I started homeschooling when my oldest daughter was in the second grade. My family and I quickly fell in love with homeschooling. I loved being my daughter’s teacher because I always knew what she was learning, and I could see her progress first-hand. But my favorite part of homeschooling my daughter as an elementary student was being able to train her character along with her mind.
If your child is in elementary school, now is a great time to start homeschooling. But maybe you are a little unsure about how to do it. Below you’ll find a guide for homeschooling elementary school, just a few of the things that you need to know about homeschooling during these early years.
Is my homeschool child ready for elementary school?
The term elementary school in the United States usually refers to kindergarten as well as grades 1-5 (sometimes grades 1-6). In a homeschool environment, this transition from “non-school” to “elementary school” can be pretty subtle. For example, my youngest daughter started kindergarten this year. She still spends most of her day playing, but now that we have started school, we have a dedicated time to sit down together to work on formal subjects such as math and reading.
Children typically start kindergarten when they are four or five years old, but some start as early as three and some start as late as six. If you are wondering if your child is ready to start homeschooling, check out my post “Homeschooling Kindergarten: How and When to Start Homeschooling Your Child.” It includes a checklist of developmental skills your child should have before starting kindergarten. If you want to start homeschooling but aren’t sure if your child is ready for a kindergarten curriculum, consider doing preschool activities first.
Keeping Elementary Transcripts of Your Child’s Progress
Not every state requires transcripts for elementary-aged homeschoolers, but it is wise to keep some kind of record of your child’s progress. You will need records if you move out of state or decide to enroll your child in a traditional school in the future.
Record keeping can take many forms—some parents prefer to create a portfolio that includes samples of their child’s work while other parents choose to issue traditional report cards and transcripts for their child. You may also want to keep a record of attendance days, standardized test scores, awards, and even extracurricular activities. Be sure to check your state’s homeschool requirements to make sure you are recording the information you need to abide by your state’s homeschool laws.
Homeschooling Requirements by State
Homeschooling is legal in all fifty states, but each state has individual laws pertaining to homeschooling. Some states may require parents to have either a college degree or a teaching certificate or to be monitored by a certified teacher. Some states have standardized testing requirements. And some states have laws concerning what types of records homeschool parents must keep or provide to the state. You will want to check out our How to Start Homeschooling guide to see what you need to do to homeschool legally in your state.
Should I look into an Accredited Homeschool Program?
Accredited homeschool programs are not required by any state, and elementary students may not receive much benefit from participating in an accredited program. However, accredited homeschool programs can help you meet the reporting requirements for your state and will give your homeschool official recognition that may be necessary to give your child access to certain future opportunities (international schooling, scholarships, admittance to a private high school, etc.). You can learn more about accredited homeschool programs and whether they would be a good fit for your family in the post “Accredited Homeschool Programs: Advantages and Disadvantages.”
Creating an Elementary Homeschool Transcript
It’s usually not necessary to create an elementary homeschool transcript, but it is necessary if you are homeschooling a high-school student. An elementary homeschool transcript will show what courses your child has taken and what letter grade they received for each course. If you think that an elementary homeschool transcript would be beneficial, you can easily create one using a free online template.
Homeschool Elementary Subjects and Skills
Math in elementary school is more than helping students understand numbers and knowing how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide them. Elementary math is focused on teaching students how to think logically and critically so they can be ready for more complex (and abstract) math in their middle and high school years.
Science in elementary school is focused on teaching children science process skills and promoting science literacy. Children will learn about the scientific method and how to set up scientific experiments. They will also start to learn the language of science so they can gain a deeper understanding of science in future grades.
Heritage (Social) Studies
An elementary heritage studies curriculum will teach students about civics, history, geography, and economics in an age-appropriate way that will build a foundation for deeper learning in the future.
English Language Arts
An elementary English language arts curriculum will teach students how to communicate well by teaching them the building blocks of good written and oral communication. Students will also learn to apply the writing process to express their own ideas and to respond to the ideas of others.
Spelling and handwriting are often taught as separate subjects, and they are an important part of teaching students how to communicate. A good understanding of spelling conventions and clear, neat handwriting will help students communicate effectively with others.
Reading is a vital part of an elementary school curriculum. In elementary school, students not only learn to decode words (phonics), but they also develop reading comprehension skills so they can think deeply about what they read.
Is my child’s learning style important?
Your elementary child is a unique individual with strengths and weaknesses and different ways of processing information. Knowing whether your child is a visual, a verbal, a kinesthetic, a logical, social, or solitary learner will help you know how to best help your child do well in school. However, sometimes learning styles can be overemphasized, and often they are difficult to figure out (although our learning styles quiz may help you). If you don’t know your child’s learning style, that’s okay. Most likely, your child will learn best when exposed to learning experiences that appeal to several different learning styles.
Understanding Homeschooling Models and Styles
In Jennifer’s post “Popular Homeschooling Styles and How to Choose One,” she points out that “homeschooling is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach. Just as there are many different parenting styles, there are many different homeschooling styles.” Popular homeschooling models and styles include Classical, Charlotte Mason, Montessori, Traditional, School-At-Home, Unit Studies, Eclectic, Unschooling, and Waldorf. You can read about the advantages and disadvantages of each method in Jennifer’s post.
Child-led learning is a popular educational method that allows students to choose what they learn and how long they study that topic. The Montessori and Unschooling homeschool methods fully embrace child-led learning, but some parts of child-led learning (such as learning at your own pace) can be implemented with most homeschooling methods.
Choosing Your Elementary Homeschool Curriculum
Choosing your elementary homeschool curriculum may be one of the most overwhelming tasks that you will face as a homeschool parent. There are a lot of choices. As you consider your options, you will want to consider your budget, your chosen homeschooling style, your personal worldview, your state regulations, your child’s learning ability, and the size of your family. Jenna’s post “How to Choose the Best Homeschool Curriculum for Your Family” will help lead you through the decision-making process so you can choose an elementary homeschool curriculum that will best meet your needs.
Some parents choose to simplify the task of choosing a curriculum by investing in a homeschool curriculum package. With this option, they choose a single publisher and purchase everything they need for a particular subject or grade.
Choosing Homeschool Electives for Elementary
Besides teaching core subjects such as math, reading, science, and social studies, you may want to consider adding some homeschool electives for your child. Homeschool electives usually are not required until high school, but they allow your child to pursue their own interests, develop life skills, or learn skills that will help in future ministry or study. Common electives include music, art, drama, sewing, cooking, and sports. However, some families have chosen to introduce their elementary child to foreign languages, coding, speech and debate, woodworking, and other skills based on their child’s aptitude and interests. The Fervent Mama blog has an excellent post detailing the types of homeschool electives you might want to consider as well as ideas for how to add these electives to your homeschool.
Understanding the Cost of Homeschooling Elementary
Homeschooling your elementary student will probably cost between $700 and $1,800 annually—that’s more expensive than a public-school education but far less expensive than tuition to a private school (the average annual tuition of which is $12,350). Check out my post “How Much Does Homeschooling Cost and How Much Can You Save?” for more details about the cost of homeschooling and tips for making it more affordable.
Scheduling Elementary Homeschool for Your Child.
One of the best things about homeschooling an elementary student is the freedom you have in setting your own schedule. Some families prefer to follow a traditional school year schedule—they start in August or the beginning of September and homeschool five days a week until sometime in May or early June. Other families homeschool year-round either using a four-day-a-week schedule or a sabbath schooling schedule (taking off every seventh week) or by scheduling pre-defined terms and breaks. You can find out more about homeschooling year-round and its possible benefits in the post “How to Homeschool Year-Round.”
Once you’ve determined your yearly schedule, you will want to consider how you will schedule individual days. There are four basic schedule options: traditional, block, loop, and student-led. Arianna’s post “4 Schedule Options for Your Homeschool” discusses the pros and cons of each of these options. Additionally, Jenna’s post “How to Create a Homeschool Schedule by Grade” includes some sample daily schedules that you may find helpful.
Planner Options for Elementary Homeschoolers
I highly recommend using a planner to keep track of both your yearly and daily schedules. There are a lot of good planners on the market to help you with your busy schedule. My favorite planner is the BJU Press Homeschool Hub—if you use BJU Press curriculum, the Homeschool Hub makes scheduling incredibly easy. You can even add non-BJU Press courses so you can keep track of everything in one place. The best part about the Homeschool Hub is that it is completely free!
The Bible tells us to “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6). The Lord has called us to take an active role in the training of our children. What better way to do that than to homeschool our young children? With the Lord’s help, we can prepare our elementary children not only for future academic studies but also for them to follow the ways of the Lord. What a high calling!