Ten educational resources I love

I’m always on the look out for great quality resources to use at home for learning and Bible study.  Here are ten of my personal favourites.

  • Story of the World.  This is a much-loved read-aloud in our house. It provides a basic overview of world history. Volume I, which we currently use, starts from the first Nomads up to the last Roman Emperor. However, the series takes you right through up to modern times. It has a companion activity book which I also love, but this is quite expensive and I might not get the successive ones as I don’t feel we’ve made enough use of it to warrant the cost.
  • How to Draw.  This is a lovely clear book, which even non-artists like myself can follow and produce great results. It also contains snippets of information about each animal, which gives this book bonus points!
  • Flags of the World.  When I first got this game and read the instructions I was disappointed. It sounded boring and difficult, and not well suited to helping the kids learn. But I was very wrong! Prince and Princess both love this game, and often choose to play it together. Princess can now recognise most of the flags of Europe and have at least a good guess at the capitals of each country, too.
  • Pop-up, Pull-out Picture Atlas.  I adore this beautiful, fun atlas. It has a pop up globe which spins, and each continent has a pull out page with countries and capitals, as well as lists of landmarks and features for each country, flags, population and language info. It’s a bright, attractive book which Princess often pulls out and pages through just for fun.
  • Building foundations of scientific understanding.  I love this basic science curriculum. It covers four ‘strands’ of science:  The Nature of Matter, Life Science, Physical Science, Earth and Space Science. Each strand is interwoven with the others to provide a comprehensive and broad understanding. It is easy to follow with fun and practical activities. When we do ‘lessons’ from this book my kids think we are just playing games, and they beg for more!

    Science fun with Daddy!

    Science fun with Daddy!

  • Where my Wellies take me.  This is a simply BEAUTIFUL poetry anthology. It follows a girl as she walks about her local countryside, with classic poems sprinkled throughout. The illustrations are inspirational and the choice of poems delightful.
  • Multiplication.com  This is a free maths games website, which focuses specifically on times tables. It has been great for keeping the fun in maths, and Prince and Princess have certainly learnt from it as they have played. Unfortunately, it does have advertising which is not always ideal. We get around this by minimizing the screen and adjusting the window size to block the ads from view.
  • Jolly Phonics readers.  Although Prince has passed the stage of using readers, Princess is not quite done with them yet. I have never tried any other reading curriculum, but I have been so happy with Jolly Phonics that I have never needed to look around. These readers are designed to work with the rest of the Jolly Phonics resources, but I have found they work very well on their own. Princess is currently working her way through level three, and she is a very competent reader for her age.
  • Kindle.  Owning a kindle has transformed our read aloud time. We suddenly have instant access to many classics – FOR FREE! So far we have enjoyed The Jungle Book, Five Children and It, Pollyanna and are half-way through The Secret Garden.
  • Read with Me Bible and Adventure Bible (NIrV).  These are lovely beginner Bibles. Princess got the ‘Read with Me’ Bible for Christmas, and I am impressed with its balance of detail and child centred text. Prince ‘graduated’ to his first real Bible after he finished his Jolly Phonics readers, and the NIrV is a lovely transition translation.

Putting the fun back into school

As part of our natural learning approach to homeschooling, most of our ‘schooling’ comes in the form of fun activities. Because of this, games and stories are major contributors to the education of our children. Here are some ways we incorporate learning through these mediums at our house.

Fun Games

  • Orchard Games has a lovely range of good quality games designed to help young children learn different concepts.  Some that we have and enjoy are:
    • Shopping List – builds memory and can be used to talk about life skills to do with shopping.
    • Ladybirds – excellent game for early counting and adding skills (we have also used it to talk about multiplication, patterns and art, with a bit of creativity!)
    • Tell the Time – really nice game for learning to tell time in both digital and analogue.
  • Time Bingo by Learning Resources is another great game for learning analogue time telling in 1/2 and 1/4 hour increments.
  • Boggle, Scrabble, Scattergories and other adult games can also be used with children. Prince especially loves playing simpler versions of these games with us, and they provide opportunities to improve writing and spelling skills.
  • One game we are about to start using is ‘top trumps’. Prince turns 6 this week, and we have ordered him this ocean creatures version for his birthday. I anticipate this being a great fun way to learn and memorise facts about ocean animals, and there are many other versions available on a wide range of topics that could also be useful learning tools.
  • Living Water Bible Games and Online Maths Tutor are two websites (created and run by my Mom!) which have a great range of games that can be used to teach lessons on these two topic respectively.
  • Some games can also be played when you are out and about, either walking or in the car.
    • ‘Bus Stops’ is a game my family made up when my brothers and I were little, and now we adapt for our own kids. The idea is to get as many points as you can by spotting various things on your journey. The point system is as follows: bus stops = 1, buses = 2, double-decker buses = 3, Volkswagen camper vans = 4. Playing this game has significantly improved Prince’s mental arithmetic skills, due to the Very Great Importance of keeping track of one’s score, and attempting to beat one’s Daddy.
    • I Spy has been a great favourite with our kids for a while, and they have learnt a lot about spelling and phonetics by playing this over the years.

Playing ‘Shopping List’

Fun stories

  • At the moment Prince’s interest has been captured by Usborne’s phonic reader stories. We have the complete collection all in one book. Now, this a pretty thick book, and though Prince is really getting into reading now, I was still somewhat surprised when he picked up the book for the first time, and read all the way through 11 out of the 12 stories yesterday! I was yet more surprised when today, he asked for the book again and read all the way through the whole thing! I asked him what he liked about these stories, and he said, “I like them because there is a pirate one, which is called Big Pig on a Dig. And Ted in a Red Bed is a very nice one. I like all of them, Mommy.”
  • Another fun way to learn about all kinds of topics is through what Charlotte Mason calls ‘living books’. This simply means books which have been written about one topic, by an author who has an obvious passion for their subject. I like the definition given here:

“Living books are usually written by one person who has a passion for the subject and writes in conversational or narrative style. The books pull you into the subject and involve your emotions, so it’s easy to remember the events and facts. Living books make the subject “come alive.” They can be contrasted to dry writing, like what is found in most encyclopedias or textbooks, which basically lists informational facts in summary form. You might be surprised to find that living books are available for most school subjects — even math, geography, and science!”

Reading through Usborne’s phonic reader stories.

I am sure that there are endless ways to have fun and learn at the same time – you just need a little creativity, a love for fun and an eye for opportunities. What fun opportunities do you and your kids enjoy?

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