homeschooing first and second grade

What’s the best way to homeschool first and second grade?

Parents are often shocked at how little time it actually takes to homeschool first and second grade. Because homeschooling is geared to a specific child and not a classroom full of kids with differing levels and interests homeschooling parents are able to give the child precisely what they need in their education leaving lots of extra time to explore and discover on their own. 

As a child gets older and more independent this free time is critical to developing a child’s interests and giving them the opportunity to explore career and educational goals in unique ways.  I think this is one of the greatest advantages to homeschooling. 

I have homeschooled four children for more than fifteen years and at every grade from kindergarten through twelfth. At some point, I came to understand there isn’t a universally defined amount of time to spend each day homeschooling. There also is not a single best way to approach homeschooling early elementary that works for every child. Nevertheless, th following guidelines will help you plan your year and find what works for you.

Key to Remember: In total first and second grade children should only spend about 1-2 hours on academic work per day with lots of time outside of that working on projects, going on outings, playing and exploring the world. 

When homeschooling first and second grade children should still spend the vast majority of their day freely playing, thinking creatively and learning to conquer boredom.  At the same time, this is the optimal time to establish strength in basic skills and prepare children for future academic success.  Focus a limited amount of time on the academic goals and the rest of the day let your children explore and discover independently.

Goals of Early Elementary

  • Read independently (not all children will be completely independent and there is a wide range of normal, but just be sure they are on their way to independent reading by the end of grade 3)
  • Write relatively legibly
  • Foundation in mathematical thinking
  • Knowledge of basic addition and subtraction facts

Implementing the Program

I definitely recommend using a set program for math and reading/writing at this age level.  I have listed my favorites at the end of this post. 

The rest of a child’s academic knowledge at this point shouldn’t be set in stone.  Allow the child to delve deep into their interests and show them how wonderful learning can be.  You should include science and history topics that the child finds interesting without getting too fixated on any one idea or concept. 

The easiest (and free) way for homeschooling first and second grade elementary science and social studies is to follow the child’s interests and just use the library to gather a plethora of books on a single subject that interests them.  Read the books together and then do some projects and go on field trips as you see fit. 

Take time for nature study, building projects, cooking together, museums, historic visits, and, if possible, travel. Even an amusement park can be a science study with a couple good books from the library, a building set and some time watching roller coasters!

If you want a little more guidance with science and social studies I have listed several wonderful book and unit study based curriculums at the end of this post that I have used in my homeschool.  They are gentle yet thorough and will peak your child’s interests without overwhelming them. 

The key here is not the number of hours you spend, but that you adjust and adapt and respond to your child so they learn to love learning.  There are basics that children need to master. Beyond the basics though just let them follow their interests. This allows them to grow into the people they were meant to be. 

The Best Curricula for Homeschooling First and Second Grade


Memoria Press First Start Reading and Phonics

Explode the Code

How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons


Memoria Press Copy Books


First and second graders should continue to work through the mathematical thinking games in my preschool and kindergarten math post. These skills should not be rushed and should be regularly reviewed throughout early elementary school. Along with these games children homeschooling first grade should start with a formal math program.

Rod and Staff Math (1st and 2nd grade)  

Teaching Textbooks (3rd grade)

Science and History

Finally, for Science and History use the library approach outlined above or, if you want something more structured I highly recommend the following programs:

Moving Beyond the Page (This program includes math, writing, science and social studies.  Additionally, you will still need one of the reading programs listed above)

Sonlight (This program involves a lot of reading out loud on the part of the parent, but it is fantastic and your kids will love it.)

Next Reads:

About Mary

Mary Stephens holds a degree in international affairs from Georgetown University and a Masters in Teaching from the American University. Mary spent almost twenty years homeschooling her four children and is now navigating post homeschool life in Alaska. She offers personal insights, recipes, homeschooling tips and tricks and travel advice on her website Mary also owns Christopher Travel, a luxury travel company specializing in exquisite vacations around the globe.


  1. Karissa on August 2, 2020 at 12:24 pm

    What helpful tips when it comes to homeschooling! My sister in law has been so stressed out about the idea so I’m definitely going to share your posts with her 🙂

  2. Beth on August 4, 2020 at 12:21 pm

    These are enlightening tips especially learning about recommended time for academics

  3. DeShena@extravagantlybroke on August 4, 2020 at 4:54 pm

    I like the idea that homeschooling is geared more toward the individual child versus a classroom of kids. I always thought it would be too difficult trying to teach all the grades myself. It’s good to know that it is totally doable and there are so many resources.

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