I recently signed up for a free trial of HuluPlus, after holding off most of the summer. I wanted to try it out and see if it was worth paying the monthly subscription, but since they only offered a 7-day free trial, I didn’t want to waste it when we were out and about so much. But then they offered me a full 30-day free trial, and I couldn’t resist.
It has a bunch of documentaries that I am excited to watch with my kids as part of school. It even has some that I want to watch for my own benefit. It has tons of old shows that I haven’t seen on TV in ages, offering some family-friendly TV that I don’t always find on cable.
I’ve considered Netflix for much the same reason – documentaries for school – but haven’t pulled the trigger on that one yet.
We have Kindles, so I am always on the lookout for free Kindle books for kids, and it comes in handy when we all read a book together – I buy the book once, and it can go on all our Kindles so they can follow along with me as I read. As many are quick to point out, there is a plethora of books that have been published on Kindle that have major errors – spelling, grammar and otherwise – but I use those to our advantage. When we’re all reading the book together, I point out the mistake and what would be correct in that instance. If they’re reading the book alone, I remind them periodically to pay attention for things like that, and often, they’ll come and point them out to me.
Then there’s the library. We check out books, we attend various events that are educational, and we use OverDrive to check out ebooks – from our local library and another one in a different county.
We use a variety of websites in our day-to-day homeschooling, as well. Khan Academy is a great one for math for us. We use the Smithsonian’s TweenTribune site to read articles about a variety of things, including current events. TweenTribune is really awesome because each article has its own individual settings for the reading level, so it can be used for just about any child who is capable of reading on their own, even a little. The articles are written by kids and journalists, so it’s sure to have something of interest for just about anyone.
BrainPop is another site that comes in handy at times, and I love iCivics.org for government-related stuff. History.com is helpful for getting a brief overview of various historical things. YouTube has some great channels for science, and I’ve found good history stuff there, too.
We do use worksheets from time to time, when it’s appropriate or the only way I can think of to teach something. At those times, I find education.com to be a fairly useful resource, as is math-aids.com.
Field trips are another awesome resource. There’s nothing better for learning some things than getting hands on. Natural history museums, hiking in nature, botanical gardens, factory tours, lighthouses, old forts, national parks, farms, zoos – the options are pretty much endless. Whether their value is from history, scientific, or even just learning how something is made, it all serves an educational purpose.
We’ve gone, for example, on a field trip to a local potato chip factory. At first glance, this may seem like a very superficial field trip that has no real value as an educational tool. But it does. For example, I didn’t even know that there are specific potatoes that are best used as potato chips (white potatoes, btw, not baking or red). We learned where the potatoes come from, how they’re stored, how they’re prepped, fried, seasoned, bagged, and how quality control is checked. We saw how they’re boxed up, stored, and shipped out to the stores, and that the store brand is often made by the same factory that makes the name brand, using the exact same supplies and equipment – meaning that, literally, what’s in the store chips is what’s in the brand chips, so there is no difference. So, even if nothing else had come from that trip, the kids would have learned that the store chips are the same as the brand chips, so you save money by buying the store brand – and no one could argue that learning a way to save money is not educational or valuable.
Even family events can be educational. Genealogy can be a beautiful thing to learn about, and learning about it while interacting with the people who before now were just names on a paper family tree can add so much to the experience.
Car trouble? Learning experience! Whether you have daughters or sons, teaching them, at the very least, the basics of oil changes, tire changes, and what the different lights on the dashboard mean is crucial. Teaching them to trust their instincts, and to pay attention to the way the vehicle sounds, feels, and moves under normal circumstances, will help them to know when there’s something wrong, even if there’s no light or anything else to tell them there’s a problem. It can also help them recognize when they’re having a repeat of a previous problem, by helping them realize that this feel or this sound is exactly the same.
Household chores can be educational. Cooking, baking, doing laundry, cleaning bathrooms, doing dishes by hand as well as in a dishwasher, mopping floors – these are all things they will need to do one day in their own home, even if they never need to do it in yours. Why not teach them now, as an everyday part of school, instead of waiting until they’re on the verge of moving out and trying to cram it all in then? Or having them call you a dozen times as they try to start a load of laundry after they’ve moved out or gone to college?
My point here is not to necessarily give you specific examples of websites, books, shows, services, etc. that you should use in your homeschooling. My point is to help you, if you’re stuck, see the plethora of options out there that you can use to teach your children. Many times, these things are free or the cost is low enough that you can afford it, even if you’re a struggling single parent. It’s also to show you the variety of ways that you can teach your children – when your kids have ADHD and a short attention span, having tons of variety at your fingertips can be crucial. Being able to change from worksheets to documentaries to a hands on field trip over the course of a single week can make a huge difference in whether or not your child learns that week.
Whether you’re just starting to homeschool, or you’ve been at it for years, what kinds of resources have you found that you know or think will be beneficial to others who homeschool? Share the books, websites, field trips, or other things that you’ve read, used, or heard about that you think are useful!