Catholic Homeschool Mom and child

How to Start Homeschooling Midyear

How do I homeschool when I’m starting in the middle of the school year?

In an ideal world, homeschooling is something you enter into after careful deliberation and adequate time for preparation. You pray fervently, have discussions with your spouse & children, spend time reviewing programs & curriculum materials, and talk to other homeschoolers about their experiences. You order your books, make your trips to the store for supplies, and get your learning area ready. By the time to launch, you are as prepared as any parent can be.

Unfortunately, life isn’t always ideal!

It sometimes happens that circumstance compels us to adopt homeschooling with little preparation midyear. There are various reasons this can happen: illness, moving, bullying in school, curriculum concerns, or a global pandemic that shutters brick & mortar institutions. In these situations you find yourself diving into homeschooling headfirst without the benefit of lengthy preparation.

If this is happening to you, don’t panic! Many of us have been there and found our way through. In this article we will talk about strategies for jumping into homeschooling mid-semester, offering advice from other homeschooling parents who have been there.

“De-schooling” the Transition

One homeschool mother recommends “de-schooling” for a time to ease the transition. De-schooling means not trying to jump right into a rigorous academic routine right away but giving your children breathing room to adapt to the new circumstances. She says:

“I always recommend to “de-school” for a little while… de-schooling can be a great reset for parent and kiddo. Obviously depending on state requirements this may have to look different for some. Let them pick the books at the library, let them journal, let them color, watch a documentary or an educational movie. Let them learn a new recipe or learn how to sew or make something; let them do all the art they want! Let then rediscover a love of learning on their terms instead of someone else’s!”

Figuring Your Child’s Academic Level

When moving from a site-based school to homeschool, relax and take time to figure out what level your child should be at for certain subjects, such as math. In “conventional” school, children move up through grade levels at a uniform pace based on age and how many hours of class they have logged in a given year (i.e., a student who logs 180 full school days in a given year and doesn’t fail moves up to another grade). But just because your child is advanced a grade does not mean they are ready to advance in every subject. You might have a child ready to progress to 7th grade social studies and English but who has not sufficiently mastered 6th grade math. Pulling them from school gives you the opportunity to assess their subject aptitude using placement tests. Another parent says:

“I would recommend using any placement tests available from the company you are considering before purchasing math! Sometimes children place higher or lower than you expect. Sometimes you are able to skip over what is already a solid skill!”

A placement test may reveal things about your child you didn’t know. It might tell you that your 10th grade student is still working at an 8th grade math level; or it may reveal that your 7th grader is already far beyond the standards for her age. In short, you have an opportunity to refine your expectations based on the student’s individualized aptitude.

Make Generous Use of Recorded Courses

If you are using an online curriculum provider like Homeschool Connections, make generous use of recorded, self-paced (asynchronous) classes! They offer a ton of flexibility and allow you to make adjustments easily mid-stream. Ann, a homeschooling mother of ten, discusses how they used Homeschool Connections’ recorded classes to “soft start” mid-semester after her tenth child was born:

“We had to account for having a life change (#10 being born) after the school year started. We started early with recorded classes and then took a month off to adjust to the new baby, and then started back up at Week 8. It was almost like a ‘soft start’. I found some classes or books didn’t work for certain kiddos, and was able to readjust their curriculum without too much loss or headache. We love that classes can vary in number and can easily fit in a class that’s only 6 classes or so and get more into a semester, or catch up and fast track more easily.”

Less is More!

In the panic of having to jump into homeschool midstream, you might get the urge to stock up on books and materials to ensure you have enough resources. The reality though is that homeschoolers often go overboard and buy too much! Having too many materials on hand can leave you feeling overwhelmed. Another thing to keep in mind is that most curricula are whole-year curricula. This means if you buy them midyear, you won’t have time to complete them all and will be left with substantial portions of curriculum you don’t use. Randy expresses regret that he and his wife jumped the gun and bought so many full year curricula sets:

“So I can only tell you what I wish I had done differently. I was new and bought full year boxed curriculum. Then when I received it, I didn’t know where to start since my kids already had half a year at that grade level. Starting at the beginning seamed redundant but that’s what we did. Then we only completed half because I did more research and found other programs/methodology that I liked better. So if I were to do it all over again I would have the kids read or listen to good living books, Use something like mystery science, or engaging unit studies, educational movies/TV, field trips. And research math curriculums thoroughly to avoid curriculum hopping.”

When buying curricula, less can be more, especially if you are starting midyear.

Don’t Try to Imitate a Brick and Mortar School

Amanda recommends avoiding thinking you need to make your homeschool mimic a brick and mortar school. Homeschooling is fundamentally different than institutionalized education and requires a different pedagogical approach. “It’s hard for both parent and child to adjust to the new life style,” she says:

“Don’t try to force your homeschool to look like a “normal” school. The first few months will be wild. Take time to breathe, use these months to allow the child to seek out their own interests, go to the library, do field trips, play at the park, guide, but don’t force it. Once you see how your child learns best, then start the curriculum search. In the meantime, do worksheets, watch videos, find websites that work for you—Khan Academy, IXL, Nitro Type; there are so many! Change is scary, sometimes going back to what is familiar seems better, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Additionally, I highly recommend our blog article Homeschoolers Don’t Need to Mimic Public School by Phillip Campbell.

Structure Time for Socializing

In an institutional school, socialization can happen alongside education. Children make friends with the students they sit by in class or eat lunch with. They chat during free time, hang out at recess, and bond while sitting together on the bus.

In homeschooling, you have to be more intentional about social time. It is often necessary to schedule social outings or get your children involved with extracurricular activities. If your child has been used to the social atmosphere at a brick & mortar school, structuring in these times with friends become even more important. One parent recommends:

Set up time for your children to meet up with their friends outside of school. Get involved in local community programs so your child doesn’t feel isolated.

If you don’t know other homeschool families, ask your pastor or the secretary at you parish if they can help connect you. You can also join one of these online communities that can connect your to local Catholic homeschoolers: Homeschool Connections Community and the Catholic Homeschool Community. You can also search Facebook for local homeschool group forums.

Another idea is to start your own get togethers as new, young homeschool mom wrote to me:

When I first started homeschooling, I really wanted to meet up with other moms of young children but couldn’t find a local group. I asked our pastor if I could put a notice in the Sunday bulletin to announce a “park day”. At first I was discouraged because it was just me and one other mom. However, word began to spread and now a year later we have a pretty large group, with dads joining us too!

Introducing Prayer and Devotions to Your Daily Life

If your children are coming from a public school, they may not be used to daily devotionals. If this is the case, introduce these things slowly. See if your local homeschool group meets regularly for a weekday Mass. If so, that is a great place to start since it is also an opportunity to meet up with other homeschool families.

One mom shared with me:

I simply started with a morning offering to begin our homeschool days. Then gradually added other daily prayers such as the Angelus at lunchtime as well as Friday Noon Mass.


Having to make a sudden course correction midyear is always going to be a challenge, but it does not have to be an insurmountable one. Perhaps the most important piece of advice for getting into homeschooling midyear is to find a network of other homeschooling parents you can talk to for support and ideas. One more excellent place to start is The Catholic Homeschool Conference. The experiences of other homeschoolers are really your best resource.

Lastly, approach your homeschool decisions prayerfully. Making a regular Holy Hour in front of the Blessed Sacrament never fails to help bring clarity.

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