Homeschooling Hacks and Resources Made Simple
When I first embarked on this homeschooling journey I admitted to being somewhat reluctant, but really I was just totally overwhelmed. Completely out of my depth in a way I have never been before. I didn't know where to start, or who to ask for help and support. Whilst not being the mainstream way to educate kids, for a family that travels it's actually an incredibly practical solution. Practical in that it's cheap (compared to international schooling), and free of traditional schedules that would make travelling tricky. However it does require a little (or a lot) of creativity on the part of the teaching parent(s), particularly in terms of the resources available.
Serious homeschooler's might have the ability to re-create a school environment at home. But for those of us without the physical space or financial means to do so, utilising what's freely available is key. If you're thinking about homeschooling, hopefully this list of resources available and homeschooling hacks comes in useful! Please do remember that I'm homeschooling two young children, these resources may not be suitable for older children and teens (although most are).
As I come across more resources we find useful I will keep adding them to this post. Writing in turquoise indicates clickable links direct to the resources.
Any decent book shop will sell some form of basic workbook for kids- think handwriting, simple mathematics, phonics etc. Failing that, websites such as Book Depository have a wide selection available, and offer free international delivery. We're currently using the Carol Vorderman range, although I would say they are quite simple bordering on too easy for the ages they are for. Although this might be indicative of homeschooling's more intense rate of learning rather than a criticism of the books themselves.
There isn't a particular need to buy any workbooks though. It is perfectly possible to create your own using resources freely available online. All you need is a printer and then perhaps a scrapbook in which to stick them. And obviously, it goes almost without saying, a sheet of shiny little gold stars.
Free Online Resources
Sparklebox.co.uk - a website dedicated to primary level teaching, simply download what you need. There is no dedicated homeschooling section, so you need to pick and choose what of the school based resources you want. But there's a huge selection from worksheets to daily weather charts. A great go-to and worth bookmarking.
Twinkl.co.uk - this website covers early years to age eighteen (so everything, basically), and even includes a homeschooling section. However, only a small amount of the material available is actually free. For a relatively small amount you can subscribe which makes most of the resources available to you. I haven't subscribed...yet. If we were to homeschool much beyond the first year or two of primary school I would definitely sign up. Their resources look brilliant.
Marvin and Milo- from the Institute of Physics, Marvin and Milo are a very cute cartoon cat and dog who star in a series of experiments. A great find (thanks to my Dad), the cartoon experiment instructions can all be accessed and printed for free! Not only do they include the how-to, but the explanations teach us all a thing or two. A great way to incorporate some hands-on science into your homeschooling schedule.
BBC Bitesize - another site covering resources from early years to age eighteen. As the title suggests, "bitesize" offers additional support for core teaching topics. Examples of fun extras to add interest to homeschooling include videos from the likes of Astronaut Tim Peake explaining how to stay alive in space.
Education.com - you can sign up for free to access a limited number of downloads a month, and with over 30,000 to choose from you are spoiled for choice. I actually signed up to a pay as you go monthly subscription as it's currently half price (only $6.50 a month!) and I've printed SO many worksheets for the kids, and lesson plan ideas to help me. It's a website that does both, and it caters for homeschoolers.
It would be completely amiss of me to not mention the wonder of modern technology and apps. There are so many free apps to help with phonics, reading, maths and verbal reasoning. Plus, and this is really important, you don't have to buy an expensive top of the range tablet to access them. Amazon Fire Kids Edition are brilliant, and at a very affordable US$100 they won't leave your credit card straining. Plus, and this is probably the best selling point of all, Amazon promises to replace the tablet should your kid (or you) break it, no questions asked. That's quite a selling point.
Free educational apps are abundantly available, although you might want to upgrade your most used ones to keep them ad free. Alternatively, splash out and invest in apps from the likes of Letterland (a very well thought of phonics teaching system), but you are looking at £25 for an app.
Other Free Resources
Join your local library - there is nothing available in a school library that is not available in a public library. You might have to make enquiries if you're after something really specialist, but certainly any fiction and non-fiction for the littlies should be available. Your local library is one of the greatest resources available, and children respond far better to turning the pages in a book than scrolling a mouse.
Homeschooling groups - whether you're after online support or real life, there are groups but you may to look for them. Facebook is great for connecting local families as well as offering you the wisdom of parents who have faced the up's and down's of homeschooling already. Getting involved with some homescholing groups also opens up another pool of tried and tested resources whilst offering a little social outlet for you all.
Ask for help - most businesses now have schemes aimed at widening participation / improving PR. Ask them for help if they offer some worth to topics you are currently learning about. From the emergency services to supermarkets, to museums and art galleries, they all offer some kind of hands on learning experience. Just ask.
Laminating on the cheap - you don't need a laminator, but you do need laminating sheets. Pick them up cheaply in $2 / £1 stores. Prepare the items to be laminated as normal (i.e. cut to size, arrange between the sheets), but rather than putting the laminating sheets through a machine, put them inside a cotton t-shirt, flat obviously. And then, with an iron turned to a hot setting (cotton), simply iron over the t-shirt until your laminating is complete. This is a great go-to for items such as a weather chart, days of the week charts etc that take quite a lot of handling from not so delicate little hands.
Use what you have - from lego bricks as maths counters, to emptying the pot of random currencies leftover from holidays to learn about money, to magnetic letters from the fridge to practice spellings. Don't fall for the guilt trip that you have to provide a classroom environment equivalent to a school. There is zero difference between counting out lego bricks to help with maths problems then there is in using multi-coloured bits of plastic found in a typical Kindergarten.