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Reading in Tent

Reading Selection Guide for the Elementary Reading Homeschool Curriculum

March 19, 2024

Here are some elements that I think need to be included in a quality elementary homeschool reading curriculum.

Read! read, read!

Your child should be reading something all the time. It is wise to make sure she reads a variety of works in different genres on her grade/age level.

Children in the primary grades can select picture books that are of high interest on a low reading level which can hold their attention.

Upper Elementary students, of course, should also be reading continuously. It is wise to make sure they read a variety of chapter books by different authors. More challenging, historical fiction is an ideal genre for upper elementary students transitioning to higher level literature. Fiction selections can include novels, short stories, and children's plays. Children's poetry helps students learn about expression and different kinds of form, rhythm and rhyme. There are many books of children's poetry available. 

Nonfiction can include accounts of historical figures, how-to books, children's newspapers,  children's encyclopedias and atlases.

There are several well-known lists of books according to various categories that you might find useful to consult.

  • The Newbery Medal: for the best American children's book since 1922

  • Caldecott Medal: for the most distinguished American picture book for children Coretta Scott King Book Award: for the most distinguished portrayal of African American experience in literature.

  • Pura Belpré Award: presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

  • 100 Best Books for Children

  • Book Trust’s 100 Best Books


He's the Expert Now

Working on Math Problems

February 11, 2024


“What did you learn about today in Consumer Math?,” I once asked my homeschooled teenager. 

“About whether you should do home repairs yourself or hire out,” he answered. 

“Great!” I said, a little too enthusiastically. “We've been homeowners for only eight years, so you can give us some pointers.” 

Wise beyond his years and seeing through the ridiculousness of my request he replied, “Yeah sure, with my fifteen-minutes' experience!”

Come to think of it, I was the one who got a lesson that day - in setting aside lofty expectations and remembering that we are a homeshooling family - partnering together in our learning the best we can and that’s the way it should be.

Student with Tablet

How can I help my homeschooled child use the library?

January 25, 2024

(Note: As you can see, this article is devoted specifically to homeschoolers and their parents.)

The public or university library is one of the best dwelling places for a student! For the homeschooled student, it is also a free or inexpensive source for materials for his studies, and there can be fine programs to meet the needs of everyone in the family. What can you, as a  homeschooling parent, do to facilitate good use of this magnificent source?

Set a goal for that visit. To make effective use of our student's time in the library it's better not to just point her at it and say, "Go!" then skip off for coffee. That’s a recipe for disastrous results!) She may find herself wandering looking for the right thing to do or even for inspiration. Instead, before you leave the house, make a plan for that visit. Why are we going to the library? For what subjects are you going to look for materials? What topic(s) within that subject? What kinds of materials do you think we need to find to assist work on that subject? What kind of questions are you (or better yet,she) going to ask the librarian if you can't find what you need? Are you also going to leave time for pleasure reading and selecting? Are we going just to do homework or reading or is this visit for research, taking notes, and borrowing materials? As you work this out together, write these down, at least in list form to refer to later.

Decide your role as a parent during that visit. Are you going there as a partner in your child's work for the day, helping her determine what she needs and guiding his steps? Are you there only as a resource, showing her where things are, but letting her make the decisions herself? Or, are you just dropping her off (with specific instructions) or taking the younger kids to the children's sections? Whatever you decide, make sure you tell her exactly what role you'll be taking during that day's library visit. This will avoid any unclear expectations.

Hold her accountable. When you are finished together or pick her up from the library, have your child make a summary of what she accomplished during that time. Since you wrote your goals down before leaving the house, you can now compare them with what actually occurred. If the accomplishment fell short of the goal, examine together why. Were the goals too big? If not, did she not know where or how to find materials or ask for help? Was she not sure of what exactly she went to work on? That is, were the objectives not clear and specific enough (or sometimes, too specific, and the materials just didn't exist)? Or, was she distracted by something, such as the arrival of a friend or a pleasure book? After answering these questions, you can decide how to make improvements for the next visit to the library.

Services and programs. It is also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the services and programs the library has to offer. Many libraries have a brochure detailing the services available, or a calendar of upcoming events. At least, you can tell your librarian that you are a homeschooling family and ask what kinds of services you ought to be aware of, such as a writing workshop or other class. If you do not have Internet access in your home, you may be able to establish a limited account at the library. There also should be an interlibrary loan system you can take advantage of.

If you have a busy household, the library may or may not be the ideal place to get school work done, depending on several factors. This should be evaluated by both parent and student. However, the library's only purpose should not be limited simply to a quiet place, but be used to enhance your homeschooler's studies.

Reading a book

Choosing a homeschool curriculum


February 1, 2024

The topic referred to in the title can be difficult to address, since the outcome is particular to the individuals concerned. But before we discuss the topic, please remember that you are accountable to your school district superintendent and that all decisions must comply with the regulations of your home district. The principles discussed are not counsel but rather merely perspective.

For new homeschoolers there may be anxiety or the feeling of uncertainty, inadequacy – and often that nagging fear of making a mistake.  Only you can answer these questions for your own child and your own family.  This is even true if you have several children, since learning styles can differ from child to child.  Here are some suggestions to help you begin to answer questions you may have about choosing curriculum for your student.  

Do we choose a complete curriculum already designed for the homeschooler?  Or do we find many different books and other materials by our own careful choosing?

This is a question whose answer depends on you, your family, your individual child, and even your budget.  There are some curricula available which are considered to be complete, that is, you need not obtain any other resources.  Following this route should depend mostly on whether you like the elements of that program, but can also depend on the cost.  If such a program is expensive, but you only like half of it, this may be a poor choice for you, unless you are not concerned with cost.  If you trust that program, it may be better for you to have the publishers choose the elements for you.  Many people prefer to choose individual elements from several programs or even choose their own books from sources such as the library or bookstore.  This is an ideal method if you know what each of the resources contain and they suit the learning style of your child, and the values and budget of your family.  If you are completely uncomfortable with making this selection, you may prefer to go with a complete curriculum. 

Do we do what someone else does?

Asking advice from other people is not a bad idea, if we ask people we trust.  That way, we are not ingrown and can become exposed to options we had not considered. But in the final analysis, our choices need to be our own. We need to carefully consider what is best for our child, based on his needs and our values and goals. Another's advice can be very helpful, but should not be the final say on what we will do.

Do we buy materials only put out by publishers who share the same values we do?

 The answer depends entirely on your personal values.  I will share my opinion.  There are many excellent textbooks and helpful guides available on the market that are time-tested and sound.  I believe there is no need to steer clear of such books since their primary purpose is to give objective, that is, unbiased educational instruction in the mechanics of English, the methods of laboratory science, or timelines in history.  If you feel uncomfortable with curricula not being written only by those who share your own values, you may want to avoid such material. However, it is my view that materials on grammar, composition, or public speaking , for example,are not written for the purpose of influencing the values of children, but rather improving their communication skills.

Literature, however, should be selected according to the convictions of the family.  It is my view that we may gain much from exposure to the experiences and views of other people from other perspectives, times, and places.  It seems that our scope of experience will be much too limited if we adhere only to writings of those who share our values.  For the homeschooled student, I recommend that the parent is carefully involved in the selection process of the literature.  It is also wise that parents teach their child to bring to him issues of a questionable nature for the purpose of discussion and protection.

Using the Internet to build a curriculum 

It is possible to find endless resources for the homeschooled student using a search engine. Going on an Internet search can be inspiring, but it's also possible to waste time in it and become frustrated.  Some resources for homeschoolers are good, others are very sparse. But overall I would encourage you to trust your own judgment (as you may hear me say from time to time) because you know your children better than anyone else and you know what is best for them .You also know best about how to go about making curriculum decisions based on various factors: your child's  academic needs, disposition, strengths and weaknesses, goals, interests, attention span, and much more. In terms of logistics you know the amount of time you wish to spend in planning and in instruction. You also know your family schedule, what your budget is for educational materials or services. and of course you also know what requirements your school district expects of you as you select curricula and activities for your child's education.

What about taking classes taught by professional teachers?

Sometimes your child needs or wants a particular course, such as a special math class, a language class, a class that no one in the household is equipped to teach, or you just like the teacher and what she has to offer. There's no reason to avoid making use of a resource such as a class taught by a professional teacher or expert. In fact, there was a time in my career where I was homeschooling one or two of my children for high school while I was also offering classes to homeschoolers, sometimes Spanish, sometimes English, sometimes vocal music.

Another option along those lines is for homeschool community members to gather their resources and plan a co-op of classes or workshops or other educational activities where adults teach a class or skill to a group of homeschooled students. That option requires advanced planning, of course, but it can be fulfilling for parents and students alike if it is done well.

One more important point: if you get started using a curriculum or materials or objectives and you find that it's just not working for your child, I want you to know that you have not failed. Sometimes a curriculum is not a good fit for your child, didn't fulfill what it promised, or you found something far better. Nobody is standing over your shoulder holding a clipboard, and if he is, tell him that he came to the wrong house.


Why homeschool?
Reasons for deciding yes or no


December 30, 2023

In this article I present reasons that some families give for choosing to homeschool their children and reasons why some families choose not to homeschool their children. I will share some that I have encountered in my journey in education.

I will try to do this in an  unbiased way, although there is one point I do want to discuss at the end because I think it is one often misunderstood.

I’d like to begin by quoting  an excerpt of the article The History Of Homeschooling In The United States from Northgate Academy, which you can read for yourself by following the link provided. Because of the decades-long controversy surrounding homeschooling, I believe it would be worthwhile to consider a brief history of homeschooling in the United States for perspective. 

History of homeschooling in the United States 

“Homeschooling has experienced a tumultuous journey throughout the last century, with many controversial court cases along the way. One of the first court cases that involved homeschooling was a ruling in 1904 with the State v. Peterman, where the court ruled that home school is equivalent to a private school. Since that time, homeschooling has gone through a lot of ups and downs while continuing to evolve to meet the needs of families.”  from

My own disclaimer

There are pros and cons to homeschooling.  It is not my purpose to convince you to homeschool your child. I believe that homeschooling is appropriate for anyone who deems it suitable for their family; and likewise if they choose not to. I myself chose to homeschool some of my children but not the others. Everybody has a reason for the configurations they have in their family for educational decisions.

 I am not giving advice about whether you should homeschool your child. I may from time to time offer advice in articles about curriculum or methods if you do choose to. Let’s please keep in mind that everyone has different values.

Reasons why some choose to homeschool

  • We are a creative family and want to explore learning about the world together.

  • We have a special needs child in our family.

  • We have a strong faith community whose members homeschool.

  • My spouse is in the military and we move often; homeschooling supports our transient lifestyle. 

  • The public school environment is dangerous for my child.

  • The public school curriculum does not support our family values.

  • I believe I can do a better job teaching my child than someone else can.

  • Both parents work from home and we can school our children at the same time. 

  • We have wonderful books and learning activities that we want our children to explore.

  •  I want my child to have a classical education

  • We have a special needs child in our family

  • We want our children to have opportunities to do activities ,such as sports, drama, creative writing workshops, languages, and Co-op activities with other homeschoolers.

  • We can make better use of the time in the day for homeschooling than if they went to another school. 

  • Our local library has abundant programs and classes  tailored to homeschoolers. 

  • I want my child to be able to graduate early. 

Reasons why some choose not to homeschool

  • We have an excellent public school in our community.

  • Both parents work outside of the home.

  • Neither parent knows much about teaching; I don't think either of us could do a good job.

  • We can afford to send our child to a good private school.

  • We have a special needs child in our family 

  • My child is a devoted musician; it would be helpful to have the support of the school district for funding and music opportunities. 

  • My church doesn't approve of homeschooling. My taxes support the public schools; if I chose to homeschool I would have to purchase my own material in addition to paying taxes for the school system.

  • My relative thinks I am being an irresponsible parent by homeschooling my child. 

  • I know a couple of homeschoolers and I think they're really awkward. 

  • I want my child to graduate with her class.


What about socialization? 

In my observation I have seen that when a family chooses not to homeschool, the most common reason they give is socialization and specifically: I want my child to have socialization opportunities with children their own age.

Allow me to clarify something that I know about homeschoolers and socialization. I was a parent in a very active homeschooling culture where children of all ages participated in classes, workshops, clubs, Co-op, travel, community service, sports teams, drama groups, swimming lessons, festivals, 4-H, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, community service, scholastic fair, and much more.

A lot of people think that  homeschoolers just sit around in their pajamas in their bedroom all day. I have seen some do that, but it certainly isn't the norm. Furthermore, with all of those amazing activities available to homeschoolers, why would anyone want to stay home in their pajamas?

Same age? 

Now, what about being with children their own age? Is that a prerequisite for healthy  socialization? Let's stop and think about that for a moment. Consider the job you are working in right now. Is everybody the same age? I conjecture that there's a broad range of ages in your workplace, perhaps even up to four decades in range-- and I also think that you perhaps have  a more balanced work experience than you did when you graduated from high school and worked with other teenagers at your job.

Evaluate the reasons

Consider the reasons that people use to choose to homeschool their child or not. Have you heard these reasons? What is your opinion about these reasons?

 Have you heard of other reasons not mentioned in this article? (I certainly haven't heard them all.)

Trust your judgment

Which of the reasons do you feel are compelling for choosing to homeschool your child? Which reasons do you feel are compelling for not homeschooling your child? The point I want to leave you with is that whatever you think about the matter of choosing to homeschool or not, I encourage you to trust your judgment. You know your child more than anybody else and you can lead him or her through the formative next stages of education. 

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