Our family has been worldschooling / unschooling / homeschooling since our first child was born in 2007. While we are a little more free form than most people, our focus on child-led learning has uncovered a lot of easy homeschool curriculum and resources.
With many kids being sent home from school, perhaps for the rest of the school year, more and more people are looking into easy homeschool programs and the best online homeschool programs to use with their families during this time.
I am not an expert, but I love our life of unschooling and worldschooling. We are learning all the time – together. A lot of these homeschool resources are ones I know about and have used, but there are new-to-me homeschool materials in here, too.
If you just want some fun online classes for kids to take while they are home, check out Outschool.com. They have a ton of fun classes for all ages.
I have reached out to others in our local homeschool community to compile the best list of simple homeschool resources that you can use right now. I think you will find that the best homeschool programs are ones you will want to use even after your kids go back to school.
Or maybe you will fall in love with homeschooling, like we did, and not want to go back. 😉
This article will cover:
- How To Homeschool
- Homeschool Curriculum Packages
- Homeschool Math
- Homeschool History
- Homeschool Science
- Homeschool English and Reading
- Homeschool Books
- Online Homeschool Resources (recommended by fellow homeschoolers)
- Other Online Homeschool Curriculum and Resources and Homeschool Websites
I am just discussing secular homeschool curriculum here, but there are a lot of religious curriculums out there if that’s the way you want to do it.
Here we go…
How To Homeschool
“How do you homeschool?” seems like a trick question to me. There are families that follow a strict schedule and do “school at home.” Others spend an hour or two in the morning on lessons and play the rest of the day.
In our family, we let the kids lead us on what they want to learn and consider everything we do a learning opportunity. When our boys are interested in something we find opportunities for them to learn more about it.
Through the years we have gone deep into dinosaurs, chemistry, maps, fantasy books, Dungeons and Dragons, geology, and more.
We also make time to get outside almost every day. To me, that’s the most important thing we do.
Henry and I both work from home. That means our kids are often left to their own devices. That doesn’t bother me. Learning how to pursue their interests and keep their minds stimulated is part of homeschooling.
When we aren’t working, we travel, go to museums and science centers. hike, cook, make art…. and many other enriching activities. Right now, while we are all self-isolating, many museums, zoos, art centers, and other enriching places have gone online (see Other Online Homeschool Curriculum and Resources below).
Best Homeschool Curriculum Packages
If you are looking for the easiest homeschool curriculum, a single book with everything you need might be your best bet. I would rather pick and choose different activities, projects, and life learning opportunities, but I get not everyone has the time or interest to do that. All-in-one homeschool curriculum makes things easier.
Complete Homeschool Curriculum (Flash Kids Harcourt Family Learning) has everything you need in one book per grade. It’s probably the cheapest and easiest homeschool program out there. I could see these being used in addition to school as well as on their own.
- Complete Curriculum: Grade 1
- Complete Curriculum: Grade 2
- Complete Curriculum: Grade 3
- Complete Curriculum: Grade 4
- Complete Curriculum: Grade 5
- Complete Curriculum: Grade 6
- Complete Curriculum: Grade 7 (test prep)
- Complete Curriculum: Grade 8 (test prep)
Best Homeschool Math Curriculum
I think the best homeschool math curriculum comes from living life and playing games.
Most of our math practice comes from real life. Whether we are cooking and using fractions or figuring out if a piece of furniture will fit up our narrow stairwell, we use math every day.
Kids also find math useful in games. My boys figured out probability while playing Dungeons and Dragons (online with friends from around town and around the world).
Here are some of our favorite games that use math.
Dungeons and Dragons: a role playing game that uses math, story telling, creative thinking, and a whole lot of imagination. You need at least 2 players, but 3 or more is better. Set up an online conference call with friends to make it more fun. Get the Dungeons and Dragons Starter Kit.
Rummikub: an easy to learn game that teaches sequencing and patterns. It’s listed at 8-years-old and up, but we played with our kids when they were younger. Get Rummikub.
Shut the Box: originally a game played by fisherman around Normandy. They played it as a gambling game (see how I snuck in a little history lesson with the math?), but it’s really just simple addition. We played this with our kids when they were little. Despite being a pub game, it best for K-3 kids who are working on addition. Or families that like to gamble. Get Shut the Box.
Yahtzee: a classic that requires probability, counting, addition, reasoning, and strategy skills. This is a family favorite for us, partly because we love to yell “Yahtzee!” Get Yahtzee.
Prime Climb: a pretty game that utilizes critical thinking, addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division skills. Best for tweens and teens. Get Prime Climb.
Proof!: The Fast Paced Game of Mental Math Magic to practice multiplication, division, addition, subtraction, and square roots. Good for ages 9 and older, but can be adapted to younger kids. Get Proof!
Money Bags: a crazy game has players collect, count, and exchange coins, while learning the value of money. Made for 7 and older, but I’d play with kids 5 and up who can count. Get Money Bags.
As with the other disciplines, there are so many homeschool math curriculum options.
If you are looking for homeschool math programs that are a little more academic or workbook-like, Saxon Math is very popular.
“Saxon math programs produce confident students who are not only able to correctly compute, but also to apply concepts to new situations. These materials gently develop concepts, and the practice of those concepts is extended over a considerable period of time. This is called “incremental development and continual review.” Material is introduced in easily understandable pieces (increments), allowing students to grasp one facet of a concept before the next one is introduced. Both facets are then practiced together until another one is introduced.”
Read reviews and see prices on Saxon Math books.
We used the Spectrum Math Books when the kids were younger – before we went all out unschooling – and found them to be pretty good. They are basic math skills books. Get Spectrum Math Books.
Singapore Math and Khan Academy (see Best Online Homeschool Resources below) are also good for homeschool math online.
Best Homeschool History Curriculum
We use a lot of living books (A book that engages the reader and draws him or her into learning more about a subject; it is typically narrative in style and written by an authority on the material) and movies to learn about history.
As we travel to different countries, we tend to learn about the history of that place and their perspective of world events.
If you can’t tour a battlefield or wander through a castle, check out some of these homeschool history resources.
- Khan Academy has lots of free history videos.
- Curiosity Chronicles teaches history from a global perspective for elementary age children.
- Horrible Histories is my kids’ favorite history series. I think they’ve read all the books and watched many of the TV show episodes. Just writing this puts a few catching songs about plagues and battles into my head.
- Outschool.com has a lot of different, interactive homeschool history classes.
Other History Books for Homeschoolers – or Anyone
- A Young People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
- Timelines of History: The Ultimate Visual Guide to the Events That Shaped the World
- Everything You Need to Ace American History in One Big Fat Notebook: The Complete Middle School Study Guide
- Everything You Need to Ace World History in One Big Fat Notebook
Best Homeschool Science Curriculum
Science is everywhere! We love nature study when we play outside, projects in the kitchen, and science museums. Our homeschool science program, like the rest of our homeschooling life, bobs and weaves in a variety of directions.
Some of our favorite homeschool science books are:
- The Lost Art of Reading Nature’s Signs: Use Outdoor Clues to Find Your Way, Predict the Weather, Locate Water, Track Animals―and Other Forgotten Skills by Tristan Gooley
- Play The Forest School Way: Woodland Games and Crafts for Adventurous Kids by Peter Houghton and Jane Worroll
- Engineering for Every Kid: Easy Activities That Make Learning Science Fun by Janice VanCleave
- Biology For Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments That Really Work by Janice VanCleave
- Earth Science for Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments that Really Work by Janice VanCleave
- Outdoor Science Lab For Kids: 52 Family-Friendly Experiments For The Yard, Garden, and Park by Liz Heinecke
For a complete homeschool science curriculum see these programs:
- R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey
- 180 Days of Science (books for each grade K-8)
For online science homeschool classes, find something fun on Outschool.
You can also find a zillion science kits that allow you to do everything from grow crystals, to create disgusting substances, to growing edible mushrooms, to engineering and creating light.
Best Homeschool English Curriculum and Reading
When we were teaching our first son how to read we used the BOB Books with great success. He tore through them and was reading chapter books by age four. Since he was so young, we had a hard time finding books that were appropriate for his age, but pushed his reading level a little. He thought these were pretty funny.
Our younger son learned to read with Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. If I had known about this when the first one was learning to read, I would have used it. It’s great. It tells you exactly what to say and do with your kiddo. It’s a little different method than other learn to read books, but it makes sense and it works.
We followed up with BOB Books and them moved to Easy Readers.
We read aloud to the kids constantly, even after they were good readers, which is something you are supposed to do. We still listen to audiobooks (like a read aloud where my throat doesn’t get tired) and do an adapted Poetry Tea Time.
Learning Dynamics Four Weeks to Read is another good system. We personally didn’t use it, but I know other people had success with it.
To teach kids to write, I start with story telling. They tell, I write. This is how the Brave Writer Curriculum starts and I think it is such a smart way to get kids thinking in stories when they can’t yet physically write well enough to get it onto paper.
We also used Story Cubes to get them thinking in stories. My sister-in-law sent these one Christmas and we had so much fun with them.
For hand writing, we like the Zoner-Bloser workbooks.
- When it comes to homeschool English curriculum, these are some of the best:
- The Brave Writer – I love, love, love all of her stuff. She has some free lessons on her site, and the paid lessons and classes are pricey, but good.
- Practical Spelling – 20 lessons in 20 minutes a day.
- Uncovering the Logic of English – reading, spelling, and literacy all in one convenient package!
- The Michael Clay Thomas Language Arts Curriculum – covers grammar, vocabulary, writing, poetry, practice, and literature.
- Books Your Kids Like – just let them read what they want, even when the books they choose are super annoying Minecraft fan fiction. They’ll be ok, right?
It’s hard to narrow down the best homeschooling books, but I will try!
My favorite books about homeschooling include:
Books About Unschooling
How Children Learn by John Holt – the classic unschooling book. It’s 50-years-old, but still good. “John Holt was the first to make clear that, for small children, “learning is as natural as breathing.” In his delightful book he observes how children actually learn to talk, to read, to count, and to reason, and how, as adults, we can best encourage these natural abilities in our children.”
Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life by Peter Gray – this is one of my favorites because of its emphasis on outdoor play. “Developmental psychologist Peter Gray argues that in order to foster children who will thrive in today’s constantly changing world, we must entrust them to steer their own learning and development.”
Unschooling Rules: 55 Ways to Unlearn What We Know About Schools and Rediscover Education by Clark Aldrich – “education guru Clark Aldrich distills a revolutionary manifesto of 55 core ”rules” that reboots our vision of childhood education and the role of schools.”
For those who want a little more structure, I like these more traditional homeschooling books.
The Brave Learner: Finding Everyday Magic in Homeschool, Learning, and Life by Julie Bogart. Bogart is the creator of the Brave Writer curriculum and homeschooled five children. “Enchantment is about ease, not striving. Bogart shows parents how to make room for surprise, mystery, risk, and adventure in their family’s routine, so they can create an environment that naturally moves learning forward.”
The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise – “The Well-Trained Mind will instruct you, step by step, on how to give your child an academically rigorous, comprehensive education from preschool through high school―one that will train him or her to read, to think, to understand, to be well-rounded and curious about learning.” This isn’t really my style, but it might be yours.
Project-Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners by Lori Pickert – we dabbled with this book early on and I loved the premise. I continue to use a lot of the ideas and guidelines found here.
Best Online Homeschool Resources
I asked local (to me) fellow homeschoolers about their favorite resources and curriculum for homeschool, and here is what they came up with:
- Julia recommends Study.com – An online website with a lot of classes in many different areas for elementary through college age. “This costs $60/month but there is a 1 month free trial. You might find that the kids enjoy it so much you want to keep your subscription even after school starts again.”
- Sarah recommends Khan Academy for math, reading an so much more. Khan Academy is free and they send updates to parents/teachers about how much time the kiddo spends on a specific topic. When starting homeschool (or doing it temporarily), Sarah suggests, “Give yourself and your kids grace to adjust.”
- Valerie likes Ambleside Online for reading living books together. It’s a free Christian homeschool curriculum that uses Charlotte Mason’s classically-based principles to prepare children for a life of rich relationships with everything around them. For all ages. Her advice for new homeschoolers is, “Take it one day at a time and go with the pace of your child!! Patience!”
- Mary recommends the Institute for Excellence in Writing and Singapore Math for, you guessed it, writing and math. EIW is best for grades 3-10 and Singapore Math for grades 1-8. She recommends, “follow your interests, enjoy your time together, and make sure you get the 3 R’s,” and to “learn to recognize patterns and think logically, not just memorize how to do a problem.” Mary does math tutoring over Zoom, so let me know if you need an online math tutor and I’ll pass on her information.
- Michelle likes Classical Stretch by Essentrics for all ages, but best for seven and older. This is a short exercise break to incorporate into lessons. She says, “Incorporate activity into lessons when possible, especially for younger kids, but it’s important for all ages. Definitely take an activity break periodically!”
- I like the variety of classes at Outschool.com. There are so many – let your child browse the catalog and pick something that grabs their interest.
More of the Best Online Homeschool Curriculum, Resources, and Homeschool Websites
Currently, a lot of organizations are offering free online classes, performances, and tours online – perfect for kids who aren’t in school.
These enrichment activities are family-friendly and many of them can be used with minimal parent involvement for parents who are working from home.
Look for an (A) if you can use them anytime, an (S) if they are scheduled, and a (T) if they are temporary.
Arts and Crafts Classes
- Lunch Doodles With Mo Willems (S) (children’s book illustrator best known for his pigeon on a series)
- Make Hand Soap (A)
- Blind Contour Drawing with K. Potter Fine Art (A) (Livingston local!)
- 10 University Art Classes for free, online – university level, but good for homeschool high school age (A)
- 10 Stuck At Home Projects (with free printables) (A)
- Various Baking Classes from Sweet Addict Bakery (S)
- Kitchen Quarantine with Massimo Bottura (A)
- Search YouTube for all the cooking classes ever (A)
- Dance class with Miss Melodee (S)
- Watch the New York City Ballet (S)
- Classical Stretch live mini workouts and workshops (S, but available after)
- No Worries meditation for kids and adults (A)
- Our travel videos (TravelingMel)
- NextLesson – 50 Free Projects/Activities
- I like the variety of classes at Outschool.com. There are so many – let your child browse the catalog and pick something that grabs their interest. (A)
- 30 educational YouTube channels (A)
Language / Writing / Reading
- Babbel Language Learning – learn a foreign language, 3 months free. Kids without a school ID can email them to use. (T)
- Writing classes and lessons from Brave Writer some free, some paid (A)
- Free 30 Day Trial of Scribd – online books, audio, documents, magazines (T)
- Josh Gad, the snowman from Frozen, is reading stories aloud every night. (T)
- Louvre Museum, Paris virtual field trip
- National Gallery of Art, Washington DC virtual field trip
- Metropolitan Museum of Art virtual field trip
- Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam virtual field trip
- Uffizi Gallery, Florence Italy virtual field trip
- Jimmy Carter Presidential Library (and get the virtual museum scavenger hunt)
- Check out all the museums you can virtually tour on Google’s Art and Culture page.
- The Kennedy Center for the Arts Digital Stage (A)
- New York’s Metropolitan Opera will be offering free digital shows every night at 7:30 p.m. from March 16 through March 22. (S but available for 20 hours)
- Seattle Symphony free streaming and past shows (A & T)
Nature and Science
- Grow Your Own Edible Mushrooms at Home (A)
- Discover the Universe’s Astro at Home (S)
- Virtual Tours of Yellowstone National Park (A)
- Explore the Surface of Mars (A)
- Fort Worth Museum of Science and History: Discovery Lab Online will be accessible through the Museum’s YouTube channel and will present content daily starting March 23. (S and A)
- Grades K-4 Student-Centered STEM/DESIGN Challenges (A)
Zoos, Aquariums, and Other Places to See Animals
- San Diego Zoo (A)
- Zoo Atlanta Panda Cam (live cam, so probably just during the day)
- 11 Virtual Tours of farms with minks, pigs, and cows, to apples and eggs (A)
- Smithsonian’s National Zoo (live cam, so probably just during the day)
- Reid Park Zoo Lion Cam in Tuscon, AZ (live cam, so probably just during the day)
- Explore.org Live Cams (A) (various webcam streams of animals around the world)
- Tundra Connections Broadcasts from Polar Bears International (A)
- Monterey Bay Aquarium (live cam, so probably just during the day – they have otters!)
- Georgia Aquarium (live cam, so probably just during the day)
- National Aquarium Virtual Tour (A)
- Seattle Aquarium Virtual Tour (A)
- Polar Bears International has a ton of free educational resources and videos (A)
Other Free Online Classes and Resources
- Scholastic is offering a wide variety of online classes for various age groups. (T)
- Free movies from the National Film Board of Canada (A)