There are so many different ways to parent, homeschool, and nurture human beings! We have made many changes over the years as our kids and their needs have grown. These are some of my favorite resources that have stood the test of time for us. They are divided into broad topics: homeschool, special needs, and parenting.
Literature Book List for Grades K-5
These are some of my favorite books! I’ve compiled this list over the years and still use it to make sure my kids are reading good literature each week.
Notebooking is a great way to explore a variety of topics as a family, with multiple ages, allowing each child to narrate and then draw or write what they learned. My kids have created beautiful and practical notebooks that they are proud to share. I love this website and its resources!
We have been part of Classical Conversations communities since our oldest was 4 and it has been a fun, enriching experience for all of us (myself included). It’s a weekly academic homeschool group, with classes from age 4 through high school, that is available nationwide.
While we use Saxon Math for 2 of our kids, I want to mention Math-U-See as a great curriculum for kids who need help visualizing math concepts, are slower learners, have dyslexia, or just need a hands-on, visual approach. This program has done wonders for us.
I can’t say enough about this complete phonics, spelling and grammar program for children with dyslexia or difficulty learning to read. It is incredibly systematic and slow but it really works. There are also certified Barton tutors around the country, but this can be a very expensive option. I chose to learn the method myself.
Honey for a Child’s Heart
Especially when my kids were younger I found so many good books at the library using this resource. It also inspired me to make lists and regular trips to the library when I did not feel up to it! Over time I’ve become more familiar with the titles and use the actual book very little. But I highly recommend it for parents and homeschoolers.
Apologia Worldview Series
We have very slowly been going through this Bible and worldview curriculum that has three volumes, about God, our identity, and our purpose in the world. It’s slow going because I am using it with all 3 girls even though it’s most appropriate for my oldest daughter’s age. They really enjoy the stories that illustrate the concepts. I just read whatever amount seems appropriate each day. For the second book in the series I also ordered the coordinating coloring books, which have been a big hit.
Homeschooling with Dyslexia
Great website resource for homeschooling children with dyslexia.
Yearly Motivation Charts
Each year we create some way to mark the days of our school year. It has varied depending on the ages of my kids. One year I created a big posterboard tree with velcro apples that we could add and remove as we completed subjects. But I have also recognized the need for the kids to see time passing. Since we don’t have many of the typical school activities that indicate where we are in the school year (and in Hawaii we don’t have seasons to speak of), allowing them to mark time gives them a sense of accomplishment and going somewhere.
Our favorite charts were homemade, quarter poster size. We drew a path for each kid, like a winding road with circles along the path representing each school day. Then the kids put a sticker on a circle when they completed their schoolwork for the day. It also gave them motivation to finish their work for the day and a way for me to check in with the more independent learners. Once their work was done and I had seen it, they got their sticker. The kids loved these charts because they personalized them and because ….stickers. I don’t date the circles in advance because then when we get off schedule we can catch up without any pressure. But once we put a sticker on the chart to show a completed date, I date it, so I have record of our school days. The chart gives us a good visual of how far along we are in our school year with just a glance. We also marked every 30 days as a special day. One child gets to draw a slip of paper out of a bag and the following day we get to do whatever was on the paper – popcorn and movie, field trip of their choosing, lunch outing, or even a free day. They love the anticipation and it gives us all a needed break.
We have had Time Timers in multiple sizes and also use the Time Timer app on an iPad. These are wonderful tools for motivating a child to finish up a lesson, provide a timeframe for when the next activity will happen, time outdoor breaks between subjects, and many other possibilities. The best part about them is they are visual, especially helpful for kids who struggle with a sense of numbers or passing time. Our autism (ABA) therapist also recommends the small plastic hourglasses in 3 and 5 minute increments, but that might be too distracting for some kiddos.
Loving Our Kids On Purpose: Making A Heart-To-Heart Connection
This parenting book by Danny Silk is based on the Love and Logic method (which I also love) and is great for any parents, including parents of kids with special needs. It is a gentle approach that can be used with foster children. I find these tools are most helpful with school age and older kids.
OK to Wake Clocks
We had a couple of variations of this product when our kids were younger. It’s a clock and alarm that lights up when the alarm goes off. If you have young children that are waking you at 4:00 am on the weekends and you want them to stay in bed longer, this visual clock helps them understand what time it is. We have always loved for our kids to come cuddle with us, but we would tell them, “When the clock lights up, it’s time to come cuddle.” For our kids, it also helped them to learn to play quietly. We told them, it’s fine to get up if you read a book in your room or play with toys quietly until your clock lights up. This is definitely a learned skill that takes time. But it helps them grow in maturity without having to be able to tell or understand time.
SPECIAL NEEDS: ADOPTION, AUTISM, & DYSLEXIA
Did I make this topic area broad enough?? There is so much to learn and know on these subjects, but this is just a glimpse of some resources that have proven useful for us and also for friends.
Empowered to Connect
I highly recommend all of Dr. Karen Purvis’ resources, especially the book The Connected Child: Bring hope and healing to your adoptive family. This is a fantastic resource for adopted and foster kids or any kids coming from tough places.
This is a company developed by two individuals with Aspergers and offers webinars and audio courses to help you understand and support your high-functioning child with Aspergers. We discovered some helpful tools through their programs that we use on a daily basis.
For kids with attention deficit or difficulty sitting still when you need them to, a wiggle seat can help. There are many variations and prices for these, from stools to boosters to balls. This one (linked) worked well for us for a season. I have also seen people wedge a cheap bouncy ball into the opening of a large Home Depot size bucket to make a little homemade wiggle chair. The idea is to allow the child some movement, some core engagement, so their mind is freer to focus on the task at hand.
This was very useful for us in a time where our sensory challenged child was regularly in fight or flight mode and needed a quiet, safe place to be, away from other kids and noises. We discussed with her that if she used her tent, she would be left alone (as long as she wasn’t hurting herself, anyone else or any property) so she could regroup. It’s gone on and off the bed over time, but she’s enjoyed knowing she has the option.
Although any ball can be used theoretically, many sensory challenged kids enjoy these Koosh balls because of the texture. Also, for kids who are behind in their coordination, these balls can be tossed and caught more easily, lessening frustration. We used these balls before frustrating school subjects. I incorporated cross body catching and tossing and catching from different hands. It was a fun game but it helped her to relax and focus on the next task at hand. We also used them to practice math, such as counting or skip counting our tosses.
For fidgeting, our best resource has been classic silly putty and Play-Do. I pulled out Silly Putty when we didn’t have time to clean up messes. Keeping little hands busy (not just challenged kids) can help them free up their minds for listening during reading times or other mental tasks.