Curricula bliss: 8 resources we couldn’t live (or learn) without

Curricula Bliss: 8 resources we couldn't live (or learn) withoutWritten by Jamie C. Martin of Simple Homeschool

How is your homeschool year going so far? Usually by this time we begin to sense what’s working well and what isn’t. What we want to continue–and a couple of things, perhaps, that we’d like to drop.

Two years ago I wrote my first curricula bliss post, in which I shared the curricula bringing joy into our learning atmosphere at that time. Because sometimes you want to smile instead of sigh when you pull something off the shelf, you know?

Now that my kids are a little older I’m back to share the new resources we’re loving most this homeschool year. I hope they give you some helpful ideas and point you in the direction of joyful learning as well!

Our Audible Subscription

recommended for all ages

I didn’t really “get” Audible for a long time; it sounded complicated to set up a subscription. But after some frustration with low quality audio books from other sources, I took the time to figure it out. I’m glad I did!

Each month I add one new title to our growing audio library. You can also buy individual titles without a subscription and listen with the Audible app. Get started with two books free here if you’d like to try it out!

Big Fat Notebooks

recommended for ages 10+

I first wrote about the Big Fat Notebooks from Workman Publishing here, and they continue to be one of my favorite finds this homeschool year! Think fun Usborne book-style designed for older children. Created for middle school students, I also think older elementary and early high school aged kids would find them useful and enticing.

The colorful and simple layout of these guides make them a home run for us. I’m keeping the American History notebook close at hand to coincide with our other history studies (see below), but I know we’ll go back to the notebooks on Math, Science, English, and World History again and again as well.

Crash Course History

recommended for ages 12+

These free, fast-paced, packed with information videos on YouTube are a huge hit with my tweens at the moment.

I should mention, though, that they do bring up sensitive/mature topics on occasion, so you might want to preview first. We are enjoying the US History playlist at the moment, but you can also crash course your way through World History, Literature, Physics, US Government, and more!

Give Your Child the World

recommended for ages 4-12

I’m choosing all of our read-alouds this year from the recommendations in Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time. We plan to devote a month to each continent. At the moment we’re exploring Africa through this title, and we head to Europe in November!

To coincide with our geography studies,  Trishna and I intend to draw our way around the world with these favorite guides, too, and I’ll also pad out our global learning with this hefty tome. Can’t wait!


recommended for ages 8-12

A video game that will have your kids begging to do math? Yep, for reals! My kids used the free game Big Brainz to memorize most of their math facts, and we stumbled upon Mathbreakers for the win afterwards!

Different levels of the game cover addition, operators, and fractions. Bedtime Math is another daily favorite around here, too.

Productive App

recommended for the mamas and papas

I use the app Productive to keep track of all the regular habits I have for our days–everything from recurring homeschool plans to self-care, exercise, and family time.

I love getting “credit” for what I do day in and day out around here, and it also helps me limit overwhelm and remember what constitutes “enough.”

Simply Music

recommended for ages 8+

About a year ago Trishna (now 13) started using these online lessons to learn piano, and I cannot rave enough about them. Simply Music allows kids to get straight to the fun part of playing songs without having to learn to read music first–brilliant!

My daughter loves these so much that she asked to send an email to the founder, thanking him for how much the lessons have inspired her. And you guys? He sent a video message back that absolutely made her day–so kind!

Star Wars Workbooks

recommended for ages 5+

I turned to these workbooks in a moment of desperation, looking for a new resource to help my youngest continue on his journey to reading fluency.

Let’s just say that these get him running in excitement to the table to do lessons, so I’m a fan! There are workbooks for math and writing as well as reading to choose from in this series.

And voila! There’s our current curricula bliss–helping us fall even more deeply in love with learning, one day at a time. I hope you find what you need to feel the same way in your neck of the woods this year, too!

What are you and yours loving to learn with this year?

This post is sponsored by Workman Publishing and includes affiliate links. All opinions are my own!

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She is the co-founder and editor of Simple Homeschool, where she writes about mindful parenting, intentional education, and the joy found in a pile of books. Jamie is also the author of a handful of titles, including her newest release, Give Your Child the World.


  1. I forgot all about the crash course series! I’m so glad you mentioned it. 🙂 We absolutely love our Konos unit studies, Daily Grams, and No-Nonsense Algebra. I would recommend those three resources to any homeschooler- in fact, I just did yesterday!
    Shelly’s latest post: 10 Reasons Why Homeschooling Is Perfect for Late Readers

  2. Some new to us resources that we are loving this year…
    Maestro Classics, Genevieve Foster’s history books (we are reading George Washington’s World) – I love having a new story book format for history that we can use after finishing Story of the Word and Picture Study Portfolios by Emily Kiser
    Jill Foley’s latest post: Alexander Hamilton’s Guide to Life by Jeff Wilser

  3. How are you using the Big Fat Notebooks? The science and math one seems a perfect fit for my son in the spectrum (who needs things lay out for him in a simple and straight manner). He will be starting middle school next year so this is perfect timing. Would it be enough if we use the BFN’s as our jumping board and add library books and videos?
    What are we loving this year? We started Shakespeare Night as a family on Saturdays and we are all loving it. My son is really liking the Mukon’s practice books, we are also loving Simply Charlotte Mason’s picture study guides. In general it has been a wonderful year. This is the first time I didn’t over plan so we are having enough time to focus on the things we like.
    Btw, I am a long time lurker, this is my first comment 🙂 thanks for the great blog!

    • Would it be enough if we use the BFN’s as our jumping board and add library books and videos?

      Yes, I think so, Karla! They’d make the perfect overview/summary and then you could add in more depth from there. Thanks for the first comment! 😉 And hooray for not over-planning!

  4. Kimberly Daugherty says:

    Stumbled on your uplifting coversation. Can’t stay involved, but wanted to share from the other side having home schooled all the way through graduation. Looking back I realize most learning for the elementary years can happen naturally with mindfulness to reap learning from everything using the interest and building on the talents/strengths of each child. Everyone needs to see the purpose and benefit of their work… in this case learning. Building useful things, running a micro business, etc… lets our children see the fruit of their learning and build skills that can’t come a book. I learned that some of the most important things I could teach my children were conflict resolution skills, social skills, how to stand up for right, servanthood, how to speak before people, generousity, delayed gratification, how to apologize, a good work ethic, and teach them how to teach. I see now that a lot of what is taught taking months and years as an elementary student can be learned in a fraction of the time at the beginning of junior high. I read you can count foreign language learned in junior high toward high school credit (?). We did science with labs on the computer so all the labs worked! I think the science they learned on field trips and exploring was more memorable. We did private school affidavits after 4th and 6th grade and were with a charter before, but did all the schooling all the years. If you are home schooling w/o a charter then you decide what is required for graduation, of course, taking into consideration if your child will be going to college… their entrance requirements. If your child will be going into business or a vocation then certain classes aren’t as important. You can delete or go light. I did our transcript by subject, not by year crediting everything done in each subject area. Building study skills, etc… is important in junior high for high school. My sons are hunters, climbers, cyclist, artist, musicians, singers, photographers, breeders, farmers, carvers, etc… I encouraged their natural interest. That’s one of the beauties of homeschooling… it’s unlimited. In high school we buckled down more. One of my sons went on mission trips to Brazil twice and was in worship teams for several years. He graduated in 2014 and has chosen to go into the Marines which accepted his transcript and diploma. Another son has led a young guys Bible study he started since he was 17 and was on worship teams for years. He graduated this past June, went to Ukraine with a Christian guys ministry team, and just began online general ed couses with a Bible college which accepts VA funding. They accepted his transcript and diploma, no questions asked. His GPA, which wasn’t high was high enough to get $100 per unit off on each unit. The most important classes I made mandatory, but my sons understood the importance of and enjoyed were relationship and marriage preparation, personality and other personal awareness testing, parenting, leadership, and godly man training. Those they’ll reap from for a lifetime. I encourage you to remember your children are your children, not the state’s, and to make the most of the way God designed your individual children. One of my sons has mild traumatic brain injury and the other has ADD with its memory issues. Their father is mentally ill with health issues and is rated 100% disabled by the VA. He abandoned us over 3 years ago and divorced me. I also have two sons who are severely cognitively disabled from Fragile X and Autism for whom homeschooling has needed to be handled completely differently. Lastly, if you plan your homeschooling backwards with the end results in mind it will be more productive i.e. if you want someday to be the mother-in-law of a mature, godly woman or man then build these qualities in your children. If you want to have free spirited, happy, secure grandchildren teach your children how to parent. If you want your children to make possitive differences in the world train them to live for a purpose higher than themselves. Even their cores can be handled with a particular college’s requirements in mind from junior high on. There’s a lot of unhappy people with a lot of money letters behind their name. Let your focus be to build a person and a good life, not a bank account. Bless you as you sacrifice for this most noble purpose… producing godly men an women.

  5. Just returned home from a homeschool group meeting themed on using technology in curriculum. This was a great follow-up… Thank you!

  6. Thanks for the resources! FYI, the link for Big Brainz led me to message saying no longer available to home users.

    • Hi Katie! If you look underneath the home-use section, it says at the bottom: Free Version
      (We hope to continue to provide this free version so long as it doesn’t create work for our support folks.) And then there are download links there. Let me know if that doesn’t work for you!

      • Thank you! I had the same concern.

      • Hi Jamie! Thank you for your tips on apps. I’m always looking for new ideas. I think my kids would love the Big Brainz but it wouldn’t let me continue on the free home version… Do you know how to get it to work by any chance? Thanks!

  7. grace greenwell says:

    That app looks amazing and I just finished your book, give your child the world, and I am slowly adding those books to our library hold section. 🙂 thank you for such a great resource! So worth the 2.99 I paid on kindle!

  8. I love love love keeping up with the latest and greatest through your blog! I have learned so much and gained so many great resources. But, as a fellow homeschooling mom and a piano teacher of 12 years, I feel compelled to share with you and others that if a child is to learn to interpret music and gain all of the benefits that come with music education, the simply music concept is counterintuitive. I watched several videos and can say with experience that many of the songs shared (like “ode to joy”) can also be learn in the first 6 weeks of lessons. Choosing the “simply” way over classical lessons just means your learning at the same pace but without the unique skills, brain development, and discipline that comes with learning to read music. I always start my littlest beginners by asking “do you want to learn a new language?” And that is what it is. A language that communicates to every continent, every instrument, every heart. Reading music is a map to adventure, a mystery to by deciphered, an encoded message from a composer ready to be read… it’s all in the way you present the challenge, and I will completely agree that it’s a challenge! But my 4 year old and 54 year old students meet the challenge on level ground and feel the same accomplishment with every step forward! I encourage you to find a great teacher and view his/her full contribution to your homeschooling. You’re giving your child another caring adult who imparts music, math, language, history, counseling (😉on bad days), and for some, a Believer to speak life into your kids by edifying and encouraging them to see God I’m the midst of creative expression (if your seeking a Christian environment). Thats how I view my responsibility to the students I teach and I think it’s a shared sentiment with many music teachers. Just my two cents. 😉
    Also just wanted to say thank you for sharing your life and wisdom Jamie! Your dedication to this blog has ripple effects in so many lives now and into eternity!

  9. Michelle says:

    Thanks for the ideas! One warning…. I hadn’t heard of the YouTube Crash Course History videos until this post. We are studying Mesopotamia, so I found that video in the World History section on their YouTube page. Looked good, had colorful animation, and came recommended… so I almost sent my kids the link to watch that video today. I saw the first minute and it looked good.
    But something inside me said, “watch the whole thing before you send it!” (I believe that was God’s voice).
    I did, and was shocked that the video shows animated sex between Kings and priestesses… twice.
    Once in bed under the covers, and in the next scene between standing animated figures, with the man thrusting from behind.
    The narrator calls it “scoodley-pooping” between Kings and priests.
    I won’t be watching any more of these videos. The creator has lost my respect, and I also don’t trust what else he will try to sneak in.

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