Where to find free homeschooling curriculum and other resources
Homeschooling moms love free resources. A lot of us also love curricula. Which can get us into trouble if we are trying to simplify our homeschooling. Read on to find out how to use my favorite free homeschooling resources to give your student a challenging and thorough curriculum to become a lifelong learner.
Can you Simplify?
If you are a seasoned homeschooler, have you ever found yourself with too much to teach or too many curricula to try out? If you’re new to homeschooling, are you just completely overwhelmed by too many choices or you just don’t know where to start? After all, we don’t want to ruin our little offspring. No pressure, though.
If I have heard one thing from experienced homeschool moms, it’s this: don’t overcomplicate it.
My “Ah-Ha” moment
From years K – 2, I tried a variety of methods and curricula, searching for a fit for our family: Montessori, Five-in-a-Row, Eclectic, Classical. We settled in with Charlotte Mason around 2nd grade. Remember, homeschooling has to work for your family – and your family is unique. What works for me might not work for you, and vice versa.
My “ah-ha!” moment came during the latter part of second grade, when ironically, one of my sons objected to the entire concept of subtraction. He does not even to this day believe that he will have less than the number of cookies he started with if we take away one to give to his brother (because why would we take away any from him)! I clearly had to switch our math curriculum mid-year. Ultimately, I switched to Singapore Math for elementary, but that is not this story.
While I was searching for the new, improved math, I stumbled into Charlotte Mason (CM) and her methods. It was the appeal of short lessons that converted me. With three active boys, short lessons were ideally suited to focus learning.
I totally believe that you can use Charlotte Mason methods to simplify homeschooling your kids.
When I fell in love with the concept of short lessons, I immediately purchased the classic six-volume set of Charlotte Mason writings and began to implement her methods. She has a lot of sound advice on the education of children, even though she wrote over 100 years ago. Sometimes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
We have never been so rich in books. But there has never been a generation when there is so much twaddle in print for children.Charlotte Mason
Key advice to newbies:
Just start small and keep working at it. Don’t try to do everything and remember you can’t always do it perfectly. And read a lot to your kids.
Charlotte Mason puts it better:
Let children alone… the education of habit is successful in so far as it enables the mother to let her children alone, not teasing them with perpetual commands and directions – a running fire of Do and Don’t ; but letting them go their own way and grow, having first secured that they will go the right way and grow to fruitful purpose.Charlotte Mason, The Original Home School Series
CM methods and ideas which we included were short lessons; living books; narration; nature study; composer and artist (picture) study; the use of habits and routines; copywork, dictation, and recitation; eventually Shakespeare, and handicraft.
I’ve continued to study Charlotte Mason methods for the past dozen years independently and with a group of other homeschooling teachers, and the more I learn, the more impressed I am that her methods really develop critical thinkers who can express their ideas and who really love learning.
#1 free resources for homeschooling
Among these CM methods, probably the most foundational is living books.
Read a lot to your kids and read great books. Let them read on their own from living books, too. It helps them to develop the habit of reading books.
Your curriculum is not as important as your methods, according to Dollie, the Joy Filled Mom, and I agree – provided you have great books. Nevertheless, when you are starting out, you need some ideas for curriculum or resources. Or at least an idea of what books to use at what age. Living books are even possible for subjects like math.
I found Ambleside Online’s free curriculum tremendously useful.
Ambleside online (AO)
Free full curriculum, Years 0 (K) – 12 in the Charlotte Mason style. AO thoroughly describes booklists and the schedule to use them, but I have to admit, AO can be a bit overwhelming when you are just starting out. This site has a support forum with lots of knowledgeable, experienced CM’ers. Including tons of links to useful materials. You can support them from time to time if you actually choose to purchase a book through one of their links. But they have lots of free book links too, since many of the living book selections are in the XX copyright free????
Big thing to remember: You don’t have to do every subject or read every book.
Pro’s: Exhaustive & detailed. Completely free.
Con’s: Can be overwhelming because of its thoroughness.
My next Recommended “freebie”: The internet
I’m not really counting this as one of my top 3 free resources, because it kind of goes without saying, since you are reading this online! So many more resources are out there now than when I started homeschooling 20 years ago. I found AO around year 2 for my oldest kids. And so many resources on how to homeschool on the cheap!
Before you get mad at me – I’m not recommending you set your toddler up on the internet! Hold off as long as you can and keep screen time down for your kids. I wouldn’t recommend screen time for anyone in elementary years. Likely, by the time they are in high school, your students will begin to use the computer and internet more frequently in their studies. But while they are young, I have to admit that finding information via the Internet can come in very handy for homeschooling moms.
A word of caution: do try to do your planning in off times – sometimes the Internet can be a distracting place. You want to be as present as possible while homeschooling.
Big thing to remember: It’s just another tool.
Pro’s: Great resource for ideas and how-to’s.
Con’s: Can be huge time sink of endless rabbit trails if you let it.
The next Recommended resource: Your Library
Every homeschooler is lucky if they live near a library. The proximity to a library is often one of the things we look for when selecting a location to live!
- A library Card. Get yours. Get one for each of your kids.
- Start using the book request feature if you are fortunate enough to be in a town with free requests. I’ve lived in a number of different areas, and only one library charged for out-of-state requests. I personally was outraged, but then made up for my year without requests by requesting more books in the next town I lived in. It may have had something to do with the kids getting older and reading more books!
- Go to story time (unless they are too full of twaddle).
- Have a weekly library day for the whole family.
- Sign up for the summer reading programs.
- Let each kid be responsible for a certain number of books. I allowed them to choose, but reserved the right of veto power when the Captain Underpants appeared in the selections. Steering is required.
- Go on a library binge now and then for fun and to stimulate ideas.
A library is essential for a supply of books. If it’s free and available to you, you should use it regularly. If you don’t have access to a library, work on a cooperative book exchange locally, or start your own library of favorite books. Or try to gain access to free online texts.
The library works hand-in-hand with my other two resources. You decide on your curriculum and choice of books via the internet and other resources, or just curate from AO’s fabulous lists. Then you request books at your library and you start reading!
That’s it for my favorite free homeschooling resources, unless you count finding a group of people to get together with and share ideas, like a book club!
For more information on Charlotte Mason homeschooling methods, see my guest post at Homeschool.com.