I have been homeschooling my kids since 2005, and one of the most popular questions I get from new homeschool moms is how to order books for homeschool. One of the blessings of homeschooling is that (in most states here in the USA), we can do it however we want to, which can be overwhelming. It is best to see how other homeschool moms do it and then make your decision on what sounds right for you and realize that you can change your mind if that curriculum does not work for you.
Note: Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means I receive a commission if you make a purchase. Affiliate relationships include, but are not limited to Amazon Associates, Walmart.com, and Etsy.
When To Order Homeschool Books?
I like to order mine in March. The reason is that we have received our income tax return money and we always budget a portion for homeschool materials. Then I make my decisions and usually get them ordered by the end of the month. I have found that several companies offer discounts at this time of year. One reason may be that it is in the middle to end of the homeschool year for most families that take the summer off and sales have dropped off so they need to offer it. Another reason may be that several of us are all considering what to buy in this month with our tax returns and it helps sweeten the deal! One company changes some of the readers they use each year so you get a huge discount on the current one before they switch to the new.
But sometimes, if a curriculum is not working for one of my children, I will purchase the item when I need it. There have also been “lean times” in my life when I have had to order our curriculum as we could afford it. At those time, I would order one to three items each month as it fit in my budget. When I have done that, I just spent time in those subjects studying from free materials from the library, free resources from the internet or checked out or borrowed from our local 4-H extension office until my curriculum arrives, then I follow the new plan and may skip a few chapters since we did other things for part of the school year.
Check What Your State Law Requires
Go online and look up the homeschooling laws for your state. I am in Wisconsin, so I know how many days, hours and subjects I need to teach. If your state allows you to make these decisions on your own, then I would think to myself, will I ever move? If I did, what state(s) would I move to? Then I would look at the rules for those states to get an idea of hours, days and subjects. If you don't intend to move, and you have kids in elementary or middle school, think of five subjects you want to teach, like Math, Reading, History, Science and Language Arts/Writing.
If you have a high school age child, I highly recommend purchasing this lesson planner and getting it in your hands as it gives extensive advice as well as online links for what is needed if you child is college bound or not. Then, I would base my decisions on subjects according to what they need, plus electives they need based on what they are interested in pursuing at this time. It may change each year and that's okay.
If your child is younger than high school years, check out this article where I recommend a different lesson planner.
Decide On Your Subjects
After learning your state laws and what your high school child needs to graduate, if you are in that situation, decide on your subjects starting with what is required. Make a list of these with an estimate of how much time you think you will need to work on them in a school day.
Make A Sample Schedule
Now work out a schedule. In my homeschool, I teach 5 hours a day for 175 days during a school calendar year. I do not teach into the summer unless we moved or had a baby (I have eight children, so this happens frequently) and need more time to finish our curriculum. I do some science lab projects, nature projects, un-schooling type learning and read chapter books throughout the whole year, but my kids don't feel like they are “doing school” in the summer.
Figure out when your start and end dates will be. We usually start after Labor Day and end around Memorial Day. Then make a time schedule of when you want to start and stop each day. Allow time for lunch and physical activity. List what you will do for subjects during certain days and times. Consider giving your children time for reading, writing, quietly doing puzzles, etc. when you expect to help your baby/toddler fall asleep for nap-time.
Is It Realistic?
Looking at your schedule with just the basic requirements, does it look like there is room for anything else or does it feel really full? High School grades often feel very full and there is not much room for more, but if your child is in Elementary, you may only see yourself spending 30 minutes on Science, for example and think you have time to do two more subjects in a week. Here is where you can add things like music or typing/keyboarding.
Make A Shopping List
After you have determined what subjects you will teach and when and for how much time, you can make a shopping list.
List each subject and what you are looking for.
- teacher book, student book, work pages (if not already in the student book), test answer book for teacher
- student cd to do work online and print out test results to save
- completely online class for this subject
- books to read or borrow from the library about this topic
- unit studies
- used college books to buy online (I have purchased zoo management books on ebay for one of my children who is now enrolled in college for a Biology Major, she started high school thinking she would be a Zoo Keeper), I often get asked how long I homeschooled her. All the way from grade K to 12. She passed her tests the college required to attend there and I gave her a computer printed high school transcript to give them based on the example I was given in this lesson planner.
More Than One Student
List each subject for each child and what grade they are in and what you are looking for just as you would in the instructions above, then consider where you can combine. I personally teach my children separately for Math, Reading and Cursive Writing, but if they are somewhat close in age, I combine them. Many subjects that are taught do not have to be taught 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. For example: Your children can learn American History one year and World History the next. One does not need to be taught before the other. Now that you know this, you can change your schedule and may have room for another subject. Make a list of what you need to look for.
Great Subjects To Combine and Teach Them All At One Time
- Read-Alouds, when you read chapter books aloud to your children.
- Foreign Language
- Phy Ed, or group sports
- Woodworking, Shop, Auto, etc.
- You may find a local homeschool group that co-ops to get some subjects done together. Our family is in one for phy ed.
Order Your Materials
Now that you have a list of subjects and what type of learning you need to look for, you can start looking into where to buy the materials. I like to purchase a lesson planner as well. I like to shop the following…
Amazon Influencer Page of NeededInTheHome – Look for the Elementary and Middle School Educational items to see what I recommend.
many others listed in my Resources section and scroll down to the “Homeschooling” area.
Make A Lesson Plan
As you start to receive your materials, add them to your lesson plan so you know how much to cover each day to get it all done within the school year. Sometimes, this is very simple. For example: there are 350 pages in the book. You have 175 days of homeschool in a year and you plan to do this subject every day for 30 minutes. You need to cover two pages per day to get through the material. So on day one, I write pages 1-2 (written Jpp1-2 under the subject and day – J is my code for Mitchell Jamie, pp is pages, 1-2 is what I cover).
Here is another example from one of my old lesson planners. My eight kids' names all start with the letter “M”, so I use their middle initials to keep track of what they do…
Highlight What Is Done
Sometimes we don't follow the daily schedule and we spend longer on a topic because my kids are really interested in it and want to do more. I always highlight what is completed in my lesson planner by highlighting it. The items that are not highlighted still need to be done.
Motivate The Homeschoolers
I like to motivate my homeschoolers with “sticker nights”, which you can read about in this article. A happy homeschooler loves to learn!
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