I'm a wife to my "Mr. Right". A momma of five. A maker of slow food and simple living. A collector of memories, a keeper of books, and a champion for books that make memories. An addict who likes my half-and-half with a splash of coffee. A fractured pot transformed by the One Who makes broken things beautiful. I heart homeschooling, brake for libraries, and am glad you're here with me on the journey! Be sure to subscribe to my monthly newsletter. Or, follow along with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google +, Youtube, or Pinterest.

Top Gift Ideas for Sneaky Learning

Top Gift Ideas for Sneaky Learning {The Unlikely Homeschool}

As a self-proclaimed, passion-directed homeschooler, I have definitely embraced the idea of strewing...sowing and scattering seeds of imagination, interest, ideas, and information...throughout our school day in hopes that these will grow into passions...hobbies...and life-long loves.

With purpose, I strew.

At Christmas time, my gift-giving takes on intentionality. I often purchase family gifts of Frankincense that will not only delight but also strew. ON PURPOSE.

(This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for full details.)

Call it sneaky if you must, but I call it cultivating on a budget.

Looking to cultivate seeds of passion this Christmas season?
Here are a few of my 

Top picks for sneaky learning


Outburst Bible Edition- Similar to the original version of Outburst, the Bible edition lists 10 target answers detailing people, places, and events from Scripture that all fall under one particular category. It's your job to help your team guess all 10 answers.

Bible Eyewitness Collector's Set- My middle son has this entire audio drama collection practically memorized! Consequently, he has a good grasp on many of the main events in Scripture.

Creative Writing

Q & A a Day Journal for Kids- Journal writing can be overwhelming for some kids. But, give them a question to answer and a small space to pen their response, and you can begin to build a love for writing even the most begrudging of authors. Because it keeps three years-worth of answers on one page, this journal documents a child's ever-changing personality and opinions. It's like a written time capsule.

(I made a simple spiral notebook journal like this one many years ago. I kept a daily one-sentence chronology of our life together as a family for almost four years. Each page was a different date. I just added the year and one sentence to the appropriate page. From year-to-year, I could see when we made our first snowman of the year, when we had a month-long flu, when my daughter lost her first tooth, etc. Unfortunately, in a baby-was-getting-into-everything season, many pages got ripped out and I never had the heart to create a new one. But...I've put the adult version of this Q & A journal on my personal Christmas wish list in hopes of giving it another go.)


Appleletters- A cross between Scrabble and Bananagrams, Appleletters is one of my new favorite word-building games. It's challenging for adults but easy enough for kids. Even a child who only knows how to spell simple one-vowel-words can play this one!


Buzzword Jr.- This is a family-game-night favorite. Not only does it encourage quick wit, but it also expands vocabulary and provides sneaky reading practice for those reading's-not-my-favorite-thing kind of kiddos.


Math Dice, Jr.- This is an easy-to-whip out game that provides ample math fact practice. But, because it's a game, kids don't even know they are learning! You can tuck the dice bag in your purse and have the entire game handy the next time you're at a restaurant awaiting your order or sitting in the doctor's office waiting room.

Blokus- This strategy game is perfect for the family with a wide age span of children. Although geometric math concepts abound, the basic parameters of the game are simple enough that my five-year-old can still participate and sometimes win. As an added bonus, it's a game that can be played with as little as two players which is often not the case with other family-style games.

Current Events

God's World News Magazine- Even without television access, my children are constantly bombarded with the tragedies of world events. I have quickly grown to love all three levels of this magazine as it helps my children stay informed with the current era while filtering all the global and national events through an age-appropriate grid and a Biblical lens. These magazines have turned out to be a gift for my kids and for me. They get to receive something in the mail each month (What kid doesn't love that?!) and I don't have to find space for another plastic toy that will only collect dust on the shelf.

To sample God's BIG World (ages 3-6)>>
To sample WORLDKids (ages 7-10)>>
To sample WORLDTeen (ages 11+)>>


Timeline- Since you already know why I think EVERYONE should make time for timelines, you can probably guess why this game's on my list! If you happen to be studying American History, perhaps Timeline American History would be a better fit.


USA License Plate Game- My kids are license-plate hunters. If we are in the car, they are looking for plates. While traveling here and there, they've found cars from all over the 50 states including two from Alaska and one from Hawaii. We plan on tucking this board in between the seats on our next big cross-country adventure and seeing how many more plates we can find and flip.

Ticket to Ride- While we don't actually even own this game, we play it A LOT! We've set up a modern-day bartering system with my husband's best friend in order to have access to the fun. He loans us the game and I give him a loaf of fresh-baked bread. It's a win-win for all...well, except for The Hubs who continues to lose to the kids and me every time we play together.


Snap Circuits- I can not tell you the number of hours my oldest son has poured into creating real-working electronic circuits. This is a must-have for any science lovin' kid!

Water Rocket- At first, I thought this was just a very cool toy. But, as I watched all of my kids standing around it brainstorming angles, speed, water weight, pressure, and much more in an effort to shoot the rocket in a particular direction or for a certain distance, I knew this rocket was more than just a toy.


Spirograph-This makes for the perfect artistic gift for left-brained kids...the ones who aren't always that into art. Spirographs combine artistic expression with geometry concepts and logical patterns. I suppose that's one reason my logical first-born naturally gravitates toward them.

Oodles of Doodles-It's not always possible for my artist boy to carry his entire caddy of art supplies everywhere he goes. But he can always tuck this doodling journal under his arm or toss it in his backpack and get a five-minute art "fix" whenever he gets the notion. It travels with him often. In my opinion, this doodling book is like a writing prompt for writers. It provides a "starter" drawing to get the creative juices flowing.

Sneaky learning when money is tight

If you, like us, are living on a debt-free budget and find that money is too tight this Christmas for extra gift spending, you can still provide some wonderfully enriching learning under the tree. It won't cost you anything but time and a few odds and ends you probably already have around your house.

DIY Tinkering Kit

Consider making a tinkering kit...a small box or bin filled with items that will either cultivate an already-formulated passion or possibly ignite a new one.

Three or four years ago, I made a science-themed tinkering kit to my science lovin' boy and he's been toting it around creating all kinds of "helpful" gadgets ever since. 

Top Gift Ideas for Sneaky Learning {The Unlikely Homeschool}

Originally, I just filled an empty box with all kinds of science-y type items from around the house...
  • gears from broken watches
  • switches from broken appliances
  • paper clips
  • a small flashlight
  • an old magnifying glass
  • rubber bands
  • empty spools from my sewing box
  • magnets
  • metal lids from old jars
  • clothes pins
  • the tube-like containers from 35 mm photo film
  • washers
  • a cork
  • masking tape
  • small batteries
  • a small hammer
But, when The Hubs consolidated a few family first-aid kits into one a couple of months ago, I gave my son one of the discarded kit boxes to be used as a more "professional looking" science kit. This little gift ended up costing me nothing, but has provided hours of sneaky learning for my son.

science tinkering kit

Tinkering boxes can be made for ANY child and for ANY passion. The items inside can be used. The point is not the newness of the supplies but the value you are putting on a hobby or passion by providing space for it.

Don't limit a tinkering kit to just science. You can fill one with...

  • art supplies
  • special pens and stationery supplies
  • sewing notions
  • building tools and supplies
  • "crime scene" investigator tools
  • cooking gadgets
  • exploration tools
  • camping gear
  • collections
  • Lego parts and pieces
  • stickers and stamps
  • nature-type items

Need more gift-giving ideas?

Be sure to check out my Top 10 Faith-Building Gifts or these other great themed lists at iHomeschool Network.


  1. I LOVE ur blog! So encouraging and filled w awesome ideas. Thnks for sharing ur journey w me.

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