Homeschooling has been an educational alternative since the late ’80s, eventually becoming legal in every state. It wasn’t really until 2020 that homeschooling was normalized as the entire world stayed home and muddled through homeschooling, homeworking, home sanity keeping. (#pandemic) Everyone quickly understood that homeschooling took planning, intentionality, and investment.
We began homeschooling in the early ’90s- the second year that Sonlight was in business- a big breakthrough in the market. It meant we had options beyond the traditional textbook approach of Abeka, Bob Jones whatever curricula the public schools were throwing away.
Mentoring Our Children
That was thirty years ago, and in that time, homeschooling has burgeoned into a billion-dollar industry. What does that mean for the homeschooler? It means choices, opportunity, and freedom. And, honestly, it can mean overwhelm as we all manage decision fatigue- not just with homeschooling, but with managing life during a unique time in history. Homeschooling was growing before 2020, and it has expanded exponentially with curriculum, online learning opportunities, and more. And while areas co-ops and class days may not be meeting as of yet, there are plenty of opportunities still around! And, because of the pandemic, you now have the entire world experimenting with online teaching. That means world-class teachers are at your fingertips!
Homeschooling means you own your children’s education- you are not outsourcing to a government or private system. But because of the plethora of choices now available to you and with so many people working part or full time, while they homeschool, it often means that we are coaching or mentoring our students through their academic life.
How do we make the best decisions and navigate the millions of choices?
- Understand what a typical course of study is – possibly within an educational pedagogy.
- Set priorities and a budget – include money for books, supplies, resources, online classes/ experiences, travel, equipment, co-ops, opportunities. Does it have to cost a fortune? No, but like many things, it may come down to time or money- which do you have more of?
- Craft and implement a workable plan.
What is a typical course of study?
- It starts with the Core 4 – Math, English, Science, and History, and for Christians, the Bible
- Often includes electives such as a foreign language
- Add in extra-curricular activities and other electives. For example, in the high school years, you’ll want to consider adding health, art, music, geography, etc.
Keep things simple and doable. Start with the basics such as math and English for all grades, then add in science and history. I am not advocating a class or a curriculum for each subject. I am simply saying, consider how you’ll teach these areas.
When planning, you’ll want to consider your approach. Does your family prefer a traditional textbook approach, a classical approach, Charlotte Mason, unschooling, or a unit study approach? Various pedagogies come with pros and cons. Your chosen homeschool style will inform your focus, curriculum, and time expenditures.
For an overview on pedagogies, please take a quick look at our informative article on Homeschool Pedagogy.
Set priorities and a budget.
I recommend that you create a word document to help you plan your subjects, curriculum, and the skills you want them to learn. Once you plan these, you can more easily budget.
What are your non-negotiables – the must-learn skills and subjects for your family?
Our approach was heavily influenced by the great books and the classics, with a heavy dose of science and the arts. Your focus may be more STEM-oriented. This is important to think through. Why? Because the shiny object syndrome exists in the homeschooling world, like everywhere else! And look, we all want the best for our kids, so we think this curriculum, or those books, or this parenting information will help us get to their best. But less is often more, particularly when it comes to our kids and education.
They don’t need everything. They need the basics – math and literacy, a thirst for knowledge, and the skills necessary to learn.
Other things to consider:
- How much money do you have to spend? Prioritize your non-negotiables and find quality materials.
- Freebies -quality materials are literally everywhere for free. Here I have listed a few:
But there are also exceptional courses or experiences available that are an investment. For example, learning Biology, Chemistry, or Anatomy & Physiology from Dr. Kristin Moon at True North Homeschool Academy will set your future nurse or doctor up for success in a way that goes through a textbook haphazardly won’t. Learning Politics or Strategy from Adam Pruzan at True North will set your future analyst or politician up in a way that little else will.
Opportunites for “extras” such as camps, class days, lessons, hands-on activities, readers, travel- all of the things that go into creating and crafting an exceptional life should not be overlooked. Do you need a microscope or pottery lessons, or a horse or dog to train? Will your kids compete in sports or academic opportunities, Boy Scouts, AHG, or TeenPact? These opportunities often cost money and time. Can you budget or barter for it?
Create a plan.
Your plan can be a simple table or grid on a word doc with subjects listed down the side and the school planning year across the top.
For each student, fill in the current levels of math, language arts, science, history, foreign language, electives, physical education, music, extracurriculars, church events like youth group or Bible study, and community service projects that they will be involved in during the year.
|English||U.S. Lit. & Comp||On-line True North with Mrs. Hemmings|
|Novel in a year||Who Dun It|
|Online with Mrs. Curtis; Nov challenge|
|Science||Science of Marvel||Online with TNHA Mrs. Grande|
|History||U.S History||Online with TNHA Mrs. Hemmings|
|Bible||Bible/ MP||With Mom|
|For Language||NiHao||Online Chinese with Mrs. Cao|
|PE||Work-out with Dad|
|Music/ Art/ Theater||One Act Play/ Jan.|
|Co-ops/Clubs||Math Games/ Art/|
|Community Center Tues|
|Community Service||AGH||Weekly Meeting|
|Camps||TeenPact 1-day Camp|
TNHA Family Camp
Black Hills SD
|YouTube||Comedy- dry bar, Trey Kennedy|
There Has Never Been a Better Time to Homeschool
In conclusion, you can take it from veteran homeschool moms like me – there has never been a better time to homeschool! We have so many choices and opportunities that we can involve our kids in each year. We can avoid decision fatigue when creating a simple plan that focuses on curricula and activities that fit within our educational philosophy. Your plan should organize the basics and allow them to pursue their interests. Remember to keep it simple, create a budget based on your priorities, take advantage of free stuff, and set them up for success in their chosen fields with classes from in-real-life or online experts when needed.
How people learn is of particular interest to parents and educators alike. For those who have studied how to learn, it’s evident that there are three distinct stages of learning. Those stages are known by different names, depending on what educational pedagogy you follow. To be sure, there are subtle differences between them, but the heart of the matter remains the same.
The Stages of Learning
Learning takes place in these stages:
|Education||Classical Model||Charlotte Mason||Unschooling |
|1. Overview||1. Grammar – Memorization||1. Collect||1. Extensive Exposure|
|2. Familiarity||2. Dialectic – Logic||2. Connect||2. Feed Interest|
|3. Expertise||3. Rhetoric – the Art of Persuasion||3. Compose||3. Fuel Passion|
How It Used to Be
When I was growing up, “learning” – the expectation that we would fully understand something – went fast. To clarify, we were often shown a concept or explained once and then expected to “get it.
At least, I think that’s what happened. I’m not exactly sure.
We were expected to know the first thing because we’d already moved on to the next thing. Since it was assumed we all understood the first thing, kids who couldn’t keep up with all the new stuff moved into the slower groups—those who could keep up (or pretend that they could) were segmented into the upper level. The kids bumbling along but not as slow were placed in the middle level.
We all tried our darndest not to be relegated to the lower level.
Everything is New
However, to kids, everything is new. They have little context about where to place all of the things they are learning. And kids are distracted (some more than others) by all the new things they are seeing, hearing, and feeling. For example, when you read a beloved childhood book to your child for the first time, you have associated memories. For your child, it’s the first point of contact.
Years ago, I heard Andrew Pudewa state that they most likely need it if your kid asks for help.
That was a paradigm shift for me since I grew up in a system where asking questions or needing help was frowned upon or showed weakness. In reality, when our children ask questions, they are trying to contextualize information and create a grid for new or unfamiliar information.
Why Learn About How We Learn?
When we understand how people learn, we can strategize our homeschool experience far beyond simply purchasing a curriculum. Of course, the curriculum is a piece of our overall strategy, along with nature studies, field trips, hands-on experiences, camps, community service, and more.
Also, knowing how people learn, and specifically how our kids learn, allows us to create a robust and dynamic homeschooling life that feeds the heart AND mind while doing all of the other necessary activities that educating humans require.
What to Expect When Homeschooling
Because we have a better understanding of how people learn, we can permit ourselves to go slower when needed. We adjust – cutting down on expectations or ramping them up as needed. We will come to expect questions and confusion – even occasional mayhem and frustration. Awareness that children will hit a point of “not getting it” allows that friction to be part of the process of learning instead of allowing frustration to mold our relationships or character.
So, what does this look like?
Let’s use learning how to knit as an example. These stages are the same if you are five years old or fifty!
Exposure to the tools and vocabulary of knitting: I need to learn how to hold the needles, position the yarn, “feed the yarn,” even roll the yarn into a ball, understand terms like “knit,” “pearl,” “cast on,” “cast off,” etc. I need to learn how to store my materials properly and practice the basics –like knit and pearl until they become second nature. I might find a knitting mentor, or call Gram, or watch YouTube videos, go to yarn stores, join Raverly or sign up for an online class or club as I gain exposure and an overview of what knitting is all about.
I am familiar with the terms in this stage, so I don’t have to look them up every time. I can easily practice casting on and knitting rows, pulling out, reading patterns, and gaining in my ability to knit with precision and care and follow directions, read patterns, and complete a small project with success. This is where friction often happens because the excitement of something new and novel has worn off, and you are not yet proficient enough to shake off mistakes. Re-working, tearing out work you’ve already done, looking up mistakes, asking questions, and problem-solving will get you through this stage.
At this stage, I begin to knit with some proficiency. Patterns or stitches are memorized, completing projects becomes second nature; consequently, I begin to modify or create original designs and perhaps even teach others to knit. This expertise allows me to delve into various aspects of fiber arts, adding other needlecrafts to my repertoire. I take joy in learning and modifying, doing, and adding to my knowledge base.
Do you see how this goes?
You can apply it to Math or star gazing, cooking, or mechanics regardless of age.
Understanding that there are stages of learning and that friction is just a part of the process can make learning anything more enjoyable!
I read a book in parts and pieces at a book store and liked it so much that I later purchased it. The main premise of the book is that Everything is Figureoutable; the ultimate growth mindset. It is a perfect phrase to be continually testifying to yourself. I say it to myself all the time. Cause, true confessions, life makes it easy to get stuck.
We get stuck with people and circumstances. All.the.time.
And Homeschooling, by its very nature, gives us many, many opportunities to get stuck. Stuck, but good.
Homeschooling is Figureoutable!
Most of us have little-to-no training about child-rearing, education, or even the basics of homemaking or bill paying. Many of us can’t cook in early adulthood, don’t like to clean, and avoid paying bills. But adulthood requires that we figure stuff out. That, or we stay stuck and feel frustrated. Sometimes we stay stuck for a very long time. We think we aren’t good with money. Or we missed the grammar gene. Or we are not creative. We keep ourselves stuck because we don’t believe we have what it takes. Can I get a witness?
The good news about homeschooling and home management is that it is figureoutable. And honestly, once we’ve figured it out, it can be gratifying work: soul-filling and world-changing work.
Don’t Get Stuck
However, if you’ve been thrust into homeschooling, or are trying to do it while working, or brought your kids with an undiagnosed learning difficulty home, getting things figured out can be overwhelming. So, let me help with some basic lists of things you might want to figure out. It’s not exhaustive or personalized; it’s just a starting place. A place to take a stand and feel successful once you’ve figured out a few things so that you can continue gaining skills and so that the next success seems even more attainable.
Things you will need to figure out to homeschool well:
- What is your teaching style?
- How much time do you have to teach, given your other responsibilities?
- What are your kids’ learning styles (to shore up your students’ areas of challenge and to utilize their areas of nature ability)
- What educational pedagogies produce the results you are looking for?
- Is your student gifted, 2E, LD, or at a traditional grade level? The greater the disparity between your student’s ability and areas of challenge, the more easily frustrated they might feel –and that goes back to the figureoutability – but that’s a whole different conversation.
- What is your minimum and maximum budget for books and curriculum?
- What resources do you have for travel and experience-based learning?
- What will you give up to homeschool? Time, money, resources, a career, advancement, etc.?
- Where in your house (or out of it) will you homeschool?
- What storage areas do you have available to house homeschooling supplies such as books, curriculum, writing utensils, computers, printers, etc.?
- What will be your basic schedule?
- What is your goal for homeschooling?
- What is your strategy for accomplishing your homeschooling goal?
- Which parent will be primarily responsible for homeschooling?
- Who will you homeschool with? A co-op, in-person classes, online programs, a hybrid, or UMS?
- What unique resources do you bring to the table as you homeschool? Are you an RV family? Do you own your own business, travel extensively, or is Grandma available to take one or more of the kids regularly?
- What will free time look like for your kids?
- What will your morning and evening routines consist of?
- How will the homeschooling day begin?
- How will the homeschooling day end?
- How will you manage electronics in your home?
- How will you know if homeschooling is a success?
- Will you homeschool all of your kids?
- Will you homeschool them using the same pedagogy and curriculum?
Related things to figure out:
- How will meal planning, shopping, prep, and clean-up be managed?
- How will clothes and laundry be managed- gathering, sorting, washing, drying, folding, and putting clothes away?
- How will schedules be managed? This becomes more important to figure out as the parent(s) have more outside responsibilities like jobs or caring for an elderly relative?
- Who will pay the bills and set the budget for homeschooling expenses, activities, experiences, and travel?
- Who will transport kids to activities, programs, therapies, and the like?
Figuring it All Out
Homeschooling does not have to be complicated. But homeschooling is work. We dedicate time and resources towards it, and like all work, the more we can adequately do the prep work and plan the execution, the more successful we’ll be at meeting our goals and launching our kids.
But don’t worry. What you don’t know currently is figureoutable. And every success you have will lead to another success. Every obstacle overcome is one step closer to your goal. You’ve got this, Momma!
If you’re looking for a community of like-minded homeschoolers headed True North, we’d love to have you join our community! Let us help each other “figure it ALL out” with encouragement and support – plus free training, advice, and resources to help you figure out the challenges you face!
And if you want to read more about homeschool organization and planning, take a look at our resources for Homeschooling 101- Where to Begin and tips for how to Manage My Home & Time or encouragement and resources for families of children with special needs.
For many people, it seems like life has two options: achieving goals and enjoying life. Neither one of them seems as if they are one hundred percent fulfilled. There seems to be a broad spectrum on the scale of go-getters and over-achievers to those who slack in all departments.
How many times have you heard your student saying they don’t have enough time or they are overwhelmed with all the things? For so many homeschool families, the demands of work, career, education, family, and homeownership seem overwhelming. All while striving to teach our families how to achieve goals and enjoy life in a balanced manner.
Avoid the Overwhelm
Do you wish you had someone to partner with you in helping your teens learn to achieve goals and enjoy a balanced life?
We are doing that for you with the Life Skills 101 course offered at True North Homeschool Academy! Your students will learn how to prioritize life, learn how to set and achieve goals, and sharpen skills for living life on their own as an adult. In this full-year course, four broad areas are covered in depth. They include:
- Finding Balance
- Setting & Achieving Goals
- Managing Life Areas
- Time Management
Throughout the course, students will learn how to navigate these various areas as they prepare for launching into the next phase of life.
If you think about life being balanced, you might envision a seesaw in the position of being directly balanced in the middle with no ups, no downs, and simply managing to stay in the middle ground.
What does it mean to be in balance, if life has its difficulties? When you are in balance, you maintain your equilibrium while life’s ups and downs come to visit. Of course, you go through the various emotions as circumstances both good and not so good work their way through life.
Being in balance means intentionally, no matter how hard it is, choosing how you will show up under any given circumstance.
Do your teens need to learn how to achieve balance? In Life Skills 101, we will discuss ways to:
- Take inventory of the various areas of life.
- Create and implement a plan for finding and keeping life in balance.
- Create action steps to help bring things back into balance when things get challenging.
Sometimes, the unexpected can throw you off. In Life Skills 101 we teach how to hit the reset button when life throws you a curve and knocks you off balance.
Setting & Achieving Goals
Does your student want to author a book, be a young entrepreneur, or simply get to appointments on time and have a clean room? Learning how to break large goals down into manageable tasks is at the core of the Life Skills 1010 curriculum. From identifying a dream or aspiration to making a plan to achieve it, this class allows the student to take the time to dream, research, investigate and plan for the future.
It’s like a snowball effect. We will focus on how to start small and continue rolling that snowball down the hill. Before they know it, your kids will have a boulder of success coming their way!
Managing Life Areas
Teaching teens to manage all the things of life is a full-time job! Letting go and letting them step into managing their own lives, can bring a sense of panic to every homeschool mom. The Life Skills 101 course partners with families to teach teens how to live a whole, full, and complete life. Learning to break your life down into categories and then addressing each. This creates a launch pad into adulthood that your teen can return as they expand the skills and confidence on living life successfully. Throughout the full-year course, students will learn what it takes to become independent and manage these aspects of daily life.
- Cleaning & Organizing
- Food shopping & meal planning
- Budgeting & personal finances
- Resume, cover letter, and interview skills
- Workplace expectations
At the end of the day, so many life skills are achieved by learning solid time management. Students learn how to identify the most important tasks and how to say no to time-wasting activities, or behaviors. Students will sharpen their skills in:
- Task management
- Balancing work and play
Throughout the course students will use a variety of technology and digital tools to create projects, turn in assignments and find the best tools to help them successfully navigate life in a digital environment.
Life Skills for a Successful Launch into Adulthood.
There are many challenges each of our kids will have to face. Let’s help them learn how to achieve goals, fulfill dreams, and live a life they love. Find more information about Life Skills 101 here.
Looking for help with teaching your teen Life Skills? Life Skills 101 Orienteering and Entrepreneurship. Taught live online at True North Homeschool Academy!
Join us on Facebook too – our page Life Skills for Homeschooled Teens is a great community and we share tips and laughter along the way!
A Typical Course of Study can help you develop a strong plan for homeschooling Junior High School. It can define your purpose in what can feel like an academic no-man’s land! Students are no longer children but are definitely not yet the young adults they will be in high school. Their bodies are changing rapidly, and they can’t even keep up with themselves, preferring to sleep and eat over many other options. Some people want to skip the Jr. High years, pretending it’s just all a bad dream. But these years, though challenging, can be rich academically and set the tone for future high school and adult success!
How Do Tests Help?
Jr. High is typically the time when undiagnosed learning disabilities or processing disorders come to the fore, and getting a good standardized test done now, as a benchmark of student’s ability by grade level, can be really helpful. If you suspect a disability or processing disorder, check out resources such as our Advising. Help is available, though you may have to search for tools. SPED Advising (like ours at True North Homeschool Academy) can save you hours, thousands of dollars, and tears of frustration!
If your student is weak in any of the basics, such as English or Maths, you will want to shore those weaknesses up; particularly reading comprehension and speed and Math literacy, including being strong in the four math functions- addition and subtraction multiplication, and division.
What to Focus on in Junior High
a typical course of study for Jr High School will focus on the Core 4 subjects and then add in Electives and Extra-curricular activities.
Jr. High is typically 7th and 8th grade. You’ll want to focus on the Core Four and build from there:
- English – make sure your student has the mechanics of writing down. Can they write simple sentences, a paragraph, and a three paragraph paper on an assigned topic? Students should be able to write a clear, well-organized simple essay by the end of the 8th. They should understand basic grammar and spelling and be building their vocabulary through more difficult reading.
- Math – Solidify what they know about math functions, particularly multiplication, division, fractions, decimals, and percentages. Students should begin moving into pre-Algebra/Algebra at the end of Jr High.
- Science – Students should have a basic foundation in nature studies. Jr. High Science will give them a broad overview of Biology, Chemistry and Physics, Earth & Space, Physical Science, and an introduction to Lab Reports. They should know the Scientific Method.
- History- students should have a broad sweeping overview of History, with some details about the Ancient, Medieval, Renaissance, and the Modern World and an understanding of U.S. History. A basic timeline is a great idea. Be certain they have a basic understanding of Geography.
Electives and Extra-curriculars
Foreign Language: Jr. High is a great time to introduce a Foreign language if you haven’t already! Latin is a perfect language to start with. It will solidify English grammar basics, build English vocabulary (15000 English words are Latin derivatives), and give them a fun code to crack. Latin also has many moving parts, so it is a good critical thinking skill as your teen learns executive functioning skills. Spanish, Chinese, German, French, and Hebrew are also great ways to hone skills, and students can earn High School Credit while still in Jr. High!
Logic: Face it, most tweens live to argue, and they are not very good at it. Teach them logic and reveal that they’ll be able to recognize fallacies and form logical arguments. Good writers are good thinkers, and this will hone their English skills And math is symbolic logic, which will hone their math skills. Informal Logic is a perfect study for developing tween brains.
Physical Education: ½ credit each year. Regular exercise will help regulate your teen’s emotions, energy to argue, and food intake. Check out our fun Dance at the Movies course, where students will gain skills, earn PE credits and learn to appreciate the beauty of dance.
Music: A general overview of music, including Music Theory, voice, or instrument lessons, will enrich their homeschool program (and their lives!).
Art/Humanities: Give them a general understanding of Form and Color, Photography, Photoshop, etc.
Bible/Apologetics: Students should have a solid overview of the Old and New Testaments and a foundation of Apologetics; an understanding of how to defend their faith.
Computer: Basic Computer Information Systems, Powerpoint, Video Editing, Internet Safety, and Accountability; I highly recommend parents read Glow Kids and make informed decisions about what their students have access to via phones and the internet!
Health- Should include general hygiene and safety, including managing and handling their phones/ internet usage.
Electives for Jr High should be diverse and introduce students to a wide range of opportunities and challenges. In Jr. High students are moving from experience to interest to strategy if their interest is something that they want to pursue and have a clear drive to invest in.
Community Service is a great way to get Tweens to think beyond themselves and understand and support others’ needs.
Books: Of course, make time for reading great literature will expand your student’s horizons, build their vocabulary and help them empathize with others.
Want to know more about credits, transcripts, and standardized tests?
More Resources and Tools
Survive Homeschooling High School is a comprehensive eBook that will walk you through how to plan and prepare for High School. Or check out our Academic Advising– we offer Standard Advising, SPED Advising for nontraditional learners, and NCAA Advising for those looking to compete for an NCAA position.
It’s a great time to be homeschooling, and the options for Jr. High School Homeschooling are better than ever! Check out our live online dynamic, interactive classes taught within an international community by world-class teachers! Students interact and work together- we believe excellent education takes place within a community!
See also our article on a Typical Course of Study for High School.