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Instead of Curriculum Archives

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.

How to Plan a Library Scavenger Hunt

How to Plan a Library Scavenger Hunt

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 Homeschoolers Hosting an Exchange Student

9 Benefits of Hosting an International Exchange Student

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 »

Editing writing (instead of curriculum)

Instead of Curriculum: Bring Me Bad Writing

“Bring me bad writing,” I told my two homeschool co-op classes of middle school and elementary age writers. “Incorrect writing, wrong apostrophes, sentence fragments, typos, passive voice. Horrible stuff. Bring it.”

The next week, they marched in with an array of bad writing they’d found on websites, on convenience store signs, on gas pumps, in a letter from a college administrator, in text books, in novels, and in their own journals.

They had snapped photos, hand copied passages, bookmarked pages, and printed screen shots. Continue reading »

LEGO® Build With Chrome

Build with Chrome: LEGO® Goes Virtual

As if homeschoolers don’t have enough of the real thing hidden under couch cushions, Google has just unveiled a new virtual LEGO® building site, Build With Chrome. A tie-in with the upcoming film, The LEGO® Movie™, the site features a 3D graphics technology that lets you build and display LEGO® creations using virtual bricks. While LEGO® has offered its own free building software for years, Build With Chrome is adapted for use on touch screens, including tablets and smart phones as well as on computers (with or without touch screens). Continue reading »

Learning ABCs with rocks and trees

The Alphabet Walk: Learning ABCs with Rocks and Trees

Winter is a wonderful time to take Alphabet Walks with your children. In my part of the U.S., this means bundling up for the cold weather, but hunting for the ABCs in nature may be just the thing to get you and the kids moving on darker winter days.

The main object of an Alphabet Walk is to find letters that have been unintentionally formed in the outdoors. Perhaps crossing tree branches form an X against the blue sky, or a cat curved on your deck forms a perfect C. A front door wreath on your neighbor’s house is an O. The brickwork above the windows in an old Main Street building creates a V. Continue reading »

Instead of Curriculum: Hands-on Math

Learning Multiplication by Hand: Manipulating Math

In Instead of Curriculum: Math Games, I described some of the games I played with my sons to help them learn and practice their multiplication facts. Today, I’ll tell about some of the hands-on tools homeschoolers use to help their kids make sense of the basic concept of multiplication as well as related multiplication facts. Continue reading »

Instead of Curriculum: Math Games

Instead of Curriculum: Math Games (Fun Multiplication Practice!)

You can drill and kill the times tables to help your kids learn multiplication facts – or you can play math games with them. Here are some of the math games that helped our sons practice multiplication painlessly. Continue reading »

PhoneSchooling: News Apps for Critical Thinking

More PhoneSchooling: News Apps for Critical Thinking

When I was in high school and college, my mom clipped newspaper and news magazine articles for me. She left them for me on the steps to my bedroom or put them in an envelope and mailed them to me at with a handwritten note in the margin — “Thought you’d be interested in this” or “What do you think about this news?” Today, I do something similar with my teen and twenty-something sons, only I do it electronically. Continue reading »

Handwriting: What to use instead of curriculum

Instead of Curriculum: Handwriting Practice

As regular readers know, I’m a big advocate of using accessible learning methods instead of curriculum. For some homeschoolers, this is in addition to their regular curriculum, and for others it’s truly instead of any packaged formal curriculum.

I’m used to hearing that you can’t learn math this way — that’s a common chorus among homeschoolers — but I was in a recent conversation with a homeschool mom who was all for the “instead-of-curriculum” approach except for handwriting. And by handwriting, she meant printing–learning to print. Continue reading »

Contextual Learning: Homeschooling Through Fashion

Contextual Learning: Homeschooling Through Fashion

This year in my role as a homeschool evaluator, I met a number of tweens and teens who are interested in fashion. As we went through their portfolio of work and talked about their year, I was fascinated with the ways they had woven their interest in fashion with their academic studies. Two of the teens I met with had taken their interest in current fashion into the past — studying the typical dress and accessorizing of women and men in earlier periods of history. They also took their fashion interest international — studying the current typical dress of modern-day people in other parts of the world.

Both of these girls (who did not know each other — they had arrived at this independently) had done extensive research to be able to portray the styles of other times and other places, and they could explain how the fashion reflected the culture, religious beliefs, gender roles, classes and roles in society, and daily life. They were articulate about the historical times and geography of the world as they discussed the observations they had made about fashion in these distant centuries and far-off places. Continue reading »

Instead of Curriculum: The Great Courses

Instead of Curriculum: The Great Courses

Our family has greatly enjoyed using The Great Courses audio and video recorded classes. The first of The Great Courses we used was The Story of Human Language, presented by leading linguist John McWhorter, who gives 36 lectures about the development of human language, why languages change or become extinct, dialects, how languages and their grammars affect thinking, and what the study of language can tell us about history and interconnectedness of early peoples.

From there, we began listening to every Great Courses CD set the library had. They offer courses in science, math, fine arts, music, religion, philosophy, history, literature, living, language, business, and economics. But it’s the course titles that are really intriguing — such as Understanding the Universe: An Introduction to Astronomy, The Other Side of History: Daily Life in the Ancient World, Writing Creative Nonfiction, How to Listen to and Understand Opera, and nearly 400 more.

Continue reading »

How To Raise Vocabulary Geeks

How To Raise Vocabulary Geeks

When I tried to throw our dictionary out my oldest threw a fit. This is a very old dictionary. It was owned by my Great Aunt Mildred. The book is huge, with indents along the side for each letter of the alphabet. It’s also not in good shape. Threads are hanging out of a nearly Continue reading »

Citizen Science

How YOU can get involved in real science!

There is a new craze hitting the streets, and hopefully this one is here to stay. It’s called citizen science. With the advancement of technology, it has become easier and easier for “regular” people to do real science. There are people everywhere interested in contributing to science, especially if it’s made easy for them. With citizen science, it is. Not only do citizens collect and report data, but they are becoming valuable helpers in analyzing the vast amount of data that is now available due to increased technology. The best part is that these are not just classroom activities, using hypothetical scenarios to mimic how science is done. While those activities are inherently valuable, think of the additional value of being an active contributor. Citizen science is a perfect way for homeschoolers to get a real world perspective on science. Continue reading »

TheHomeSchoolMom: What To Use Instead of Curriculum

Instead of Curriculum

Everyone has a comment on the increasing popularity of homeschooling. When I talk to people about homeschooling, they frequently mention the availability of “so much curriculum these days,” as if that is the single most important factor in being able to homeschool. Non-homeschoolers, prospective homeschoolers, and new homeschoolers seem surprised that many homeschoolers use learning materials that are not, strictly speaking, part of a homeschool curriculum. There are many reasons why people use other learning resources instead of curriculum. Continue reading »

D'Aulaires' Book Of Greek Myths

Instead of Curriculum: D’Aulaires’ Mythology Books

Some of my favorite children’s books are also wonderful learning resources you can use instead of curriculum. Among these are the oversize children’s classics about mythology by the d’Aulaires. The D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths and the D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths delighted all my kids when they were pre-readers through their late elementary years, and I found that the understanding of mythology they learned from these books persisted through their middle school and high school years, when they needed to spot and comprehend literary allusions to mythology. Continue reading »

Instead of Curriculum: Storyteller Jim Weiss

Instead of Curriculum: Storyteller Jim Weiss

Among my favorite homeschooling resources are our audio recordings by storyteller Jim Weiss. These stories provided many important cultural touchstones for my children during their pre-reading and early reading years, introducing them to historical, scientific, literary, and mythological figures and tales. This is where my children first learned of Galileo, Tom Sawyer, Shakespeare, Robin Hood, and Sherlock Holmes. Continue reading »

TheHomeSchoolMom - Instead of Curriculum: Living Math

Instead of Curriculum: Living Math

Why do some homeschoolers choose not to use one of the many complete math curricula available today? And what do they do instead? To many homeschooling parents, math feels like the one thing that must be taught and learned in a systematic way even for very young children. Even many people who are otherwise attracted to or influenced by a version of interest-based learning or unschooling often say– “except for math.”

Continue reading »

Educational Christmas Gifts for Children

“What do we get them this year?” It’s a question that goes through the minds of many a parent at Christmastime. The enigma of gift giving for children becomes even more challenging for homeschoolers who wish to bequeath presents that will be useful and worthwhile even once the Christmas glow has dimmed. And while that new English curriculum might be what a homeschooling mother would enjoy seeing under the tree, her children might not be quite so excited. So what’s a conscientious homeschooling parent to do? Where do homeschoolers go to find gifts that are educational in nature, but that children will also enjoy? Continue reading »