Saturday, September 18, 2010

These are a few of my Favorite Things

Blog cruise time again this week!

"What are your favorite resources for the ages and grades that you are teaching?" is the Blog Cruise question(s) this week.

Okay, so let me start by saying that I'm teaching everything from PreK to high school, and since Connor is doing CLEP stuff, I guess really it is through college.  Can't figure out how to organize this.  I think I will go through ages and stages.  And I will try to link at least most of these, but I'm not sure I have the time.  And I'm only listing things once... the first time it seems appropriate.

And I know I am going to leave out things I love... but I am going to try to limit this to no more than three things per category.  (Eeek!  Can I do that?)

General Homeschooling:
  • The Old Schoolhouse.  Love the magazine, love their emails, love the Schoolhouse Expo.  And I learn about all kinds of really neat things through them.  
  • The TOS Homeschool Crew blog.  I liked this even before I was on the crew.  There are so many interesting homeschooling companies on there, and the chance to link to bunches and bunches of reviews from people with all kinds of perspectives.  And the reviews tend to be real.  Not all glowing ones, and honestly, I am usually most swayed by a well-written "negative" review.  Knowing what DID NOT work about a program for a family does so much for me.  Plus the blog has all kinds of fantastic giveaways.  I'm not eligible to win, but maybe you are!
  • Latin-Centered Curriculum, by Andrew Campbell.  I think this is a great read even if you have no intention of teaching classically, or of teaching Latin.  One of his primary messages has to do with trying to do too much.  Instead, he advises slowing down and really doing a few things really, really well.  Going deep, not wide. 
  • Sonlight.  We are a literature-rich homeschooling family.  Finding Sonlight at a convention eleven years ago is probably a huge part of why we actually did start homeschooling.  I love using real books, I love exposing my kids to alternate points of view.  I've used Sonlight from PreK (there are new preschool levels now) through Core 6, and we are using Core 7 this year.  I can't recommend Sonlight's high school levels (yet) as I haven't used them, and they are different from the earlier materials.
  • All About Spelling.  I cannot say enough good things about this program, and it keeps getting better.  I think this could be the answer for nearly anyone who actually needs a spelling program.  And it has done wonders for my younger kids in learning to read too.  You can read more about my thoughts on their stuff: In general, Levels 1 and 2, the Beehive Reader, the What Am I? reader, All About Homophones.  (Do you get the feeling I like this?)  I think this can be started in late preschool, or it can be started much later.  I've done both.
  • The library.  Books, videos, online resources, music....

Early Elementary:
  • Download N Go unit studies.  I cannot believe I finally found some unit studies that I like!  These are one week studies on really interesting topics that get in pretty deep.  Lots of web-based links, including great videos, plus book recommendations, hands-on suggestions, lapbook starters... use what appeals to you.  
  • Mathtacular.  Oh, wow, what excellent videos.  Love 'em.  My kids love them.  There is supposed to be a 4th volume coming soon.  I can't wait.
  • Cub Scouts:  Oh, I'm telling you, we have had the chance to explore so many amazing things through scouting.  I think the BSA has done a fabulous job of putting together things that a "good family" just ought to be doing anyway.  For cubs, that includes learning age-appropriate first aid, learning about safety issues, and doing a variety of great things including library visits, news room visits, putting things together, picking up trash... If I don't find a suitable organization for Trina starting in first grade, I will be using the appropriate level of Cub scout books to structure things like visiting the fire station.  At roughly $10 per book, I think these are nearly worth their weight in gold.  Tiger=1st grade, Wolf=2nd grade, Bear=3rd grade, Webelos=4th/5th grade.
Later Elementary:
  • Institute for Excellence in Writing.  Great, great, great stuff for my reluctant writers.  Great stuff all the way through high school.  Wish I could afford more of it.
  • iLiveMath apps for my iPod Touch.  Love that my younger students can use them too, but really like the "level 3" portions of the programs.  I reviewed a couple of their products a couple weeks ago, and will be doing more sometime soon.
  • Games.  I like BigFishGames.  Some are actually educational as such (Amazing Brain Train is one of my favorites).  Some I like because my reluctant reader kiddos are forced to read in order to know what to do.  Some I like because of the geography incorporated.  Or the thinking skills.
Junior High/Middle School:
  • Boy Scouts of America.  Okay, I could have put this in Late Elementary too, as boys can join as early as mid-5th grade.  But in addition to all the things I love about BSA as far as activities and camping... why I put them on my list here is mostly for the Merit Badge books.  There are somewhere around 125 merit badges right now, and they have $4 books to go with them.  Many, many of these merit badge booklets make amazing little textbooks.  Okay, some are for things like basketweaving (basketry, actually).  But there is a great civics set (Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the Nation, Citizenship in the World).  And there are lots of science ones (from Chemistry to Nuclear Science, from Archaeology to Insect Study) and every one of the science merit badge books I've looked at has been phenomenal.  There are also a lot of career related ones (Law and Dentistry, to name two my sons have earned).  And then there are the practical ones -- first aid, swimming, traffic safety, emergency preparedness, home repair, and on and on.  
  • Apologia Science.  I liked the elementary books, but I love the upper level stuff.  We have used, or are using, General Science, Physical Science, Biology and Chemistry.  I love how the books "read" like Dr. Wile is speaking right to you.  I love that the experiments are things we can do in the home.  I LOVE that the books are available on mp3 -- that makes it easier for me to keep on top of what the kids are doing, when I choose to.  And it makes it possible for my severely dyslexic kiddo to "do science" at an appropriate level, even though reading the text would be a struggle.  He can use the mp3 to "read along" in his textbook. I love that the materials are non-consumable (well, except for some of the lab stuff).
  • Teaching the Classics.  Wow.  Great, great, great stuff.  This is supposed to be a course to teach the teacher how to "do" literature study.  I went through the sessions a few years ago, and now am taking my older children through the DVD sessions too. 
High School:
  • Anything by Lee Binz.  Her writings make me feel like I can do this. 
  • VideoText Math.  We're starting on VideoText Algebra for the second time.  I think the step-by-step VIDEO-based approach has been perfect for my family.  Expensive, but non-consumable.  I keep hoping to be able to afford Geometry, but I don't think it's going to happen.  We use this starting in Junior High, but really, it is a high school level.
  • The new student planners put out by The Old Schoolhouse.  Of course, I'm biased as I worked on them.  But I especially love these for middle school and high school.  Love the one for Mom too, by the way.  Right NOW is the time to buy the student ones -- the price goes up on Monday or Tuesday.
  • Connor is studying for a couple of CLEP exams, using lesson plans available at ClepPrep
  • Professor in a Box -- this is a college level accounting course (and a marketing one is supposed to be coming soon), that you can do in high school, and you can use it to prepare for the CLEP in accounting (or marketing, I assume).  I reviewed it last year.  It was a bit beyond Connor at the time, but I worked through some of it myself.  My degree is in Accounting, so I can't say I actually learned anything.  Except that this is a solid course and we'll be using it with all the kids.
And please... I'd love to know what some of YOUR favorites are!

The TOS Crew Blog is sponsoring a question of the week every Tuesday.


Michelle Smith said...

Wow, I knew about some of these--and love some of the same ones you do. Yet some of them I either did not know about or have never pursued (like Teaching With the Classics and Latin-Centered Curriculum). Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I may have to share a few of my own later. ;)

Heather @ Marine Corps Nomads said...

Oh wow! There are some gems in there that I didn't know about and, being the curriculum junky that I am, I now need to go check them out. lol!

Having never been involved with boy scouts/girl scouts, I didn't realize there were so many different books. I may need to check into just getting some of the books.

Thank you for the great write-up!

Tess said...

If I had included math, I would have to include Mathtacular! We love those here!
You took your post in a direction I didn't even think about. I was stuck on curriculum instead of the broader area of "resources". Great resources, Debra!

Dawn said...

Love your post - lots of places I'm going to have to go check out. I didn't even think about posting about 4H or our homeschool group in my blog post...would have been a good idea because they are both extremely important resources for our homeschool!

Pragmatic Mom said...

I like the iLiveMath apps also. What do you think of TenMarks? I blogged on both at

iLiveMath Speed:

iLiveMath Trains:


You have a great list of resources. Thanks so much for sharing!

Debra said...

LOVE that I'm actually mentioning some things that make people think!!! :)

Heather -- there are some GREAT merit badge books for Boy Scouts. Don't know about Girl Scouts at all (my 4 year old is my only daughter!), but the BSA resources tend to be excellent. And anyone can purchase books, you don't have to be a scouter.

Guiding Light -- if you post about 4H, please let me know! *I* want to know about 4H resources!

Pragmatic Mom -- I am dying to try TenMarks... I can't afford it... at least not just now. But I've been looking at it lately and think it would be totally perfect for more than one of mine. I'm heading over to read your review... iLiveMath Speed is my favorite of their apps. At least until today. Entomology may take first place. The photos in that look gorgeous.

Vickie said...

Oh yeah....I knew I'd forget some of my favorite resources the TOS magazine. But then again I wasn't thinking of specific resources for myself hehe

Great post. I like the break down. Instead of BSA for us, we are using Contenders of the Faith and Keepers of the Faith. Still merit badges but we do them at home :) (I should go add these to my post...hmmmm)