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.

A Dozen Homeschool Favorites from 2016-2017

A Dozen Homeschool Favorites from 2016-2017

Written by Jessica.

The summer is in sight here in our homeschool, and I know that is the case for many of you too! Now's the time for gathering ideas and making plans for next school year. With that in mind, I thought it would be fun to share with you some of our family’s favorite things from our 2016-2017 homeschool:

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A Dozen Homeschool Favorites from 2016-2017

1. A “Welcome back to school!” caddy

My kids needed a better place to keep their school supplies organized. When I saw these utility caddies, I knew they’d be just right. To add a little fun to our first day back to school, I filled the caddies with things that everyone would be getting anyway (crayons, pencils, etc.) and then added in some things like stickers, snack treats, and chocolates. I wrapped up the caddies in wrapping paper and put “Welcome back to school!” notes on the fronts. I put all these in our school cabinet to be opened on our first day. Most items inside were standard back-to-school things, but wrapping paper and the extra little treats made them special! Even though the caddies won’t be new, I’ll be doing something similar this upcoming year because the concept was such a hit. It was exciting to have “presents” to open, and it really added to the fun of our first day!

A Dozen Homeschool Favorites from 2016-2017

2. Paper-saving school supplies

I don’t know why it took me until this school year to finally invest in lined mini white boardsreusable dry erase pockets, and dry erase markers; but I’m so glad I did! They get used every day. The dry erase pockets are great for our morning work or for any other worksheets that I don’t want to save written copies of. And I use the white boards for everything from spelling words, to math work, to writing rough drafts of sentences or short paragraphs. I even use them myself while teaching.

A Dozen Homeschool Favorites from 2016-2017

3. Five-Minute Bible Devotions for Children

My Big Book of 5-Minute Devotions is divided into different categories of animals. Each category features many animals, and each animal is discussed and used to highlight character traits (generosity, kindness, industriousness, etc.). A short prayer, a Bible verse, and several questions accompany the devotions, and the colorful and adorable animal/nature illustrations fill the pages. We also have Five-Minute Bible Devotions for Children: Stories from the Old Testament and Five-Minute Bible Devotions for Children: Stories from the New Testament. The latter two books follow a similar format, but they highlight familiar Bible stories. They are warm and upbeat, with nothing complicated, scary/sad, or heavy. They have a non-denominational tone, avoiding doctrinal issues and focusing on character traits, Christian living, and teaching Bible stories. These devotionals are recommended for children ages four-eight, and I found that to be accurate. I used them for two school years, last year and this, and my kids were in that age range both times. The books are geared toward younger listeners, but I found them to have enough value that they were worth reading through more than once. We have loved these devotionals so, so much!

A Dozen Homeschool Favorites from 2016-2017

4. Poetry memorization

More on a whim than anything else, I decided to see if my kids would enjoy learning some poetry as part of our Morning Basket time. At first they balked and didn’t think they could do it, but they soon realized how fun and easy it was each morning! We started in September with the following:

Sing a song of seasons
Something bright in all
Flowers in the summer
Fires in the fall
(from “Sing a Song of Seasons” by Robert Louis Stevenson)

We went from there. They learned to recite the title, the poem, and the author’s name. Each week they’d recite previously learned ones and we’d add in a new one. I used poems primarily from A Child's Book of Poems and loved the selections and the whimsical illustrations! I focused on poems, or poem excerpts, of just a few lines, and this worked well.

5. Action rhymes to start the day

My parents got our children subscriptions to magazines and one of these is High Five, the Highlights magazine for young children. It has a lot of activities at the back of each issue, and one of those is an action rhyme with color photos of kids acting them out (whole body action rhymes, not just finger-plays). I realized that I was underutilizing this resource and decided to incorporate action rhymes into our Morning Basket time. Similarly to how we did a poem each week, we’d learn one new action rhyme a week - or, we’d alternate a poem/action rhyme every other week. This turned out to be such a hit! If anyone felt lethargic or glum about doing school, getting up and moving by doing something silly and fun at the start of the day put an end to that, and soon there were smiles and giggles all around. And, as with the poetry, we’d review some or all of the rhymes often. Having the kids learn a bunch of poems and action rhymes helped them to practice recitation and speaking skills. Plus, it gave them something cute to “preform” from time to time for relatives - and that was always well-received! Win-win.

A Dozen Homeschool Favorites from 2016-2017

6. A trip around the world

Okay, not literally! But this year for geography, and in lieu of formal history, we learned about countries and continents using A Trip Around the World and Another Trip Around the World. I added in other books such as Children Just Like Me and Children Just Like Me: Celebrations, and we watched lots and lots of excellent YouTube videos to bring the countries and peoples we learned about to life. The kids had such a great time with this unit study, and I did, too. So much so, in fact, that this is the one thing I’ll be quite sad to wrap up in June and that I’m considering carrying over into next year as an “extra.”

7. A traditional approach to math

I’ve tried many math programs (Math U See, Math Mammoth, and Earlybird Math). Nothing was the right fit until this year when I tried a traditional approach with built-in spiral review at the end of each workbook page and chapter. Since we live in a state that requires standardized testing, I really appreciated using a program that taught all the skills and required no extra supplementing. At this point, I'm planning to continue with my traditional program next year, but am also considering Teaching Textbooks in order to take some of the teaching pressure off my shoulders.

8. Basic grammar workbooks

After trying Easy Grammar, we used BJU English 2 last year and liked it. We began with BJU English 3 for my 3rd grader this year, but just past midyear a change was needed. I didn’t want to invest in another expensive curriculum at that point, so I decided to just try a workbook from Evan Moor, a publisher I was familiar with from my classroom days. I chose Language Fundamentals Grade 3 and decided to add Language Fundamentals Grade 1 for my 1st grader as well. Since we use All About Reading and All About Spelling for phonics, reading, and spelling in our homeschool, I didn’t want an integrated program – just basic grammar. To be sure, these workbooks are not a true curriculum, but with the topics clearly explained and many examples given at the top of each workbook page, they function just like any grammar workbook does - and I don’t need a teaching manual at this level anyway. I like that there are just enough practice questions, not too many, and that the kid-friendly themes vary page per page for interest. The best part is that this is a reproducible resource. So at about $20 a book, I can photocopy the pages at home and use them over again!

9. Reading comprehension books

One of the things that made me cringe in the classroom was the overemphasis on reading comprehension in the early grades. This is an important skill to be sure, but spending too much time breaking down a story and answering questions about it can really take away from the joy of reading and learning to love books. For this reason, I try as much as possible to keep reading comprehension practice separate from learning to read and reading for enjoyment. Inexpensive, reproducible reading comprehension books like these and these help me to make sure we’re still doing some intentional practice of that skill, while making sure it doesn’t sully the experience of “just” reading.

A Dozen Homeschool Favorites from 2016-2017

10 & 11. All About Reading and All About Spelling

Our family has used AAR and AAS since we began our homeschooling journey. They are the sole unchanged curricula choices I’ve made, and I cannot imagine not using them. As a former 4th grade teacher who received far too many students each year who could not read, I know how valuable and very well-designed these programs are. We’ve used AAR Pre-reading and Levels 1-3 (my eldest was ready for chapter books after Level 3 so we never used Level 4, and I expect my other two will follow suit). We’ve used AAS Levels 1-3 and plan to use it right through to the final level. I cannot express how much I love, and how highly I regard, these two programs!

12. Writing here at The Unlikely Homeschool!

And finally…It has been such a blessing to me to begin writing at The Unlikely Homeschool during this past school year and to become a part of the encouraging, inspiring, and uplifting homeschooling community that is here. Thank you so much to Jamie, and to all who read here, for welcoming me into this special online space!


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