Am I doing enough in my homeschool?

This is not your average pro-homeschool post. I do believe in tests once in a while. I do believe in textbooks, if only for foundations, for about 50% of the subjects. I believe in balance.
How do you know if you're doing too much or too little in your homeschool? Great encouraging post!
When homeschooling, the question of “Am I doing enough?” always seems to plague our minds. Trust me, it plagues us on a daily basis!

I was in public school for four years. During that time, I just remember basic review. We were still spelling “a” and “I” in third grade. The class goes as fast as the slowest student. I know this isn’t the case in every classroom or school, but this was my experience.

On a teacher’s board on Pinterest, I saw an advertisement for a free printable. It said “Common Core states by third grade students should know the three branches of government.”

I don’t remember learning anything outside of our state, let alone the government. If I had never gone to public school, I would have become paranoid about not knowing the three branches of government in third grade.

According to this article, third graders should know state locations and capitals. The only reason I knew all of my states and capitals was because another student and I taught ourselves from a dictionary (it had a map in the back) and a large blank map of the US at recess.

At the same time, I read another story of a homeschooler who was 16…and still hadn’t started high school yet (for no reason other than the mom didn’t want him to graduate at 18.). Yikes.

Firstly, YOU know your child best. You know what his strengths and weaknesses are. YOU know what he loves and what he doesn’t.

Sometimes, we homeschoolers, (me included) tend to lose touch with reality. Like, we feel we have to do three maths a day to catch up with those kids in public school. We feel we have to cram vocabulary words and fractions down our kids’ throats and read endless works of classic literature. We feel we have to do school 7 days a week to match the high-homeschooler statistics. And, if our child can’t read the whole Narnia series by age ten, we’re complete failures compared to those public school kids.
This just isn’t true. In public school third grade, the average child’s reading level is a Cam Jansen or Magic Tree House book. If your third grader can read a Cam Jansen book, then you’re OK. Many classes at our local high school lets students retake tests for better grades. Don’t sweat it if you’re struggling with pre-calc or fractions.
Unfortunately, because of government regulations, schools teach to a test. Even if the material is covered, students often just memorize the material for a test and then forget it.

Am I doing too much?

On average, an 8th grade homeschooler is 4 years ahead of her peers. And, out of the 8 hours spent in public school, less than 2 are spent actually in engaged learning. (SOURCE:

If you’re stressed trying to double up or be a year advanced, then yes, you are doing too much. If your child is a grade ahead and you’re still pushing, you’re doing too much. If you’ve worked more than an hour on decimals and fractions with your fifth grader, it’s too much.

Also, note from my public school elementary experience, we only finished about 75% of the textbook. If it’s June and you’ve only finished 80% of the textbook, you’re OK. Remember, many homeschool textbooks are advanced (A Beka, Saxon) anyway. Remember, you don’t need to do all those crafts and supplements you see your home schooled neighbor do.

What can you do about it? Just relax. Have a movie-pajama day, go to the park and just play, bake some chocolate chip cookies, do what the kids want to do, just have fun for a while! There is nothing wrong with taking a break – a few days or a week – in your homeschool.

Here is a basic run-down of the notable things your child needs to know. Check your state requirements for a more in-depth look. Our state (Indiana) has very relaxed standards, and they only require 180 days, which is a very flexible and lenient term.

I would recommend a math curriculum for all ages, except maybe kindergarten.
Kindergarten: Typically, you learn counting, numbers, and colors in kindergarten. Easy? 
First grade: Addition, tally marks
Second grade: Subtraction, basic fractions
Third grade: Multiplication and decimals
Fourth grade: Division
If your second grader can’t divide, don’t worry. If your fifth grader can’t really divide that well, you are not behind. It is not a big deal. Many public school children cannot divide in seventh grade – which becomes an obvious problem when they start algebra.
The best tip I can give you for K-6 grade, is just read. Read and write every day. The more you read, the better your writing will be. Grammar and spelling will just become natural. Read whatever interests the child. For read alouds, I would recommend fast-paced and fun novels about something they’re interested in. My younger sisters like read-alouds that have movies to go with them. (Veggietales, Charlotte’s Web, Because of Winn Dixie, etc.) Here’s 100 Historical Books if you’re looking for inspiration for quality literature.
By third grade, students are introduced to nouns, verbs, and adjectives. By at least sixth grade, they should be aware of the rest of the parts of speech (adverb, pronoun, preposition, conjunction). More advanced learners can learn indirect objects, direct objects, object of prepositions, noun of direct adjectives, and others.

(Note: Many public-schooled seventh graders don’t know the parts of speech beyond nouns, verbs, and adjectives.)

As for actual reading level, I can’t really tell you, because I never did any grade-level reading. (In public school, another student and I were about 5 years ahead in reading comprehension…) I was pretty fortunate to have a 3rd grade teacher who allowed me to push myself.
Social studies (history, science)
I never did history or science (OK, one science project and a little animal-research) until my homeschool years (4th grade), but, as a history nerd, I think history is very important for all ages! Here’s 30+ ways to teach history without a textbook. Here’s also 30+ ways to teach science without a textbook.

Geography – Note, I know some high schoolers who can’t name three countries in Asia. What in sweet heaven’s name have they been doing in history and geography? Point is, if you’re trying to memorize a world map to no avail, save your sanity.

Catch up Days / 4 Days a Week Homeschool
I personally don’t enjoy the year-round 4-days-a-week homeschooling “textbook-free” is the brightest idea, especially for college-bound students. Who wants to do school year-round? Being the way I am, I enjoy a little bit of structure and organization and I do not want to do any schoolwork other than reading history over the summer. But, if this works for you, go for it!
One option is to set 4 days a week aside for your core subjects, and then using Friday (or a bi-weekly Friday) as a test/review/learn-what-your-child-wants-to-learn day. Not only is this reviewing what needs to be reviewed, but kids can work on what they want to learn. If your child likes trains, then check out a bunch of books from the library and research trains for the day!
Agree? Disagree? Have anything to add? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Samantha Shank has been an entrepreneur all her life. She started an educational blog and store, Learn in Color, at 14 years old. Within 3 years, she was making a full time income as a freelance graphic designer and marketer as Learn in Color grew. Samantha holds a MSEd in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on Gifted Education.


  1. I really needed this I have been debating if I needed to put my daughter into school but if I did I would hardly see her because my work would start before she came home from school. I was worried that she would be behind but as I look at this she is on time with most areas and ahead in others. We will continue to homeschool for now but it is nice to know that I shouldn’t be freaking out about not doing all the extra stuff I see others do.

  2. Your right Samantha! It’s good to balance and not overly stress academics.
    I also think if your child is not so interested in math and science and is more history/English type you should not stress so much math. I mean if you were going to be an English major then why should you learn so much about Chemistry? Or if you were going to be a historian why would you need to know Trig? That’s why my mom never stresses Chemistry ( my loathed subject ) with me. She knows I don’t want to go into the medical field so there isn’t much of a reason that I would do a lot of Chemistry-not to say I don’t do it, I mean it is a required subject but she didn’t stress it as if I was going to be a nurse and needed to learn it as they do.
    Does that make sense or am I just rambling?
    Enjoyed your post!

  3. wow… thanks so much for helping with this issue.. just reading that “what we are doing is okay” really really makes me feel better. my fifth grader knows his multiplication.. throughout.. feel so good about that.. 3rd grader is up to 5’s yeah… they both read.. dont like to.. but they can.. i feel like we are missing something like social studies.. science, etc… we have done both.. periodically… not daily.. we go to the library… park, ball field.. and my baby is starting gymnastics.. I suppose they are well rounded … they have friends that actually go to school.. I see a little more innocence in mine.. but hey.. they got time for all that “growny” stuff.. thanks again.

  4. I am a homeschooled 6th grader, I start school at 9:45 AM (is this normal) and end at 2:00 PM (if I was late 2:45 pm) My mom works a job that requires us to be quiet, my dad is at work for months at a time and my brother is at work til 12:00 pm most of the time. I do English (15 spelling words I study) Science (I watch stuff on Youtube) Reading (I find a online book and read a few chapters until Im bored) By now its about 12:00 AM so I take my dog outside in the backyard and play for about 15 minutes with him, then I come back in and make lunch. Then at 12:45 PM im back to work, I do math and social studies I also visit a site that shows me a USA Map, I still do not know all my state capitals, I try my hardest to learn but it always just slips my mind. Advice please ( I am 11 years old)

    • Hello, reader! Thanks for your comments! It sounds like you are somewhat homeschooling yourself – pat yourself on the back on your hard work! My sisters and I have home schooled ourselves for about 2 years now. It isn’t easy, but it is definitely rewarding.
      I’m not exactly sure what type of advice you are seeking – advice on working/studying harder/better/faster? Advice on doing enough? If you would want, I could compile a list of free resources for you to use throughout the year.
      My reply will be long, so would you mind if I made a post out of it, perhaps to benefit other readers as well?
      Also, maybe you have a hard time focusing (especially on the reading) because you find the material boring, and this is most likely because you may have a different learning style. Do you know what kind of learning style you are? Do you learn best when you hear them, see them, or do them?
      If reading is a struggle for you, let me know what type of things you are interested in (Are you girly? Adventurous? Sporty? Funny?) and I could compile a list of books you may like. Also, I would recommend giving Audiobooks a try. If you are finding books online, they will most likely be classics, and in my opinion, a lot of the classics are dry, boring and complicated.

      Hope some of this helps!

    • I like to read, I am about 3 grades above my reading level (I test myself) I am funny and sometimes girly, I would like if you could give me a few resources. My reading is very good I hardly ever miss any words on my spelling tests, It is near lunch for me and I still need to do my reading and then get dressed and take my doggy outside. I have a hard time with math since my mom cant help me because she’s always working. I am starting on measurments and I just cant seem to get it.

    • OK – totally know how you feel. I will compile a list full of resources within a week. I’m currently working on a post specifically for Wednesday, but will compile a list after that, which shouldn’t take me too long. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

    • Thank you so much, Also I have a question, I skipped social studies and doing my USA Maps today, Should I do double tomorrow or just one page of each and just work on both of those on a Saturday to catch up? I am researching Black History Month and reading though a bio of each person and taking a test on each of them. If this good or no? (doing so many tests). I finished before 2:00 PM last week Thursday, should I just end at that time or keep doing work until 2:00? Also should I keep the same schedule, doing the classes in all that order or mixing it up, doing the classes that take longer before lunch and the shorter classes after lunch? If I wake up early should I refresh myself by getting on the computer and playing some games or start on my work right away? I sometimes skip breakfast to be on time for school and eat a huge lunch, today I ate: Lasagna, Apple Cider (it was cold out) and one Oatmeal Crème Pie. On Fridays I want to take it easy, should I? I want to research things that I want to learn and not things that I “have” to learn, I wanted to learn who invented matches but I was so tied up in my work I never got to look it up.

    • Learning about what *you* want to learn is great and I HIGHLY recommend it. Just because it’s “not in the lesson plan” doesn’t mean it isn’t beneficial. A lot of people seem to recommend getting the harder (stuff you don’t like) out of the way first, and then doing the fun/easy stuff last. As for tests, one thing about public school mentality: they test TOO DEATH. You are too young to be bombarded with tests like that. For most, one test a week per subject (and even that is overload sometimes) is too much. I would recommend creating a schedule that works for you. If you get in the habit of going to be around 10 (if your parents make you go to bed earlier, that is up to them) and getting up at around 7:30. When I wake up around 6:30, I check my blog, email, Pinterest, SAT question of the day, the news, and do my foreign language. I definitely recommend playing a game to get your brain going for the day. Angry Birds, Candy Crush, or Sudoku would be great.

      Remember, your parents trump anything I say but if you aren’t using a curriculum that tells you otherwise, you would only have to do social studies three times a week (M W F) and perhaps science in the other two days. (T Th)

      Hope this helps!

    • I go to bed at 11:00 PM because that is the time my mom gets off work, I play online jigsaw puzzles and I like this game called Pengubomber, it really makes you think. I am going to work on taking all the tests I need every other Friday. And I will make a schedule for myself after I am done with school today okay? Otherwise thanks for all your help!

    • Have you tried finding a song to learn the states and capitals? I used that with my girls and it’s really enjoyable for them. We use lots of music to memorize. We use Classical Conversations.

  5. I wonder constantly, “Am I doing to little? Am I going over board? What should I focus on and what should they know by now?” I test them often on state standard tests (retired ones that are free) to see if they are at least on par. Our daily schedule is heavy on the Math, science, reading (on off hours as a liesurely thing) and writing and light on english..bleh! And non existent on history and geography.. (We really dislike history). English consists of highschool and college vocabulary ( less focus on how to spell them and more focus on what they actually mean), Latin and Greek stems, and writing towards a year long story to be published and various reports and essays and research papers as well as writing their own sermons once a week so they can host bible studies. Science consists of their favorites which is in the fields they wish to get into, theoretical physics for my son and geology for my daughter, and any science I deem important. Right now that’s A & P.. I tend to favor the biologies. Math is..math. Algebra 1 for my daughter and algebra 2 and pre calculus for my son. My kids are in the 7th and 10th grades. Reading levels the charts. My son was reading Eragon in the second grade. In kindergarten it was goose bumps and anything on heptology. He was reading Clifford at 3 though. My daughter just now became interested in reading and just finnished the hunger games, diveurgent, and maze runner series in less than a month and in a week read through three space faring cat books. I push them because they already know so much. They like school.. I hated school growing up. Especially my son who has been college level since fifth grade. I use to take both him and his sister with me to college when she was 6 and he was 9 then have them help me study in The evenings for tests. My daughter would ask me questions off flash cards then give me hints on how to remember them and my son would ask me questions from memory. This lasted until the college banned smoking and anyone not paying for classes from entering the school yard. So for four years they got to go with me. I don’t want to over load them on work, but I don’t want them to stagnate either. We don’t have traditional 8 hour days. I have everything written down on what I want done each day. My son does two days worth of work in three hours, my daughter takes two hours on one days worth of work. But I have math, two sciences, vocabulary (20 words that they have to put in a sentence, a story, write a definition, write synonyms, antonyms.. >each one a different day<.. Etc), stems (10 a week doing different things each day to help them memorize them), spanish, writing a page towards their stories a day, writing and researching towards their weekly sermon a day, literature (Socratese, Plato, Shakespeare..etc) every day, reading every evening, and once a month a paper due. Is this to much for a 7th and 10th grader? Is it to much if they breaze through it in a few hours and can ace the tests every week? Should I focus less on one thing more on another?

  6. This article is exactly what I needed to hear today. As a 1st year homeschooling mom, I often find myself worried that our girls will fall behind. Your post was very encouraging, especially coming from the POV of a homeschooler. Thank you so much!!

  7. My husband and I have switched back and forth, me part time, back to full time, him staying home full time, Etc… And now we’re both working full time and finding a hard balance. This was exactly what I needed to hear! It really put my frantic heart at rest. Thank you!! They work on reading/writing/ math worksheets durning the day and we homeschool on my days off and evenings. Reading through this I really didn’t realize how far ahead my girls were. Thank you for such an encouraging article!!

  8. Fantastic. I’m a single mother of 3 working full time nights and homeschooling. I remind myself everyday that each one of my girls is different. Their learning styles are different. As long as they are trying to learn I should be happy. At times I feel like their not learning enough, but when I do more, I feel like I’m just shoving learning down their throat, and well who is going to learn that way? Thanks again for the great read.

  9. Thank you for this article. I (technically) a single mom in school. I just started homeschooling this semester and I thought I was failing. It’s super hard to homeschool and keep up with my requirements so I had to pull back on his work and focus only one area with him. I even have considered putting him back in school but I am not finding a school that meets my needs. You’re post helps me feel ok.

  10. I love hearing your perspective on this Samantha! I think we put so much pressure on ourselves to homeschool the “right way” according to society. However, you encouraged us to remember the “right way” is what’s best for our children and family. So good to hear you’re doing well in college.

  11. First year homeschooling mom here (who was originally from Indiana, too, by the way! ?)
    Here’s the thing that throws me- we live in PA. We are required to do 5 hours of homeschool, although we do get to choose what we call educational. I am meticulous about my records because I don’t want to get smacked by the school district (which has been known to happen in our county). I always feel like a slacker writing that we went on nature walk or whatever, rather than actual lessons.
    By reading the state standards, I think my child is pretty much right where she needs to be, but if we continue at this pace, she will be ahead simply because 5 hours of homeschool is way more coursework than what a public school kid is getting!
    I am assuming after a few years, I will have the kinks worked out, but pacing is really hard! I love reading this from the student’s perspective!

    • Hey Jenny (and fellow Hoosier)! 🙂 It’s interesting to see the different state standards. Yep – “educational” is such a general word, even in the public school setting! Thanks for sharing your story and input! Best of luck in your homeschool!

  12. I really needed this. I went to a home school het together last night. Everyone was sharing favorite curriculums. I felt so inadequate. I struggled with Math in school, therefore I seem to have past this onto my oldest son. I have laid awake at night with worry & tears. This allayed some of my fears.

    • I would check out the blog Homeschooling with Dyslexia – she has such great advice on this! (And I think 5/7 of her kids have dyslexia…something like that!)


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