Now that my children are almost grown and gone...okay not really. However, my youngest is now 14 and will be starting high school in the fall. While it may seem like yesterday that they were all gathered round the table working on their lessons, it's been years since that's happened. More often than not these days they disappear to their rooms to work in relative peace and quiet while I putter around doing household chores and working on my own thing.
This morning I started thinking about all the great things we used to use when my boys were small to teach and learn together. These are still things I recommend to folks today when they ask me for my favorites. I do have more, but these are my top five in no particular order.
Now in all honesty, I tried Five in a Row (FIAR) when my oldest was about six or seven and really didn't like it. This was also when I had first started homeschooling so I was still in the "must-do-everything-listed" mode. Once I broke through that to homeschool freedom and tried this again with my youngest when he was about six, I loved it! The base for each unit is a well-written classic children's book. Some of our favorites were Make Way for Ducklings (culminated with a trip to Boston to ride the Swan Boats and see the statues) and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. It's called Five in a Row because you read the same book each day and then do activities based on it from math to social studies to science, picking and choosing of course which ones to complete. There is also a Before Five in a Row series for preschoolers and a Beyond Five in a Row for children ages 8-12. The base series is geared towards children ages 4-8. I only wished we had started it sooner.
This mainstay of homeshooling history has been around since 2001. I started using it with my oldest. Occasionally over the years I thought about switching, sold off my sets, and bought something new only to sell off the new and go back to Story of the World (STOW). It's a great series for young learners as it gives an overview of world history in bit-sized pieces. I always recommend getting the corresponding activity guide as well and not just the story book. The guide gives all kinds of great support for each chapter. It includes things like narration questions, lists of corresponding literature, maps (my boys loved these), and well, activities to make it hands-on learning. They also have the storybooks on audio. True confession, one year I borrowed all four volumes on audio from the library and we listened to them while we ran errands. That was our history for that year!
This was a source I used once my boys knew how to read to some degree. It's a great way to teach phonics and reading comprehension. Although, I never used Beyond the Code with my kids, it's one of those great resources I didn't discover until after my boys were too old for it! However, the Explode the Code series is excellent. The books are numbered and should be done in order. Don't get tripped up by the 1/2 numbered books, ex. 1-1/2, 2-1/2. Do book 1 and if your child is still struggling with what was taught, then do book 1-1/2. If they grasp the concepts well, move right to book 2. The 1/2 books are for extra practice. We used some and others we skipped. I typically had my kiddos do a couple pages a day. And since I was more concerned with them learning to read the actual words, I would typically cover the photos so they couldn't guess the answer. That's what worked best for us. So how did I teach them to read so we could get to this point?
This book was pivotal in my homeschooling. I started home educating my kids with my oldest when he was only five. He had some developmental delays so we were waiting to start him in "real" school until he was six. I took this bonus year to try out this homeschooling thing and see if it would work for us. This was in 2001 and most people I talked to used How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100EZ Lessons. I found that book to be anything but easy! I thought I had to use all of it - the reading and the writing portion. Did I mention my son was five with developmental delays? Yeah, every single lesson had one or both of us in tears. Thankfully I had a very wise homeschooling mentor who spoke some profound words to me one day, "You don't have to do all it. Don't do the writing then." Really? That was definitely life-changing, but the book still wasn't working. Then I had another great friend who offered to lend me a copy of this book. I used it to teach all three of my boys to read. It's easy and simple. That's what I love about it.
This resource is free and easy to use. Don't get so caught up in the curriculum that you forget to explore the world around you. Go outside to play. Go on as many field trips as you can manage. Take time to just enjoy each other. Read books. Climb the mountains. See the sites. The best thing I did when my boys were small was to go on as many adventures as we could. Use the time in the car to listen to quality audio books. We used to listen to Adventures in Odyssey, Jonathan Park, Christian Heroes: Then & Now, Lamplighter Theater, and The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty. In fact, my boys still listen to quite a few of these!
Find those resources that help make learning at home more of a joy than a chore. If something doesn't fit or feel right, look for something better or different. The biggest benefit of homeschooling is customizing an education that fits your family. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: There are no affiliate links included. I'm just sharing some of my favorite resources.