Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Renae's Favorite Homeschooling Tools

Homeschooling Helps:

100 Top Curriculum Picks, by Cathy Duffy:

I really enjoyed how this book is laid out.  You begin by narrowing down your own homeschooling purpose, style, and philosophy (no easy task for me), and take a closer look at your children’s learning styles.  Once you achieve that, the book looks closely at the hundreds of choices of homeschooling curriculum available and rates them on how they fit in with various homeschooling philosophies, match learning styles, and even how much teacher-prep is involved.  As much as I would like to donate my copy to CHESN, I just cannot part with this valuable resource.  I would highly recommend each homeschooling family purchasing one of their own.  The cost is around $26.50 (or less).


The Story of the World, by Susan Wise Baurer.

This world history curriculum was recommended to me when I first began homeschooling.  I found it difficult to work into daily lessons, but despite my irregularity in teaching it, it has always been a favourite of my children’s.  So, in year six of homeschooling, I am again writing into my weekly schedule.  The books comprise of a novel-like reader and an activity book with chapter questions and project plus reproducible activity maps and pages.  There are 4 volumes in this series.  The first begins with the nomads—a lesson that my kids still remember and talk about.  Generally a basic historical timeline is followed, but you jump from country to country as significant events occur in history.  What I enjoy most is that all the grade level I have are drawn into the story.  Material covered overlaps with what is required to be covered in some social studies.  I have developed a love and appreciation for history by reading these stories to my children.  I have used these as read-alouds for my younger kids and then as independent study with the tests for up to grade 10.  The cost for the books are: $25 for stories and $35 for activities.

Math U See

I’ve explored several math programs and I keep coming back to this one.  I love that the DVD’s explain things so clearly and that my kids are not overwhelmed with workpages.  My younger ones really enjoy working with the blocks for the hands on aspect and the older ones appreciate the simplistic instructions that come with the math concepts (even I can understand them).  By the time my homeschooling journey comes to a close, my library will have a complete set of these books and DVD’s. 


Here’s a couple favourites that I have found make (or will make) life easier:  The Big Cook,  

The concept of this book is simple, cook or prepare extra while you make one recipe and you freeze it for later.  The delicious recipes give ingredients for 1, 2, 4 or 8 meals.  You can also work with others and just prepare a larger number of meals together.  While fun, this is a lot of hard work and takes organization.  There are some good tips included with preparing large quantities, which I find save a lot of time for me now.   I also realized that I could easily multiply with my favourite recipes.

Another time-saving recommendation was brought up by another homeschooling mom.  After reading her “promotion” of The Old Schoolhouse Planner, I decided to check out the website  I was amazed at the resources I found!  First of all, I was able browse through a copy of The Old Schoolhouse magazine online.  It was loaded with encouragements, practical articles and reviews of the many educational resources that are available.  I also signed up for the monthly newsletter.  If permission is gained from the authors, I may feature some of my favourite articles in our newsletter (one is featured this month).   

In doing this research, I had the opportunity to download and review The Old Schoolhouse Planner.  At first, the cost of $39 may seem steep for a download, but, you need to take into consideration all that this planner replaces.  It took me awhile to get the file downloaded (my error and slow computer).  Once I did, I was amazed to find 247 pages waiting for me.

The first part of the planner is in a day timer format.  This can easily be printed and put into a binder.  Scattered in the midst of the day timer are recipes, homeschooling tips and practical charts that you would like to have, but don’t know where to find them. 

The second part of the planner includes homeschooling sheets.  These are geared for every type of homeschooling, from the very organized to the unschooling family.  I especially like the reproducible sheets that outline crafts your kids’ complete, field trips, and books they’ve read—very handy for those portfolios.  I have to admit I was so tempted just to print out the entire 247 pages for myself, but since I already have most of my school year planned, I didn’t want to make more work for myself.  However, next year, I will be using even more of the pages from this planner.

The last part of the planner focuses on household planning.  Here you find your monthly menu, shopping list, babysitter’s list and even one of those calendars to remember everyone’s birthday through the year (I’ve always wanted one of those . . .).  Chances are, if you buy this planner, it will replace many “consumable” books we buy repeatedly every year. 

If you prefer a planner already put together, consider the The Well-Planned Day.  It is a yearly day planner that includes your family planning (meals, budget, calendar, etc) plus your school planning all in one book that you buy each year.  It’s easier to store than a binder, as it’s coil-bound and I like that it’s everything together.  In saying that, however, I still find myself going back the Schoolhouse Planner for other sheets such as yearly overviews and curriculum planning with my child who I am schooling tradition.  This can be ordered from and you don’t pay the shipping.  

Technical or Electronic:

The final favourite tool for homeschooling is a good printer.  When I say “good”, I mean one that will print economically.  I must say my least favourite job is photocopying.  A couple years ago, we bought a scanner.  Because we already had a good printer, I found I could scan in what I wanted and print it for around 3 cents a copy (plus paper).  Most of the books that I buy are reproducible, so I can reuse them for all my children.  By scanning and printing at home, I am saving valuable time (and rushed trips to the copy store).  I especially recommend this if you use any planners such as The Old Schoolhouse Planner that require a massive amount of printing.  Our old printer broke down not long ago, so we bought a laser printer.  Even though it only prints in black and white, I really like the idea of getting 2000+ copies on one toner (working out to 4 cents a copy).  Economical printers can be found at a reasonable price if you ask the right questions. 

I have since bought a photocopier, scanner and printer all in one and while it costs more on ink, I do like the convenience of being able to quickly photocopy something without having to run to a print store.  Since we do have 2 work areas (home office and school room), the copier serves in the office, while the more economical printer is in the school room.  

There is no perfect way to homeschool and each family will find what works best for them.  What I have hoped to accomplish is to share a few tools that have worked for me and if there’s one thing that will help you, my job has been done.

Happy Homeschooling


CHESN coordinator!


  1. Looks great, Renae! Congrats on starting a new way to keep in touch

  2. Thanks for your list of favourites. I had the same problem with fitting in The Story of the World. Then, I tried out the Biblioplan for each volume. They're really useful for making Bauer's books fit into my homeschooling.