Homeschooling is a hugely intimidating thing to research, especially with the hopes of grafting it into your own lifestyle, letting it shape your family and future. As a mama just dipping her toes in these last couple of years, I was completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information - and even discrimination. But it seems like every week I am meeting more new friends who were homeschooled, are homeschooling or are thinking about homeschooling. SO encouraging!
For those considering this path, I wrote a post (link here!) about people and places that have inspired me in my understanding of educating at home and now I want to share the books and materials that have been a big part of our life this last year of "kindergarten."
I use this phrase loosely because we are in no way replicating public school or what most consider to be kindergarten. We are reading, gaining math sense, discussing big ideas, going on nature walks, soaking in tea time with Mozart, Earl Grey & A.A. Milne, growing in character, and enjoying our beautiful liberty of freedom and fresh air.
And we love it.
These are the books, audiobooks, poetry, podcasts, games and curriculum we have gotten the most good out of this past year during "kindergarten"...
Mmmmm, books. I love good books. Always have and always will. Sharing good books with my littles has been one of the greatest joys in life. Picture books. Short legends. Scripture. Stories from around the world. Nature journals. While we own and use a great deal more than the below (lots in anticipation of next year and beyond) these are the ones that have been most useful to us this year.
I have so appreciated this book because it helps me share with Alice and Milo the truths and attributes about God and our relationship to Him. It is simply presented and scripturally sound and has been a great foundation for understanding our God and our world.
Admittedly, sometimes I like this version even better than my grown up ESV! It gets to the heart of God so beautifully and the story of God's great rescue of the people he loves is woven in from the very beginning. Every child - and adult! - should read this to get familiar with the overall story of God and how He loves us always.
A teacher friend of mine is loaning us her first few sets of Bob books and Alice dances through their carefully strategized phonics, building on sounds and structure as she goes. They are short and engaging, giving her confidence and a footing for more.
Nowadays there are so many fantastic early reader series, but Little Bear will always have a special place in my heart. I love the characters, the heart, the cadence, and the sweet little storylines. They cost us a little more to read because their sentences and pages are longer, but they are fun adventures to romp through when Alice has all her wiggles out.
A Year Full of Stories: 52 classic stories from all around the world by Angela McAllister
Broken down by months, we travel everywhere from Rama's India through the cold mountains of Norway to the forests of the Iroquois, always touching a little bit of culture, values and history along the way. And the pictures are colorful and playful to boot!
Nature's Day: Discover the world of wonder on your doorstep by Kay Maguire
This beautifully illustrated book of nature is broken down by seasons, each page sharing bits of information about the setting it visits - backyard, woods, pond, city, etc. It is simple, sweet and perfectly designed with big pages to touch and pour over. Just right for us.
We may not be feminists, but I love that Alice and Milo can see the incredible impact women as well as men can have in the world. Inside are 100 stories about the life of extraordinary women and they are even illustrated by different female artists! We get to talk about what each did to serve or contribute to the needs of others, the noble or heroic character they embody and even a glimpse into the culture or history each come from. Great jumping off point for big ideas and inspiring conversations.
The Art of Flora Forager by Bridget Beth Collins
As an artist, minimalist and nature lover, this body of work by Miss Collins is incredibly inspiring to all of us. She uses all manner of flora for her masterpieces, transforming shapes of color and texture into works of art. And so we gather bits of nature on our walks, bring it back and paint with petals and leaves. Once the fun is over, we take a picture and sweep the remnants into our compost bowl to become new petals and leaves someday. No waste, all fun and resourcefulness.
Afternoon tea has become a beloved part of our day together. It's usually instigated by hungry tummies, but at the end we've satisfied more than stomachs - we've satiated unruly spirits in need of a little civility and a weary sibling soul with a cup of something warm, some stories of goodness and truth, and time spent together enjoying beautiful things. The kettle boils as Yo Yo Ma lilts and the sun streams in through the trees, bathing our little ritual in a pool of gold. Within 10 minutes of steeping and laying a table, we're all ready for a snack of sweets and words.
The selection is different every day: earl grey or chai? A.A. Milne or Stevenson? Yo Yo Ma or Alexa's own impeccable "Classic Piano" playlist? Almost as quick as I can pour, the tea cups are drained and questions posed. "More tea, please!" I have to make a full pot now for these tiny people, my own cup barely touched and certainly cooling while I read.
Once the magic is over and our humor restored, the littles rush to be the first to clear away the debris - cups and saucers, tea pot, maple syrup, creamer pitcher, spoons and cloth napkins. Then they are washing away tea mustaches and off to the next great adventure.
(Anything by or illustrated by Tasha Tudor for that matter)
Anything by A.A. Milne
Any poet featured in the Poetry for Young People series
I read aloud to the kiddos every day, and one of the pieces of advice I got from my dear penpal's mother (who homeschooled her family!) was to embrace audiobooks. Great literature brought to life by the rich voices of others to engage with for quiet time or driving here and there has served not only to entertain us but to grow us. The discussions we have about noble or greedy hearts, redemptive plot lines and cultures of the time continually amaze me. Alice and Milo now know Robin Hood, Gulliver's Travels, Rip Van Winkle, The Three Musketeers, Irish legends, King Arthur, Shakespearre for children, and so many more because of audiobooks. Our library has a wonderful selection, and I've also begun to buy used copies of Jim Weiss's renditions from third party sellers on Amazon. Next in our cue: Aesop's Fables, The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, and Narnia.
Alice's favorites: The Taming of the Shrew (she marvels over Katherina's transformation everytime), Stone Soup, A Midsummer Night's Dream (I mean, come on..."Bottom"! Even Milo loves it!) and The Enchanted Castle.
We love the flexibility of this nature curriculum. Each week has a thoughtfully chosen theme based on the season and is complete with the perfect amount of information on said theme, suggestions for your nature walk, references to The Handbook of Nature Study, a themed book list, poetry, artwork to study and extension activities depending on age and availability. It is incredibly user-friendly and so easy to adapt. I look forward to doing this in some form every year with the kids from here on out! Bonus? It's super affordable.
While I have learned that Alice is a very abstract thinker (oh my goodness the girl can talk through math problems like it's small talk), games and manipulatives are such a fun part of enjoying our life of learning. Below are the couple that we use the most, and I'm excited to use even more this upcoming year! (Bug bingo, Hit the Habitat Trail, dominoes, dice, coins, rulers, etc.)
I love the cooperative nature of this game as well as just how much you learn about plants and their properties. As you move along the trail you get hurt: stung, sore muscles, hunger, rash, fever, etc. You also encounter herbs that can heal. Other players can alleviate your maladies by sharing a plant card they have that can heal, and by so doing help your little band of friends to continue moving toward the huckleberry patch. It's so sweet to watch the kids spring into action saying "I can help with that!" instead of trying to beat each other. The sneakiest part: they have no idea they are learning. Cue diabolical mama laugh.
Any deck will do! No doubt you have 6 packs around your house (in which case the minimalist in me will tell you to get rid of all but two) but they are so useful in math problems. When I was just beginning to introduce the language of math to Alice's lexicon, we used these. Even just five minutes of flipping over cards and talking through equations can make quick work of becoming more familiar with numbers and solving problems.
I've shared before the podcasts that inspire me in my homeschooling and homemaking journey, but here are a couple that Alice and Milo love to listen to as well...
Mindy & Guy Raz bring a whole new level of interest to science for curious kids and their grownups. This super entertaining and informative podcast shares so many facts, current issues and potential solutions for anything to do with nature and our world. Your kids will literally laugh out loud. Ours do every time!
I've shared before how much we love this compilation of daring and brilliant women, and the podcast is even better! These expanded stories of real heroines range everywhere from Virginia Hall and her courage to be a spy during WWII - in spite of her wooden leg - to Yusra Mardini who fled her home country during war and saved a boat full of refugees with her swimming prowess and went on to compete in the Olympics. These women are inspiring, their cultures and situations eye-opening, and fantastic springboards to character discussions about self-sacrifice, courage and perseverance. Again, these are not just for girls - they are for everyone!
As you noticed, we don't use one curriculum - we use a lot of books and anything else that contributes to our lifestyle of learning. Because for us this isn't 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. This is LIFE. All day, every day. We are always learning, discussing, asking big questions, looking for the answers and exploring. We play. We build. We spend time with friends. We talk non-stop. And these resources I shared help us in that lifestyle.
When we get in the car, we don't blast Top 40; we listen to literature, podcasts and classical music.
We talk numbers and solve problems any hour of the day.
When we walk somewhere we breathe deeply of the earth or whatever blooming thing is afoot. We listen to cardinals and robins. We touch and identify the plants and take some home to journal, look up or turn into artwork.
Always living. Always learning.