Recently, I wrote about 5 Steps for Getting Started With Homeschooling, with some tips on how to find the approaches, curriculum, and schedules that would work best for you. But some have asked what we actually do, and what resources we’ve liked. So, here goes:
- Read good picture books and fairy tales. I am 100% convinced that this is the most important thing I do for my kids’ education.
- Free play outside. As much as we can get. In our backyard, local parks, state parks. As much nature time as we can manage.
- Sing Solfa for singing lessons (lots of helpful videos that you can watch together to learn with, including early lessons that are great for young kiddos)
- For those ready for some handwriting, we’ve used Handwriting Without Tears. When my kids were interested in learning to write, we’d do 1 page of these workbooks a day (ish). They’d carefully copy the letters, and when they finished they could color in the pictures and decorate it. 5-10 minutes max, including coloring time.
- Math games! We’ve loved Sequence For Kids and Math Dice Jr
- Count all the things. Simple and effective.
- Finger Knitting and sewing kits like this one, or similar age appropriate crafty projects
- I do “alphabet lessons” with my kids when they are 3-4YOs. This literally is 5 minutes of 1-on-1 time, a few times a week, looking at a paper on which I wrote the alphabet in marker, pointing to letters, singing the ABCs and playing “find the letter” (“Where is the A?”). Seriously 5 minutes. Nothing fancy, but it’s worked for us.
- We do a lot of noticing colors, numbers, and letters together throughout our day, in books, on clothes, on street signs, etc. Wherever we are.
- When they are ready to start formal reading lessons, we’ve used Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons. These lessons take 10-20 minutes, are researched based and 100% scripted for the parent. Like, I say the pink part, while pointing to the black part. I’ve heard mixed reviews from other people, but I really like it.*
- I’m not very good with a highly structured curriculum, but if that’s what you’re looking for, I’d recommend A Year Of Playing Skillfully for a curriculum that is very intentional about young children’s developmental needs, and has lots of fun activities to choose from. You can usually get a one month sample to see if its a good fit for you and your child.
- Read good books together. Did I mention this? We are a house full of bookworms and this is the foundation of our homeschool. We use a Charlotte Mason Approach in our homeschool, and the curricula outlined by Ambleside Online (from a Christian/Protestant perspective) and Mater Amabilis (from a Christian/Catholic perspective) come closest to what we do. The Charlotte Mason philosophy places a huge emphasis on introducing children to beautiful literature from the start, and learning to know and love good books together is what I have loved most about our homeschool journey so far.
- Listen to audiobooks. We’ve enjoyed stories.audible.com this year (its free streaming, high quality audiobooks while schools are out, but I’m not sure how much longer they’ll have it up for free if schools open up in the fall), and the Libby app for library audiobooks. I bought some audiobooks by Jim Weiss from the Well Trained Mind press and we LOVE these, too.
- We have continued Handwriting Without Tears this year, and are sticking with it to use a few times a week for next year, too. My oldest is begging to learn cursive, so I’m thinking about Learning Cursive In Narnia, because we are serious Narnia fans around here.
- Math-U-See has been a good fit for us for math. Hands-on manipulatives, and short video instructions for each lesson that you can either watch together, or watch beforehand and then present the idea on your own. I’ve done both, but my kiddos tend to like to watch the video, so we’ve gravitated towards that recently. I was never very confident with math, but this program makes me feel really comfortable with how to explain each concept.
- We also used Addition Facts That Stick as a supplement to our math curriculum, which I love and would definitely recommend. There are fun games for each set of math facts; it’s been a real hit over here. The author has more books for subtraction, multiplication, and division facts that I will 100% be using when we get there.
- Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer has been the spine for our history studies, supplemented with picture books periodically.**
- Sing Solfa for singing lessons. Fun songs and videos appropriate for preschool-elementary school aged kiddos. I’d watch the video before doing it together, but they are short so that’s not a huge commitment. Otherwise, no real singing experience required to follow along.
- Maestro Classics , Classics for Kids, and online videos of symphony performances to learn about classical music. We play the music we’ve been studying as background music fairly frequently. Sometimes I’ve found a book on the composer that we’ve enjoyed, like this book on Mozart by Demi.
- We are using Bastien Piano Basics for piano lessons: Piano for the Young Beginner and Primer Level. Ideally, I’d prefer to have an in person piano teacher, and eventually I’m sure we will, but this has been a great intro and my kids and I have really enjoyed it. I *do not* know how to play piano so we are learning together and these books have made it accessible.
- Look at art together with a program like Picture Study from Simply Charlotte Mason, a book like Come And Look With Me, or find images for free online. We look at the picture for a few minutes, then take it away and try to describe as much of it as we can, and talk about what we notice about it. Sometimes I dig up a picture book on the artist at the library, when I’ve really got my act together.
- Use watercolor paint, clay, and other art media fairly regularly. Sometimes I find a YouTube tutorial, sometimes we just play around with things. We always have coloring supplies available, and they have a lot of free time to work on projects on their own.
- Sewing, Finger knitting, crocheting, and other crafts. YouTube tutorials have been super helpful with these kinds of project and sites like thesprucecrafts.com
- Cooking together and learning about food. I love the book Getting To Yum by Karen Le Billon, and using a kids’ cookbook like Klutz Kids Cooking.
- For science:
- We used The Burgess Bird Book this year, and plan to use The Burgess Animal Book next year. They are lovely books in which Peter Rabbit interacts with animals and learns why they look and behave the way they do, all in story form. We now recognize every bird in our neighborhood. I can’t recommend these enough for early elementary kids. It’s delightful.
- Let’s Read And Find Out Science books have engaging picture books on pretty much any science topic, and are written at 1st and 2nd grade reading levels. We used a lot of these to learn about the human body this year, and some to learn about plants and animals. Some we’ve read together, some my daughter has read on her own. You can find them from your local library or inexpensively at thriftbooks.com
- Keep a nature journal. Observe things outside, write or draw about them. It can be as simple or as fancy as you’d like. (*Spoiler: ours are very simple)
- The Nature Study Hacking books have been a great resource for me to get into the habit of using our nature journals. Created by a homeschool mom, she has a few different topics, and so far I have loved them all.
- Start a garden outside or grow something inside.
- Raise butterflies! Seriously, we loved this and will probably do it every year forever. It was not a lot of work, with BIG rewards.***
My oldest is a only a rising second grader, so if you’re looking for resources for older kiddos, hop back over to my previous post and check out some of the links to more experienced homeschool mamas, or check out cathyduffyreviews.com for searchable reviews on any homeschool curricula.
Do you have other thoughts? Or questions? Feel free to reach out 🙂
*Early Reading Side Note: For both of my older girls I started when they were 4 because they were checking all of the “reading readiness” boxes. We got halfway through the book and found they were, well, not loving it. So we stopped, waited a few months (until they were 5+) and started over. When the toddler is older, I won’t even think about starting before she is 5. I know that some kids won’t be reading ready for the level of instruction in this book at age 5, either, and I think that’s 100% OK. I personally would keep reading aloud a lot, and working on letter recognition and basic phonics informally until the child has the attention span to manage these lessons.
**We did a History Notebook this year where my 1st grader drew a picture based on each history reading, and then she dictated to me a summary of the history reading to write on the back of the picture. She LOVED this, but my rising first grader likely will not. If my suspicions prove true, I will have her give the oral summary (what Charlotte Mason calls “Narration”), but keep the pictures optional. We’ll see how it goes…
***Butterfly Warning: one of our caterpillars didn’t make it. We buried him and mourned him, but we were OK. My oldest is a very sensitive child, and she still did OK with this and loved the project despite the loss.