Homeschooling can provide parents with flexibility and the ability to curate the curriculum to meet their child’s needs. The most essential academic subjects are reading and math, because we need literacy and numeracy skills for almost every job and we use them in our daily lives. In this post, I’ll provide some recommendations for homeschool resources for elementary reading and math.
Humble Math Workbooks
I cannot recommend Humble Math workbooks enough. Young kids need to learn how to add and subtract, tell time and understand how to use money. These workbooks help kids master these skills gradually.
However, the workbooks are advertised as timed tests. I’ve never used these as timed tests. I don’t recommend timed tests for math. There’s research that timed tests can have deleterious effects. Instead, I let the child work through the content at their own pace. I recommend these books solely for the gradually more difficult content (which is a feature that’s hard to find in elementary math workbooks).
When you use Humble Math workbooks with your K-2 student, encourage your child to count with his fingers. Finger counting (using fingers to add and subtract) can help build strong numeracy skills that last a lifetime.
For some reason, there’s been a push in schools to get young kids to avoid counting on their fingers: this may be because numerate adults no longer count on their fingers (at least not visibly). As a result, some see finger counting as “babyish.” However, if you discourage a child to use finger counting, you may be putting the child at risk of innumeracy.
First, kids need to finger count. Then, as they become more numerate over time, they will drop the practice later (but not totally). Numerate adults still finger count.
We can’t see adults using their fingers for math, because their numeracy brain area is already synched up with their fingers and this helps them add and subtract efficiently and accurately. Turns out, finger counting is critical for building a strong numeracy foundation:
“Remarkably, brain researchers know that we “see” a representation of our fingers in our brains, even when we do not use fingers in a calculation.” -from The Atlantic “Why Kids Should Use Their Fingers in Math Class.”
Early finger counting is tightly linked to our ability to do math. Adding and subtracting with fingers early in life builds a stronger numeracy network in the brain and is correlated with better math skills later on.
After kids learn how to add and subtract with their fingers, then kids should practice addition and subtraction often (again, using their fingers). Numeracy is a language that children get good at with ample practice, and lots of sample problems, gradual instruction and interleaving. The Humble Math 100 Days of Timed Tests: Addition and Subtraction workbook starts off with simple addition and incrementally introduces harder content. They have tons of workbooks I recommend, including one on telling time, money and fractions.
Life of Fred
Life a Fred are educational storybooks with math woven throughout the plot. These books feature a young boy who needs to solve various math problems as he goes through the world. The books start off with easier Kindergarten content, including addition and subtraction, and continue (as the boy grows up) all the way into calculus content.
Life of Fred books can help bring math alive, as they show it’s utility in everyday life. For example, in one story, Fred reads the clock to figure out what time would be appropriate for a jog. The stories are fun, and many kids who initially dislike math are happily willing to enjoy a numeracy journey with the delightful, eccentric and funny character Fred.
Plus, many kids that have gone through the whole Life of Fred series say this curriculum helped them learn to enjoy math. I think Life of Fred can work great in combination with Humble Math workbooks.
Primary Phonics Books
Primary phonics books are cute little phonics readers that help kids practice basic phonics sounds.
There are a lot of sham phonics books that throw in every sound right away. Phonics books introduce one sound at a time and gradually add more and more of the code. Primary phonics books use this key tactic.
Reading Elephant printable phonics books
Of course, I recommend Reading Elephant printable phonics books!
There simply are not enough quality phonics books for beginning students. In our shop, the bundle can provide you with lots of printable decodable books that can help your beginner master the most crucial phonics sounds.
Reading Elephant books are for beginning readers, struggling readers dyslexic kids and other students that need more practice with each phonics sound. Methodically written, they introduce one phonics sound at a time. They can help young readers gain mastery of each phonics sound, and they allow kids to practice old phonics sounds (so they don’t become weak in old content).
The Reading Elephant series is comprehensive and can help kids practice short vowels, consonant digraphs, consonant blends, silent e, long vowels, oo/ew and r-controlled sounds.
Handwriting Practice Workbook
Kindergartners need to learn how to write the letters of the alphabet. They can practice writing by tracing letters in books like this highly rated handwriting practice workbook.
I recommend having your Kindergartner complete one row for a handful of letters each day. If she’s writing a, b and c, for example, have her complete one row of each letter. Don’t have her complete the whole “a” page or the whole “b” page… etc. in one day. Students need delayed review to retain knowledge.
Also note that this book does NOT teach spelling. You should weave spelling into your daily phonics lessons.
Magic Tree House books can provide a fun read-aloud journey. Older elementary kids can also read these books independently.
As your child learns to decode, you should still read aloud to her. When kids are under 5, parents enjoy read-alouds with their child. Just because your student has entered the journey of learning to decode the sounds does not mean you should stop reading aloud to her.
Continue reading aloud to your child. Reading aloud to your student can help build her vocabulary and expose her to complex syntax. Reading aloud to your child will NOT magically teacher her to decode, but once she can decode and read independently (around 3rd grade), if you’ve read aloud to her, she will likely comprehend texts better.
Pick fun chapter books that are years above her decoding level (because her comprehension ability will likely be much higher). If she’s reading “Sam Cat,” you can, later in the day, read aloud one of the amazing Magic Tree House books to her.
The Magic Tree house books follow the journey of two children who climb a tree house and enter another world. They get to travel to the moon, explore the ocean, encounter dinosaurs… etc. Each book features a different place and time. The Magic Tree house books also teach kids a lot of fun things about the world, like how if you make a footprint on the moon it may stay there forever because there are no storms or winds.
Focus on teaching reading, writing and math.
Homeschooling can be awesome. You can spend your days digging in the dirt, collecting and identifying bugs or baking cakes with your child… and then turn to bookish learning to explore topics in more depth. In this way, many homeschooled kids maintain their natural wonder and curiosity for the world around them.
The cornerstones of an excellent elementary education are reading, writing and math. Kids will need these foundational skills in almost every area of life. After you figure out how to teach these key subjects, the flexibility of homeschooling can be refreshing and fun.
Reading Elephant LLC offers systematic printable phonics books that help guide kids through the code step-by-step.