What We’ve Been Doing: Homeschooling

What we've been doing for homeschooling: SonlightWhat we've been doing for homeschooling: Timberdoodle

It’s somewhat embarrassing, the amount of time I’ve spent online looking at various curriculum ideas and offerings. I mean, G is not yet 5 and his needs are not that specialized that it really requires a lot of searching to find something that will work.

But it’s just so much fun looking ahead and daydreaming!

There are so many options that I love the *idea* of them, but don’t really think they’d work for me. Doesn’t matter if the kids would like them, I know my limitations. I’m figuring out what does work, and work well for all of us.

This post is a bit of a look back, as we’ve recently made some changes to our daily routine, but I want to note what we we’ve been doing for homeschooling, before jumping into what we’re doing now and plan to do for the 2014-2015 school year. It’s been a mash-up of Timberdoodle’s Preschool and PreK offerings, and Sonlight’s P3/4.

Does that seem ridiculous? Don’t worry, we’re not doing everything from all of those links. Well, I did buy the entire Sonlight package (because it was a better deal that way, and they don’t allow customizations if you want the package discounts), but Timberdoodle let me customize their packages and did I ever customize them. Timberdoodle also provided several Christmas presents for G that aren’t included in this post, and I love that educational items are so much fun for him that he was *thrilled* to receive them as gifts. I might even do some birthday shopping for him there ๐Ÿ™‚

So, what are we doing? Well, we don’t do everything on every day (except for reading books – I think I read to them every day unless I’m sick), but since the fall these are the highlights of what we’ve been doing:

Reading and Language Skills

The Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy LessonsThe Reading Lesson: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons by Michael Levin and Charan Langton
I wrote about this one already, and it’s still working really well for us. Love it. We’re also taking it very slow, because I want it to stay fun for him.

Big Book of Things to Spot
This has been so much fun for G – he has a blast finding the things. We’ve almost finished it, so I’m on the lookout for another book that’ll be similar for him. (I’m counting it as language skills because we talk through the pictures so much, and because it didn’t really fit in any of the later categories I have.)

Bob BooksBob Books, Set 1: Beginning Readers
These are very satisfying for him – they’re so short that he can read an entire book at once. We’e just started using set 2Bob Books Set 2-Advancing Beginners for these, after slowly working through set 1.


Building Thinking Skills and Mathematical Reasoning – G adored these books. Raced through the Preschool versions in less than two months, and that was with me trying to get him to slow down. You would never convince him these were school – to him they were just fun. He’s also having fun now helping H with the books. That is unbelievably cute watching him assist her with the tasks!

Singapore K math. He loves this book. He loves the pattern book included with it. He does page after page after page of it – there is no way this set will last him a full year.

Fine Motor Skills

Handwriting without Tears
(K). We’re doing it really slow – one or two letters a week. He likes it but doesn’t love it like he does math. My guess is he’s probably doing about as well as an average kid his age, I just don’t think I’m good at helping him. I’m not sure if I am being too picky / not picky enough about what he’s doing.

The “I Can!” series – lots of colorful practice on cutting, tracing, pasting, coloring. The tracing book didn’t last long as G raced through it, but the other 3 have lasted. He’s not really a fan of coloring.

Beleduc Colorful Caterpillars Lacing Beads.
I got this in hopes of another game the kids could play together, and it works. Also, H just likes playing with the beads. She’s only just started lacing them onto the caterpillar, so we might try again to play it as a game soon.

My First Scissors
So much easier for little hands to use than the other kiddie scissors we have.


The Teddy Mix & MatchRavensburger Teddy Mix & Match - Children's Game and Mighty MindMighty Mind games that were included in the Sonlight P3/4 package have been favorites of both kids. They’ve gotten a tremendous amount of use, so even if you’re not ordering Sonlight books, I’d highly recommend these – they are fantastic.
Both kids think these are awesome, and their biggest complaint is that they’d like more so they could build bigger towers and other creations. This is another one I debated where to include it but settled on games, because that’s how they think of it.

Bunny Peek-A-Boo. I thought this looked so simplistic, but it was a great challenge for him. I could almost see his spatial reasoning improve as he played it! H currently plays with the pieces but doesn’t do the challenges.

Castle LogixCastle Logix Another one where I can see G’s spatial reasoning developing as he working through the different levels. H mostly ignores it for now.

BrainBox My First Pictures
We’ve yet to play this the way you’re supposed to, but it’s still been a fun game with G. H just likes flipping the timer over.

Link n Learn Links
I really debated on where to include these – with math, fine motor skills, or games? I settled on games, but they’re not exactly a game. No matter, they both love these. It’s got pattern recognition, sorting, and counting all while playing. (Hint: there are sets of 500, and 1000. It is nice having lots so we can make patterns and replicate them without issue, but 500 is plenty for us. 250 probably would have been, but I didn’t see a set of 250 when I ordered.)


Both kids are doing taekwondo – G is getting close to his first anniversary of it, and H started in early December. G participated in his first tournament in November, and they both got their orange stripe belts last week. They both love it and are disappointed on Friday when there is no class. G is actually ready to move up to the regular classes and out of the tot class, but I’m happy to keep him there so they’re both always in class at the same time. So much easier on me. ๐Ÿ™‚

Both kids are finishing up in Awana – G is a Cubbie, and H is a Puggle. In other words, G has verses to memorize and H doesn’t, but just goes and plays with her friends and does a Bible-related craft while I’m at Bible Study. It’s fantastic for all of us, and big thanks to Sarah for getting us involved in it last year. They’re both already looking forward to doing it again next year, when they’ll also both move up to the next level. They’re going to be really sad this summer when we don’t have it to go to on Wednesday nights!

This summer I’ve also got them both signed up for swimming lessons. It’s a local family where the college kids teach in their backyard pool, and I got them signed up early enough to snag slots where they both can get their lesson done at the same time. Which, just like at TKD, makes life much easier for me. They’ll wrap up their lessons about a week and a half before their sister is scheduled to arrive, so that timing works out really well too.

We do lots of reading too – see my monthly roundup posts for the newest books we’re reading, but we also reread books we own or have out from the library. And reread them. And reread them… And though I said we have it, I haven’t really mentioned the books from the P 3/4 collection from Sonlight. But that’s because we’d already read them all! Both kids love many of the books, and like most of the rest. There are only a couple that we’re not crazy about, but overall it’s a really good collection of material that we have read over and over and over and over the last year (I got it in January 2013, when the kids were 1.5 and 3.5).

And now for the negatives:
What hasn’t been so successful for us? Language Lessons for Little Ones 1. Not worth it. Maybe because reading and then asking questions about what we’re reading is something we already do regularly, and he knows his letters, and that seemed like about all it was. Sure, there were pictures with prompts about what to ask him, but I do that too as we read (albeit, most of the pictures in that book were new to him. Still not worth it.)

The Sea Turtle Maze. Way too easy for G, and went very quickly from being too hard for H to too easy. They’ll both do it once or twice every so often, but it’s not been a toy that’s gotten a lot of repetition.

Twisty Droppers
Didn’t last a week – the squeeze tops pull off and then won’t go back on without leaking air, rendering them useless as a dropper.

One thing I’m not so good at is arts and crafts. I have to remind myself to pull the things out for the kids. Also, they love to do “science” and I kind of hate it, and it’s gone on the back burner lately as I haven’t had the energy to do the referring and cleanup it always seems to require. We tend to do the science reading from Sonlight, but not any of the experiments from the Timberdoodle science kit. I need to figure out a way to make this doable for me, or outsource it eventually. Maybe just them getting older will help though.

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  1. Thanks for this–I may have found a birthday gift or two for my soon-to-be 4yo ๐Ÿ™‚

    We also have been using Sonlight P3/4. My daughter seems able to focus and understand all the stories, but I’ve been a little disappointed that she doesn’t seem to like many of them–though that’s been changing over the last month or so. I’m not sure if the ones that aren’t to her taste just happened to be near the beginning of the book list, or if it’s a maturity thing. I think I’m going to try re-reading some of the ones she didn’t like so well to see if she likes them better now that she’s a little older.

    We also are doing the critical thinking and math workbooks. My daughter loved both of them at first. She’s cooling down a bit as they get a little harder for her, which isn’t too surprising. At a remarkably young age, she’s started saying “Lexa’s not very good at this.” I don’t know where that came from–we NEVER say that to her!

    I need to write my own post about our first year of homeschooling …

    • I hope you do write that post – I have *loved* reading about what other people are doing, and the more specifics the better. It’s what persuaded me to finish this post and share it, because I know how much I’ve loved reading every other one I can find.

      And that is so sad about your daughter saying she’s not good at this! My son occasionally gets frustrated and will say that he can’t do something, but so far I’ve been able to talk him down from that idea if you will.

      For both of my kids, the Sonlight books have at times become more appealing as they’ve grown older. There are only a couple that I can think of that have never become at least somewhat successful. So hopefully it’ll be like that for your daughter as she keeps getting older!

      We just got the new Timberdoodle catalogue in the mail, and my son flipped through it and both pointed out the things we have, and the things he wanted to get. Let’s just say he’s going to be disappointed that all of his wishes won’t come true, but there are some really fun looking items that will probably become birthday gifts for both of them this summer. There are even a couple of baby items that I’m super tempted by for the new one (not that we really need to add anything to our stash of baby toys).

  2. You may have said, but how old are your kids? I have a 2 year old and a 4 year old and homeschooling is not even on my radar, but working at home this summer before pre-k is something I am going to do. I think I’ll check to see if my library has the Bob books. I’ve wanted to buy them for a while and just haven’t bitten the bullet.

    • Yeah, that would have been good information to include in the post, wouldn’t it? They’re 2 and 4 as well, turning 3 and 5 this summer.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if the library doesn’t have the Bob books – they’re fairly flimsy books and would probably not hold up well to being circulated. However, the library should have some easy readers or other similar books that might work – look for phonics readers especially as those are likely to be good beginning ones.

      If you have a Costco membership, that’s where I got both sets of Bob books – it was a little bit cheaper than Amazon. Even if you do have a membership, I’ve noticed that they don’t carry them all the time, although I haven’t paid attention enough to tell you when exactly during the year they have had them.

  3. Alison S. says:

    As of right now, we are not home schooling, but I adore browsing books and educational materials. I loved this post! Quite a few of the items made it on my wish list.


  1. […] my last post about homeschooling, I shared what we had been doing, and promised a future post about what we were going to do for what I’m calling G’s […]

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