Our Favorite Things – Homeschool Resources

I started out homeschooling determined to do it for free, or as close to it as I could depending on how you count supplies like paper, crayons, scissors, etc. There are so many resources available for free online and whatever I couldn’t find I could just create. It would be like college! Spending hours creating fun, creative lesson plans on a dime… I loved that! I was excited and ready to run with that plan.

Enter life. As busy as I thought I was then, college was a simpler season of life. About 2 weeks into Emelie’s “official” first grade year, I was burning out. Staffan gently suggested I look into getting some curriculum to lift this enormous burden from my shoulders. The problem was that curriculum can be really expensive and I didn’t find anything I loved enough to spend that much money. And yet, life. Amazingly the kids weren’t satisfied with receiving this quality education I was killing myself to provide – they still expected me to feed them and wash the ketchup stains out of their favorite shirts.

Fast forward to today, nearing the end of Emelie’s second grade year (we don’t focus much on grade levels but the grade she would be in age-wise). Our life on the road is our main “curriculum” in many ways. National parks, museums, historic sites and other hands on experiences are our primary choices for educating our children. But we also have more structured “school times” which primarily focus on learning the basic skills necessary to more fully explore and understand the world around them – reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic if you will.

Here’s what’s working for us right now:

Online Curriculum – MobyMax

Our two older kids each have their own tablets to use for school and educational games. We have been using MobyMax for about 2 years as our base curriculum and we’re really happy with it. Some of our favorite features are:

Independent modules: Each school subject is an independent module, which allows them to work at their own pace in each individual subject. They can be – and they are – on several different grade levels at once.
Complete and Current: The winds of educational policy seem to shift with increasing frequency these days. Homeschooling provides us some degree of shelter from the storm, but we want to make sure they are learning what they need to know. MobyMax gives us a complete curriculum from K-8 and they make sure it’s aligned to the current standards. Our annual subscription gives us unlimited access and we don’t have to worry about it being out of date.
Independent learning: We often sit with them while they’re working on Moby, but not always. It is designed for them to be able to work independently. We tell them what they should be working on, and we’re always available if they have questions or need help, but the rest is up to them. We like teaching them this kind of independence from the beginning.
Teacher dashboard: We can view their progress, in detail, in real time. We can see their lesson scores, which questions they missed and how they answered them, even how focused they are on their work. The teacher dashboard lets us determine the order of their assignments, reassign a lesson with low scores, give placement tests to determine appropriate grade levels and more. We keep discovering new features and new features are also being added all the time.
Fun and motivating: Kids like screens, and sometimes doing work on the tablet is more fun for them than doing it on paper. MobyMax also offers rewards for completing lessons – they can create certificates, they earn badges (which incidentally also teach them about things) and they earn games and game time. There are daily challenges that give bonuses in badges and games, and they get really excited about it. When they’re finished with the day’s assignments they can use their game time. But it’s not unusual for them to ask if they can do more school work in order to earn more game time.

MobyMax doesn’t offer any incentives or referral rewards. We share our experience and the link purely to help to others who might be interested!

Workbooks

The majority of our workbook selection comes from things I find at secondhand stores. They may not always be what I would have chosen from a dozen different choices at a teacher store, but they’re usually less than $1 and some have been great finds! Here are some of my favorites right now:

Gifted and Talented Math

math workbook ages 6-8

This was one of her favorite types of activities so far!

I have strong opinions about gifted education, which seems to be controversial lately, but that’s not the point here. Whatever you label it, our oldest has her own way of thinking about the world and she’s extremely strong willed. She is naturally oriented toward languages but less interested in practicing math facts so it can be a battle to help her develop in this area. This book focuses on reasoning skills, making inferences, and thinking logically. Solving the puzzles requires you to use the math that she needs to practice, but she’s so engaged by the puzzle that she barely notices. It’s simply a different approach that works really well for her and probably would help a lot of other kids too. I found it at a secondhand store and almost didn’t buy it because I’d bought several other books the day before. But I’m so glad I did. We’ve been so impressed by it that we plan to order other books in the same series.

The Complete Book of Spanish

complete spanish

The cover is in pretty bad shape, but the inside is still the same. Great deal!

When Emelie was 5, she approached me one morning and said, “Mamma, it’s really boring that I only speak 2 languages. I think I’d like to learn Spanish. Will you teach me?” How do you say no to that? So I began looking for age-appropriate resources to help her learn Spanish. Most of what we found helps them learn vocabulary – which is important, so we started there. Our favorite was the Fun Spanish app (see below). But it wasn’t long before she complained that she knew a lot of words but still wasn’t able to speak Spanish because she didn’t know how to put them together into sentences. A few common expressions weren’t satisfying her – she needed grammar. Which is not easy to find in the lower primary levels. I was brainstorming ways to create the resource I wanted for myself when I found this book. It’s not exactly what I would make if I were to create something for myself but it’s the closest thing I’ve seen. There was only one left on the shelf and the cover was badly damaged. Because of this, I negotiated a great price for it and we’ve been using it with both kids. They’re soaking it up!

 

Homework Helpers Handwriting

homework helpers

Unscramble the names of princesses?! And practice handwriting?! There was happy jumping and clapping when we gave her this page!

For so long, getting Emelie to practice handwriting generally ended in screaming and tears – both hers and mine. Eventually we decided it wasn’t worth it and decided to stop trying for a while. Then suddenly, last summer, she requested handwriting practice. I was printing off free practice sheets from the internet as quickly as I could find them, and eventually downloaded the appropriate fonts to start making my own to keep up with her demand. When I found this book at a secondhand store, I grabbed it right away. I like that it isn’t just trace and copy pages, although it has those for each letter. There are also other activities that tie into ELA curriculum, such as alphabetizing the words before writing them, writing your own shopping list, creating a letter or an invitation, unscrambling words and more. Suddenly we can use handwriting practice as a reward for completing her other work and I’m really not sure how we got here – but I’m very glad to have this resource.

 

Other Resources

Teachers Pay Teachers: I love this website where teachers can share resources they’ve created with other teachers and homeschooling parents. Many of the resources are free and some are not, but I love that when I purchase a resource from TpT, I’m supporting other teachers and homeschoolers, not a huge publishing company. I also know that they’re created out of real-life experience. I have some favorite TpT sellers that I buy from, and I have even listed some of my own resources for sale or free download here.

homeschool

Pinterest is such a fun and helpful tool!

Pinterest: A treasure trove for finding what’s out there on the internet. Most of the free resources I’ve found have been through Pinterest. You can search for something specific that you’re looking for, or you can just browse for ideas. I have Pinterest boards for most areas of school and life that you can browse through here. Follow me if you’re a Pinterest user!

 

Fun Spanish: This app is available for many languages and after trying out the free sample version, we bought all the different modules that were available for Spanish. The games are fun, engaging, creative and innovative. I also like that the instructions are given in Spanish in complete sentences, but they kids are able to understand visually without understanding all the words. Now as we start to work on grammar, she’s recognizing things that she’s been hearing for years in the app without realizing it.

So those are some of our favorite homeschooling resources right now. Have you used any of these? What great resources are you using that we shouldn’t miss for next year! We love tips!

* We’ve used Amazon affiliate links where applicable in this post.

 

RSS
Follow by Email
Facebook
Google+
http://lindstromsontheroad.com/our-favorite-things-homeschool-resources">
Twitter

 


Posted in Learn and tagged , , , , , , , , , , by with 4 comments.

Comments

  • Tia Smith says:

    Oh, I love looking at what other people have decided to use for homeschool curriculum. I always end up drooling over something.

    I planned to homeschool before we decided to roadschool, and the stuff I have may not (will not) be the best choices for taking on the road. I have boxes full of books! I have no idea what we’ll end up doing with them (maybe we’ll take them and use them as a kid’s mattress? An impromptu endtable?). I’ve got a few years to figure it out, and we may switch programs despite my love for a literature-based learning system, but….books!

    I’m going to have to look closer at the Gifted and Talented Math workbooks you liked. My oldest is showing signs of liking numbers and ‘math-type’ stuff (he’s 2 and wants to know how to read a clock! And is succeeding!). So workbooks that encourage that interest rather than stiffle it are something I’m highly interested in.

    Have you heard of the Open Library? A free on-line library (mostly of older books). It’s hard to find things if you don’t know what you’re looking for, but you might be able to find some workbooks/textbooks if you try (I found a whole slew of elementary level math books). Or things like the DK Eyewitness books. Or picture books. Pretty much anything that’s a classic can be found there (Sherlock Holmes!) 🙂 I’ve made lists of books I’m planning to include in my homeschool stuff (er, maybe going to include? Maybe just like to collect in a list? Whatever.), and this may not be helpful for you, but if it is, here’s a link to those lists: https://openlibrary.org/people/Batfan7/lists

    Anyway, I’m going to go gaze longingly at more homeschool stuff…

    • Christine says:

      Thanks for the link! I’ll definitely check that out!

      I’ve started buying up the Gifted and Talented series quickly now as a couple have gone out of print since I wrote that post. So even though you’re not ready for them yet, you might want to look at them sooner rather than later. I’m really sad that they don’t seem to be continuing the series, although the upside is I’ve been getting them for half price when I find them!

      I have had an extensive children’s book collection since before we had kids. I just love them so much. We have more books in the rig than we really have space for but we’re making it work. The ones I had to get rid of were painful to part with and I saved the bookshelves for last in our stuff purge. The struggle is real and it’s huge. It’s better than I thought though. We use secondhand stores like almost-free libraries. Many campgrounds have book exchanges and those in places that are popular with families have children’s books in those too. Swap tables, exchanges with other families we know… one book at a time we figure it out. I would say that you don’t have to give up literature-based learning at all! But maybe you can’t have them all ready ahead of time or at the same time. There are definitely ways to make it work!!

  • Tia Smith says:

    The dreaded stuff purge. We’re actually using this Lent period to get rid of some things (each of us finds something every day to give up). The idea of giving up an already-read book at a FtF swap table is really appealing though. It’s like we’re giving a book to a good home rather than dropping it off at the pound. I think my first pass through books is going to be getting rid of the ones I can find on-line easily. And the beloved board books that kids have chewed to pieces. We really don’t need to keep half a book around, even if it was a good one. (Good-bye “Very Hungry Caterpillar”, you will be missed).

    • Christine says:

      Haha, I relate to that. Actually the main reason we have half-eaten board books right now is so that he’ll keep chewing on those and leave the other ones alone 😉
      The funny thing about the stuff purge was that it actually started to get addicting after a while. It became a game we played with ourselves – how many boxes can we take to secondhand this week? And the freeing feeling of having less and less? It started to replace the anxiety of that “what if I need it someday” feeling. All I can say is keep at it.
      I write a good bit about this phase. If you browse older posts under the “Simplify” tab you can find them. One of my favorites was this one: http://lindstromsontheroad.com/infinite-nature-stuff/

      We found it to be a spiritual and psychological journey much more than a practical thing that needed to be done. It fits well with Lent, I think. Blessings to you as you start the journey!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *