Homeschooling 101

Homeschooling 101The decision to homeschool can lead to some overwhelming questions like:
How do you get started?
What does a typical day look like?
How do you keep toddlers from emptying the cabinets on a daily basis while you teach your older kids?
What about socialization?

After researching the homeschool laws in your state, the first thing you need to know is that there is no “perfect” or “right” way to homeschool. Teaching supplies and methods are as different as the families actually doing the homeschooling. Homeschooling can range from super-structured to complete freedom.

To get started, some homeschoolers buy a packaged curriculum with lesson plans, which works well for parents who are unsure about what needs to be taught or where their child is on the academic spectrum. The choices can be overwhelming, so do Internet research, join online groups and find local homeschoolers to discuss what programs they are using and what they think of their packaged curriculum.

     There is no "perfect" or "right" way to homeschool.

The homeschoolers referred to as “unschoolers” let their child lead the way (often called “natural learning”). “Science class” could include field trips to nature centers and zoos, along with nature walks. Grammar is learned from reading books and from real conversations. Similarly, history is learned from stories and historical fiction (or even animated movies). Jessica Mattingly, an unschooler, says, “Our schedule is generally determined by our outside commitments (classes, work, coops, field trips, etc.) and when we are home we
relax and pursue a variety of projects/interests.”

Unit studies are a fun way for a child to cover every subject by studying one topic. For instance, if your child is a dinosaur fanatic, you would incorporate reading, writing, spelling, history, geography, math, etc. into a unit study on dinosaurs. Your child could use a map to learn where dinosaur fossils have been found. Then she could read a historical book about dinosaurs, followed by a written book report.

The “eclectic” method uses whatever works for a child at any given time. These homeschoolers pick and choose from the different methods (classical, religious, secular, unit studies, etc.), incorporating lots of play time and field trips. Tresa Cope says, “Grandparents are great about giving us workbooks for holidays and birthdays, which is great for keeping my costs down. For reading I just make sure to read to the kids as much as I can. They help me in the garden for ‘science class’, and grocery shopping is ‘economics’! When they’re older I’ll consider a pre-packaged curriculum.”

As far as the daily job of homeschooling goes, Suzanne Andrews, mom of 4, shares, “There isn’t really a ‘typical’ day! The closest we have is up, breakfast, morning chores, then at the table for school around 9 a.m. I juggle the “mom’s help needed” subjects so while I’m working oral exercises with one the others are working independently. We lunch around noon, the kids help with prep and cleanup, then we only have a little schoolwork left.”

So how do these homeschoolers handle the challenge of balancing younger and older children during the teaching day? “While our ‘homeschool’ time is not separated from the rest of our life, balancing the needs of the youngers and olders is a persistent challenge. Sometimes one of the kids will play with the baby/toddler while I focus on one or more of the older kids. If we can involve the younger kids in the activity, we will do that.” says Jessica Mattingly. Another idea would be to have a special tub of activities just for the younger
children for homeschool time. The tub could include blocks, play dough, puppets, coloring books with crayons, lacing cards and snacks.

Socialization isn’t usually a concern among homeschoolers. Start by searching the Internet for homeschool groups you could join. Other ideas include library programs, parks and recreation activities, playdates and co-ops. Jessica Mattingly says, “We have participated in several co-ops. Currently we take the SCENE classes offered by LEARN. These are often organized by a parent or community member who is willing to take on the organization and teaching of the class. I find that helpful because I am able to have different age/interest children in different activities at the same time. We also participate in the KCHomeschool co-op which asks each member to offer an activity and then that family can attend any of the other activities.”

As with anything new, when you first start to homeschool you’ll feel a bit unsteady and unsure. Have fun, do what works for you and your children, and keep at it. You’ll get the hang of it and will soon be mentoring others!


Homeschool Myths

1. Homeschoolers are socially inadequate.
2. Homeschooling isn’t legal.
3. You should have a teaching degree to homeschool your child.
4. You have to homeschool 7 hours per day.
5. Homeschoolers and their parents are lazy.

Homeschool Resources

Julian Charter School
Ten locations in Alpine, Encinitas, Julian, Murietta and Temecula

Learning Choice Academy
Locations in Chula Vista, Scripps Ranch, La Mesa and Temecula

Greater San Diego Academy
13881 Campo Rd.
Jamul, CA 91935


Kerrie McLoughlin, mother of 5, has been homeschooling eclectically for 4 years and is happy to answer any questions at

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