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067. Homesteading Homeschool in the Suburbs

067. Homesteading Homeschool in the Suburbs

Today we’re discovering how urban homesteading as a homeschool family is a lifestyle that can blend hands-on learning with sustainable living. Many homeschool families are cultivating not only gardens but also a deep connection to the land and their community. These practices can bring a simpler and more connected way of life right into suburban neighborhoods and cul-de-sacs, showing how rural traditions can thrive in more urban settings.

Episode 067:

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Show Notes

Whether you grew up on a farm or rural homestead or just read about it in books about pioneers, a lot of homeschoolers yearn for a more self-sufficient lifestyle even as we find ourselves in the reality of having to live a more urban lifestyle.  But can you have a little of both?  Absolutely! Today we’re exploring how suburban homesteaders are redefining self-sufficiency and sustainability. They’re creating backyard gardens, raising chickens, and doing tons of DIY projects. These practices can bring a simpler and more connected way of life right into suburban neighborhoods and cul-de-sacs, showing how rural traditions can thrive in more urban settings.

Urban homesteading as a homeschool family is a lifestyle that can blend hands-on learning with sustainable living. Many homeschool families are cultivating not only gardens, but also a deep connection to the land and their community. From math lessons in the kitchen to science experiments in the backyard, homeschoolers are integrating academic learning with practical skills, fostering a holistic approach to education rooted in real-world experiences. 

Epic Homesteading: Your Guide to Self-Sufficiency on a Modern, High-Tech, Backyard Homestead is sure to inspire, motivate and educate anyone who wants to start a homestead, no matter how small or large. What sets this book apart is its step-by-step approach, making the dream of running a productive homestead achievable for anyone.

Epic Homesteading: Your Guide to Self-Sufficiency on a Modern, High-Tech, Backyard Homestead

One of my favorite things about homeschooling is that it allows us to break free from traditional classroom learning and explore opportunities for hands-on learning experiences. And homesteading is one of these opportunities. Creating a suburban homeschool homestead experience opens up endless opportunities for our children to learn and grow. When kids aren’t stuck in a classroom all day, they get to explore the world around them, connect with nature, and learn practical skills that really stick with them. It’s not just about gardening or raising animals—it’s a chance to teach sustainability, nurture creativity, and foster a deep love for our environment. You can also check out Master Naturalist programs by state

Today we’re sharing five ways you can create an educational experience right in your own backyard. These 5 practices will not only boost what your kids are learning academically, but also helps your them build a strong sense of community:

1. Start a Backyard Garden (6:17)

Gardening With Kids

Utilize your outdoor space to grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Involve your children in every step of the gardening process, from planning and planting to watering and harvesting. This hands-on experience teaches valuable lessons about biology, ecology, and food production while fostering a sense of responsibility and connection to the natural world.

This is such a fun thing to do with your kids – and you can start when they’re little! Even the pickiest eaters often enjoy eating veggies they grew themselves. And don’t feel like you need to have a grand space to create a garden.  You can easily do this in containers and in just whatever available space you have.  Some things that are fun and easy to grow are tomatoes and herbs. 

Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots is the perfect resource to garden with children. It is the perfect resource to garden with children and it includes 12 easy-to-implement ideas for theme gardens that parents and kids can grow together, connecting children to nature through gardening. Each project includes a plan and the planting recipe–as well as a “Discovery Walk,” activities and crafts to make with what you grow.

Roots, Shoots, Buckets & Boots
Community Gardens

Also, community gardens are an option. There are tons of these out there- some are run by churches, some are just part of neighborhood associations or clubs.  Look for a gardening club in your area.  You can learn a lot from other gardeners in a community garden and share resources- info, seeds, plantings, etc. I’ve also attended several gardening events at the library. Many of these programs are taught by professional horticulturalists in your area for free. Your state college extension office often has amazing resources available for free, too.  We used to totally fangirl over Dan Gill, who wrote a series of month by month gardening books that are awesome. These books tell you which plants to plant when and what to do each month of the year for your area.   

Community gardening is a growing revolution that is taking root in towns and cities all over the world. As neighbors come together to get their hands dirty in the name of beautifying public spaces and taking steps toward more sustainable living, camaraderie is blossoming and knowledge is growing right along with the flowers, fruits, and vegetables.
You Don’t Need a lot of Space

If nothing else, I always have a planter with tomatoes and basil every year.  I also really love to grow potatoes with kids- they are the ultimate in easy care and treasure hunting! Kids Garden by Williamson is one of our absolute favorites for gardening inspiration. It’s packed with fun experiments, like growing new plants from existing ones—things like Romaine lettuce from the stalk, potatoes, onions, and even popcorn!

Vertical stackable planters are ideal for limited indoor or outdoor spaces as they save space and enable more plants to be grown in a smaller area. Compared to traditional horizontal planters, they allow for more plants to be grown in the same floor space.

Vertical stackable planters

For years, our 2 families, along with several other families, had an adventure kids club that we created. One of the weeks, we built a garden box from scratch- teaching our kids about power tools. Then we got our hands dirty planting and caring for all these exciting plants we’d grown ourselves, along with others. It was such a rewarding experience to see everything thrive and bloom right before our eyes.

Another great source is an oldie but goodie- Square Foot Gardening.  It teaches ways to maximize your growing space with advice on what types of plants to grow together, what things you can suspend on trellis or towers, etc.  

Square Foot Gardening is perfect for experienced gardeners or beginners, you’ll learn the three simple steps to Square Foot Gardening: build a box; fill it with Mel’s Mix; add a grid. No digging, no tilling, no fertilizing, no guesswork—less watering, waste, and weeding! There’s so much more packed in this 272-page instructional book
Composting

Composting or vermiculture (worm composting) are awesome and easy ways to not only learn more about gardening but also to decrease your household waste.  This is also a super easy thing to do and does not require a ton of space. I had one of those counter composting buckets tumblers years ago and it was awesome. We tossed everything in there – eggshells, coffee grounds, vegetable peels, and scraps. We also had one of those huge compost tumblers in our yard. When I moved, I didn’t bring it with me because it was so heavy, but the new owners of the house were so excited about it and got some super rich soil!

Worms Eat My Garbage teaches you how to Set Up and Maintain a Worm Composting System: Compost Food Waste, Produce Fertilizer for Houseplants and Garden, and Educate Your Kids and Family

Composting harnesses the natural process of decomposition by turning organic matter (such as fruit and vegetable wastes, grass clippings, leaves, and some types of animal manure) into a useful product for your landscape or garden. Compost bins are a great way to simplify this process.

Compost Tumbler Bin Composter with Dual Chamber
Kitchen Compost Bin for Kitchen Countertop

2. Raising Urban Livestock (13:52)

You need to check on your local ordinances but more and more cities are allowing for this, making it common practice. You can raise small animals like chickens, rabbits, or bees. Caring for livestock teaches children about animal husbandry, biology, and sustainable food practices. It also provides opportunities for lessons in math (calculating feed ratios), science (studying life cycles), and responsibility (daily care and maintenance).

A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens covers everything from feeding, housing, and collecting eggs to quirky behaviors and humane treatment:

A Kid’s Guide to Keeping Chickens

We have a lot of friends who raise chickens.  Not only is it great animal husbandry training but if you are producing eggs- there are tons of lessons to be learned in preparing eggs for selling, if you have an overstock and are going that route. I love doing business with little homeschool back alley egg sellers!

Some of our favorite field trips have been to beekeepers.  If I had the space, I would raise bees in a heartbeat.  I know a lot of people get nervous about bees and if that is you, I highly recommend you make a trip to learn about beekeeping. I did a field trip for our Girl Scout troop last year and told them that- I don’t know that anyone came away from that still afraid of bees.

The Bee: A Kid’s Guide to Getting Started in Beekeeping is a beginner’s guide to beekeeping for younger children. Written by an 8 year old beekeeper; this book gives some basics to beekeeping in easy to understand terms.

The Bee: A Kid’s Guide to Getting Started in Beekeeping

The Bartlett Bee Whisperer is a Facebook page dedicated to one guy’s extreme love for Bees. We have enjoyed the Texas Beekeepers Association – they love to educate homeschoolers and have a community education  convention every year. 

We have another homeschool friend who enjoyed learning about horses so much that they ended up building their own ranch and offering animal science courses to the community. It’s called Tangled Tails Ranch– They’re all about teaching positive animal reinforcement and equine training. If you homeschool in the North Texas area, you should totally check them out- you can find them on Facebook and Instagram. Learning from people who are passionate about the subject they are teaching is always the best way to learn.

Tangled Tails Ranch
FACEBOOKINSTAGRAM

3. Embrace DIY Projects (17:55)

Engage in DIY projects that promote self-sufficiency and resourcefulness. Build a compost bin, construct raised garden beds, or create a rainwater harvesting system. Download FREE pdf instructions building your own. These projects not only enhance your homesteading efforts but also offer valuable lessons in practical skills, problem-solving, and creativity.

40 Projects for Building Your Backyard Homestead is an excellent resource for homeschool families, offering a hands-on way to teach valuable skills. This guide covers building sheds, feeders, fences, and other backyard structures, with detailed instructions on garden structures, chicken housing, shed construction, solar and wind power, aquaponics, hydroponics, beehives, and basic plumbing and wiring. Designed with simplicity, convenience, and budget in mind, the book provides step-by-step instructions, tools and materials lists, and exploded views, making it accessible even for those with moderate handyman skills. Enhance your sustainable living while teaching your children practical skills and the joy of DIY projects!

40 Projects for Building Your Backyard Homestead

I do love my DIY projects! Often, I do them out of necessity because, as a single homeschool mom, there’s not a lot of extra cash for projects, so you learn to figure things out. We do tons of projects and also a lot of home improvements, like the time my awesome dad and brothers helped build my 30-foot deck. My kids and I have done so many projects over the years, it’s hard to even list them all here. Just last year, I did a bunch of upgrades on our home, including siding repair. Of course, I didn’t call a specialist—we bought some cedar and replaced the old rotting boards ourselves. During that minor renovation, we also did a bunch of electrical work. We made a 6-foot tall trebuchet, my son made a guitar, my daughter built a desk, and we rebuilt a ton of cars. And then, if anything breaks, we figure it out and fix it.

We also recommend learning about our environment. Climate change is real and there are so many things we can learn about and do to reduce our carbon footprint.  Learning about things like conservation and reduce/reuse/recycling are great lessons that can become great life long habits.

I Can Save The Earth is a fantastic resource for your youngest learners, perfect for ages 2-6. Part of the Little Green Books series, it teaches children on eco-friendly practices through engaging storylines about improving the environment, learning about endangered animals, recycling, and more. It features Max the Little Monster, an initially wasteful and excessive character who learns to appreciate and care for the environment after a power outage forces him to explore the world outside. Your child will follow Max’s journey to environmental awareness and discover practical tips on becoming little green monsters themselves, fostering a love for the planet from an early age.

I Can Save The Earth

We got really into recycling and composting when my kids were young and now they are the biggest recycling pros out there.  Composting is awesome, too- you can really reduce your household waste and you don’t need a huge amount of space or a fancy container for this.

Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth is a wonderful and easy-to-understand guide for teaching kids how to compost and protect the planet. Perfect for Earth Day or any day, this fun picture book takes readers through the best ingredients for a compost pile, from apple cores to zinnia heads. With composting becoming more common at home and in school gardens, kids will learn how to start a compost pile and what’s safe to include. This book offers simple, child-friendly tips, making it a great way for families to get involved in helping the environment and developing eco-friendly habits together.

Compost Stew: An A to Z Recipe for the Earth

Visiting a recycling center or garbage dump is a great field trip. We learned so much at one we visited just north of Dallas. You can also visit places like wastewater treatment facilities or wetlands– we did a field trip and workshop at a wetland area and learned so much about pond/march filtration systems that we worked it into every Future City project after that!

Looking for more conservation field trip ideas for your homeschool? Download our free field trip guide and packet! Packed with tons of fantastic field trip ideas, this resource is available in the show notes. Don’t miss out on enriching your homeschooling experience with these great opportunities.

100 Awesome Homeschool Field Trip Ideas
Download our free field trip guide and packet!

4. Explore Nature (20:44)

Take advantage of nearby parks, nature reserves, and hiking trails to explore the natural world. Go on nature walks, identify local flora and fauna, and observe seasonal changes.  I’ve long had a nature and hiking group and it’s really easy to pull together if you don’t want to go at it alone.

We also suggest incorporating nature-based activities into your homeschool curriculum. You can engage in activities like journaling, sketching, or conducting science experiments outdoors. On this podcast, we always talk about fostering a lifelong love of learning, and doing activities like these helps connect your kids with nature. This connection can ignite their sense of wonder and curiosity while also teaching them about environmental stewardship. To learn more about the benefits of outdoor nature time and getting your family outdoors, check out Episode 022. Homeschooling In The Wild

Help your kids discover the wonders of nature with Peterson First Guides! These beginner-friendly books focus on animals, plants, and other natural wonders. With colorful illustrations and simple descriptions, your kids will have fun identifying birds, animals, trees, and more. The ‘Peterson Identification System’ uses arrows and italics to show exactly what to look for, making it easy and enjoyable to explore the great outdoors together. Spark their curiosity and love for nature with these engaging guides:

Peterson First Guides

Get a bird feeder and keep bird journals about who is visiting your feeder.  Visit a store like Wild Birds Unlimited and ask about how to attract different birds to your yard with different foods and seeds. My brother and sister-in law got my mom the Smart Bird Feeder Camera with AI Identify! It is so cool. It can identify over 11,000 bird species, and you can learn all about each one through an app. It’s a fun and exciting way to educate yourself and the kids about wildlife. You also get instant notifications and a live view of the birds visiting your feeder. And the best part? It’s solar-powered so no wiring required.

Smart Bird Feeder Camera with AI Identify

Visit pick your own farms for berries, or apples/peaches, a dairy farm.  Buy your milk or meat from a local purveyor.  Visit your local farmers market weekly. We used to have a “honey man” and the kids loved to go talk to their favorite vendors.  We got tons of information about planting, harvesting, recipes, etc.  

Plant a Butterfly Garden. Learn about the different kinds of host plants that different butterflies require.  We also raised butterflies. Years ago, my kids and I were lucky enough to capture this amazing moment of a butterfly chrysalis bouncing and jumping as it undergoes metamorphosis. It’s learning moments like these that make homeschooling so special! Take a Look Below:

We also loved raising fish, frogs from tadpoles and ladybugs, and having an ant farm.  One of our friends raised some kinds of fish that they then sold to area people.  Some people who have lizards or other reptiles often end up raising the mealworms or crickets that these kinds of pets consume.  That can not only be a learning experience but a time and money saver, too.

5. Integrate Homesteading into Curriculum (32:30)

Seamlessly integrate homesteading activities into your homeschool curriculum across various subjects. For example, use gardening to teach math concepts like measurement and geometry, or incorporate cooking lessons using homegrown produce to explore chemistry and nutrition.       

 We have some great episodes about cooking in the kitchen and budgeting and home care.  The great thing about homeschooling is that you really can find lessons in everything!  Take advantage of everyday tasks, such as meal planning, budgeting, and household chores, as opportunities for practical learning experiences.

Encouraging kids to learn how to cook is an invaluable life skill that extends far beyond the kitchen. Tune in to learn more and
Get your FREE Recipe Templates

By exploring some of these ideas we talked about today, you can turn your suburban home into a homeschool homestead that not only sparks a love of learning but also teaches self-reliance and a deep appreciation for the natural world. Urban homesteading can be such a fun and rewarding way to blend education with sustainable living, right in your own backyard. Whether it’s planting a garden, raising a few chickens, or just spending more time outdoors, there are so many ways to make learning come alive.

This Week’s Free Resource

Homeschool Music: Free Virtual Sheet Music

The Ultimate Online Resource for Homeschool Music: Virtual Sheet Music

As homeschool parents, we strive to provide our children with a well-rounded education that nurtures their intellectual, emotional, and creative growth. Music and art play a vital role in achieving this balance, enhancing cognitive skills, boosting creativity, and offering an expressive outlet. In a recent podcast episode, we talked about the Importance of Incorporating Art and Music into your Homeschool Curriculum. To compliment that episode, we want to introduce you to an awesome resource that can help you teach music education: Virtual Sheet Music:

Get FREE Sheet Music >>

What is Virtual Sheet Music?

Virtual Sheet Music is a comprehensive online platform offering a vast collection of high-quality sheet music and more for various instruments and skill levels. Whether your child is a beginner or an advanced musician, Virtual Sheet Music has something to offer. Here are some highlights of what they offer:

  • Extensive Library: Access thousands of sheet music titles, from classical masterpieces to contemporary hits.
  • Classical Sheet Music Downloads: Discover a wide array of classical sheet music ready to download and print instantly.
  • Traditional, Jazz, and More: Explore traditional music, jazz, and exclusive, pure digital sheet music with accompanying audio files.
  • Interactive Tools: Benefit from interactive sheet music that allows you to listen, play along, and even adjust the tempo.
  • Easy Accessibility: Download and print sheet music instantly, making it convenient for spontaneous practice sessions.
  • Educational Resources: Explore tutorials, practice tips, and other educational materials to enhance your child’s learning experience.

Free Resources to Get You Started

Virtual Sheet Music offers several free resources that you can take advantage of right away. These include:

  • Free Sheet Music: Access a selection of free sheet music to try out before committing to a membership.
  • Free Downloads: Enjoy free downloads of specific pieces to add to your child’s repertoire.
  • Sample Scores: Preview sample scores to ensure they meet your educational needs.

Why Music Matters in Homeschooling

Music education offers numerous benefits for children, including:

  • Enhanced Cognitive Development: Learning music improves memory, attention, and language skills.
  • Emotional Growth: Music provides an emotional outlet and helps children understand and express their feelings.
  • Creativity Boost: Engaging with music fosters creativity and innovation.
  • Discipline and Patience: Learning an instrument teaches perseverance and discipline.

Incorporating music into your homeschool curriculum is essential. However, finding quality music resources can be challenging. This is where Virtual Sheet Music comes in.

piano, music, sheet music-2411320.jpg

Music Categories:

Virtual Sheet Music offers sheet music for a wide range of music categories and instruments, including:

  • Classical
  • Traditional
  • Jazz
  • Pop
  • Rock
  • Movies/TV
  • Christmas
  • Wedding
  • Children’s Music
saxophone, instrument, music-546303.jpg

Instruments:

  • Piano
  • Violin
  • Flute
  • Clarinet
  • Trumpet
  • Guitar
  • Voice
  • Saxophone
  • Cello
  • Viola
  • Drums
  • Harp
  • Bass
  • Trombone
  • Oboe
  • Horn
  • Ukulele
  • Mandolin

How to Incorporate Virtual Sheet Music into Your Homeschool

Integrating Virtual Sheet Music into your homeschool routine is simple and effective. Here are a few tips to get started:

  1. Explore the Library: Spend some time browsing the extensive library with your child to find pieces that interest them.
  2. Set Goals: Establish short-term and long-term musical goals to keep your child motivated and focused.
  3. Create a Practice Schedule: Dedicate regular practice times to develop consistency and discipline.
  4. Use Interactive Tools: Utilize the interactive tools available on the site to enhance your child’s practice sessions.

Music is a powerful tool that can enrich your homeschool experience and contribute significantly to your child’s overall development. By incorporating resources like Virtual Sheet Music, you can provide a comprehensive and enjoyable music education. Visit Virtual Sheet Music today to explore their offerings and take advantage of their free resources.

For more insights into the importance of art and music in homeschooling, don’t miss our podcast episode on this topic at Episode 048. Art and Music in Your Homeschool. Let’s make music an integral part of our children’s education and set them up for a lifetime of success!

066. Transitioning To College: 7 Tips When Classes Start

066. Transitioning To College: 7 Tips When Classes Start

In today’s episode, we will explore the journey of homeschool students as they navigate the transition from the comforts of home to the bustling halls of college. We are going to dive into the unique experiences, challenges, and triumphs faced by homeschooled students as they make the leap into higher education.

Episode 066:

TWO WAYS TO LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE:
1. Click PLAY Button Above ^^ to listen here.
2. OR Listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

Whether your student is beginning on a new adventure out of town or state, or staying at home while attending a local university, transitioning to college marks a pivotal moment in their life.  And it’s a transition just brimming with excitement, nerves, and a profound sense of independence. For many, it’s the first taste of true autonomy, a leap into the unknown where dorm rooms replace childhood bedrooms and newfound freedom dances with homesickness. 

As parents, we share in this emotional rollercoaster. We feel the thrill of watching our children embrace their newfound freedom, but also that bittersweet pang of seeing them leave the nest. This journey is as much about our own growth as it is theirs. We’ve spent years guiding, teaching, and nurturing them, and now we get to see them step into the world with confidence.  Rate My Professors has been an invaluable resource!

This isn’t just an academic milestone; it’s a beautiful, sometimes challenging, adventure into adulthood. Let’s celebrate this moment together, cherishing every new experience and triumph as they shape the remarkable adults our children are becoming. This is what we’ve been training for! From forging their own academic paths to adjusting to traditional classroom settings, join us on this episode as we share insights, tips, and heartfelt advice to help make the transition from homeschooling to college life as smooth and successful as possible.

I definitely felt the impact of it all. I’ve been homeschooling from the very beginning so this was a huge accomplishment for both of us. My daughter was excited to spread her wings and as a single mom, so many people told me from the very beginning that I couldn’t do this and boy did it feel empowering to prove them wrong. She was fully cooked by the time she was a junior. She was ready to move out and that last year was a bit brutal. She was ready to fly, but she still had a year left so in a way it was a relief for both of us when she graduated. I know everybody’s experience is not going to be this, but we both needed a breather from each other. And our relationship that was always very close was a little strained that last year. Glad to say that it is fully recovered and we truly enjoy each other‘s company and we’re both so excited when we get to spend time together. Soiling The Nest

In today’s episode, we will  explore the journey of homeschool students as they navigate the transition from the comforts of home to the bustling halls of college. We are going to dive into the unique experiences, challenges, and triumphs faced by homeschooled students as they make the leap into higher education. 

The Freshman Survival Guide is the best guide to navigating the first year of college that speaks to college students in their own language and offers practical tools that readers need to keep from drinking, sleeping, or skipping their way out of college:

Also, if you want to learn more about homeschool high school and college prep, we have an entire High School Series that outlines everything from creating your 4-year plan to college entrance exams. We also have tons of free resources that will help including Free Editable Transcript Templates:

Moving from homeschooling to college is a big step, but with a little preparation and support, it can be an exciting and rewarding journey. So we’re going to start with 7 key tips to help with this transition. 

1. Familiarize Them with College Expectations

Help your child understand what to expect in terms of workload, deadlines, and class structure. This might involve discussing typical college schedules, grading systems, and academic expectations.

This is where I really felt like we had a competitive edge because of homeschooling.  Because our kids had taken a variety of classes over the years from all kinds of different teachers, they were much better equipped for the different class formats and structures than some of their traditional schooled counterparts.  For a lot of their friends, the only experience with an online class was during covid, and we all know that wasn’t ideal.

We’d definitely recommend having plenty of communication with your child about their schedules and timelines. Even though they are young adults and may already be responsible for managing their communications and assignments, let them know you are there to help if they need it. It is up to them what information they want to share with you. Many college computer systems have a separate portal just for parents that your student can choose to give you access to, which often includes financial information or grades.

2. Develop Study and Time Management Skills

College often requires more independent studying and time management compared to homeschooling. Work together to create a study schedule and explore time management techniques that work best for them. Remember as always, that the system that works best for you, may not be the one for them.  It’s really important that students learn to forge their own path and methods and find what works best for them.

Episode 058 Time management, stress, organization and study skills

This episode was the last in our High School Series, which is 12 episodes long and chock full of info about homeschooling in high school.  This particular episode has a lot of great advice on how to teach those essential executive function skills while still in high school.  And it has several great book recommendations, too!

3. Encourage Socialization

Socializing in college can be intimidating for everyone. Encourage your child to participate in clubs, organizations, and social events to meet new people and build a support network.  This is the hardest part of college especially if you are headed off solo and don’t have a network of friends going already. Most colleges do a freshman orientation week for new entering freshmen to familiarize them with the campus and social activities. Make sure your child goes. It can really help with the anxiety when classes start if they’ve already connected with someone.

This is where I did some legwork to help. And it was a great way to also learn about their campus and town and know what kinds of resources and things were there, so I could offer that info up when needed.  I made a book (and not my idea) with things like an area map, shopping/restaurants, school resources- bus, study, counseling, support groups, clubs and organizations they might be interested in and there are so many!  I often encourage my kids to join all the things and then pare back to the things they really like later. My book also had medical info, insurance card, legal docs, which we will talk about later.

4. Utilize College Resources

Familiarize yourselves with the resources available on campus, such as tutoring services, academic advisors, and counseling centers. Knowing where to turn for help can ease the transition and support academic success. Colleges have so many cool resources!  Even our local community college has a math lab and writing lab and language lab where you can get tutoring.  And bonus, these things are typically free to access, too.

Having a practice space for musicians or other performing arts students is typically offered on campus, too. And you don’t necessarily have to be part of the department.  And after graduation, your college probably has an internship program and job placement program of some sort.  Tapping into your alumni group is smart- even finding out if your local area has one even if your kids went far away.

How to Be a Person shows kids just how easy it is to free themselves from parental nagging and become more dependable — and they’ll like themselves better, too!

We have a whole Texas Ram Colorado State Page and met up before school started for bowling.  I also recommend joining the parent group for your university.  Sometimes they can be a crapshoot like any online forum is but I’ve gotten lots of great info from ours- like local weather, good places to eat or service recommendations from locals, etc.  At my daughter’s school there is also a local mom that will help with things like airport pick up or birthday surprises.  It makes me want to join our local college forum and help other people’s kids out! 

5. Practice Self-Advocacy

This is probably something you’ve been doing all along, but definitely before they head off to college. Teach your child how to advocate for themselves. This is especially important in a college setting. This includes asking questions, speaking up to ask for clarification from their professor when they don’t understand something, and advocating for their needs. This might be for things like an accommodation for a learning difference. Empowering them to become a self-advocate is crucial for their success and growth during their college years but it can be really hard to master! 

 Encourage them to actively engage with professors, advisors, and campus resources to address academic challenges, seek support, and pursue opportunities aligned with their goals.  My kids really appreciate the relationships they’ve built with some of their professors and advisors.  Encourage them to communicate with professors from the get go- mine love sending an intro message at the beginning of the semester, and if they enjoy the class, letting the professor know that later.  My son’s favorite professor led to a second major.  Also, always go to non-mandatory office hour offers.  My kids were often the only kids to do this!

Adulting Life Skills: Navigating Freshman Year and Beyond is like “Life Skills 101” and “College Bound” to create a comprehensive survival guide that promises to equip your future freshman with the tools they need to not just navigate but conquer both the academic challenges and the waves of adulting that college life brings.

I’ve always encouraged my children, beginning in the local community college taking dual enrollment classes, to reach out to their professors and go to their after hour meet ups. My kids are always shocked that they are the only ones there. But I guarantee you, that professor remembers them. Especially when their grade is on the cusp. It always gets bumped up! But it’s not just about the grade—my children genuinely enjoy chatting and getting to know their professors. It’s such a homeschooler thing to do! I mean really, that’s one of the best things about homeschooling is that our kids learn to relate to people of all walks of life. Having our kids out in the real world and engaging in real life experiences with our community has taught them to encourage and not shy away from these kinds of exchanges.

How to Survive & Thrive in College covers so many topics your teen needs including buying textbooks, dealing with weird roommates, mastering your exams, handling stress, preparing for your future, and everything in between.

And it’s important to know that self advocacy fosters a sense of confidence and resilience, reminding them that advocating for themselves is not a sign of weakness but a demonstration of strength and self-awareness. This is important because you’re preparing them not only for academic success but also for lifelong independence and self-empowerment.

Join our Facebook FREEBIES Group for free Instant Download resources from all over the world:

6. Stay Connected

Be sure to keep lines of communication open between you and your child, especially during the first semester of college. Regular check-ins can provide opportunities to address any challenges or concerns that arise. I always love to send care packages. or since my daughter is just an hour away, sometimes I meet her half way for lunch and bring her a little something. 

Some parents find it really important to lay out that expectation beforehand.  I talked with my kids about how often I would communicate with them and my minimum expectations for them- I knew I wanted to hear from them at least once a week, even if it was just a casual funny meme, or proof of life!  I promised I would not bother them incessantly!

This one’s a tough one for me because my daughter loves to fall off the radar. She runs hot and cold. Sometimes I hear from her every single day for a month and then nothing for a month. I probably should’ve established rules early on, so learn from my mistakes! 

The Greatest College Health Guide You Never Knew You Needed teaches your teenager how to manage food, booze, stress, sex, sleep, and exercising after moving out!

We also use Life 360 for the whole family.  While they sometimes were irritated with it, I explained to them that it saved them a ton of communication from me and I made it a point not to question their whereabouts.  Honestly, my youngest uses it to track me more than I use it.  It does give me peace of mind when they are on long drives home from school, and allows me to check if they are in a class before I call them, etc.

Ultimately, you have to know your own child and comfort zone. Everyone has a different parenting style and needs to do what’s right for them and their relationship with this new adult. What’s the old saying? “Parenting young children is physically exhausting” and “Parenting older children is mentally exhausting.”

7. Emphasize Independence and Responsibility

Encourage your child to take ownership of their education and responsibilities. College offers a greater degree of freedom and autonomy, so it’s important for them to develop skills in decision-making, problem-solving, and accountability. I would suggest encouraging them to actively engage with their coursework, to seek out resources and support when needed, and to take initiative in pursuing their passions and interests.  It’s ok to help them with this, but what you really want to do is give them the skills to help themselves figure things out.

Homeschool High School Document & Records Guide
Document and Records Guide will save you from all the confusion as you set your teen up for success. This guide will walk you through step-by-step as you begin to create your own documents and records while homeschooling high school. It includes checklists and easy-to-understand examples guiding you through all your responsibilities as your student’s guidance counselor:

While we want them to be super independent, there also may be some things we want to stay on top of and that they may appreciate us still being in charge of as they turn 18.  As a child heads off to college, establishing power of attorney and other essential legal documents may be important in ensuring their well-being and autonomy, especially in unforeseen circumstances. Power of attorney grants a designated individual the authority to make legal and financial decisions on behalf of the student, should they become incapacitated or unable to act. Additionally, documents such as a healthcare proxy and living will outline their medical preferences and designate someone to make medical decisions on their behalf.

As they become adults, they will now be the ones signing things like HIPAA authorization form allows healthcare providers to share medical information with specified individuals. So if you or they want or need you to remain involved in things like this, these legal safeguards not only provide peace of mind for both them and you, but it also teaches them to navigate complex legal and medical situations with clarity and support, even if they are far from home.

Get 20% off by clicking: Mama Bear Legal

Mama Bear legal docs was an invaluable resource. We did this really quick and easily and inexpensively! This was important to us because we were again coming out of covid and my kids both went to colleges out of state and far away, so I wanted them to be prepared.

Hopefully, we’ve given you some helpful ideas for transitioning to college. By focusing on these key areas, you can support your teenager in making a successful transition and thriving as independent thinkers and lifelong learners. Homeschooled kids bring a unique set of skills and perspectives to the college experience, enriched by their independent learning and diverse backgrounds. While challenges may come up, your child has the resilience and adaptability to do great. As they start this new chapter, let’s celebrate their achievements, support their growth, and appreciate the unique contributions they bring to higher education. 

This Week’s Free Resource

065. History Timelines in Your Homeschool

065. History Timelines

History is a dynamic subject that provides a window into the past, helping us understand the present and shape the future. As homeschoolers, we have the flexibility to explore history in unique and engaging ways, one of which is through creating timelines. When some people think of timelines, they think of a boring list of chronological events, but they can be so much more than that in your homeschool. You can use them as an interactive way to help in comprehension and memory.

In today’s episode, we’re talking about creative methods to make history timelines a fun and enriching part of your homeschool curriculum.

Episode 065:

TWO WAYS TO LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE:
1. Click PLAY Button Above ^^ to listen here.
2. OR Listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

Many homeschoolers, especially those who follow a classical or literature based curriculum use programs that are history-centric and a big part of driving those ideas home is by incorporating a history timeline. So first, let’s define..

What is a history timeline?

A history timeline is a chronological representation of historical events, arranged in sequential order based on their occurrence in time. It serves as a visual tool for organizing and understanding the flow of history, allowing our kids to see the progression of events, developments, and changes over time. History timelines typically include significant dates, events, and sometimes key figures or movements associated with each period. They can cover a wide range of topics, from the Big Bang, to the ancient civilizations to modern times. They may also focus on specific regions, cultures, or themes. 

Timelines can be presented in various formats, including paper-based charts, digital platforms, or physical displays. They may incorporate text, illustrations, photos, maps, or other visual elements to provide context and enhance understanding. You can get really creative with this and we sure have!  We are going to talk about all of these different types of timelines later, including our Book of Centuries and Timeline figures. 

Overall, history timelines are valuable educational resources that help students visualize and comprehend the complexities of the past, and it can really help facilitate a deeper appreciation and analysis of historical events and their significance.

Why should I make a history timeline?

Creating history timelines can offer so many benefits for you child.:

Visual Representation

Timelines provide a visual depiction of historical events, making it easier for students to grasp the sequence of events. It helps them understand their chronology and visualize the connections between different periods or civilizations. This is especially great for those hands-on learners.

Maria’s Hallway Timeline
Organizational Skills

Constructing timelines requires students to organize information in a coherent and structured manner. They learn to identify significant events, determine their relative importance, and arrange them in chronological order, honing their organizational and analytical skills.  Your type A kids really have to be careful!  Don’t take up too much space on one part of the timeline when you have a lot of things to add in.  You may want to plan this out ahead of time.

Critical Thinking

When making a timeline, it’s important to think carefully about which historical events to include. Students need to think critically about each event, understand how it affected things that happened later, and then decide if it’s important enough to be in the timeline.

Research Skills

Creating timelines involves conducting research to gather information about historical events, dates, and figures. Students learn to locate and evaluate primary and secondary sources, enhancing their research skills and fostering a deeper understanding of historical contexts.  We always thought it was interesting that so and so was alive at the same time as this other person.  You’ve seen that meme about Cleopatra being closer age wise to you than the pyramids?

Creativity and Expression

Creating timelines allows students to express their grasp of history creatively. They can jazz up their timelines with drawings, quotes, or their own thoughts, boosting creativity and self-expression. It’s a cool way to blend art and history together!

Retention and Recall

The visual and interactive nature of timelines enhances retention and recall of historical information. By actively engaging with the material and visually representing it, students reinforce their learning and develop stronger memory retention of key concepts and events.

This also really helps when playing my favorite game- Timeline!

Timeline American History Game
Timeline Inventions
Multidisciplinary Learning

When students work on history timelines, they’re actually engaging with a whole range of subjects beyond just history. They’re doing language arts as they write about historical events. They are exploring art through the design and presentation of their timelines. They are incorporating technology to research and create visually appealing displays. And they are even  connecting with social studies to understand the broader context of the events they’re studying. This multidisciplinary approach not only enriches their understanding of history but also helps them develop skills that they can apply across different subjects and even in real-world situations. 

We recently did an episode on unit studies.  Timelines are a great project to do in conjunction with one:

Episode 056: Unit Studies
Collaboration and Communication

You can do this as a group project. When your kids collaborate on timeline projects, they develop essential teamwork and communication skills by working together to research, plan, and create timelines. This cooperative effort fosters their ability to work effectively in groups. Additionally, you can do this with a group of friends or at a homeschool co-op.

Ownership of Learning

When children make a timeline, it helps them to take charge of their learning. They get more interested and involved. It also makes them feel pride when they see their timelines show what they’ve learned about history.

How do I make a timeline?

As we said earlier, there are so many creative Ways to Make Timelines.  There really is no right or wrong way. And you can even change  up as you go.  In one of my houses, I created a border around the top of our room with timeline figures, then later when we moved, we stuck them in a book.

Traditional Paper Timelines

The most common method of creating timelines is using pen and paper. This classic approach will allow your children to practice organization and handwriting skills while gaining a visual understanding of historical events. You can use a long strip of paper or multiple sheets taped together to create a linear timeline. Encourage your child to add illustrations, important dates, and brief descriptions to make the timeline more engaging.

Timeline Walls or Murals

Some homeschoolers transform a wall in their homeschooling space into a timeline mural. I had a friend that used their entire garage – all four walls for their timeline. I used the hallway in my house that leads to the bedrooms and divided it by era. I’m going to put detailed pictures on the website so you can check that out. We put everything on that timeline. Even our dog’s birthday! You can use butcher paper or if you don’t want to devote an entire wall, you can use a large tri-fold poster board. As you study different periods or civilizations, add visual representations directly onto the timeline wall using markers, stickers, or cut-outs. 

I created a timeline figure bundle with 31 pages that includes 372 cut outs. Everything is there through recorded human history from Early Nomads to Modern times. This immersive approach turns your learning environment into a living history exhibit.

We love to use Timeline Figures
Check them out!
Interactive Digital Timelines

In today’s digital age, there are numerous online tools available for creating interactive timelines. Websites like Tiki-Toki, TimelineJS, or Canva offer user-friendly interfaces where students can input historical data, images, and videos to create dynamic timelines. Digital timelines allow for easy editing and sharing, making them ideal for collaborative projects or presentations.

Timeline Books or Journals

For a more personalized and hands-on approach, you may want to consider doing a timeline book. Like Nicole mentioned earlier, she had each one of her children contribute to one book. If your kids get real creative, they may want their own book. Our secular Book of Centuries uses scientific notation rather than religious notation (AD/BC). This notation is preferred in scientific and academic writing. As a secular homeschooler, I was always frustrated with the religious notation, which is what inspired me to create it and it even gives a mini lesson on the different notations and what they mean. Each two-page spread in the book is devoted to one hundred years —a century— of history from 4000 B.C.E. to 2099 C.E.

You could even use a blank notebook or a sketchbook, your kids can design their own timeline pages, you could use timeline figures, they can incorporate drawings, quotes, and personal reflections alongside historical events. Whether you use the book of centuries, or a blank journal, they both are a great hands-on activity and gives a tangible record and keepsake!

Book of Centuries
Check out Book of Centuries!
Multimedia Timelines

Enhance traditional timelines with multimedia elements such as audio recordings, podcasts, or QR codes. Students can research primary sources, interviews, or speeches related to specific historical events and embed them within the timeline. This multimedia approach not only provides deeper insights into historical contexts but also caters to different learning styles and preferences.  Usborne Books and Magic Tree House Books often use internet links.

Thematic Timelines

Rather than focusing solely on chronological order, explore history through thematic timelines. Choose a particular theme or topic, such as women’s rights, inventions, or wars, and create a timeline highlighting key events and figures within that theme. Thematic timelines offer a more nuanced understanding of historical connections and developments.

History timelines serve as invaluable tools for homeschoolers, helping students organize information, identify patterns, and develop a deeper appreciation for the past. By exploring different methods of creating timelines, we can make history come alive in our homeschool curriculum. Whether you use a wall timeline, the book of centuries, interactive digital platforms, or thematic projects, the possibilities are endless. By infusing creativity and enthusiasm into your homeschool approach, you can cultivate a love for learning that will inspire and empower your children for years to come. So, get ready, grab your markers, and let’s go on a journey through time! 

Don’t want to make your own?  Check out the cool timelines from Parthenon Graphics!

Check out all Parthenon Timelines

Workboxes: What Are They and Why Should You Use Them?

064. Workboxes: What Are They and Why Should You Use Them?

Imagine a system that takes the chaos out of homeschooling and replaces it with a sense of structure and excitement. Think about a tool that not only fosters independence and responsibility, but also teaches time management and self-discipline. And think of a learning method that encourages you to be more organized while being super quick and easy to maintain. This may sound too good to be true. But I assure you, this is a method that both of us have used and found to be gamechanging.

If you’re new to homeschooling or just looking for some fresh inspiration in your routine, this is the episode for you. Today, we’re talking about a tool that helped keep every day fun and made our children excited about school: Homeschool Workboxes!

Episode 064:

TWO WAYS TO LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE:
1. Click PLAY Button Above ^^ to listen here.
2. OR Listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

We have done a couple different episodes on organization, like Episode 046. 12 Ways to Balance Your Home and Homeschool and Episode 009. Schedules, Routines & Rhythms. We provided tons of freebies like meal planners and family chore charts, and if you haven’t checked them out, you totally should! But today we are going to talk about a homeschool task management system that can really simplify your weeks and organize your day. And it’s actually really easy!  

We get super excited about this topic because it really was a game changer for both of us. So, what exactly are homeschool workboxes? The workbox system was originally developed in the autism community and then tweaked  by author Sue Patrick  for use in homeschools with kids of all ages and abilities.  She had a popular ebook that worked as a complete guide to the system.  Many of us then altered the system further to fit our life and learning styles.  This was all the rage probably about 10 years ago- and we still recommend this method because of how effective it is.  

Sue Patrick’s Workbox System A User’s Guide

Homeschool workboxes are basically like little treasure chests filled with educational gems, designed to make learning engaging, organized, and fun for both parents and kids. Essentially, they are a method of organizing daily lessons and activities into individual containers or drawers. Each container is labeled with a specific subject or task for that day. 

Think of these workboxes as your child’s personalized learning stations, where they can easily access everything they need for each lesson without you having to constantly rummage through piles of books and materials.  The best part? Workboxes are incredibly flexible and you can tailor them to suit your child’s learning style, their interests, and their current developmental stage. 

Homeschool workboxes aren’t just about organization; they’re also about fostering independence and responsibility in your child’s learning journey. By empowering them to take charge of their own workboxes, you’re teaching valuable life skills like time management, self-discipline, and problem-solving. Plus, it gives them a sense of accomplishment and pride that comes with completing tasks and moving onto the next box. It’s like unlocking a level in a video game, only with real-world knowledge and skills! You may want to consider using work boxes in your homeschool.

five reasons why

1. Organization and Structure

Homeschool workboxes provide a tangible framework for organizing daily lessons and activities. By assigning each subject or task to a specific box or container, you create a structured routine that helps your child stay focused and on track throughout the day. We were able to fill the boxes the night before or before the kids woke up before my brain was overwhelmed with the day so it kept me organized. It also gave me a structure to my day.  I could easily look at our boxes and see where we were in the day and speed us up or slow us down.  And because I also planned out my week on a spreadsheet, I could also quickly repack our bins for the next day in 5 minutes before bed every night.

2. Customization and Flexibility

Workboxes can be tailored to suit your child’s individual learning style, interests, and abilities. Whether you incorporate hands-on activities, multimedia resources, or traditional textbooks, you have the flexibility to design each box according to what works best for your child’s unique needs. Some people use their boxes solely to organize books and written material but there’s really no end to what you can add to it.  You can put games, or flashcards, cds and movies, all kinds of stuff.

3. Promotion of Independence

One of the key benefits of workboxing is that it encourages independence and self-directed learning in your child. By giving them the responsibility to complete tasks and move onto the next box, you empower them to take ownership of their education. Who doesn’t like checking a box?  Or in the case of workboxes, moving a velcro square to your done list. Whether I was nursing, changing the baby or dealing with other household things and my daughter asking me, “what do I do next?”.. I could say check your next workbox. And she would run across the house to the next task. She would beam with pride! And this really helped my kids to develop valuable life skills too such as time management and organization. Can I watch TV?  I don’t know- What box are you on? One of my kids liked to do as many of his independent tasks as possible early in the morning before the rest of us were up.

4. Engagement and Motivation

Workboxing can inject a sense of excitement and motivation into your homeschooling routine. The visual and tactile nature of the boxes, along with the satisfaction of completing tasks and moving through the sequence, can help keep your child engaged and eager to learn. My kids were always so excited to see what was in the next box.

5. Adaptability to Multiple Ages and Subjects

Whether you’re homeschooling multiple children or teaching a variety of subjects, workboxing is a versatile approach that can be adapted to meet the needs of your entire family. You can easily customize the content and difficulty level of each box to accommodate different ages and learning levels, making it an ideal solution for homeschooling households with diverse needs. You can put anything in there- I had two boxes daily that were about tasks- hygiene and household.  I also had boxes that directed the kids to work together, or to help a sibling with something.

There are various types of organizers you can use to create homeschool workboxes, depending on your preference, budget, and available space.

popular Workbox options:

Plastic Storage Drawers

These are perhaps the most commonly used organizers for workboxes. They come in various sizes and configurations, making it easy to customize them to fit your needs. Look for drawers with multiple compartments or adjustable dividers to accommodate different subjects and activities.

10 Drawer Rolling Cart

Clear Shoebox Containers

Clear plastic shoebox containers are an affordable and versatile option for creating workboxes. They’re transparent, allowing your child to see the contents easily, and they come in a uniform size, making them stackable and easy to store.

6qt Clear Shoebox Bins

Desktop Organizers

If you prefer a more compact solution, desktop organizers with multiple compartments can be repurposed as workboxes. You can find organizers with shelves, cubbies, or trays that are perfect for storing books, supplies, and other materials for each subject.

24 Compartment Desktop Organizer

File Crates or Baskets

File crates or baskets with hanging file folders can be used to organize worksheets, assignments, and other paper-based materials for each subject. You can label the folders with the day of the week or subject name to keep everything organized and easily accessible.

Hanging File Organizer

Tackle Boxes

For a creative twist, consider using small tackle box to create portable workboxes.

This box was our Favorite for
Math Manipulatives!

Toolboxes

These are especially handy for hands-on activities or STEM projects that require various tools and supplies and are very durable. You can use the top for additional deskspace and can sometimes find them second-hand at yard sales

Some homeschoolers love to use Heavy Duty Toolboxes like this one that can be moved around and last forever!

Hanging Shoe Organizers

Hanging shoe organizers with pockets can be hung on the back of a door or on a wall to create a space-saving solution for workboxes. Each pocket can be designated for a different subject or activity, keeping everything neatly organized and within reach.

Over the door Organizers save space
Over the door file pockets work great too

Ultimately, the best type of organizer for your homeschool workboxes will depend on your specific needs, preferences, and available space. Feel free to mix and match different types of organizers to create a customized solution that works best for your family. What then about labels and checkboxes?

Great news! I created some free workbox labels that you can download at the bottom of this page. You’re welcome to print and laminate them and Add a velcro tab. Just know that when you’re labeling your workboxes, consider the subjects or activities that are part of your curriculum and your child’s learning goals. For me, workboxing was also a great way to make time for some of the subjects that often got away from us during the week.

Common subjects for workboxes

Math

This box can include math textbooks, workbooks, math manipulatives, and any other materials related to math lessons or activities.

Math Games are perfect in workboxes. Check out our favorites

Language Arts

Include materials such as reading books, grammar workbooks, spelling lists, writing assignments, and language arts games or activities.

Science

Fill this box with science textbooks, experiment supplies, nature guides, worksheets, and any other resources for science lessons or projects.

History/Social Studies

Include history textbooks, maps, timelines, biographies, historical fiction books, and any other materials related to social studies or history topics.

Book of Centuries and Timeline Figures are a favorite in Workboxes!

Book of Centuries

Art & Music

This box can contain art supplies such as crayons, markers, paints, brushes, sketchbooks, and any other materials for creative expression or art lessons. Fill this box with musical instruments, sheet music, music theory books, and any other materials related to music lessons or exploration. So many ideas for art and music in our Episode 048. Music and Art in Your Homeschool

Be sure to download your FREE Songwriter Book AND Music Note Lesson & Composition Book

PE/Fitness

Include equipment for physical activities such as balls, jump ropes, yoga mats, and any other materials for physical education lessons or exercise breaks. I created some fitness dice that you can print on cardstock. These are so fun and our family gets pretty competitive with them.

Foreign Language

Include language textbooks, vocabulary flashcards, language learning apps or software, and any other resources for learning a foreign language. Sometimes we would just watch a Spanish cartoon and then I would just put an index card and write down “watch video”. 

Technology/Computer Science

This box can contain laptops or tablets, coding books or resources, educational software, and any other materials related to technology or computer science lessons.

Electives or Special Interests

Reserve a box for Extracurricular Activities or activities that are tailored to your child’s interests or special talents, such as gardening, cooking, woodworking, or creative writing. This is where I would also stick my more task oriented boxes, too.  We had a morning 5 list and an evening 5. And on my boxes, I made laminated labels that velcroed to the box on one side, and then on the other side I labeled the boxes by number.  On top of our workboxes, each child had a wooden board that they would place those numbers on like a checklist. Check out our FREE Preschool-routine-charts

Remember, you can adjust and customize these labels based on your homeschooling curriculum, your child’s interests and abilities, and any specific goals or priorities you have for that school year. And they don’t have to be laminated, though you know mine are!  I love my laminator! The goal is to create a system that works best for your family and helps facilitate a smooth and engaging homeschooling experience.

Whether you’re a seasoned homeschooling pro or just dipping your toes into the waters, we encourage you to check out homeschool workboxes together. Overall, workboxing offers a holistic approach to homeschooling that promotes organization, independence, engagement, and adaptability, making it a valuable tool for families seeking to create a dynamic and effective learning environment at home.

This Week’s Freebie:

FREE Workbox Tags/Labels

$0.00

Print these free printable workbox labels to help organize your homeschool space! We discuss this and share insights in Episode 064. Workboxes – What Are They and Why You Should Use Them?

FREE Multiplication Wheels

$0.00

13 adorable rainbow multiplication wheels covering numbers 0-12. Use in sheet protectors with a dry erase marker or cut out and laminate and have your child recite one each day for math warm up. Make math fun! We talk about this in Episode 025. How Do You Successfully Teach Math? Are you tired of Math…

063. What is the Best Math Curriculum?

063. What is the Best math Curriculum?

Math can be a subject that invokes fear into the hearts of those new to or considering homeschooling. Math may be a subject that you weren’t so great at or maybe you were math minded but are nervous at the prospect of teaching upper level math. Perhaps you feel like you don’t remember enough math from your youth? Remember that you do not need to be an expert in anything to teach your own children. There are a million programs, classes and scripted curricula out there to help you cover this subject with your student and you know your child best. So what is the best math curriculum? In today’s episode, we’ll be exploring the process of selecting the right choice for your homeschool.

Episode 063:

TWO WAYS TO LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE:
1. Click PLAY Button Above ^^ to listen here.
2. OR Listen on your favorite podcast platform:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

In today’s episode, we’ll be exploring the process of selecting the right choice for your homeschool. From navigating various teaching styles and philosophies to finding a program that aligns with your child’s learning needs and your family’s budget. The journey to finding the perfect fit can be exciting but also daunting. Come along with us as we dive into the ins and outs of picking a homeschool math curriculum. We’ll share tips and insights to help you choose the right fit, setting you up for math success!

On today’s episode we are going to be answering one of the questions that we get most often! What is the best math curriculum? And boy, is this question ever a multi-faceted ask!  So many things can go into this decision.  Do a search on any homeschool group and you’ll find a zillion questions a day with a zillion different responses. 

Selecting the best math curriculum can seem overwhelming, but with careful consideration, you can find the right fit for your child’s needs and your homeschooling style. But keep in mind that there is no perfect homeschool curriculum for any subject (and certainly not a perfect homeschool math program), things that are worth doing are not always easy. And just because things may be hard doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. 

When you start thinking about math for next year or even switching curriculum now, remember that simple consistency is the most valuable thing you can bring to your homeschool math plan.  Try not to be a serial curriculum hopper.  While ditching things that don’t work for you is great, you do want to make sure that you are giving things a solid go before deciding they don’t work for you. And while reviews are important, take them with a grain of salt- I can’t believe how many people I see sometimes give a review of a program based on just the first short book in the series.

It’s going to be much better and more effective for you to pick something and do it imperfectly, little-by-little, day-by-day than for you to keep bouncing from math program to math program searching for the mythical perfect bullet that will solve all your mathematical woes. Also, remember that every homeschool child is unique. Just because a friend or a random stranger on the internet loves a certain program does not mean it will be a good fit for you and your children.

The best option, when possible, is to look through a homeschool math curriculum in person. Ask friends if you can borrow their books. Go to a local bookstore, or a homeschool convention if possible and flip through the pages and chat with the curriculum authors. And whenever possible, always take advantage of free online math trials!

Textbook and Online Math Curriculum

Here are a few of the common, most popular homeschool math curriculums. The list is certainly not complete.  We’ve used some of these math programs personally over the years with various children and at various levels and then some are ones we’ve reviewed or come highly recommended by friends and other homeschool parents. We will have these all linked in our show notes.

Math With Confidencecurriculum

Saxon Math

Math-U-See *not secular

Mr. D Math 

Keys to Math

Life of Fred *not secular

CTC Math

Singapore Math

RightStart Mathematics 

Beast Academy and Art of Problem Solving 

Math Mammoth

Khan Academy

Teaching textbooks 

Horizons 

Denison

Unlock Math

Derek Owens

Key factors to consider

As a homeschooling parent, I know first hand that choosing the right math curriculum can be a daunting task. There are so many options available!  We both learned over the years that it’s so important to find one that meets your child’s needs, aligns with your homeschool style, and fits within your time and money budget.

Here are a few key factors to consider when selecting a homeschool math curriculum:

your child’s learning style

Every child is different. What works for your friend’s child may not work for yours. I’ve had to pivot multiple times with my own children! The textbook that I started out with and worked great for my oldest made my middle child cry. The issue is not that the math book itself is bad… it just was not a good fit for the way their brain worked. And honestly, it’s one of the best benefits of homeschooling. When something doesn’t work, you can switch it up. You’re not married to the curriculum that a public school is using. Taking full advantage of personalizing your choices is such a great part of homeschooling.

Does your child get distracted by lots of color or too much text on the page? Do they like working deliberately through a worksheet or do they need more hand-holding? 

Does your child do best with hands-on material? Is it helpful for them to receive input in multiple ways like visually and auditory? Do you have a child who is asynchronous in their learning?

If you prefer a hands-on approach, a curriculum that includes manipulatives like Math U See and using real-world applications may be a good choice. If you prefer a more traditional approach, you’ll probably want a textbook-based curriculum.

Likewise, some kids need lots of practice problems so a workbook based program may be necessary, where other kids might do better with a program that allows you to move on once you’ve grasped a concept. 

Remember that you don’t have to rigidly stick to a curriculum as written, either.  If your kids don’t need a million review questions or don’t need to handwrite a million numbers, don’t feel bad about skipping over things that are unnecessary. 

time constraints

Do you have multiple children whose needs you’re balancing? Perhaps you need to outsource some of your math lessons with an online program like Mr. D Math or enroll them in an Outschool course.  Or maybe you just need an additional explanation- a supplement like Khan academy is great for viewing another explanation on how to do a problem or a Singapore mental math workbook can be a great way to take a break while learning some new techniques and then returning to a concept that was tricky.

Do you love math? Perhaps you want to be more involved with the daily teaching of your math curriculum. My youngest and I look forward to doing math together every day even in high school. There’s a lot of other things she does independently but likes to do math with me.

 What kind of approach

Some people like to stay in line with the public school system especially when it comes to something like math that builds on its concepts. You can certainly check the scope-and-sequence of any math curriculum and compare it to your state requirements and personal homeschool goals. If you have an older teenager, and they are college bound, you’re going to want to check out our high school series. One of the most important things we talk about is looking at the entrance requirements for each college they are interested in applying to. This may be a factor for older students or especially for students who are specifically going into STEM majors.

scope and sequence

The scope and sequence for most curriculum is going to be quite similar to state standards. It may be more helpful to notice how the math program is structured. For example, a mastery approach to math focuses more deeply on one topic at a time while a spiral approach teaches smaller portions of the material at a time and rotates through them more frequently.

A traditional “just the facts” approach tells the student what to do, gives them the math rules, and then drills them with lots of practice. A math curriculum that focuses on the why will lead the children to discover mathematical concepts for themselves and will help them understand why the tricks and rules work. Our favorite curriculums strike a balance and include elements of all of the above.

What’s your budget?  

We’ve talked many times on our show about budget constraints.  I’m a single mom and so the price of the curriculum is a big factor for me.  But, as we have also talked about many times before,  homeschooling does not need to be expensive.  There are options in every price range and plenty of free or low cost resources out there. I’ve almost always bought my curriculum pre-owned from a friend or on eBay, Facebook marketplace. 

Just be aware that some of the free curricula out there may have a hidden agenda. I see glowing reviews online and in chats for some of the free Bible based curriculum but remember that they are pushing their worldview. And as the curriculum gets more involved as your child gets older, so does the amount of indoctrination especially when it comes to history and social studies. It is our responsibility to have full awareness of what our children are being taught. So please don’t go in blind, and choose a curriculum solely based on the fact that it’s free.

And keep in mind that just because a curriculum is low cost does not mean its low quality.  Not at all.  I do expect to pay something for curricula.  Someone else has put their heart and soul into creating something of value for you and that deserves compensation, but again, there are so many options.  And you can always piece together things yourself.  Many people do that especially in the younger years- you really don’t need a formal curricula for k-3.

Depending on your family’s time and your children’s independence, you may choose to be more hands-off in your homeschool math approach and that’s ok, too! Some people find it works to do math one on one with their youngest while their older children are doing something more independently. For example, we’ve used video instruction from Math-U-See for elementary grades and gradually moved to online self-paced classes from Mr. D Math for high school math and eventually dual enrollment at the local community college.

The realities of your schedule, the demands of multiple children in your homeschool, and the unique needs of your individual students can help you determine if working one-on-one with mom and a textbook or outsourcing utilizing online courses or local resources is the best fit for your family.

And if you’re struggling with indecision, remember the most important thing is that you just pick something, start it, and do a little bit of math every day. If you are in an all out rut, take a break, play math games.  We have a great resource page for that that came out of our “How do you successfully teach math episode 25.”

At the end of the day, an imperfect math curriculum that you do faithfully is going to be better than the mythical perfect curriculum you never start. Nothing is ever going to be perfect for every homeschool family or student. 

We hope you’ve found some insight on choosing a math curriculum today and are feeling empowered to make the right choice for your family. The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but with careful consideration of your child’s learning style, your teaching approach, your budget and the available resources, you can find a curriculum that fosters a love for math and supports their academic growth. Trust your instincts, stay flexible, and most importantly, enjoy the journey of learning alongside your child.

FREE Multiplication Wheels

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13 adorable rainbow multiplication wheels covering numbers 0-12. Use in sheet protectors with a dry erase marker or cut out and laminate and have your child recite one each day for math warm up. Make math fun! We talk about this in Episode 025. How Do You Successfully Teach Math? Are you tired of Math…

062. Teach Black History All Year Long

Teach Black History All Year Long

It’s Black History Month! We love seeing the uplifting celebrations across the country, in our own community, and on our social media feeds. In today’s episode, we want to take it further. Black history is not just a chapter in our collective narrative; it is a continuous thread woven into the fabric of our society. We’re going to be talking about breaking free from the limitations of designated months and exploring the importance of teaching Black history throughout the entire year.

Episode 061:

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Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

Today we’re talking about the significance of incorporating Black history into everyday learning, celebrating the achievements, resilience, and contributions of Black individuals that have shaped our world. Let’s challenge the conventional narrative and commit to a more inclusive and comprehensive approach to education. We want to encourage you to celebrate Black history beyond a confined month and embrace it as an inseparable part of your year-round curriculum.

This is an important conversation that transcends boundaries and will foster a deeper understanding of our shared history. We already know about Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Underground Railroad, and Harriet Tubman, and we’ve all read “To Kill a Mockingbird” but oftentimes history lessons seem to end with those.

As non-Black creators, we do want to make sure that as part of our commitment to incorporating Black History all year long, we aren’t overstepping with our own content.  We want to elevate the work and words and first hand accounts of Black authors, artists, and content creators.  So this episode will be full of links to other sites, resources, and pages. Please go visit them!

Reading

Listed are five Black history resources specifically created for children by Black authors or creators. Click the below image For our Full List of Literature and Beautiful Stories by Age Group:

See the Full List categorized by Age >>

Books: Pre-K – 8th

“Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History” by Vashti Harrison (Women’s Version): Vashti Harrison introduces young readers to 40 trailblazing Black women who made significant contributions throughout history. The book is filled with vibrant illustrations and inspiring stories that empower and educate children.

“Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History” by Vashti Harrison (Men’s Version): Did you know that the father of African cinema was originally a bricklayer? Or that Vogue’s editor-at-large read his first Vogue magazine in his local library? Learn all about the exceptional black men who broke barriers and fought injustice to realise their dreams and make the world a better place.

“The Undefeated” by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson: This is a powerful and poetic look at black Americans, who always remained undefeated in their hearts. If you know a young child, who is having a hard time trying to deal with identity, then this book will help them see that there are many who have struggled with the same issues that they are facing. Struggled and ultimately won. Kwame Alexander as written, a lot of really great books including the crossover and booked – they usually have a sports theme. So if you have a sports enthusiast, check him out. 

“Sulwe” by Lupita Nyong’o: Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o authored “Sulwe,” a beautifully illustrated children’s book that addresses themes of self-esteem and beauty. The story follows a young girl’s journey to embrace her own unique beauty and highlights the importance of self-love.

“I Am Enough” by Grace Byers: This is a picture book that celebrates diversity and self empowerment. This is a beginning story about everything you can be and do because you are different and yet are all the same too. It’s so well done. There are a few lines per page so it’s simple for young children. It really takes important concepts and makes it easy to understand and teaches your kids that they are enough. 

“Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad” by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson: This book tells the true story of Henry Brown, a slave who mailed himself to freedom in a wooden crate. The book, beautifully illustrated by Kadir Nelson, introduces children to an important aspect of Black history in a sensitive and age-appropriate manner.

Books: Teenagers & Young Adults

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jrs. “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” 1963: In this famous open letter written in 1963, MLK talks about people taking a moral responsibility to break unjust laws and take direct action. you are probably familiar with his famous quote “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. He makes a fantastic, reasoned case for the validity of nonviolent, direct action to achieve the objective of bringing those who refused to negotiate to the table. If you’ve never read the letter, or had your children, read it, please do! I love how Dr. King starts off and then also ends with a whole bit about how he usually is “too damn busy” to deal with the haters, but it’s the haters who put him in jail. This letter is so important, and still reads to be so true and so relevant today. It is incredibly powerful and inspiring. Visit The King Center in person and online.

“Stamped from the Beginning” by Ibram X. Kendi: In this award-winning book, Ibram X. Kendi explores the history of racist ideas in America, offering a thought-provoking analysis of how these ideas have shaped the nation’s development. It provides valuable insights into the historical roots of racism. Also, the author of “How to Be an Anti-racist” Dr. Kendi provides insights into what it means to be anti-racist and advocates for actively combating racist ideas and policies.  There’s a remixed JR version of this book by Jason Reynolds that is great!

“The Souls of Black Folk” by W.E.B. Du Bois: Du Bois, a pioneering African American sociologist and historian addresses the experience of Black Americans in the early 20th century. You’re going to learn so much about that time period by reading this book. He discusses issues of race, identity, and equality and his words are really thought-provoking and in many cases, action provoking, because there is so much more that still needs to be done. 

“Hidden Figures” by Margot Lee Shetterly: Telling the true story of the African American women mathematicians who played crucial roles at NASA during the space race. The book sheds light on their contributions to science and challenges the stereotypes of the time. There’s a movie, too!

“Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson: This memoir is a beautifully written exploration of her childhood and coming-of-age as an African American girl. I really enjoyed this one. It was so interesting to see the things that Jacqueline went through growing up and how she handled herself. It’s a beautiful memoir touching on so many important themes like family, race, and even feminism.

Support Black-owned businesses  

In today’s economic landscape, it’s really important to support Black-owned businesses. It’s not just about making a choice; it’s actually a way to make a difference and empower the community. When we spend our money intentionally with Black entrepreneurs, we’re not just boosting their businesses, but we’re also breaking down those long standing barriers that have held them back. It’s like every purchase becomes a small act of activism, driving change in a positive direction.

It’s about more than just transactions; it’s about solidarity, amplifying voices, and fostering inclusivity in our commerce. Supporting Black owned businesses helps celebrate diversity, promote economic equity, and uplift Black businesses as integral pillars of our communities.

Investing in local artisans

Shopping at Black-owned boutiques

Dining at Black-owned restaurants

Black-owned bookstores

There are thousands of bookstores in the US and less than 150 are black owned. We live in North Texas, and if you are in our area, there are 2 Black Owned bookstores that are worth a visit:

The Dock in Fort Worth, is the Largest Black owned full service bookstore. This is the cutest bookshop. The owners are so nice! The vibe is calm and welcoming. They have a mission to inspire, inform, and entertain customers through books and book related events.

Blacklit in Dallas was founded by local educator & diversity/inclusion advocate, Nia-Tayler Clark,  BLACKLIT’s mission is to help close the literacy gap, to increase representation, and to cultivate conversations that bring unity across racial divides.

For the past three years, Blacklit has been home to the first monthly subscription box to exclusively highlight Black authors and entrepreneurs, helping to support, promote, and bring visibility to Black authors and Black-owned businesses. Inside every box, subscribers receive a book a Black author, a shirt, and 3-5 products from Black-owned businesses. So, if you can’t go in person?  Order one of these.

Visit Black museums

Examples: National Museum of African American History & Culture, the Motown Museum in Michigan, The National Civil Rights Museum in person or online:

One of the best things to happen out of Covid was the ability to access so many resources online – museums and virtual tours without ever leaving your home! We created a worldwide virtual museum blog post that has tons of resources. 

Virtual and online resources celebrating diversity:

  • National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC):
    • The NMAAHC, part of the Smithsonian Institution, offers a wealth of resources, including exhibitions, collections, and educational materials. Their website provides access to a vast array of digital resources, making it an excellent online destination for exploring Black history.
  • Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture:
    • Located in New York City, the Schomburg Center is a research library and cultural institution focused on the history and contributions of people of African descent. Their digital collections, exhibitions, and educational programs provide valuable insights into Black history and culture.

Other Learning Resources

  • The HistoryMakers:
    • The HistoryMakers is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and sharing the stories of African Americans who have made significant contributions to various fields. Their digital archive includes interviews, documentaries, and educational resources that showcase the achievements of Black individuals throughout history.
  • National Urban League:
    • The National Urban League has been working towards economic empowerment and social justice for African Americans since 1910. Their website offers reports, publications, and resources addressing various aspects of Black history, civil rights, and social issues.
  • Teaching Tolerance – Black History Month Resources:
    • Teaching Tolerance, a project by the Southern Poverty Law Center, provides a range of educational resources for teachers and parents. Their Black History Month resources include lesson plans, classroom activities, and articles aimed at promoting a more inclusive and accurate understanding of Black history.

Watch movies and documentaries

Here are some great films that explore various aspects of Black history:

“Loving” is a heartfelt drama based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple whose marriage led to a landmark Supreme Court case. Set in 1960s Virginia, the film portrays their courageous fight against state laws banning interracial marriage, ultimately challenging societal norms and paving the way for marriage equality.

“I Am Not Your Negro” is a compelling documentary that brings to life James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript, exploring the lives and assassinations of civil rights leaders Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. Through Baldwin’s powerful words and archival footage, the film provides a thought-provoking examination of race, identity, and America’s ongoing struggle with systemic racism.

“13th” is a gripping documentary that explores the intersection of race, justice, and mass incarceration in the United States, tracing the historical roots of the 13th Amendment’s loophole that perpetuates slavery through the criminal justice system. Through compelling interviews and archival footage, the film exposes the systemic inequalities and highlights the urgent need for criminal justice reform.

“12 Years a Slave”– Directed by Steve McQueen, this powerful film tells the true story of Solomon Northup, a free Black man who was kidnapped and sold into slavery in the 19th century.

“Selma” – Directed by Ava DuVernay, this historical drama chronicles the 1965 Selma to Montgomery voting rights marches led by Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, and other civil rights leaders.

“Malcolm X” – Directed by Spike Lee, this biographical epic stars Denzel Washington as the influential civil rights leader Malcolm X, tracing his transformation from a petty criminal to a powerful advocate for Black empowerment.

“The Color Purple” – based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker, this film follows the life of Celie, an African-American woman in the early 20th century in the rural South, in a world that surrounds her with cruelty. She navigates through oppression, abuse, and eventual empowerment. 

“Glory” – Directed by Edward Zwick, this historical war drama tells the story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, one of the first all-Black regiments in the Union Army during the American Civil War.

“Fruitvale Station” – Directed by Ryan Coogler, this film is based on the true story of Oscar Grant, a young Black man who was fatally shot by a police officer in Oakland, California, on New Year’s Day in 2009.

“Get on the Bus” – Directed by Spike Lee, this drama follows a group of African-American men from Los Angeles who journey to the Million Man March in Washington, D.C., exploring themes of identity, masculinity, and social justice.

“The Butler” – Directed by Lee Daniels, this historical drama follows the life of Cecil Gaines, a Black butler who served in the White House for over three decades, witnessing firsthand the civil rights movement and its impact on American society.

Music and Art

Black music stands as a cornerstone of Black history, weaving a rich tapestry of cultural expression, resilience, and innovation. From the spirituals born out of the brutalities of slavery to the rhythms of jazz that emerged from the streets of New Orleans, and the soulful melodies of Motown that captured the spirit of a generation, Black music has been a powerful vehicle for storytelling and social commentary. 

It’s been a source of joy and solace, a means of protest and empowerment, and a catalyst for social change. Through blues, gospel, hip-hop, and beyond, Black musicians have continually pushed boundaries, shattered stereotypes, and paved the way for future generations, leaving an indelible mark on the global musical landscape. As we celebrate Black History Month, let’s honor the legacy of Black music and its enduring influence on the world stage. There are countless incredible Black musicians to explore across genres, but we are only going to list five whose contributions have been particularly influential:

Musicians
  • Aretha Franklin – Known as the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin’s powerful voice and emotional depth revolutionized popular music. With hits like “Respect,” “Think,” and “Natural Woman,” she became an icon of the civil rights and feminist movements, leaving an indelible mark on soul, R&B, and pop music.
  • Jimi Hendrix – Widely regarded as one of the greatest guitarists of all time, Jimi Hendrix’s innovative approach to rock music reshaped the genre. His electrifying performances and groundbreaking albums like “Are You Experienced” and “Electric Ladyland” continue to inspire generations of musicians.
  • Nina Simone – A classically trained pianist and singer, Nina Simone’s distinctive voice and fearless activism made her a singular figure in music history. Her songs, such as “Feeling Good,” “To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” and “Mississippi Goddam,” encapsulate the struggles and triumphs of the civil rights era.
  • Stevie Wonder – A musical prodigy who signed to Motown at just 11 years old, Stevie Wonder’s unparalleled talent as a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist has earned him widespread acclaim. With timeless hits like “Superstition,” “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” and “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours,” he has shaped the landscape of pop, R&B, and funk music.
  • Beyoncé – As one of the most successful and influential artists of the 21st century, Beyoncé’s impact transcends music. With her powerhouse vocals, electrifying performances, and boundary-pushing artistry, she has redefined the possibilities for Black women in the industry. From her early days with Destiny’s Child to her solo career and groundbreaking visual albums like “Lemonade,” Beyoncé continues to inspire and empower audiences worldwide.
 Artists

Here are five contemporary Black artists who have made significant contributions to the art world:

  • Kehinde Wiley – Renowned for his vibrant and provocative portraits, Kehinde Wiley reimagines historical European paintings by replacing their subjects with contemporary African American figures. His work challenges traditional notions of power, race, and representation, and he gained widespread acclaim for his portrait of Barack Obama, which is part of the National Portrait Gallery’s collection.
  • Kerry James Marshall – Known for his bold and meticulously crafted paintings, Kerry James Marshall explores the Black experience in America, often depicting scenes of everyday life in Black communities. His work confronts issues of race, identity, and cultural heritage while celebrating the beauty and resilience of Black people.
  • Mickalene Thomas – Recognizable for her elaborate and colorful mixed-media portraits, Mickalene Thomas explores themes of femininity, sexuality, and race. Through her collage-style compositions and use of rhinestones and acrylic paint, she challenges conventional notions of beauty and representation, often featuring Black women as the central subjects of her work.
  • Kara Walker – Best known for her silhouette installations, Kara Walker explores the complexities of race, gender, and power in American history. Her provocative and often controversial work confronts viewers with the legacy of slavery and its ongoing impact on contemporary society, prompting critical dialogue about race relations in America.
  • Theaster Gates – A multidisciplinary artist, Theaster Gates works across various mediums, including sculpture, installation, and performance, to explore issues of race, urban renewal, and social justice. Through his innovative art projects and community-based initiatives, he seeks to revitalize neglected neighborhoods and preserve Black culture and heritage.

These artists represent just a few of the many talented Black artists making waves in the contemporary art world, challenging norms, and shaping conversations about race, identity, and representation.

All of the resources cover a range of genres, including history, sociology, literature, and memoir, providing diverse perspectives and voices within Black history. They are valuable contributions to the understanding and celebration of Black experiences and achievements. Hopefully we’ve given you some ideas to incorporate more Black History into your home school all year long.

061. Talk, Read, and Sing Together Everyday

Talk, Read, and Sing Together Everyday

Tips for homeschooling your youngest!

It’s been proven that talking, reading, and singing with your child every day makes them happier and builds cognitive development. In today’s episode, we’re discussing this topic and sharing game-changing tips for homeschooling your youngest kiddos creating a memorable journey filled with laughter, curiosity, and the joy of exploring the world together

Episode 061:

Brand New to Homeschooling?
GETTING START PAGE >>
Kindergarten Page >>
High School Series >>

Show Notes

Homeschooling preschoolers and very young children is a delightful adventure that transforms learning into joyous exploration. The intimate setting of home provides a comfortable and secure environment and helps foster strong family bonds.

With the growing popularity of homeschooling, a lot of families are wanting to start homeschooling earlier and earlier. Some people even know they want to homeschool before they even get pregnant and they are really eager to get started. But getting started doesn’t mean that you have to sit down at a desk with workbooks or a curriculum. The simple act of engaging in daily conversations, reading sessions, and sing-alongs is not only a lot of fun, but it’s really a fundamental and enriching aspect of their early development. 

Talking, reading, and singing together all play a pivotal role in nurturing various aspects of a child’s growth, things like language acquisition, cognitive skills, and emotional well-being. Regular conversations contribute to expanding their vocabulary, and a rich language environment is crucial for development. It strongly influences early language, vocabulary, reading, and math skills, as well as children’s social development. Cuddling up on the couch with a great book and sharing stories fosters a love for reading and also enhances their vocabulary and imagination.

Word Gap

Research shows that some young children are exposed to more language in their homes than other children. This difference in the number of words and back-and-forth conversations to which children are exposed is called the “word gap”. And this word gap is significant! By 3, there is a whopping 30 million word gap between children. That means that the kids at the lower end heard 30 million fewer words. Researchers can already tell a difference between these kids by 18 months so when we get those listeners reaching out, asking what they can do with their very young child, this is definitely the episode for you!  There are lots of ways to improve this word gap, many of which we will talk about today.  Learn more about What Your Preschooler Should Know

When you’re ready to begin academics, where do you start? Learn all about Homeschooling Kindergarten

All children, no matter how young, listen to people talk. It is how they learn new words and begin to understand the world around them. Just talking to your kids throughout your day is such a fantastic way to support their development. And singing together, with its rhythmic and melodic elements, not only enhances language skills, but also makes for happier children and strengthens your bond with them. 

We discussed this beautiful book, The Boys in the Boat. on this episode. There’s even a Younger Reader’s version of The Boys in the Boat.

Here are some creative and educational ideas for encouraging more talking, singing, and reading in your homeschool (9:52):

Conversations during Activities

  • Engage in conversations during everyday activities like cooking, cleaning, or playing. This helps build vocabulary and language skills. Talk with your child as you go about your day: making food, riding in the car, getting ready for bed, any time. 
  • Get down on their level.
  • Tune in and listen to what they have to say. If your toddler says “flower,” you can say, “We saw a flower today.”
  • You can respond to babbling or even silence. If the child does not speak yet, look at what they are doing or pointing to and use these moments to talk with them.
  • Add new vocabulary words to the ones children are already using when talking to them. If he or she says “apple,” you can say, “Do you want an apple? That’s a very healthy food.”
  • Restate children’s language using correct grammar.
  • Don’t be afraid of using adult words.  People love to baby talk to young kids, but if you talk to them in normal language, you’ll be surprised at how much they can articulate.
  • Asking stimulating and developmentally appropriate questions can help boost the language environment.
  • Ask children about what they are doing.
  • Have them connect playing to their own lives. For example, Are they playing with Legos? You can build a little house and put a Lego person inside and ask them what the Lego person is doing inside their house. 
  • Ask them what they are doing or how something works. And you don’t want to stress out your kid with questions, these should be just light exchanges during play. Some people get really intense in their teacher/student roles as most of us have been programmed on what education should be by the public school system. Some parents ask a question and really want their kid to answer, almost like it’s an exam, but remember this is just engagement and conversation. Keep in mind that you are parent and child first and educating them is just an expansion on this. You’ve been teaching them all their life.
  • For children with limited language, giving them a choice can help them respond more easily to questions.
  • For example, “did you use colored pencils or markers to draw that picture?” “Would you like to do this or that activity?”  Ask open ended, not yes or no, questions that encourage them to keep talking.
  • You can gradually increase the complexity of your questions as your child progresses in their development.
  • Children can learn big, new, and interesting words through repeated exposures. 

You know our answer to everything is reading books!  It’s because both of us really value great literature and sharing this with our children. Reading is the cornerstone of all education and higher learning, so it’s essential to start habits when your kids are young. And we are not talking about reading instruction. We’re talking about teaching them how to really enjoy a story. That’s where the love of books begins.

Reading

  • Set aside dedicated time for reading books together. Choose a variety of books with colorful pictures and simple language to high quality books with rich vocabulary.
  • Discuss the story, characters, and encourage them to ask questions.  Have them narrate back to you what a story or book or chapter was about.
  • Pick books and let kids pick books about topics they find interesting. Ask questions that relate to the child’s experiences or interests.
  • Stop in a story and ask children to make predictions about what you think will happen next?
  • Ask them to make up their own stories about those characters. 

Visit the Library

  • If you’re not already plugged into your local library, get familiar with it. Get your child their own card. Make regular trips to the library to expose your child to a variety of books. Library story time has always been one of our favorite activities.  
  • Have kids pick out books they are interested in as well as you make choices off your list.  Mix all those books onto your library shelf at home.

Music

  • Incorporate songs into your daily routine. Singing helps with language development and can make activities more enjoyable. Use simple and repetitive songs to make it easy for them to sing along.
  • Have a “good morning” song and a “putting on your shoes” song, etc.
  • Play music in the car- there are so many kids artists that we devoured as kids- Lori Berkner, Dan Zanes, Justin Roberts (we even saw some of these in concert). Listen to grown up music, too!
  • And I love the Beethoven Wig songs– they are classical music set with lyrics that are pretty catchy and very memorable.  I love being at the symphony and one of my kids says I know the words to this song! I just realized the other day that my washing machine plays a Chopin number when it is done. We also choose to explore the works of famous composers and musicians pretty early. 
This Composer Book Series was a favorite for both of our families:
Getting the Know the World’s Greatest Composers

Musical Instruments

Consider offering your children the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument. And this doesn’t have to be expensive. You can choose to do private lessons, but there’s also a lot of online lessons that are very affordable like on OUTSCHOOL or you can do lessons on DVDs. Instruments like the piano, guitar, violin, or even the recorder are good choices for beginners.  Have a big basket of musical instruments in your house.  You’ll be surprised at how popular these toys are!

Accordion with 10 Keys Button Accordion
Natural Wooden Percussion
Instruments Musical Toys
Lap Harp
Kid’s Toy Violin with 4 Adjustable Strings and Bow
Click N’ Play Toy Trumpet and Toy Saxophone Set for Kids – Create Real Music

Singing

Singing can be a wonderful way to bring music into your home. Encourage your children to sing along with their favorite songs or learn new songs. Singing helps develop pitch, rhythm, and language skills. You can incorporate singing into your daily routines, such as singing a “Good Morning” song or singing during chores. Singing can also help teach reading.

Wee Sing Nursery Rhymes and Lullabies

Music Classes

We took a couple classes when the kids were really little- Kindermusik and then Music Together.  They are super fun mommy and me classes that really help introduce kids to music.  I mostly took them for my toddler but my baby liked them so much- we did these for a long time.

Karaoke

Karaoke is not only a favorite activity, it helped my kids learn how to read.. Put a karaoke song on YouTube, give them a microphone and the reading instruction is done for the day!

One of the ways I taught my kids how to read is with Karaoke!

Karaoke Microphone

Rhyming Games

  • Play rhyming games to enhance phonological awareness. Encourage them to come up with words that rhyme with everyday objects or create silly rhymes together.
  • This is a great way to encourage older siblings to play or teach younger siblings.  One of my kids’ assignments was to do finger play with their toddler sister when they were little.
  • Nursery Rhymes are a great way to encourage speech and vocabulary and memorization work.

Letter and Number Fun

  • Introduce letters and numbers through playful activities. Use alphabet and number magnets, sing counting songs, or create simple crafts related to specific letters or numbers.
  • Letter of the day or the week is a fun way to do this and great for preschoolers just starting to learn to recognize letters and read.
Magnetic Letters and Numbers

Nature Talks

  • Explore nature together. Discuss the different colors, shapes, and textures you find. This not only encourages conversation but also fosters an appreciation for the world around them.
  • Have some field guides and learn how to identify different animals, birds, plants or trees.
  • Some of our best talks have been on walks, too.  Sometimes it is easier to talk side by side than face to face.
Kids Explorer Kit with Safari Vest & Hat and more!

Imaginary Play

8 Pack of Fabric Hand puppets with movable mouth and hands. Puppets are so much fun and we love this diverse pack that comes in variety of skin colors. 

Remember to adapt these activities based on your child’s interests and developmental stage. The key is to make learning enjoyable and foster a positive attitude toward language and literacy. The daily ritual of talking, reading, and singing creates a supportive and stimulating environment that lays a strong foundation for a child’s lifelong learning journey, fostering curiosity, creativity, and a lifelong love for learning. Being able to tailor activities to a child’s unique interests and pace of development is so great and having the freedom and flexibility to choose engaging and interactive lessons turns every day into an opportunity for discovery and growth. From hands-on experiments that spark curiosity to creative arts and crafts projects that unleash imagination, homeschooling fosters a love for learning that goes beyond textbooks.

This Week’s Freebie:


Download your Free Nursery Rhyme Posters

Black History & Stories in Your Homeschool Pre-K-12th

Black History & Stories Prek-12th

Learn about Achievements and History of Black Americans by snuggling up with some great books!
PreK-12th+

Encourage your new reader to REVIEW the Books they read by downloading our FREE REVIEW and READING LOG SHEET (pdf). Also, Celebrate the life and legacy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with these Easy NO-PREP MLK, Jr. Activity Ideas. Learn more about Teaching Black History All Year Long on Episode 062.

Ages 4-9

Ticktock Banneker’s Clock by Shana Keller

This is a gorgeously illustrated biography of colonial era math and science expert Benjamin Banneker. He was born free at a time in America when most African Americans were slaves. Inspired by a pocket watch he had seen, he built a strike clock based on his own drawings and using a pocket-knife. But even when he was born in Maryland in 1731, he was already an extraordinary person for that time period. He was born free at a time in America when most African Americans were slaves. Though he only briefly attended school and was largely self-taught, at a young age Benjamin displayed a keen aptitude for mathematics and science. Inspired by a pocket watch he had seen, at the age of 22 he built a strike clock based on his own drawings and using a pocket-knife. Ages 6-9

Ticktock Banneker’s Clock is a perfect book for your little engineers. Throughout his life, Benjamin Banneker was known and admired for his work in science, mathematics, and astronomy.

Goin’ Someplace Special by Patricia C. McKissack

There’s a place in this 1950s southern town where all are welcome, no matter what their skin color…and ’Tricia Ann knows exactly how to get there. To her, it’s someplace special and she’s bursting to go by herself. But when she catches the bus heading downtown, unlike the white passengers, she must sit in the back behind the Jim Crow sign and wonder why life’s so unfair.
Still, for each hurtful sign seen and painful comment heard, there’s a friend around the corner reminding ’Tricia Ann that she’s not alone. And her grandmother’s words—“You are somebody, a human being—no better, no worse than anybody else in this world”—echo in her head, lifting her spirits and pushing her forward. Ages 4-8

Goin Someplace Special is a beautiful story and illustrations. It sparked a good discussion about inner strength and personality and also about segregation.

Brick by Brick by Charles R. Smith Jr.

The home of the United States president was built by many hands, including those of slaves, who undertook this amazing achievement long before there were machines to do those same jobs.

Stirring and emotional, Floyd Cooper’s stunning illustrations bring to life the faces of those who endured hard, brutal work when the profit of their labor was paid to the master, not the slave. The fact that many were able to purchase their freedom after earning money from learning a trade speaks to the strength of those individuals. They created this iconic emblem of America, brick by brick. Ages 4-8

Brick by Brick is a compelling true story behind the building of the White House, a powerful part of history rarely taught.

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine

Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday — his first day of freedom. Ages 6-9

Henry’s Freedom Box is a true story telling the tale of the pain of growing up as a slave.

More Books for Young Children (ages 4-9):

Uncle Jed’s Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell
Sit-In How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins by Carole Boston Weatherford
All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, Winifred Conkling
Follow The Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter
A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams
The ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez
Brown Boy Brown Boy What Can You Be? by Ameshia Arthur
Skin Like Mine by LaTashia Perry
Moses When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford
The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson
Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Doreen Rappaport
The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
White Socks Only by Evelyn Coleman Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson
The Juneteenth Story: Celebrating the End of Slavery in the United States by Alliah L. Agostini
Great Black Heros Series:
> 5 Notable Black Inventors
> 5 Bold Black Freedom Fighters
> 5 Brilliant Black Scientists

Download your FREE Reading Book Planner! Includes Book Wish List, Reading List, Book Review, Favorite Quotes, and Summary.

Ages 10-14

The Journey of York: The Unsung Hero of the Lewis and
Clark Expedition by Hasan Davis

Thomas Jefferson’s Corps of Discovery included Captains Lewis and Clark and a crew of 28 men to chart a route from St. Louis to the Pacific Ocean. All the crew but one volunteered for the mission. York, the enslaved man taken on the journey, did not choose to go. Slaves did not have choices. York’s contributions to the expedition, however, were invaluable. The captains came to rely on York’s judgement, determination, and peacemaking role with the American Indian nations they encountered. But as York’s independence and status rose on the journey, the question remained what status he would carry once the expedition was over. This is his story. Ages 10+

The Journey of York was written in the style of journal entries as penned by York, a real person who was an enslaved individual accompanying the Lewis and Clark expedition.

BTDT Homeschool was created with a heartfelt mission: to empower and give back to the secular homeschool community.

Through our informative podcasts, blog posts, daily inspiration, and a wide range of free printable tools, we aim to empower you on your homeschooling journey.

New to Homeschooling>>>

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We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball

This is the story of gifted athletes and determined owners, racial discrimination, and international sportsmanship, of fortunes won and lost; of triumphs and defeats on and off the field. It is a perfect mirror for the social and political history of black America in the first half of the twentieth century. But most of all, the story of the Negro Leagues is about hundreds of unsung heroes who overcame segregation, hatred, terrible conditions, and low pay to do one thing they loved more than anything else in the world: play ball. Ages 8-12

We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball is written in an inviting first-person voice. Kadir Nelson shares the engaging story of Negro League baseball from its beginnings in the 1920s through its evolution, until after Jackie Robinson crossed over to the majors in 1947.

More Books for Middle Children (ages 10-14):

Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
Facing Frederick: The Life of Frederick Douglass, a Monumental American Man by Tonya Bolden
How to Build A Museum: Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture by Tony Bolden
March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin
The Gold Cadillac by Mildred Taylor
The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander
Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
Who Was Series:
> Maya Angelou
> Martin Luther King, Jr.
> Lois Armstrong
> George Washington Carver
> Sojourner Truth
> Harriet Tubman
> Jackie Robinson
> Muhammad Ali
> Nelson Mandela
> Jesse Owens
> Rosa Parks
> Roberto Clemente
> Barack Obama
> Michelle Obama
> Frederick Douglass

Ages 15-18+

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr. Ages 15+

The Hate U Give is told from the point of view of Star Carter, a 16 year old black girl who is trying to live in two different worlds: one being the all black crime-ridden neighborhood where she lives and grew up in — and the other being the predominately white upper middle-class high school to which her parents send her and her two brothers.

Becoming by Michelle Obama

In a life filled with meaning and accomplishment, Michelle Obama has emerged as one of the most iconic and compelling women of our era. As First Lady of the United States of America—the first African American to serve in that role—she helped create the most welcoming and inclusive White House in history, while also establishing herself as a powerful advocate for women and girls in the U.S. and around the world, dramatically changing the ways that families pursue healthier and more active lives, and standing with her husband as he led America through some of its most harrowing moments. Along the way, she showed us a few dance moves, crushed Carpool Karaoke, and raised two down-to-earth daughters under an unforgiving media glare. Ages 15+

Becoming is the story of Michelle Obama’s life from the time she was a young girl growing up on the Southside of Chicago as part of a poor black family.

More Books for High School and beyond (ages 15-18+):

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Home Going by Yaa Gyasi
The Color Purple by Alice Walker
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly
Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass
Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northrup Roots by Alex Haley

060. 20 Fun Activities to Improve Your Student’s Writing

20 Fun Activities to Improve Your Student’s Writing

Do your students grumble when it’s time to practice writing? Is getting them to write an essay painful for both of you? Maybe it’s time to try some fun writing activities instead!

Episode 060:

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Show Notes

Over the years, we’ve tried countless writing programs and curricula in a constant effort to keep writing fun and interesting. While we’ve had success stories with a few programs, we found one of the best ways to keep kids engaged with writing is to integrate a fun activity alongside our regular curriculum. When they’re having fun, they want to write more, which helps them develop stronger creative writing skills and become better writers. In today’s episode, we have some great ideas and activities to make writing fun for your kids.

Writing is a skill that can be challenging for some kids. It encompasses the intricate understanding of grammar and vocabulary. As homeschooling parents guiding our children, we recognize that nurturing effective writing skills is crucial for their future endeavors in college and the workforce. While the task may seem time-consuming and taxing, you have the ability to not only teach these skills to your children but also cultivate a love for writing in a gentle manner.

We also want to add that this is different from just handwriting.  We often see posts or questions from people about writing (especially when it comes to young kids) and we always like to clarify first- do you mean the physical act of bringing pencil to paper or are you talking about foundational composition, sentence structure, detailing thoughts?  These are two very different age appropriate things.

It is very normal for young children (especially boys) to be resistant or struggle with the act of handwriting, and it’s also not really age appropriate to expect a lot of writing out of a 6 year old. I, personally, don’t do a ton of writing work outside of handwriting with under 10s.  This can be a really frustrating subject to force when a little time and maturity will often make this a much easier endeavor.

We talked about this in Episode 28 “How to keep learning fun.”  If you are struggling with the physical aspect of writing, you want to make sure to rule out an actual physical limitation to writing.  Visual tracking and other learning differences can also be a factor. If you feel like there might be some underlying issues, we have an entire page and episode devoted to learning differences. 021. How Do You Homeschool a Child with a Learning Difference?

 I did take my son to an occupational therapist when he was little because he complained about how much writing hurt his hands.  She gave us some exercises and different kinds of pencil holders and grips.  

These Pencil Grips are fantastic to teach little hands

But today we are really going to be talking about foundational writing.  Writing is a complex process that requires the integration of multiple skills, many of which are executive functioning skills.  Writing involves having to visualize ideas in your mind, so that you can manipulate your thoughts into structured sentences that make sense.  You need to search your brain for the proper sounds that make up letters and words and ideas.  And then transpose those letters on paper by hand.

Important Points to Remember When Teaching Writing:

When working to improve your child’s writing skills, there are some key things to keep in mind:

Be patient

It’s going to take time for your child to develop writing skills. Just like with anything else, the more practice they get, the better they’ll become at it. Learn your child’s limits and know when to push and when to walk away and come back to something later.

It doesn’t seem like it, but sometimes walking away and giving something tricky a rest is all it takes for a skill to finally take root.  Don’t be afraid to do this!  

Encourage effort

It’s important to praise your child’s efforts, even if the writing isn’t perfect. This will help to build confidence and motivation. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Some of the best learning about writing comes in the corrections and while going over their work positively.

Make it fun

If your child is seeing writing as a chore, it’s going to be a lot harder to get them to stick with it. Find ways to make it fun – we have a great list of ideas we’re about to get to!

Be a role model

Show your child that writing is important to you by incorporating it into your everyday life. This will help them to see the value in practicing writing on a daily basis. We will talk more about this but journaling is something I really love to do.

Show interest

It’s important for your child to see that you are interested in what they write. Don’t just focus on how good their writing is or the mistakes they made, but instead, talk to them about the ideas they’re exploring and why you think they’re important. 

I see a lot of parents really wanting to farm this aspect of writing out, and that’s fine if that’s what you want to do, but you really can and should consider doing this yourself.   It really can help with your relationship when your child knows you are interested in what they have to say.

Whether you are working on penmanship or crafting stories and paragraphs, it’s important to remember that your relationship comes first. We are lucky that we are in the unique position that we are with our children daily and have the ability to influence them. The words we choose with our kids can make or break their spirits. When we encourage our kids and give them our undivided attention, their confidence is going to grow.

20 Fun Writing Activities (9:50)

Engaging our young learners in writing can be a fun and collaborative experience. Let’s explore various activities that transform writing into an exciting venture, fostering not only proficiency but also their sense of accomplishment:

1. Story Chains:

There are many ways that two or more people can work together to write a short story. Write down a prompt and have your child contribute to the story in a set time (1-2 minutes). Have them pass the paper back to you or a sibling(s) and then back to you. The objective is to create a coherent story through teamwork, making writing a shared adventure. This is a game we like to do in scouting around a campfire, too.  This is a great activity to do orally.

2. Create Personal Journals:

I mentioned this earlier, that I love to journal. Provide your child with journals and colored pens, inspiring them to express themselves freely. Prompt them to write about their daily experiences, favorite movies, or hobbies. This personal reflection not only enhances writing skills but also fosters a sense of self-expression.


One Question A Day is perfect for children aged 9-12. This fun diary helps kids to get to know themselves a little better. Full of both silly and serious writing prompts in the form of questions, this journal will become a keepsake for years to come! Each day, your young writer will fill out the journal by answering a new kid-friendly question. The diary is undated, so it can be started on any day of the year! The goal of this journal is for children to become comfortable with expressing themselves creatively through writing, and to have fun along the way! Start sharing your thoughts and feelings by journaling, and get on the path to self-discovery!

3. Index Card Stories:

Utilize index cards as an alternative to traditional writing. Ask your children to share funny stories on index cards. You can even make this a regular group activity with friends or homeschool co-op. This type of interactive approach keeps the writing process dynamic and enjoyable.

Lined Index Note Cards with Rings

4. Story Completion with Templates:

Story Cubes are so fun! A game of limitless imagination and infinite stories! Combine items, characters, places and animals to create and share unique tales! Story Cubes are perfect for telling stories but also fantastic for WRITING stories! 

Design story templates with pictures and scattered words throughout. Challenge your children to use these elements to craft their own unique stories. This creative exercise not only stimulates imagination but can also showcase the surprising depth of your children’s storytelling abilities. Story Cubes are a fun way to get creative this way too.

5. Letters

Have your children write heartfelt letters to extended family, friends or pen pals. The act of exchanging these letters fosters camaraderie and provides a meaningful context for practicing writing skills. You can also work on formal letter writing.  That’s always a good skill to have.

Postcrossing is a great way for your kids to write to communicate with people from all over the world!

6. Retelling Favorite Stories

Encourage your children to write about stories that have left an impact on them, be it real-life experiences or tales from books and movies. This activity enhances descriptive writing skills and allows for the exploration of different narrative styles.

7. Word Challenge

You can also enhance their vocabulary with creative writing by presenting a recently taught word as a challenge. Ask your kids to construct sentences using the word and then exchange sentences to craft unique stories. This playful approach reinforces language skills in a fun and engaging manner.  You can use vocabulary lists from your curriculum or things like word of the day calendars.

8. Birthday Wishes and thank you notes

Have your child create and write a birthday card for a special friend. This quick and heartwarming exercise seamlessly integrates into your lessons while promoting a positive writing culture. Did they recently have a birthday or receive a holiday gift? Have them write a letter of gratitude thanking them for the gift. These Card Making Kits are fantastic!

Card Making Kit for Kids

9. Reviews

Have your child go on Yelp and write a review for their favorite (or least favorite) restaurant. Do they love a new purchase they recently got from Amazon? Have them write their own personal review. Funny Review of the Bic Pen for Her.

10. Blog

Use technology to your advantage. What does your child love? Do they have a hobby or love legos? Help them create a Free blog to write about their passion. 

11. Image Prompt

A picture is worth a thousand words, right? Why not try photo writing prompts? This is a fun story writing activity. It’s simple and can be pulled off with almost no prep time. You’ll want to choose an image you want to display then set a timer. Have everyone (even you) write a story inspired by the picture for fifteen minutes. No planning for this one; this time everyone is writing by the seat of their pants. When the timer ends, stop writing and read each other’s story.

We’ve talked about programs like StoryStarters before.  This is a book with a series of story beginnings with illustrations and the student then finishes the story. 

12. Writing Club

Join a creative writing club. If you can’t find one, create your own homeschool writing club. Your child can interact with other young writers, share their work, and receive constructive feedback. This fosters a sense of community and motivation.

13. Comic Creation

Encourage your child to create their own comics. This involves both writing dialogue and using visual storytelling. It’s a great way to combine writing and art while fostering creativity. There are even these really cool blank comic books that you can use. 

Blank Comic Books

14. Outdoor Writing Adventures

Take writing outdoors. Whether it’s at the park, in the backyard, or during a nature walk, being in a different environment can inspire new ideas and perspectives for writing. This Hiking Journal is sure to inspire your kiddo!

15. Interviewing

Have your child interview family members or friends. Have them write out their own questions, conduct interviews, and then turn the responses into a written piece. This can really improve communication and writing skills.

16. Newsletter

Have your child create a monthly newsletter for family and friends. They can share updates, stories, or even jokes. This not only improves writing skills but also encourages regular writing practice. One of our homeschool groups does this as a group and it’s all child led.

17. Create Mad Libs

If your child has never played Mad Libs, you will first need to explain this writing game to them and maybe have them do a practice round to get used to the concept. Then have them prepare the story. They can either create it from scratch or use an existing text. For example, they might copy out the first paragraph or two of a book. Have them write it on lined paper, double spaced. Next, they can choose some words to remove from the story. Once they’ve erased the words they want to remove, they should draw a line for the blank word and write a hint under the line to indicate what kind of word is needed. 

It’s helpful if they have an understanding of nouns, verbs, adjectives, and adverbs. If they don’t, this is a great time to introduce these concepts. I’ve yet to meet a kid who doesn’t love Mad Libs. They’re such a fun way to approach word choice and sentence structure. Kids get a kick out of making up a really silly story while subtly learning the differences between the various types of words. 

Best of Mad Libs

18. Create a Menu or Recipe

Menu and Recipe writing is a completely different type of writing, which is a bit more straightforward which some students struggling to get creative might enjoy. Students can come up with either genuine menus or recipes that they would love to eat or silly ones! 

Recipe Cards are great for writing!

19. Whiteboard or Chalkboard

It’s important for kids to understand that writing is an integral part of our everyday lives.They need to experience that writing is a great way to communicate with others. One way to help kids see the value of writing is to use a whiteboard or chalkboard in your home for family communications. 

We do this with Wet Erase Markers on windows (so much better than dry erase markers!). I have huge windows next to our front door which is also our homeschool room. And I’ve often used them as boards. I remember I came up with this idea to use these windows when we were doing biology and learning classification and I charted all the kingdoms and the kids would love to come in with markers and write examples of species in their own handwriting. The windows were covered! 

You also can write notes to each other, make grocery lists, write your day’s agenda, or tell a joke. This is also a great way to get kids involved in the family’s daily life and routines. And you don’t have to use a window, you can just use a dry erase board. Be prepared for your young comedians to write “poop” or “fart” a lot.

Magnetic Calendar White Board

20. Reading

Read together every day. One of the best ways to improve writing skills doesn’t involve writing at all! Reading is a critical part of writing development, as it helps to expand vocabulary, improve grammar, and increase overall language skills. Make reading a daily routine that you do no matter what. You can take turns reading aloud, or let your child read to you. Either way, make sure to discuss what you’re reading as you go along. Ask questions, point out new words, and make connections to other things you’ve read or experienced.

Reading should be enjoyable, so try to find books that your child will be interested in. If necessary, start with simpler books and work your way up to more challenging ones. The more your child reads, the better he or she will become at understanding how language works, and the more he or she will be inspired to write.

We have a couple different episodes where we have our favorite books for various ages – Books for New Readers, favorite Middle School Books, and we even have Favorite Books Every Homeschooler Should Read!  

All of these writing activities we listed are designed to make the learning process enjoyable, easy, and captivating for your children. Hopefully you find something helpful here today. Embrace the opportunity you have to guide your kids towards becoming not only proficient writers but also finding joy in expressing themselves through words!

This Week’s Freebie:


Download your Free Creative Writing Image Prompts and Templates
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