe what happened here to someone who knew nothing about it?
  3. What has happened in the past that is similar to what has happened here?
  4. What was learned by me or others by what has happened here?
  5. How can this knowledge be used in the future in the same or similar events?
This is learning at its most basic and elegant.

Doing what works

Don’t do what doesn’t work. This seems like simple advise, but we sometimes get so invested in what we are doing that even if it doesn’t seem to be working after a reasonable amount of time, we just keep chipping away at it. There really is a difference between giving a strategy some time to click with a child, and beating the child over the head with it. If Sammy is not getting math using blocks, try using frogs, if frogs don’t work, try using memorization for a few weeks. Kids develop different skills at different times, and a few weeks can make a big difference. Keeping at a strategy that is not working is the first ingredient in burn-out.

Do do what works. We find that we must change strategies frequently. My kids get bored very easily. We change strategies just about every month. We go from work books one month to videos the next month. If we don’t do this, they rebel and a mass rebellion is nothing to sneeze at. Having six children refusing to do school work is impressive. Even one could be daunting. So be flexible, and be ready to change strategies if the one you’re using has lost its shine. For us, changing strategies frequently is a strategy that works.

Having lots of resources is the key to having lots of choices. Use your local library, local homeschooling member library, or a good online resource such as Virtual Homeschool International ( ) to meet your family’s need for variety.

On the other hand, if Bobby loves worksheets and finds other methods such as working with blocks less interesting, then stick with worksheets until Bobby has satiated himself with worksheets. It could happen!

Rewards and Punishments
We have all heard of rewards, reward systems, tokens, stickers, and punishments, like loss of privilege. How does any of it help us, the homeschool family? First we need to make sure that we understand that a reward is, and what a punishment is. A reward is anything that makes a desired behavior more likely to occur in the future. Just because it is a nifty idea to you, does not mean your five year old will close the back door any better if you give him a cookie every time he closes the back door. Only if giving him a cookie increases the rate at which he closes the back door, can you then call it a reward. I know it seems like a reward is a reward, but it is only a reward to the one receiving it, and only if they consider it a reward. I once heard a classroom teacher say that even though she let “Jimmy” use puzzles after he completed his work, he didn’t seem any more inspired to finish his work. This is not a reward; it is a neutral stimulus, meaning it does not change behavior, at best. It could even possibly be a punishment in “Jimmy’s” eyes if he does not enjoy puzzles, and therefore avoids finishing his work so he does not have to, “enjoy” doing them. A punishment is anything that reduces the probability that a desired behavior will occur in the future. If Jimmy does not like doing puzzles, then they are a punishment to him regardless of what the teacher believed she was doing. The bottom line is, you can’t tell what is a reward or a punishment until you can tell if it reduces or increases the likelihood of a behavior occurring in the future.
Is this different than what you thought? It is for many parents. You may have believed that a reward was something you considered pleasant, or a punishment was something you considered unpleasant. But your feelings, even the feelings of the child are not the determining factor here. It is the increase or decreases in the occurrence of the behavior that is important.
Advice Alert: If you want to change your child’s behavior you need to set up the environment or the way your run your home, to support that change. Place events the child enjoys after events that he does not enjoy and let him know what comes next. This is “Grandma’s” rule, work before play. Example: Chores then breakfast. School work then T.V. show. Clean your room then go play. Place the event the child finds rewarding after what you want him or her to do. It seems to make sense, but many parents think they can bargain with the child, I’ll give you a cookie and then you will do your work, right?” This will not work, and is actually a poor situation for the child because he or she learns that the pay off comes first, then you don’t have to deliver on your end of the deal.
Desired behavior first, then the reward, and the reward has been determined by observing what the child likes and wants. Remember, rewards do not have to be big, but should flow out of the completion of the desired behavior. For example: You would not want to promise a day at Disneyland for the completion of 4 math problems. But a 15 minute break would be a good reward. A cookie, a game of toss the ball, singing a favorite song, all these are rewards on the right level for the completion of 4 math problems.
Punishments on the other hand are those consequences and outcomes that make a behavior less likely to occur in the future. To make punishments work you have to experiment and see what works to decrease the behavior. Like with rewards, just because you consider it a bad thing, a thing to be avoided, if it does not reduce the likelihood that the child will repeat the behavior, it is not a punishment. This can be tricky, because you may not be willing to introduce consequences that will reduce the likelihood of the behavior occurring in the future. In this the child has you. He can go lower than you can. What are you going to do, beat him? Certainly not, and he knows it. So the secret here is consistency. The punishment must be applied every single time the behavior appears. If turning the T.V. too loud is being punished with turning it off completely, then this must happen every time. I know, you are thinking, “do I have too?” Yes you do, sorry. If your child sees an out he will take it. You are thinking, “Do I have to do it 100 times?” yes you do. Sorry. If you are using punishments you have to be very consistent.
The problem with punishment: It works, it works fast. And then it doesn’t. You have to replace the behavior with another more desired behavior or it will return. So, you have to decide what behavior your want to replace it with. And then, in conjunction with punishments, reward the desired behavior.
So, it might look like this: Jimmy turns the T.V. too loud, you turn off the T.V. for 20 minutes which is how long you have told him the T.V. will be turned off for if he turns it too loud. The T.V. is turned back on after 20 minutes. He does well keeping the T.V. low for 40 minutes, so you give him an extra 20 minutes of T.V. time.
Punishments are like Fast drying glue; they work fast, but are not as strong as slowing drying glue (rewards) and have to be reapplied because they don’t hold. Rewards are like slower drying glue, they work more slowly, but when they do, they are stronger and longer lasting. They need to be used less often, and you can trust them to be more effective.
Natural rewards and punishments: these are the ones that the environment applies to the child. Stand up in the chair, fall down and get hurt. This is a natural consequence. In this case the parent supports what the child has learned, but does not rub it in, which would remove the natural punishment. “Wow, that looked like it hurt” is all you have to say.
Anything else or more removes the effectiveness of the natural punishment.

Natural rewards: These are the intrinsic joy the child gets from his or her own behavior, as with the punishments, much beyond noticing takes way something from the experience for the child. “Nice painting, I bet you enjoyed doing it” is about all that you need to say, and much more takes away the praise the child is giving him or herself. We want to encourage this as much as possible as it is part of the rudder (self talk, self checking) by which the child will guide his or her life.

You may have heard of the book, “Punished by Rewards” by Alfie Kohn. One of the general ideas of this book is that if you reward every behavior, even the natural, joyful behaviors, you may indeed be punishing them by removing the intrinsic, or self reward the child finds in the behavior. You can extinguish, or basically kill the child’s innate desire to perform the behavior. The lesson here, don’t mess with what is already working. Don’t stamp out a child’s joy with too much praise or attention. Don’t reward a behavior that the child already finds rewarding. At least not too much.
Use rewards and punishments with care, and use them thoughtfully. Before you decide on a reward observe your child to see what he or she likes and finds rewarding. Before you apply a punishment observe the child to see what he or she does not care to do, or would find distressing if it stopped. View the world through your child’s eyes, and then apply punishments are rewards with adult eyes.
For praise to be the most effective there needs to be three elements
  1. Praise needs to be timely. The praise you give your child must happen close enough in time so that your child connects the praise with what he or she did. Keep in mind that older children can wait longer between the action you are praising and the praise you give them.
  2. Praise needs to be specific. Saying "good job!" does not tell the child much about what you appreciate about what he or she did. Praise needs to be specific to be effective. Saying, "I see that you are working very hard on your penmanship and it really shows. Your upper case letters are touching both lines much more often today than they were yesterday (take paper) see here and here (point)." This is specific enough for the child to feel good about and useful to the child because he or she now knows what improvements you have noticed.
  3. General praise can be dangerous:
1. You may wonder why? By praising the child in a general way you leave the child wondering specifically what he or she did right, and how he or she can repeat the action. These questions can leave the child feeling inadequate and fearful. He may wonder what he did to get the praise and feel it is undeserved along with feeling as though he is a fake in some way. Many children will do something, "naughty" to correct your view of who they think they are. This begins a cycle of good behavior-praise, bad behavior-punishment, good behavior-praise, bad behavior-punishment, while with more information your child would be able to repeat the praiseworthy behavior.

2. General praise can be de-motivational. If the child feels that you will praise any activity or behavior, without noticing specifically what he did that was special or different, he may loose the desire to engage in that activity again. Think of yourself. If your partner says to you, "you do a great job with the children" does that make you feel like doing more of a great job? What if that was all he or she seemed to say about the time you put in to play ball with Betsy, or take Jimmy to a car show? Just how much would that mean to you? Now think of what praise like, "It means a lot to me that you care enough about Betsy to spend time teaching her to toss a ball; she really enjoys being with you. I notice how you explained everything so that she could understand" might affect your desire to play ball with Betsy again?
  • Praise needs to be sincere. Saying, "your room looks so clean!" in a high squeaky voice may make you feel better, but if the child knows the effort or job is not up to his or her better efforts, then your praise will be interpreted as insincere and you will loose credibility in the child's mind. Children are good at reading us, and if we want to be trusted we need to be honest. It is better to praise what you can about what the child has done, and ask the child to critique his or her own work. Saying, "I see you put a lot of time and effort into this project, that's great. Is there anything you can see that you might want to change if you were to do it again?" gives the child some praise for actual behavior while encouraging the child to self asses. This is credible in the child's eyes. It also teaches a skill.

Getting double duty from using praise

  • Praise your child infront of someone who's oppinion matters to the child.
  • Let your child hear you praising him or her to someone else.

Believe it or not, criticism should be neutral. Look at what reasonable expectation is of the child’s performance. Decide what goals you want met. For example, if your child is doing a page of penmanship, what are your expectations? Are you working on straight lines? If you have decided that straight lines in capital letters is your goal for the day, then look for these in you child’s penmanship page. Once you find them, point them out, “we are working on straight lines today, see here when you have done great with making the lines straight and here, and here (pointing to each), now, look at these others here, here, and here (pointing), how can you make these others look like the straight ones?” The child will answer, and then ask the child to make the corrections, “okay, great, you do that and I’ll check again.”

You can ask the child to make corrections several times this way without frustrating the child because he knows the goal, and he can see he is getting closer. The child will feel you are working with him instead of attacking his work.

Most children (and adults) feel attack when receiving criticism because they feel you are criticizing them and not their work; once you make it clear that you are critiquing their work, what you see that is right, and how they can fix what needs to be changed, they feel less personally vulnerable and more willing to make changes.
I heave heard people say that you need to give two to three complements before pointing out things that need to be changed. Sometimes this isn’t possible. Point out what you can that is correct, and then asks for changes in a neutral tone. You can give mild and gentle praise for the child’s willingness to make changes after the changes have been made.

I try to separate upsetting criticism from praise. If the all the child can hear you say is what is wrong, then they won’t be hearing what you said about what they did right. Tell the child honestly what they did that was not okay and then let them have time to digest that. After they have reacted to hearing what you said and have calmed back down, ask if he or she wants help with making changes. Then is the time for pointing out what they did that was right. They are more open to hearing the praise when it is separated from criticism. After the praise go into what needs to be changed so that it meets the criteria that is praiseworthy.

Children can handle your anger when they know they will not be attacked. They can sit with not being perfect if they know you are going to allow a cooling off period, and then start with praise.
Determining your Homeschool Curriculum for the coming year
This will take some time and a pen (or computer). It would not be unusual to have this document be over 20 pages per child when completed.

First , what homeschool method will you use, Classical, Eclectic, Charlotte Mason, School At Home, Montessori, Unschooling De-schooling, Waldorf ? This may determine what resources you decide to use.

What are the values of our Family in each area?

Family Life:
Extended Family Life:
Work Life:

What do we wish to accomplish as a family educationally in 6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year?

6 weeks:

3 Months:

6 Months:

1 Year:

What do we want to accomplish in each subject area for each child in our family this homeschool year (what is our dream)?



Language Arts



Other Languages

What is reasonable of these dreams to try to accomplish this homeschool year?



Language Arts



Other Languages

What are the family plans and schedules that we will be dealing with this homeschool year?


How can we work these into our homeschool year? Can any of these be used as part of our curriculum?

Look back at your goals, can you fit any history with your vacations, can you study customs around holidays?

Now, look over your resources… what books do you own?

Look at what you what you want to accomplish this homeschool year and evaluate the books and resources you have for accomplishing this. Check each subject area for each child.



Alternate Alternate



Language Arts






Curriculum needed to meet educational goals?



Alternate Alternate



Language Arts






Questions to ask yourself when creating curriculum:

1. Will I let the child work at his or her own pace or will we work through the curriculum on a schedule?

2. Will we use daily lesson plans or and daily goal setting or will we use the material and let natural curiosity guide our lesson?

3. How will I record grades, will I use a system or record a lesson completed?

4. How will we deal with unfinished lesson, will they be completed or will we move on?

5. How often and I willing to go to the library to supplement what I have at home?

6. How available or reliable is the internet for materials on subjects with few resources at home?

7. How will we deal with it if we don’t meet our educational goals in each subject area?

8. What resources do family and friends have that I might access?

9. Do local companies have events; give a-ways, field trips that I can use as part of our curriculum?

10. Is there a good, inexpensive online virtual homeschool that can help me organize materials and fill in gaps in my resources and provide guidance (

11. What is our policy on snow (bad weather) days?

12. How do we handle illnesses?

13. Do we test? If we test, what tests will we use and where are they available?

14. What will we do for P.E.? Can we find local programs for the children to participate in?

Find a place to keep the materials you have gathered and determined to use, as well as collecting the supplies you will need for the school year to accomplish your goals.

Once you have these written up you will have a much better idea of what you homeschool year will be like and what you need as well as what you will be teaching.

I’m still working on the Little Book of Homeschooling. More will be added later and organization will emerge.

Additional information