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Instead of Curriculum: Real World Resources

Whether you are an unschooler, relaxed homeschooler, or just want to see your kids fall in love with learning, you'll find the resources and tips described here useful. From dictionary games to engaging audiobooks, these ideas help to turn your home into an environment rich with learning opportunities.

Playful Path: The Most Necessary Book You’ll Ever Get For Free

by Laura Grace Weldon

Bernie DeKoven may be a guru of fun but he’s got a serious message for all of us. We need more playfulness! This game designer and fun theorist was a pioneer in computer game design and instrumental in the New Games movement. His new book, A Playful Path, is jam-packed with awesomeness. It’s made up of tools and ideas to inspire the possibility-building, wide-open glory of playfulness. Continue reading »

Thinking Outside the Textbook

by Amanda Beaty

I’m a member of several homeschooling groups and email loops, and the most common questions are all related to, “It’s a battle to get my child to do her work. I thought homeschooling would be better for my child, but it’s all tears and yelling. For both of us. I may have to put her back in school.”

The specifics vary, but many parents new to homeschooling are trying to recreate a public school environment in their home and finding that it doesn’t work. It’s not their fault. Most of us went to public school; it’s what we know. We’re taught that this is the only way to get an education. That children won’t learn if we don’t tell them what to learn and force them do so. We shouldn’t be surprised when we find homeschooling not working under these circumstances. Continue reading »

Instead of Curriculum: Tech with Raspberry Pi

by Jeanne Faulconer

This year as I was making my rounds as a homeschool evaluator in Virginia, I ran across a number of homeschooled kids who were using an affordable mini-computer called a Raspberry Pi in order to do computer projects and learn programming. According to the Raspberry Pi Foundation: The Raspberry Pi is a low cost, credit-card sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse. It is a capable little device that enables people of all ages to explore computing, and to learn how to program in languages like Scratch and Python. It’s capable of doing everything you’d expect a desktop computer to do, from browsing the internet and playing high-definition video, to making spreadsheets, word-processing, and playing games. Continue reading »

Teen Tech Project: Building a Computer

by Jeanne Faulconer

This week I visited with a homeschooling family whose son was anxiously awaiting his shipments from New Egg and Tiger Direct — full of the components he would assemble into his own PC.

This brought back fond memories, since two of my three sons undertook this same project during their teen years, and my oldest actually did the same after he graduated. Continue reading »

Swapping Homeschooling Activity Bags

by Jeanne Faulconer

Put Homeschooling in the Bag – Your homeschool group or co-op might enjoy working together to create homeschooling activity bags for a swap. This was a fun idea our family did with a homeschool group, and it sort of works like a cookie swap at holiday time. You gather inexpensive supplies for a single hands-on pre-school activity, homeschool craft, or simple science experiment or demonstration (up through elementary age), and you put them in a zipper plastic bag with instructions. The beauty part is — you make up ten or twenty identical activity bags (according to the number of families participating), and you take them to the swap. Continue reading »

Ask Jeanne: What Curriculum for Homeschooling Active & Outdoorsy Boys?

by Jeanne Faulconer

We just started homeschooling about a month ago. Our son is in first grade. We purchased the curriculum (here she named a specific well-known Christian curriculum), but it’s not going as well as I had hoped. My son really doesn’t like the structure of the program. He’s a six-year-old boy who loves to be outside. Any encouragement, advice, resources, wisdom, or thoughts would be appreciated! Thanks so much! Continue reading »

Homeschool with Tangrams

by Jeanne Faulconer

Tangrams are simple seven-piece puzzles that build visual-spatial skills. Kids and adults alike enjoy manipulating the standardized pieces in the set, which includes a parallelogram, a square, and three sizes of right triangles. The pieces can be fit together to form a square, and in fact, when the puzzle pieces are made of wood, they are often stored in a square wooden frame. The real fun and thinking occur while moving the shapes around to form “pictures” or shapes. There is a real challenge in matching shapes that are already drawn out as puzzles to solve. Continue reading »

5 Benefits of Playing Chess

by Jeanne Faulconer

It’s not part of the traditional curriculum in United States schools or homeschool families — but playing chess is a part of the curriculum in about thirty countries around the world. According to Dr. Teresa Parr of MATCH, there are five significant educational advantages to chess for homeschoolers (and others) to consider. Continue reading »

BSA Merit Badges {Free Unit Studies}

by Jeanne Faulconer

Where can you find over 100 free high quality unit studies? Boy Scouts! The Boy Scouts of America (BSA) program offers great merit badge materials to its Scouts, which my older sons used on their way to achieving their Eagle Scout ranks. Completing merit badge requirements was often a great addition to their study of science, history, culture, government, business, and technology, and they also learned some great life skills for staying fit and healthy, managing money, and dealing with emergencies. Continue reading »

How to Host an International Student

by Jeanne Faulconer

In an earlier post, I described how hosting an international exchange student can be a benefit to a homeschooling family. Today I’d like to tell you a little more about the nuts and bolts of hosting a student in the United States. These details can help you to know what to expect when hosting an exchange student and can ease the transition for the whole family. Continue reading »

Instead of Curriculum: Lies and Statistics

by Jeanne Faulconer

One of my favorite “instead of curriculum” titles is the book Damned Lies and Statistics: Untangling Numbers from the Media, Politicians, and Activists by Joel Best.

This book is a great book for your high schooler to read. While it can be paired with a traditional study of statistics, it also works well on its own for kids who need to understand statistics from either a consumer point of view or for fact-checking research or stories in the media. Continue reading »

Instead of Curriculum: DIY.org

by Jeanne Faulconer

During my busy season helping families meet Virginia’s annual evidence of progress requirement for homeschoolers, I enjoy seeing all the resources parents use to help their children learn. This year, one of the resources a child was most excited about was DIY.org.

At DIY.org, children can choose to complete challenges for different “Skills,” earning both virtual and real embroidered patches (purchasing the patches is optional and is the only cost involved in the program), and developing a portfolio of videos and photos showing when challenges are accomplished. Continue reading »

What Curriculum Should I Use For My 4 Year Old?

by Mary Ann Kelley

Recently on TheHomeSchoolMom’s Facebook page someone asked for recommendations for her soon to be 4 year old. It took me back to when I had a 4 year old and a 1 year old and had recently decided to homeschool.

I. Was. So. Excited. What curriculum should I use? Continue reading »

Kids Blogging Unit Studies

by Jeanne Faulconer

What do you get when your child combines a unit study and notebooking with a blog?

You get the homeschool version of a Virtual Learning Environment (a fancy way of saying learning that is enhanced by the Internet).

Homeschooling parents can use what they already know about unit studies and notebooking to have their children create their own unit study blogs on specific topics — their own VLE’s. Continue reading »

Teaching Critical Thinking with The Fallacy Detective

by Jeanne Faulconer

One of the most accessible basic logic books on our book shelf is The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Eight Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning by Nathan and Hans Bluedorn. The book helps kids (and adults) spot errors in thinking — logical fallacies often used in an effort to persuade others. Learning about fallacious thinking is valuable for academic reasons, but it’s also important to being a good consumer (recognizing how advertising works) and to being a good citizen (understanding how political communication works). Continue reading »

Instead of Curriculum: Electronic Circuit Boards

by Jeanne Faulconer

Working with electronic circuit boards may sound ambitious or advanced, but my kids enjoyed playing with these as part of their science and technology learning when they were in their early elementary years. They learned many concepts about creating circuits from hands-on play, in particular by using a kid-friendly Snap Circuits® Kit from Elenco. Continue reading »

How to Preserve & Empower A Child’s Motivation

by Laura Grace Weldon

The kids had a bunch of boards, some old nails, a hand saw, and a few hammers. They also had the two most important ingredients, the desire to make something and the freedom to do so.

They spent an afternoon planning their tree fort, enthusiastically arguing over whose plan was best. Their first few attempts failed spectacularly. They were undaunted, even bragged a little bit about the noise the boards made falling down. Several of them asked family members for advice. A few others paged through books and watched YouTube videos as they tried to figure out basic construction techniques. They started again, measuring more carefully as they built a frame. Continue reading »

Where to Find Free Audiobooks for Homeschooling

by Jeanne Faulconer

LibriVox is a great online source for free audio books. This means you and the kids can listen to lots of well known classic fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books — at no cost — right from your personal computer, smart phone, or tablet, by either streaming or downloading the audio files. The books available on LibriVox are books whose copyright has expired, meaning LibriVox volunteers can record them without violating copyright laws, and you can listen without paying a purchase price. Continue reading »

How to Plan a Library Scavenger Hunt

by Jeanne Faulconer

A great activity for your homechool group or co-op is a library scavenger hunt. Working with your librarian, plan a gathering for homeschoolers that includes sending the kids throughout the library to find resources, so they’ll get to know the library better. If the scavenger hunt is promoted by the library, you might even find some more homeschooling friends in your community if they show up at the scavenger hunt. You can organize the kids into pairs or teams (and have the youngest kids hunt with an adult), and send them out with a list of things for each child to find or do in the library. A sample scavenger list might … Continue reading »

9 Benefits of Hosting an International Exchange Student

by Jeanne Faulconer

Hosting an international exchange student can be a great experience for homeschooling families. We hosted a student from Ecuador, and while the commitment can seem daunting, having Isaac José with us for a school year enriched our lives.

What are some of the benefits of hosting an international student? Continue reading »