Original Post Jan 16, 2020. Updated April 13, 2020. Updated again July 23, 2020.
I thought I would share some of the homeschooling materials we use and like in case it is useful to anyone. Maybe you are looking to supplement your kid’s learning. Maybe you need to temporarily homeschool while doing a move or PCS. Or perhaps you do homeschool and are looking for curriculum ideas! (or now that it’s July, perhaps you are homeschooling for a semester or a year due to Covid-19).
Some homeschoolers use set curriculums-either ones that are subject specific or ones that cover all subjects. Some homeschooling families put together their own materials and curriculum. That is what we do.
Books! We read so many books. Seriously…So. Many. Books. All topics and genres!
BrainPopJr–This site/app has a ton of videos for lots of subjects and topics. DD LOVES watching the videos. You can let them browse the site, or create a playlist of assignments. I assign videos related to subjects we are learning about and then can chose to include a multiple choice quiz, a web/map making activity, a drawing activity, etc as well. Videos are about 3-5 min and follow a girl, Annie, and her robot. It is animated. BrainPopJr is for lower elementary and BrainPop is for upper elementary. It is not a cheap subscription ($180/year Jan 2020), but they do have some free videos and each week they do a free video of the week. I like that I know that every single video is safe and accurate as opposed to letting her into the no-man land of You-Tube. If your budget is tight look down at the social studies section for info on Dr Binocs, a free Youtube channel with great social studies and science videos.
Outschool–(note, this link gives both you and me money credit if you pay for a class)–this is a huge collection of online classes for kids from 3-18 years old. Some classes are live and some are recorded and then use a message board. We use the recorded ones (Flex) because most of the teachers are in the US and the time difference is too much. There are one-time classes, month long ones, and semester ones. They cover all school subjects, plus things like anger management, video games, extracurriculars and more. DD finished a 6 week one on taking care of the Earth/being green and is currently enrolled in 3–a music one, an art one, and a physical science one. She loves them. The teachers have all been very responsive on the message boards and share videos, photos, etc. We submit photos of work our work and DD asks or answers questions on the message board. Classes range from about $5 to $100+ depending on their length and content. She loves having a teacher other than mom!
Update April 13, 2020: She has now finished 2 science ones, 1 music, and 2 art and is currently enrolled in 1 art and 1 science. We are still really enjoying them. Kristen Cwynar is our favorite for art and all 3 classes have been by her.
Teachers Pay Teachers–tons of teacher created digital products. Download and print or use. Lots of free items as well. This link goes to my store, which has a majority of things for fourth graders. From there you can search other stores as well.
Individual dry erase boards and markers–used for so many things! On them, I write our to do list, solve math problems, jot down a spelling word, show how to break apart a larger word for reading, etc.
Dry erase sleeves–slide a piece of paper in the page protector like pocket and then write with dry erase markers on worksheets, lists, etc. We use a generic Number of the Day page and just erase each day for a new number. Also handy for game score boards.
Range of dice–we use basic 6 sided ones, but also use 10 sided (0-9) and 12 sided (1-12) regularly. Handy for addition facts, place value games, and games of all kinds.
Along with a ton of books (oh man has my book weight increased this school year!), we use:
Raz-Kids–This is an online (computer or app) program with a ton of leveled readers. DD6 uses it on the iPad. I have a parent account and set her reading level, pick what books I want her to read, and can see her progress. When she logs in, she picks from my selected books and listens to the app read to her, then reads it herself, and then takes a 5-10 question multiple choice quiz. You can also set it so that the app does not read first. Or if you want them to hear a book that is harder than their level (because it relates to your unit of study, for example), you can also take away the “read yourself” option. There are also running record assessments where she reads a new text (without someone prereading it to her) while it records, records herself giving a summary, and answers questions. I then get those recordings and can listen to them and mark how she did. I like the variety of the books and she loves being on the ipad! It is about $100/year. They also have a science version that we use as well with books and articles on science topics at various levels.
Explode the Code books–this is a printed workbook series that works on phonics. There is also an online/tablet version, but we have not used it. The workbooks start with Get Ready for the Code which focuses on capital letters–writing them and learning their sounds. We used those with DD in preschool. The Explode the Code series has 8 books that work on progressive skills. It is easy to do independently. Amazon also sells the books.
DD and I do guided reading and Jan Richardson has a lot of materials if you need help teaching reading. http://www.janrichardsonguidedreading.com/ DD reads books at her instructional level with me daily. I spend a lot of time on Scholastic Book Wizard to find books at her level and then buy them on Amazon (if we had a bigger library, I’d go there). We use Guided Reading Level, but there are several ways to level books.
Epic! is a large collection of ebooks easily accessible through an app or their website. You can get a 1 month free trial and sometimes can find a coupon for 2 free months or other deals. I have been extremely impressed with their collection of books, both fiction and nonfiction. I am very picky about the books we read and want a range of cultures, biographies on a range of people, and books that include a range of experiences. We like it both for books for DD6 to read and for me to read aloud. It also has a good amount of holiday books. There are over 40,000 books and 3,000 books in Spanish, French and Chinese. You can create book lists as a parent if you want to give your child a set amount of book options rather than letting them browse.
Vooks are “A kid-safe, ad-free streaming library of read-aloud animated storybooks” focused on toddler to 8 years old. Teachers and homeschoolers get free access for a year and it is $5 a month for others. My kids like them and the read aloud quality is good. We don’t use it as much as the other options, but we got it free with homeschooling and so is worth it. I probably wouldn’t pay $5 a month as I do a lot of reading aloud myself. But if I was working and juggling homeschooling, it might be worth it.
Learning Without Tears–For kids learning to write their alphabet in print, they have an excellent app we used with DD when she was in PreK and K. They also have great writing paper, journals, and hands-on materials. Highly recommend for anyone with a beginner writer or letter learner. For DD now, we use their lined notebook paper (which is different from traditional paper), their journals, and their keyboarding program.
Spelling City/Vocabulary City–The free version lets you just practice basic spelling. The paid version (about $35/year) lets you play a whole range of games covering spelling, reading words, and vocabulary. They have a 2 week trial. What I really like is that you can create your own word lists or import a list from someone else (when you make a list, you can choose to make it public). DD really likes the various games. I make lists that relate to the Explode the Code work or lists that revolve around a specific sound, prefix, or suffix.
For writing, we do a writing workshop model and do a lot of free writing, writing across the subjects, and writing mail to send to family. I don’t follow a specific program as I am comfortable with writer’s workshop. However, when I was a teacher, Ralph Fletcher’s books on writing and writing workshop really helped me. He has books for teachers and books geared to kids. http://www.ralphfletcher.com/writing_teachers.html
Some types of writing we did in 1st grade included: dinosaur report as part of our dino unit, comic writing (focus on transition words and onomatopoeia), poetry (in April for Poetry Month), letter writing to family, several free choice pieces, a new version to a classic story (she rewrote the 3 Little Pigs), and a report on rocks and minerals.
Cursive–Cursive is not traditionally a first grade skill, but she asked to learn it and so we did! While I love the print lessons for Handwriting without Tears, I don’t love their cursive (mostly because it is different than how I learned cursive). I make my own worksheets using Handwriting Worksheets. I clustered letters based on their opening move. We started with “magic c” letters that start with a cursive “c” (c, d, q, a, g, o) and moved on to loop letters (b, e, f, h, k, l) and then to hump letters (m, n, v, y) and ended with all the remaining letters.
We do a lot of reading with social studies. We also find books on Raz-Kids, videos on BrainPopJr, videos on You-Tube, and go on trips! Wherever we travel, we study the country or city ahead of time.
Kids Discover Magazines–We like the young reader line for Kids Discover magazine covering social studies (and science) topics like geography, maps & globes, US Symbols, and goods & services. They are designed for grades K-2 and also have a line for upper elementary.
Dr. Binocs Videos on YouTube and YouTube Kids–My 4 year old and 1st grader are obsessed with these. They’ve watched them all multiple times. Dr. Binocs is an animated show with 5-8 minute clips on different science and social studies topics. He’s a floating cloud type thing with arms and eyes and a mustache. You’ll get everything from the history of silk to why do we blink to noise pollution. Very educational and fun.
Along with Kids Discover, BrainPopJr, Outschool, Dr. Binocs, and You-Tube, we like to use:
Science A-Z–part of the Learning A-Z company (which includes Raz-Kids), it has an app and online books, articles, news, and experiments. There are also things you can print.
Bill Nye the Science Guy (on Amazon Video) and Magic School Bus (on Netflix and Amazon Video)–the classics from my childhood! Both kids enjoy both of these shows. Bill Nye is only for purchase, but Magic School Bus you can stream depending on your location.
Magic School Bus Young Scientists Club boxes–We have used the nature and go green boxes and have an electricity one waiting for us to reach that unit. We bought them on Amazon and they have a range of topics. They come with most of what you need to do the experiments except for some basic items. We did find the nature one would work better in the spring or summer because of needing things like green leaves and flowers.
Other Science Kits–I love finding kits on Amazon. We did one on animal tracks and have one on motors and generators waiting. We really like Snap Circuits and the kids build with it a lot. It says ages 8+, but DD6 can do it on her own. DS4 needs help but loves building it with me.
We read a lot of books on science topics and create a lot of our own experiments. Making oobleck is probably our top favorite.
Math is the subject I use the fewest set curriculum items, but put together my own. I make sure I cover our home state math standards for 1st grade, but do them my own way. We use a lot of manipulatives and games. Some of our favorites:
Base 10 Blocks–make sure to have at least 20 ten rods and 20 hundreds flats and at least 1 thousand cube so that you both have enough. The set we bought isn’t on Prime anymore, but this gives you the idea of what to look for. We had to buy 2 sets to get enough. We use this for place value, to play Race to 100 (and now Race to 1000), to do addition and subtraction, to work with our Number of the Day, etc.
Play Money–addition, subtraction, ID coins and bills, make change, etc. The kit we got has play checks and I laminated them for durability and to last longer and am teaching DD how to fill in a check (using dry erase markers).
Wooden Pattern Blocks-make patterns, learn about symmetry, do fractions
Judy Clock -large, easy to see, hour and minute hands move together to show time easily.
Cuisenaire Rods–these wooden rods represent 1 to 10 units and are great for patterns, adding and subtracting.
2 Sided Chips-these are plastic chips (like poker chips) with red on one side and yellow on the other. Good for patterns, making tens, adding, using as markers for games, etc.
Junior GeoStix–Awesome for building shapes for geometry or patterns. They have bumps at various points for connecting mid points, building shapes, etc. Also comes with some curved pieces. We love them. The kids also like just building pictures with them.
Transparent Color Counting Chips-– These are colored, small, plastic chips that are also transparent (which makes them different from the two sided chips above). These are great on a 100s board, to mark Bingo squares or to cover game spots where you want to see through a bit. They also are great for counting, sorting by colors, or making patterns.
DD is currently taking an Outschool class (see above) on art that teaches about art concepts while doing a different art piece each week. I do the art too and really enjoy it!
We also do art units on different time periods. We like the Katie series of books by James Mayhew. Katie goes to an art gallery and ends up in the paintings and has adventures with the art work. Each book focuses on a different style, artist, or time period. We read them to introduce a topic.
We like the Young Artist Series Learn to Draw…. series. It provides step-by-step instructions for drawing different themes that DD can easily follow. We are using the Dinosaur one a lot right now.
DD also loves the Art for Kids Hub YouTube channel where they do drawing lessons for kids. They have holiday themed ones, popular movies and shows, sports, people, and more.
We use Outschool and DD just started piano lessons. We also like:
SQUILT-Music appreciation program that stands for Super Quiet UnInterrupted Listening Time. She has different units or calendars that give you links to listen to music and then information about that music. Kids listen and then work to ID tempo, dynamics, instruments, etc. We did the Christmas unit and the Baroque unit.
DD also has a recorder, ukelele, and glockenspiel that she plays with, though doesn’t have specific instruction with them.
DD takes gymnastics and swimming lessons weekly. She also likes to take her basketball or soccer ball outside to play and sometimes we go ice skating. We also sometimes do kid yoga from a YouTube user–Cosmic Kids Yoga who does yoga based on a movie or topic. We really like the Moana one! (I really need to do these more, as they are fun).
BitsBox–Coding subscription. We have the mailed/printed version, but there is a cheaper digital only version as well. Each month you get about 10 apps to code and build on their website (no tablet version). Learn about coding and make funny apps. DD loves it. Subscriptions start at $17/month for a year-long digital version and go up in price from there. It does require a decent amount of typing, particularly once you get halfway through the year subscription.
Keyboarding Without Tears–DD uses the typing program from Learning Without Tears to learn how to use the keyboard. It is a fun typing program. $11.50 for a year.
We go off and on with this with a lot of “off” lately. We may end up getting a tutor/Turkish speaking babysitter who can work with DD. But for materials–
books in Turkish we get locally or on Amazon
Mango Languages App–This costs money, but many US libraries and employers have subscriptions you can use. It has a huge range of languages and focuses on speaking and listening and practical skills. Good whether you are a tourist for a week or moving somewhere. You can jump around if desired to focus on certain skills. Because it speaks everything, kids can use it before they are strong readers.
Duolingo App–Free and does reading, writing, speaking, and listening. Does require a higher level of reading than Mango Languages. More academic than Mango Languages and requires you work in a certain order. DD doesn’t use this app, but I do. Has a range of languages.
Gus on the Go App–designed for kids, they have 30 languages. My kids (6 and 4) favorite language app. It has games and is cute and colorful. Free. Covers kid topics like animal names, food names, transportation, etc. Mostly nouns.
Mondly–There is a free version and a paid version for a big range of languages. We have the paid adult version, which came with the kids version. There is a free kid version, but I am not sure how much you can do before paying. DD likes the kid version.
Want a big list of ideas for materials, art supplies and books to buy? Check out my Amazon lists.