Unexpectedly Homeschooling? Here's the Ultimate Guide You Need - With Tips, Resources, and More! (Updated 2022)

Have you found yourself suddenly, unexpectedly homeschooling? 

A mom asked me my advice. Her face was strained, her voice trembling. Her daughter had been in public school for three years. Things seemed to be going well. And then her daughter came home with a story that floored her. Another student had talked to her about some really inappropriate topics. His words pierced her daughter's innocence. And she was determined to pull her out of the public school and begin homeschooling.

But she was concerned. She wanted to do things right. She wanted to make sure she was prepared to teach her daughter at home.

Whether it’s it's a situation like this, or a sickness, an unplanned move, or economic necessity, you can find yourself suddenly teaching your kids at home.

So what’s an unexpectedly homeschooling mama- or dad- to do?

Don’t panic! That’s my first- and probably most important- piece of advice. Homeschooling- even unexpected homeschooling- can be a very effective teaching method, as well as providing you with time together as a family.

Instead, take a deep breath and dive into this post. It’s your ultimate guide with tips for jumping into homeschooling, as well as a collection of resources to help you. Whether you have schoolwork and assignments from your child’s school or you’re totally winging this new experience, this post is for you.

Tips for unexpectedly homeschooling
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This is a comprehensive guide that will help you get going. You can click on the table of contents below to go exactly to the section you need, or skim through the entire post to find what you need.

    (Need some questions answered? Have a specific problem? Find me on Instagram and DM me. I like hanging out there.)

    First Things First: Tips for Getting Started When You’re Unexpectedly Homeschooling

    Often when you’re just getting started homeschooling, you’re still under the umbrella of your child’s school. Your homeschooling adventure might be just a few weeks or may stretch into the future. Make sure of what the school district has planned for you to do with your child. And, if you do plan on homeschooling more long-term, make sure you know the legal requirements of your area. If you’re in the United States, you can find the requirements for your state here.

    2~ Give your child- and yourself- some grace, lots of grace.

    Whatever the reason for your unexpected homeschooling you and your child will be going through major changes. Expect that there will be frustration, overwhelm, tantrums. Expect sadness and grief. And all of that just covers your feelings. You can bet this will be multiplied for kids who are young and struggle to deal with big emotions. Demonstrate kindness and patience as a model for your kids. Ann at Not That Hard to Homeschool has some great advice about this for new homeschooling mamas.

    3~ Create a workable routine.

    Routines are often much easier to stick to than a structured schedule. Instead of having specific times for everything, a routine can help you establish a flow to your day. Creating this routine will be more effective when you get your kids involved. You also should write out your schedule and place it in a prominent place. That way you and the kids are held accountable.

    Sit down together and take a look at what kind of schoolwork or learning activities need to be completed each day. (Don’t worry if the school didn’t supply this. There are more ideas later!) With your kids, set a routine that will alternate between learning activities as well as fun activities. You can also plan how much time each day the kids can use screens, plan some designated reading time each day (You can read aloud or have the kids do some independent reading.), and plan for some time outdoors.

    4~ Have some unplanned time.

    Kids can get creative when they aren’t constantly occupied. It might be tempting to try to give them something to do every minute to more closely mimic what kids do in school. But having some unstructured time for kids to get creative is a great idea. If weather permits, send them outside. If they can’t get outside, provide some craft supplies, or recycled materials like water bottles or paper towel tubes, and see what they can come up with.

    Kids who have been in school previously might need a little direction for this at first. Left to their own devices without any guidance could result in lots of complaining…or lots of mischief. Give them a few ideas and then encourage them to carry on without you.

    5~ Involve the kids in chores.

    Sometimes it’s easier to do all the chores and cleaning yourself. It just is. However, involving kids in chores can give them a sense of responsibility as well as giving them something to do. It can also encourage a team spirit attitude, which can be really important if you’re homeschooling due to a sickness or other problems. Depending on the age of your kids, you can assign particular chores to each family member or have a rotating chore plan.

    6~ Have a regular quiet time every day.

    When kids are older and have been going to a regular school each day, they aren’t going to want a “nap time”. But, guess what, you will! And if your schedule starts out including a quiet time. it will be much easier to have that time each day.

    Kids don’t have to nap during this time. You can talk about activities allowed. Reading, puzzles, listening to an audio book, even watching a movie can be ways for the kids to wind down during a set time of day. And, it will give you the opportunity to rest as well.

    Homeschooling board

    What to do All Day: Plans for Your Unexpected Homeschooling

    Lesson Planning

    Did you ever think you’d find yourself writing lesson plans? If you weren’t planning to homeschool and have never been a classroom teacher, chances are you haven’t. But if you’re unexpectedly homeschooling you may find yourself in need of coming up with some plans for learning.

    If you’ve been given resources to use with your child or if you’ve found tons of great resources online, you’re well on your way. But coming up with a learning plan involves more than just having tons of resources. You need to have a method to your madness, a plan of attack. Otherwise your kids may end up with lots and lots of math concepts under their belts, but somehow you forgot any reading instruction! Oops!

    You likely won’t need any detailed lesson plans if you’ve been thrust into homeschooling. No need to sit down for hours and plan. (Although if you find yourself homeschooling long-term, I have a resource for that.) What you’ll likely need is just a way to keep straight what subjects you’re covering when. I suggest keeping a learning journal.

    Keeping a Learning Journal

    With a learning journal, you’ll record each day the activities that your child did for every subject. This will allow you to look back each week and see what your child did as well as think through what that means you need to focus on going forward.

    I like this much better than planning out in detail for the coming week. When I do that I inevitably end up crossing out or deleting and copy/pasting somewhere else. I prefer to just have the materials I want to cover for the week, but going through the week with the flexibility to change the day or time we spend on a particular subject.

    You can pick up my learning journal for free here.

    Homeschooling mother and daughter

    Free and Frugal Resources for Unexpected Homeschoolers

    Don’t have any resources for your unexpected homeschooling? Don’t worry! You don’t need to rush out and buy anything. The internet is home to many, many, many free and frugal resources for homeschoolers. I’m listing a few of my favorites here. But you can typically google, “free resources for….”, to find anything you might need.

    In this section I’m sharing some sites with printables as well as educational websites. Some of these resources are only for a limited time. If that’s the case, I’ll note that.

    Free and Frugal Language Arts Resources

    WriteShop is one of my favorite resources for writing curricula. They have a whole page of free activities and printables here.

    WriteShop also has their “extras”- which are digital resources- for a few dollars each (as of the writing of this post). You can find writing journals, poetry resources, story builders, and more.

    IEW is a well-known homeschool resource for writing and grammar resources. If you find yourself accidentally homeschooling, they’re offering an entire three-week digital course for language arts that includes some of their top selling resources. (Limited time)

    IEW also has a free webinar to help you get started if your find yourself accidentally homeschool.

    I have a number of affordable literature unit studies in the As We Walk Shop. If you’re looking for something to accompany your reading, you can find them here.

    And you can find my free Mega Book of Literature Unit Studies here. It contains over 50 literature unit studies.

    ABC Mouse is a subscription-based, learn-to-read resource for kids K-2nd grade. You can currently get your first month free. (Limited time)

    Looking for some great books to read while you’re unexpectedly homeschooling? Check out my free living books catalog to find books sectioned by age and academic subject connections.

    Free and Frugal Math Resources

    The Math Games site has a huge library of interactive math games for K-8th grade. You can search by grade or by topic.

    Math is Fun has free math lessons for every grade, including the high school maths.

    FunBrain has educational games for all subjects including a page with many math games.

    Multiplication.com has a premium membership, but they also have lots of free resources for helping kids practice multiplication tables.

    Free and Frugal Science Resources

    The Smithsonian has a science game page with lots of great interactive resources.

    Club SciKidz has a daily science lesson and experiment for kids.

    Mystery Science has some great free science lessons for grades K-5th.

    Science Kids has some great science lessons and experiments for kids.

    Science Buddies is a free site that offers daily science videos, science experiments for K-12th grades, and more.

    Free and Frugal History Resources

    Mission US teaches American history with lots of great interactive games.

    The Big History Project has many, many free history lessons for all ages.

    Kid Citizen has videos that use primary sources to teach kids grades K-5th about American history.

    I love, love, love timelines, and The Knotted Line is a great interactive timeline that lets kids explore American history.

    If you want literature-based history, check out the G.A. Henty books. You can use them to read through most of history. You can find a chronological list here. And Henty’s books will take you from ancient history to the 1900s.

    Free and Frugal Fine Arts and Foreign Language Resources

    Fabulingua is a cool app that younger kids can use to learn Spanish. It’s story-based and immersive and is a great way to introduce your kids to a second language. It’s currently free for subscribers. (Limited time)

    Classics for Kids is an excellent music website that teaches kids about different composers, musical periods, and more.

    A. Pintura Art Detective is a fun, interactive site that kids looking at and studying art.

    Other Learning Resources for Unexpectedly Homeschooling

    The Smithsonian has a number of free resources for families. You can use resources from their learning lab for many subject areas.

    YouTube has a plethora of learning videos. You can likely find one for any topic you need. This post shares 100 educational YouTube channels you can check out for specific resources.

    Scholastic Learn at Home has free daily lessons for K-9th graders.

    You can sign up for the PBS Kids daily newsletter to get free daily learning activities for the family.

    Kahn Academy is a great resource for learners of all ages. You can find video classes for almost every subject, especially when it comes to math and science.

    HippoCampus has a HUGE library of learning videos for middle school through college.

    ScratchJr. is a free app that offers coding activities for kids ages 5-7.

    Crafts and activities for unexpectedly homeschooling

    Fun Activities for When You’re Unexpectedly Homeschooling

    It can’t all be about school and learning, right? One of the awesome things about schooling kids at home is the amazing family time you have. If you’re looking for fun things to do- with maybe a little learning thrown in- here are some resources for you.

    Subscription Boxes for Unexpectedly Homeschooling Kids and Families

    Subscription boxes are a fun activity as well as a learning resource. Many have discounts on your first few boxes. And subscription boxes are a great way to break up time spent at home as well as provide learning opportunities for the kids. Here are a few of my favorites for the kids or for the family to use together.

    KiwiCo has monthly crates for literally every age. For the kids, crates start at 0-24 months, and crates have activities for playful learning, STEM, geography and culture, arts and crafts, and more! (At the time of the writing of this post, you can get $15 off your first crate with code LEARN.)

    Green Kid Crafts sends kids ages 2-10 a monthly subscription box with STEAM activities using sustainable materials.

    Club SciKidz Labs is a monthly STEM box with great activities for ages 7 and up. The boxes offer challenging experiments and each includes a lab notebook.

    We Craft Box is a box for those parents who want to be crafty…but just aren’t. It includes craft supplies and instructions for crafts for ages 3-9.

    Encourage kids to read with the Reading Bug Box. It includes personalized book selections for ages 0-13 each month.

    Family Fun Activities

    The Build It! Creative Challenge sends your family a challenge each week for ten weeks. Each challenge will have twelve brick building activities that the family can work on throughout the week. If you have Lego lovers, this one is for you! (Limited time- usually $9.99)

    Even though you might not be able to get out and about if you’re suddenly homeschooling because of illness, there are plenty of ways to take great field trips virtually. Here are twelve museums you can visit online.

    You can check out this page on the Smithsonian’s site to find fun activities for a variety of science topics.

    Kids Cook Real Food is an awesome online video cooking class for kids. It requires little prep on your part. And kids of any age can learn cooking skills- even if you aren’t a super cook yourself!

    Use GoNoodle to get the whole family up and moving. They have lots of active videos for those times when you just need to move around.

    Unexpectedly homeschooling

    Arts and Crafts for the Unexpectedly Homeschooling Family

    Mo Willems is one of our favorite author/illustrators. Every day at 1pm he’s posting a new video to the Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems series. Even if you haven’t read the books, the kids can enjoy these art lessons.

    If you love all things arts and crafts- or if you’re trying to love it- check out my Kids Craft Pinterest board for lots of great ideas.

    The Artful Parent has some great arts and crafts ideas you can do with the whole family.

    If you’re unexpectedly homeschooling, friend, I hope that this post has been full of resources and encouragement you can use. If you find yourself heading into homeschooling long-term, make sure you pick up my ebook The Less-Stress Homeschool. It will help you get started more simply and with less stress.

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