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 sonlight.com;
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 susanlemons.wordpress.com

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 homeschoolshare.com. 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.



  1. Thank you so much! This is a great help and certainly gives me a place to start. Thanks for taking the time to do this!

  2. Hi Penney,

    I am a friend of Abby’s and she told me about your blog. I have a two year old adopted son and we are fixing to adopt another baby in April. My husband and I feel God has led us in the direction of home schooling are children. So I was very excited when Abby told me about your blog. I really loved reading your post on starting homeschooling from scratch. What a big help this is and such a blessing to me. A girl at my church told me about before five in a row and now I see it here again in your post 🙂 I can’t wait to check it out!

    1. Hi Tammy,

      I’m so glad this helped you and confirmed Before Five in a Row for you. I think you will love it!

      I have written a lot about homeschooling. My focus has changed since I started out. I used to have a more academic focus since I had been a first grade teacher in public school, but as time went on, the Lord showed me that the most important part of homeschooling was leading my little ones to the Lord and developing good, heart-level relationships with my kids. I’m still working on the heart-level relationships, learning how to develop them.

      But my kids have learned from life and from how we have leaned on God through the tough times that God is real and He works all things together for our good. They are convinced that God is real and that He loves them. To me, that’s the most important thing!

      Thanks for commenting, and make sure you come back and check out some more of my posts!

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