Kelly George has been homeschooling for over a decade and swears by list-keeping as the ultimate way to keep organised, stay sane, and plan and record her whole family's learning.
By Kelly George | Fearless Homeschool
Lists are the only way I keep track of anything.
To-do lists, meal lists, to buy lists, wishlists – if it’s not on the list it really doesn’t get done.
So it makes sense that lists are invaluable in our homeschool, too. We use lists to keep track of what we’ve done, to remember what we’d like to do and to make sure everyone’s doing as much as they planned.
I’ve tried digital, but it’s just not concrete enough for me, and seeing as I usually don’t know where my phone is it didn’t make sense to keep important information on it.
I was very happy to see the new Mulberry Planner has LOTS of list templates, and I’ve been busy filling them out and feeling virtuous about my gorgeous new lists (as opposed to the creased and crumpled bits of repurposed paper I usually use). I’ve also discovered an unexpected bonus of having a beautiful planner - I’ve been more intentional about looking after it, which means I can feel justified when preaching to my children about presenting their work well.
Homeschooling lists are also a great form of record keeping, saving hours of work when re-registration time comes around. You can quickly glance at the books you’ve read, the movies you’ve watched, and the curriculum you’ve completed, and expand on it to make a pretty good report.
Here are the indispensable homeschooling lists we keep.
Books are our thing. We borrow 60 books at a time from the library, think books make the best presents, and book sales and well-stocked op-shops are our favourite places to shop.
We all keep a yearly list of the books we read – each child, myself, and my husband. They help us keep track of interests, remember which authors or series we wanted to read more from when it’s library ordering time, and remember what that book was called when we’re chatting about them.
Plus, it’s a subtle competition. Gabrielle always makes sure she’s ahead in numbers. She’s up to 139 books read as of November 20th, so it’s not likely she’ll be overtaken this year.
I also keep a read-aloud list, which I’ll adapt one of these for.
I keep a book journal for myself, but I’m using the Mama’s Book List to keep track of the homeschooling-specific books I’d like to read or re-read.
Finally, I’ll also be using the Kids Book List for a to-read list for each child. I usually make sure I order or buy quality books regularly, so there’s always some available to choose from, but they don’t always get chosen.
I’d like to make sure they each read at least ten classic or high-quality books each year – dragons and battles are all very exciting, but should be balanced out by books that get the brain cells working, in my opinion.
If I give them each a list in January they can zoom through their requirements, and then return to reading Percy Jackson for the umpteenth time. And I can then give them another list in June – surprise!
There’s SO MUCH to keep track of! I used to save samples in a folder on my computer, assuming I’d remember what was in there.
Most of the time I would forget there was even a folder, so when we wanted something new in a certain area I’d start researching again from scratch.
Having a curriculum list means I can keep track of what we’d like to try, what’s good now, what may be good in the future, and what’s not good for us at all. I’ll download and use each sample as we need it, and then either cross it off the list or purchase it.
If I get very organised, I’ll use another to keep track of the curriculum each child finishes.
I’m a word lover, and I love quotes. Anyone who has visited my website or taken one of my courses may have noticed that. Homeschooling means I get to expose my children to what I think is important, and subjecting them to quotes is something I do enthusiastically.
Right now, I put a new quote up on our whiteboard each week, and we chat about what it means. I choose quotes that make us think, that help us define our ideas or values, or show an everyday issue from a new angle.
This quotes list is replacing my Pinterest board (again, I fail at digital – I don’t even have the Pinterest app on my phone because I couldn’t turn off the notifications), and it’s so much easier to pull out the quotes list and choose the new quote.
As a bonus, I don’t get stuck looking at quirky designs for vintage dresses, so the process is much quicker!
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I started listening to podcasts this year, and really like them (again, late adopter of digital). They’re a great way to get through cooking and cleaning without noticing what I’m doing.
Unfortunately, the children aren’t as fond of podcasts about entrepreneurship as I am. I’ve found a couple of ‘educational but entertaining’ podcasts we all enjoy, like The Ancient World and TED Talks Daily, but I’d like to find more.
This is my list of podcasts to trial before adding to our regular listening list. We’ve already trialled Douchy’s Biology, and it’s a hit – Gabrielle has been geeking out to hominid evolution while cutting out sewing projects.
We fail at films. We haven’t had a TV in over a decade, and that pretty much sums it up. We find we have so many other things to do that we never get around to watching movies.
But there are some things I’d really like to watch with the children. Generally, they’re adaptations of books, and our chief delight is shouting criticism at how much it deviates from the book (you really don’t want to watch Eragon with us, how did they get it so wrong?)
I’ve decided documentaries count as films, because we love nature, farming, and science documentaries. And because the sheet would probably compost before we got through that many movies.
I hope that gives you some insight and inspiration into how lists can be useful in your homeschool. The lists included in the Mulberry Planner are a great place to start if you’re new to list making – they’re extremely relevant to the core needs of homeschoolers. As well as the lists I’ve detailed, there are also lists for music, YouTube, and children’s lists for their achievements and things they’re proud of, plus templates for you to DIY. If you don’t use anything else except the lists, you can still have a well-organised homeschool.
Kelly George is a married mum to five adventurous children who have never been been to school. She runs Fearless Homeschool, which is full of articles, resources, and courses aimed at helping parents break away from the school model to craft their ultimate homeschool, and also organised the first Australian Homeschooling Summit. In her spare time she's a nursing student who enjoys juggling dozens of hobbies.
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Chad walked away from an animation career at Disney because the pressure to perform had slowly robbed him of the joy he felt when animating and drawing. He shares his tips for budding artists and animators on embracing imperfection and looking for learning opportunities.
By Chad Stewart | Founder of The Animation Course
One of the most heartbreaking things I see as a teacher, parent, or animator is a young person putting so much pressure on themselves that they lose the joy that attracted them to an art form (or activity) in the first place.
As a young animation student I was drawn into a sequence of excitement, opportunity, achievement, and comparison (to those more advanced than myself), and then to insecurity and frustration. Each time I saw someone’s animation I had to know if I could do better. If I could be more valuable. As if becoming more adept at a certain skill had any bearing on who I was or my value as a person. But I continued to put pressure on myself to understand complicated concepts instantly and execute them effortlessly. Little by little that pressure robbed me of the joy I felt when animating. And it continued not just through school, but well into my career. Until finally I couldn’t keep up with it.
Why I said goodbye to Disney
After four years working for Walt Disney Feature Animation in the late ‘90’s, I found myself cleaning out my desk and saying goodbye to the job that had been my dream since 6th grade. While I had talent, I couldn’t draw or animate as well as the other artists there, some who were my age, but many who had been animating for decades. And instead of approaching my position with a humble curiosity, I had instead withdrawn into myself hoping that I could somehow pull some animation off on my own that would ‘Wow!’ those around me, which of course I couldn’t.
As a result, I found myself without a position on the newest film, without the opportunity to learn from those who had so much more skill than myself, and without a desire to continue animating, a process that had always fascinated me and something I truly loved to do.
What had I done wrong?
I had expected to learn too much too quickly. I had attached my character and self-worth to a skill that took thousands of hours to master. I had abandoned the joy of learning.
I finally gave up putting that unachievable pressure on myself and I have enjoyed animating in the world of film over the last 26 years, although I still feel it sneak up on me every once in a while. Now I see the pressure in new places, the eyes of my children and my students.
I think with the technological advancements today it makes it even harder for this next generation. A world of information and opportunity is at their fingertips. Almost everything is effortless… and yet there are still things in life that are truly hard to master. Growing up and maturing. Learning to interact with people. Knowing thyself. And, in the case of my students, animation.
When the moviegoer watches an animated movie, they ingest years of work from hundreds of people in a couple of hours. Unfortunately, sometimes a student will expect the same level of skill and expertise from themselves that they see on the screen.
I make it a point to always take the pressure off an assignment. Each of them is at a different point in their journey. Each is valuable. And it’s getting them excited about the journey that is the real key.
If they're passionate, then doing something wrong becomes a fantastic opportunity to learn.
And not a discouragement, but rather a moment to build momentum. If we embrace failure and mistakes as the catalyst for understanding and disconnect it from our value as people then we have a learning model that is powerful, and enjoyable! At least it was that way for me.
Tips for budding animators and artists
1. Find a mentor on YouTube or Instagram, someone you can follow and be inspired by, who encourages artists to create.
2. Take the pressure off assignments or the marks you'll get. Focus on animating and drawing for the love of the art.
3. If you mess up or need to start an artwork again, see it as an opportunity to learn.
4. Know that it takes years of work by hundreds of creatives to make an animated movie that you watch in a few hours. Do not expect the same level of skill for yourself as what you've seen onscreen. That's a combined effort.
5. Watch animation or Disney Pixar behind the scenes for particular movies that show the process.
Chad had some great advice. What's your favourite tip? Tell us in the comments below.
You may also like:
Chad is an artist and animator who has over 27 years of experience in the feature animation world in 2D (hand drawn) and 3D (computer). He has worked with Disney Pixar on projects well-loved movies like Polar Express, Emperor’s New Groove, Tarzan, and the Smurfs movies. He has been a traditional animator, a 3D animator, and has supervised other animators on multiple films. Chad founded an online course for children called The Animation Course.
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Helping our children delight in the discovery of nature is one of our most important responsibilities as parents. Homeschooling offers the perfect opportunity to take learning into nature far more often. Here are eight ideas to inspire you...
By Grace Koelma | Founder of The Mulberry Journal
“We have such a brief opportunity to pass on to our children our love for this Earth, and to tell our stories. These are the moments when the world is made whole. In my children's memories, the adventures we've had together in nature will always exist.”
I often contemplate the words of Richard Louv, author of Last Child Left in the Woods and coiner of the term 'nature-deficit'. There is no denial that our children face an uphill battle when it comes to spending time unplugged and unfettered by the alluring and incessant technology of our modern world. And yet, once we discover the rejuvenating and necessary power of nature for the soul, mind and body, we can't help but share our love of the earth with our children.
While it's unrealistic and ultimately unhelpful to completely cut our children off from all technology (and what does that even mean? Isn't an oven or a microwave technology too? What about the car you drive? But I digress!) many parents are resisting the pull towards swipe-able screens and glowing devices in favour of a pared-back, 'old-school' focus on spending time in nature. Nature in all its forms...
Homeschooling parents are among those leading the charge, with terms like nature play and earthschooling popping up more and more frequently. So, if you're feeling a pull towards nature here are a few ideas on how to incorporate more nature study and focus into your homeschool.
8 ways to invite nature into your homeschool
Most often, these groups meet outdoors and often visit national parks or reserves. You can find out about local groups by searching for location-specific Facebook pages, or check out our (by no means comprehensive) Australian co-op directory here.
Nature Guides are a handy resource when venturing out into nature. Giving your kids a sense of purpose and sense of adventure in the form of a 'nature spotting checklist' can help keep them involved and motivated.
You can purchase fantastic nature guides from Brave Grown Home and print them off at home, like this gorgeously illustrated backyard birds set. Each Guide includes beautiful watercolour illustrations on easy-to-print posters, information cards full of fascinating facts, and smaller three-part cards for the littlest learners. The cards also tie in with the Charlotte Mason philosophy of nature journalling.
Tip: Laminate the identification cards so they withstand dirt and water while you're out in nature, and last longer.
The peace and quiet of nature provides the perfect setting for practicing mindfulness and meditation with your children. Mindfulness is something that can be modelled to kids at a surprisingly young age, and even very small children can learn to sit still and just 'be'.
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Pack your paints and paper before you head out so you're ready to capture the beauty of nature in paintings, sketches or mixed media. If your kids lack artistic confidence or haven't yet found a passion, we can highly recommend Artventure's online lessons as a great resource to start with.
Issue 3 of Mulberry Magazine also features a wonderful step-by-step nature journalling tutorial to get you started.
Starting a Cabinet of Curiosities or Wunderkammer is a great way to motivate your kids to head out into nature and observe, delight and forage (where appropriate) curiosities to take home and display. For more inspiration, check out our article where three homeschooling mums share how they started their Cabinets of Curiosity in Mulberry Magazine Issue 7.
Tip: Remember to check the rules in the area first (national parks often have limits on what you can remove).
When the weather turns cold or icy, it can be tempting to put off outdoor adventuring until the warmer season begin again. But exploring nature with your children in the wet, mud and snow is vital. Many studies show that the winter months spent indoors can impact mood negatively, and getting outside in the fresh air is a mood-booster and improves the body's energy, vitality and immune system. It also 'toughens kids up', so they are not afraid of a little bit of rain or cold.
Observing the cycle of nature through different seasons, especially how many of the plants and animals hibernate or adapt to survive harsh conditions is a fascinating aspect of nature study that shouldn't be missed!
Remember, there's no such thing as inappropriate weather, only inappropriate clothing!
While nature reserves and national parks are wonderful wildernesses to explore, they can often be a considerable drive or hike away. For quicker nature trips, don't forget about botanical gardens, private estates and greenhouses in your area. Observing finely cultivated plants and topiary is a wonderful aspect of nature study, too.
Tip: When visiting a private estate or botanic garden ask at the information desk whether they have a nature or botanical guide you can use that is specific to that garden.
A subscription to National Geographic’s Little Kids magazine is an affordable starting point for the 3-5-year-old set and audiences of all ages will be mesmerised by film series like Planet Earth with its stunning visuals and insightful commentary.
Global Guardian Project’s Learning Capsules are perfect for older children needing a mix of hands-on activities and informative content.
Tip: YouTube is a great resource for nature documentaries. Check out these fantastic tips on curating a YouTube playlist for your children here.
What are your strategies for getting your kids outside and enjoying nature? Tell us in the comments below.
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Grace is the Editor of The Mulberry Journal and when she's not reading submissions, divides her time between hanging out with her simultaneously delightful and headstrong 2-year-old, running multiple ventures, writing and travelling full time with her little family. You can follow her travels at @darelist.family.
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When kids hear the words “Once upon a time...” something magical happens. Find out how spoken storytelling remains one of the best ways to share knowledge and impart wisdom, not just in homeschool but in all of life.
Stories are the most effective teaching tool there is — and audio stories make that tool as easy as pushing a button or opening a book.
That is a bold statement in this age of free downloads, interactive curriculum, and subscription teaching services — but it is undeniable when we acknowledge that storytelling is the language of children. How many times has a lecture or explanation been politely ignored? How often does attention drift in the middle of a set of instructions? How regularly do we need to say “just five more minutes” when explaining something to our kids?
Now ask yourself — what happens EVERY time you open a storybook or utter the words “Once upon a time…?” Eyes relax into soft focus, the jaw slackens, and your child becomes a willing audience to whatever comes next.
We’ve all suddenly become alert during a boring presentation when the speaker says, “This reminds me of a story…” The speaker now has our attention because she has indicated she is about to speak in the way in which we are compelled to listen.
We are wired to pay attention to stories because it has been the medium for distributing valuable information since we developed speech. Stories were how our ancestors taught their children how to find food and water, how to be safe, how to manage the changing weather, how to live rightly.
Stories were how our brains adapted and evolved into incredibly capable processors of the unprecedented information overload that is standard in contemporary society.
These days storytelling comes in many forms: books, movies, video games, graphic novels, podcasts, and audiobooks.
Wading through the content can be a full-time occupation — but once we find “storytellers” we like, we tend to commit to them. We follow them.
We subscribe to their service. We even binge on their content because it feels uniquely reflective of who we are or who we want to be.
This is natural. This is how storytelling works.
So keeping that in mind, it only makes sense to bring storytelling into our homeschooling. Whether your child is struggling with math, history, grammar, self-esteem, conflict resolution, social inclusion, competition, and any other parts of life, storytelling is ready and available to help.
Here are a few ways you can use storytelling in your homeschooling:
The world of podcasting — or audio blogging — has blown up to the point where there is a podcast for every interest, subject, hobby, and perspective you can imagine. There are so many, however, that finding the most appropriate producers can be a massive undertaking. To make things a little easier, we have compiled a list of our recommendations of the best podcasts for kids.
I can’t go much further without recommending Sparkle Stories, the audio story subscription service my wife and I started six years ago. We offer content for academic subjects such as history, as well as social/emotional pedagogy, learning differences, and developing empathy. Kids can listen while they're doing virtually anything: curled up on the couch, in the car, doing chores or colouring in. Our stories are created to be simple, delightful and to inspire children to marvel and wonder.
If you’re looking for places to start exploring, here are a couple of favourites:
“Martin and Sylvia” is a series of over 300 stories that follow the lessons and adventures of a homeschooled brother and sister who do their learning in the playhouse, the creek, the neighbor’s farm, and the downtown library.
“FIFTY” is a new series offering 50 fictional stories that focus on historic events from each of the 50 United States.
"How to Be Super" is a series for older kids that incorporates classic stories and Greek mythology.
Many Sparkle Stories include accompanying recipes, nature studies, crafts and tutorials. Sparkle are giving Mulberry readers an exclusive offer to extend the regular 10 day trial to 15 days. Just enter the code MULBERRY15.
*Code expires 1 March 2018.
When you tell stories yourself, you have command of the content, can adapt it to fit your unique listener, and can have a lot of fun at the same time.
The most difficult part of telling your own stories is overcoming self-criticism and fear of failing. We all tend to take storytelling far too seriously.
Yes, it is incredibly effective, but no, it does not need to be done beautifully. Well-intentioned and honest but poorly-told stories can be just as impacting — if not more so — than professionally told stories.
Before I became a professional storyteller, I was an elementary school teacher for many years. I learned through trial and error that stories could bring transformation to the most difficult situations: rowdy post-Halloween classrooms, dyslexic learners who did not want to be singled out, children with attention challenges whose behavior was disruptive, national disasters, and frightening world events.
We all tend to take our storytelling far too seriously... Well-intentioned and honest but poorly-told stories can be just as impacting — if not more so — than professionally told stories.
Before you employ the latest interactive app or youtube video or online game, consider pressing play on a podcast or streaming story — or open your mouth and say, “Once upon a time...”
How do you use storytelling in your homeschool? Tell us in the comments below.
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David Sewell McCann
Sparkle Stories is an audio story treasure chest designed to educate and entertain the whole family. Over 1,000 original stories can be accessed via the Sparkle app or website, and related crafts, recipes, and homeschool study pages help families make the stories come alive.
To support meaningful engagement in STEM subjects for students, Samsung is giving kids the unique chance to submit their invention and see it created by a team of experts. More on the competition below.
By Grace Koelma | Founder of The Mulberry Journal
Australia’s STEM skill gap has been a national priority for some time now. While there are a number of elements at play, more often than not, we get so caught up in the politics of STEM, that we forget those that at the centre of the issue - the students.
The reality is maths and science can be boring, difficult, and for many students, there is no clear connection between these subjects and their dream jobs. As a result, only 16 per cent of students are entering higher education in STEM fields. To support the pursuit of STEM subjects among young people, Samsung is hosting a pretty fantastic competition this November.
Samsung Australia has launched Make My Idea - a national competition which calls for students across Australia (12 years and older) to submit their innovative invention ideas to go into the chance to win a number of exciting prizes, including having their idea developed into a prototype model.
Prizes up for grabs include
Deadline for entries: Wednesday 22nd November 2017. Entrants must be aged 12 or older.
The winner will be announced LIVE on the 29th November via the Samsung YouTube channel at 4:30pm AEST.
Do you know a young inventor who should enter this competition? Share it with them.
Grace is the Editor of The Mulberry Journal and when she's not reading submissions, divides her time between hanging out with her simultaneously delightful and headstrong 2-year-old, running multiple ventures, writing and travelling full time with her little family. You can follow her travels at @darelist.family.
Our latest freebie is a Day Notes printable. It includes a blank date section, Mon-Fri days of the week with Morning, Afternoon and Evening.
It's perfect for you to plan out your week and stick to a schedule (if you're into that) or use it at the end of the week to record everything you've done! You'll be amazed how much you get up to when you document it all out.
We've also included a bonus notes page with a floral background. Available in US letter and A4 size.
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Over 150 pages of beautifully designed planning, recording and reflection tools to help you organise your homeschool and family life. Northern Hemisphere (2017-18) and the Southern Hemisphere (2018) versions available.
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So you know about homeschooling, worldschooling and unschooling. Maybe you've heard of hackschooling or gamification... So what on earth is gameschooling? Cat Timms has the ultimate (and we mean MEGA!) guide for you AND a bonus download!
Words and images by Cat Timms | LightHeart Photography
Gameschooling is a term whose origin cannot be traced, but it has been around for a while. It has been more recently popularised into homeschool culture by absolute legend and lovely lady, Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley, educational psychologist and homeschooling mama of gifted kiddos, of My Little Poppies fame, who also created the international Facebook group Gameschool Community. Her blog is a literal treasure trove and is referred to several times.
In the homeschool community, gameschooling means to use tabletop gaming (board games and card games) in an intentional way, as part of your personal homeschool culture and educational philosophy. Rather than playing games occasionally just for fun, gameschooling families see them as essential to their homeschool daily or weekly for a variety of reasons (including fun!).
Let’s talk about the why, how, what and troubleshoot some issues.
Further reading on the why of gameschooling:
This is asked ALL THE TIME in the gameschool groups and there isn’t a simple answer to that question, because everyone homeschools differently. If you believe in teaching and curriculums, then games will supplement that and add some fun. If you unschool, then you might research games you think your kids might like, then show them the ones that fit your budget etc and see if they’re interested, and games would be the most formal thing you do, probably.
We personally are secular and eclectic here. We do very little formal work, only in English and Maths, and we do a lot of excursions (field trips), workshops, classes and play dates. I encourage my kids to be open and interested in everything. We try a lot, and what doesn’t work for us we leave but we try not to say no to things for no reason, particularly if they’re new.
This adventurous spirit carries into gaming. We’ll try any game! We play 2-4 games a day. I usually choose one for an educational purpose and the rest are child-led. They often suggest we play a game, then choose one themselves. They’re at very different gaming levels currently which is challenging, and I have a whole section for you toddler mamas coming up, don’t worry!
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Choose the time you play games carefully, particularly when learning new games.
While “Family Game Night” is great in theory, maybe it needs to be at breakfast because tired children do not the best gamers make. We do play games after dinner, but only ones the kids know really well, plus they’re experienced gamers now. We often play games around mealtimes.
Because we don’t have a schedule, I’m not super helpful here. I know that homeschool mamas who do have a school schedule do things like:
In essence, do what works for you and your family situation. There’s no right or wrong way.
Oh, brother. The dreaded question. This gets posted multiple times a day in the gameschool group. The answer is “infinity times infinity, pass the coffee/wine/chocolate.” Seriously. It’s not a bad question; it’s a great question! It’s just that there are a million answers. We could be here all day. Let’s start the beginning:
I suggest joining the groups and following pages on Facebook to learn and get ideas. I’ll also link to the blogs for those not on Facebook (Don't have Facebook? HOW DO YOU LIVE?! Kidding, it is useful for groups though!).
In addition to those homeschool blogs and pages, US families are going to find Amazon VERY useful! For the rest of us, it can be expensive and they don’t always ship to us. I do buy from there occasionally though. Board Game Geek is a great website for researching on, and serious gamers keep lists there. I’m yet to venture into it but I often check there for reviews and information.
There are so many games to choose from. I know, it’s overwhelming. I would probably just head to Target or a good games shop and pick one. I haven’t yet mentioned the dreaded M word because that is what people think of when we talk about games. We do have a copy of *whispers* Monopoly somewhere I think, but we don’t play it. Because it’s not well designed and very boring; there are no interesting choices or strategies, and its very luck based. Outraged? Sorry. Check out this YouTube to understand more.
If you love Monopoly then your mind will be blown when you play a well-designed tabletop game! Gamers often talk about “gateway games”. These are the simpler but still well-designed tabletop that use game mechanisms that the bigger games do, have a high replayability factor, and are a great way to start games culture in your family if you are looking beyond the purely educational.
Here are some of my favourite gateway games:
All of those games are ones that the adults here really enjoy, so won’t bore you quickly. I could list 10 more, but I’m going to leave that list there. There are a million games lists you can Google. If you’re only looking for educational games that you can slot into subject areas for your kids then check out this ultimate games list. It’s comprehensive and well laid out, and we own many of the games on it.
Phew, that’ll do?! That’s not an exhaustive list, either. This article explains the different types of games in a succinct way and might be useful too.
Most games include age recommendations which is a rough guide. Game makers need to be careful; if they put the starting age too young, then they won’t be bought for older children, and if the age is too high, people will think it’s too hard. Most gameschoolers take age recommendations with A CUP of salt. My 7-year-old can play games that say 13-years-old + but he is a weak reader. If there was a big reading component he wouldn’t be able to play. He also enjoys plenty of games that I’d put in the “Early Childhood” category.
If your 8-year-old child is new to games then they will find Dragonwood challenging at first, as it’s not a luck game; it’s a strategy game with interesting choices. But my 4-year-old can play with assistance because she’s been playing games since she was a toddler.
A little section just for us Aussies. G’day, mates! (sorry, that’s for the rest of the world who think we talk like that, lol).
1. I have yet to find an Australian gameschooler who blogs about gameschooling so that’s why there isn’t one listed here. If you are one, then yay! Let us know. People keep saying I should start one but I have two part time jobs already so I just can’t. You can always find me on IG at @ahumanattempt and in Gameschooling Australia.
2. It’s really difficult to find games about Australia that aren’t caricatures of Australia, and sometimes a bit racist in my opinion. They seem designed for the tourist rather than Australians. If you know of one, PLEASE let us know! There are a few printables floating about, none of which are great, so making my own game about the Australian states is on my to do list. It’s listed right after “Learn about the Australian states.”
3. There are some great Aussie sites to know about, and support if you can! If you have more to add to this list, let us know!
This one's for the nerds like me! Well, in a nutshell, gamification means applying game principles to something (for example, turning a maths sheet into a game) and game-based learning, means using a game that already exists to learn something (like the game Sushi Go to practice addition). Both ideas are useful in homeschooling, but that’s an article on its own! For further reading I suggest:
Many of these articles refer to online or digital gaming which has evolved from tabletop gaming. All of these, and the ‘why’ list, should be great fodder for anyone who wants to argue against game playing, or allocating funds to buy games
“I’ve checked out the lists and blogs and now there are 3 games that I want. How do you narrow it down?”
Particularly when you’re on a budget, this can be important. What I do is search the game title and read what I find in the following places:
After all that, I will have an idea whether I think we’ll like it or not. Yeah, it takes some time, but all research does! I’m looking for interesting choices and replayability here, but if you’re looking for something purely educational then it should be simpler to figure out whether it will help with the thing you need. I only buy those types of games if I really need them, and think I can resell them; I am far more likely to find a free printable or make up my own.
“My partner doesn’t want me to spend money on games.”
Send them this article; there is a TONNE of good info linked here. This is a commonly asked problem by mamas in homeschool groups. In my house, if one partner doesn’t want to do the reading and learn about the issue to then have an informed discussion, then the other gets to go ahead using their best judgement. Teamwork makes the dream work, and that means trusting each other too. I am not going to learn about looking after the cars, so hubs just does what he thinks is best there. He is not going to get highly educated about homeschooling, so I’m boss of that. I make a lot of games, and only buy ones I think we’ll really love. I also sell games as I need too, to fund new ones.
“Seriously though, we are on a tight budget.”
Honestly, most homeschoolers are. Everyone’s version of tight is different, and everyone’s priorities are different. We too are on a tight-ish budget. We don’t spend any money at all on curriculums (ever) so I spend on books, games, workshops, classes instead. Tabletop games are not just a homeschool thing; they contribute to family culture too. So if you occasionally have a family day or meal out or trip to the movies, you can consider a good tabletop game in the same category but it’s reusable, and you should be able to sell it for around half what you paid when the time comes. Here are some other ideas:
“I want to make my own games. Help.”
You can make your own games very cheaply, and indeed I make TONNES of them. You can buy books that have things to photocopy and make, or get free printables from all over the internet. You can attempt to replicate popular games, particularly using game pieces and boards from games you’ve bought cheaply secondhand (this is where op shops/goodwill are handy). Remember that challenging your kids to make their own game is a great activity too.
There are links all over the place here – this is an ULTIMATE guide after all – so read back but here is yet another collection of links to get you started:
“My kid doesn’t find games fun. We have meltdowns over rules/winning/losing. It just won’t work for us.”
Ah, yes. I understand. I know a few kids including my nephew and son who have worked through game rage. I’d argue that these children may need to play games more than anyone else! Games are a great way to learn to handle and reframe ‘failure’, practice gracious winning and losing, handling disappointment, trying again etc. Not all things will work for all families, and you may want to use a few of these ideas in concert, but here are some things to consider:
“My kids fight. We can’t play games together.”
Yeah this is a hard one! Caitlin has written a brilliant article at My Little Poppies that I cannot improve upon. She has a list of great ideas, and one I will emphasize is snacks. Lol! Seriously though. Eating a clean food (like plain popcorn, because you don’t want to get your game pieces super dirty) while playing is a great way to keep a game moving along and everyone calm. Read her entire article here. I’ll also add that we regularly play games 1:1 here. Like at least once a week with each child.
“I have a toddler who can’t play but wants to, and ends up wrecking the game in their earnest efforts.”
Mmm, also tricky! I have a few suggestions for this one that have worked here. Firstly, it’s always a good idea to play at nap time, but that isn’t always possible, particularly if mama is pinned under said toddler!
Honestly, game playing with small kids around, particularly if you have a couple of them is not going to be easy, so only attempt when you have some patience available. You may decide to wait until everyone is older, and that’s ok, too. Chloe used to grab and throw all the pieces and think she was hilarious, *all the eyerolls*. We just waited her out and now it’s great. It’s a short season, mama, hang in there.
I trust you’re thoroughly overwhelmed and now have hours of reading ahead to check out all those links. If there is something I haven’t covered here, then please let us know. Have any other suggestion, comment, game recommendation, get in touch! I’d love to hear from you.
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If Science is a subject that's leaving you a little bewildered or overwhelmed, or you have children who 'don't like science', this homeschooling mum's refreshing take on slow science will have you hooked.
By Samantha Matalone Cook | samanthamatalonecook.com
The thing about science is that you have to let kids learn to love it through experience and experiment before you can ask them to be a scientist. To really understand it.
Think about Leonardo DaVinci, watching and sketching his birds over and over again, contemplating flight. Sometimes science is about observation, patience, and beauty. Sometimes science is about time and intimacy. Slow science.
There are two examples of slow science in the photo below. The hyacinth bulb on the right is seasonal. We set it in a glass vase in early January and have watched its roots slowly tumble down into the water and green leaves shoot upwards.
We waited in anticipation as tiny purple buds formed and then finally opened to grace us with glorious fragrance. Now the flowers are wilting, and another shoot has appeared. Will we get one more show? We hope and watch. And when the bulb has done all it can, we will tuck it away to be planted or brought out again to see if we can coax another bloom next year. So much in such little time.
On the left is a biosphere. A biosphere is a contained, self-sustaining little ecosystem. This particular one is about three years old, and is seasonal in another way. We watch as the plant life blooms and then dies back. We watch as the shrimp grow, have babies, and die. We watch as the tiny snails clean the sides of the glass. The pond muck full of microscopic creatures we added to the bottom gently pillows and billows around the shells that serve as shelter and a calcium source.
There have been times where everything in the jar has died back to the point where we thought our biosphere was a goner, and then we have been delighted by its amazing and awesome comeback. I have lost count of the times I have found one or more of my kids simply staring into the jar and studying this little world.
Slow science isn’t just about observation, and it’s not about holding a child back from rigorous exploration either. The photo below is from a MEL Science Kit, which one of my boys is really into at the moment. Almost every time a kid says they want to learn about Chemistry, they are not asking to study the Periodic Table (which is cool but not where I would start).
Usually, they are looking for reactions, excitement, a visual and kinesthetic experience. While these experiments may seem more interactive and complex in some ways, they still fit the slow science model.
My son is the kind of kid who, when allowed to set his own pace, will dive deep and take his time to really understand a subject, topic or skill. Forced, arbitrary schedules have an opposite effect.
We work through the experiments, savoring each one. We watch the videos on the app, look at three-dimensional models of molecules, and let each success and failure lead us down a merry path into the beauty and curiosity of chemical reactions. This eventually did spark an interest for my son in the periodic table, and he decided to learn more by creating his own card deck of all the elements.
In every one of these cases, science is allowed to speak for itself. I may point out my observations, and my kids may share their questions or thoughts, but the wonder that develops is authentic and personal.
Because they were given the space and experiences to fall in love with science and create an identity around being a scientist, each one of my kids continues to pursue science deeply and with great focus.
Right now, we are all (or just some) fascinated with Chemistry, Physics, Volcanology, and Entomology. Whether it was one of these examples or our regular visits to science museums or into nature, each one of my kids have found the magic for themselves.
As my kids like to say, 'magic is just science we don't understand yet.'
In more structured environments, slow science is still possible. Filling the environment with rich, touchable scenes is a great way to start. Because one has less time to let curiosity unfold in a classroom or formal curriculum led environment, I would also set out examples of the next unit well ahead of time so the kids can develop a relationship with the subject and begin to form their observations and questions. This doesn’t take away from the unit they are on, and in fact can prompt the kids to make connections between subjects that result in a very natural and rich segue.
This post was originally featured on samanthamatalonecook.com and has been republished here with permission.
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Samantha Matalone Cook
Samantha is a homeschooling mum of three with over two decades of experience in education, program development, and the arts. She has a BA in Humanities, emphasizing Medieval Culture and Archaeology, and an MAt from the George Washington Graduate School of Education and Human Development, specializing in Museum Education. Samantha is an active member, speaker, and advocate of STEM in the hacker/maker and home/unschooling communities. Her website is: samanthamatalonecook.com
We often hear that YouTube is an amazing resource for learning, but how do you find and curate topical videos that are age-appropriate for your kids? This article has some excellent tips.
By Natalie Goodacre | homeschoolmummy.com
YouTube is amazing, there is literally a video on there for any subject you want to know about. But it is a minefield when you are a parent. We've all been there when children are inquisitive about something so you look for a video, click on it, only to find that a) it's massively inappropriate or b) it has an overly long advert that again, is massively inappropriate.
I can be a pretty old fashioned parent (by today's modern standards) and even though my children have a Kindle fire each, they can only play on it using the kids mode. Which on a side note is amazing - well done Amazon! This means that I control which apps are on there, and YouTube is not one of them. They did have the kids version of YouTube on there for a time, but again I questioned some of the video content so deleted it.
How many times does a 7 year old need to watch a doll pooing on a potty? Is a cartoon of a man watching ladies in a hot tub really appropriate? That was the one that made me delete YouTube kids. YouTube need to get better at screening these things for the kids version. Or maybe I'm a prude who's way behind the times!?!
Anyway I digress... I still really value YouTube as an educational tool. So to bypass the awkward video mishaps I set up playlists on my account. I only add videos that I have prewatched, and this also allows me to ensure that they aren't too long, uninspiring or just plain random.
I'm not a total bore and include some funny videos in there too, and we dance to music videos (Rhianna is a total No No!).
1. First you will need a YouTube account if you don't already have one.
2. Next search for the topic you want, I searched for Pig Facts.
3. Next, click on a video. Whilst watching the video click on the plus icon in the top right hand corner (circled below) or the 'add to' icon underneath:
4. Then it will come up 'Add to Playlist' at the bottom of the screen.
Click on this, then select the playlist you would like the video to be added to.
5. Once you've done this a message will pop up saying the video was added. You can then go into your library and see the playlist you've created (see my Pig one below):
And Voila! A simple way to use YouTube videos to enhance your learning without the awkward random stuff that usually pops up. And you need not worry about this taking up too much of your time - I usually make my playlists in bed at night!
How do you use YouTube in your homeschool planning? Share with us in the comments below.
This post was originally featured on homeschoolmummy.com and has been republished here with permission.
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Natalie is a a homeschooling mummy to two gorgeous girls aged 7 & 5, from Lincoln, England. She's passionate about learning through play and inquiry based learning and spends her days with her daughters baking, hanging in trees and using their imaginations during hours of play. She blogs at homeschoolmummy.com and is on Instagram @homeschoolmummy.
By Indrani Perera | indraniperera.com
Painting with small children can seem very daunting. All that mess! But with the right materials and preparation it can be a little less messy and lots of fun. I started painting weekly with my daughters when they were 3 and 7. We all loved sitting around the kitchen table painting.
Painting wet on wet lets the colours magically blend and swirl together. The paint on the wet paper mixes together to form new colours and interesting patterns. It’s easy to get absorbed in the process.
Painting in the Steiner style adds songs and verse to the activity. Older children in particular may struggle to come up with an idea of what to paint. A verse or story will appeal to their imagination and fill their mind with pictures to share on the page.
Notes: buy good quality art paper, it’s really worth the investment as it won’t disintegrate as you’re painting.
Stockmar watercolours can seem quite expensive but a little bit goes a long way. You only need the primary colours - with them you can make everything else. They come in two of each primary colour. Choose either carmine red, ultramarine blue and lemon yellow OR vermillion, Prussian blue and golden yellow.
Tip: have a sponge handy to clean paint off the walls as it happens.
1. Preparing the paint
Give the paint bottle a good shake. Put a small amount (about a five cent piece) of paint into the small glass jar.
Add some water and mix together with a brush. Repeat for each colour.
Once made, the paints can be stored in the fridge in their jars with the lids on. They will last a few weeks, you’ll just need to give them a stir before use.
When starting, only give two colours to your child (eg red and blue) so that they learn how they mix together. After a few weeks when they have explored those colours, give them another combination (eg blue and yellow). When you have done all the colour combinations, let them experiment with all three colours at once.
2. Set up the art space
Set up the table for each child with a painting board, 2 glass jars half full of water and brushes in a jar, bristles facing up (this keeps them nice and pointy for painting).
3. Name and dating
Write your child’s name and date on the back of the piece of paper. Round the corners of each piece of paper with a pair of scissors.
4. Apron tying
Ask your kids to roll up their sleeves, put on art smocks and tie their hair back.
5. Wetting paper
Have your child help you run the paper under water from the tap. Drain excess water into the sink and place the paper on the painting board.
When they are sitting at the table, read a poem or tell a story to inspire ideas.
7. Handing out the colours
Sing or say this verse as you give each child their colours.
“Rainbow fairies soft and light, bring us colours bright.”
8. Knock knock
By now they’ll be itching to paint. Just one more step before they can. Teach your kids to keep their brushes clean with this little story:
Take your child’s brush and tap on the paint jar and say, “Knock, knock, knock. May I come in?” In a different voice, sing out, “Only if you’re very clean.” Then take the brush and dip it in the water, then back to the paint. “Knock, knock, knock. May I come in now?” and the paint replies, “Oh you’re nice and clean. Yes you may.”
For very small children you may need to repeat this little story.
9. Start painting
Now the fun begins - paint away!
When your child wants to change colours from red to blue, help them use the rinsing water jar to clean. Then dip the brush into the clean water jar, pressing excess water from the brush against the top of the jar.
10. Drying and packing away
When the paintings are finished, move the painting board somewhere out of the way to dry.
Get your child to help put the paint away in the fridge, wash the brushes and clean the table.
Indrani Perera is a a homeschooling mama of two girls aged 7 and 11. They're currently into their fifth year of homeschooling. Indrani shares insights and experiences in making the life she wants on her blog and Instagram. Her big passions are craft and nature and sharing them with her girls.