How to start homeschooling – the big question that all newbie homeschooling parents ask.

And let me say, right off the bat, it’s not easy. I’m not saying that to put you off, I’m just being honest. Actually, if you are a teacher, or have even been a teacher, it’s probably not that difficult. But most of us haven’t been teachers.

Child sitting on a pile of books trying to homeschool
Hats off to the moms and dads who have homeschooled their kids since they were little, kindergarten age. I think this way you’ve learned the ropes, made your connections, been in Facebook groups long enough, and you’ve got this waxed.

For the rest of us… eh, not so much.

I haven’t had the luxury of starting off when my kids were little, my eldest daughter had just started grade 8, and my youngest has just started grade 5 when we took them out of school.

So I am going to talk about homeschooling from these ages, as that is what I have experience with.

If you have younger kids, there are tons and tons of fantastic resources online for you to look through.

It’s sorting out your high school student where the info online is lacking.

Grades of the American Schooling System

Even though we live in Cape Town, South Africa, we have decided to following one of the schooling systems of the United States.

Just so you and I are on the same page, we are basing what we do off the following structure:

Education levels in the USA schooling system
Image from:
Early childhood: ages 2 – 4 years

Elementary school: ages 5 – 10 years

Middle school: ages 11 – 13 years

High school: 14 – 18 years

Why Did We Choose to Start Homeschooling?

Covid had just started, it was March 2020, and our schools (in South Africa) has just finished, or were just about to finish the first quarter of the year (January – March).

My grade 8 daughter had been coming home crying, she was being bullied, and she was having lunch with the teacher in the classroom.

My grade 6 has just never liked school. Not for any particular reason, she just didn’t like it.

When I ‘announced’ they were going to be homeschooled, they were over the moon.

When you’re learning how to start homeschooling, and your children are already in a traditional school, whether its a private school or a government school, you have to de-register them.

All I had to do was send an email to the two principals and let them know they were leaving the school, and then I received a notification from our province’s government, via the school, to confirm that they had been removed off the government schooling system.

You will need to check the requirements within your own state to de-register your school-going child.

So basically, for us, they left school for those social reasons, but in addition, the schooling went online and for ME, what I learned was:

  1. To keep up with the stipulated government curriculum, the teachers have to whizz through the work and move on to the next lesson or module, even when your child doesn’t understand.
  2. Hours and hours of homework a day is ridiculous. They’ve just been at school for at least 7 hours a day, and then they must come home and do more?
  3. They get one field trip, perhaps two if they’re lucky, a year. One of the best ways that my daughters learn is by visiting these places.
  4. In a class of 30, your child is lucky to get undivided attention from their teacher
  5. Teachers – singling out kids and humiliating them in front of their classmates is not on!

Watch out for the negative people

And you will get it. Just ignore them. They don’t know anything about what you’re doing, and if they did, they would be supporting you instead of questioning your every move.

They also don’t know what’s best for YOUR kids, but again, they think they do.


This is quite a toughy, in all honesty, but I do believe it goes with the child. This is the process of getting the public school system out of your child. And out of yourself.

You think you’ll just slide into this new role, but when you’re trying to make the transition, self-doubt is a nasty bugger.

You’re going to want to immediately jump in and start doing lessons. You’re going to feel terrified that they’re ‘missing out’ and are going to fall behind.

But when you realize it’s not about that, you can relax.

Stop comparing your child with their friends. As you’ll see, they will learn different things than their friends, and that’s okay. You can’t compare apples with pumpkins, so don’t do it here.

Homeschool Curriculum

Many experienced homeschool moms told me to try and teach the same things to the girls at the same time as it would be easier for me. My older daughter would just go into more depth.

But, at the same time you’re told, “Teach them what they’re interested in.”

Yikes! So what if one is interested in World War II, and the other only wants to find out what creepy things look like under a microscope?

While the intent and logic is good, this didn’t work for us.

There’s a lesson here. Try something and if it doesn’t work, change it!

And, don’t listen to the naysayers, you have not wasted time trying to teach something that didn’t work out. You’re not a failure. Anything that your child has learned is something gained. it all counts towards the end goal.

Bear in mind the following when you’re looking for a curriculum; your younger child does not need a curriculum.

So then, why do homeschooling parents look for a homeschool curriculum if you don’t need one?

  • It gives you, the parent as well as your child, structure
  • It decreases planning time as most curricula have done this all for you
  • The best way to select the material best suited to your child, is to find out their interests and work out your child’s learning style and then look for a curriculum that will accommodate that

  • The most expensive curriculum is not necessarily the best
  • Try and download a free sample of the work before making a purchase. Alternatively, find out if someone has the books you can borrow for a few days and see how you feel.
  • Do not buy years and years of a specific curriculum; you might not love it as much as you initially thought
  • Join homeschooling Facebook Groups for high quality, second-hand resources

What does a primary school child need to know?

If you are following a set curriculum for children, you will receive everything you need when you buy it.

But, and read this carefully…


You have free reign here, it depends on your homeschool style. These are the most common ones, but there are lots more

Are you going to follow the:

  • Eclectic route
  • Charlotte Mason method
  • Computer-based homeschooling
  • Notebook-based homeschooling

Two subjects that you need to do daily with your children are:

  1. Mathematics
  2. English

Those are must, must, must do’s, but for everything else, I highly recommend that you teach things that your child is interested in. And remember that everything is learning.

Just bear in mind, when they do reach middle school and then high school, they are going to have to start following a little bit of a more structured system, in order to graduate with their high school diploma.

So don’t completely ignore biology if your child isn’t interested – just find ways to make it fun! If they’re not interested in plants and flowers, make it fun for them.

For example:

* You can download report card templates where they can track what the plant is doing.

*They can draw the seeds once they’ve germinated.

*You can find loads of fruit and veggies resources online.

*Cut them, cook them, compare them. How is a pumpkin different to a butternut? Where are the seeds on a corn cob? How does having a worm farm benefit your garden?

All of these things are learning. You can even turn it into a unit study but finding things like:

  • A story book and a comprehension
  • An audio book to listen to
  • Enjoy a sewing lesson and make felt fruit and veggies
  • Cook them and see what happens!
  • Grow your own mushrooms, and then, cook them and eat them!
  • Visit a farm or a food factory, or even a farmer’s market and chat to the farmers

If they’re really young, you can also:

There is so much out there, you will not run out of resources. BUT, can become overwhelming because there is so much available. Remember, you child does not need to know everything about everything.

However, if you want organization and don’t want to follow an eclectic method, then you can try my suggestion. I have purposely not listed a lot of options because, quite frankly, you can Google them.

To prevent further overwhelm, this is what WE are using:

Overall: Footprints on our Land – this is a literature based curriculum and includes history on South Africa (and includes everything you need: English, Geography, History, Science, Nature and more). You’ll just need to supplement this with math.

English: The Good and the Beautiful

Natural Science: (Biology and Science/ Physics) Apologia – she is finishing the Exploring Creation with Zoology: Swimming Creatures of the Sea, and has also started on General Science. But, we are not going as fast as the Apologia books suggest because

Social Science: (Geography and History) Footprints on our Land. In addition we do things that she asks about – for example, she asked about Anne Frank, so we are completing a unit study on this, together with my older daughter who has already done a lot of history around the World Wars, but she had never touched on Anne Frank.

She also asked about tsunamis, so we are going to do some work on Geomorphology and include natural disasters. Is it just me or are all kids at this age fascinated by disaster and destruction?

Maths: Math-U-See (the first time I heard this I thought it was called Matthew-C. Go figure?)

What does a high school child need to know?

This is where I got a bit stressed out in our homeschool journey.

It depends on their interests, which will ultimately lead them to a career, which is one of the amazing benefits of homeschooling.

It also depends on the type of high school qualification they are aiming for, and the required subjects they need to complete:

  • American High School Diploma
  • GED
  • CAPS (South African matric/ grade 12 qualification)
  • British Cambridge

We started with the GED, but are busy switching to the American High School Diploma and she’ll be starting grade 11 now. I’ll tell you why shortly.

Because the American High School Diploma is credit based, the work she has already done, counts towards her credits. She has done:

English, Art & Geography: The Good & The Beautiful

History: Weekly online classes with Warp & West History . This was quite intense but she enjoyed the classes and learned so much about American history.

Natural Science: (Biology and Science/ Physics) Apologia – this year she will be doing Biology and Chemistry

Maths: Math-U-See

As I’ve already said, there are many curricula for you to choose from, but it can be overwhelming. It can lead to decision paralysis where you don’t know what to get, or you might just try and download everything because you’re afraid you’re going to miss out.

In addition, it can get expensive. Especially if you are a single parent. If you do need to make extra money to pay for these things, then that’s what you have to do.

But, you can also get free resources.

Don’t subscribe to too many homeschooling newsletters or resources either as its again, overwhelming

Homeschooling Environment

If you have the space, a spare room is ideal to use as your homeschooling room as you can set up desks, laptops or kindles, white boards, a microscope, stationery, your books, maps, and everything else that you need.

But, we don’t all have this space, so quite frankly, the dining room table, or the kitchen table work perfectly well too.

Other spaces to learn in include:

  • Field trips
  • Co-ops
  • Nature trails, fields, and forests

To Sum Up

There are some important questions you need to consider before you try and work out the best way to get started with homeschooling:

  1. Decide on your ‘why’. Why do you want to homeschool your kids? Is this a good fit for you?
  2. What are their interests and find out their learning style.
  3. Decide on the subjects you are going to teach for the next school year and either download resources, create your own or make your purchases
  4. When you receive your resources, create a timetable and if necessary, a lesson plan
  5. Make sure you have all of the equipment that you need

Take a deep breath and get started!