(Last Updated on November 24, 2020)
In the previous post in this series, I introduced you to the curriculum shelves in our homeschool area. Now let’s zoom in and see what’s filling up those shelves.
Note: If you missed the first couple posts in this Tour of Our Homeschool series, start here to get caught up.
Right now, it seems to work for us to have a shelf (or two) for each main subject area and a coordinating bin for the non-book materials for that subject. So, for example, here are the math shelves and the storage cube drawer where I keep the curricula and math supplements we aren’t using this year.
Here’s a closer look at what’s…
…On Our Math Shelves
Life of Fred
I love, love, love the Life of Fred series! It’s been a great supplement and my elementary-aged kids have read all the way through Pre-Algebra 2 with Economics just to find out what happens in the storyline.
Math-U-See (MUS) has been a good fit for both of my boys, at least through mid-elementary grades. Alas, I got ahead of myself and bought all the way up through Algebra I, but my 5th grader is now in love with CTC Math. I guess time will tell if my younger two continue with MUS or not.
I pulled a few of the MUS books to store on our “current-school-year-shelf” so they’re not with the rest of the set right now.
And these MUS block manipulatives aren’t technically on the shelf… they’re stored next to it. We’ve liked this craft box (from The Container Store, if I remember correctly) for storing the blocks.
Math Activity, Puzzle & Game Workbooks
Apart from Life of Fred and Math-U-See, our math shelves are mostly filled with miscellaneous supplement-type resources. Almost all of them have been collected over the years from curriculum sales and garage sales. That is to say, I haven’t paid full price for almost any of this stuff (except a couple things I’ll mention later).
I’ve found having a handful of colorful math workbooks has been helpful for mixing things up and getting extra practice on certain concepts.
My kids have especially liked math puzzle and game books. Besides being a fun break from the usual routine, activity books also provide a way for them to apply their math skills in different problem solving contexts.
I’ve also found these to be good strewing material. Asking my kids directly if they want to do a math workbook gets me nowhere. But if I leave a few out on the coffee table for them to find, they’ll often pick it up and do more pages than I’d ever assign for them if it was “official” schoolwork.
Arithmetic Drill Resources
OK, these aren’t as fun as puzzle and game books, but it’s still been good to have some of these drill-type resources for extra math fact practice. We rotate between our usual curriculum, pages from these drill books and online computer drill games.
We’ve loved books like the Sir Cumference series and The Grapes of Math. They’ve been perfect for times when math anxiety was high. Reading lighthearted stories that intertwine math with the plot (this goes for Life of Fred, too) makes math normal and less scary.
“Games for Math” Book
Peggy Kaye’s Games for Math gets its own section because it’s so simple and wonderful. The author provides dozens of simple pen-and-paper games you can use with your preschool and young elementary kids to practice basic math skills.
Specific Math Topic Books
These two books are also ones I want to give a special shout out to. Multiplication and Division gives a great explanation of the concepts of, you guessed it, multiplication and division. And Times Tables the Fun Way is a quirky way to help with tricky fact memorization. My kids still remember 6×6=36 because of the “thirsty sixes” in that book.
You never know what resource will click with your child and make certain concepts stick. I’ve found it helps to have a mix of books available and let them use whatever works.
Books I Purchased
Like I said before, most of these supplemental resources were bought at yard sale prices. These two are exceptions.
They’re both from The Critical Thinking Co. and I’ve been really pleased by their products. I’d recommend both Math Analogies and their Mathematical Reasoning series.
Honestly, though, when it comes to math supplements, I’ve had just as much (or more) success with random garage sale finds as I have with products I researched extensively and paid top dollar for.
…In Our Math Storage Bin
We don’t use flash cards too often but they can be a great way to break up desk work and do some active learning.
I have my kids jump up a step on our stairs with each right answer or run across the room and back between problems. Lately I’ve also had my boys quiz each other with multiplication flash cards to free up a few mommy minutes.
Games are excellent learning tools! We’ve use games we’ve printed, card games, dice games, math-related puzzles, math Bingo, and more. Again, it’s unusual for me to buy any of these at full price. We’ve been just fine making do with what I’ve found used at curriculum fairs or for free online.
I’ve gone back and forth about keeping games, like Multiplication Bingo, on our school shelves versus storing them with other board games (like Monopoly and Candyland). It seems they get more use when they’re stored with school things. After all, when side-by-side with Monopoly, Multiplication Bingo looks like a trip to the dentist. But it looks like a carnival when compared to a math worksheet.
Math Practice Eggs
These eggs break all my rules. They took a long time to make, they’re a one-trick pony and they take a lot of space to store. Ugh.
But they’ve been a fun tradition each spring or anytime I remember they’re there. We’ve used them enough now that I can say it was worth it to make them.
If you decide to make your own, keep in mind it’s much easier for your student if you organize the facts by color (for example, make all the x2’s orange eggs, all the x3’s purple, etc). This way, they can sort by color first and then do one fact family at a time.
Number Lines, Hundred Chart & 1,000 Cube
I got these back when I thought I had to recreate an elementary school classroom in my home in order to homeschool properly. I know better now. But I still keep these around since they help my youngest kiddos visualize number quantities.
We also still use our giant homemade hundred chart from time to time (you can find a picture of it in this post) but we store that in the “bin o’ random recycled stuff” since it doubles as a tent ceiling.
If I haven’t made it clear by now, you definitely DON’T have to spend a ton of money on super-expensive math curricula or supplements. There are SO MANY good resources online for cheap or free. My favorite site for math games is Math Geek Mama. All the printables in this picture are from her site and my kids loved them all.
Anything I think we’ll use again I laminate and store in our Math Bin on the curriculum shelves. The only problem is they tend to be out of sight, out of mind. But I try to go through my shelves and bins a couple times a year so I’m reminded of what I have in there.
In the next couple of posts we’ll take a closer look at other subjects, so stay tuned as the Tour of Our Homeschool continues!
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