Monday, July 14, 2014

K-3 Free (and Inexpensive) Homeschool Resource Round-Up

Are you just starting out with your homeschool planning, but not knowing where to turn? I was like that a couple years ago when we began! I knew we wanted to homeschool, but I didn't have a set "philosophy" to guide me through those uncertain first months. Also? I didn't have the budget to just go out and buy the curriculum that most appealed to me (any of them!)

Here are some of the (free) resources we've relied on for the past couple of years, and one of the relatively inexpensive things we've used too!

Free Resources:

Ambleside Online- This is a website that is based on principles of a Charlotte Mason education. Admittedly, the first few times I explored this site trying to figure out how this might work for my brood, I kinda got a little bit cross-eyed trying to figure out what we were supposed to actually do. Then I started reading about Charlotte Mason and her ideas on education. Ah, it made so much more sense after that! That being said, I don't recommend trying to use this without having read a bit about Charlotte Mason. This is one you can use for all ages.

Easy Peasy- Easy Peasy has every grade laid out from preschool through high school. It is a site that is put together by a Christian mom of many. She wanted the curriculum to be online to keep track of what her children had done year by year (and also so it could be reused by her younger children), and made it available to other parents and caregivers. I like the concept, and you don't need much more than an good internet connection to use it. This is a great resource for worksheets and projects to do. I believe you are allowed five free downloads per month. I've found it easy to locate a good quality, grade-level worksheet on various topics.

Homeschool Share- Lapbooks and Unit Studies galore! (Also, they have many resources for Five in a Row, if you're using that.)

IXL- IXL is math and language arts for K-12. This is very kid-friendly, and I like that they allow your child to do 20 practice questions per day. You don't have to sign up and pay for their service, though if you want to go beyond the practice questions, you will have to. It is nice to use in addition to another math program just to gauge where your child is at currently.

Khan Academy- Khan Academy is a non-profit that has teaching videos and exercises for math, and many other subjects. For math, it is the most basic arithmetic all the way to stuff I never learned, like calculus and other difficult-sounding mathematic disciplines. (Can you tell I'm not a math buff?) I haven't spent very much time exploring their other resources, but it does look rather extensive.

Lesson Pathways- This is a good one if you want a fully guided custom curriculum (for K-5). I like how you can simply click on certain units to remove them (if say, your child has already mastered that lesson) and you can move the units around to put them in the order you want. You can even combine grade levels in a certain area of study. The only caveat I would offer for this resource is that many of the outside links are no longer good. This makes it a little frustrating, but you can easily find alternate projects or worksheets elsewhere (and you have the option to report any links you find that don't work). It does help when you want grade-level appropriate ideas. We've discovered many favorite books and authors through the ideas on this site. To use it, you only need to register with an email address. (They have never contacted me or sent me emails, in case you're worried about that!)

Simply Charlotte Mason- Can you guess what we're doing this year? Yep, we're inspired by Miss Mason and her excellent ideas concerning education. I actually have found this to be a great deal simpler than using Ambleside- at least for the way my brain works! If you want to incorporate her method into your homeschool, you just need to figure out what works better for you (whether Ambleside Online, Simply Charlotte Mason or any other Charlotte Mason website). I like the more modern books recommended here, and I like their free curriculum planner. Yes, it still takes planning, but it is totally guided and they offer sample schedules as well. (Also, both Ambleside and Simply Charlotte Mason have online forums for all of your questions!)


Five in a Row- I wanted this list to be full of FREE resources, but I couldn't leave this one out. It is not free, but you can find the volumes of this book at Amazon for relatively cheap and find most of the recommended books at the library. So it's almost free. We love using Five in a Row, because, well...we love reading. It is not intended to be a full curriculum, but it does open the door to many cool educational things to share with your little ones!

(If you like these resources, feel free to follow my Homeschooling Ideas and Resources board on Pinterest!)

*Contains affiliate links

Have you used any of these resources? Which one is your favorite?
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A Little R & R



Monday, July 7, 2014

Unburdened: 9 Ways to Create an Uncluttered Atmosphere

Recently, I started writing about my word for 2014, "unburdened." God laid this word on my heart, and it filled me with so much hope, showing me so many possibilities for the new year.

One way that He is unburdening me, is through the physical decluttering of our home. I don't know about anybody else (actually, I do, because I watch Hoarders!) but I have way too much stuff in my life! A few years ago, we moved from a small apartment to a smaller apartment, and I think now, we're rocking about 700 square feet! In the mean time, our family grew larger, and our surroundings...didn't (or haven't yet).

Over the past seven months, I've really begun to question my relationship with things. I know for me, personally, my relationship to my stuff was influenced in part by my upbringing, and the fact that we moved about every year or so when I was growing up. When I turned 18, I realized that I had moved more times than I had had birthdays! So, stuff was the constant in my life. Usually. (Things tend to mysteriously disappear when you move frequently, and you're a child and you don't pack all your own things, but I digress!)

I came to understand that I had a tendency to hang on to things because I didn't have roots anywhere- I think I was just grabbing on to whatever was in my reach! Crazy, right? Plus, I have also confronted the fact that I struggle with attention issues (but that's a whole 'nother blog post!) and don't always have the focus to realize when objects are overrunning my life.

I'm on the path to a decluttered lifestyle. I've made a lot of progress over the course of this year, but I'm not yet where I want to be. I'm encouraged because of how much I've unloaded, and I've learned a lot in the process and had many "a-ha" moments. I'm getting there!

Are you also struggling with the amount of stuff (or the wrong kind of stuff) in your life? Here are some ways to help you get started on the journey of unburdening yourself via your environment.
  1. Confront your junk! Literally and figuratively. Reflect on why you have so much stuff. Have you recently downsized and now your belongings don't fit your new environment? Do you, like me, have any deep-rooted reasons for hanging on to things you don't need any more? Figuring out the why will go a long way in helping you declutter and actually stay that way.
  2. Get inspired: Peruse Pinterest for decluttering tips, join a Facebook group with people who are also on a journey of decluttering, read blogs about minimalism. Minimalism is a good key word- don't be intimidated by that word, either. It's not just about sparse decor and furniture, but more like a way of life!
  3. Set a goal for yourself: Setting a number of items you wish to get rid of helps. FlyLady has some great pointers- like using a timer everyday to keep you on track with daily decluttering. Or set a lofty goal like 2014 in 2014 where you get rid of (you guessed it) 2,014 items in one year (that's what I'm doing, by the way).
  4. Get real: Do you really need a certain item? Does it get a lot of use in your home? Is it something you're hanging onto because it was a gift, and it never really worked for your particular style or needs? What would it take to replace it if you ever needed it again? Just being honest with yourself will really help you in the long run to get your space under control.
  5. A place for everything, and everything in its place! I keep saying this to myself when I'm organizing. If it doesn't have a place, maybe it's time for that item to go! Or maybe you really need it, and something else needs to go to make room for it.
  6. Keep it movin'! Pack up a box or bag, and immediately put it in the car to be donated. Don't let the stuff pile up in boxes or bags, or worse, keep them around so that you can reconsider getting rid of it. Trust me, you will feel awesome once you start doing this.
  7. Stop bringing stuff into your home. This one is so hard to do, but you must learn to become disciplined with yourself and your family. This is one area I'm struggling with too, especially since the children seem to attract stuff from every corner of the Earth (I'm totally being silly, but sometimes it seems every time we leave the house, they come back with more stuff!) Learn to say no to yourself and others sometimes! You have to figure out what this means because everyone is different- but don't shop for unnecessary items, and if you go to places where the children accumulate stuff (like little toys), develop a system for dealing with it right away to keep it under control.
  8. Get your children on board. You don't have to completely clear their room of toys and have them play with sticks (though this might appeal to some, ha ha), but explain to them why they should pare down their possessions. They will have more space to play with the things they love, and more time to play with them since they won't be spending so much time cleaning up their belongings. I had my three children each select 10 things (or sets of toys, like train tracks or blocks, for instance) that were most important to them. We managed to get rid of so much this way. When Christmas or birthdays come around, re-evaluate. If people ask what they want or need for gift-giving occasions, point them in the direction of adding to existing collections- it's much easier to organize toys that are related than to have to find a way to store some completely new kind of toy. Maybe even ask for experience gifts like passes to the zoo or the movies.
  9. Don't get frustrated. Remember that you didn't accumulate so much stuff overnight, so it might stand to reason that it will take time and changing perspective to really declutter your life. Every little bit of progress helps! And if you lose momentum, just get going again.

Are you on a journey of decluttering, too? Share your experience in the comments! 

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A Little R & R