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Resources: Subscriptions for Home Education

Facilitating home education is about finding a balance between what you can teach, what you want to teach, and how much time you have to prepare lesson materials. You don’t need subscriptions to anything to home-ed successfully but memberships, at least for us, make life a little easier.

Subscriptions can be used as a tool to facilitate learning at home, a tool to make ‘teaching’ the subject easier or act as a tutor would, providing home learners with tutorials to follow (and homework to complete).

Why use memberships if you don’t need them?

As a teacher, memberships make planning the curriculum easier; as a parent, with one subject covered or a strong resource bank to use, there’s one less thing to think about in the day-to-day planning of a homeschool.

Outsource specific subjects

Home educating doesn’t mean you have to teach everything. After deciding which subjects will be included in home-ed lessons, think about

  • which subjects you’re happy to teach
  • which you feel you can teach
  • note what it is you like to teach
  • highlight any subjects you’d rather not teach

and you’ll start to see the type of memberships that might be useful for your home learners. When planning a yearly/termly home-ed curriculum, memberships are a great way to outsource specific subjects .

Finding an alternate maths lesson, to replace me teaching using maths textbooks, changed the atmosphere of maths classes and greatly improved our children’s feelings about a subject that they were struggling with.

(If a lesson style or learning tool isn’t working, change it. Stressful lessons in the home-ed classroom impact not just the atmosphere in the classroom but the atmosphere in the home too. If you’re all sitting down for lunch five minutes after a tough lesson between ‘pupil’ and ‘teacher’, it’s not always easy for (either of you) to switch into parent/child mode. Whenever lessons are stressful more than one class in a row we reassess how the lesson is being taught, the resources we’re using and try to find a way to make teaching and learning the subject more fun.)

Memberships give peace of mind

If the subscription is a magazine, you know the content is suitable without having to read it first; if it’s online, you know the website is safe for them to explore independently. Memberships mean you don’t need to check what they’re doing (which gives teacher-you free time) and for the homeschooler – especially younger homeschoolers whose recreational use of the internet is likely restricted too – membership access to internet sites gives them a degree of independence to explore online and study independently that seems to encourage them to keep on learning, in the same way a good book will keep them reading.

Refresh your own knowledge to be able to teach it.

Memberships are like textbooks in that you can stay one step ahead without having to know the entire course: I use DuoLingo and maths subscriptions to ‘revise’ by scanning through modules before our homeschoolers do the lessons themselves. Knowing what’s coming up next is also useful to plan additional teaching materials to accompany the lesson (worksheets, extension exercises).

Modeling how to refresh your own knowledge is a way for learners to passively absorb revision tips.

Use the resources/teaching materials subscriptions provide to build a home-ed resource bank for future use.

Not every resource or teaching material is going to be useful to your homeschooler at the time you have the subscription. I add any unused resources (lessons plans, additional worksheets, PDF slideshows etc) to a folder to be used at some point in the future.

Choosing and using subscriptions and memberships in home-ed.

Home educating has to work as a team effort and part of building that team is giving the homeschoolers a say in what and how they learn. Instead of deciding (as their teacher) what resources our homeschoolers will use, I make a list and we whittle it down together.

If we’re looking for lesson materials or memberships to use in the classroom as a teaching tool, it’s the opinion of the homeschooler which counts the most: They need to learn from it.

As long as all options, on the list of options I give them, are options I’m happy with (as their teacher), then the membership/subscription can be chosen by them and I don’t offer an opinion (unless asked).

If the point of the resource is to teach a subject/course or be included in core curriculum (for any subject), we trial-run multiple memberships before we decide on one. It saves masses of time in the long run. Spending a few days experimenting with a membership reduces the risk of investing in a subscription that ends up not being beneficial to your homeschool.

Encourage home learners to decide which subscriptions to try for which subjects and sign up for trial memberships. Dedicate the trial period to using the resource as much as possible – trial running it. We often combine a curriculum change with a study week.

It’s a good idea to do a placement style test with homeschoolers before they start a trial and repeat it at the end, to objectively see if the resource has made a difference to their learning.

There are new subscriptions popping up every day and I’ve found figuring out which ones to choose can be as time-consuming as the actual teaching of home-ed lessons. The list below is of paid memberships we use (or have used) while home-educating grades KS1-KS3. It’s a list of the resources useful for lesson planning, that work well in the classroom and that our homeschoolers enjoy.

It’s not an exhaustive list, it’s the whittled-down version of hundreds of useful, fun, informative sites available to home educators to use to plan a curriculum and teach at home, but I find that combining these resources gives a comprehensive resource library I can use as a starting point.

Paid Subscriptions

Britannica Kids: An online, updated version of the original encyclopedias. It’s a great resource for project-led learning as students can navigate it themselves.

For educators, the resources are presented in four ability levels making it easier to create lessons that are of the right grade level for your child

IXL: IXL is an online learning platform, covering maths, social science, language arts, science and Spanish. The functionality of IXL makes it easy as a home educator to identify learning gaps based on analytics & to track how students are using the site.

We use IXL as our home-ed maths curriculum.

The Maths Factor: The site I’d recommend for anyone looking to outsource primary school (KS1/KS2) maths.

(Investing in The Maths Factor made a huge difference to the stress levels in our homeschool. Maths is a subject we have, do and will continue to outsource rather than teach.)

Reading Eggs: A brilliant game centered resource to use while teaching your child to read. The programme gives access to thousands of graded reader books to support your child’s reading progress and offers home educators ready to use activities to use as reading and writing lessons in a homeschool.

Brave Writer: If you’re looking for a writing programme to support home education, Brave Writer is a fantastic choice. The woman behind Brave Writer home-educated her five children for 17 years and has created a system for teaching writing that is inspiring, fun to teach and learn, quick to prep and there is a course to suit all types of learners, across all grades.

Skillshare: Skillshare is an online learning community. It’s a site where you can find individual tutorials and complete courses ranging in subjects from musical theory & instrument tuition, to photography, digital skills and art.

(How we use Skillshare for home-ed)

Grammarly: Grammarly is a great tool if your home learners are at the stage of self-editing their own writing and it’s an excellent source of teaching materials for home-ed grammar lessons.

Spotify: You could argue that a music subscription is a household expense rather than a home-ed one but music is a powerful tool for home educators. Spotify is our music/podcast subscription of choice. Read why here.

Drama Notebook: A fantastic resource to bring drama into a home-ed classroom.

Lesson plans, worksheets

Teachers Pay Teachers (free/paid) (free/paid options)

Ed Place (free/paid membership options)

Homeschool Scientist

Every homeschool is different. The links below are some examples of how we use subscriptions as curriculum, to collect resources (for unit studies/project-led learning), to simplify planning and, practically, in lessons.

(Skillshare for Home-Ed)

(Independent Learning: Using Grammarly to Self-Edit)

(Spotify and Home-Ed)

(Maths: IXL)