middle school

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

$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…

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

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:

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

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:

Download your Unit Study Planner

Unit Study Ideas

Unit Study Ideas

Unit studies can truly light up your homeschooling journey, offering a wonderful alternative or addition to your regular curriculum. They can open up a world of possibilities allowing you to follow your child’s interests and curiosities wherever they may lead – and it’s often in these explorations that the most magical learning moments happen.

Feel free to shape your unit study as broadly or as narrowly as your heart desires. My suggestion? Let it flow organically; don’t stress about fitting subjects into a unit just to tick off a checklist. The beauty of learning unfolds best when your unit study feels like a natural adventure into a new topic.

To help kickstart your journey, we’ve put together a list of inspiring ideas. Plus, we’ve crafted a handy-dandy, absolutely Free Unit Study Template tailor-made just for you (bottom of this page).

Learn more about creating a unit study in Episode 056. How Do You Create a Unit Study? Ready to dive in and make learning a delightful experience? Let’s get started!

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:

Animals

Animal-Related Topics
Adaptation
Endangered species
Animal habitats
Hibernation
Food chains

Specific Types of Animals
Birds (general)/Backyard birds
Bees
Butterflies
Bugs
Spiders
Bats
Frogs
Penguins
Dogs/Cats
Monkeys
Dinosaurs
Farm animals
Sea animals
Sharks
African Animals
Dinosaurs
Reptiles
Amphibians
Mammals

Plants

Plants (in general)
Trees
Flowers
Edible plants
Gardening/Landscaping
Pumpkins
Apples
Leaves
Anatomy of plant cells
Fungi

Life Science

General Life Science Topics
Human anatomy and physiology
Evolution
Bacteria and viruses
The five senses

People

People/Groups of Historical Significance
Explorers
Pioneers
Indigenous People
Suffragettes
Civil rights leaders
LGBTQ+ History
Egyptians
Aztecs
Mayans
Romans
Greeks

The Work People Do
Composers/Musicians
Artists
Inventors
Writers
Presidents/Prime minister
Community helpers
Healthcare workers
Archaeologists
Scientists
Inventors/Engineers
Architects

Specific People
Albert Einstein
Amelia Earhart
Clara Barton
Harriet Tubman
Helen Keller
Leonardo Da Vinci
Mahatma Gandhi
Marie Curie
Martin Luther King Jr
Maya Angelou
Mother Teresa
Mozart
Shakespeare
Marco Polo
Joan of Arc
Hatshepsut
Nelson Mandela
Pablo Picasso

Geography

The continents
Africa
Antarctica
Asia
Oceania/Australia
Europe
North America
South America
The Arctic

Countries
Australia
Brazil
Canada
China
Egypt
England
France
Germany
India
Israel
Indonesia
Japan
Mexico
Nigeria
Pakistan
Ukraine
Spain
United States

Landforms, Biomes, and Bodies of Water

Seas and Oceans
Ponds, Lakes, and Rivers
Coasts and Beaches
Mountains
Forests/Rainforests
Deserts
Volcanoes
Glaciers
Tundra
Volcanoes
Rocks and Minerals

Space Science

Space (in general)
Earth
Solar system
The moon
The sun/stars
Aliens
Black Holes
Space Travel

Meteorology and Weather

Seasons (general)
Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall
Ecosystems
Weather (in general)
Hurricanes
Earthquakes
The water cycle
Snow/Sleet
Clouds

Physics

Physics (in general)
Force and motion
Simple machines
States of matter
Light spectrum

Chemistry

Chemistry (in general)
Periodic table
Chemical reactions
Crystals

Transportation

Transportation (in general)
Transportation Infrastructure
Automobiles
Contruction Vehicles
Trains
Aircraft
Motorcycles
Boats
Rockets
Auto design

Computers/Technology

The Internet
Computers
History/Evolution of Phones
Energy production and harvesting
Photography
Artificial intelligence
Robots
Game Design
Website Design
History of Animation
Music Composition/Recording
Graphic Design

Time Periods/Significant Historical Events

Ancient Egypt
Ancient China
Indus-Valley Civilization
Mesopotamia
Middle Ages/Medieval Period
Viking Age
The Renaissance
Age of Discovery
Elizabethan Period
Industrial Revolution
World War I
The Great Depression
Pearl Harbor
World War II
Decades 50s/60s/70s/80s
The American Civil War
The Gold Rush
The Fur Trade
The Silk Road

Holidays/Events

Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Christmas
Hanukah
Kwanzaa
Diwali
Bodhi Day
Feast Day of Our Lady Guadalupe
St. Patrick’s Day
Halloween
Day of the Dead
Easter
Yule
Elections
Olympics

Activities

Gardening
Baking
Scrapbooking
Finances (Budgeting, Investment)
Recycling
Sports
Starting a Business
Interior Design
Fashion
Cooking/Baking
Interior Design
Fitness/Nutrition
Artistry (painting/scultping/Jewelry/etc.)
Performing Arts (dance/theater/band/etc.)

Literature

Magic Tree House Books
Roald Dahl books
CS Lewis books
Little House on the Prairie
Charlotte’s Web
Harry Potter
Tolkien books (The Hobbit or Lord of the Rings)
Shakespeare
Poetry
The Wind in the Willows
Anne of Green Gables
The Giver
Red Badge of Courage
Bud, Not Buddy
Wonder
Esperanza Rising
George Orwell Books

Get your FREE Template (pdf)

The Ultimate Homeschool Museum Tours: 30 Virtual Museums to Explore

The Ultimate Online Homeschool Museum Tours

30 Virtual Museums to Explore from your Sofa!

Discover a world of wonders without leaving your home! Explore the 20 most captivating online museums and elevate your homeschooling experience to new heights. With just an internet connection, your children can immerse themselves in art, history, and culture, gaining valuable insights and expanding their knowledge in the most engaging way possible.

Paris

Transport your kids to the heart of artistic brilliance. Explore the masterpieces of Michelangelo and the fascinating world of Egyptian Antiquities. The 360-degree tour allows them to absorb every detail, sparking their curiosity. Virtual Tour

Washington, D.C.

This famous American art museum features online exhibits of American fashion from 1740 to 1895, including many renderings of clothes from the colonial and Revolutionary eras and a collection of works from Dutch baroque painter Johannes Vermeer. Virtual tours and audio guides offer children a personalized exploration of galleries, enhancing their appreciation for diverse art forms. Online Exhibits

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

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

New to Homeschooling>>>

Apple – Spotify – Google Play – Amazon – Others

London

Uncover the mysteries of ancient civilizations. This iconic museum located in the heart of London allows virtual visitors to tour the Great Court and discover the ancient Rosetta Stone and Egyptian mummies. Children can marvel at the intricate details of artifacts like the Phoenician panel of a sphinx in ivory, gaining a deeper understanding of the cultural tapestry that spans centuries. Virtual Tour

Rome

Journey through classical sculptures curated by the Popes. A virtual tour of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel provides a unique opportunity for children to appreciate the grandeur of art and architecture. Virtual Tour

Los Angeles

Encounter a spectrum of creative treasures. The virtual tour offers children a glimpse into art history, from Van Gogh’s Irises to neolithic clay figures, fostering a love for diverse artistic expressions. Online Exhibits

Washington, D.C.

This museum is a center for the history and science of aviation, spaceflight, planetary science, terrestrial geology, and geophysics. It contains the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia, the Friendship 7 capsule, the Wright brothers’ Wright Flyer airplane, and Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis. Virtual Tour

Florence

Step into the realm of Italian artistry. This less well-known gallery houses the art collection of one of Florence’s most famous families, the de’ Medicis. High-quality images of works by Cimabue and Botticelli allow children to witness the evolution of artistic styles and discover the stories behind each masterpiece. Virtual Tour

Florida

Unleash creativity in the surreal world of Salvador Dalì. Children can navigate through rooms dedicated to different phases of Dalì’s career, understanding the artist’s unique perspective and even discovering his final resting place. Virtual Tour

Madrid

Connect with history through artificial intelligence. Children can explore art across specific timelines, gaining insights into the cultural evolution that shaped different eras. Virtual Tour

Immerse in modern artistic expression. Children can browse through the online gallery, discovering diverse forms of contemporary art that stimulate their imagination and creativity. Virtual Tours

Virginia

Unearth the untold stories of remarkable women. Through well-curated exhibits and oral histories, children can gain a profound appreciation for women’s contributions throughout history. Online Exhibits

Explore a treasure trove of world culture. With over three million works available online, children can appreciate the historical significance of The Winter Palace and other iconic exhibits. Virtual Tours

Fuel curiosity with the “Iceman Database.” Whether a budding archaeologist or a curious kid, children can delve into every detail about the Iceman, connecting with the mysteries of the past. Virtual Tour

Milan

Sharpen artistic senses with HD images. Children can closely examine the exhibits, fostering an appreciation for the details that make each piece unique. Online Collection

New York

Immerse in art through The Met 360° Project. Children can virtually stroll through the museum, making art history come alive in a way that resonates with their senses. The Met 360° Project

Turin

Connect with Egyptian history through video tours. Executive Director Christian Greco’s insightful explanations bring the majestic collection to life, making ancient history accessible to young minds. Virtual Tour

Amsterdam

Wander through 80 galleries showcasing Dutch masters. Children can discover the beauty of works by Vermeer and Rembrandt, fostering an appreciation for the rich artistic heritage of the Netherlands. Virtual Tour

Paris

Explore French Impressionism in this popular gallery that houses dozens of famous works from French artists who worked and lived between 1848 and 1914. Children can explore artworks from Monet, Cézanne, and Gauguin, among others, gaining insights into the artistic movements that defined an era. Virtual Tour

London

Embark on a virtual journey through time. Children can get lost in gallery spaces, exploring the collection’s diversity and encountering the famous Dippy the dino in the entrance hall. Virtual Tour

Bilbao

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is a world-class museum of modern and contemporary art designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry. Experience the fusion of art and architecture. Children can take a virtual tour, exploring postwar European and American painting and sculpture in a uniquely designed museum. Virtual Tour

Don’t miss the incredible opportunity to transport your children to the best online museums globally. Let them learn, discover, and stay endlessly curious, all from the comfort of your home!

Seoul

One of Korea’s popular museums can be accessed from anywhere around the world. Google’s virtual tour takes you through six floors of contemporary art from Korea and all over the globe.

Berlin

The Pergamon Museum is one of Berlin’s “must see” museums. Impressive exhibits await visitors of the Pergamon Museum, who can prepare themselves for a veritable journey into the past. The Great Altar of Pergamon, the magnificent Babylonian Processional Way, the façade of the Caliph’s Palace of Mshatta and the Market Gate of Miletus are just a few of the highlights on display that have helped the Pergamon Museum achieve international recognition. Virtual tours

Amsterdam

Anyone who’s a fan of this tragic, ingenious painter can see his works up close by virtually visiting this museum, home to the largest collection of artworks by Vincent van Gogh, including more than 200 paintings, 500 drawings, and 750 personal letters. Virtual tours

São Paulo

The Museu de Arte de São Paulo is a nonprofit and Brazil’s first modern museum. Artworks placed on clear, raised frames make it seem like they’re hovering in midair. The Museu de Arte de São Paulo is a nonprofit and Brazil’s first modern museum. Artworks placed on clear, raised frames make it seem like they’re hovering in midair. Virtual Tour

Mexico City

Built in 1964, this museum is dedicated to the archaeology and history of Mexico’s pre-Hispanic heritage. There are 22 exhibit rooms filled with ancient artifacts, including some from the Maya civilization. It is the largest and most visited museum in Mexico and collections include the Stone of the Sun, giant stone heads of the Olmec civilization that were found in the jungles of Tabasco and Veracruz, treasures recovered from the Maya civilization, at the Sacred Cenote at Chichen Itza, a replica of the sarcophagal lid from Pacal’s tomb at Palenque and ethnological displays of contemporary rural Mexican life.

Detroit

Get your fill of modern art, realism, impressionism and more with Detroit Institute of Arts’ online exhibits. There’s also an exhibit that features Frida Kahlo. The DIA has one of the largest and most significant art collections in the United States. With over 100 galleries, it covers 658,000 square feet.

Houston

Get the full experience of being in the Houston Space Center with an app that offers augmented reality. You can also use the virtual gallery to get a 360-degree view of the galaxy.

Ohio

The official virtual tour of the National Museum of the United States Air Force includes a stroll through the cockpit as well as models of America’s earliest aircraft.

Philadelphia

Explore the diverse stories and complex events of the American Revolution in historic Philadelphia. Through the Museum’s unmatched collection, immersive galleries, powerful theater experiences, and interactive elements, visitors gain a deeper appreciation for how this nation came to be and feel inspired to consider their role in ensuring that the promise of the American Revolution endures. Virtual Tour

Greece

Benaki Museum houses Greek works of art from prehistoric to modern times and an extensive collection of Asian art. It also hosts periodic exhibitions and maintains a state-of-the-art restoration and conservation workshop. The entire museum can be viewed virtually in great detail. Virtual Tour

Learn More..

Learn more about Field Trips in your homeschool and download your FREE Field Trip Bundle HERE >>

054. How Do Homeschoolers Transition from Elementary to Middle School?

How Do Homeschoolers Transition from Elementary to Middle School?

Middle school marks a time of intellectual and personal growth, where kids explore a broader range of subjects and develop critical thinking skills. In today’s episode, we’re talking about transitioning from elementary to middle school and how homeschooling offers a unique opportunity to tailor their learning experiences to their individual needs and interests. We’ll be exploring the advantages, strategies, and resources that will empower you in providing a rich and engaging education while nurturing your child’s love for learning and growing independence. 

Episode 054:

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 spend a lot of time here talking about our beginners and younger homeschoolers and then even more time focused on our high schoolers and getting them ready for college and beyond, but one group often gets left to the wayside in homeschool discussions, and that’s our middle schoolers!  They are the Jan of this Brady Bunch!

But meanwhile, homeschooling middle schoolers represents a dynamic phase in a child’s educational journey. Many parents realize at this age that traditional school does not fit their child and choose to withdraw and homeschool their child. If this is you, please take some time to check out our Deschooling page. Deschooling is an essential step to successfully homeschool after withdrawing your child and it will help reengage them and reignite their love for learning. And this step is not just for the kids, it’s an important step for the parents too. You’ll spend time reconnecting with your child and figuring out what kind of education you want to provide so if your kids are in an unhealthy environment, pull them out now and start this process. You don’t have to have it all figured out to begin.

Transitioning from elementary to middle school for homeschoolers is a significant step in a child’s educational journey. It marks a shift from more flexible, parent-led learning approaches to a more structured and diverse curriculum. 

How to transition from elementary school to middle school? (4:36)

Here are some key considerations and tips for a smooth transition:

Curriculum Transition

Now is a good time to evaluate your homeschooling curriculum and materials. Middle school typically introduces more or gets more in depth with subjects, such as science, history, and literature. And be sure to consider resources that align with your state’s educational standards. Look up your State’s Homeschool Law

You’ll want to choose age-appropriate materials. You may find that your student who thrived with read-alouds, may want to do more on their own, or that you need additional hands-on activities.  We always caution our younger families not to get too excited about curriculum early and buy ahead several years- what was great in elementary may not suit your family later.  

Planning and Scheduling

Create a clear plan and schedule. Establish daily routines and set realistic goals for academic progress. And this doesn’t have to be super rigid, but a little more structure in your schedule is going to help them develop time management skills.

how long does it take to homeschool

This doesn’t mean suddenly you need a 7-3 schedule.  Remember that homeschooling is still way more efficient, and you can get more done in a day, but you may want to just add in some more structure or increase your time. An average time a homeschool middle schooler spends on formal academics is 1-3 hrs. a day. If we have a big project we are working on, we tend to spend a little more towards 3 hrs., but can usually wrap up school in 1.5 hrs. 

Increase Independence

Encourage your child to take more ownership of their learning. Provide opportunities for them to plan and organize their assignments and study times. This is the age that I introduce the concept of notetaking, and if my kids are taking an outside class, I start to have them show me their notes and teach them how to review notes after class. Middle school is an ideal time for them to develop greater independence in their studies but gently guide them on forming good habits.  

How To Take Great Notes Quickly and Easily is a very easy guide for your middle schooler. (40+ Note Taking Tips for School, Work, Books and Lectures. Cornell Notes Explained and more!

Extracurricular Activities

Explore extracurricular options, such as sports, clubs, and community involvement. These activities can help your child develop social skills, find their interests, and make friends. I had a couple kids that still really liked park days at this age but also a couple that were ready for being dropped at a coffee shop while I took others to the park. Extracurricular Idea Guide.

Field Trips and Real-World Learning

Continue incorporating field trips and hands-on learning experiences. I love this age for field trips! Some of those field trips that your younger kids were too little for are perfect for this age. And these kids benefit from real-world applications of what they’re learning. 100 Homeschool Field Trip Ideas. Also, check out our favorite subscriptions to keep learning engaging.

Technology Integration

Introduce educational technology and digital resources. Middle schoolers may need to become proficient in using computers for research, online classes, and projects. Teach them to use Google docs, PowerPoint. and spreadsheets. A typing program may be handy too and a lot of middle schoolers like to get into gaming and programming, too. Scratch is an awesome free program from MIT.

Individual Learning Styles

Recognize that every child learns differently. Tailor your approach to accommodate their unique learning style and strengths, whether they are visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learners. This goes along with re-evaluating your curriculum that we mentioned above- make sure your choices grow with your child. What is Your Child’s Learning Style?

Communication and Support

Maintain open communication with them. They may have sought a lot of independence, but this is all new and sometimes that can create stress. Address any concerns or anxieties they may have about transitioning to middle school and more independence. Be available to provide guidance and support. 

Seeking Help When Needed

If you find certain subjects challenging to teach or if your child has specific educational needs, consider enlisting the help of tutors or specialized educational programs or outsourcing classes. We both have outsourced classes-math and science, writing classes on Outschool.

Socialization

Middle school is a time when children often crave more social interaction. Help them connect with friends with similar interests, values, and beliefs by arranging playdates, group activities, and co-op classes with other homeschoolers to build friendships. This is a time of great transition socially and all of these changes can either be nurtured or hindered by peers. Peer Pressure can even happen to homeschoolers, and it can be either positive or negative. In an effort to best handle social pressure, teach them to be assertive by speaking up and telling friends what they like/don’t like. Most homeschoolers don’t have a problem with this. Keep an open dialogue so they feel safe coming to you about situations that they don’t understand and/or that make them feel uncomfortable.

Our FREE download this week (bottom of this page) is a Guide for your tween to help encourage them to make friends and nurture those relationships. We usually make a resource for the homeschool parent but this one is to print out and hand it to your child to help encourage them. This age can be hard and awkward and lonely. Hopefully this resource will help them to reach out and be proactive in finding connections. 

Transitioning Gradually

If your child is apprehensive about the transition, consider a gradual approach, introducing the new middle school curriculum incrementally to ease the adjustment.

This transition from elementary to middle school can be a positive and exciting step in a homeschooler’s education. By being proactive in your approach, providing structure, and maintaining open communication, you can help them navigate this transition with confidence and success.

What academic skills are crucial for middle schoolers? (14:56)

Middle school is a critical stage in a student’s development, where they acquire a wide range of academic, social, and life skills. Below you will find some crucial skills for middle schoolers.

Academic Skills

  • Reading Comprehension: The ability to understand and analyze written text critically.
  • Math Proficiency: A solid foundation in math concepts, including arithmetic, algebra, and geometry.
  • Research Skills: The capacity to conduct research, evaluate sources, and cite information accurately.
  • Problem-Solving: The capability to identify and resolve complex problems effectively.
Achieving success in this more challenging world requires knowing many more words. 100 Words Every Middle Schooler Should Know helps Middle Schoolers to express themselves with distinction and get the most out of their education.
Prepare your child for middle school math with the Middle School Math Practice Workbook. This workbook provides children with comprehensive practice questions that cover a wide range of topics they will encounter in middle school.
The How to Write an Awesome Paragraph Step-by-Step workbook teaches your students how to write a strong paragraph using a foolproof step-by-step process. This book is particularly useful for struggling or special needs students who will welcome the explicit steps which they can re-use each time they need to write a paragraph. The visual supports and incremental practice also build confidence in a wide range of students.

Organization and Time Management

  • Time Management: The skill of managing time efficiently to balance academic work, extracurricular activities, and their personal life.
  • Organization: Keeping track of assignments, materials, and schedules. Also, check out our Top 15 Planner Strategies for Middle School

Critical Thinking

  • The ability to think critically, analyze information, and make informed decisions.
  • Logical Reasoning: The capacity to reason logically and draw valid conclusions.
The Thinking Toolbox is like a toolbox, full of different kinds of tools your child can use for different thinking tasks. Just as you use the wrench in a regular toolbox to fix the sink, so you can use the tools we give you in this book to solve thinking problems.

Communication Skills

  • Effective Writing: The capability to express thoughts and ideas clearly in written form.
  • Oral Communication: The skill of articulating ideas and speaking confidently.
  • Active Listening: The ability to listen and comprehend information during discussions and lectures.
Paragraphs for Middle School: A Sentence-Composing Approach gives students new tools to write mature and varied sentences through imitating models.

Research and Technology

  • Research skills, including online research, source evaluation, and effective use of digital tools.
  • Proficiency with technology, including word processing, spreadsheets, and presentation software.
  • Information Literacy: The ability to find, evaluate, and use information from various sources critically.

Social and Emotional Skills

Social & Emotional Learning has engaging lessons, strategies, and tips that help students develop self-awareness and manage social challenges so they can navigate middle school and focus on academics.
  • Empathy: The ability to understand and relate to the feelings of others.
  • Conflict Resolution: Skills for resolving disputes and conflicts peacefully.
  • Self-Awareness: Developing an understanding of one’s emotions and reactions.
  • Resilience: The capacity to bounce back from setbacks and adapt to challenges.
  • Cultural and Global Awareness: Developing an understanding of diverse cultures, perspectives, and global issues. We’ve used Universal Yums to do this for years.
Universal Yums has been a wonderful addition to our homeschool. My kids have learned so much about different regions and people from all over the world! Get a new country every month.

Study Skills

  • Effective study habits, including notetaking, summarization, and test preparation techniques.
  • Time management for studying and completing assignments.
Learning How to Learn has empowered more than two million learners from around the world to master subjects that they once struggled with. These learning strategies reveal how to make the most of time spent studying. This book is filled with illustrations, application questions, and exercises, this book makes learning easy and fun.

Teamwork and Collaboration

  • Working effectively with peers on group projects and in team-based activities. Future City Competition is one of our favorite Middle School group activity – you can win cash prizes!

Health and Wellness

  • Basic knowledge of nutrition, physical fitness, and mental health, as well as maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 
  • Promote a healthy lifestyle by encouraging physical activity, balanced nutrition, and adequate sleep. Teach them about the importance of self-care and well-being. Learn more in Episode 051. Homeschool PE, Health, and Sex Ed. Download Free Fitness Dice!

Teaching and reinforcing these skills during the middle school years can significantly enhance a student’s academic success and overall development, preparing them for the challenges of high school and beyond.

How to care for tweens? (21:43)

Caring for tweens, who are typically children aged 9 to 12, involves a combination of emotional support, guidance, and age-appropriate boundaries. Tread carefully!  Some parents really find these years hard while some think it’s a breeze. Remember that our mantra is always “all kids are different!” And you get all that extra time to really know your kids.  Maintain open and non-judgmental communication with your tween. Encourage them to express their thoughts, feelings, and concerns. Listen actively and provide a safe space for them to talk. 

1. Recognize their growing need for independence and autonomy

Encourage them to take on responsibilities, make decisions, and learn from their experiences. You want to respect their independence. While respecting their autonomy, establish clear rules and expectations. Discuss consequences for breaking rules and consistently enforce them. But also reevaluate them when something is not working. Not everybody would agree with this, but I like to collaborate with my kids when establishing these rules and expectations. And they are more likely to follow them when they’ve had a hand in creating them.

Positive Discipline for Teenagers shows parents how to build stronger bridges of communication with their children, break the destructive cycles of guilt and blame that occur in parent-teen power struggles, and work toward greater mutual respect with their adolescents.

2. Guide them in developing problem-solving skills.

Help them analyze situations, weigh pros and cons, and make informed decisions.

3. Discuss the importance of healthy friendships and how to navigate peer pressure

Offer guidance on resolving conflicts and making good friend choices. Discuss healthy communication with peers, including listening, expressing themselves clearly, and resolving conflicts constructively. Emphasize the values of respect, responsibility, and integrity in their interactions with others. Get your FREE Teen Healthy Relationship E-guide.

4. Pay attention to their emotional well-being

Help them manage stress, anxiety, and emotions by teaching coping strategies and offering emotional support.

Middle school can be one of the hardest times of life for many young people. Tweens, Tough Times, and Triumphs is full of information and an absolute necessity for anyone homeschooling the middle grades.

5. Support and nurture their interests and hobbies

Provide opportunities for them to explore various activities and find their passions.

6. Foster a love for reading

Provide access to a variety of books. Discuss what they read and encourage them to explore different genres. 

7. Educate them about personal safety, both online and offline

Discuss topics like stranger danger, internet safety, and emergency procedures. Set reasonable limits on screen time and ensure that they engage in a balance of activities, both online and offline.

One service that I’ve used for years is called QUSTODIO. When my kids first got devices around middle school age, I really struggled with online safety and protection, and I eventually found this great tool that allows me to monitor apps and websites from my phone. I can even see what websites they visit and block sites from my phone! As they’ve gotten older, I’ve dialed back the monitoring as they have learned online safety but if you’re struggling with this, I would highly recommend this.

Keep your kids safe online:
Learn more about Qustodio>>

8. Make time for family activities and bonding

This strengthens the family unit and provides a sense of security and belonging. Caring for tweens involves striking a balance between fostering their independence and providing the necessary guidance and support to help them navigate the challenges of adolescence. Adapt your parenting approach to meet the unique needs and personality of your tween, recognizing that each child is different and may require different types of care and support.

This Week’s Freebie:

Give your child the tools to make and nurture meaningful friendships: Download your FREE Tween Friendship Guide (pdf)
Scroll to Top