Posts Tagged ‘homeschool for free’

My Nature Lore Booklist

Dear Reader,

This is a question that came up on a discussion board and it’s one of those things I probably should have gotten together a while ago. You can find all my lists of living books here.

What is Nature Lore and How do you use it?

Simply put, “nature lore” refers to books that tell about nature and science-related topics in a literary way. I use the term because it is popular in Charlotte Mason circles. In reality, “creation lore” might be a better term. I fear that nature lore makes one think that we must read about nature only — animals especially and maybe a little about plants. I use “creation” to draw our attention to all that God has made, from the stars to the rocks, from weather to physical laws. Really any science related topic presented in a literary form is fair game.

If I could go back in time, I would do a lot less with my kids when they were little, but one thing I would definitely keep is reading nature creation lore aloud. The goal of science in the early years particularly is just to keep alive and feed children’s innate curiosity and love for knowledge. Most kids have a love for the world around them in some way. It may be a passion for dinosaurs or panda bears or a penchant for filling up your car and their underwear drawer with rocks and sticks, but one way or another it comes out.  Feeding this love requires two things: time outside and good books. (The former I hope is obvious but at any rate would be the subject for another post.) Books give us the knowledge to dig deeper into what we see with our eyes (and feel and smell and hear). They expand out horizons. We don’t all live near volcanoes and kangaroos. Books take us to the places we can’t go ourselves. Good authors communicate their own passion and inspire ours. They draw us in through their own enthusiasm for their subject. (For more on science and why and how we study it, see this post.)

The actual process of doing nature lore with your kids is simple: read and narrate, read and narrate. If you have multiple kids, have them take turns narrating what you read. Read chunks that are appropriate to their age and ability to retain. With the littlest kids, you may be reading a paragraph or two at a time only. If you have multiple ages, I usually gear my reading to just below the level of the oldest child participating. The oldest can still get something out of what it read but so can the next one or two. Don’t worry too much about littles. They will get more than you expect. One nice thing about science-y topics is that they often lend themselves to alternative forms of narration. Charts, pictures, and diagrams can be good ways to reproduce what one has heard. For instance, if you have just read about types of volcanoes, each child can take a few minutes to draw the various kinds and, depending on age and ability, label them.

Nature lore and time outside are really all you need for science in the elementary years. I know this can be hard to swallow and that you want to add in more but remember the goals — to encourage a love for creation, to build relationships with the things God has made, to encourage curiosity and observational skills. If your child wants to do some hands-on experiments, that’s fine, but you don’t need such things. (They will be getting some hands-on experience in their time outside as well. It is fun to make slime and watch things explode and I would not deprive any kid of those joys, but often science experiments made for young children are pretty preachy and basic anyway.)

Nature lore does not need to end. As my kids got older, meaning into middle school, I would often pick a topic for the year or the term. Things like meteorology or geology (again, look at my other booklists for some of those). Even in high school we continue to use living books as the basis of our science, adding in labs and definitely being more topical (a year each of biology, chemistry, physics). But that doesn’t mean you need to abandon nature lore. There are many wonderful books written for adults that keep alive that sense of wonder and that transport us to new places.

This is not going to be a complete list (if that were ever possible!). There is just too much out there and I am sure I have forgotten a lot of what we used when they were little. If you have other suggestions, please let me know and I will add them. Don’t be afraid to find your own books. Some of the best ones we’ve used were garage sale or thrift store finds that are not on anybody else’s nature lore list. After you have done this a bit, you will become more adept at judging books for yourself. You can usually pick up a book and read the first few paragraphs and get a sense if it is going to be an engaging book and if it is the appropriate level for your kids. If you get a little ways in and for some reason don’t love it, drop it and move on to another.

The books below are roughly sorted by age level, from the youngest to the oldest. I am very hesitant to give specific age ranges. Good nature lore often appeals to a wide range fo ages. Older children can still get something out of simple books and young ones will get more than you expect from books that seem over their heads.

Nature Lore Books for All Ages

Among the ………..People by Clara Dillingham Pierson — This series of books focuses on various environments — meadow, forest, etc. Each reading is fairly short, maybe 2 pages, which can work well with younger children. We had a one volume set that included all the books. My daughter did get tired of them after a while. I do think the whole lot might be a lot to do all at once.

Natural Wonders Every Child Should Know by Edwin Tenney Brewster — This was one of those thrift store finds for me. It covers a wide range of topics (including reproduction!) at an elementary level. I include not because I expect it to be easy for anyone to find (though certainly pick it up if you do) but because look at that title — if you see an old looking book with a title like this, you should always buy it.

Millicent Ellis Selsam — Some authors are so good it is hard to pick one book by them. Selsam’s are fairly brief, mostly of the easy reader variety, and cover a variety f topics. She has books on seeds, microscopes, turtles, and more.

Robert McClung — McClung will reappear below as well. His easier books are fun, easy reader level books. We particularly liked the one about Stripe the Chipmunk.

In the Land of the Lion — Another thrift store find. Again, this is the sort of title you should perk up at if you see it. This book discusses various African animals which brings up another point: nature lore can also often be geography. It’s good to learn more details about nature close to home, but books also open the world to us.

Toklat: The Story of an Alaskan Grizzly Bear by Alfred Milotte — Some books are surveys of a time or place; some take us in depth on one animal. The title kind of says it all for this one. A quick search on Amazon shows me Milotte wrote others as well and I suspect they are all worthwhile.

How’s Inky (and sequels) by Sam Campbell — The story of a porcupine (if I am remembering correctly). Told with humor.

Tale of …………….. by Thornton Burgess — Burgess will reappear below as well. His books that are along the lines of “the Story of so-and-so animal” are wonderful for children learning to read chapter books. Each section is very short but manages to advance the story so one doesn’t get bored.  I prefered his books that stick to animals and was less enamored of the ones that feature Mother West Wind.

The Storybook of Science  by Jean Henri Fabre — This is one of my must reads because it covers so many subjects, from bees to volcanoes, even including some history as I recall. I am not actually crazy about its modus operandi which is to set the information as stories told my an uncle to his nephews and nieces, but is it still a good book. Fabre has many others though I am less enamored of those that stick to a single subject.

Jack’s Insects by Edmund Selous — There are some guides to go along with this book and it is quite popular on living book lists. We used it. I wasn’t crazy about it. Honestly, it might be a bit too much on insects.

Spotty the Bower Bird by Edward Sorenson — This was out foray into Australian animals. I lovely book if you can manage to find it.

Jacques Cousteau — The famous French diver and oceanologist has written a number of books for kids. We stumbled across two, one on dolphins and one on walruses and seals. Both were fairly well done and worth getting. They are from the series the Undersea Discoveries of Jacques-Yves Cousteau. I believe there are other series under his name that are a bit more textbook-y.

Naturally Curious by Mary Holland — This book focuses on New England (my area) and gives what to look  for in each month, what is blooming etc. It tends to list a few things and then go in-depth on one or two. This would not be an every day or even every week book but is good to check in with every month to get an idea of what one might expect to see.

All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot — Herriot’s tales of a vet and the people and animals he encounters are quite well-known. My daughters really enjoyed them. He has various volumes and you can also find shorter versions of his books that focus on one topic, cats for instance.

Forgotten by Time by Robert Silverberg — Silverberg is a favorite author of mine. He also has books on history and one called Scientists and Scoundrels. This one is on all those animals (and a few plants) that don’t quite fit our usual categories.

The Rhino with the Glue-on Shoes by Lucy Spelman — Tales from a zoo-keeper, I believe. My daughter liked this one when she was in middle school.

Curious Naturalist by Sy Montgomery — This book has short readings organized by season. It is good even for high school. The chapter on beavers is worth the whole book.

The Animal Book and  The Bird Book by Thornton Burgess — I told you he would reappear. These two books are longer and a bit more of a haul. We found the bird book a bit much all at once though my one bird-living daughter read some of it on her own. Beware that sometimes things change in science: rabbits are no longer considered rodents.

Silent Spring and The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson — Silent Spring is quite famous and tells of the effect of pesticides on the environment.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson — Tells the author’s adventures on the Appalachian Trail.

A Walk through the Year, A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm  and Circle of the Seasons by Edwin Way Teale — Teale has a number fo wonderful books. They can be read by adults but I also read one aloud to my elementary kids. Circle of the Seasons gives daily readings. A Walk Through the Year is organized by seasons and can also be found as four separate volumes. A Naturalist Buys an Old Farm  is more anecdotal and the title pretty much tells you where you are going with this one.

Wilderness Essays by John Muir — Muir is famous naturalist and I have heard he was a Christian. His love for nature comes through. This is the book of his we have used but I suspect his others are also worth the time.

Tristan Gooley — Gooley has a number of books that are good reads for high school boys who might be les enthused by nature books. They cover things like finding your way in the woods.

Lost Wild America by Robert McClung — McClung reappears with a book for the older crew. This one is on endangered animals and includes some historical context for each.

My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell — I loved this book. I laughed aloud in parts. It is an upper level book because, well, the family is included and there is some adult content. Read it yourself if you don’t want to give it to your kids. The Durrell family moved from England to Cyprus and the boy, Gerald, was quite the collector of animals. There is also a PBS series about them, though it strays quite far from the book.

As a reminder, if you are looking for specific topics like geology and environmental studies, click on the “lists of living books” link above and scroll down to the science section. There are other choices there that would work well for nature lore also but I didn’t want to repeat myself too much.

Happy Reading!



Living Books on Geology

Dear Reader,

My senior chose geology for her science this year. She had a pretty busy year and she is aiming for an art school so I didn’t feel the need to make her science too tough. You might want to add additional books or some labs or other activities if you are looking for a more robust curriculum. You can find all my lists of living books here and a list of geology books we used at younger ages here.

Living Books on Geology

Secrets from the Rocks by Albert Marrin — Marrin is a favorite author of mine. He writes more often on history but has a few books, like this one, on science. This is a fairly simple book, ceratinly not high school level. It tells the story of one particular man in search of dinosaur bones.

Annals of the Former World by John McPhee — This is a thick volume intended for adults and combines a number of works which the author published separately originally (I believe). McPhee is a well-known writer who has written for The New Yorker and other publications.

A Grain of Sand by Gary Greenberg — The story of sand and what we can know from different kinds of sand.

The Map that Changed the World by Simon Winchester — The story of how one man noticed and deciphered layers in the earth and made a map to depict them.

Beneath Our Feet by Ron Vernon — An introduction to some of the basics of geology including basic forces and types of rocks. Includes lovely microscopic photos of rocks. 

The Rock Book by Carol Lane Fenton and Mildred Adams Fenton — A fairly detailed catalog of different kidns of rocks and minerals.

Happy reading!


Living Books for Environmental Science

Dear Reader,

I let my 11th grader pick her science this year and she chose environmental science. She is big into art of any kind and photography so she has been working on a project for a local Audubon sanctuary to make a bird watching handout for them. She also watched some Khan Academy videos (here; she only did the ecology section half-way down the page) and read a lot of books. The wonderful thing about this age if that you can find good adult books that are written to be interesting (as opposed to a lot of the books written for kids, sad to say). You can find all my lists of living books here.

Living Books on Environmental Science

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson — THE classic of the environmental movement. We hadn’t read it yet so I made sure she got this one in.

The Curious Naturalist by Sy Montgomery — Short essays on subjects from lichen to beavers. Divided up by season.

Autumn Across America by Edwin Way Teale — I love Teale’s books. This one is part of a seasonal foursome. Also look for Circle of the Seasons and A Walk through the Year.

Wilderness Essays by John Muir — Nature lore. I’ve heard Muir was a Christian.

Anthill: A Novel by E.O. Wilson — I’m not crazy about Wilson’s view of evolution/creation (he is not a Christian) but when he talks about his subject, entomology, his love of creation comes through.

Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson — Another classic from Carson.

Beekeeper’s Lament by Hannah Nordhaus — Why are the bees dying and why does it matter?

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson — Amusing anecdotes from the author’s walks on the Appalachian trail.

The Darwin Myth by Benjamin Wiker — I am going to make all my kids read this one. I love Wiker’s books. This one is a pretty easy read. Wiker tells the story of the man and how his life and personal views affected his famous theory. It is kindly but fairly done. He is not anti-evolution but is anti-Darwinian evolution. Wiker inspires hope for a godly view of creation ad evolution which will bring us closer to, not farther from, our Creator.

Our Only World by Wendell Berry — Ten essays from one of my favorite American fiction writers.

How to Clone a Mammoth by Beth Shapiro — A professor tells how we could, maybe, clone animals to reintroduce them and asks why and if we should. A little tough and technical in parts but good and engaging.

Happy reading!



Living Books on Meteorology

Dear Reader,

I let my high school senior pick his science this year and he chose meteorology. I structured his course around two video series from The Great Courses, An Introduction to the Wonders of Weather and The Science of Extreme Weather. The edginess of the latter balnaces out the more dry factualness of the former. He also read a number of living books. If you are looking for books for younger kids, we also did a year on geology and weather when my kids were in elementary and middle school; you can find that booklist here. You can find all my lists of living books here.

Living Books on Meteorology

What if the Moon Didn’t Exist by Neil F. Comins — All the ways our world wouldn’t exist if conditions weren’t just right.

Why the Sky is Blue by Gotz Hoeppe — Did you know that it’s not blue for the same reason during the day and at the end of the day?

Storm by George R. Stewart — The story of a violent storm which sweeps in from California. Originally published 1941.

Tornado Alley by Howard Bluestein — A professor and storm-chaser tells what he has learned about tornados.

The Children’s Blizzzard by David Laskin — True story of a blizzard in 1888. The kids that tried to get home, those that hid at school.

Divine Wind by Kerry Emanuel –The subtitle says it all: “The History and Science of Hurricanes.”

Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson — It came up  a lot in the news this year too: the Galveston hurricane of 1900.

Visualizing Weather and Climate by Anderson and Strahler — A more textbook-y book to make sure we covered all the bases.

Weather Analysis and Forecasting Handbook by Tim Vasquez — Again, a bit more textbook-y and also seemed rather math-oriented so maybe not for all kids.

Happy forecasting!



Living Books on the Ancient Near East

Dear Reader,

We did a mini term between Thanksgiving and Christmas on Mesopotamia and Canaan. As a once and future Hebrew scholar, it kills me to give the short shrift to the Ancient Near East but there is only so much one can fit into a school year. You can find all my booklists here.

Living Books on the Ancient Near East

In our time all together, we concentrated on art and myths. I used Hillyer’s book for the art. Though it can be understood by elementary level, I think it still provides a good introduction for older children as well. Note that Hillyer has a few volumes, on painting, sculpture and architecture. I have the three in one volume, A Child’s History of Art, and we covered all the areas.

The Ancient Near East includes a number of cultures. While they all have similarities, there is also some variation. We tried to include both Mesopotamian and Canaanite myths. I used Padraic Colum’s Myths of the World which I got on Kindle. It is nice because it gives some introduction to what we find in each of the cultures as well. For Mesopotamia, we also got a few of the storybooks by Zeman by tell the epic of Gilgamesh. There are three I believe that they each tell part of the story so you want to read them in order. Though these are picture books, they do a great job. For Canaan, I used Coogan’s Stories from Ancient Canaan. These are tales from Ugarit, a Canaanite town which was destroyed by fire. The destruction meant that the clay tablets on which the stories were written were baked hard and survived. It is interesting to see the similarities and differences here with one of Israel’s close neighbors. What we have is somewhat fragmentary. Coogan gives good introductions to each. I recommend prereading so you can give context and read selections. I blogged on these myths when we studied them previously. You can see one of those posts here.

We also talked about writing together using the book Sign, Symbol, Script. This is one I had leftover from my grad school days. It is actually a catalog from an exhibition but gives lots of info on the history of writing and the alphabet, a topic I couldn’t pass by. I have no idea how easy this is to find. We didn’t use Ancient Israleites and Their Neighbors. I find it a bit cumbersome. It has lots of extras like recipes if you are into that sort of thing.

I’m not thrilled with the historical fiction in this period. I don’t find it very well-written. My high school daughter read Adara by Gormley. My middle schooler read  Hittie Warrior by Williamson. The latter in particular seemed to through in every biblical motif it could (not in a good way). My senior read Silverberg’s Gilgamesh the King. I chose this book partly because he has been studying science fiction for his literature this year and Silverberg is a sci-fi writer. I thought the book would stray farther from the myth but it actually seemed to do better than I expected.

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My 8th grader read Science in Ancient Mesopotamia. I am not thrilled with this series but it is decent and provides info that one might not get elsewhere. He also read a book I loved for him — Ancient and Medieval Siege Weapons by Nosov. I only had him read the portions relevant to what we are studying. I seemed to be a very readable book. My 7th grader read Ancient Egyptian, Assyrian and Persian Costumes and Decorations by Houston. There are a lot of picture sin this book. She choose to do drawing of the costumes for most narrations and seemed to really get into it.

Lastly, we get to the actual history books.

My7th grader read The Ancient Near Eastern World by Podany. I’m not sure it’s 100% living but it seemed well-written. She liked that it included a lot of different things, like history and myths and how people lived. My 12th grader read A Short History of the Near East by Hitti. He seems to have really enjoyed it and says that it did a good job of being both broad and specific if that makes sense. My 11th grader read Fairservis’ Mesopotamia. She says it was pretty good. Since Fairservis only covers Mesopotamia, I also had her read The Phoenicians by Pamela Odijk. My 8th grader read the relevant portions of Dorothy Mills’ Book of the Ancient World. I am not thrilled with the book though I see it recommended a lot. It seems overly brief and simple (though her book on Greece is longer and I am planning to use that one). I was supposed to read Maspero’s Life in Ancient Egypt and Assyria but life got away from me and I never started it 😦

Next up: Ancient Greece


Cool Websites for Geography

Dear Reader,

Last year I was trying to merge geography and current events. That worked okay for a while but I had a hard time getting the prep work done that I needed too. This year we are taking a slightly more laid back approach. I am simply using interesting maps. We look at one or more at a time, once a week (ideally), and discuss it. (My younger two also still do map drills; I have dropped this for my high schoolers.)

Here are some of the sites we have found with maps that teach about the world:

16 Maps that will change your understanding of the world forever

Mother Tongues

32 Maps that will teach you something new about the world

40 Maps that will help you make sense of the world

40 More Maps that Explain the World

And lastly, GeoCurrents — This website is a bit different from the others; you might have to dig around a little more but it has some interesting maps and a lot of resources. Consider, for instance, this map on milk and meat consumption in India. They are not currently adding new material.




The Cost of a Charlotte Mason Education

Dear Reader,

I see a lot of questions from new CMers along the lines of “Do I really need all these books?? This is getting expensive. I am not sure I can afford to do CM.” Well, a Charlotte Mason education need not be expensive. In fact, it could be virtually free. Personally, I choose to save time by spending a little more money on some things. Below is my analysis of what it costs to do a CM education and some resources for how you can do it most inexpensively. If you are new to CM, check out my easy and quick start guide here.

The cost of a Charlotte Mason education

Language arts – This is one area where many of us are tempted to do more. You may choose to buy and use other materials, but, at least for most of your child’s education, all you really need here is copywork or dictation. For this you need passages. You can find these yourself, perhaps from your child’s other reading; this is more labor-intensive for you. If you choose to use somebody else’s resources, here are some of the options and their costs:

Queen Homeschool – Queen Homeschool has many copywork books available for $9.95. These contain enough for a full year’s work and, if you copy the pages or have your children do their copywork in a separate book (the youngest children might not be able to do so initially), could be used for multiple children.

Spelling Wisdom (Simply Charlotte Mason) – The most expensive options, all five volumes in the printed version, is $87.95. But keep in mind that this is all that you would need for copywork and dictation for all your children for their whole school career. If you get e-books, the cost for all five volumes goes down to $49.95. Of course, you can also buy one volume at a time as you need them.

The Arrow (BraveWriter) – Brave Writer offers a monthly subscription to the Arrow. You can pay $9.95 per month or $79 for a year’s subscription. But keep in mind that you can also save these and reuse them for future children. You may also be able to find old issues at a discount.

Spelling You See – Many CMers use this spelling curriculum from the people behind Math-U-See. It relies heavily on copywork. I don’t know how much of it is reusable, but a set (a year’s curriculum, I believe) will run you $51.

With a little googling, you may find free samples and cheap downloads online as well (BraveWriter tends to have a few issues available as free downloads).  There are also sites which will take passages you provide and turn them into copywork pages.

Because I know many of you will want to do some grammar, one of my favorite grammar curricula – KISS Grammar—is actually free online (it takes a little figuring out but then it is quite workable). For writing I love this free book.

Math – There is one free, living math curriculum I know of – Mathematics Enhancement Programme (MEP). There are practice books one can order, but you need not do so. Personally, I looked at this program at one point and found it way too teacher-intensive for me. (That is usually the trade off – cheaper = more work.)

Our favorite, also living, math curriculum is Life of Fred. It is not cheap, but, since you don’t write in the books, each volume can be reused so if you have multiple kids, you will only need to buy each level once. The complete elementary series is almost $160; the intermediate series is $48; the pre-algebra set (which includes Fractions and Decimals and Percents as well as their three volumes of Pre-algebra) is $125; and the two high school sets are $136 and $78. Altogether that is $547, but if you use LOF all the way through and for multiple kids, that’s all you ever pay for math.

Personally, I wasn’t comfortable using just LOF in the early years. We use Math-U-See for a number of years. The teacher’s materials and manipulatives are reusable. You will likely want to buy new workbooks for each child. The cost for the first year’s curriculum (called Alpha) with everything in it is $153. For future kids, you’d only need a student pack for $40. For teacher and student materials in future years if you already have the manipulatives, you are looking at about $85.  By my calculations, your first child’s math curriculum for 12 years of schooling will run you  a little over $1,000, but your subsequent children will only be $40 per year or $480 each.

My older daughter is currently using Teaching Textbooks, a CD-Rom based curriculum. We got ours used from another homeschooler. New, TT will run you $120-$185 for the whole set for a year, depending on what level you are using.

Many CM homeschoolers like Right Start Math. This is a manipulative-based curriculum. Their manipulative bundle will cost you a little over $200. Each year’s curriculum is a little less than $90.

Saxon is another popular curriculum. There are a number of sellers you can get it from. I did a quick check and saw prices for a year’s bundle from $65-115. Of course, as with most of these, with subsequent children, there will be less to buy.

Lastly, with Singapore Math you can get a year’s curriculum bundle from $45.

History – History is the backbone of our homeschool. Our approach is simple: read and narrate, read and narrate. The first step, then, is to figure out what books you’ll need.  Simply Charlotte Mason (SCM) and Ambleside Online (AO) both provide free curriculum guides online. If you choose to use one of their approaches, then you have to obtain books, but there is no inherent cost (SCM will sell you things like their planner, but you can use their curriculum guide without buying anything from them).

If you don’t like their book choices or need more guidance, Truthquest has some of the most thorough bibliographies you will ever see. Their print volumes go for $25-35 and PDF versions for $20-28. For the few extra dollars you spend, I recommend getting the print versions. Each book gives thousands of books suggestions in the period it covers (eg. Ancient Rome, the Age of Revolution). Tip: the older student volumes still contain the booklists for younger kids so if you plan to stick with them you can go ahead and get the older kids’ versions and save some money in the long run.

While not as thorough as Truthquest, Christine Miller’s All Through the Ages is a one volume bibliography with lots of resources listed.  I have seen it in print for $30 or as an e-book for $20.

Once you know what you want to read, how much should you expect to spend on books? With a little (digital) footwork, you need not spend a lot. Personally, I get all my library system has to offer first and then get anything else I need used on Amazon. If you are willing to use older books (and many are better anyway; AO in particular uses a lot of older books), many can be found free or very cheaply online. Some good sources for digital versions of older books are Project Gutenberg, Forgotten Books (they charge for books but also have a free book of the day, many of which are useful for homeschooling), the Baldwin Project, Yesterday’s Classics (e-books from $1.99), and Heritage History. Heritage History sells CD-Roms with curriculum guides and all the (older) books you need for a range of ages for $19-24. If you are on Facebook, check out the group Public Domain Homeschool for lots of links to free resources.

After exhausting the free resources, how much can you expect to spend on books a year? I looked back at Amazon, which I use for 99% of my book purchases, and estimated that I spent a little under $200 on books for homeschool in 2015. So far in 2016, which is 5/6 done as I write this, I have spent about $260. Even if I make it to $300 this year, that is $75 per child for books. This includes all subjects, not just history. Actually, history is the minority; most of the books I have bought this year are for my 11th grader’s political science and physics. Many of these books will be used again by subsequent children.

Science – I am anti-science curriculum. I don’t think you need anything formal until high school and even then I like to keep living books as the core of our curriculum. If you are doing nature journaling (and you should), you will want to get each child a decent journal and some colored pencils. I looked at a homeschool company – Miller Pads and Paper – and saw journals for $6-18. A good set of colored pencils starts at $5.

You’ll also need some living books to read with your children. One of my favorites, The Storybook of Science, will last you most of a year. It is currently going for $15 on Amazon. It will likely take you all year to read. You can also find many great living science books as e-books or at your library (see above on e-book resources).

As I mentioned above, I have bought a lot of books this year for my high schooler’s physics course. I didn’t look at exact numbers but even if half of what I have spent this year was on his physics, that is $150 for a science course. I like to add labs. Though he is not using Landry Labs for physics this year, their 2-day lab courses will run you $280 (look for deals though; we got a great deal after he did his first lab with them which made future labs only $99).

Geography – CM geography has two main parts: living books (again!) and map drill. As always, there are resources and guides that will tell you how to go about things but you need not spend a lot, or anything. We use the apps Stack the States and Stack the Countries (there are free versions but I think to go anything length you need to pay) and the website Sheppard Software (free!) for map drill. We have then just read books about different places or about travel. You should be able to find a number of these at your library or free/cheap online if you are discerning. One of our favorites, and it may last you a couple of years, is Richard Halliburton’s Book of Marvels. Sadly, it is $60 on Amazon so you might want to check your library though I think the price is well worth it. For younger kids, I like Hillyer’s Child’s Geography of the World. Used copies are expensive but the Kindle book is quite affordable (about $5).

Literature, Shakespeare, Plutarch, Bible, Poetry, etc. – I am lumping a number of subjects together here. They could all fit under the broadly defined heading “literature.” The beauty of most of these subjects is that they deal with older materials. That means you can find them free, either at our library or online. On the other hand, many of these are books that I like to spread out over the year(s) so I like to have them on hand and not to have to renew them. Many of you, I suspect, are also like me in that there are some things for which you just want a hard copy. Here are some of the current prices (from Amazon) for some of the books I consider essential:

How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare $12.60

              Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare $4.99

Nesbit’s Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare $6.99 (but free for Kindle!)

A good poetry anthology such as 100 Best Loved Poems $3 or A Child’s Garden of Verses $9.95 (but cheaper used)

Plutarch’s Lives $11 each for 2 volumes (but again free for Kindle)

The Arts – Artist and music study can be done for free. All you really need to do is pick someone, find some of their work, and spend some time immersed in it. There are many articles and resources to help you figure out how to do this. Of course, there are also packets that have been put together which you can buy so there is less legwork for you. Harmony Fine Arts is a wonderful resource. Her e-books are about $17 but you can also find a few free downloads on the site. SCM has picture study portfolios for $12-17. One of my favorite resources for music is Classics for Kids, a radio show whose episodes you can listen to for free online or through the WGUC app. If you want to read about art, Hillyer’s books are wonderful. You can find them as a one volume set or individually (with titles like “The Child’s History of Art: Painting” or “… Architecture”). Though these are also not cheap, they are worth the investment.

Other possibilities: Foreign Language, Civics, Music lessons, PE, handicrafts – If you are getting started with a CM education, I recommend starting slowly and working subjects in one or two at a time. But eventually, you may want to cover each of these. Some, like physical education, need not involve any expense, though of course depending on your child’s interests, you may end up paying for lessons or teams of various sorts. FYI, if you are interested in how CM did PE, check out Brandy at Afterthoughts Blog; she has a series on “Swedish Drill.”

Music lessons are another outside expense that you may want to pay for at some point (unless you are capable of teaching them yourself).

Handicrafts will vary a lot. Some can be done for free or cheaply; others will require more supplies. It really depends where you end up going with them and how much you want to devote to them.

We do civics (government and economics mostly) in high school. Others spread it out  a little more. There are various resources and books available. I know one popular series is the Uncle Eric series (though actually I don’t like this series and don’t recommend it). The whole series will run you $162 but you don’t necessarily need all the books.   The two books we have used are The Everything American Government Book (recommended by AO) $13 new or about $3 used and Lessons for the Young Economist $25 or $3 for the Kindle edition.

CM is pro-foreign language, both Latin and a modern language. I will admit we have not done Latin (until high school when my oldest chose it as his language) so I don’t really know what resources there are for younger kids studying it. My son has used the Cambridge Latin Course. Their website is wonderful and complete and you can do the first unit (which I think is the whole first book) for free online.

When it comes to other languages, the CM-ish resource I hear about these days is Cherrydale Press which has French, Spanish, and German Curricula. I have not used these as they weren’t available when my kids were little.  It looks like they are $50 for a year’s curriculum that can be used with multiple children. Less CM but DuoLingo has free curricula. Check out your local library too; they often have language learning resources.

Miscellaneous Supplies — A lot of the costs are not curriculum per se but all the other things one needs: pens and pencils, paper and notebooks, toner and ink, library fines (!), etc. One bigger purchase to contemplate is a Kindle or other e-reader. Consider it a one-time investment that will allow you to save in the future by taking advantage of all those free and nearly free e-books. With four older kids, I actually have 2 Kindles now; one is quite old and the other I bought used.  You can also get the Kindle app for your Apple device or computer (I’m not sure of all the availability; I know we have Kindle on iphones and ipads and a Windows laptop).


What can we say then about the cost of a CM education? If you want to do it cheaply, you can. There is nothing you can’t do for free if you want to. The trade-off is usually more work and prep for you, the teacher, and having to rely more on older books (which might not be a negative).

You should also, when viewing your credit card bill, consider the long-term. Many purchases are good for multiple years and/or multiple kids. In other words, there are more start up costs but expenses should go down each year and with each subsequent child. Caveat: there may be more you want to buy when it comes to high school.

I am sure I have missed many great resources? What are your free or cheap CM resources? Tell me in the comments and I’ll add them to my list.


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