With nearly nearly two decades of homeschooling ‘clocked up,’ we’ve been privileged to have discovered some fantastic resources along the way to suit our family’s learning style. Sharing 10 of our favourites with you, that we highly recommend.
I’ve waxed lyrical before about how I love, love, love All About Reading and my love affair with All About Reading continues to grow. All About Reading is a multi-sensory program that emphasises; phonics decoding, fluency and comprehension, each lesson begins with a revision of the previous knowledge learnt and builds on in the next. All About Reading is resulting in our younger children’s reading journey being being smoother and faster than their siblings. We have finally found ‘the missing key’ to unlocking language. Jem is currently halfway through Level 2 and Bass is at the beginning of Level 1. Jack Jack began Level 2, completed a few lessons and gained sufficient confidence in himself to realise he actually could read, he was then motivated to pick up a book and try and off he went.
All About Spelling was the first All About Learning product we used, initially purchased in desperation as a remedial program for our older/middle children at that time. Since then I’ve been able to introduce the program to our current younger/middle children from the beginning of their formal language learning journey and have continued to be astounded and impressed. All About Spelling is also a multi-sensory program that teaches: encoding skills, reliable spelling rules and strategies to assist your child in becoming a proficient speller. Each lesson begins with a revision of the previous words learnt and builds on skills in the new lesson. After searching for years for ‘the’ spelling program I finally found the answer to my prayers.
*The All About Learning Products are affiliate links
We were alerted to Spelling Wisdom’s brilliance by my friend Jen’s enthusiasm many years ago and have been using it as our dictation program since. Using excerpts from many of the great classics, Spelling Wisdom teaches the spelling of 6000 of today’s most frequently used words as well as incorporating another 6500. It also teaches; punctuation, sentence structure and vocabulary. We’ve found it hugely beneficial to combine with All About Spelling. It is available in either American or British spelling options, though we’ve found the punctuation isn’t modern British, I’m uncertain the excessive amounts of commas are old English punctuation or American.
4. Handwriting – Vigilant Supervision
I’ve used a few approaches/programs over the years and come to the conclusion that there isn’t a ‘magic program’ that will automatically produce legible handwriting. What produces legible handwriting is vigilant supervision, there are no shot cuts here, you must supervise to ensure correct grip and formation and you may need to invest in a pencil grip. For many years I just used a basic handwriting exercise book, purchased from our local news-agency (stationary store), writing out passages for the children to trace or copy. As the number of our ‘students’ grew I needed something less teacher intensive, Jen introduced me to Startwrite which I absolutely love. Startwrite enables you to make special, custom copywork pages, which I do by pasting in poetry or Bible passages and then select font and print size, being able to print the sheets makes this all quick and simple. If you are after a free customisable copywork program for Mac or PCs Jen recommends Handwriting Worksheets.com.
5. Mathsonline (formerly mathematics.com)
As I’ve shared previously we’ve used mathsonline for over a decade. Initially only using mathsonline for our Grade 7-12 students and using Singapore Maths for primary school but when the company expanded to include K-12 we signed up all our children. Using online lessons has been a huge blessing to our family. Each lesson includes a programmed explanation complete with teacher and blackboard, followed by a series of questions and tests to answer. These questions are automatically marked and we, the parents receive weekly emails showcasing progress. This way we are able to firmly keep our ‘finger on the pulse’. The children pace themselves as they work their way through the various topics and sub-topics and a function we particularly appreciate is that the children aren’t locked into a grade, they have full access to across all grades. This means if a child is struggling to comprehend their building block material they can go back and access earlier grades to revise. Mathsonline is used in schools throughout Australia and line up with the Australian national curriculum, a big plus. Designed by an ex-homeschooling father they grant a massive discount to homeschooling families regardless of the number of children enrolled. Meredith assures me this program is now available in America as well, trading under the name CTC Math.
6. Living Books
Living Books form the backbone of our learning, with the exception of our foundational studies the majority of our learning is via a living books approach. What is a Living Book? A Living Book is generally written in a narrative, conversational tone, that engages and draws the reader in to learn more about a subject. We use living books to cover our; Faith, history, geography, science and literature, with both our highschool and primary aged children.
The following recommended resources focus on highschool (Grade 7-12)
In the primary years we prefer to use our huge collection of living books to study and nourish our Catholic Faith, however we have found a need for a more systematic approach in the teen years. Imagine my excitement when we discovered the Didache Course, a four year program covering; Church teachings, an indepth study of the Scriptures, Church History and Church Morality. Text is clearly written and teachings are cross referenced with the Catholic Catechism and Scriptures.
Bonus recommendation: Beginning Apologetics Super Set for apologetics.
World Physical Geography from GeoMatters is a ‘living textbook’ we assign to our children around grades 9-10. The course has an Earth Science focus and the student workbook includes mapwork activities. Years ago I interviewed our oldest daughter about her response to World Physical Geography. Bonus recommendation: Mega maps are hugely popular here as I’ve shared previously.
Science Matters is informative, yet written clearly enough to appeal to the average reader. Updated to include accessible explanations of the most recent developments in science, from particle physics to biotechnology. Einstein was our first teen to read Science Matters and he was extremely enthusiastic about its information and style, Michelangelo is our current reader. A favourite ‘living’ science book.
Bonus Recommendation: Kahn Academy
Our history approach is interest based rather than cyclic or chronological, although we devote a Term each year to Australian history. We have amassed a wonderful collection of living books to form the basis of our history studies as well as several popular living History texts.
Modern Times is an interesting and ‘meaty’ volume which some critics criticise, dismissing Johnson as ‘controversial and biased’ writing from a ‘conservative’ viewpoint, that is indeed true. He lists “the underlying evils” of the twentieth century as: “the rise of moral relativism, the decline of personal responsibility, the repudiation of Judeo-Christian values, not least the arrogant belief that men and women could solve all the mysteries of the universe by their unaided intellects”. We’ll take that bias 😉