Welcome to Simply Joyful
“Our homeschool ‘experiment’ worked!” That was literally the thought that crossed my mind as we took this picture. After 12 years of homeschooling, we graduated our oldest son. My homeschooling years are far from over, but having made it through the entire process I feel more equipped than ever to help you get started and find success in your homeschool journey.
Need Homeschool Help?
This page is designed to be your “one-stop-shop” for homeschool encouragement, how-to's, and resources! I'm extremely passionate about encouraging families to find simple solutions for a more joy-filled homeschool! Homeschooling doesn't have to be expensive or overly complicated. I love sharing practical tips on how to simplify your homeschool.
How to Homeschool
Your crash course to homeschooling!
Need help getting started NOW? I've got you covered! I know so many people are looking for homeschooling and school-at-home advice these days. Due to this, I put together a How to Homeschool live webinar. It's all my best getting started advice plus some time for Q & A. Be sure to check it out to see how to get instant access to this webinar recording!Get Access Now
Ready to learn all things...
Homeschool Organization Course
Put Your Homeschool Year on Cruise Control!
My Ultimate Homeschool Organization Course! This is my secret sauce to how I get so much done with so much sanity. I created this course to teach families exactly how to organize their entire year and literally put it on cruise control. It’s been life-changing for over 1,200 families who have gone through the course. This course is a must-have for families who homeschool, especially for those just starting out. It will save you from the hours wasted trying to figure out morning-after-morning what to teach first and what needs to get done that week.Learn more
Get your hands on these...
FREE “School-at-Home Routine” Guide!
With so many families forced into homeschooling during the worldwide pandemic in 2020, I put together resources to help them make the transition to from traditional school to homeschooling. I created a FREE “SCHOOL-AT-HOME ROUTINE” Guide and a page filled with easy, practical advice on how to have the best start to their homeschool journey.
With so many families affected by school closures and finding themselves forced to school their kids at home, I wanted to put together a resource that was easy and practical...and that will add a little sanity to this coronavirus pandemic.
I literally wrote a book about how to homeschool, Homeschool Basics! My dear friend, Tricia Goyer, and I pooled our homeschooling experience together and created a book that is the perfect answer to how to “get started, keep motivated, and bring out the best in your kids”. Be sure to check it out.
Our Homeschool Journey: The Short Version
We have been homeschooling “officially” since October 2009. We pulled our two oldest boys from public school just 8 weeks into the school year. I had no problem with the school (it was one of the best in the county) or the teachers (both were incredible and even Christians). We simply knew that God had been leading us to homeschool for a while, and we had been ignoring the call.
Our first “attempt” at homeschooling! (Long story!)
We homeschool privately in California and use a variety of different teaching styles and curriculums. We've definitely tried a lot of different things. What works one year, doesn't always work the next year — or not necessarily from one kiddo to the next. But that is the beauty of homeschooling, I can customize whatever and whenever I want (yes, we've switched curriculum in the middle of the year before). And, yes, as I mentioned before our homeschool “experiment” worked! We graduated our oldest in 2020 — and my second in 2022!
This was the last year we officially had all five kids in our homeschool! Grant graduated this year and Caitlyn started kindergarten.
Thinking about homeschool...
Are you thinking about homeschooling or just getting started? Then these posts will be your best starting place! Homeschooling is not as scary as it seems. So don't be afraid to take that “step of faith”! I like to describe that “getting started” feeling like that Indiana Jones moment where you step off feeling like you will plummet to certain doom, but find that there is solid ground. I love helping families get started with homeschooling — which is why I wrote Homeschool Basics. I want families to feel confident as they start homeschooling.
Two of my top tips:
#1 Find a community! Get support from fellow homeschool families. HSLDA has lots of resources to help you find communities in your area. You can always do a simple online search listing your city or county and “homeschool” or “coop” or “cooperative” or “support”. Those keywords should help some groups pop up in your area.
#2 Get yourself to a homeschool convention! Not only will you hear from encouraging workshops from homeschool veterans, but you'll be surrounded by people who get you! Hopefully, we can connect at a homeschool convention. I'm often speaking around the country at conventions. Check out my speaking schedule to find out where I'll be. Here's a post with some tips for navigating a homeschool convention.More Getting Started Posts
A Few of My Favorite Homeschool Blog Posts
How to Organize Your Homeschool Curriculum
Snag my 5 Simple Systems to help your homeschool run smoother! After years of trial and error, I've finally figured out how to organize our ENTIRE homeschool year & foster independent learning in my older kids.
How to Homeschool Math
There are so many fun ways to teach math. My favorite way is usually with food! Plus, math is everywhere! Click the button to get my tips, curriculum, and resources in this “How to Homeschool” Series!
Thinking about homeschool...
One of the most commonly asked questions I get about homeschooling is, “What curriculum do you use?” We've used lots of different homeschool curriculum through the years. I try to do a yearly curriculum post about all the curriculum and books we are using for each year, however, I've missed the last couple of years. Here are the posts I have so far that discuss my curriculum:
— My Homeschool Curriculum Reveal (2017-2018)
— My Homeschool Curriculum Reveal (2016-2017)
— My Homeschool Curriculum Reveals (2015-2016)
— Planning Out My Homeschool Year (2014-2015)
— End of Our School Year (2014-2015)
* ALL MY HIGH SCHOOL RECOMMENDATIONS ARE LISTED AT THE BOTTOM OF EACH CATEGORY AND MORE TIPS ARE AT THE VERY BOTTOM!
You've all asked about high school...and I'm finally sharing!
Obviously, reading your Bible is the best way to teach Bible. Scripture memorization is an incredible life skill as well. Most Christian curriculum will incorporate Bible and Christian books that teach a biblical worldview. Here are a few of my favorite resources.
— Who is God? Series! I am loving this series! It is just so good. Apologia has several really incredible resources for Bible! Who Is God? and Who Am I? are great foundational books for teaching your kids more about God and who they are in Christ.
— The Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos is our favorite story Bible. It walks through the entire Bible in story form and helps to explain the big concepts for the passage of Scripture that it's covering.
We have used curriculum programs that cover all or most of the subjects through the years. Here are some of my favorites that we've both used and have heard great things about.
— Sonlight: We have used Sonlight here and there more recently for elementary, junior high, and one year of high school. If you have kids who love to read, this is an amazing curriculum. My advice is that if you reach the end of your school year and haven't finished every book — just be done. In the 2019 school year, we are using Sonlight for Wade (Level G) and Ashlyn and Caitlyn (Level B). We are loving all the amazing books that help bring history and Bible to life. I really love the books they pick for American history.
— My Father’s World: As many of you know from my YouTube videos, we started using My Father's World early on in our homeschool journey. We really enjoyed it. I used it for 9th grade for my oldest two kids but then ended up doing more of a hodge-podge style of curriculum for high school.
— BJU Homeschool: I had the opportunity to tour BJU Press. It was amazing!! I love their textbooks. I plan to use a few of their books as supplements to our homeschool year. My personal style is not to use a whole curriculum style program that isn't easy to teach to multiple ages at once, so for that reason we haven't used it as a whole curriculum. But HIGHLY recommend it if you are looking for homeschool in a box for any grade level. They are very passionate about using a biblical worldview in all their subjects.
— Master Books: I haven't used anything other than their science curriculum, but definitely love all they offer for all their subjects. I believe you can put together an entire program using their curriculum.
We've used lots of curriculum for our pre-readers. We've used quite a mix. Every child will learn to read at their own pace. Sometimes you just have to switch things up and try different things. Just keep reading to your child and encourage them along the way! Some catch on fast–some take their time.
— Sing, Spell, Read, & Write Level One
— Get Ready for the Code Books A, B, & C
— Explode the Code
— Primary Phonics Workbook 1
— IEW's Primary Arts of Language (PAL): Reading and Writing
— ABC Mouse: We are having fun doing some online learning using ABC Mouse, too.
— Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW): Hands down the BEST writing curriculum out there! I have a special place in my heart for all things IEW. The people at IEW are incredible but so is their curriculum. We have used several of their themed writing programs — my favorite being All Things Fun & Fascinating — as well as their Structure and Style for Students. I personally love Structure and Style since they are video-based, and Mr. Andrew Pudewa is so much fun for the kids to watch.
HIGH SCHOOL: IEW has Structure and Style for Students Level C is amazing! Not only does, Mr. Pudewa teach your high school students incredible writing lessons, but they just announced (2023) that their Level C Year 1 curriculum can be used as dual enrollment at Christian Halls International. See here for more details.
* My Read-Aloud Amazon list
— Honey for a Child’s Heart: This book is full of lists of all the great books. It's a wonderful resource.
— The Read-Aloud Family is another great resource for finding great read-aloud books for your family.
— YWAM has incredible missionary stories! Here are our favorites.
— My kids all learned to read using this Children’s Bible)
— Newbery Award books
— I use Audible for read-aloud books I don't seem to be getting to. 🙂 Again, here is my Amazon list filled with most of our favorite read-aloud books.
— Sonlight: I love using Sonlight readers for K-5th grade. They have separate reader sets that you can get to supplement any curriculum you are currently using. I also recommend looking at their booklists for ideas for good books to both read aloud and select for independent reading.
HIGH SCHOOL: Most of the curriculum we use includes book lists for literature. IEW also has American Literature and English Literature is you are looking for more a in-depth literature program. My oldest loved both!
— I've used a few spelling programs through the years, as well as workbooks. We like All About Spelling, Rod & Staff Spelling, and Spelling Power. However, as we added kids to the mix I really needed spelling to be less teacher intensive. Now we use IEW's Phonetic Zoo with our older boys. I still use All About Spelling and Sing, Spell, Read, and Write with our little kids who are still learning the basics. UPDATE: This school year (2021), we are using Spelling U See and liking it so far.
— There are a lot of great grammar programs out there. Right now my older boys are doing Fix It! Grammar (IEW). We've used Growing with Grammar for years. When we first started I loved Rod and Staff's English books.
HIGH SCHOOL: My favorite grammar program is Fix It! Grammar (IEW) for my high schoolers.
HIGH SCHOOL: We use Wordly Wise for vocabulary with my high school students. If our other language arts programs seem to be adequate in teaching vocabulary, then I don't add this in that particular year. However, at some point, all my high schoolers use these workbooks.
— A Reason for Handwriting is hands down my favorite series for penmanship. Their technique for writing letters is amazing. It makes learning cursive really natural.
UPDATE: One of my kids has been using Teaching Textbooks now for the past two years…and he loves it. So, I highly recommend checking them out. I personally love that it's all graded for me and that I can quickly see how he's doing with each lesson.
— One math tool I'm a HUGE fan of is my Flash Master! It is a handheld electronic device that generates flashcard quizzes. It's incredible!
HIGH SCHOOL: Probably not a surprise that we just continue to use whatever math curriculum they've been using for high school. As mentioned, only one of my five kids has used anything other than MathUSee.
— Apologia! I love Apologia! Pretty much all my homeschooling friends love Apologia, too. Here's the thing that's important to know. Don't do everything. The notebooks are incredible but are not meant to have everything completed in it. If you are using my crate system, then you'll be forced to tear it apart which will hopefully encourage you to pick what is best for your family to do. The elementary books are meant to be for K-6, so that means that you probably don't want to spend a ton of time learning about all the scientific names and all the details with your kindergartner…unless your child is just devouring what they are learning. So, try it out! We love it. Our favorites: Astronomy, Anatomy, Botany, Swimming Creatures, and General Science…and we did like their Biology for high school. In my personal opinion, their high school curriculum is almost college-level. Homeschoolers we know who have used it in high school say that they felt their college science classes were easy.
— Master Books: We started using Master Books for our science curriculum starting in 2019. We are really enjoying it. It's great for multiple ages, like Apologia. Master Books is the exclusive distributor of Answers in Genesis books and curriculum. We've used our AIG science curriculum to supplement what we're learning for years. It really makes science easy for younger kids. So, I'm a big fan! This year (2023), we're using Master Books Biology for high school.
— Big Book of God's Amazing Creation: This was our first science “curriculum.” It was so fun to use. There are so many exciting science experiments all broken down by the days of creation.
HIGH SCHOOL: Both Apologia and Master Books have great science curricula for high schoolers. Master Books just released Master Books Academy for their science curriculum. This has supplemental video teaching for whichever science program you pick. I plan to try it out for biology this year (2023).
— Story of the World: We started with SOW and have used it throughout the years here and there. The best choice I made was to get the audio CDs. I love their activity books, too. They have great book lists, activities, and coloring pages.
HIGH SCHOOL: We have used Notgrass for our History, Bible, and Literature for our high schoolers. It is an incredible program that teaches history with a biblical worldview. It has been so refreshing to have my kids learn history— especially American history — using a curriculum that emphasizes great character and pro-American values. We did seeMy Father's World (for my oldest two sons) for 9th grade and Sonlight for 9th grade for my third son.
— Rosetta Stone: We have started Spanish using Rosetta Stone. I really like it so far. I need to be more disciplined turning on our downstairs computer and getting my kids to do it.
— We have done some Spanish classes in our homeschool co-op when it was offered, too.
HIGH SCHOOL: Okay, my friends, here is the best tip you're going to get for your high schoolers in regard to Spanish. Have your high schooler take Spanish as dual credit at a local junior college or an online college. I am personally not equipped to teach Spanish, I know there are other great programs out there. I just haven't tried them. I will share more about using junior colleges for dual credit at the bottom of this section.
— My dear friend, Monica Swanson, has a great Character Training Course. I highly recommend it.
— Hero Tales is one of my favorite books that features not only great missionary stories but also character qualities.
You CAN homeschool high school! It is so much easier than you think it is. There are amazing curricula out there that will help you. Here's my #1 tip: Know your state laws! Every state has different requirements for graduation. I recommend calling HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Assoc.) to find out exactly what classes are needed. They are also AMAZING at helping with things like work permits and creating transcripts. I am creating a new lesson in my Ultimate Homeschool Organization course that shows the details of how I planned out our high school years, organized their material (and taught them how to manage their schedule), and created a transcript.
One really great opportunity about homeschooling high school is how easy it is to start working on getting dual college credit while your child is officially in high school. Regardless of whether your child is college bound, it's a great way to utilize other resources available. Now, a word of warning. Most local junior colleges offer free classes to high schoolers but are VERY SECULAR! My oldest, Grant, did get his AA at a junior college. My second son, Blake, took several classes there as well, but we reached a point where we decided it wasn't worth getting college credit with the material that was incorporated into each subject. At least my boys had a firm foundation. We just decided we will not be utilizing our local junior colleges for dual enrollment (with the exception of Spanish). So, what other options are there?
CLEP tests! Blake took two CLEP tests as part of his senior year classes. He used a program called Study.com to study for each CLEP test. What are CLEP tests? They are pass-or-fail tests that count as a college class. Most universities will take several CLEPs that count toward their requirements. This is definitely something to look into. I highly recommend Study.com! You can use it to prep for a CLEP test — or use it as a class. They have certificates of completion that you can use on your transcript as a class taken.Homeschool Curriculum Posts
Need a little support...
Homeschooling is not for the faint of heart. It is the most rewarding adventure you may ever undertake, but there are also hard days you have to endure. I love encouraging homeschool moms to keep going and keep smiling (sometimes through the tears)! I love keeping it real and helping you tackle some of the unique challenges that face homeschool moms…like when do you ever find time to get housework done.
The “Help! I Homeschool!” Series
I've been writing a fun series called, “Help! I Homeschool!” I have a few linked below, but if you'd like to see them all just click HERE!
Help! I Homeschool & My House is a Mess!
Some days I feel like I have to make a decision: Will we get everything done with our homeschool work today or will I actually get my house clean? You can do both. Let me show you how.
Help! I Homeschool & We Are Behind
It never fails. I plan out our homeschool year. We start off strong — then life happens! Busyness, sick kids, sick mom, unexpected guests, etc. Here's advice to help, if you relate.
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