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

Thoughts on Lesson Planning

I think the hardest part of homeschooling is lesson planning.

It’s really easy to over-plan and it’s really easy to plan too little. I’ve known some homeschool parents who have planned and scheduled every single lesson for a whole quarter, a whole semester, and even a whole year. This might seem like a good thing to do, and something that an organized person would want to do, but trust me it is not a good idea for a homeschool family to plan this way. Teachers who teach in public schools can plan like this, because they have to stick to a schedule to keep everyone in the class moving along at the same pace but the biggest perk of homeschool is that the home educating parent can move at the pace of the student.

Since students are a bit unpredictable, this means that a method to build in some flexibility is crucial.

The trick is to plan just enough.

It really is a skill and it does take practice along with some trial and error. I think of it as being much the same as learning to make bread. Some people just get it right immediately but most of us need a period of trial and error to figure out how to get something more out of the oven than a flat, heavy brick that no one wants to deal with, one that ends up either as a doorstop or in the trash. I don’t want to see you decide to use your lesson planning book for a doorstop!

I’ve tried to use those pre-printed lesson planners that you can find for sale all over the internet but that never worked out well for us. For one thing, I came to hate having to lug around a year’s worth of crossed out, erased, highlighted, and written-over lesson plans as well as months of blank ones. For another thing, the plans never exactly fit how we organized our homeschool. Some have boxes for things I don’t teach and no room to add in other things that I do teach. Some planners even have pages and pages of articles and other material we aren’t interested in and don’t need.

The only solution was to try creating something on my own.

By the way, those homeschool parents who want to plan every daily lesson for a 180 day school year nearly always end up having to scrap the entire plan when their child either learns ‘too fast’ or needs more time on a given subject.

Other homeschool parents, in trying to avoid over-planning, sometimes end up under-planning and wake up on a given school day wondering ‘what do I teach today?’ or ‘Where the heck was I going with this?’.

Lesson planning is what drives most homeschool parents to groan ‘I wish someone else would plan this entire thing out for me!” and even drives some to the internet to purchase (over-priced) curriculum plans that spell out in exhaustive detail what to do each school day. I’ve seen plans that even tell the parent what to say aloud as they explain a concept. Save your money, this isn’t that hard. I can help you. 

The first thing you need to decide is whether you want to use a paper planner or an online planner.

Are you a paper planning person or an online planning person? I was a paper planning person for years, but I really wanted to be an online planning person! I went through a lot of different types of planners!

I still don’t know whether I’m a paper planner or an online planner. This year it seems to be paper.

Currently I’m down to planning in one to two-week increments. I have a general idea of where I’m going beyond that, but life has been busy lately (when is it not?) and about all I can manage to get organized is a week or so at a time. Right now I’m using paper again. I made a plain old grid on my word processor and printed it out. You can have a peek if you like.

Sunshine Homeschool Basic Planner Page

Yeah, it’s pretty basic. Last year I was an online planner and I had all these spiffy plans made up in OneNote, with links to websites and videos and all kinds of things. It was exhausting. I might do that again next year, but this year I’m going with the basic paper planner.

How do you plan your homeschool?