Saturday, August 24, 2013

How to Begin Homeschooling, Part Three, Add-Ons

Add-On's to Your Curriculum

Ok, so another big crazy everyone has a different opinion topic. Should you use add-on's to your curriculum? And if so should you use them from the same supplier that you get your main curriculum?

Ok, my opinion is as always, YOU know what's best for YOU and your family. That being said. Add-on's are wonderful! They help hammer in a point, get the extra help on a subject a child is struggling with, and sometimes they're just downright fun! My family uses workbooks, math manipulative's, writing tablets, among other odds and ends I pick up during the year. Do we use what ABeka (our chosen curriculum supplier for text books) offers? Nope. Why not? Well, there's the cost factor at the top of the list but also the fact that there's so many wonderful products out there to chose from.

We'll start with math. What is a math manipulative? It is whatever you can use to count with or show another mathematical theory with. So, when teaching the children to count, add, subtract, multiply, or divide I pretty much just use objects around the house. We use cereal, buttons, toys. Move them into groups or put them into small containers. Whatever is on hand is what gets used. The plus? This doesn't cost anything extra (and when using cereal after they're done counting them or whatever they're working on they get to eat them). Teaching time? Use your kitchen clock, or make clocks with paper plates and paper hands with a good old fashioned brass brad to hold the hands to the plate. Draw funny faces on those plates and the kids will remember, or teach your schedule by gluing or drawing what you do at the times of day you do them at. Upcycle/recycle those old plastic Easter eggs, split them in half and write the analog time on one and the digital on the other half and have the child match them. The opportunities and options are endless!!!
Those little white containers are actually empty (cleaned) single serve Pringles containers.

Workbooks. Hmm. Well, I absolutely love Mead brand workbooks. I've been using them since ECJ was about four years old (almost 8 years now) and they have comprehensive ones that cover a bit of all subjects from pre-k through second grade. They're fun and colorful as well as affordable and can be found not only online but usually at most retail stores. This year when I went shopping I was unable to find the Preschool one, so I bought School Zone and we'll be using Peanut's Mead book from last year that she didn't finish. I've never used School Zone before but it looks good, so I'll do a review on it after we've been using it for a month or two.
Peanut's School Zone work book.
ECJ and YCJ's Complet Curriculum Books for this year.

I also bought a Flash Kids, Harcourt Family Learning, Complete Curriculum book for each Cracker Jack this year. I had bought one for ECJ last year and although he wasn't all excited about it (they're big books and last year his was pink) he did learn a lot from it. They cover math and Language Arts including Reading, Spelling, and Writing. I've gotten them for as little as $10 but they usually cost around $20. These books have an answer key in the back, a test prep section, and practice tests ( I think four of them). I suppose this could be used as a complete math and language arts curriculum on it's own and not just an add on if you wanted to because they are that complete. So far I've found them from Kindergarten to grade 6. 
ABC flashcards I bought at the dollar store this year.

I also usually buy a writing tablet or workbook for each child. Sometimes the extra writing is necessary, especially for the younger children. This year I haven't bought any of the children one. Peanut is still learning her letters, ECJ has to write a lot for me weekly and I believe that's enough practice for him, and YCJ is focusing on her reading this year although I may purchase her a writing tablet if I think she needs one. And I may even use one later in the year from ABeka for Peanut that is also part of the beginning of their phonics lessons.

Some people would call our daily binders an add-on. Ok, don't freak out. I'll explain. A little over a year ago I stumbled on a blog that talked about their Daily Learning Notebook ( ) and I liked the idea. While I don't use her whole idea and I don't use all of her free printables I did take the idea and run with it. I came up with what I call our daily binders and it looks something like this: (before it's all put together)
A lot of the printed pages shown here are from

I call this an add-on because it is NOT something you have to do. But it focuses our thoughts on school each morning. It gets our brain juices flowing. I use a good deal of her free printables and her ideas, throw in some bible quotes to work on with the kids, a reading list or experiment log. ECJ also has a section of his for creative writing. We do them every morning as a family.

I know many people who add on a lot of other things like word walls, sight words, geography walls, etc. etc. There's nothing wrong with that. Again, it's what works best for your family. And I may add a few sight words this year, then again I may not. ECJ had no problem with them in public school, YCJ hated them because she doesn't learn that way, and Peanut may or may not be ready for any of it this year. We'll wait and see...

So, do you need to use add-on's? Nope. Why do people use them then? Well, some of them are just fun. Some of them help the kids. Some of them we feel the kids need even if they really don't. Just like everything else with homeschooling it's really all up to you to make the choice to use them or not.

Monday please look for my Day in the life post for the blog hop ( ) .

Tuesday I will be posting Part 4 on How to Begin Homeschooling, Lesson Planning. I'll try to get part 5 out on Wednesday and that one's on scheduling your day. I will continue past part 5 if I can think of some more helpful information or anyone has some suggestions.

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