50+ Kid-Picked Favorites for Homeschooling Young Learners

50+ Favorites for Young Learners

As a follow-up to the talk I gave at the SEA Homeschoolers Convention 2018, “Playing School: Bridging Play and Education for Academically-Minded Preschoolers and Kindergarteners,” I would like to share a list of some of the most-loved items in our child-led homeschool.

We are eclectic homeschoolers and that definitely shows in this list. All the products on this list have been selected and tested by my kids. Some are updated versions of materials my teens loved when they were little, and others are new additions to our homeschool toolbox as I start this journey again with my youngest.

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Books, toys, curricula, flash cards, games, workbooks, and more:

Dry erase markers are great but can be messy and often slide too easily over a writing surface, making them hard for little hands to control. I have found Crayola Dry Erase Crayons give just enough resistance to slow young writers down, giving them better control. Bonus: they create less mess and easily wash out of most fabrics too!


These dry erase tracing pages are excellent for practicing pre-handwriting skills. The set includes 25 heavy-weight, tear-resistant, reusable pages with 4 unique traceable rows on each page.


Make any worksheet or coloring page reusable with dry erase pockets. These are great for writing on maps, checklist, and chore charts too!


Practice letter and number recognition, plus pre-handwriting skills, with Kid O Magnatabs in A to Z, a to z – Lower Case, and Learn Your Numbers 0-9.


Learn and track months, days, date, season, temperature, weather, activities, holidays, feelings, and more with this magnetic and dry daily erase calendar.


My 4yo loves the Melissa and Doug Turn & Tell Wooden Clock. With a dozen double-sided time cards and a self-check window to compare analog and digital time formats, this clock makes learning to tell time fun and easy.


This wipe-and-write teaching clock gets a lot of use in our house as well.


Telling Time workbook by Evan-Moor


This set of lacing beads helps develop fine motor skills as well as pattern recognition to help with early reading and math. The 20 cards included start with simple color and shape recognition patterns and build to more advanced challenges.

Explore early geometry concepts with these pattern blocks and cards.


The Learn to Read Activity Book is great for my workbook loving kid. It has 101 lessons and activities starting with letter recognition and phonetics then building into reading.


My daughter loves to make up her own card games with this Reading Flash Cards 4 Pack.


CVC tri-blocks can be used on their own or with guidance from the coordinating card set.


Move beyond CVC with these word building tri-blocks and coordinating card set.

Tumble Trax Magnetic Marble Run is a fun, hands-on introduction to physics.


Engineering Ants by Peaceable Kingdom is a cooperative game that encourages problem-solving skills and teamwork as you design and build creative solutions to help the ants.


Mighty Magnets mini-course from Be Naturally Curious is a fun hands-on science resource.

More magnet fun with this Learning Resources Magnet Lab Kit.



R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Earth and Environment 1 and Astronomy 1 are excellent curricula for young students with high academic needs. They are easily adaptable for asynchronous development without watering down the science concepts and have lots of fun, hands-on labs. Earth and Environment has the best environmental science lessons I have ever seen for young kids. By reading aloud, scribing for her, and acting as her “lab assistant,” I am able to let my daughter follow her passions now instead of waiting until she is older. My youngest also loves Dusty and Bunny, the space dust bunnies who narrate Astronomy; she even requests that I read it as a bedtime story!

Experiment with science and fun with the Primary Science Deluxe Lab Set.


Primary Science Jumbo Test Tubes with Stand is perfect for little hands.


Introduce lab safety and procedures (plus have fun playing dress-up) with this Primary Science Lab Gear.



Part workbook with information, activities, and games, part field journal for recording observations, Bugging Around and Wild at the Zoo by Jason Grooms are wonderful for young scientists.


From rain water to flower petals to carpet fuzz, my youngest is curious about everything. This pocket microscope with light travels with us nearly everywhere and is just the right size for little hands.


The Magic School Bus: A Journey into the Human Body science kit.


Melissa and Doug Magnetic Human Body Anatomy Play Set With 24 Magnetic Pieces and Storage Tray (atomically correct).


SmartLab Toys Squishy Human Body is so much fun!


Time and Money flash cards.


Learning About Money workbook by Evan-More.


Life-size play money for hands-on learning.


One Cent, Two Cents, Old Cent, New Cent: All About Money from The Cat in the Hat Learning Library is a fun and fascinating introduction to money and its history.


Practice coin recognition, skip counting, and addition with the simple rhymes in The Coin Counting Book.

Develop number sense and practice early math skills with this rekenrek counting frame.

A number balance allows for hands-on interaction while visually displaying number relationships.


A place value flip stand is a handy teaching tool.


Mathlink cubes are one of many manipulatives we use in our daily math activities.


I have a classic set of wooden cuirsenaire rods, but my youngest prefers this Connecting Cuisenaire Rods Introductory Set.


A good balance scale will get years of use. I really like the included weight set with this one.


Counting, weighing, sorting by size or color; these bears are a versatile hands-on learning tool.


This Kid’s Tape Measure is super durable and easy to use.


We love this puzzle map!


These floor puzzles are lots of fun too!


Use dry erase crayons or markers, stickers, photos, and more to make these laminated wall maps an interactive part of your educational adventures.


Where On Earth Atlas is a wonderful visual introduction to world geography, pair with When On Earth for a visual introduction to world history as well. These books provide a nice overview, be prepared to fall down rabbit holes and to add more resources for a deep dive.


Rad American Women A-Z is more than your average alphabet book.


Aunt Isabel Tells a Good One is more than just a cute picture book, it’s a story that teaches about stories! Learn about parts of a story while reading this book together and then practice some storytelling of your own. We love this book so much I have decided to write a storytelling unit study to go with it. The unit study will be available for free in the SEA Homeschoolers Members area later this year!


Seeds and Trees: A children’s book about the power of words is a recent favorite in our house.


We fell in love with Annabelle and Aiden as soon as the first book was released. This series is a fact-based, gentle introduction to big topics through lyrical verse and stunning illustrations. We find ourselves going back to these wonderful books over and over again; the characters have become favorite imaginary friends who are often included in pretend play.

Get creative with less mess with these no-spill paint cups and brushes.

Fill your no-spill paint cups with washable paints from Crayola.


These all natural, vegan, eco-friendly paint mixes can be made thick like finger paint, creamy like tempera paint, or thin like watercolors…and include biodegradable mixing cups!


Hey Clay Aliens – Colorful Kids Modeling Air-Dry Clay with interactive app.


50+ Favorites for Young Learners

The Five Elements For Learning Holistic History

Why and How to Cover Current Events in Your Homeschool, Holistic history

Holistic History

I believe in the complexity of the human story, and that there’s no way you can tell that story in one way and say, “this is it.” Always there will be someone who can tell it differently depending on where they are standing . . . this is the way I think the world’s stories should be told: from many different perspectives.

secular homeschool history

—“Chinua Achebe: The Art of Fiction CXXXVIV,” interview by Jerome Brooks in The Paris Review, Issue #133 (Winter 1994-5)

History is traditionally taught through use of a single textbook. This method presents history as a linear, exact, and one-sided series of events when it is, in fact, a complex, subjective, and multifaceted discipline. In an attempt to portray objectivity, history textbooks inadvertently reveal the issue of subjectivity in history. Compartmentalizing history into a simple recounting of events actually highlights the subjectivity by presenting only one point of view, although there are almost certainly many perspectives. Teaching history in the common manner leads to many missed opportunities in education. Students need methods that allow them to explore this complexity, to learn how to think critically about history as presented, and learn to express themselves effectively.

A Comprehensive, Holistic Approach Is Best

The fact that history education is driven by points of view cannot be avoided. Every history lesson is shaped by the presenter’s interpretation of what happened, how it happened, and why students need to learn about it. Biases are often not obvious and may even be unintentional. But how could a simple list of historic facts contain bias? To understand this, it may help to consider which facts were included and which ones were excluded. Why were those decisions made? And what do we know of the motivation and background of the person or persons who created the list?

Is there a better way to teach history? How can the subjective nature of history be turned to an advantage as opposed to an inconvenience to avoid or ignore? How can history be used to encourage holistic thinking and the development of critical thinking skills rather than to impose linear thinking and political and social opinions on students?

The Five Elements of Teaching Holistic History

holistic history, secular history curriculum, secular homeschool history curriculum

Students should learn how to examine multiple resources, read historically significant literature, develop and strengthen critical thinking skills, practice and refine written and verbal expression, and study world geography and its significance throughout the history of humankind. To do this, they should take a multidimensional approach history, and here are the elements of that approach.  

  • Use Multiple Resources for Holistic History
    • Primary
    • Secondary/historian
    • Hands-on
  • Read Literature
    • Historic fiction
    • Biographies
    • Classic literature
  • Employ Critical Thinking
    • Inquiry
    • Analysis
    • Logical reasoning
    • Evaluation
  • Write and Present Research
    • Written reports and summaries
    • Oral reporting
    • Interviewing
    • Rhetoric
  • Learn Geography
    • The effect of geographical location on World and U.S. History
    • Labeling and coloring regional maps

With these methods, your student will learn how to approach history with a critical eye towards comprehending and evaluating different points of view  and developing a well-rounded view of history.


Kate Johnson is owner of Pandia Press, a publisher of secular curriculum for private and home schools. Their History Odyssey courses are holistic history at its best! They are available for grade levels elementary – high school and range from ancient through modern history as well as American history. Pandia Press also publishes REAL Science Odyssey which includes biology, chemistry, astronomy, earth & environment, and physics.

The Scientific Method: Defined, Applied, Learned

Scientific Method

The Scientific Method: Defined

The scientific method is an investigative method based on experimentation, observation, and deductive reasoning. The purpose of this investigation is to explain a phenomena occurring in the natural and physical world.

The hypothesis is an educated prediction. The word “educated” is a key word in this sentence. When a scientist makes a hypothesis their prediction is not guessing in the way you might guess the outcome of a coin toss. They are basing their prediction on what they know about the area of science the experiment focuses on. This is one reason it is critical to understand the foundational fundamentals of a scientific discipline. It is also why it is necessary that science courses begin at the beginning and very clearly build from there with a thoughtful increase in the level of skill required to conduct the experiments.

The procedure is a list of the steps needed to conduct the experiment. The procedure should not include techniques that are too advanced or complicated for students to understand. The procedure in a science experiment is very important.

“A scientific theory is a widely accepted explanation of something observed in science. Theories are based on experimentation, observation, and reasoning—the scientific method. Before something can be called a scientific theory, it must be tested many times by different researchers, who get results that are consistent with that theory.” R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Biology 2

If the procedure is not well written or not conducted in the same way every time, an experimenter can get “results that are not consistent with that theory”. Because scientific theories depend on many different researchers getting results that are consistent with that theory, it is essential the procedure be written and understood clearly.

Once the experiment is set up, it is time to conduct the experiment. While they are conducting the experiment, students will make observations. Observations are the collected data from the experiment. Observations made during an experiment lead to a better understanding of how the natural and physical world works.

It is necessary that scientists and science students be able to report their observations in a meaningful and cohesive manner. The data and results component of the scientific method is where the data, calculations, and observations are written, calculated, and explained.

When deductive reasoning is applied to the data and results, a conclusion is determined that supports the observations. If many different scientists conduct an experiment and get the same conclusion based on their analysis of the data and results, the observations made during the experiment can change or support scientific theories and scientific models.

“A scientific model is a simplified representation of a real system. Scientific models are based on the scientific method. Scientific models make it possible to study large, complex scientific principles and systems.” R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey Astronomy and Earth Science 2

The Scientific Method: Applied

When students determine their hypothesis they are applying their understanding of basic science principles with respect to the experiment.

When a student conducts an experiment the procedure is applied in two different ways. As a student reads through the procedure they are reading a set of instructions explaining techniques used in science. Since all scientific theories and models are based on experimentation, a basic understanding of the techniques used in science is a far-reaching component of the foundational fundamentals of science. The second way the procedure is applied is by conducting the experiment. Understandings in science come about through experimentation. It takes countless hours of laboratory work to develop a scientific theory or model. Learning science without conducting experiments is like learning to sew without actually sewing. Science is an active endeavor, not a static one.

The observations and data are applied by using them to determine the results of the experiment. Making observations, collecting data, and using these to determine results are a meaningful application of applied math as it relates to science. The ability to use math applications is an essential skill in science in the same way punctuation and spelling are essential skills for the craft of writing.

The final step when applying the scientific method to an experiment is to use deductive reasoning to determine a conclusion for the experiment. This synthesis of information and application of the foundational fundamentals that should be in the conclusion are more than just an application of the scientific method. It is also a natural and intuitive lesson in logical thinking.

The Scientific Method: Understood

Most of the time students and educators do not pay enough attention to the hypothesis other than to write it or make sure it is written. A student’s hypothesis should be evaluated critically, but not with criticism, to look for how well the student understands the science the experiment is based on. A good strategy to use when your student writes a hypothesis is to ask them what scientific principles or knowledge they are basing their hypothesis on. When this is done students will come to understand how scientists arrive at their hypotheses based on educated guesses.

When students read and then work through the steps of an experiment they come to understand some of the basic procedures real scientists use when conducting experiments. They also come to understand at an intuitive level that scientific theories and models are determined and developed through the application and manipulation of science practices.

Observations made while experiments are conducted are the basis for the data and results that are used to develop scientific theories and models. Students spend a lot of their school time learning math. Using data and observations to determine results helps students understand how math is used to help explain how the natural and physical world works. When experiments are well paired with theory, observations made while conducting experiments greatly increase and add to a student’s understanding of the theory taught. Making observations, collecting data, and then using these to determine results also leads to a better understanding of the work scientists do and the type of deductive reasoning and analysis used for their conclusions that lead to the development of scientific theories and models.

Scientific theories and models are a synthesis of conclusions from many different scientific experiments. It is through conducting experiments in academic situations that students come to understand how conclusions determined using the scientific method can explain how the natural and physical world works.


The Scientific Method: Learned

When science is learned in a manner where theory is carefully paired with experiments chosen so they relate closely to that theory, the scientific method is learned through reasoning and observation. It is also learned intuitively. Instead of relying on a rote memorization of terms and their definitions to explain the scientific method, students understand in a meaningful way how the scientific method works, how scientific theories, models, and principles are developed. Most importantly they learn how these theories, models, and principles are used to explain how the natural and physical world works

This article first appeared on the Pandia Press blog: http://www.pandiapress.com/blog-post-list/