I used to hate school shopping. I know it sounds fun to go buy a bunch of pencils and books, but what actually happened was this: you take a bunch of kids in a store, which is your first problem. You have a list of esoteric items that neither you, your children or the store clerk have ever heard of and you feel this pressure to find them so your kid isn’t the only one who shows up without said esoteric item. There is an urge to just buy extra kleenex to share, because you know what that is, and hope that some other kid will bring extra of the said esoteric item. But you know from past experience that this strategy won’t work. At this point, your kids get hungry and whiny. They keep bringing you things they want you to buy, like a $90 backpack and $35 day planner. You get frustrated with them and with their teacher for putting you in this situation. You leave the store defeated. This sets the stage for the school year to come.
This is our first year of homeschool shopping, where I am the teacher and I get to make the “list”. We don’t need any more office supplies, so the list consists of curriculum and new tools for our school year. Here are some of the resources we are going to use this year. I hope you find something that is useful for your school too!
- TeachersPayTeachers.com This is an online forum for teachers to share the teaching materials they create. This ranges from free worksheets to entire curriculums for a reasonable fee. We are starting our school year with a unit on ancient Greece from Mr. E, who has ton of interesting social studies resources. Not only does this webpage provide high quality teaching materials that meet common core standards, it also provides a way for teachers to make some extra money on the work they are already doing, and I feel good about supporting that.
- Quizlet.com This is essentially a digital flashcard program. Since I basically got through college and medical school by making and using flashcards, I am ridiculously excited about this one. Once you make your set of flashcards, you can use them to play different games to help you memorize them. There is also a quiz and spelling test function. This alone is great, but what makes this webpage really exciting is that you can use other peoples flash cards too. I was looking into buying a deck of Greek alphabet flashcards on Amazon when I found several sets on Quizlet for free.
- WordlyWise3000 Many have probably already heard of WordlyWise. It is a highly rated vocabulary building curriculum. It is now paired with Quizlet so that kids can take advantage of the pre-prepared flashcards and games using their vocabulary words. (Make sure you but the fourth edition, which has the access code for the Quizlet flashcards).
- Evan-Moore Portals School This is also an amazing tool. The Portals Schools is an online program that offers topics from math and science to geography to language arts. You purchase a subject (for next to nothing!) and then assign daily tasks to students online. Kids can log on from their own computers and complete their assignments. The assignments are automatically graded and the teachers can then log in and review, adjust points as needed and give feedback. The software tracks the grades as well, which is a huge help.
- KhanAcademy.org This isn’t a new one for us but I thought I’d mention it again. Kahn is an online school that is free. It is funded by the Gates Foundation and the goal is to provide free, high quality education to anyone in the world via a virtual platform. It can take a little time to get the hang of using their resources, but it is worth the effort. There are tons of great videos and articles on all kinds of topics, all organized into classes. They also have a very useful math platform. They subscribe to the philosophy of subject mastery. In traditional schools, students are all expected to learn at the same pace, take a test and then, regardless of how they did on the test, move on to the next topic. In Khann math, there are no tests (which was hard for us to get used to at first!). Instead, students are able to move on to the next topic once they have demonstrated mastery by answering enough questions correctly. I really like this approach because it ensures that your kids actually know the foundation before moving on and building on it.
- TED-Ed (found at ed.ted.com). This webpage has short and interesting videos on almost any subject imaginable. These videos get kids engaged and excited about their lessons.
- Bible project.com These guys are amazing. They have created and continue to create short animated videos (usually about 5 minutes long) on different Bible topics. They believe that the Bible is best understood as one big story. They have a series of videos moving through the books of the Bible to help show how each book fits into that bigger story. There are also series on different topics such as how to read the Bible, covenants, Holy Spirit etc. I highly recommend taking a look at their website.
- PBS documentaries. We watch these online. The kids really enjoy them and they are very informative. We are currently watching as series on Ancient Greece.
In addition to the above digital resources, here are some books that we are using this year:
- The Ultimate Homeschool Planner, by Debra Bell. There are several pages at the beginning that explain how to plan and create your curriculum for the year. It has really helped me prepare and organize by starting with the big, broad goals and then breaking them down into doable steps.
- The Ultimate Daily Planner for Kids, by Debra Bell. The kids copy down their daily assignments into this planner as well as family events. I have two goals for them with this: learn to plan and organize their time; know what’s going on so they aren’t surprised and upset when I go to work or they have a dentist appointment.
- Veritas Press Flashcards for New Testament, Greece & Rome as well as the Art History deck and their textbook History or Art: Creation to Contemporary Art. We will use these to supplement our Greek and Roman History units.
- D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths
- Romans: Internet Linked (Illustrated World History) Illustrated World History by Anthony Marks
- Twice Freed by Patricia St. John. This is historical fiction about the life of Onesimus.
- The Greeks (Illustrated World History Series) Illustrated World History Series by Susan Peach, Anne Millard, Jane Chisholm, Ian Jackson
I would love to hear what resources you all are using this year!