Our Homeschool Resources
I so admire the homeschoolers of the 1980s and 90s. Those mamas had to scrap it together! And they did! By the grace of God they forged a way for those of us who would follow. Now days, those of us homeschooling in the 21st century have a wealth of resources to choose from. This can be an enormous blessing. It can also make your head spin! Which resources are best? Which resources will really impact the heart of my child? Should I buy a big boxed curriculum or try to piece it together? Sometimes it helps to just take a little peek at what other homeschooling mamas are using. Here’s a list of all the homeschooling resources that we love and use daily.
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Math-U-See – If it wasn’t for Math-U-See, I’d probably have been a lot more nervous to begin homeschooling. This curriculum has short video lessons taught by Steve Demme, who explains math concepts in a way that I WISH I could have learned them as a child. So many lightbulbs! We watch the video together, do the first page of the week’s lessons together to ensure understanding, and then the kids finish the practice problems throughout the rest of the week.
The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading – After we’ve spent some time learning the alphabet and the sounds of each letter, we begin this book. We start on section 3 (Short-Vowel Words) and simply read each lesson together. That’s it. It has worked every time. No expensive flashcards, readers, games, or fluff. We had this paperback book spiral bound at the local copy shop so that it will last us through all four of our littles.
Explode the Code – I use Explode the Code as a supplement to the phonics book above. My kids LOVE these workbooks. I’m not really a big workbook person, but these are so well done! I just can’t recommend them highly enough. The combination of one-on-one phonics lessons + independent work in the Explode the Code books has been extremely successful for us. Never once have I had to make a child work on their Explode the Code. Usually I have to limit the # of pages they do in a day. There are also a set of books called Get Ready for the Code which focus on pre-reading skills, which in my opinion are totally unnecessary, BUT they really come in handy when little brother/sister wants to “do school too”.
Spelling Power – Fantastic program that focuses on studying only the words that you don’t already know how to spell. No fluff. No unnecessary work. Simple. Effective. We love it.
Draw the U.S.A (or Africa, Asia, Europe, Canada & Greenland, Central & S. America, Continents & Oceans) – Learn Geography through drawing. Simple instructions, beautiful results even for very young elementary students. At first glance these books seem overpriced, but I assure you they are worth every penny!
A Child’s Geography of the World – One of our very favorites. Hillyer has a way of making even the most abstract ideas, not only understandable, but all together charming to children. The price for this book on Amazon is outrageous because it is out of print. If you ever happen to find one at a garage sale, scoop it up!!
Story of the World – This series is very well-written and engaging. The chapters are short and memorable. If you are looking for a world history spine that is not overwhelming, too dry or too detailed, this series is for you. We refer to it often, but have mostly switched over to teaching history through living books (See TruthQuest History).
TruthQuest History – Each section of TruthQuest History includes a short, but detailed commentary from a thoroughly Christian perspective followed by a list of the highest quality children’s books about that time period. The website offers a table of contents and samples to view for free. Learning about history through the lives of real people is memorable and so much fun. Since making the switch, my kids seem to believe that people like Martin Luther, Ben Franklin, and Nat Bowditch (among many others) are some of their very closest friends.
The Storybook of Science – The wonders of plant and animal life told by “Uncle Paul” who explains the mysteries of the ants’ subterranean city, the spider’s suspension bridge, the caterpillars’ processing, thunder and lightning, clouds and rain, the year and its seasons, and volcanoes and earthquakes to his nieces and nephews. I love this book, but we have to take it in small doses. The language requires more attention than most of the other books we read. If you can get it from the library first, you’ll know right away whether or not it’s a good fit for your family.
Burgess Bird Book (and others by Burgess), Among the Meadow People (and Pond People, and Farm People, etc..) – These delightful stories captivate children and without even realizing it they’ve learned the features, habitats, diets, and behaviors of many, many birds and animals. There are no better books to give your child an absolute love for nature and its many creatures. We have read Old Mother West Wind over, and over, and over again. The kids never lose interest in these stories. When the whole pack of us is old and gray, we’ll probably still be sitting around reading these stories together… at least I hope so.
Let’s Read and Find Out Science Books – This series gives a great introduction to so many different science topics. We make sure to check for these with each new topic we cover.
Grammar Land – We do not intend to begin formal grammar instruction for some time yet, but we love this fictional story about a land where Judge Grammar decides disputes between the 9 Lords (Rich Mr. Noun, Little Ragged Article, Talkative Adjective, Busy Dr. Verb, etc…) It is hilarious and has cemented the parts of speech into the minds of my children without a single worksheet. Win!
My Book House – If (heaven forbid) we ever have a fire, I’m running back inside for these books and probably Mother West Wind too. Of course I’m kidding… kind of. These books are beautifully illustrated and truly priceless. We use them for nursery rhymes and poetry reading/memorization every morning. We also read the fairy tales, fables, and other stories from these books each morning for narrations. Best purchase I ever made! So much goodness.
McGuffey’s Eclectic Readers – We use these books for our my 9 year old’s weekly dictation. She studies one entire lesson (1-3 pages), taking note of spelling and punctuation. Afterward I choose a sentence or two to dictate to her. She writes it down as perfectly as she can and corrects any mistakes that she might make. We used to choose passages from our family read alouds for dictation, but I found it to be quite time consuming and often would choose a passage that I thought would be appropriate, but turned out too difficult. Using the Eclectic Readers totally solves these problems.
ABC Jesus Loves Me (Free) Online Preschool Curriculum – Now let me just make this clear ~ I do not believe that a preschool curriculum is in ANY WAY necessary ~ at all. Really. But, I often have young moms ask me for recommendations. I know how they feel. When you’re first considering this crazy homeschool thing, it can be comforting to practice with a preschool curriculum. I know. I’ve done it. And this is the curriculum I used as a young mom with my first little preschooler… for about a month. That’s how long it took me to realize that I did not really need to be up late every night planning, making copies, and cutting shapes out of construction paper in order for my child to learn her letter sounds and numbers. So PLEASE do not wear yourself out! Do not wear your child out! Let them be little!! Promise? Yes? Okay. Then this will be a great resource for you to pick and choose from. We use very little of this curriculum now, but there are definitely some great ideas in here. We especially love the recommended alphabet and number book series by Moncure and the number rhymes: “Straight down and then you’re done. That’s how to make a one.” How cute is that!?
Bible Study Fellowship – Okay, this isn’t a curriculum book. It’s an in-depth, life-giving Bible study for the whole family. There are classes for men, women, and children all over the world. Really, there is nothing like it. We use this as our Bible instruction during the school year. The kids study a passage of scripture each week and then meet with their class to discuss and learn more. Click the link to find a class near you.
Ambleside Online – This is actually a complete Charlotte Mason curriculum that you can access for free online. We don’t use the curriculum schedule at all, but we do use the fabulous book lists. This is a resource you can trust. If the book is on Ambleside, it’s worth having for sure.
1000 Good Books List – A list of the best 1000 children’s books compiled by 25 homeschool mothers.
Read Aloud Revival Book List– A great resource for finding books for any season, holiday, topic, or just for fun.
Simply Charlotte Mason Book Finder – A gigantic, searchable list of quality, living books.
Lamplighter Books and Audio Club – “Building Christlike character one story at a time…” I can’t recommend Lamplighter books highly enough.
Christian Light Publications – Some of our very favorite books have been purchased from Christian Light.
Flash Master – This little gadget saved our homeschool when it came time for memorizing basic facts. You can adjust the many settings to practice addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division, timed or un-timed, in order or random, leveled by difficulty or by a certain # (9 facts). It will even remember which problems you’ve missed and bring them up more often. My kids can use the flash master independently and it will record their scores to view later. Seems a bit pricey, but worth every penny!
Ticonderoga Pencils – I would never have thought that my quality of life would depend so much on which brand of pencils we use, but when you’re homeschooling multiple children it really helps to have good pencils. These are the only brand we use. They sharpen quickly and easily, have erasers that erase without ripping pages, and don’t have tips that break off easily. And while they do cost a bit more they last SO MUCH LONGER and are never eaten up by the sharpener the way cheap pencils are.
Stanley Bostitch Pencil Sharpener – Speaking of pencil sharpeners. We went through several electric pencil sharpeners before we finally got smart and bought an old school (literally 😉 ) manual pencil sharpener. We attached it to an old dresser that we use to store school supplies and never looked back.
Watercolor Pencils – We use these in our nature notebooks to give the appearance of watercolor on our nature drawings without the difficulty and mess of carrying a watercolor paint set.
Large and Small Dry Erase Boards – I often use the large dry erase board to illustrate a story from our history lesson as the kids narrate back to me what we’ve learned. When we’re finished the kids illustrate and label the lesson themselves in their history notebooks. We use the small board for grammar, times tables, latin, or Spanish practice. Don’t forget the pens!
Books, Blogs, and Podcasts About Homeschooling
Educating the Wholehearted Child – I so wish I had read this book before any other parenting or homeschooling books. Sally has such a gentle, refreshing, biblical attitude toward life, parenting, and homeschooling. She’ll help you to focus your heart on cultivating a life-long relationship with your child, while providing an excellent education at the same time.
At Home with Sally Podcast – Sally Clarkson’s Podcast. Encouragement for your mama heart!
Read for the Heart – Written by Sally’s daughter Sarah about how a childhood of reading impacted who she is now as an adult. Includes a gigantic book list organized by subject and reading level. If I ever lose my copy of this book, I will cry.
The Storyformed Podcast – Sarah Clarkson’s Podcast all about the soul-forming power of great books.
Read Aloud Revival Podcast – Sarah Mackenzie is delightful. Her podcast is FULL of great book recommendations. And she’s just plain fun to listen to.
Teaching from Rest – Sarah Mackenzie writes about how she took her homeschool from chaos to peace using the methods of restful learning (called scholé).
Scholé Sisters Podcast – These gals chat about practical and insightful ways to seek after truth, beauty, and goodness in your homeschool, as well as for your own growth as a person. Lots of scholé here too. It’s my favorite.
The Mason Jar Podcast – Cindy Rollins shares a lifetime of homeschooling wisdom in a way that is encouraging and practical. She’s perfected the concept of “Morning Time” (a time to gather your littles in the morning and share the best of truth, beauty, and goodness before the day gets going) and helps young mom’s figure out how to put the pieces together.
Mere Motherhood – Cindy tells her homeschooling story, including all she learned along the way in a humble and hilarious way that makes me want to cherish our homeschooling moments. Seriously. I set the book down after each chapter and am compelled to go find all my children and kiss all the cheeks!
A Delectable Education Podcast – This is a podcast that will step you through the details of what a Charlotte Mason education looks like and how you can make it happen in your home.
Pocketful of Pinecones and Lessons at Blackberry Inn – Karen teaches how to create a Charlotte Mason Education through a narrative, fiction story. Warning ~ these two novels are a bit idealistic… but so am I, so I love them dearly. If that’s off-putting for you, no big deal… just move on to the other suggestions.
A Charlotte Mason Companion – This book is a great reference to keep on hand. I love Karen’s gentle, relaxed approach and refer to it often.
For the Children’s Sake – A simple summary of Charlotte Mason’s home education principles for those of us who haven’t yet made time to read the original 6 volume series.
Laying Down the Rails – Simple, Charlotte Mason Principles for habit training… yourself and your little ones too.
* Note – Sonya has such a thorough understanding of Charlotte Mason’s principles and her resources are a huge help to those of us just getting started ~ though because I’m a real life mom (with real life chaos) I try to always partner her books with one of Cindy’s, Sally’s, or Sarah’s. Because let’s be real, I’m never going to be a Sonja and it’s easy to get discouraged… 😉
Hodgepodge ~ You Are an Artist Blog – Kid-friendly chalk pastel tutorials that really will make you feel like an artist. My kids have produced such beautiful pictures with chalk pastels. It’s pretty amazing! Check out her free tutorials, or purchase entire art courses.
What are your favorite homeschool resources?
Which books, blogs, podcasts, supplies, or curricula keep your homeschool days from spinning out of control?
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And as always friends, please remember that I’ve got kids sledding down the stairs on Costco boxes as I write to you…
So, if you think I’ve forgotten something important, have any questions or comments, or simply a bit of encouragement to share, please use the comments below, send me an email, or find us on Facebook.
I’d love to hear from you.