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The 3 'Essentials' for Homeschooling

Today with COVID-19 there is a lot of talk about what is ‘essential’. One definition of ‘essential services’ that I found online said “services, the interruption of which would endanger the life, health or personal safety of the whole or part of the population’. The question is also an important one for you as you educate your children. What is essential to my homeschool day?

Some days, schooling your kids is probably great. You, and they, get so much accomplished that you can’t imagine why you thought this would be challenging. Other days you are certain that they conceived a plan of mutiny overnight and you hope to just make it through the day with your life still intact. For those days, let’s define what is ‘essential.’ According to Merriam Webster the word ‘essential’ means: of the utmost importance: basic, indispensable, necessary.

Another way to ask the question is: If I get nothing else accomplished today, what do I need to achieve so that I have done what I should to educate my children well? When you are having a really rough day, how do you decide what gets done and what doesn’t?

The three essentials of a homeschool day are: Reading, Writing and Mathematics


Reading is an essential component of an education. If a student can’t read he can’t learn for himself. Up until 3rd grade children are learning to read. But from the 3rd grade on children read to learn. Reading continues to train the brain to learn and process new pieces of information. Good reading skills are crucial to success in high school and beyond. Students who continue to struggle to read at grade level will struggle in all their studies and their work.

Here are some interesting statistics according to Literacy Project Foundation

  • 50% of adults cannot read a book written at an 8th grade level

  • Books for kids actually contain 50% more words that children are unlikely to encounter frequently than in regular conversation, TV or radio.

  • The number of books in the home correlates significantly with higher reading scores for children.

  • Students who choose what they read and have an informal environment in which to read tend to be more motivated, read more, and show greater language and literacy development

  • children who are read to at least three times a week by a family member are almost twice as likely to score in the top 25% in reading

Study after study shows that the more children are read to, have opportunity to read, and are encouraged to read, the better their brain develops and the more likely they are to be successful in future endeavors. This is an oversimplification; but, it is the reality. Reading in childhood is a key marker for success in adulthood.


Writing is a basic form of communication that is used everyday in school, college, work and beyond. While even in today’s world of texts, emojis, snapchat, and instagram, businesses are still hiring in-part based on basic writing skills. In business, employees are required to write emails, reports, proposals, and other forms of written correspondence that, when done poorly, reflect poorly on the company. According to an Inc article published on March 31, 2016, poor writing skills are costing businesses billions of dollars to bring employees up to a basic proficiency level. And the problem is evident even earlier. According to the New York Times article “Why kids Can't Write” in August 2017, 40% of those who took the ACT writing exam in the high school class of 2016 lacked the reading and writing skills necessary to successfully complete a college level English composition class.

Good writing skills are essential for students to learn. That skill alone will give them an advantage over their peers in college and beyond. While others are seeking STEM classes as all the rage, Forbes wrote in August 2015 that Liberal Arts degrees have become Tech’s hottest ticket. The tech industry is finding that the ‘soft skills’ that those with liberal arts degrees have are crucial to business. However, these soft skills are very hard to teach to techy types. The liberal arts majors come on board, with not just critical thinking and problem solving skills like their techy counterparts, but they rise above by also bringing to the table excellent written and verbal communication skills, as well as people skills.

Teaching writing skills to students and requiring them to practice them daily is an essential part of an excellent education. The foundation of a liberal arts education is excellent reading, writing and mathematics skills.


Mathematics is the language of math and science. Just as mastering letters is paramount to learning reading and writing, so mastering basic mathematics skills is foundational to so much of life. Even if your student won’t enter a math focused career, basic understanding of mathematics is still essential. It is about learning to think logically, analytically, as well as learning reasoning and problem solving skills that can expand to all areas of life. Math, of course, has its very practical application in everyday life for every single person such as making purchases, paying bills and managing your personal finances. While most people overlook this as unimportant, we should note that according to as of Sept 2019, 64% of American’s aren’t prepared for retirement and even worse, 48% don’t care. Retirement is in essence a math problem that you should be thinking about when you get your first job.

Mathematics is essential for everyday life and the more proficient our kids are in this language the more options they will have later in life.

No doubt some opinions may differ with these three essentials that I have laid out. However, I would argue that I am not claiming to stop with these three branches of learning but rather that these are the essential skills, the foundation of all other learning. If you can’t read, write, and do basic arithmetic, it will be very hard to learn science, art, theology, philosophy, calculus, sociology, economics, geography, or any other branch of learning.

So when your day is not going as you anticipated. Be sure to have your students work in these three essential areas every day.

Don’t just survive...THRIVE!

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