Okay, I admit it. I avoided writing this particular post for a while. Though many have asked, I just never felt quite right recommending certain things over others. Partly, it’s because I believe that each has its own merit in the world of homeschooling. That is, though nothing works for everyone, every product can work for someone. The other part is that I understand how hard these good folks work at developing all of their products. I guess I’d like to think that everyone has the same chance at success in the homeschooling marketplace. Anyhow, I just wanted to explain why I never released a list of homeschooling resources that I love — worried it might limit readers from finding other outstanding products on their own. Please don’t let that happen to you.
As a compromise, I post here from time to time about some of the products I love, along with the understanding that those I feature are just a subset of the thousands of others out there that I love, too. Or, those that I might love under different circumstances. Or, those that I would love if I only tried them, which I haven’t. But, I digress.
So, today, to wrap up my Oprah-inspired “Favorite Things” series, I created a list of 5 of my absolute favorite homeschool resources. These aren’t the only 5, but just 5 of the things I love. See if you love these, too. Post a comment if you have any you’d like to add to my list.
1. The Internet: I can’t imagine anything more perfect than access to any thing, any time, with minimum effort, directly from home, for such an unbelievably low price. Before spending anything else on homeschooling this year, or any year, make sure your home has easy, quick and uninterrupted Internet access ready when you need it. This is an absolute must-have for all homeschoolers, no matter who or where they are.
2. Some system of record-keeping: Homeschoolers have many choices, from the Edu-Track system from ConTECH Solutions pictured here, to Homeschool Tracker, to other online, manual (paper and pencil or printed forms), and software tools. Every homeschooling family should be using some kind of record keeping system, regardless of methods used, statewide legal requirements, homeschooling philosophy or anything else. The choice is dependent on needs and lifestyle but no home should be without.
3. Curriculum for mathematics: Not because people fear math or because it’s harder than any other subject. And not because it must be used regularly or even must be entirely completed. But because for many homeschooling parents, it can be:
- hard to know what math concepts to teach, and when
- hard to know in what order to teach math concepts
- hard to always think of explanations and alternative ways of presenting math
- good to have a resource, or several, that explain math ideas well, or to rely on when needed
- hard to know what kinds of math are required in other academic areas, and which math courses to teach as co-requisites to other courses
- necessary for standardized testing, college placement and other reason most important in upper school
- tedious to think of problems over and over, day after day, and nice to have somebody else do it for you once in a while
- hard to teach math for those who claim they just aren’t “good” at it
- possible (research shows), even likely, to transfer ones anxiety or dislike of mathematics to the children
- and so on…and so on…and so on…
Bottom line, in my work with homeschooling families for almost two decades (and non-homeschoolers, too), I believe that most benefit (or would have benefited greatly) from having a math curriculum for daily use or to rely on as a guide throughout the years. Though some may disagree, I contend that this is still a must in today’s world of homeschooling and modern education, provides both guidance and insurance and is still a safer bet than going math completely alone. (SAXON is pictured here.)
4. Homeschool Events: Even the most resourceful, independent and self-reliant people need others at some point. The same is true with homeschoolers. Keeping track of homeschooling groups, points of contact, networks, conferences, activities and other events — even just marginally – guarantees access to these resources should they ever be needed down the road. Below, you’ll see me at one of the largest homeschooling conferences in the nation photographed with representatives of the Home Education Foundation, an outstanding organization for homeschoolers in my state. I cannot imagine anyone homeschooling without connection to others like this — for information/advice in the beginning, academic/social opportunities for children later on, and (at least for me) to offer mentoring and services long after homeschooling has ceased in their own families.
5. “Why Reinvent the Wheel?” products: Sure, there are lots of people with great ideas who are perfectly capable of creating lessons and planning homeschool activities entirely on their own. And many do. But not everybody wants to. Or has the time. Or the expertise in every single area they’d like to teach. That’s where these kind of products come in. Things like Janice VanCleave’s science guides that make conducting simple science experiments and nature activities easy, using common household objects and with little to no prep time for homeschooling moms and dads make it so much easier. Whether used for entire courses or just when parents need a little something, these types of resources can be priceless and time-saving. I include most workbooks, interactive books and software, many curriculum products, educational web sites and lots of other resources in this category. No matter how or how often they’re used, anything that allows parents to do what they do best without always having to “re-invent the wheel” is a hands-down winner.
[Unless otherwise noted, the owners of Quick Start Homeschool receive no recognition or rewards for featuring products here. Posts like these are written purely as a service to readers.]