‘Help!’ New Homeschoolers Start Here
This page is for everyone interested in independent learning, but new homeschoolers might want to start here.
If you’re taking your first steps down the homeschooling path, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed. What are the rules? What subjects do we cover? What materials do we use?
Feel free to start with my article, Starting Your Homeschooling Journey.
If you ask 100 different homeschooling families, you’ll probably get 100 different suggestions (maybe more!) for how to proceed. Here I offer my personal suggestions, which may or may not work for your particular family and situation.
For your state’s rules, a good place to start is the legal page of the Home School Legal Defense Association.
In terms of general approach, I personally prefer an “interactive parenting” style that gives children enormous autonomy but that also offers kids lots of guidance and support. I have some general aims in mind regarding what I think my kid needs to be learning, but I don’t do anything like a planned daily schedule. Most days I encourage my child to work on math and reading—and most days he does. We also read lots of books do plenty of science projects together. My take on screen time is to set some limits but to actively encourage educational use of computers. Our schedule is flexible, adaptive, and low-stress.
I think the single most important bit of advice to all parents is to read to your child every day (perhaps with the occasional exception) from the time the child is born. If parents do that, usually everything else falls into place pretty well.
In terms of materials (other than story books), to my mind, the two single best resources are Core Knowledge (preK–8) and Khan Academy (all ages). Both of these organizations operate as nonprofits, and both make vast amounts of free resources available to families. (See below for links.)
I personally do like the Singapore Dimensions Math (preK–8) workbooks.
Beyond that, there are tons of resources available. Some of these are very good, others pretty bad. Some are very expensive, others free. Don’t assume that good correlates strongly with expensive; there’s a lot of overpriced junk on the market and a lot of free or low-cost gems. I review lots of stuff I like on this site.
My basic advice is, don’t make homeschooling too complicated or stressed. Usually simpler is better. Try to relax into it.
Note: I don’t repeat this content in subsequent sections.
Core Knowledge has an extraordinary number of resources, many available as free pdf downloads, covering basic reading and writing, language arts, history, and science. See my write-ups for the various levels: PreK | Kindergarten | 1–8
For younger kids (ages 2–7) the Khan Academy Kids app is excellent (and free).
For older kids (up through college), Khan Academy online offers a multitude of no-cost lessons in math, science, language arts, and economics.
Brain Quest offers fun and cheap workbooks for preK–6 covering the basics.
For more-advanced students, Open Culture lists 1,500 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.
My child absolutely loved Daniel Tiger up until the age of around five. It’s great for life-lessons about making friends, dealing with siblings, going potty, and much more.
Blippi, although silly, really does offer some educational content in his popular videos.
Reading and Writing
My five-year-old liked the ReadwithPhonics.com app. However, this does involve an annoying in-app purchase of around $10. (I’d rather they just sell me the app outright.)
See my notes about Lindsay Journo and Cornelia Lockitch’s excellent talk about nurturing young readers.
Writing and Composition
At Read with Me, teacher Lisa VanDamme takes readers through various great works of literature.
VanDamme Academy offers a great reading list by grade level.
See also my Literature category, where I review various individual works.
Math: Core Materials
I really like Dimensions Math.
DragonBox Math Apps are excellent for developing basic math skills. I love these, and so does my child.
MooMooMath and Science has videos on math.
Math: Lesson Ideas
Fraction wheels for learning basic fractions.
Wooden cubes for learning counting and math functions up through exponents.
Triangles cut from foam sheets.
Perler Beads to create sets of 10 and 100 to teach digit placement.
Magformers for spacial reasoning.
Science: Core Materials
I like the Heinemann “Infosearch” science series for children. It’s out of print, but you might find used copies.
More coming soon . . .
Science: Lesson Ideas
Science: Free Videos
Deep Look: Although these science videos (YouTube) are aimed at adults, my child loved them starting age 4.
It’s Okay to Be Smart: Science videos (YouTube).
Mystery Doug: Science videos aimed at children (YouTube).
National Geographic Kids has a great YouTube channel.
I haven’t watched much Smarter Every Day but some people love it.
Mark Rober discusses quirky science and engineering.
TedEd has a large number of videos on natural and social science. It even as a sequence on coding and logic puzzles.
Primitive Technology has some really interesting videos about making stuff (such as charcoal and a drill) with minimal technology.
MooMooMath and Science has a large number of short videos.
StoneAgeMan (Untamed Science) has some good science videos.
The Brain Scoop has videos on animals, geology, and more.
Bright Side on YouTube has many videos, some of which are about science and some of which are appropriate for children. It has nice videos about (among other things) the nervous system, skin, lungs, heart, eyes, brain, digestive system, body (general), body (mysteries), and assorted anatomy facts.
Kurgesagt has scores of videos on science; but note that some of them are politically fraught and aimed at more-advanced audiences.
See also my article, “One-Off Science Videos.”
Science: For-Fee Videos
Generation Genius: Science videos for kids. (I regard these as excellent.)
Mystery Science: Video-based “open-and-go lessons on science for levels K–5.” Some content is free. Homeschooling subscriptions are available.
Emily Calendrelli‘s “Emily’s Wonder Lab” runs on Netflix.
Wild Kratts combines science education with entertainment. Some episodes are available for free online.
Odd Squad, on PBS Kids, is about a group of kids who “use math to investigate strange occurrences in their town.”
For details about various programs mentioned here, see my article, “Great Science Video Series.”
Oversimplified on Youtube has videos covering the American Revolution, the Civil War, the World Wars, and other eras.
Kids in Other Countries features videos, dubbed in English, of children living in various places around the world. The stories presented are not representative, and the creator of the videos, Arnold Hansen, definitely has a (benign) agenda. Still, I think the videos can offer children a window into the lives of others living in very different circumstances.
Leonard E. Read’s classic story I, Pencil illustrates the complexity of our division-of-labor world. The essay is available in various formats, including pdf. See also a short video based on the story.
Marginal Revolution University offers many excellent video series on various economic topics.
Battleship teaches strategy and coordinates.
A Simple Dice Game for Adding and Subtracting (easier than Yahtzee)
Sum Swamp is a fun game for kids just learning to add and subtract.
Dinosaur Dig: Carve toy dinosaur bones out of a plaster block.
Lego Kits teach spacial reasoning, basic mechanics, and the patient following of detailed directions.
I’ve reviewed some family-friendly films.
Podcasts for Kids
Solve It! for Kids: Interviews with experts on scientific answers and solutions.
Podcasts for Parents
Passionate Homeschooler discusses homeschooling and interviews homeschoolers.
Schooled 2.0: Kevin Currie-Knight, a professor of education who specializes in self-directed learning, interviews experts in the field.
Learning by Living: “Gina Riley and Kevin Currie-Knight talk to unschoolers, homeschoolers, world-schoolers, staff at alternative schools, etc.”
See also my page, Individual Podcasts on Education.
Thoughts about Homeschool Parenting
How things seem to me . . .
My essay, Starting Your Homeschooling Journey, discusses scheduling, learning materials, autonomy, and reasonable boundaries.
My family’s homeschooling journey (my offsite article)
I review the film Class Dismissed
Tech in Education
Everyschool compiles research on the use and effectiveness of technology in education.
Learning about Human Progress—”The proper aim of education is to enable children to ably pursue their own values and live their own lives, not to convince children to embrace certain conclusions.”
I’ve always been interested in the Montessori approach but I never got too deeply into it. I really like the orientation toward self-directed learning; however, I worry that, at least for many children, the Montessori “environment” is needlessly and overly restrictive. I think I’m more tolerant of a messier “environment,” creative engagement with things, and unplanned activities. But maybe there’s something about the Montessori approach that I’m missing or misunderstanding. Also, I worry that a lot of “Montessori” products are just vastly more expensive versions of stuff I can easily make or buy cheaply elsewhere—but that’s a comment on certain sellers, not the Montessori method.
Anyway, the Montessori Print Shop offers a nice 53-page overview of the Montessori approach as a free pdf (in exchange for your contact information).
Wikipedia has an entry on Montessori education that offers an overview and numerous links.
Project Gutenberg has five books by Maria Montessori, including The Montessori Method.
The North American Montessori Teachers’ Association offers some good resources.
Chloë Marshall wrote a 2017 article evaluating Montessori education.
William Heard Kilpatrick’s critical 1914 book, The Montessori System Examined, is available through Google.
Our kids go through extraordinary physical and mental changes as they develop. It seems to me that most kids would do well to learn about how to manage those changes. Here are a few resources that I like.
Better than Yesterday has videos on finance, productivity, health, and more.