Excellent (and affordable) home education resources for Kindergarten

I just love it when I find affordable resources that really work for both Abbie (my almost 4 year old) and I, and these past couple of weeks I have loved what we've been using, so I though I would share them with you.

Though Abbie is not quite 4 (her birthday is in just a couple of weeks), she's very motivated to learn to read and write, so aside from character training, that is our major focus during our learning times right now. She's not officially Kindergarten age yet (she would be starting next September), but realistically, that's the work she's doing and I'm just going with where she's at. I shared some of my other favorite resources not so long ago, and we are still using several of them (especially Big Truths for Little Kids, the Bob books and the Japanese book).

Rod and staff preschool books
Rod and Staff Preschool Workbooks

We were blessed to have been given books # 4, 5 and 6 in the set from another homeschooling family. I was so surprised to look online today and discover that the set of 6 only costs $14.95 anyways, which I think is a great price!

Rod and Staff are Amish written and published, and they are fantastic. Academically solid, challenging, wholesome and fun. Abbie loves these and they are one of her favorite activities at the moment. Though they are called preschool, I would say that the books we have (Do It Carefully, Everywhere We Go, Finding The Answers) lean more towards kindergarten concepts, such as letter learning, early writing skills, reading, rhyming, etc. They also include some cutting, coloring and gluing activities. At her age, Do It Carefully is a perfect level for Abbie, just challenging enough to be hard, but not frustrating. I love it!

Happy helpers book
Rod and Staff Little Jewel Books

Again, so reasonably priced (each book is $2.70 or cheaper if you buy more than 4 at once), but wonderful little books! These we are borrowing from the same family who gave us the workbooks, and I would really like to purchase some for our family's library. The stories usually address character and heart issues, respecting and helping parents, learning to work, being kind and forgiving to others, serving others, learning about Creation, etc. Of course, the families usually live on a farm and the mothers wear head coverings, but I don't find those factors to be a big deal at all. (Thanks Crystal, for first mentioning these great books!)

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Naturally, Abbie's favorite thing is to watch the little videos and games with letter sounds, phonics, reading concepts and songs. The videos are so-so (in my opinion). I don't let her watch them very often, but she enjoys them and I'm sure that they do help to drive home some of the reading concepts that we are working on.

What I really love are the downloads I got for free, and that I have printed out to use each day! We're using the Level K- ABC Printouts, which work through the alphabet, with printing practice, big and small letter recognition, letter sounds activities, etc. These worksheets will last us through til January or February, doing one or two a day, and they're such great practice for Abbie!

Ambleside Online

One last link I just recently discovered, which I haven't fully explored yet, is Ambleside Online. It is a free curriculum, based on Charlotte Mason's own curriculum.

It includes wonderful book lists for reading, as well as a week by week curriculum from Gr.1 upwards. I'm not sure yet  if or how much of this I'll use, but I'm really enjoying what I've read of Charlotte Mason
so far. I thought I would include this, as it is a free curriculum that looks promising. Is anyone else using this at all?

What other free or low-cost resources have you been using and loving for your preschool and early elementary aged children?

Lots of other great, frugal resources at Frugal Fridays, hosted by Biblical Womanhood!

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  1. I love Rod and Staff! You won’t find much else that’s so uncluttered, thorough, and inexpensive. We use their grammar and reading materials too up ’til grade 4. Starfall is amazing too! Starfall and EdHelper are great resources too. (as is Sesamestreet.com/videos for your five year old when you want 10 minutes of uninterrupted time with your older two!)

    In terms of general HS curriculum… I usually avoid buying teacher’s manuals for curriculum either – at least I leaf through them before deciding whether they’re worth the ridiculous costs. Sometimes they are… primary math – not so much!

    However I’ve learned that sometimes you have to shell out the big bucks to get some curriculum/programs that are terrific (Rosetta Stone, Sing Spell Read & Write, reader sets, etc.). I see them as an initial investment as they’re used by all the kids eventually.

  2. I love the little Jewel books! I used these while teaching my little siblings growing up. So fun with great stories! Thanks for being one step ahead of me. When Karis is a bit older I will know where to come for all the resource ideas! 😉

  3. I’ve used Explode the Code Series for my 2 youngest. I loved them! They are just black and white printed, and very easy to follow. I had a few Rod and Staff readers for my oldest, just for something to read and I like them too. For math I really enjoyed the Singapore math for my second one.

  4. I use Ambleside online for Kindergarten with my 6 year old right now, and we LOVE it. It’s really well suited to meeting individual kids needs, and seems to me to work with the way kids are built in general too (lots of outdoor time, for example is encouraged). While I haven’t gotten to the formal Charlotte Mason (grade 1 and up) stuff yet, I doubt I’ll consider switching when I do — from what I know, that’s totally terrific too. Ambleside Online is really well thought out, not out to make money, and comes with a really supportive community through their various yahoo groups.

    I have my Kindergarten curriculum goals blogged. I think it’s easiest to find by searching “Ambleside”.

  5. This book has been a great resource for us!
    (Phonics Pathways is about 20 dollars at amazon)

    My almost younger daughter will be 4 in Feb. is reading three letter words already; I am amazed at what about 10 min. a day can do!

    My oldest daughter turned five in August and she is reading long vowel words and quite a few other words with – this book is so simple, you just turn the page when they master a new sound to learn the next one!

    20 dollars to teach all your kids to read is pretty amazing! You can check out books at the library that are for beginning readers – Bob books have been great for us as well!

  6. We use Rod&Staff. My 3 years loves the preschool books. I think most of all I love the readers and the older grade spelling.

  7. Rod and Staff begins their regular curriculum with Grade one – they don’t do Kindergarten as such. That’s why their materials are called preschool. 🙂

  8. I’m very familiar with everything that has been mentioned, but my children are in public school. I have tried to do ‘after-schooling’ but there just isn’t enough time or energy for any of us. I lean more towards using Sonlight’s curriculum. Now, I am seriously considering homeschooling them. They are young, 8 & 5, but their little hearts and spirits have already been tested and hurt at school. I can’t seem to find any real positivies that I experienced. More like a lot of peer pressure, competition, bullying, conforming to fit in. My question for you is about the “s” word. Socilization. How do you feel about this, or what do you plan on doing to get some interaction with others their own age? Mine are involved in out-of-school activities already, but not enough time is spent to make good friendships between the girls or even me and other parents. Our church’s children’s ministry is pretty dead, so in my situation that isn’t an option.

    OT, have you posted about your family life growing up? Your parents? Do you have siblings?

    Love your blog. It has been a blessing to me.

  9. We are starting our first year of homeschooling, we have two girls and a boy (our oldest daughter is in Kind.) I did a blog post that addresses they why’s of why we homeschool since my neighbors do act like we are a little odd. 🙂 I figured I better get my thoughts together. You can check it out if you want here: http://finallymakingtheconnections.blogspot.com/2008/09/sowhy-do-you-homeschool.html

    And by “socialization” I really think you have to examine what your definition of the word is. My husband and I feel that we because we love our children more than anyone else and because we have been assigned by God the task of their spiritual teaching, that homeschooling is a great fit to us having the time to fufill those responsibilities. I have been reading the Mission of Motherhood by Sally Clarkson and she point out how when Jesus was teaching his disciples the way he thought was best and most effective was just to “be” with them. They hung out.

    I have to say in our current culture it is a rare oppurtunity for parents to just “hang out” with their kids. With school taking up much of the day and then homework and activities I think it is very hard to find the time and energy needed to disciple our own sweet blessings.

    And by the way, I happen to believe that traditional school settings, based on my own experience since I attended both public and private, were far more filled with “negative” socialization rather than positive. Which is a big part of why homeschooling works for us! 🙂 Just one girl’s opinion though…your welcome to disagree!

  10. My daughter is 7 yr old and in 1st grade. She has some learning disabilities which require her to learn at different levels.

    I like Five in a Row series, but am not currently using. It’s a literature based approach. If you like these, but find the cost is too much, you can always use http://www.homeschoolshare.com. It’s full of free unit studies.

    Another favorite is brightly beaming resources at http://www.letteroftheweek.com. This is an entire preschool curriculum that is free!

    I have other favorites on the sidebar of my blog under homeschooling. Feel free to check them out.


  11. We loved Rod and Staff for the girls when we were first starting out. In fact, last night we were talking about when would be the right time to start the twins on it. The books are simple, appealing, and really focus on the basics.

    I have to discuss the “s” word a bit 🙂 One reason many people homeschool is to avoid the “socialization” that happens in public schools. My girls see people (known and strangers) nearly every day. Just because you homeschool does not mean you stay at home locked up for weeks at a time. We are at the library, store, visiting with family, helping people in need, and getting together with other homeschoolers. They interact with children of a wide range of ages and abilities as well as adults. Where I do notice they “lack” is when with kids from public schools they don’t understand the teasing and “lingo.” You won’t catch me upset about this, though. It is precisely that type of “socialization” that we are trying to avoid. Kids can be mean and you can’t hide your children from the world. We dip our toes into it at times and learn rather than becoming immune to it or, worse yet, a part of the problem.

    My girls know that when someone is being mean to another person that they likely could be that way to them and the people they love. They understand that if a “friend” is trying to get them to exclude their sister it is likely that “friend” will turn and do the same. They also understand that kids who talk mean about other kids are also going to talk mean to them at some point. The girls understand that these are not the ones to make good friends with, but also that their behaviour doesn’t mean we can be unkind in return. Like I said, dipping our toes in, but not becoming a part of it.

    I sometimes feel if I can raise intelligent children I’ve done okay, but if I can do that as well as raise children who are always learning, caring, and giving I will have been truly successful.

  12. For Preschool/K and 1-2nd grade I used “Learning At Home” by Ann Ward. It was a wonderful, inexpensive Christian curriculum that used library books as resources. So I only paid about $50 for each book each year and used library books (she even suggests which books and videos to use) to supplement. I usually just went to the library and looked at the subject and found picture books that covered it.

    There are three different books (one for each grade). She covers math, science (called “God’s World,” reading, language arts, health, manners, art (that’s all I remember). Some subjects were only taught once or twice a week (like art or health)

    It is done from a Christian and I loved it because she told you exactly what to say to your child. There were songs, art projects, plays (we did a Thanksgiving play with stick puppets that the kids drew in art). My kids really loved the health and manners.

    She also includes a suggested homeschool schedule in the book. I believe it was only four days a week of homeschooling, and the fifth day was for field trips or whatever. This is a great curric. for someone just starting out who doesn’t have a lot of confidence. I loved that she told me what to do and say.

    After 2nd grade I think that she only wrote a curriculum for girls (called Far Above Rubies or something like that) and I had boys, so I couldn’t use it anymore. BTW, our libraries carried copies of her curriculum so you should check out yours to see if they carry it.

    From 3-6th (or so) we used Rod and Staff for Math and English, which someone mentioned earlier. Inexpensive and great job on teaching the fundamentals. We used Abeka or Bob Jones for the other classes. Also used Explode the Code series, they loved it!

    Now we are continuing to use a mix of Abeka and BJU. I have one son in college (homeschooled all the way) and one still homeschooling.

  13. Our son is in a Christian preschool but we will homeschool him starting next year. I’m leaning toward Oak Meadow curriculum (Waldorf approach), but only because we will be enrolling in a public school program that will buy the curriculum for us, providing we let them know what we want to use, they make sure it’s a solid program, and we give them regular updates on progress and do the once-a-year assessment.

    As far as socialization, if there is a “virtual” school program run by a public school, that can be a great option. I say this with caution, because some public schools run a virtual school option for homeschoolers that is really just trying to get them to do public school at home, rather than have the say in their curriculum.

    Our program allows you to pick the curriculum, as long as it’s non-religious, but you can add on as much religious curriculum as you want, at your own expense. They have free classes for homeschoolers, field trips, etc. and though they are technically run by the school district, the teachers they hire have homeschooled (or were homeschooled themselves) and the other families are all homeschoolers, so you are pretty much surrounded by like-minded families. Of course, you’re always going to have a few that aren’t, but I think it’s healthy for kids to see that and learn how to deal with it, while being mostly surrounded by supportive people.

    You can find virtual public schools in your area by doing a Google search. There are also some great programs that have just put together classes for homeschoolers, taught by moms, that cost a little money but sometimes not too much if you volunteer to help out. We have a few in our area.

    I totally get that this is not for everyone, and that every program is different so I think you really have to investigate it, but it works for a lot of families and it gets you free curriculum and the support of a licensed teacher, if that’s something you want.

    If you want nothing to do with public schools at all, you probably won’t like these programs but if what you want to avoid is the peer pressure and the forced curriculum (that could contain any number of objectionable things!) this might work for you.

  14. I’m currently going through the Rod and Staff set you pictured for the fourth time. They have another book called “Going On Eagerly” to continue on the series. You can call them and request a catalogue. Also, they have a series of four books for three to four-year-olds. I’m going through that set for the fifth time. We use their curriculum for 90% of our homeschooling and love it. We love their emphasis on Christian character.
    I thoroughly enjoy your blog and read it a couple of times a week when I have a few minutes. The Lord bless you.

  15. Mommaren, I haven’t talked about my family too much. I wasn’t homeschooled. I was raised in a primarily non-Christian home and was public schooled all the way through. My parents divorced when I was little and are both remarried. I have one full blood sibling, a brother who is two years younger and lives in Toronto with his wife. I also have two younger half-brothers, who are 17 and 20, who live up North, where I’m from. None of them are Christians, either.

    As far as socialization and homeschooling, several others have already said some of the things that I would have said.
    – because we want their main socialization to be with us, their parents, and their siblings
    – because we feel that most school socialization is negative, not positive
    – because socialization happens in a lot of different ways, which don’t require official classroom time with same age peers

    We feel that it’s important for children to interact with family units, and children of a variety of ages, not just those the same age as them. We also want our children to be particularly close to their siblings and to learn to view them as their closest friends and a gift from God.

    As well, we make sure to spend a lot of time together as a family, with other families. Cultivating those friendships is important to us, because those are true opportunities for fellowship and a chance to learn to get along with, show kindness to, develop friendships with and even serve others. They will learn to play inclusively with groups of children (of different ages), rather than just going off with one or two friends. They also learn to speak and interact respectfully with other adults, whom we are friends with. And it all happens under our supervision and guidance!

    I’m sure that our kids will take part in some kinds of community or extra-curricular type activities at some point, but that is not a focus for us. They are also involved in children’s classes on Sunday morning, but that isn’t where true relationships happen (though it’s a great opportunity to learn to respect someone else in authority over them, in a group setting).

    My basic opinion on this issue (in the very early stages of homeschooling, mind you) is that socialization happens through the family, when children are encouraged to participate in meaningful relationships with others, where they can be guided in their interactions, rather than being left to themselves on a playground. Children need to be taught how to behave, speak, react, resolve conflict, etc. and to be taught from a Biblical worldview especially. That kind of training won’t come in a classroom, but it will come when parents are purposeful about the relationships their children are a part of and when they are encouraging them to learn to be a true friend and to live out their faith.

    Hope that helps to answer your question- thanks for asking! 🙂

  16. For early childhood education (we have a 4 year old and 3 year old, with 2 little siblings following closely behind!) we have been VERY pleased withe a curriculum called “Christ Centered Curriculum”. I think they have a website by the same name. We attend an Amish-Mennonite church and so I am very familiar with Rod and staff. I appreciate theirs very much but there is also another Amish-written curriculum put out by Christian Light that many of the people around here use. We haven’t decided which direction we will go after 1st grade. We have friends who have used both Rod and Staff and christian light and they said they prefered christian lights. Sometimes, the choices can be so overwhelming!! 🙂 OH, and we use Starfall ALL the time. My kiddo’s love it! Be blessed!

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