What We’re Using: The Materials & Curriculum Post

We’ve reached a midpoint in our homeschooling, and I’m starting to plan for the “next” year.  Which is now.  Because we started homeschooling in January of last year, our time schedules are way off.  Then we’re schooling year-round – and dealing with an asynchronous, advanced kiddo.  So I can promise you that my planning looks like a schizophrenic person flying from one subject to another frantically trying to make sense of the mess.

Whew!  Add in that I can’t plan too far in advance because the Engineer lives for rabbit trails, and wow.  Just wow.  Our schooling looks NOTHING like school to an outsider looking in – or to me sometimes!  As long as learning happens, I’m good.

Before we dive into the mess of materials, let me warn you: this post will be full of affiliate links and links to my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  For a full disclosure, please read my disclaimer on the front page (right side, scroll down a little.)  I promise I only link things that we know and love, and that help us in our quest to assist learning without requiring reading.

A brief run-down of the Engineer’s abilities and current subjects:

  • He’s working on fractions, math word problems, multiplication, basic algebra, and division.  All at the same time.
  • He’s finally showing an interest in doing some worksheets – but only the ones I make for him.  Yay me.
  • He’s enamoured of 3D shapes, so we’re spending a lot of time making them in various formats.
  • We’re still in the building/creating phase, currently things with popsicle sticks, tape, and paper – and straws.  Everywhere…
  • He’s starting to sound out words (victory!)
  • Science experiments are always a favorite.

I’ve been concerned for a while about gaps in our rabbit-like learning.  We hop from one thing to another, and it’s frustrating trying to keep track of what we’ve done, and what we need to cover.   I finally realized that I need to skip elementary stuff and go straight to middle school level for much of his interests, and I found these:

I’m super excited about having these Brainquest affiliated fact-filled books to refer to the next time he asks me a weird, off-the-wall question about math or history.

On that note, I’m tired of having to do a web search every time we want to know which bird that is, and what tree has this leaf?  So we now have a fairly complete set of field guides to refer to.  Although Audubon is the gold standard, I prefer the Peterson’s version for a bird and butterfly/moth field guide.  Audubon for wildflowers and trees, and Simon & Schuster for Insects.  Still looking for a good reptile, amphibian, and arachnid guide though.

I’ve managed to find most of the field guides I wanted at our local second-hand store, woohoo!

Moving on to our manipulatives and hands-on learning bits.

We’re starting basic chemistry and biology, and exploring the world around us.  That means a microscope, slides, and molecule building.  I’ve probably mentioned the molecule stuff before, but I’ll link it again.  The handheld microscope is amazing because we can take it with us on nature hikes: the base unclips so that you can hold the scope right up to a leaf or bark and see it up close.  We have a more formal microscope (that I can’t link because I can’t figure out the company) but the Engineer has trouble focusing it, and prefers the small one.  He loves the prepared slides, and thinks that looking at plant cells is amazing.

On the math front, we’re doing a lot of manipulatives.  Magnetic  double-sided fractions pieces, weighted bears (for weighing,) a postal letter scale, and things to build 3D shapes.   I love these little bears because we discovered that one of each size together equals an ounce.   The fractions are good for visual learners, and the flip side is in percent, so the Engineer had a great time comparing percent and fractions.  Like the 3D paper shapes pictured in the cover image?  They’re at my TpT store here.

For reading, we’re working on practicing handwriting and sight words.  I’ve gone back to the basics and revisited some of the uppercase/lowercase matching games that we have.  All three of the kids love doing the coloring pages that I made them or tracing the letters on the handwriting practice sheets.  The Princess enjoys cutting the pages up (oh joy, that destructive phase) but the Engineer is serious about improving his handwriting.  (Click the thumbnails to visit my Teachers Pay Teachers store)

Alphabet Coloring Sheets
Handwriting Practice Sheets
Uppercase/Lowercase Matching Game







We also use a lot of Safari Toobs figurines – the kids play with them randomly, and if we’re learning about something specific I’ll pull the pertinent shapes out of our bin.   After we did our Great Backyard Bird Count in February, we pulled the bird toob out of the bin and looked at the different birds to see which ones we could name.   The Destroyer loves the world landmarks and dinosaur toobs, and frequently terrorizes the Statue of Liberty with dinosaurs.

As always, I utilize their tablets for some sneaky schoolwork.  Things like Brainpop, Circuit Builder (the Engineer’s new favorite,) Marble Math Jr., Thinkrolls Logic Puzzles, BRIO World – Railway, and Preschool and Kindergarten Apps are all helpful.  The Princess and Destroyer love their Spinlight apps like Tallytots and Alphatots, and the various Duplo apps.

One last resource that I’ve been rather surprised about is the Dollar Tree.  We’ve managed to find some really cool, interesting things there in their teacher section.  Things like plastic test tubes (with a stand,) inflatable globe beach balls with surprisingly good details, magnifying sheets, bug catchers, flash cards, and our newest find, info-spinners on space, clouds, colors, and continents.  They rarely have the same thing twice (except tape, which we buy a LOT of!) so it’s like a treasure hunt.

Moving on, I’m investigating history options since our Story Of The World options fell through (I refuse to use products with factual errors this egregious.)  SEA members pointed me to Intellego – unit studies that allow for customization and provide a great lesson plan and online resources.  I’m still looking into math options, and I’ll post more about that later.  I’ve been unhappy with our Life of Fred choice, and finding out later books included problems like calculating the angle at which Fred’s parents jumped when committing suicide, or a calculating the percentage of weight a girl decided to lose to make her boyfriend happy solidified my feelings about the series.  Bleh.

I love the fact that homeschooling offers such great flexibility – we’re doing things most people wouldn’t consider “school,” but we’re learning a lot through it all.  And having fun while doing it.  🙂


  1. Have you looked Jopy Hakim’s history books?
    The History of science incorporate world history and science…there are middle school & high school targeted workbooks to help make them more hands on.


    • Thank you! I have heard of them, but assumed they were high school only. I’ll have to check them out 🙂


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