New to Homeschooling

If  you are new to homeschooling, here are some things you might want to know.

First, you have tons of options. You’ll probably want to figure out two things first: A) whether you have an educational philosophy or approach and B) whether you want a box curriculum (where you essentially buy a grade level) or piece subjects together yourself.

Common educational philosophies or approaches include:

  • Classical (Incorporating an ancient language and emphasizing literature or, more technically, teaching the Trivium and Quadrivium)
  • Charlotte Mason (Lots of “living books” and nature studies)
  • Montessori (Interest based with unstructured time)
  • Unschooling (Student-centered, student led, individualistic)
  • School-at-Home (Basically it’s traditional schooling only at home)
  • Unit Studies (These can be done some in any of the approaches, but also done exclusively.)
  • Eclectic

Second, you may also want to know that there are different approaches to math.

  • Conceptual curriculum teaches why math works the way it does. It likely includes hands-on manipulatives for the younger ages.
  • Procedural curriculum focuses on how to do the math.
  • Mastery curriculum focuses on one topic at a time and is organized in a certain way.
  • Spiral curriculum teaches math in smaller chunks and rotates through the topics.

Third, how hands on do you want your homeschooling to be? The success of a curriculum really depends on a) how the student responds and b) how the teacher can work with it. There are so many options in homeschooling that it really is ok to find something that works for both you & your child(ren)! Some courses are workbook based. Others script out what parents can say. Some use textbooks while others advocate reading and discussion, etc.

Fourth, if a subject intimidates you, or if you struggle to teach it, there are DVD & online teaching options, too. Really, if a homeschooling parent wants it, it’s likely either available or under development as we speak.

Fifth, each state has laws about homeschooling. The Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), which was started by two homeschooling lawyer dads, makes it very easy to see each state’s requirements.

Explore then Narrow Things Down

Homeschool advice and homeschool options are all over the Internet. One easy way to see and compare available curriculum is to look through Cathy Duffy Reviews. FWIW, “scope and sequence” lists topics/ideas/concepts covered in the book/course/lesson plan.

This website,, exists to help narrow things down for Lutheran implementation, and we’re happy to answer questions for you if we can, whether you are new to homeschooling or more experienced. Note our pages like Free Lutheran Educational Resources and Gathered Recommendations.

There is not exactly a Lutheran boxed curriculum option. Wittenberg Academy offers free public domain materials to give your child a great Lutheran Classical education for the elementary years, but there isn’t a publisher (yet) who has customized an entire level of textbooks, workbooks, etc., for a homeschooler’s budget. Having said that, publishers certainly publish great things that homeschoolers use frequently.

General Subjects

Generally children under first grade learn to recognize shapes, colors, letters, and numbers. Learning to read is great at this stage, but sometimes that is a part of first grade, too. (It’s just something that clicks at different times for different kids.) Likewise you can start teaching penmanship, additional, and subtraction, but that will all be hit upon more later. This is an introductory time.

School used to start in first grade. The pre-school years are a time for enrichment, that is, learning to listen, look, and pay attention to things, whether it’s a craft, nature walk or a piece of music. Sometimes kids can memorize all sorts of things, like types of bugs, the US presidents, skip counting, etc. Introduce finer motor skills, like cutting with scissors, but I wouldn’t recommend you expect beautiful handwriting.

From first grade onward, students typically have math, science, history, and language arts. (Language Arts combine phonics, spelling, reading, penmanship, recognizing rhymes, etc.) Many Language Art programs combine various elements so you practice a little reading, a little writing, a little grammar, etc.

It can sound like a lot or a little, and you may find that sometimes you can do more, then suddenly face that you need to do less. That’s perfectly normal. I’ve started doing a unit study when we need a change (or I have extra energy). Then, after we wrap that up, we may not start another and just continue with the basics. If we get too busy, I try to select something we can do over summer, like geography.

Enrichment is still great! But it doesn’t need to be all the time. Part of the freedom of homeschooling is being able to take a day off to picnic at the park or visit a museum. Listen to something beautiful. Bake something tasty! Volunteer to help those in need.

High Schoolers may or may not choose classes based on college requirements. Some states require diploma recipients to take a government or civics class and at least two sciences with lab work. Ideally, high schoolers get to the point where they can write a letter, a resume, a five paragraph essay and a research paper. They can read and talk about literature. Math often consists of algebra, geometry, precalc/trig, and calculus.

Personally, we hope to get some good geography studying done in middle school/ junior high and then add logic to replace that. We also always have a religion class or religious reading lined up.


Routine is helpful. A clear space is helpful. On the other hand, parents have raised children—and done so well—in all sorts of conditions.

In our house, family devotions are separate from religion class. We aim to memorize Scripture and the Catechism. We aim to teach the young ones the Bible stories in The Story Bible. Then we have them read their own Bibles, gradually learning vocabulary, geography, and church history. This is to help ground our children on a) Scripture as foundational, but also b) that Scripture reflects real life, real places, and real events.

As a liturgical family, we have also taught our children Matins (and hope to get to Morning Prayer) and we are thankful our congregation has taught them Vespers and Evening Prayer through seasonal evening services. We just do them.  And the kids pick it up. 🙂

It was a struggle to get family devotions going. Especially with babies! But once established, it has been a wonderful thing to have a child remind you that it is time for God’s Word and prayer!

(If you need help with toddlers in church, I recommend Whisper, Whisper: Learning about Church, which has little teaching points and tips in the back.)

May God bless you as you make plans and try to do your best! You are not alone!!