Written by contributor Amida of Journey into Unschooling.
Ages of my children: 13, 10, 5, 1
Educational philosophies I pull from: eclectic, unschooling
We’ve gone through a lot of curriculum in our house.
These days though, our go to source for all subjects is the Internet.
Draw Write Now (language arts)
Description: instruction book plus workbook (optional)
I started all my children on these. There is a whole series but we only have the first two and that is sufficient. These are simply drawing books with a few sentences written underneath them and provide nice copy work exercise. You can use the workbook (blank), or any other paper, but I do love having all their first works together in the workbook. It’s great fun going back and looking through them.
Hands-On Equations (math)
Description: paper scale plus pawns and dice, list of problems for each level
If you think algebra isn’t all fun and games, you haven’t tried Hands-On Equations. Using a scale and manipulatives, your children will master linear equations without any effort at all. My son caught on to the concepts right away when he was seven. This is one of those programs that I wish we used more of. It makes algebra a lot more understandable as you move pawns around the scale and actually see why you end up with the answers you do. (I’ve written more on this product here.)
Saxon Math (math)
Description: textbook plus student workbook, no graphics, no color
Just about every homeschooler I know has either used or heard of Saxon (and either love it or hate it). This is the only full on math curriculum that I have used for any extended amount of time — my oldest learned basic arithmetic through them for three years. After that, he totally burned out and even to this day, has a slight aversion to math. Of course, being the experimental child, he suffered through all my newbie mistakes — he worked on every single problem until I realized that not only was that unnecessary, it was just too much to put any poor seven-year-old through. The work was repetitive — the start of his last new level spent 20 lessons reviewing the previous level. If you’re looking for never ending drill work, this is the curriculum for you.
One major determining factor for me as far as Internet resources go is that it must be free and somewhat contained — once I’m at the site, I want to stay there. Following are a few of our favorite bookmarks.
These were a recent discovery but my kids love them. They are short cartoons demonstrating the properties of physics. They are a great alternative to School House Rock (no singing involved).
Excellent site for beginning phonics. There is an animated short story for each sound ending, with additional games to reinforce the lesson. This site came around just as my oldest was starting school and I’ve used it for for every child since. In addition to the online exercises, you can download printed work for pencil and paper practice.
Khan Academy (math, science, history)
Their byline is “learn almost anything for free”, which just about sold me right there. With video lectures in math, science, history, and more, this is a great resource for the upper grade school and beyond crowd. My 5th grader logs in weekly to do his math. You can create a “coach” account and monitor your child’s progress or create custom goals — a set of lessons for him to work on and earn a badge.
Instructables (art, science)
My boys love Instructables. From duct tape wallets to pencil crossbows, their ultimate how-to guide is right here.
Well, there you have it, a glimpse into some of the sources I turn to for my children’s education. It isn’t a complete list by far and it shouldn’t be.
If there is one thing I’ve learned in all my years of homeschooling, it’s that you don’t have to do every problem or lesson in any of these products. Even if you absolutely love a curriculum, if you get stuck on a concept, look somewhere else for enlightenment.
You are a free agent. Learn freely.
What curriculum is on your go to list year after year?