Starting Homeschool: Where to find what you need

Some of the best learning is not from a book!

Some of the best learning is not from a book!

This is the third of four parts in the “Starting Homeschool” series.  You can download the entire printable guide here: Starting Homeschool Guide.

We have talked about finding your philosophy/method of learning here, and we talked about some of the best known publishers of homeschool curriculum here.  Now we have a list that I could only call “Other Resources.”  There are online “stores” here as well as blogs from people that develop homeschool supplements, online classes, sites that direct you to free resources, video supplements for certain topics, and more.

If you have any other places that you love to use, feel free to add them in the comments so I can check it out.

Other Homeschool Resources

educational games

All Kids Network
lots of free worksheets and ideas

Amazon (of course)
new and used curriculum/supplements

Ambleside Online
Totally free complete curriculum (yes, really), Charlotte Mason-style, Christian

BrainPop (for 3rd grade & up) (for K-3rd)
We use this free through our school district, but I did have a subscription at one time.  It is another expensive one, but it really has so many topics and the companion activities are good.  Here is a list of the BrainPopJr topics (K-3rd)
sometimes on sale at Homeschool Buyers Co-op

Christian Book Distributors (CBD)
Traditional Curriculum/Book Sellers (usually have some downloadable/pdf versions, but mainly hardcopy).  Look for sales and free shipping specials.

free code/programming lessons

Code Academy
free code/programming lessons

Code Monster
free code/programming lessons

Confessions of a Homeschooler
Blog by a homeschool mom who creates curriculum – very good and affordable for complete preschool program and supplements (music, literature and others) for older elementary students

Downloadable curriculum and supplements and online classes

Deep Space Sparkle
Really great art class ideas

Easy Peasy
Totally free complete curriculum (yes, really), Christian

Ebay (of course)
new and used curriculum/supplements
printable supplements (lots)

Hardcopy and downloadable curriculum and supplements

Enchanted Learning
some free, LOTs of printables with subscription

Evan Moor Teacher File Box
subscription-based, access to their workbooks, must be printed from their site, cannot download pdfs, sometimes on sale at Homeschool Buyers Co-op

Exodus Books
Traditional Curriculum/Book Sellers (usually have some downloadable/pdf versions, but mainly hardcopy)  New and used available

Free Homeschool Deals
Alerts you to free and very cheap resources (great site!)

Freely Educate
Blog with GREAT free resources (sometimes they repeat)

Homeschool Buyers Co-op
Group discounts on curriculum/supplements (deals are rotated throughout the year), Free homeschool ID too!

Homeschool Classifieds
Used curriculum (anything and everything)

Homeschool Freebie of the Day
They will send you an email once a week with a free downloadable resource for each day of the coming week.  I usually don’t download them, but every once in a while there is something good.  Christian, very conservative

Howard Hughes Medical Institute
FREE educational materials.  They don’t even charge you for shipping!  High quality dvds and other materials (all from a secular perspective).  Middles school and up.

Internet 4 Classrooms
Online activities to supplement your learning

Khan Academy
Free online learning.  Main emphasis is math, but also science lessons also.

Learning A to Z
Free trial.  Basically, these are leveled readers.  This is by far the most expensive resource we use, but we can use it for all three kids for Reading, Social Studies and Spanish.  We also added the vocabulary one, which creates a vocabulary lesson for many of the books.  We use probably well over 100 books a year from this site, so it is worth it for me. My review is coming.

Muzzy Languages
Free through our library.  Online language learning.

A ton of classroom ideas for PBS documentaries, some ready-made lesson plans that can be adapted for homeschool.  Sign up to get access.

Rainbow Resource
Traditional Curriculum/Book Sellers (usually have some downloadable/pdf versions, but mainly hardcopy)
(new and used)  They also have a free GIGANTIC catalog they will send you if you request it.

Saylor Foundation
Free online classes (K-12 classes launched in 2013)

subscription based, large variety of subjects/grades

Spectrum (Carson Dellosa) workbooks
good for review or extra practice, not teaching concepts in detail

Lots of free early learning activities (Preschool-1st grade)

Super Teacher Worksheets
subscription-based, printable worksheets/supplements (lots)

Teachers Pay Teachers
printables created by teachers
Newsletter sends you 10 free each week

Time 4 Learning
Free two week trial.  We have used parts of this site for different subjects.  In my opinion, it’s better for the younger years (Pre-K, K, 1st) but the kids usually love it.  You can cancel at any time. Sometimes I have used it over the summer as a review.

Online books (mostly little kids) Read to them or read on their own.  Pairs fiction with non-fiction.  We use this free thorough the school district and the library also has a free subscription.

Vocabulary Spelling City
Subscription-based spelling and vocabulary activities.  Some activities are free.

Well Trained Mind
Used curriculum – mostly classical education

Youth Digital
computer classes/video game design (expensive but very good)
sometimes on sale at Homeschool Buyers Co-op


Starting Homeschool: Curriculum Overload

(continuing the Starting Homeschool series)

You can download the whole ten page guide here:  Starting Homeschool Guide , which has all of the information in this series in a format is a little easier to read and a blank planning page here: school year planner page.

Tips to Save You Time, Money and Frustration  When Choosing Curriculum:

When it comes to homeschool curriculum, there are the all-in-one sets that have everything (or almost everything ) you need for a year and then there are publishers that specialize in one or two subjects alone.  I have found that most people start out using a big set of complete curriculum.  That is a perfectly fine place to start if that is what you decide (especially you buy it used), since it would be very difficult to match your child(ren) to the perfect curriculum until you work with them on a daily basis and find their specific strengths and weaknesses and until you get to know what is available.  Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing curriculum:

  • Take note of the things that are not going as well as you would like or specific areas where they may be struggling and ask around if anyone else has had a similar situation.  That is where the discussion groups are very helpful.  Others may know of something that addresses that very issue.
  • Most sites have at least some things for free – some more than others.  If you sign up for their “newsletters,” many of them will send you free printables.  Most will require you create an account with a password, even for things that are free, but I have not had an issue with spam from any of these.  For sites that are for teachers, just enter “Homeschool” as the name of your school if they don’t have an option already for homeschoolers.  Some blogs have free downloadable resources, especially for younger children.
  • Most subscription sites have free trials.
  • Lots of workbooks (like Spectrum workbooks or Evan Moor Daily Practice workbooks have the option of purchasing a PDF download instead of the actual printed book.  This helps if you have more than one child, because you can re-use it when the next child needs it by just printing them out again or if you want to review.
  • Focus on the “3 R’s” (Reading, WRiting and ‘Rithmetic)  If you have strong readers and writers that can do math, everything else will be okay!  History, Science and all the rest are important, but the foundations are reading, writing and math.  If they are not strong readers it is hard to acquire the information in other subjects (not impossible, but harder) and it is more difficult to show what they know if they are not strong writers.
  • If you are thinking of homeschooling only for a few years, you may want to check out your state’s standards or common core online for your child’s grade so that they are learning the same things as their peers.  If it will be more long term, it may not matter to you.  You can also take a look at the “What Your ____ Grader Needs to Know” books.  They are available in most libraries.
  •   I have put together three charts to give you an overview of the materials that I have used or looked into at one time or another:
  1. Major publishers of “all inclusive” sets (below)
  2. Major publishers specializing in certain subject areas (below)
  3. Supplements and lesser known sources (coming – this one has more than you can imagine)

Of course there are many more not listed here, but these are the ones that I am most familiar with.  We use materials from many different companies and have found a great mix that works well for us.  The advantage of homeschool is that you can give your child what they need, not what a typical child needs at their age.  It’s not about being ahead or behind.  It’s about providing just the right challenge exactly where they need it.

Major Publishers of “All Inclusive” sets

Tip:     Almost all of these publishers will send you a free catalog and most will let you see samples online,
so look at the catalogs, see what appeals to you and check out the best ones online.

A Beka:
Christian, academically rigorous curriculum, all subjects

AOP (Alpha Omega Publications):
Christian, very popular
They offer traditional (book based), online, and software

Bob Jones:
Christian, now offer distance learning   options as well as traditional

Five in a Row:
Literature based, mostly for early primary
Also have “Before Five in a Row” for preschool and ” Beyond Five in a Row” for later

k12 (independent route):
You can also use it   “independently.”  You pay for   the class (or classes) and they send you all the books and access to the site   for a year.  We used this for our first   full year of homeschooling and occasionally for certain subjects along the   way. Very thorough curriculum, high quality materials.

k12 (through public charter school or their own private school):
Secular, complete virtual school complete   with a teacher to grade work and have class once a week at a brick and mortar   school.  These are often charter   schools and are free to people who live in the districts that offer it.  It can be rigid and time consuming because   you have to do it “their way.”

Rod and Staff: no official website, available at multiple sites
conservative Christian curriculum, style is   old-fashioned, many people use just language arts from Rod and Staff

Christian, literature based complete   curriculum
We use their book lists every year for novels, historical fiction and   biographies.

Veritas Press:
classical curriculum

Heart of Dakota:
Charlotte Mason/ Unit Study

My Father’s World:
Christian, Literature-based, clear lesson   plans. different content for different ages/grades

Tapestry of Grace:
some classical style elements, integrated   unit studies, can combine ages/grades

Common Publishers for Individual Subject Areas:

American Chemical Society:
free, secular middle school chemistry curriculum by the American Chemical Society

science, very popular with Christian homeschoolers, young earth, no climate change

Explode the Code:

Family Time Fitness:
PE, includes the whole family, written materials and videos

Handwriting without Tears:
printing and cursive, very popular in schools

Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW):
amazing writing curriculum
Review is coming for this one!

Life of Fred:
narrative approach to math, many use it to supplement

Math Mammoth:
math curriculum

Math U See:
I have reviewed this here.  We LOVE MUS!

McGuffey’s Readers: free here:
old (think 1800’s) school books, popular with Charlotte Mason homeschoolers

Primary Language Lessons:
popular with Charlotte Mason homeschoolers

Real Science for Kids:
Science, author is a Christian, but does not address evolution/creationism.

Real Science Odyssey:
Science lesson told in a story, labs, popular with Classical homeschoolers

Right Start Math:
math curriculum

popular math curriculum

See Time Fly:
Review is coming for this one!  This is a little-known but EXCELLENT set of history books, good middle school follow up to Story of the World for those that use the classical method.

Shurley English:

Singapore Math:
very popular math program

Teaching Textbooks:
math curriculum

For those of you that already homeschool, I would love to hear about YOUR favorite resources in the comments!

Starting Homeschool: First Steps

Spring is coming (although there is little evidence of that here) and every year the homeschooling groups get a sudden influx of parents who are realizing that they are unhappy with the way this school year went and are now considering homeschool.  This is especially true of the special needs groups, as IEP meetings happen and parents are not satisfied with where their child’s education is going.  For all of you who are considering homeschool or have already decided in that direction, I have put together some resources to help you get started.  We’ll start with some general information and I will include more detailed information in the weeks to come.

R having fun

Where to start:

1.  Research the requirements in your state.
Do you need to do standardized testing?  Are you required to register somewhere?  Here is a good starting point:

2.  Learn about on the different homeschool methods (brief chart below).
There are books about most of them, but you can also read some of the many homeschool blogs that will tell you why they love their particular style of homeschooling.  Be sure to read many different perspectives so that you get a complete picture of the pros and cons of each, although most people don’t stick to one strictly.

3.  Look at the curriculum available.
Many places will send you catalogs and you can see samples online.  If you attend a homeschool convention you can also see them in person.  Some maybe available at teacher’s supply stores, but most are not.

4.  Do some planning.
What do you want your kids to learn this year?  Here is how I planned P’s first grade year and here is our fifth grade plan for D  You don’t have to be as detailed as I am, but it is a good idea to figure out where you are going so that you can evaluate which are the correct tools to get you there.  It helps you avoid the mid-year feeling of “Why did I waste so much time on that?”

5.  Jump in!
Start with some things that are light and fun to get used to the idea of learning at home.  Use summer break to do some fun science experiments or projects.  I would strongly advise against spending a lot of money your first year because you will find that what you thought would be great may not work as well as you thought for your kids.  If you really want to try something that is a little expensive, try getting it used.

Changing your plan is not a sign of failure!  Don’t feel bad if you need to scrap something you thought would be great and go in another direction.  Homeschool in real life is usually nothing like what you imagined in your head.

Method Description More info:
Classical Based on The Trivium – Little ones are in the “Grammar Stage” (learning basics to build on), the “Logic Stage” at about middle school (learning the way things fit together, more analytical), High School is ” Rhetoric Stage” where students perfect their skills and learn to communicate their now more sophisticated knowledge well.  Four year cycles of learning, most also learn Latin. The Well Trained Mind (by Susan Wise Bauer)
Charlotte Mason Heavy emphasis on the Humanities, especially literature.  Uses narration and copywork, many CM homeschoolers do a lot of unit studies. Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series
Unschooling Following the child’s lead in what he/she wants to learn, not requiring anything in particular, but encouraging their own curiosity. The Underground History of American Education (by John Taylor Gatto)
Eclectic A mix of different methods This describes most homeschoolers that I know.
Traditional Based on what children usually do in public schools a traditional school environment
Unit Study Integrating all subjects into areas of study.  A study of the rainforest might include a science study of what plants/animals live in the rainforest, literature based on someone’s life in the rainforest, math problems adding up jungle animals and geography lessons locating rainforests on a map. Usually a mix of unschooling ideas (follow what they love) and Charlotte Mason.  It is also a way to teach children in different grades with the same content but different assignments for each child.
Delayed Academics Young children simply explore their world (like unschooling), with no pressure to read, write and do academics until they show interest. Better Late than Early (by Raymond and Dorothy Moore)
Literature-Based All areas (except math usually) are explored through literature.  Biographies and historical fiction are used for social studies and math. Sonlight is probably the most well known curriculum that uses this method.  Charlotte Mason is often literature-based.