BTDT Podcasts

Been There Done That Homeschool Podcast is an all inclusive space. Bring your sense of humor while we laugh (and sometimes cry) as we tell our stories and help you through your own homeschool adventure!

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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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?
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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

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:

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

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

059. Family Favorite Board Games

Favorite Family Games

We talk all the time about how much both our families have loved board games over the years. From the suspenseful roll of the dice to the cunning maneuvers and friendly banter, board games create an environment where families can connect and create cherished memories. We will be kicking off the year playing games with our families and today we are going to share 25 of our all time favorite family games. From your youngest to your oldest, we’re sharing games that everyone in your family will love. 

Episode 059:

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

Board games have long been a beloved pastime for families around the world. The allure of board games lies not only in the thrill of competition but also in the shared moments of laughter and bonding that naturally happens when families play together.

Whether it’s the joy of victory or the camaraderie of shared defeat, board games serve as a catalyst for fun-filled family moments, fostering communication, problem-solving skills, and endless amusement for everyone involved. Choosing the top 25 favorite board games for homeschool families was really hard!  We both really love board games and have both been part of a board game club for years where we met every week at a coffee shop or someone’s house while we played every board game imaginable! And choices can be totally subjective, as preferences can vary based on your kid’s interests, their ages, and what learning goals you have.

 Sometimes you want games that sneak in a little education for everyone.  We did another episode about our favorite math games, for instance.  And for years, I carried Story Cubes and Bananagrams around in my purse because these were easy language arts games to bust out when we were at restaurants or waiting at appointments.

Call me the Board Game Grinch if you must, but I believe life’s too short for tedious games that make you want to gouge out your eyeballs. If you enjoy such games, you have more patience than I do, and I respect that. However, playing a game with your child while gritting your teeth doesn’t benefit anyone. When you genuinely have fun, your kids notice and enjoy the game more, and if you’re bored, they’ll pick up on that as well. We all want to have fun – not just our kids! So we’ve put together this list of board games and card games that are favorites for us and super popular with homeschooling families for their educational value, varied ages, and entertainment.

Let’s start with some classics!  There are several games that have stood the test of time and are widely regarded as classics due to their enduring popularity, entertainment value, and ability to bring families together.  (6:08)

1. Monopoly

Monopoly is a property trading game that involves strategy, negotiation, and financial management. This is a game that I am not allowed to play at my house.  If you aren’t prepared to lose all your friends and family in a game of monopoly, you aren’t playing hard enough.

2. Clue

Clue is a deduction game where players solve a murder mystery by gathering clues and making educated guesses. I love this simple detective game. The randomness of the clues does change the game play up enough to make it replayable and it’s fun for all ages. It’s light on strategy while still being challenging. Maybe some people think that murder should not be in a kids game, but I can tell you that children learn about these things even if you don’t teach them about it. Clue is actually a great structured way to teach them that crime and murder are wrong and that there is a detective process for catching the culprits. A bonus is that after playing the game you can watch the movie.

3. Chess and Checkers

Chess is a strategic board game that involves planning, foresight, and tactics using different pieces with distinct movements.  Checkers is a classic strategy game where players aim to capture their opponent’s pieces by diagonal movement on the board.

4. Uno

Uno has been the go-to card game of choice for families and friends around the world for 50 years. This  fast-paced card game where players match colors or numbers while strategically using action cards to disrupt opponents is a favorite whether you’re playing with your grandma or your preschooler and anyone in between. 

5. Sorry! and Parcheesi

Sorry! and Parcheesi are both games of luck and strategy where players race to move their pieces around the board and send opponents’ pieces back to the start.

6. Risk

Risk is a game of global domination involving strategy, negotiation, and conquest. We have a collectors version that we found dirt cheap at a garage sale. My kids were obsessed with this game for years. Our version is a vintage version and some of the countries no longer exist, and it really makes for great topics of conversation. My kids learn geography and history at the same time!

7. Apples to Apples

Apples to Apples is a fun, family-friendly party game involving word comparisons and creative thinking. 

8. Yahtzee

Yahtzee is a dice rolling game that involves scoring points by rolling specific combinations. We love this classic game and it’s perfect for all ages. Young ones learn simple math and older ones get really competitive.

9. Scrabble and Boggle

Scrabble and Boggle Scrabble: A word game that challenges players to create words using letter tiles and strategic placement on the board. Boggle – A word search game using a grid of lettered dice where players find words within a limited time. Boggle Jr. is a favorite that helped me teach my oldest how to read and Scrabble Jr. is also a favorite for learning letter and sound recognition!

10. Connect Four and Jenga

Connect Four and Jenga are both popular tabletop games- you find these a lot in restaurants. Connect 4: A two-player game where opponents aim to create a row of four colored discs in a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal line. Jenga – A tower-building game where players take turns removing wooden blocks without causing the tower to collapse. 

Waterproof Cards: You also can’t go wrong with just a simple deck of cards. I always keep a deck of cards in my car and it’s simple entertainment no matter where we are. Games like hearts, spades, poker, spoons, GO FIsh- there’s a million things you can do with a deck of cards. These waterproof ones are perfect for kids and clean easily. I’ve had the same deck for years!

11. Catan (formerly The Settlers of Catan)

Catan is a cross between Monopoly and Risk. The directions were long and my initial thought before playing was too hard. Once I played, it really is easy to play and I love that you can employ different strategies every time. It teaches your kids resource management and strategy. I also love the Catan Expansion Packs, too. 

12. Ticket to Ride

Ticket to Ride helps with geography and strategy. There are different versions- American, European, etc.  Ticket to Ride Junior version is fantastic because it takes 30 minutes to play.

13. Pandemic

Pandemic is one of the most popular modern cooperative games and love Cooperative Board Games. We’ve yet to play a pandemic game that we haven’t enjoyed. This game teaches cooperation and problem-solving well, everyone works together during a global health crisis.

14. Carcassonne

Carcassonne focuses on spatial reasoning and tile placement. This game is easy and clear and I like that they start off with a simple set of tiles and rules, then allow you to add more tiles and rules with the included mini expansions. 

15. CodeNames

Code Names can enhance your kid’s vocabulary and critical thinking skills through word association. This is definitely on my list to play over holiday break with my kids! I have not played this one with my kids, but we had a couple of ladies game nights and this game was so fun. We laughed our butts off! I really want to play it again and I love that you can play with a lot of people.

16. Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert

Forbidden Island and Forbidden Desert are cooperative games that promote teamwork and critical decision-making.

17. 7 Wonders

7 Wonders is easy to learn how to play but takes some practice to be good at it. In the game, you are building your city around the wonder you are given to construct. So, you even get some history lessons while learning strategy. 

18. Sushi Go!

Sushi Go! is so fun! My entire family loves sushi so it was so funny when we found this game! Each player is attempting to make the best overall Sushi dishes to serve their patrons in order to become the best sushi restaurant in town!  Your kids will learn probability and strategy in this fun card game and it’s so easy to play. 

19. Timeline

Timeline is a game that has taught me so much! I have several versions of this from TV & Music, Inventions, American History.

20. Exploding Kittens

Exploding Kittens is a light, humorous game known for its quirky artwork. There’s strategy and luck involved. It is a fast paced, strategic game for 2 to 5 players. The objective is to be the last player remaining who hasn’t drawn an exploding kitten. It sounds a lot worse than it is! My kids love this game! It’s one of their favorites. 

21. Zingo

Zingo is the greatest game for the little ones in your family! It is BINGOesque but so much more fun. Our kids loved it when they were preschool age, but older kids are happy to play too. I also love this game because 2 people can have fun playing but more are welcome.

22. Cover Your Assets

We have played Cover Your Assets as a family so many times and it never gets old (or less stressful!). You try to get pairs of assets (stocks, jewelry, houses, etc) and then steal others’ assets while protecting your own. This is one of the games that we featured and our favorite math games post. It’s super easy to learn and has a short play time. Your whole family will love this—young kids all the way to teenagers.

23. Rack-O

Our whole family loves Rack-O. There is a little strategy, but not so much that it ruins the fun for younger players. It also teaches great sequencing skills. It’s really nice that it’s a very quick game so if you don’t have a lot of time, this is a go-to easy game that anybody can play. 

24. Rummikub

Rummikub is FUN–it’s pretty easy to learn and once you play one round you’ll want to play it over and over again. One funny thing about this game though is there are two “joker” tiles that are totally creepy looking. The game is played with 2-4 players. Each player draws 14 tiles and the goal of the game is to get rid of all your tiles by making groups or runs. This is my go to game that I love to play with my friends when I’ve had a few beers. A lot of conversation tends to happen while somebody is playing their tiles and it makes for a really social game. But don’t let that sway you. My kids love this game too and we love to play as a family. It is an incredibly addicting, and challenging game to play with kids.

25. Trekking the World

Some people are a little intimidated by Trekking the World, but don’t be! It is so worth it. After playing it for 10 minutes, you soon figure the game out and it’s so fun. We as a family have loved Ticket to Ride for years and this is similar but better. There are more ways to score points and the scoring system itself is easier to navigate. Every time we get a different winner and the game is never played the same twice. Added bonus is that your kids will learn geography while playing. I guarantee, your entire family will love this game!

All of these games offer a mix of educational value, strategic thinking, creativity, and fun.  Homeschooling can be incredibly rewarding, but it can also be stressful and when your family is feeling a disconnect, games have a magical power for bringing everyone back together with smiles and laughter. We hope you found some new games to add to your list, and we would love to hear some of your favorites too! 

This Week’s Freebies:

Have your child reflect on 2023 and help them think about their goals for 2024 with this Reflection Sheet!
Download your Free Year in Review
Make your own board game!
Download your Free Game Templates

058. Time Management, Stress, Organization, Study Skills

Time Management, Stress, Organization, Study Skills

Stress is normal! With all that your high school student is likely to have on their plate (balancing classes, assignments, college applications, extracurriculars, a social life, and more), it’s normal that they’ll experience stress from time-to-time. Understanding how to manage the stress they feel is an important skill for your teen to learn – during the high school years and throughout their life. Tune in to help your teen manage all the things and keep their stress in check.

This is the 12th and final episode in our HIGH SCHOOL SERIES

Episode 058:

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

If you are homeschooling a high schooler, you already know that navigating the intricate balance between academics, extracurriculars, and personal life can be tricky. Add in college applications, part time jobs, and social opportunities, and it’s no wonder some of our teens can feel overwhelmed and anxious about their future. With a focus on time management, organization, stress management, and study skills, we will explore some strategies and tools in today’s episode to aid in your student’s quest for academic success while maintaining a healthy lifestyle in the realm of homeschooling.

Let’s face it, High schoolers have a lot going on!  From expectations and normal pressures of academics to extreme feelings of stress, understanding how to manage the stress they feel is an important skill for your teen to learn – during the high school years and throughout their life. Stress is normal! With all that your high schooler is likely to have on their plate (classes, assignments, college applications, extracurriculars, a social life, and more), it’s normal that they’ll experience stress from time-to-time. 

Homeschoolers often experience less stress than students in traditional schools because they have more time available to them, more flexibility, and are less likely to compare themselves to others, but they probably still feel a lot of these same pressures!

How can our high schoolers deal with stress? (4:27)

Let’s talk about some ideas for high school students to deal with stress: 

  • Keeping a journal
  • Getting plenty of exercise
  • Eating healthy, regular meals and drinking plenty of water. 
  • Making sure you get enough sleep 
  • Meditating, deep breathing, or mindfulness, and monitoring their self-talk. 
  • Channeling their energy into sports or creative pursuits such as music, art, theater
  • forming meaningful relationships or friendships helps reduce stress. 
  • Reaching out to friends or family members who help you cope in a positive way
  • Staying organized and teaching your teen to create routines can be helpful. We are going to talk more about this today!
  • Limiting excess caffeine in soft drinks or coffee
  • Making time to do fun things
  • Spending downtime relaxing 

With so many big life decisions ahead, getting through high school happy and whole can definitely feel challenging at times. It’s easy to see why so many high school students feel stressed. The good news is that there are solutions. Adopt the strategies above, take a deep breath, and remind them it’s not forever!

Dialectical Behavior Therapy has helped millions of teenagers since it was developed just over 30 years ago! The DBT Skills Workbook for Teens: A Fun Guide to Manage Anxiety and Stress, Understand Your Emotions and Learn Effective Communication Skills. This Workbook takes your teen on a journey going through four quests to learn the four key skills in DBT.

Sometimes a big source of stress can actually be due to a lack of time management.  I know this well as I am a lifelong organized procrastinator!  I work best under pressure.  But every time I get through yet another project this way, I vow not to do it again next time. Mastering time management is an essential skill that not only cultivates discipline but can really help your teen maximize study time more efficiently. By establishing structured routines, setting clear goals, and teaching the value of efficient scheduling, you can empower your teens to take ownership of their education while also allowing for a healthy balance between their academic pursuits and personal growth.

Parental involvement in homeschooling time management is not a solitary endeavor. It entails open communication, active listening, and a keen awareness of your high schoolers’ individual progress. Some will be more mature and independent than others. By consistently assessing their growth and helping them to adapt the schedule and approach you will be helping to teach them self awareness and how to manage their stress. 

How can we help our teens manage their time wisely? (9:57)

Here are some time management tools and techniques that can set your highschooler up for success:

1. Homeschool Planner:

Using a dedicated homeschool planner or digital app like Google Keep organizing lessons, assignments, and activities. This helps them stay on top of their responsibilities and ensure they have plenty of downtime and time with their friends.

2. Time Blocking:

Time blocking is a simple yet effective way you can teach your teen to take control of their time. They can implement a time blocking strategy where they allocate specific time blocks for different subjects. This prevents overloading on a single subject to ensure balance. Time blocking asks you to divide your day into blocks of time. Each block is dedicated to accomplishing a specific task or group of tasks, and only those specific tasks. Instead of keeping an open-ended to-do list of things you’ll get to as you can, you start each day with a concrete schedule outlining what you’ll work on and when.

The key to this method is prioritizing your task list in advance. The free resource I created this week is a time blocking template that your highschooler can use as they plan out their day. Scroll Down to download! This method really does add hours to your day! It’s so effective. Time Finder is the app that I use when I’m on the go instead of using the paper template but I find the paper easier for teenagers to use.

3. Set Realistic Goals:

Teach them to set achievable goals for each day or week. It’s an essential skill to learn how to break down larger objectives into smaller, manageable tasks. This can prevent them from feeling overwhelmed and provides a sense of accomplishment as tasks are completed.

Most students believe that straight A’s can be achieved only through cramming and painful all-nighters at the library. But Cal Newport knows that real straight-A students don’t study harder—they study smarter!
How to Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less reveals for the first time the proven study secrets of real straight-A students across the country and weaves them into a simple, practical system that anyone can master.

4. Weekly Planning:

Set aside time daily and each week to check in and go over assessments and progress. This helps them maintain a clear overview of what needs to be covered. Be sure to include extracurricular and fun with friends outside of academics. These are really important!

5. Flexible Routine:

Teach them to adopt a flexible routine rather than a rigid schedule. More than likely you’ve been doing this all along. This will teach them to accommodate variations in assignments and unexpected events.

6.Prioritize tasks:

Learn to differentiate between urgent and important tasks. This skill helps in managing workload efficiently and reducing stress.

Your involvement plays a vital role in helping them learn these skills. You can address their individual strengths, interests, and challenges, which will promote a deeper understanding of subjects and encourage a lifelong love for learning. You know we love to say that! 

How to teach study skills, note taking, organization, and other executive function skills?  (16:49)

As students enter into the high school years, they also need to add effective study skills and habits.  They must master skills like:

  • reading for content and not just for pleasure
  • note taking
  • researching
  • finding knowledgeable mentors
  • communicating with others to find out what they need to know
  • honing memorization techniques
  • practicing computer skills
  • identifying and utilizing helpful online resources

Homeschool high schoolers have a unique opportunity to learn some of these skills to suit their individual learning styles and schedules. Here are some effective strategies for homeschool high schoolers to cultivate good study skills and be more organized:

  • Create a designated study space: Establishing a dedicated area for studying helps in maintaining focus and organization. Ensure it’s free from distractions and equipped with necessary materials.
  • Develop a schedule: Design a timetable that includes study sessions for various subjects, breaks, and extracurricular activities. A structured routine aids in time management and consistency.
  • Encourage the use of checklists: Using checklists for daily or weekly tasks can help your teen visualize what needs to be done and experience the satisfaction of checking items off the list as they complete them.
  • Break tasks into smaller steps: Teach your teen to break down larger tasks or projects into smaller, manageable steps. This method helps in avoiding overwhelm and encourages steady progress.
  • Utilize various learning methods: Experiment with different study techniques such as mind mapping, summarizing, flashcards, or teaching concepts to someone else. Find what works best for individual comprehension.
  • Practice active learning: Engage in discussions, take notes, ask questions, and participate in activities related to the subject matter. Active involvement enhances understanding and retention.
  • Take regular breaks: Incorporate short breaks during study sessions to prevent burnout and maintain focus. Breaks can re-energize and improve productivity.
  • Promote decluttering: Assist your teen in decluttering their space regularly. Encourage them to get rid of unnecessary items and organize belongings in a way that makes them easily accessible.
  • Model and encourage organization: Set an example by staying organized yourself. Show your teen how you manage your schedule, maintain a clean environment, and handle responsibilities.
  • Provide guidance, not control: Offer guidance and support rather than micromanaging your teen’s organizational efforts. Encourage independence by allowing them to make their own decisions and learn from mistakes.
  • Develop effective note-taking techniques: Find a method that suits the learning style, be it Cornell notes, bullet points, or visual diagrams. Good notes aid in better understanding and revision.
How to Be a High School Superstar: A Revolutionary Plan to Get into College by Standing Out (Without Burning Out) provides step-by-step instructions to help any student adopt the relaxed superstar lifestyle—proving that getting into college doesn’t have to be a chore to survive, but instead can be the reward for living a genuinely interesting life.
Learning How to Learn: How to Succeed in School Without Spending All Your Time Studying; A Guide for Kids and Teens teaches teens about the importance of both focused concentration and letting their minds wander, how the brain makes connections between different pieces of information, the value of metaphors in developing understanding, why procrastination is the enemy of problem solving, and much more. 
Are you tired of struggling with exams and feeling overwhelmed by your studies? Do you wish there was a way to improve your grades and achieve exam success without all the stress? With Study Strategies for Teens: A Teenage Guide to Exam Success and Getting Better Grades as your guide, , you will learn effective study techniques, develop essential time management and organization skills, and gain the confidence needed to conquer exams and become a straight A student.

Note taking is a big question I see come up often on high school forums- it’s almost like none of us can remember or picture how this works outside the classroom. We ended up doing a bit of a deep dive on different techniques and thought we could share some popular note-taking methods:

  • The SQ3R Method: An acronym for Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review. It involves a comprehensive approach to studying a text, starting with a survey of the material, formulating questions, reading actively, reciting or summarizing key points, and finally reviewing the material. Learn more about SQ3R.
  • Cornell Method: This method involves dividing the paper into sections: a section for notes, a section for cues or questions related to the notes, and a summary section at the bottom. It encourages active engagement and summarization of key points. Learn more about Cornell Method.
How To Take Great Notes Quickly and Easily is a very easy guide for teenager. (40+ Note Taking Tips for School, Work, Books and Lectures. Cornell Notes Explained and more!
  • Outlining Method: Structuring notes hierarchically using bullet points or numbering. It involves organizing information into main topics, subtopics, and details. This method emphasizes the relationship between different ideas. Learn more about Outlining Method.
  • Mind Mapping: Utilizing visual diagrams to represent concepts and their relationships. It starts with a central idea or topic and branches out into related subtopics, creating a visual representation of connections. Learn more about Mind Mapping.
  • Charting or Tabular Method: Organizing information into tables or charts with columns and rows. It’s useful for comparing and contrasting different elements or presenting data in a clear format. Learn more about Charting.
  • Sentence Method: Writing down key points or phrases in complete sentences. It involves summarizing information in a coherent narrative format, making it easier to follow when reviewing. Learn more about Sentence Method.
  • Flow Method: This method involves jotting down notes in a continuous flow, without much structure. It’s useful during lectures or when information is presented rapidly. Later, these notes can be organized into a more structured format. Learn more about Flow Method.
  • The Feynman Technique: Explaining complex ideas in simple terms as if teaching someone else. It involves identifying gaps in understanding and revisiting complex concepts until they can be explained in straightforward language. Learn more about Feynman Technique.
  • The Charting Method: Creating columns and rows to organize information, often using headers and bullet points. It’s useful for comparing and contrasting different elements or categorizing information. Learn more about Charting Method.
  • Annotation/Highlighting: Underlining, highlighting, or annotating text in books or articles with personal comments or key points. This method helps in quickly identifying important information for later review. Learn more about Annotation and Highlighting.

Our kids did an awesome study skills camp with a fellow homeschool mom that taught several of these techniques.  Choosing the most suitable note-taking technique depends on personal preferences, the nature of the information being recorded, and the context in which the notes will be used. Experimenting with different methods can help individuals find the one that best fits their learning style and enhances their understanding and retention of information.

By actively supporting and guiding your teen through all of these above strategies, you can help them develop strong organizational skills that will serve them well in academics and throughout their lives. 

This Week’s Freebie:

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057. Homeschooling in the Kitchen

Homeschooling in the Kitchen

Encouraging kids to learn how to cook is an invaluable life skill that extends far beyond the kitchen. It’s a journey that introduces them to the basics of nutrition, math through measurements, science in understanding how ingredients interact, and creativity in crafting their culinary creations. Tune in to learn more!

Episode 057:

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Show Notes

Encouraging kids to learn how to cook is an invaluable life skill that extends far beyond the kitchen. It’s a journey that introduces them to the basics of nutrition, math through measurements, science in understanding how ingredients interact, and creativity in crafting their culinary creations. Cooking  also helps kids gain confidence and the importance of following instructions. 

Beyond the practical skills, it can be an opportunity for bonding. Families can spend quality time together in the kitchen sharing stories and creating lasting memories. You know we always talk about cultivating curiosity and exploration and a lot of homeschoolers find this happening in the kitchen as children experiment with recipes and flavors.  This kind of exploration can spark a passion that can last a lifetime. Learning to cook empowers kids and giving them the tools and opportunities to present their creations really gives them a sense of pride. In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about the many skills your kids can learn in the kitchen, we’re going to talk about some basic foods everyone should know how to make (especially when your kids go off to college or move into their own home), and we have some really great resources and cookbooks that will help guide you as you teach them these skills.

THE ULTIMATE COOKING SET FOR KIDS – This kids baking set includes a portable reusable tool box for storage, cookbook, stylish unisex apron, measuring cups & spoons, kitchen timer, tongs, rolling pin, 3 nylon knives, spoon, spatula, whisk, 3 cookie cutters, and a cutting board.

Teaching kitchen skills to our kids is a hands-on and practical approach to education that extends well beyond just making meals. It teaches a sense of responsibility and fosters independence as they learn skills and cook more and more on their own. It’s also an opportunity to blend various subjects seamlessly; from math during measurement and fractions to science through understanding chemical reactions in baking, and even cultural studies by exploring diverse cuisines. 

Beyond the academics, your kids will gain so many life skills like following instructions, time management, and organization. If you think about it, there’s a lot that goes into cooking and this may be second nature for you because you’ve been doing it so long, but these skills are not intuitive. But thankfully homeschooling gives you so much extra time with your kids to teach these skills. And it’s really a perfect way to bond as a family, encouraging teamwork as everyone works together. Speaking of family, it’s also a great way to share traditions and stories. I love when my parents tell me stories of Cuba and foods they grew up with as we sit down to enjoy that traditional Cuban recipe. Or learn the way that our family has done things through generations. Now it’s our turn now to pass on these traditions to our children.

Essential Kitchen Skills Kids Should Know (9:29)

Mastering fundamental kitchen skills can set a strong foundation for kids to become confident and capable in the kitchen. Here are five essential skills:

Knife Skills:

Learning how to safely handle and use knives is crucial. Kids should understand how to properly hold a knife, basic cutting techniques, and knife safety to chop, slice, and dice ingredients.

Jr. Knives for Kids 3-Piece Kitchen Cooking and Baking Knife Set
Kids Knife Set for Real Cooking with Educational Ring & Finger Guard for Cutting Training
Resilient Roots Kids Knife: Toddler Knife for Chopping

Measuring and Math:

Understanding measurements and basic math skills are fundamental in cooking. Kids should learn how to measure ingredients using measuring cups and spoons, understand fractions, and work with recipes that involve different measurements.

“Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Every Day Cooking”, Michael Ruhlman’s groundbreaking New York Times bestseller takes us to the very “truth” of cooking: it is not about recipes but rather about basic ratios and fundamental techniques that makes all food come together, simply.

When you know a culinary ratio, it’s not like knowing a single recipe, it’s instantly knowing a thousand!

Why spend time sorting through the millions of cookie recipes available in books, magazines, and on the Internet? Isn’t it easier just to remember 1-2-3? That’s the ratio of ingredients that always make a basic, delicious cookie dough: 1 part sugar, 2 parts fat, and 3 parts flour. From there, add anything you want—chocolate, lemon and orange zest, nuts, poppy seeds, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, almond extract, or peanut butter, to name a few favorite additions. Replace white sugar with brown for a darker, chewier cookie. Add baking powder and/or eggs for a lighter, airier texture. Ratios are the starting point from which a thousand variations begin.

Learning fractions and measurement are two of the hardest concepts to teach in math, but these Rainbow Fraction Measuring Cups make it easy!

Stovetop Safety:

Teaching kids how to safely use the stovetop is essential. They should learn how to adjust heat levels, use kid-sized pot holders, and understand basic stovetop safety to prevent burns and accidents.

Following Recipes:

Reading and following a recipe is a valuable skill. Kids should learn how to read and comprehend recipes, follow step-by-step instructions, and understand the importance of accurate measurements and timing.

in Salad People, each illustrated recipe offers your child “The Chef” the opportunity to count, measure, mix, assemble, and most important, have fun. Designed as do-together projects—with your child as chef and the adult as assistant—these kitchen adventures will give children confidence in their cooking skills and inspire a life-long healthy relationship with food. With Salad People and a little time in the kitchen, budding chefs will cheer: “I like it because I made it myself!”
In “Pretend Soup and Other Real Recipes: A Cookbook for Preschoolers and Up“, children as young as three years old and as old as eight become head chef while an adult serves as guide and helper. Extensively classroom- and home-tested, these recipes are designed to inspire an early appreciation for creative, wholesome food. Whimsical watercolor critters and pictorial versions of each recipe will help the young cook understand and delight in the process. Just consider all that can be explored in the kitchen: counting, reading readiness, science awareness, self-confidence, patience, and, importantly, food literacy.
“Honest Pretzels: And 64 Other Amazing Recipes for Cooks Ages 8 & Up” speaks directly to children through 65 fully kid-tested, illustrated recipes that require only a little adult assistance. It’s not just a cookbook full of yummy recipes–it also gives young cooks, ages eight and up, a chance to practice reading, math, and logic skills.

Food Safety and Hygiene:

Teaching kids about food safety, including washing hands, proper food handling, and understanding basic hygiene in the kitchen, is crucial. They should learn about cross-contamination, proper storage of food, and the importance of clean cooking surfaces and tools.

On our Finding Balance in Your Home and Homeschool episode, we talked about teaching your kids to help with chores. We discussed how to make a grocery list, budget, and shop for ingredients – we even created a detailed menu planner you can download for free! Mastering all of these basic essential kitchen skills will not only equip your kids with practical skills but it will also instill a sense of pride and a love for cooking.

Knowing how to cook some fundamental dishes can be incredibly useful. As I mentioned earlier, especially when your kids are heading off to college!

A Safe Adjustable Stool is the best investment I made when I had younger kids. They helped me prep all the meals and I was able to have both hands to meal prep since I didn’t have to hold them! Kids as young as 18 months can safely stand and help!

Essentials Everyone Should Know How to Cook (12:43)

Here are ten essential dishes that can serve as a foundation for various cooking skills:

  1. Pasta: Being able to cook pasta opens the door to countless dishes. It’s a versatile and simple staple.
  2. Eggs: Mastering the art of cooking eggs (scrambled, fried, boiled) offers a quick, nutritious meal for any time of day. Adventure kids omelets
  3. Rice: Learning to cook rice is a fundamental skill for many cuisines. I have graduated from the stove top to this super fancy Japanese rice cooker that I love, but knowing how to make rice on the stove is a skill everyone should have,
  4. Soup: Making a basic soup teaches the principles of building flavors and can be easily adapted with various ingredients.
  5. Stir-Fry: Stir frys are an easy and quick way to throw a meal together with tons of variations. Understanding stir-frying techniques opens the door to quick and healthy meals.
  6. Salad Dressing: Creating your own salad dressing introduces the basics of emulsification and flavor balancing.
  7. Homemade Pizza: Making pizza from scratch teaches the basics of baking and flavor combinations, a homemade crust is really such a simple recipe with just a couple of ingredients
  8. Roast Chicken: Roasting a whole chicken is a skill that can lead to various meals and is a classic comfort food.
  9. Grilled Cheese Sandwich: It’s a simple yet satisfying dish that you can make in a pinch on a low budget. When kids learn how to make this it helps them understand heat control. And you can get really creative and make gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches.
  10. Baked Goods (like muffins or cookies): Understanding the basics of baking allows for sweet treats or breakfast options and teaches precise measurements and oven skills.

All these dishes cover a range of cooking techniques and ingredients and teaching them can provide a solid foundation for both beginners and those looking to expand their culinary skills. We didn’t talk about grilling but that’s a great skill too! 

Over the years, we have used a lot of resources to help teach our children how to cook and some of them were fantastic and some of them were not so great. We wanted to share some of our favorites with you. 

Favorite Cookbooks for Kids (20:02)

Several of our recommendations are cookbooks that cater specifically to kids and they can make cooking both educational and fun. Here are some of our favorites for their engaging recipes and kid-friendly approach:

“The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs” by America’s Test Kitchen Kids

“The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs” by America’s Test Kitchen Kids Known for its detailed instructions and emphasis on teaching cooking techniques, this book offers a wide range of recipes suitable for different skill levels.

“Kid Chef Bakes” by Lisa Huff

“Kid Chef Bakes” by Lisa Huff: Focused on baking, this book provides simple, delicious recipes and it encourages kids with clear instructions and colorful visuals.

“Cooking Class: 57 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Make (and Eat!)” by Deanna F. Cook

“Cooking Class: 57 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love to Make (and Eat!)” by Deanna F. Cook: This cookbook is designed like a class, guiding kids through basic cooking skills and includes recipes for all meals and snacks.

“The Disney Princess Cookbook” by Disney Book Group

“The Disney Princess Cookbook” by Disney Book Group: Featuring recipes inspired by Disney princesses, this book makes cooking an enchanting experience for young chefs with themed dishes and easy-to-follow instructions.

“The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook” by Dinah Bucholz

“The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook” by Dinah Bucholz: Perfect for young Harry Potter fans, this cookbook includes recipes inspired by the series, making cooking magical and engaging.

MasterChef Junior Cookbook: Bold Recipes and Essential Techniques to Inspire Young Cooks” by MasterChef Junior

“MasterChef Junior Cookbook: Bold Recipes and Essential Techniques to Inspire Young Cooks” by MasterChef Junior: Based on the popular TV show, this cookbook offers challenging yet achievable recipes that encourage kids to explore diverse cuisines.

“Good Eats!” by Alton Brown

For older kids, we are big lovers of Alton Brown.  Finding his old episodes of “Good Eats!” are totally worth watching and he has several books, too.

“The Pioneer Woman Cooks” by Ree Drummand

Another favorite by someone we used to follow back before she was a household name and just another homeschool mom blogger is The Pioneer Woman.  One of my daughter’s favorite cookbooks is her holiday one, “The Pioneer Woman Cooks―A Year of Holidays: 140 Step-by-Step Recipes for Simple, Scrumptious Celebrations”

These cookbooks not only offer delicious recipes but also incorporate educational elements, teaching kids about nutrition, kitchen safety, and the joy of cooking. They often feature colorful illustrations and easy-to-follow steps, making the cooking experience enjoyable and accessible for children.

Now I am hungry!  This was a lot of fun! I hope we’ve inspired you to get in the kitchen with your kids and empower them with these essential skills that will last a lifetime. Even young toddlers can help by ripping lettuce leaves for a family salad. Kids are always more likely to eat dishes when they’ve had a hand in preparing them. So get cooking!

This Week’s Freebie:

Download your Recipe Tempates

056. How Do You Create a Unit Study?

How Do You Create a Unit Study?

Unit studies are a great option for homeschoolers. They foster a deeper understanding of a subject by exploring it in detail and encouraging critical thinking. We love all the hands-on, experiential learning opportunities they provide. They also offer a unique way to combine multiple subjects around a central theme, allowing for a more immersive and interconnected learning experience. Learn all about unit studies and how to create your own!

To help kick start your journey, we’ve put together an extensive list of Unit Study Ideas.

Episode 056:

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

If you’ve chosen to follow a curriculum, sometimes the monotony of it can feel stifling, leaving you and your children disinterested and longing for a more engaging approach to learning. Oftentimes, people will start curriculum hopping, but exploring a unit study might be the refreshing change you’re looking for. Its integrative approach can breathe life into your homeschool as it weaves together various subjects around a central theme. 

Unit studies can really be an opportunity to infuse excitement into your day. We love the hands-on engagement that comes with unit studies and how it can really get kids excited about the theme.  

Some people even choose to do unit studies as the central core in their homeschool instead of traditional curriculum. There are tons of options. In today’s episode, we are going to talk about unit studies and how to create one for your homeschool.

We have always really enjoyed unit studies and we especially enjoyed them when our kids were younger and they were hyper focused on a certain topic and we would dive in deep and learn everything we could about our chosen theme. We did unit studies on penguins, the light spectrum, music, and so many other themes. Sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the curriculum and jump into a unit study. It always seems to reignite our kids and brings a new and refreshing joy of learning into our home. 

One of our favorite ways to incorporate unit studies is during the holiday season. We’ve always found that embracing a unit study during the holidays offers a sense of flexibility, allowing for exploration while still delving into meaningful learning experiences.  Everybody is always so busy during the holidays and it’s a great time to abandon the typical curriculum. It also helps to avoid burnout. Susan Wise Bauer once said “Everyone wants to quit in November and February” and seasoned homeschoolers know this is true! Learn more about Homeschooling During the Holidays.

Homeschoolers often gravitate towards unit studies due to their holistic and integrative approach to education. They offer a unique way to combine multiple subjects around a central theme, allowing for a more immersive and interconnected learning experience. This method of learning aligns with the personalized nature of homeschooling, enabling parents to tailor education to their child’s pace, interests, and learning style. It fosters a deeper understanding of a subject by exploring it from various angles. It also encourages critical thinking, and provides hands-on, experiential learning opportunities. 

You can generally make unit studies multi-age, which promotes family involvement. This is one of my favorite things about unit studies, everybody’s learning the same thing – maybe just at different levels or depth. This approach tends to nurture a rich and engaging learning environment that goes beyond traditional textbooks and classroom settings.

What is a unit study? (7:33)

A homeschool unit study is an interdisciplinary approach to learning that revolves around a specific theme or topic. It encourages students to explore and understand a subject deeply by incorporating multiple subjects and various activities into a comprehensive study plan. 

Let’s break down the key features of a homeschool unit study:

Theme-Centered:

Unit studies focus on a central theme or topic, it could be as simple as an animal like penguins or a broader topic like birds. It could be a historical event or historical period, it could be a scientific concept, a piece of literature, or even a specific country, or geographic location. There’s really endless options for these!

Unit Studies can open up a world of possibilities, allowing you to follow your child’s interests and curiosities wherever they may lead. See our Extensive list of Unit Study Ideas
Emphasis on Student Interests:

Homeschool unit studies can be tailored to a student’s interests which helps to foster a love for learning. Is your kid obsessed with dinosaurs, or cars, or a time period or country?  Try a unit study!

Integration of Subjects:

They integrate multiple subjects like math, science, history, language arts, and art around the chosen theme. This fosters a holistic understanding of the topic.  This also can be a huge time saver if you have multi-age kids, or are trying to fit a lot of subjects into your day.  You can meet with all the kids to read aloud, and then break off for age appropriate activities.

Multi-Sensory Learning:

They incorporate various learning methods, such as reading, writing, experiments, field trips, art projects, and discussions, to cater to different learning styles. Unit studies often emphasize real-life applications and hands-on activities to make learning more engaging and practical.

Flexible and Customizable:

Homeschoolers can customize unit studies to suit their child’s interests and learning style, which allows for flexibility in curriculum design. They encourage students to explore a subject in depth. This promotes critical thinking and a deeper understanding of the topic. Many find that choosing a main book or resource as a “spine” is helpful where they reference back to throughout the unit. You can incorporate field trips, projects, documentaries and movies, and fun games all around your central theme.  

Here are some examples of our favorite “spine” books:

Unit studies are a popular approach in homeschooling because they provide a flexible and immersive way to learn, allowing students to delve deeply into topics of personal interest while covering core academic subjects.

What are some ideas for great unit studies? (11:11)

The topics for unit studies are really endless.  You can make one about anything you want.  Here are a few examples of unit study ideas that can be adapted and expanded upon:

  • Ancient Egypt: Cover history by exploring pharaohs, pyramids, and daily life. Integrate art by creating hieroglyphics or Egyptian art pieces, study geography by examining the Nile River, delve into mythology and religion, and even incorporate science by studying the mummification processes. Ancient Egypt Projects
  • Weather: Explore meteorology, covering science through understanding weather patterns, math through data analysis, geography by studying climates around the world, and language arts through weather-related literature or writing weather reports. We used a Williamson kids book as our base for this. Weather Projects
  • Animals and Habitats: Dive into biology by studying specific animals and their habitats, incorporate geography by mapping out where these animals live, explore environmental science by discussing conservation efforts, and integrate art by creating representations of various habitats. This Visual Animal Encyclopedia is perfect for a unit study!
  • Cultural Diversity: Integrate social studies by exploring different cultures and their traditions, geography by studying various countries and their customs, language arts through reading multicultural literature, and art by creating crafts or artworks inspired by different cultures. Learn more about Cultural Study in your Homeschool. This is basically what our Geography club did for years!
  • Civil Rights Movement: Connect history by studying key events and figures. You can incorporate social studies by discussing equality and social justice. Language arts can be covered through reading or listening to speeches or reading memoirs of influential leaders,  Art can be taught by learning about powerful art created during that time or creating projects that represent the movement. “Timelines from Black History: Leaders, Legends, Legacies” introduces children to prominent Black people in history such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks, and Dr. Martin Luther King. “The Civil Rights Movement for Kids: A History with 21 Activities” is a great place to find resources for a unit study. Also, check out the PBS collection of Civil Rights Videos, Lesson Plans, and more.

These are just starting points; each unit study can be adapted, expanded, or combined with other subjects to suit the interests and educational needs of the child. The flexibility of homeschooling allows for endless possibilities in designing unit studies. See the Complete List of Unit Study Ideas

How do I create my own unit study? (22:09)

See our Complete Unit Study Ideas List

Creating a homeschool unit study can be a fantastic way to integrate various subjects around a central theme or topic. Our free resource for the week is a template to help you develop your own unit study. So to get you started, here are 7 steps to help you develop one:

1. Choose a Theme or Topic

Select a broad theme or specific topic that can encompass multiple subjects. 

2. Identify Learning Objectives

Determine what you want your child to learn or achieve through this unit study. Define specific learning objectives for each subject area you’ll cover.

3. Gather Resources

Collect books, online resources, documentaries, experiments, worksheets, and other materials related to your chosen theme. Libraries, educational websites, and museums can be excellent sources. For me this often means going through my house to see what stuff I already have!  

Your spine book will be your main go-to when you start working through your unit study. Within it, you’ll be able to find topics or rabbit holes to meander down. Here are some examples of spine books:

4. Create Lesson Plans

Develop a schedule or outline for your unit study. Plan activities, readings, experiments, and projects for each day or week. Be flexible and adapt as needed.

5. Integrate Subjects

Find ways to connect different subjects within the theme. For instance, if you’re studying the medieval time period, a math lesson could involve the Sir Cumference books, a language arts lesson might involve reading about King Arthur, and watching the show “Merlin.”   

6. Hands-On Activities

Include hands-on experiences. This is my favorite part! Put some thought into this. Are there science experiments, art projects, field trips, or interviews with experts related to the theme that can make learning about your theme more engaging? I remember when we did our entire school year unit study of American music. We had tons of activities during this unit I put together and every four weeks, I had a major project. We built a transistor radio, we made a mixtape, we wrote a song and performed it. And this was in addition to all the other fun, hands-on activities. I made him build a guitar for the final school year-end project. 

History of American Music Unit Study Final Project (guitar build)
7. Adapt to Your Child’s Pace

Be flexible and adapt to your child’s learning pace and style. If they show interest in a particular aspect, delve deeper into it. Foster a spirit of curiosity and exploration. Encourage your child to ask questions, seek answers, and explore beyond the boundaries of the set curriculum.

Periodically assess the effectiveness of your unit study. Consider what worked well and what could be improved. Adjust the plan accordingly for future studies. Remember, the beauty of homeschooling is the flexibility it offers. Don’t hesitate to modify the plan as needed based on your child’s interests, strengths, and areas that might need more attention.

What if I don’t want to do it on my own?  Where can I find homeschool unit studies?

There are several resources available for secular homeschool unit studies. Here are five that provide a variety of subjects and approaches:

  • Build Your Library: This is a literature-based curriculum that offers secular unit studies covering various subjects. It often integrates history, science, language arts, and more around engaging literature. We’ve done their Evolution and Darwin unit study and she had a great one on Government and Elections.
  • Blossom and Root: This curriculum is designed with a secular, nature-based approach. It offers unit studies across different subjects, focusing on nature, literature, and art.
  • Teachers Pay Teachers: provides eclectic, literature-rich unit studies for a range of ages and subjects, with an emphasis on making learning engaging and multi-dimensional.
  • Torchlight Curriculum: Torchlight offers unit studies based on engaging literature, history, and science for multiple grade levels, incorporating a secular approach.
  • Curiosity Chronicles: This resource offers unit studies that combine history, literature, and geography, providing secular materials suitable for homeschoolers.

More unit study resources available here:  Secular unit study Facebook group

These sources often provide comprehensive unit study packages or guides that cover multiple subjects, allowing for an integrated approach to learning while catering to secular preferences. It’s always a good idea to review samples or trial periods to ensure the resources align with your homeschooling goals and your child’s learning style. This is also often a good way to try out a particular curriculum.

If you’ve never thought about unit studies, you may want to consider buying or building your own. This might be just the thing you’re looking for to engage your child or if you’re feeling a little burned out and looking for a refreshing change from your regular curriculum.

This Week’s Freebie:

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