Socialization? That’s MY job.


I was a “socially awkward” public school kid. 

Some people are just not socially adept no matter how much they are exposed to social situations, and people who are not socially adept tend to be bullied, so homeschooling is attractive to this particular demographic for a number of reasons. It’s not unlikely one will typically find quite a few socially awkward kids in any given homeschool group.

Has someone told you that you “need” to send your child to public school or he will become socially awkward? It doesn’t work that way.

What I have found is that homeschooling is actually beneficial for kids who do have a tendency to feel socially awkward in a group, as it gives them the opportunity to get specific, individualized coaching from an adult in social situations. It means that kids can then practice those skills under close supervision in a generally supportive mixed-age group. That doesn’t happen in a classroom. There is no social skills coaching in a public school classroom and the teachers there usually don’t even have time to monitor the classroom closely enough to prevent bullying let alone coach kids on social skills.

The folks who advocate for putting kids in a public school setting to prevent social awkwardness from developing have a sort of “sink or swim” mentality that immersion in a “Lord of the Flies” scenario will helpfully prompt a child to (desperately?) develop good social skills as a form of survival. I think if we all think about that for a moment we already know it doesn’t work that way. 

I also suspect that the people who advocate for kids to go to a public school to learn social skills don’t quite give the idea much actual thought, because it’s also immediately obvious that it’s not exactly a great idea to expect kids to learn important social skills from other kids. Does anyone really know many kids who naturally use “please” and “thank you” and instinctively take turns? Probably not. I think it’s safe to say that most kids do need an adult to teach them to behave properly around other people. And then closely supervise them to make sure they behave properly.

Some kids are born with a better social sense than others and those kids may do fairly well no matter what sort of social environment they end up in. Other kids do not have that sense and need explicit coaching to manage social situations well. Classroom-based “socialization” puts those kids at a disadvantage.

How much social exposure to same-age peers do kids “need”? Well, I can tell you that it wasn’t until about a hundred years ago that we humans decided to insist that most of our young spend the majority of their day in a room with a group of same-age peers, and even then it was not a classroom of twenty or thirty or more kids, so it’s pretty safe to say that the normal way of “socializing” humans (at least for the last twenty thousand years or so) is in small groups of mixed ages, sort of like the way you adults tend to socialize now that you have gotten away from mandatory classroom-based education.

Our species seems to have managed the whole “socializing the young” thing pretty well outside of the classroom considering that classrooms, let alone classrooms divided by age, were not made mandatory for the majority of the population until the late nineteenth century.

I personally live in a rural area outside a very small town. There is no homeschool co-op in my area other than a religious one and we are not religious. We don’t have a homeschool group to get together with or go on field trips with. My kids have thrived on the usual rounds of typical “afterschool” type activities like gymnastics, dance, soccer, scouts, 4H, and that sort of thing. We deeply appreciate the opportunity to “do school” in a quiet environment,  one-on-one, and don’t feel the need to have our education time filled with ruckus and distraction. It’s quite enough to head to the popular playground around three pm when the public school lets out and let the kids run around for an hour or so, or head to the YMCA on Saturday for a swim and a soccer game, or go to a boy scout meeting during the week in the evening, or even (gasp!) just spend time hanging around family.

If my kid forgets to say “thank you” after you hand him something, or is grouchy to you, or won’t share, then that’s on me. It’s my job to teach my kids how to get along with other people. I’m not delegating this responsibility to the other kids on the playground. 

Free lesson plan collections!

What is a curriculum, after all, but a sequence of lesson plans? Well, sometimes you just want to create your own sequence and pick out lesson plans that appeal to you. It’s a great shortcut to creating your own customized curriculum. You don’t need to create everything from scratch and you aren’t committed to following someone else’s idea of what to teach for a whole school year.

Where do you find collections of lesson plans to pick through? I’m putting together a page of my favorite lesson plan sites. Here is an example of what you can find:

Scholastic  This site is the home of those Scholastic books that you see sold in the schools. They have great lesson plans for grades Prek to 8, most of them based on Scholastic books. You don’t have to buy the books. You can find most of them in your local library. There are lesson plans, unit plans, vocabulary lists, and printable activities to go with everything.

Scholastic has a “Daily Starter” section that has a daily grammar and daily math question organized by grade level along with a fun fact and a “teachable moment”. Might be an interesting way to start off your day. The Daily Starter for grades six to eight has a daily journal prompt and a daily vocabulary word.

There is a calendar section that links Scholastic books related to days on the calendar and links to lesson plans that go along with the chosen book. This is one way to pick out some books to use for holiday unit studies.

If you are looking for some ways to integrate the use of technology into your homeschool there is a section on computer-based activities.

There are discussion guides for Scholastic fiction novels. If you click on “Books and Authors” there is a book wizard to help you choose books for your students, and lists of recommended books.

There is a section called the Word Workshop where you can make cards for a word wall, flashcards, and lists with cute borders and the font of your choice.

Avoid clicking on the “Teachables” section because it is a subscription service unless you really like it.  They do offer a free trial.



Free printable math worksheets for elementary level students at Math Salamander!

Generally speaking, I like to find great new free math curriculum, but I’m always happy to find really solid free math printables also. This particular site, Math Salamanders, has an option to click on math worksheets by grade level, which is useful if you don’t have a math curriculum because you can just go by the topics for that grade level. Math Salamanders is especially useful in this regard because they have some discussion on the grade level pages about what math topics are usually covered in that grade level and a note about what the UK equivalent is to the US grade level of the material.

Math Salamanders also has a nice collection of printable math puzzles and math games. If you are looking for a quick printable to jazz up a slow morning and add some interest to math class you’ll probably find something that interests you here. The math puzzle printables are organized by grade level, and the math games are organized by the type of game. There are games that involve the use of dice, games about money, math logic games, and a few others.

I’m always on the lookout for free printable math word problems because I am of the opinion that you can never have too much practice solving math word problems. Math Salamanders has a collection of free printable pages with math word problems organized by grade level and if you keep scrolling down you will find math word problems organized by topic.

Finally, there are printable math certificates, mental math practice sheets, some tutorial pages that offer help understanding fractions and percents, some nice extra printables like fraction strips and flash cards, and even a new section that has online practice.

I didn’t get paid to write a review of Math Salamanders, just FYI. It’s a free site and I just happened to come across it and thought it might be useful. patrick-brinksma-360527

Free app to help you find great apps!


Okay, this one is a little weird.

I was out and about on the internet, specifically speaking I was correcting my son’s math worksheet using the digital packs on the Math U See website.  Math U See is NOT a free math curriculum, but it’s the math curriculum that has saved my sanity with my two youngest kids who apparently can only learn math by using concrete, hands-on manipulatives. We love Math U See. But that isn’t what I wanted to share with you.

I happened to see that Math U See had added some educational math app recommendations based on information from an affiliated site called Kindertown

Kindertown turns out to be a website that has educators review educational apps for kids from preschool age to about age eight. The educators make recommendations on the best educational apps in each subject area. If you want expert advice on what the best apps are for your child this a place you want to check out.

kelly-sikkema-266805The apps are organized into categories based on subject. I have looked over a few of the recommendations and I was very impressed. A lot of the apps were already among my favorites, and I found some new ones to check out.

Guess what? They have an app, called Kindertown, that you can get for free on the Apple app store, that lets you look up great educational apps.

An app to help you find apps. You know, if it wasn’t so darn useful I’d have to laugh.

The downside is that the site only categorizes apps that work on Apple products. They do let you know if the app you are interested works on the iPad or the iPhone, or both, but there is no information on whether the app can be found for Android devices or in Amazon’s collection of apps for the Kindle. I happen to know that some of the recommended apps actually are available on Google Play and on the Amazon App Store, but only because I actually already HAVE those apps and I got them through Amazon. We’ve been enthusiastic Kindle Fire owners for several years now.

Another downside is that the apps are only recommended from preschool to about age eight. I have older kids and I was really hoping to see some recommendations for middle school and high school. Hopefully they will add some more age categories as time goes on.


Free Stranger Danger Curriculum


The Rose Brucia Educational Foundation was started by a family member in memory of eleven-year-old Carlie Brucia. The Foundation states that its goal is to “reduce the number of child abductions in America by educating and empowering young minds with the knowledge necessary to avoid abduction.”

The free curriculum makes use of downloadable videos and lesson plans for kindergarten and first grade, and short, downloadable stranger safety workbooks for grades K to 6. It looks like the program can be taught to younger kids (even kids slightly older than the target audience) and then the workbooks can be used as a single lesson annually to go over the message.

Free Stranger Safety Curriculum