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!
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Posted in Learn and tagged Fun Spanish, gifted and talented, gifted math, handwriting, homeschool resources, homeschooling, MobyMax, Pinterest, Spanish for kids, Spanish workbook, Teachers Pay Teachers by Christine with 4 comments.