Programs, Curricula, and Products

Some of our favorite material that’s time-saving, inspiring, works for multiple ages, and is just plain engaging. I’m not paid to praise or advertise these products; I’m just a happier homeschooler because of them.

 
 

Mystery Science

An online, annual subscription with unlimited access to dozens of engaging, open-and-go science lessons that K-6 kids will love. It saves so much time and takes little to no effort on the part of the parent. The lessons are truly engaging, with fun activities that really drive home the concepts. Easy to adapt to individuals, small groups, and mixed ages.


Bravery Magazine

I’m so glad to have stumbled upon this little gem. From their website:

“Bravery Magazine is a quarterly print publication for kids that features strong female role models. Full of illustrated stories, fun DIYs, and educational activities, Bravery is a tool that empowers kids to dream, do, and become their own kind of brave.”

The best part? My boys like it. It is not a “girlie” magazine, and appeals equally to boys and girls. I’ve never pointed out to my son that the person featured in each issue is female; he simply accepts and enjoys the content. It is an inspiring, character-building publication that you can use to supplement or even guide your social studies. And what kid doesn’t like to get mail?


Kiwi Crates

We’ve subscribed to Kiwico.com for years, and we’re never sorry we did. We get a monthly crate delivered to our door with three open-and-go projects related to a theme. It’s science, it’s art, it’s engineering. It’s fun. It’s high quality, easy to use, and truly includes everything you need so there is no prep, stress, or burden. We like to pay the extra money and have them include a curated book to come with the crate that supports the theme. They have expanded their offerings in recent years and have crates for different subjects and age groups.


Brave Writer

Julie Bogart is a homeschool mentor who is living proof that there is life on the other side of homeschooling and that it truly can be a successful and joyful journey. She is a prolific writer and curriculum developer with dozens of offerings to help coach parents to be great writing coaches for their kids. She sees the whole child, the big picture, the fears and wishes of homeschooling parents, and the challenges of real life—and keeps them all in mind when she creates her programs. A far cry from dry five-paragraph-essay assignments, Brave Writer makes use of projects, art, book clubs, movies, discussion, and other tools that are intrinsically motivating. She offers classes and curricula based on solid writing principles and develop passionate, capable writers, all while maintaining a flexible structure adaptable to any homeschool family. Whether your kids currently love or loathe writing, there is a program for every age and ability level. She is fully invested in helping you figure out where your child needs to go from here, and she’ll help you get there.


 

What about math?

Unlike the other resources listed above that can be used “family style” in some way or another, math really has to be tailored to each individual child in your family. Math for us has been a journey full of trial and error, fun and frustration, progress and plateaus. Here are the majority of methods we’ve tried, more or less in chronological order, with our shining star favorites in bold.

MONTESSORI

For young children, I find that the Montessori method not only provides a beautiful introduction to mathematical concepts and exercises, but shapes mathematical thinking. It’s concrete, tangible, appealing, and self-correcting. We purchased some manipulatives to work with at home, and also enrolled in another homeschooler/certified Montessori teacher’s in-home program part-time to enjoy the benefits of this method.

Right Start Math

Intuitive, open-and-go, hands on with lots of engaging manipulatives, and a great opportunity for some one-on-one time with your child. Sets a solid understanding of math. A great early elementary foundation that supports an older child’s transition to Singapore Math beautifully. (I will say that my independent child who doesn’t like to be told what to do did not like the hands-on, parent-directed approach to this program. My next child who loves time with mom, teamwork, and hands-on learning adores it.)

CtC Math

This was our first experience with an online, computer-based math program. It worked well when I needed someone else to explain math concepts to my kid because—gasp!—he didn’t want to hear them from me. Simple, clear video lessons and multiple choice questions helped my child visualize math concepts. I liked how the lessons were organized and automatically graded so I could know exactly where my child was at. The downside? No live teacher there to explain a concept in a new way if the video doesn’t make sense to your child. Oh, wait…that’s probably my job….

Kahn Academy

The best, most comprehensive free math resource I’ve seen. We used this to supplement our CTC math work when we didn’t understand a concept. My child liked creating an avatar and earning points when he completed lessons. But Kahn Academy is a big animal with lots of components and levels, and it was a little overwhelming for me. He wasn’t always sure what lessons to do next, and neither was I. And I started to worry that he wasn’t getting enough out of it since there was no paper and pencil workbook to practice in, and no manipulative to work with. I new he had gaps but I wasn’t sure where they were or how to fill them in. Concepts are well-taught and clearly explained, but my quest for a complete curriculum continued….

Education Unboxed

Free, simple, sequential online videos made by a homeschooling family for homeschooling families. It’s videos of a mom teaching math concepts to her two little girls, walking them through it with cuisinaire rods. Your kids can watch and follow along. I was looking for a free online esource that was simpler than Kahn Academy, and that my child could do pretty independently, to help fill in some of his gaps. While it was free, simple, and teaches good math concepts, we didn’t stick with this for long because some of it was too babyish and easy for my 3rd grader, and he couldn’t use it independently—it was too cumbersome to comb through trying to find the lessons I needed to fill in his gaps. But I can see how starting a young child out with it from the very beginning would be a fun, simple way to give your child a solid foundation of math concepts with little stress on the parent’s part, especially if Montessori is not an option for you.

Singapore Math

Easy to use, straightforward textbook and workbook, with optional teacher’s guide. Great for kids who need to work independently and screen-free. This was a happy place to land for my child who wanted me to back off and let him figure things out on his own. We recently switched to Singapore’s new Dimensions Math series, and we are loving it. We homeschool on the go a lot, and this is a great resource because it is self-contained and can be completed in the car or a doctor’s office waiting room.

Smartick Math

I found the holy grail—a digital resource my child could use independently that would fill in his gaps and help him level up. I’d had my eye on this program for at least a year before I finally made the plunge. It is pricy. It is worth it. If your kid is sick of workbooks, or you need a math program that your child can progress in independently, try making the switch. It can be used as a supplemental or stand-alone curriculum. It’s expensive because it overcomes the Achilles’ heel of most online math programs. It uses artificial intelligence to adapt to your child’s answers and quickly find your child’s gaps, then automatically provides the lessons they need to fill in those gaps and get them to the next level. This eliminating the time-sucking frustration of combing through a grade level curriculum trying to find my child’s gaps on my own, without making him do things that were too easy or too hard in the process. Additionally, there is a cute virtual world they get to play in at the end of each lesson that keeps him really motivated.

Prodigy

This is a math video game I was reluctant to try, but after hearing so many other parents and kids rave about it, I finally gave it a go. You can use the free version or get a membership, it teaches some good math, and my kids love to play it. This is new to us, so while it is a good supplement, I can’t say if it would be a sufficient stand-alone program. I also really try to limit my kids’ screen time, especially if there is a video game element, so we use this sparingly.