If you’re like me, this time of year is a weird combination of slow, dragging days and too much to do. (I’m not sure how that’s possible, but that’s definitely how it feels!) I keep a Terrible Day box for moments like this—when we all need a little injection of homeschool fun to keep things going. I thought it would be fun to highlight a few of our favorite extras in case your homeschool has a case of the springtime doldrums, too.
(FYI: These were all in the right price range when I put this story together in April 2017, but prices change, so double-check before you click to buy. I rounded all the prices up to the nearest dollar.)
Spring is the perfect time for a quick course in music appreciation. Though this book-CD combo is more of an introduction than a comprehensive guide, it is a great way to start to understand the basics of classical music and how an orchestra works. Half focused on big-name composers and half on the structure of an orchestra, it’s a useful and fun guide to music appreciation. If your community orchestra has a free or cheap spring concert series—be sure to check local colleges’ spring concerts—it makes a great add-on.
Choosing Your Way history books ($16-20)
Think of this series as a historically accurate version of the Choose Your Own Adventure books we all loved as kids. Each book has five stories to work through: In the first volume of Choosing Your Way Through America’s Past, you have to decide, among other things, whether to stick it out with Washington’s army at Valley Forge or give up on military life and whether life as an indentured servant in the new world would be better in the north or in the south. These books are a nice supplement for middle or even early high school history studies.
It may seem weird to think of math as a fun break, but this guide to fractions is surprisingly enjoyable—and somehow, focusing on one particular piece of math seems more pleasant than plodding through your usual program. You will need your Cuisenaire rods to work through the book. You can whip this out any time you think a little fractions intensive might benefit your student.
Build a musical doorbell, a voice-controlled lamp, a two-speed fan, and more as you work your way through the hands-on projects in this kit. It’s designed for kids age 7 and older, but even high school physics students might enjoy the chance to do some hands-on electronics work, and younger kids can work on projects with your help.
The Allowance Game ($17)
Shift your focus to financial responsibility with the Allowance Game, which teaches kids how to save and spend money, make change, and think about balancing their budget. If your kids get into it, consider setting up a homeschool economics system like the one Rafe Esquith describes in
Rebecca reviewed this program in the magazine a year ago, and I think it’s a perfect let’s-put-our-critical-thinking-skills-to-work addition to your spring homeschool. It’s designed for elementary school students, but I think it could easily stretch to accommodate any new-to-philosophy student. Dig into fascinating questions like “Can computers think?” and “Can something be logical and not make sense?”
If you’re like us, you’re ready to seize any excuse to play outside once spring weather comes rolling in. I love this workbook because it offers lots of open-ended, easy-to-do nature activities that work for pretty much every age from elementary through adult. (If nature is already a big part of your curriculum and you don’t have trouble thinking of nature activities, you probably don’t need this book—but if, like me, you want your kids to have more nature know-how than you did growing up but you sometimes wonder “but what do we actually do out here?,” this book is for you.) It’s divided into monthly sections, but it’s easy to pick and choose activities based on the weather or what you want to do on a particular day, too.
A unit study is always a good way to give your homeschool a little lift, and this one is good for a wide range of ages. Evolution is fascinating, and this unit covers the history of Earth from the Big Bang to the present day, with a nice little rabbit trail focused on the life and work of Charles Darwin. It’s designed to cover eight weeks, but like any unit study, it can stretch or compress to suit your needs.
Our awesome Art Start columnist Amy Hood turned me on to this book, which is pure creative inspiration (even for people who swear up and down that they are not creative). This is an open-ended book with so many fun ideas for looking at and making art with the world around you—I bet no one in your house will use it the same way. Don’t be surprised if it inspires lots of creative projects at your house.