Most homeschooling advice out there is given with the assumption you’ll homeschool long-term. It can be difficult to find relevant information when you only want to homeschool for a year (or even less). But when your child or family is in crisis, the last thing you want to do is scour the internet for help and try to make long-term advice fit your short-term plans.

That’s why I created this guide – and the Emergency/Short-Term Homeschool Workshop for those who want more resources to help them along the way.

I’ll show you how to get started in just three steps so you can dive in and start making the most of this unique opportunity. Let’s go!

Step 1: Make It Legal

If you haven’t yet figured out the laws for homeschooling in your state, then this is where you need to start. I DO NOT recommend asking your local school district for assistance or checking your state’s education website for guidance. These entities do not exist to help homeschoolers and often share outdated or deliberately misleading information.

I recommend either checking HSLDA’s state laws page and/or your state’s local homeschool advocacy group. The online workshop will give you access to an overview of your state’s laws and the contact info for your local homeschool advocacy group, as well as an explanation and examples of of many of the common homeschool law elements (letter of intent, home instruction plan, quarterly report, etc.).

Step 2: Deschooling for “Just This Year” Homeschoolers.

Deschooling is the act of detoxing from the conventional approach to education. Long-term homeschoolers need to spend considerable tine on this in order to unlock their full homeschooling potential. Short-term homeschoolers don’t have to spend nearly as much time – but they should spend at least a week or two if starting mid-year and a full month if beginning at the start of the school year. Here’s what I suggest:

  • Read my deschooling article so you know what deschooling is, why it’s important, and how it works. You can download the checklist if you want to but you don’t have to. (The online workshop includes a link to the article as well as a copy of the Deschooling Ideas download.)
  • Read Unschooling Rules – it’s only $2.99 on Kindle and it will be worth it. I am not trying to talk you into unschooling, don’t worry! But this book will help ease your concerns about this year “not going right” because you’ll see that conventional education (brick and mortar building, lectures and workbooks, homework and tests, etc.) is just ONE way to learn. My goal with this recommendation is to give you PEACE that just because your child is not in a conventional school this year does not mean his education is on pause, and if you choose to do things in a very different way this year your child’s education will NOT be harmed but may in fact be significantly helped. (The online workshop includes my “fluff-free” booknotes for Unschooling Rules so you can get the meat of the book in just a few minutes!)
  • Watch the “Just This Year Schoolers” Video Playlist on the GoodSchooling Facebook Page. (I’m working to get this transferred to YouTube, so if you’re not on FB, keep an eye on our YouTube channel! The videos are all available in the online workshop as well.) Note that these videos were not recorded specifically for Just This Year Homeschoolers, but they are meant to be encouragement and instruction for parents who are thinking about homeschooling, so regardless of how long you may choose to homeschool, these videos should help relieve some of your concerns.

Step 3: Finding Curriculum

I know this is probably the part you’ve been scrolling for! But before you dive into choosing curriculum we need to clarify a few things:

  1. The “best curriculum” doesn’t exist, because what is best for one family may not be best for another.
  2. You are the boss of your homeschool, not the curriculum. You can use curriculum however you want. Just because a program includes workbooks and tests doesn’t mean you have to use them.
  3. KEEP IT SIMPLE. The more curriculum you have (and the more pieces that curriculum has) the more stressed you’re going to be. Less is more, trust me.
  4. Keep math and language your main focus because those are the only two skill-based academic subjects.
  5. School should not take all day. Lower elementary should take no more than 1.5 hours. Upper elementary should take no more than 2.3 hours. Middle school should take 3-4, and high school should take 4-5. Remember that learning can happen outside of “school hours” too. The online workshop goes into more detail on what learning outside of school work can look like, as well as more detail on the amount of time school takes for each individual grade level.
  6. Note that “accreditation” counts for virtually nothing – unless you have a high schooler intent on playing NCAA sports or are in a state that requires it for homeschooled high schoolers that want to transfer into public school. So don’t waste your money on accredited curriculum when something that’s a fraction of the cost will do just as good a job.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about what curriculum to use!

If you already know that computer-based learning works well for your child, then you have lots of options you can choose from.

  • My article on online schools goes into more detail on the ins and outs of online learning and provides access to a download that compares some popular programs. (The online workshop includes this download.)
  • You may also look at Khan Academy, which doesn’t have full programs for all grades, but does have math for all grades and many high school level courses in other subjects. There’s also All In One Homeschool which is a completely free, full program for all grades K through 12. (There are some parts of the program you print, and some instruction is given via text rather than video.)

If you’re looking for an all-in-one curriculum that is not online based, then consider The Good and the Beautiful. It’s comprehensive and it’s free – although you can purchase a printed version if you prefer. (It’s also Mormon based but easy to edit as you go.)

Sometimes an all-in-one program just isn’t a good fit for your family. (They do tend to take more time overall to complete each day.) If you only want to use formal curriculum for math and language arts and want to take a more relaxed, customizable approach for science and social studies, then I’ve listed some selections below that should fit the bill.

(The online workshop includes a downloadable at-a-glance chart of all these options.)

Elementary and Middle School:
Math: For younger students (K-2nd grade), keep math as physically based as possible. You can do this with base 10 blocks or any other manipulative that is easy to count and group. Teach them skills like counting to 100/identifying digits up to 100, comparing (greater/less than/equal to), place value up to 100, and basic addition and subtraction. For a more detailed list of skills to teach, pick up the teacher’s edition of any math curriculum and use it to guide you through the various concepts.

For older students it’s a bit more important to ensure they’re covering all the math skills the school will expect them to have when they return
, so I do recommend using a formal curriculum if at all possible. If the math program your child’s school uses is available to homeschoolers, I recommend using that. If not, then I recommend either Khan Academy (fully online, which I do not recommend for children under 3rd grade), Singapore Math, Saxon Math, or Teaching Textbooks*. If you ever run into issues trying to teach a particular concept, search the concept on YouTube (for example, “how to find the area of a circle”) or on Khan Academy.

Reading: If you have a child who is not reading yet, then work on phonics and then start building words. Your library will likely have lots of “learning to read” type books you can use. The Bob books are a great series to start with. Once they can read basic consonant-vowel-consonant words (cat, bug, dog, etc.) you can start adding in sight words. If you do not want to teach reading yourself, then I recommend Hooked on Phonics.

Remember: reading is not a developmentally appropriate skill until 6 or 7 years for most children. If your child does not enjoy reading practice or is struggling to master phonics and blending sounds to make words, then stop and try again in a month. The worst thing you can do is try to push a child to learn to read before they are ready.

For older children who are already reading, you don’t need a reading curriculum.
Let them read what they want, generally speaking, and just have conversations with them about the book. (Family book club!) Aim for one book a month. You can also find “__ Grade Reading Lists” on Pinterest that you can have your children choose books from if you want to guide their selections. If you have kids who don’t like to read, then gamify it with rewards. Go easy on requiring that they read for a certain amount of time every day; this typically kills any sense of enjoyment for kids who already aren’t big fans of reading.

Another excellent way to improve your child’s reading skills is to read aloud to them. As you read, ask them questions about what is going on in the story, what they think will happen next, etc. Don’t ask too many questions – that ruins the fun of being read to! But a question (or even one of your own observations or thoughts on the story) every few pages or so can help them build comprehension skills.

If you have a child who struggles with reading comprehension or is usually considered to be a struggling reader, then I would strongly recommend Reading Plus (fully online). It’s a fantastic online program that I personally used with over 200 students when I was a classroom teacher. It also provides you with downloads for each comprehension skill so you can give your child extra practice on the skills they struggle with.

Writing: If the program your child’s school uses is available to homeschoolers, then use that. If not, then I recommend Essentials in Writing.

Social Studies: For all ages, read aloud historical fiction, biographies, and DK books on historical topics and periods that your children are interested in. Magic Treehouse books are a fantastic option for younger kids. The American Girl books are great for middle and upper elementary kids (boys and girls!) You might also check out Curiosity Stream for child-appropriate videos.

For geography in the younger years, focus on your community and people around you, as well as maps and how they work. In the older years, look for books and videos about different cultures and connect those cultures to places on the globe/map. Talk about the different continents and what major landforms/biomes they have.

Science: Just as with history, focus on the topics your children are already interested in. Find books, videos, and activities on those topics and spend a little time each day with them. Curiosity Stream, The Magic School Bus, and dozens of YouTube channels all have great content. (The online workshop has a list of educational websites and video channels that are fantastic for enhancing and rounding out what you’re studying – or even serve as the core of what you do.)

High School:
Be sure to talk to your state level advocacy group about how homeschooling for high school credit works in your state. Make sure local high schools accept home school credit, and see if particular curriculum needs to be used in order for them to do so. The below recommendations are a base program you can use as a jumping off point; you may need to add to these recommendations in order to fulfill state or local public school requirements for high school credit.

Math: If the math program your child’s school uses is available to homeschoolers, I recommend using that if possible. If not, then I recommend either Khan Academy, Saxon Math, or Video Text. If you ever run into issues trying to teach a particular concept, search the concept on YouTube (for example, “how to find the area of a circle”) or on Khan Academy.

Reading: Have your child read some Shakespeare, some short stories, some poetry, and some classics. Aim for 2 plays, 3 short stories, and 4 novels, biographies, or memoirs. For poetry, pick 2-3 poets and have them read 4-6 of their poems.

Writing: If they understand the 5 paragraph essay structure, have them write a couple essays about the books they’ve read. Possible topics might be comparing the themes, protagonists, or villains of two different books, analyzing the ways in which the main character changes over the course of the story, or analyzing the use of figurative language in two poems by different poets. You may also choose to continue using a formal writing/grammar program like Essentials in Writing.

Social Studies and Science: Determine what topic will be covered this year in your child’s grade level at their local school and focus on that same topic. Khan Academy has courses you can use for free, and that would be the easiest approach by far. You may want to add some essays, projects, experiments, etc. to round out the courses they use.

In Closing
Hopefully this article has given you a jumping off point for your year that makes this adventure feel more manageable! But if you’d like:

  • help with implementation and record keeping,
  • recommendations on working and homeschooling or homeschooling kids with unique needs,
  • bonus resources,
  • discounted access to personal coaching,

then click here to learn more about the online workshop!

Congratulations on your new homeschooling adventure, however long or short it may be! I know you can do it, and I’m honored to help!