How to Start Homeschooling from Scratch

We are having SO much fun! Right, Kelsey?

I have to think backward and forward here.

I’m thinking back to when I first started homeschooling Shawn over 15 years ago, and I’m thinking forward to what I’m going to do with Emma, since she’s ready to start more formal lessons now.

And I also have some experience with starting 7 other children in between with homeschooling from scratch.

So, to the best of my ability, I intend to put in a nutshell the things I have found to be the easiest and most effective methods for beginning a child in homeschooling.

First, I like to check out lots of picture books from the library from the time they are very young and read aloud to them. I have several picture books of my own now after hitting lots of library sales, so I can read some of the Classics and my favorites to them any time I get the urge. Book lists are very helpful for finding really good books that are engaging and educational and “living” books. To find out what “living” books are, read books about the Charlotte Mason approach.

Before Five in a Row is a good curriculum that will help you find good books to read at the appropriate level of development and give you great ideas for activities to do based on those books.

Other wonderful sources of book lists are the free Sonlight catalog from;
Teaching Children by Diane Lopez. You can get that at Amazon here.

and Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt

There’s a book that you might want to get if you want to start early with your child. It’s called Homepreschooling and Beyond written by Susan Lemons. You can find it at

Another book that I highly recommend is For the Children’s Sake. This book helped me to figure out the style of homeschooling that I wanted to use. God brought this book to me very early in my homeschool career. The author is Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, Francis Schaeffer’s daughter. She introduces us to the Charlotte Mason approach. When she wrote this book, not many people had heard of Charlotte Mason. Boy, has that changed in recent years! I think most homeschoolers would enjoy reading this book even if they don’t decide to use the Charlotte Mason method. I already talked about an accompanying book that has some good lists and suggestions for what your child should know when and ideas for how to teach concepts called Teaching Children by Diane Lopez. It’s part of a set of Child-Light books. The other book in the set is called Books Children Love by Elizabeth Wilson, and it is strictly book lists.

You can find all of these books on Amazon. Just use my convenient Amazon search button in the extreme right sidebar of my blog, right under the pretty new Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival button (it’s the third button from the bottom), and you can bless our family with some affiliate income. 

Another piece of advice for beginning homeschoolers is to go to a homeschool conference as soon as possible. But you may want to leave your checkbook at home. I recommend going to some workshops, listening to keynote speakers and visiting the vendor hall just to get a feel for things at first. I wouldn’t buy curriculum right away. I would wait and think and pray and research before buying any books or resources. Many people advised me to do that, and I was grateful for that advice. I did buy the book “For the Children’s Sake” at my first homeschool conference, but that was a “God thing”.

Currclick is a curriculum website that has lots of downloadable ebooks, lapbooks, activities, etc. where you can find very affordable products that you can download immediately. I have gotten lots of freebies from them. My account there is so full I could homeschool for years and years just using the stuff I have there.

Here’s an example of an activity I got from Currclick: Pocketful of Penguins.

I shared a lot of ideas in this post a few years ago. We do some things differently now, but there’s still the general underlying theme of “Education is a Life”. Our life revolves around homeschooling. We learn from life. We don’t have to interrupt life to do school. Life IS school.

Another really good source of worksheets and activities is Enchanted Learning. There is a yearly fee. I think it’s $20, but it’s well worth it.

Well, I promised to put this in a nutshell, so here it is:

1. Read lots of good books to your child. Start with nursery rhymes and other rhyming stories and move to picture books as they seem interested in looking at them.

2. Pick a book to do some activities around, such as eating the same kind of food as the book talked about or going out and finding the same kind of insect or tree. For instance, we did a unit about The Very Hungry Caterpillar that went on and on because I kept getting new ideas of things to do related to it. We ate the fruits that were mentioned in a little party with all of the kids with decorations, pretty presentation of the fruits and everything. Look in my archives to see some of the activities we did to supplement this book.

3. Find videos about a topic you read about and let your child watch them on YouTube or Netflix or DVD, etc.

4. The above steps are basic tips for how to do unit studies. Build a unit around a picture book or the holiday that’s coming up or the season of the year or some topic that your child is excited about.

5. A fun way to get your child writing, drawing, doing hands-on work to accompany the study is to make lapbooks and do notebooking.

There is lots of help online for learning how to make lapbooks. There are templates for the booklets on sites like Lapbook Lessons and There are places that sell lapbook packets that provide the information you need to study the topic and the printables so that you can print them out, have your child fill out the information in the booklets and glue them into the lapbook. I have several of them listed in my sidebar under Lapbook Resources.

I have some posts under Homeschooling and then under Lapbooking and Notebooking in my sidebar that you can check out.

6. Immerse your child in words and books and nature study and beautiful art and music.

7. Use real life and your child’s interests to teach from.

8. Talk with your child and listen to him/her.


40 Days for Life – 65 Babies Saved So Far!

Mondays are the best days during the 40 Days for Life
campaigns, because that’s the day we share stories
about mothers who’ve changed their minds on the
sidewalks outside the abortion centers.

In just these first few days, there have already been …

… 65 babies saved — that we know of.

Praise God!!!

Here are the stories of three of those babies.


One of the prayer volunteers noticed a man she
recognized … sitting in a car in the Planned
Parenthood parking lot. With him was his 18-month-old
child. Naturally, the volunteer went over to talk.

It seems the man’s wife was inside — setting up an
appointment for an abortion. She just didn’t want
another baby.

“When he said he didn’t want the abortion,” said Libby
in Memphis, “we said he needed to protect his baby right
now. He called his wife, and few minutes later she came
out and told us she was not going to seek an abortion.”

The volunteers hugged her, and gave her a list of
Memphis-area pregnancy resources.

One of these prayer volunteers in Memphis was taking
part in 40 Days for Life for the first time ever.

“She just felt so strongly that she needed to
participate,” Libby said. And what a wonderful thing
she saw on that first day!


A young woman arrived at Planned Parenthood … and it
was obvious her pregnancy was well advanced. She was
frightened and didn’t know what else to do.

The director of a pro-life pregnancy center was able to
speak to her and learn more about her situation, though
there was a bit of a language barrier. It seems the
woman is from Central America, and the baby’s father
abandoned her when he found out she was pregnant.

“She was very happy after the director counseled her and
explained that she would have support and better choices,”
said Molly in Silver Spring.

“Planned Parenthood would have referred her to a
late-term abortionist in the area,” she said. “In
Maryland, abortions can happen throughout the entire
pregnancy. We need to keep her in our prayers.”


A young woman who arrived for an appointment in Beaumont
admitted to the people praying outside the abortion
facility that she had tossed and turned all night over
what she was about to do.

One of the volunteers was quick to hand her information
from a pro-life pregnancy care center. About this time,
the young woman’s friend, who had come to the appointment
with her, spoke up. The friend said she’d had an abortion
herself — and “didn’t feel it was a good idea.”

At that, the woman who had planned to abort her child
broke down in tears.

After a lengthy discussion with the counselors on the
sidewalk, the two young women were smiling — and
heading towards the pro-life resource center.

“We have her phone number and will be in touch,” said
Eileen in Beaumont. “She left with tears of joy,
rather than sorrow. Your prayers and sacrifices are
definitely at work!”

Today’s devotional is from Fr. Frank Pavone, national
director of Priests for Life.


Pray that those tempted to abort may understand that
their child is already present, and already a real


And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of
Mary that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth
was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said,
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit
of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the
mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as
soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears,
the babe leaped in my womb for joy.”

— Luke 1:41-44

REFLECTION by Fr. Frank Pavone, Priests for Life

Jesus not only loves unborn children — He was one

Think about this for a moment.

We often hear people speak of a pregnant mother by
saying, “She’s expecting a child.”

Now if one is expecting a package, the package is not
yet there.

As reflected in our verse for today, however, this is
not the case with the mother.

Her gift is already there.

The pregnant woman, a mother already, does not have a
child “on the way,” but has a child, already present
and in full possession of his or her human rights,
starting with the right to life.


Jesus, open my eyes to your presence in the life of
every child. Open my heart to joy in the birth of
every child, a birth that reflects the joy of your own
birth in Bethlehem.

As you shared life in the womb of Mary, so now send
your protection upon every child still in the womb,
and grant to their mothers the strength and joy that
comes from welcoming the gift of life. We pray through
Christ our Lord, Amen.

Dolphin Tale Unit Study

The twins and I have been doing the unit study that came free from Homeschool Movie Club on Facebook to go along with Dolphin Tale (you can find this free curriculum at We saw the movie during its opening in theaters back in September, but I didn’t want to do the study right then because the twins didn’t seem very excited about it. They liked the movie, but they didn’t want to do any school work based on it. I had it all printed out and put in a folder and just waited until the “right” time. Well, that time seems to be now.

I’m getting ideas for extension activities, such as a book from our bookcase called Friendly Dolphins that just happened to be laying on our coffee table the other day. I picked it up and started reading it to the twins a little later that day. Then I found an episode of Flipper on Netflix, so I had the twins watch it. Then I realized that Blockbuster Express has Dolphin Tale now, so I rented it two nights ago, and we watched it last night.

Here are some of the worksheets that are included in the unit study curriculum from Homeschool Movie Club.

We made a water column. We added maple syrup and cooking oil to the water and observed where they collected. That part itself was fascinating. Then we started dropping other objects such as a rock, a packing peanut, a piece of tomato and some solid shortening. We drew a picture of where those things floated in the water on the Buoyancy Worksheet above. I forgot to take pictures of our jar. It was lovely. Take my word for it.

The twins were pretty good at figuring out the correct vocabulary words that went with the definitions.

Nematocyst – New vocabulary word for all of us. We had a real-life example of what these nematocysts are used for, thanks to Patrick. When he was at the beach, he was stung by a jellyfish, and he had some red marks and swelling on his leg that lasted a couple of days. I showed the twins how the tentacles are full of nematocyst cells which hold venom inside of them, and when they feel something, they send out a little harpoon and pierce the skin and pour venom into it. And that’s why Patrick’s leg was hurting and turned red and swelled. They were fascinated by that. Later that evening, Fiona drew pictures based on what she learned during the day. She drew a shark (we started a study on sharks that day, too) and a jellyfish. Out of one of the tentacles of the jellyfish she drew a nematocyst sending a harpoon. I showed it to Patrick later, and he said she should have drawn his foot right next to it. 🙂

These are the worksheets from the shark study that we’ve done so far.

Fiona drew the shark teeth from pictures we had. Garrett is having to write the names of the sharks they came from.

I’m learning more about sea creatures than I knew before.

I looked for books at the library to go with our study and found tons of books about sharks, but very few about dolphins. Huh, I personally like dolphins a lot better than sharks. But I’m finding lots of good information, thanks to Dolphin Tale and Homeschool Movie Club. You can also find out more about Winter, the dolphin that Dolphin Tale was about at There’s a webcam set up so you can watch Winter. You can even watch her at night through night vision. How cool is that?

While watching this movie the second time, I was struck even more by the way this dolphin is touching the lives of disabled children and adults. God uses His creatures in amazing ways to save, heal, encourage and restore each other.

Fiona’s Art Gallery

Fiona has been drawing foxes for quite some time now. I think she drew this one in December of 2011, while she was still 7.

Jan. 2012 – Just turned 8 years of age

Fiona drew this without any fanfare. This is Tommy and Kimi from The Rugrats. I found it later and asked who did it. I was surprised that Fiona could draw this so well without something to look off of.

February 24, 2012 – Age 8

Age 8 - Fiona drew this on her own after we did a lesson about sharks. The day before we'd had a lesson on jellyfish and how they sting.

The thing extended from the one jellyfish tentacle is the little harpoon from one of the many cells on the tentacles called nematocysts that contain the venom and send out a little harpoon that penetrates the victim’s skin and then sends the venom into the victim. Fiona drew the harpoon extended to show how it works.