Now’s a good time to Homeschool

If you’ve ever wanted to homeschool your kids, but been afraid of funny looks and disapproval from other people, now is the time. Not only will everyone nod along and say, “Oh, yes, I totally understand why you are doing that,” right now, but also, if it doesn’t work out, you can just send your kids back to school when things return to normal.

The basic supplies you need for homeschooling are very simple: paper, pens/pencils, and books. If you’re reading this in the first place, you probably already own a lot of books, but if not, try the library: many are doing some form of lending. (Or ask your relatives if any of them have some extra books they’d be willing to loan you–my grandmother sent us textbooks on algebra, geometry, and linear algebra.)

Different kids need different things at different ages, so obviously you have to adjust what you are doing to match your kids. A typical 5 year old will spend most of their time learning letters, numbers, simple words, and simple equations. A 15 year old will be studying for the SAT and APs. You can supply a beginning reader’s need for books with simple text like “The cat sat” by yourself (see those pencils and paper above), but obviously you’ll want a real textbook for AP Calculus.

Workbooks: If you’re worried about whether you’ll hit all of the material you’re supposed to cover, get a workbook. It doesn’t really matter which workbook you get–I’ve never met a workbook I didn’t like. Workbooks tend state which grade they’re for on the front and all cover similar material inside, though different brands go at different paces. An “all-in-one” will be thick and cover lots of topics, or if your kid needs to slow down and do a lot more math problems, get the Kumon books. (I have even used second-hand workbooks that I got for free from a neighbor by simply copying out the problems onto fresh paper.)

Online/computer-based programs: We’ve used a variety of computer-based learning programs, including videos on Youtube, Zoom classes, and of course “educational” aps. These vary hugely in quality. Personally, I wouldn’t want to get tied down in any sort of long-term commitment right when starting out because it limits my ability to try different things, but my kids have benefited tremendously from math videos on Youtube. (YMMV.) Just remember that there are only so many hours in the day, so if you’ve just invested in a bunch of workbooks, you might want to hold off on that online literacy program.

The most important thing is actually just sitting down and doing it. Most kids are not super eager to do schoolwork, at school or home, so there will probably be some reluctance. It can be frustrating when they flop around like dead fish or give answers like “a really big number” instead of actually doing the work. This is when you have to take a deep breath and remind them that they don’t get to play Minecraft again until they finish their work. I also reward mine with Nerds and let them earn long-term rewards like “a trip to the pool” (though, obviously, that’s on hold right now). The important thing is to just sit down and do some school work each day so that they and you get into the habit and stop protesting.

And not everything has to be on paper. Go outside and toss a ball back and forth while practicing multiplication tables. Practice spelling words while in the car. Add biology and history questions to the Trivial Pursuit box. It does take a little effort to set up, but once you’re rolling, you’re good.

11 thoughts on “Now’s a good time to Homeschool

  1. A typical 5 year old will spend most of their time learning letters, numbers, simple words, and simple equations.

    Huh. At 5 I had no reason to be studying letters or simple words, but I’m aware that my reading was not typical.

    I’m curious, though, about the math. I have no real memories of any curriculum I encountered before 2nd grade, but I went to a classy private elementary school (2nd-5th grade, ages ~7-10) which I do remember.

    Classwork in 2nd grade involved adding single-digit and possibly 2-digit numbers. At one point we had a handout with a grid of numbers and the instructions “circle the pairs of numbers that add up to ten”. Times tables must have been covered, because I could multiply single-digit numbers but was not taught to multiply double-digit numbers. (There was a game on the classroom computers that presented addition problems and showed some kind of animation when you entered the correct solution. I could do that, and eventually I got into multiplication mode, which, to my distress, I couldn’t do. I took the problem home and was taught to multiply with carries by my parents.)

    In 2nd grade, I was mocked by older students for not knowing division to any degree. (e.g. not knowing the answer to “20 divided by 1”.)

    3rd grade math work involved adding long numbers of 3+ digits.

    4th grade introduced long division.

    5th grade work was prealgebra. The concept of solving a simple numeric equation of the form ax+b = c was introduced in either 4th or 5th grade, though the written representation wasn’t.

    (I’ve left out concepts, such as multiplying 3-digit numbers, where I don’t know when they were introduced. I’m not claiming that adding 3-digit numbers was the entire math curriculum for 3rd grade. But we can be confident that division in 3rd grade, if present, was restricted to very simple problems such as you might get by inverting a times table — “42 divided by 6” or the like.)

    My future math curriculum went “prealgebra” again (6th grade), “algebra I” (7th), “algebra II” (8th), trig/calc A (9th), calc B-C (11th). I am given to understand that this is considered an advanced, nontypical path.

    So I’m intrigued that a “typical 5 year old” today would be learning simple equations, when this concept was not introduced to me before I was 9.


    • The kindergarten curriculum at our local public school covered counting and writing of numbers 1-10 the first semester, and counting/writing 1 through 20 the second semester.Simple equations that add up to 10 (or less) were done second semester; I believe they did equations that add up to 5 (or less) the first semester.

      In first grade they learn how to count/write numbers up to 100; skip count by 2s, 5s, and 10s; addition and subtraction up to 20 (this is generally memorized these days); and teachers introduce the concept of base 10. More advanced kids will be doing two-digit addition and subtraction problems problems like 25-3. There’s also some material about shapes and simple time telling.

      Second grade: More work on base 10 (so that kids will understand what it means to “borrow” a one); double digit addition and subtraction; simple equations with 3 numbers (eg, I remember an equation from my son’s math test at this age that asked him to add 80+20+100,) equations with borrowing; simple measurements, money values, and the times tables. The times tables are the biggie at this age.

      Obviously the concept of “half” was introduced back around kindergarten, but I’d expect double-digit multiplication and simple division in 3rd, long division + simple fractions in 4th, then more complicated fraction work in 5th.

      I suspect that either you’re remembering simple addition in 2nd from the review session at the beginning of the school year that teachers do to make sure no one forgot everything over the summer, or your school had some fancy ideas about not pushing kids into pencil-and-paper mathematics too early.

      Of course, kids vary a lot, so any math curriculum has to be tailored to the child. Even within my own children, these concepts have “clicked” at different ages, sometimes years apart.


      • Thanks for the detailed reply!

        I recall being called upon to divide fractions, and not knowing how, in 6th grade, but I had learned to add unlike fractions by then.

        I have an uneasy feeling that we’re using the term “equation” to mean different things. To me it means a written equation to be manipulated (usually, at this level, for the purpose of determining the value of a variable). The simplest possible example of the concept would be something like “x + 3 = 8”.

        Can you give an example or two of what you mean by “simple equations that add up to 10” or “an equation that asked your son to add 80+20+100”?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sorry about the delay. A typical worksheet in kindergarten might have problems like
        2 + 2 = ___
        1 + 3 = ___
        2 + 8 = ___

        I think I recall a worksheet where kids were given ten beans and asked to divide them into piles and write how many beans were in each pile, things like that.

        Adding 80+20+100 is just that: 80+20+100=___.


  2. Kids learn best through play. If it can be turned into a fun game. The kids will get into it with gusto.

    And before they know it they know all they need to know.

    Similarly to how Hunter gatherers teach their children.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. (It keeps bothering my autistic sense of precision that your blog is called EvolutionistX, not EvolutionistXX… everybody has at least one X chromosome, even people with weird genetics like XXY, as the Y has little information, you literally cannot make a viable animal or human without at least one X, so one X means nothing more than existing…)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You’re so right about a lot of this. I’m a first time homeschooler and have been surprised at how we’ve adapted to the change. I try to intentionally not make our school time feel like traditional school, since this is temporary for us. I use because they have lots of online games for math and reading. It’s good motivation for my kindergartener to get through the stuff he doesn’t enjoy (handwriting mostly). I also got the “Nature Study and Outdoor Science Journal” by the Thinking Tree. It’s a really creative way to learn and teach about environmental science. I’ve also been taking a more “interest-led learning” approach by asking what my kids want to learn about then tying the subjects into that topic so they are motivated to do the lessons.


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