When home is school

the great balancing act
Written by contributor Jena of Yarns of the Heart

We all know the feeling, right? School schedules versus family time. Housework versus textbooks. Who wins? Who should win? After homeschooling three kids to high school graduation, here are my thoughts on the subject.

#1 Life is learning.

Try to look at daily life as full of learning opportunities. Going to the grocery store is vocabulary instruction (what is a pomegranate?) and a math lesson (how much is this item per ounce?). It’s also economics (let’s stay within our budget). Here’s a link to free resources dealing with a trip to the grocery store.

Any routine family activity involves learning. Just let your kids in on your thinking processes. Why are we doing this? How can we do it more efficiently, more economically? You’ll be amazed at what they discover.

#2 Life and learning is a journey.

Does packaged curriculum drive your day, and does it drive you crazy? If we focus on “we have to finish these pages today!” we might be losing sight of the goal. Where do I want my child to be 10 years from now? I want him or her to love learning, to be excited to pick up a book and find answers to real questions. I also want my children to know how to learn, to solve their own problems, and to find new ways to do things.

I believe published curriculum is best used as a road map, a guide that helps me see where I’m going and possible ways to get there. If something isn’t working, stop and try something else. Skip that part. Come back to it later. Find another way to get that point across. Whoever wrote that curriculum has never met your child. These are tools, not edicts from on high.

I liked to use The Core Knowledge Sequence (from the popular series of books by the same name) as my road map. It is free to download and lists everything a child should know at every grade level. Of course, this is just their opinion, but it is helpful as a checklist.

Below is an example from page 96, 3rd grade, in The Core Knowledge Sequence. I suggest printing the pages that apply to your kids, put them in a three-ringed binder, and check things off once a week or so.


  • Use capital letters correctly.
  • Understand what a complete sentence is, and identify subject and predicate in single-clause sentences distinguish complete sentences from fragments
  • Know the following parts of speech and how they are used:
  • nouns (for concrete nouns)
  • pronouns (singular and plural)
  • verbs: action verbs and auxiliary (helping) verbs
  • adjectives (including articles: a before a consonant, an before a vowel, and the)
  • adverbs

#3 Learning is life.

Human beings are natural learners. Your toddler is a learning machine! Why? Why? Why???? And as they grow, the world continues to be fascinating.

Just nurture that natural curiosity. If your child shows interest in a topic, let him get ten library books on the subject and spend his days becoming an expert. All that reading, watching videos, experimenting, and talking to you about it will check off fifty skills in the Core Knowledge Sequence (see #2 above).

Because home is school, and parents are teachers, we have the amazing opportunity to share our lives and our love of learning with our kids. They don’t have to experience the disjointed life of someone who has to learn away from home. So enjoy it, and count everyday as a blessing.

How do you integrate home and school?

About Jena Borah

Jena Borah homeschooled her three children all the way to college. She blogs about her homeschooling years and her interest-led philosophy at Yarns of the Heart.


  1. Jackie B. says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Jena. I have a question: the checklist your recommended is linked to the Common Core Standards that are currently being discussed, is that correct? I just wanted to know if these were one and the same. Thank you!

    • Hi Jackie, no, this is the Core Sequence. It’s been around a long time. The Common Core Standards are being adopted by states for the public schools. The names are confusing, I agree!

  2. Thank you for this encouraging post. I need that reminder that all of life is a learning process not just during our scheduled “school” time.
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  3. Do you know if the sequence you wrote about in your post is similar to the common core that states are passing for public schools? It passed in our state in 2008 and is going in to effect this coming school year for high school and the next year for k-8…..not passed for homeschool at this point. Thanks. Have a blessed day!
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  4. I just love this. I needed these very words this morning.
    And I’m going to check out The Core Knowledge Sequence….how helpful for this first year homeschooling Mama – who feels a bit incapable sometimes!!! Thank you for the wisdom!!
    Kind Blessings,
    Kate 🙂
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  5. Thank you for this post, Jena! I too am using the Core Knowledge Sequence with my kids and we are really enjoying it. It’s our “road map” as well! 🙂
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  6. I love that you explain that published curriculum is a road map. I think any curriculum set can be used as a road map or a starting place. I purchased Alpha Omega Pre-k a couple of years ago when I first started even thinking about homeschooling, and now that I’m homeschooling a 4 year old preschooler, we NEVER use it. BUT, I will use it from time to time as a basic road map to help guide us along so I know what we “should” be broadly covering this year. I have also downloaded the state standards for Pre-K, not to cover everything he’d be learning in public school (because that kind of defeats the purpose of homeschooling) but to give me ah-ha ideas when I’m completely stumped as to where we should go next.
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  7. SO helpful. The posts always are, but confirmation of a “roadmap” method (and a link to boot!), is what I aspire to in many ways. Thanks again.

  8. Thank you! Reading this advice from someone who has grown homeschoolers is truly comforting. I aim to use our curriculum as a road map too, but occasionally worry they aren’t learning enough. Of course they are! It’s all about shifting your perspective.

  9. This is so true especially for the younger grades. I am homeschooling my 3 kids(even though only 1 is of schoolage!) Hanna who is 6 (kindergarden), Ryan who is 3(loose preschool stuff) and Tarah who is 10 months old(just being a baby).

  10. I really appreciate this and recognize it from my own homeschooled education.

    I have a question – I struggle with the balance between adapting curriculum and teaching kids to persevere through difficulty. Some of what I have read about education references the fact that North American kids score lower than kids from many other cultures in global education evaluations when it comes to work commitment and persistence in learning. Success in adult work environments does depend on an ability to work even when things it is difficult.

    I want my children to love book and learning… I also want them to be persistent, hard workers. How does sticking to academic work play into that and how do I now when to push through and when to move on?

  11. Thanks for the great reminder! This time of year it is easy for me to get caught up in “finishing” when really we won’t be finished forever I hope!! 😉
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  12. Angela P says:

    Love this! Was just talking to a friend about this today. Thank you!!

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