Tag Archives: Homeschool Help

9 Homeschool Apps We Wouldn’t Be Without

favourite homeschool apps

This week the Homeschool Help team are talking about our favourite homeschooling apps.

I find it hard to believe it’s less than three years since I got an iPad for my fortieth birthday –  around the time we started homeschooling. Back then hardly any of us even had smartphones (I was very attached to my little Nokia) – hard to imagine now!  Over the years we’ve tried lots of educational apps.  Most come and go but a few have become an invaluable part of our homeschool routine.

Here are nine of our favourites.  They’re all available on Android too unless I mention otherwise.


It can be difficult for children to grasp the relative gaps between historical events, especially as they move between learning about civilisations thousands of years apart to significant twentieth century events crowded into single weeks. Timelines use space to give a sense of these relative gaps.

I’d always intended to make a huge timeline to pin up around the walls but it was one of those things I never got round to. Then I discovered Knowledge Quest’s Timeline Builder which allows you to make as many timelines as you like at the touch of a few buttons.

composers timeline using TimeLine Builder - best homeschool apps

Putting events on a timeline is simple. Children can choose their own images – photos of their own work, or pictures from the internet – to illustrate each event. We have timelines covering history from the beginning of time to the present, ancient times, and the Middle Ages. We also have timelines showing artists and composers – it’s interesting to see who overlapped with whom. As the children get older, I’d like us to read more biographies as part of our homeschooling – Timeline Builder will serve us well in that, too.

Knowledge Quest are working on an Android version of Timeline Builder.


KenKen – We use this Japanese puzzle – whose name, KenKen, means “cleverness” –  as part of our living maths routine. It’s a great way to practise arithmetic and logic. J(8) and I are big fans (I do the puzzles for fun).

ken ken math puzzle - best homeschool apps

Math Blaster Hyperblast – J(8) suggested I add this one to the list. He’s an avid gamer, and is very unimpressed with most educational “game” apps. Math Blaster Hyperblast is an exception. Not that he’d play it in preference to Zelda Skyward Sword, but apparently the game element is sufficiently fun to make the maths practice worth it.

Geoboard – We haven’t played much with this app yet, but I’m planning some living maths lessons using it, like finding the area of parallelograms.  I’m mentioning it here because it’s already proved its value, saving us the space and cost of a physical Geoboard!

Geoboard isn’t available in Android yet, but there is a web app.

geoboard maths app - best homeschool apps

geoboard math app - best homeschool apps

Foreign Language

Memrise – The app format of the flashcard learning site Memrise works slightly differently from the website and complements it nicely. You can follow all the same courses and enjoy the same cute gardening icons, plus you can download a course to work through offline (I’ve just been learning Norwegian on the beach).

memrise app - best homeschool apps

I love how Memrise combines the latest neuroscience research with a collaborative community for multi-sensory, fast, fun learning. (Do check the content of each course before your child uses it, though.  The “Norwegian for Friends and Family” course I’ve been following contains some adult vocabulary.)

Spelling Test – We don’t use spelling tests as part of our language arts routine, but we use the Spelling Test app to help learn foreign vocabulary.  Its advantage over Memrise is that you can test yourself on any words you choose – just use the “record” function to record yourself saying an English word, then enter the foreign word as the spelling – or vice versa.

spelling test - best homeschool apps


I know the YouTube app isn’t much different from the web version, but it gets a place in my list because we use it on our iPads so often.  “How are glaciers created?” “Let’s look on YouTube.” What does a Zen garden look like? How does Norwegian sound?  Let’s play some Grieg. What’s the best bubble wand for the biggest bubbles? Let’s find a catchy seven times tables song. How did Erastosthenes measure the Earth? Can we watch Horrible Histories? How is glass made?

What did homeschoolers do before the internet?


We listen to so many audiobooks that we’ve gradually made our way up to Audible’s twenty-four books a year membership scheme. We listen to the books on our iPads/iPods using the Audible app.  Each book works out at less than £4.50. We don’t spend money on curriculum, so I see our Audible subscription as a valuable investment.

Audible allows you to listen to the books you’ve purchased on up to three mobile devices so C(9), J(8) and I can listen separately to any of our books. We usually listen to new books in the car together, C and J listen to their own books throughout the day and particularly at bedtime (usually repeat listens of books we’ve previously enjoyed together), and I often listen to my monthly Book Group book while I’m walking the dog or preparing meals.

audible - favourite homeschool apps

The Audible app lets you wirelessly download a book to your device and remove it when you’ve finished listening, to conserve storage space. It automatically saves your place, plus you can insert bookmarks, and you can rewind fast or in 30 second sections (the latter is so useful. I always used to end up rewinding too much and having to repeat big chunks).

As well as membership books, Audible has frequent member sales when classic children’s books are available very cheaply – C(9) is listening to Black Beauty at the moment.  I know a lot of these are also available free online, but some books my kids listen to so often I don’t mind paying a small amount for the convenience of being able to have them on our individual devices at the touch of a button.

We often listen to the first book in a series together and then get the remaining books from the library – we did this with the recently with the Eragon and Percy Jackson series, for example.

audible - best homeschool apps

J(8) has mild dyslexia so audiobooks expose him to even more literature than I could by reading aloud. He’s recently discovered that the app allows him to play books at 1.5x, 2x or 3x speed. I’ve read that training oneself to listen fast is a useful skill if you have dyslexia – another Audible bonus!

Apps for Mums

I’ve talked before about how much I love the list app Clear and how I’ve used MealBoard to plan our family menus for years.

Another app introverted mums might enjoy is BrainWave, which plays soothing white noise combined with sounds designed to induce calm, creativity, energy or one of twenty-seven other moods. I use it if the kids are being noisy and I want to write, to block out computer sounds while I’m cooking,  to help me memorise foreign vocabulary, or in those moments when I just need to de-stress!

brainwave - best homeschool apps

Do you use apps in your homeschool? What are your favourites?


For more views on apps, head over to:

The Tiger Chronicle – Technology: A Few Considerations. “A few things to consider with regards to using technology for education purposes.”

Highhill Homeschool – Educational Ways to Use an iPad.  “My husband actually created an iPad educational app to help with multiplication.”

One Magnificent Obsession – The iWorld of Homeschooling: Favourite Apps! “The iPhone and iPad have completely changed how we homeschool!”

Hammock Tracks – Twenty free learning apps

Every Bed of Roses – My favourite apps and websites for learning

Seven Little Australians and Counting – If I had an iPad

Barefoot Hippie Girl – NOT Techie Homeschoolers. “Despite all the technology our family is surrounded with, we are still basically book, paper and ink home schoolers.”

 Collage Friday

Disclosure: This post contains two Amazon affiliate links. We paid for and enjoy the books I mention.

I’m appreciatively linking up here:

Teaching with technology

How To Make Sure Science Gets Done When You’re Not Using A Curriculum

homeschool science
Spontaneous science – “I wonder if orange is more or less acidic than lemon?”

Science is my favourite homeschool subject. I love it because it’s hands-on, my kids are always enthusiastic about it, and it’s so varied – there’s always a new way to make things pop, whizz, bang or explode!

To get straight into how we do science, skip down to “How I plan (or don’t plan) science” below.

Free range science

 Science is: an objective, self-correcting method for gathering and organizing information about the natural world through repeated observation and experimentation.

Robert Krampf (“The Happy Scientist”)

One of the biggest benefits of homeschooling is the abundance of time children have to explore and gather information about the natural world during their everyday lives.

My kids “do science” while they’re playing in the garden – whether they’re designing rope swings, making mud and berry pies or just lying on the trampoline gazing up at the trees. They’re “doing science” when we’re out with our dog in the woods or by the river, admiring wildflowers and distinguishing breeds of geese.  And they’re “doing science” when they combine ingredients and follow recipes in the kitchen when they cook lunch or bake cookies for poetry tea.

Making butter homeschool science
Kitchen science – home-made butter

I wouldn’t want any formal science curriculum to take my children (aged eight and nine) away from these free-range explorations. The way I see it, there’s plenty of time for learning how to formally write up experiments. My goals right now are for my children to  enjoy finding out about the world about them, and for them to think of “science” as something that they enjoy.

As with our other subjects, despite not using a science curriculum I try to find a balance between giving my children time for their own explorations, and sharing with them the delights of the world as I know it. So we “do science” as a subject, in a variety of ways.

Strewing and projects

The least formal ways we do science are via strewing and project time. I strew interesting materials – a prism, a magnet, a book about space, a DVD about whales – and often the children will explore them and ask questions. Sometimes this leads to a project. C(9) spend a couple of months learning about electricity, during which time she and her brother played with snap circuits every day.

Snap circuits
Project-based homeschooling – experimenting with circuits

At the moment she’s finding out about light and colour, which involves activities like burning crisp packets with a magnifying glass and making rainbow iced cookies.

prism science
Playing with a prism


Field trips

Another perk of homeschooling is the time we have to go on field trips. Whereas school children might visit the London Science Museum or Natural History Museum once or twice in their elementary years, we can go as often as we like. We’ve participated in some excellent educational workshops at RHS Garden Wisley, Benjamin Franklin House, our local zoo, and even a University space laboratory.

Ben franklin house
Lightening rod demonstration at Benjamin Franklin House

Because we can go on holiday out of peak season, we’ve been lucky enough to visit the Kennedy Space Centre, and this week, in preparation for cruising the Norwegian fjords in June, we’re learning about how glaciers shape the landscape.

We’ve had time to enjoy weekly trips to our local pond, which is giving us a great chance to observe how the plants and animals there change with the seasons.

measuring pond temperature
Testing pond temperature

How I plan (or don’t plan) science

Science is a huge subject, encompassing everything from nature-study to astronomy. Using a curriculum can help make sure you approach science in an organised way, covering topics in a methodical order – but curriculum isn’t for everyone.

I tried it once – the Pandia Press REAL Science curriculum.  We spent a fun term learning about the human body, transporting blood cells around our model giant, using string to map our intestines, and making “blood” out of vegetable oil and kidney beans. But then the curriculum moved onto animals and the most hands-on it got was assembling a lap book, and my kids’ groans at the mention of science told me it was time to do our own thing.

Homeschool blood model
Making “blood”

If I were very organised I’d make a list of core science topics and plan a series of experiments and activities covering those areas. But…  if I waited until I’d done that, we’d probably never do science. Instead, I throw perfectionism out the window and leap into actually doing experiments and activities, taking one week at a time.

Each weekend I plan one activity or experiment to do during the week.  I take inspiration from many places: books, Pinterest, friends, blogs and DVDs (see below for a list of my favourite resources).

When I say I “plan” an activity, I mean I make sure we have the supplies ready so that on whichever day feels right I can just set everything up and get going.

Homeschool science supplies
Supplies at the ready

If I’m having an organised week, I might also:

– research some related materials like You Tube or Brain Pop videos

– find relevant books to strew or read aloud

– read up on scientific principles involved so that I can talk about the activity with the children conversationally, answer their questions, and generally draw out their understanding of what we’re doing

These “organised weeks” only happen about half the time, but imperfect science is better than no science at all.

On the weeks when I haven’t managed to do much in advance, we learn together as we go.  I like to see shortcomings in my preparation as opportunities for the children’s ideas to surface. After all, if I planned everything to the last detail, where would be the space for their ideas? 😉

The scientific method

Children naturally follow the steps of the scientific method: they ask questions, make guesses, seek information, try things out and talk about their discoveries. I don’t require my children to make formal records of our experiments, although sometimes they do so anyway.

I have one child who is still working to acquire the cognitive and neurological skills for handling mistakes. No matter how many times I assure him that mistakes are part of learning, point out my own, and read stories about the value of mistakes, getting things “wrong” can cause meltdowns. For this reason, we keep scientific hypotheses very informal and conversational!

Red cabbage science
Red cabbage indicator

Sources of inspiration


Science Experiments Robert Winston

Science Experiments: Loads of Explosively Fun Experiments You Can Do – My absolute favourite source of inspiration. Almost all our experiments this year have come from this book. I’m very visual and terrible at following instructions, so I love the large format, colour pictures and short chunks of text.

The Usborne Book of Science Activities series – These little books are packed with experiments, simple explanations and colourful artist illustrations.

Wholly Irresponsible Experiments – Clearly laid out and amusingly framed with sections like “The Scientific Excuse” (which explains the science). Not many pictures though.

Copper plating a nail
Copper plating a nail

The Ultimate Book of Kid Concoctions – One for the summer – full of fun activities like paint and play dough recipes. Nothing you can’t find on Pinterest, but handy to have in one volume.

how we do homeschool science - resources - the ultimate book of kid concoctions

Science in Second for Kids: Over 100 Experiments You Can Do In Ten Minutes or Less  – Stacks of quick experiments laid out in twelve sections – air, animals, colours, energy, gravity, the human body, light, machines, magnetism, magnification, water, weather.

For an overview of elementary level science with simple but thorough explanations and plenty of colourful illustrations, I love The Usborne Book of Science: An Introduction to Biology, Physics and Chemistry (also available in separate volumes).

The Internet

Sometimes rather than picking an experiment at random, I look for a hands-on activity related to a specific topic. When we were looking at the rock cycle, I searched for “rock cycle hand-on learning” and “fun rock cycle experiment” which led to us doing the crayon rock cycle.

The crayon rock cycle

In preparation for our Norway trip in a few weeks, I wanted to teach the children about how glaciers shape the landscape, so I searched for hands-on glacier experiments and found this article which contains a couple of wonderful elementary-level experiments with ice and dirt. I love the internet!

Then of course there’s Pinterest –  I collect ideas on a general homeschool science board, and I also have boards for chemistryphysicsbiology and Earth science.

Elephant toothpaste homeschool science fun
“Elephant toothpaste” – a Pinterest find, also in Science Experiments

And don’t forget blog parties like Adventures in Mommydom’s Science Sunday.

Video (DVDs and You Tube)

Again, so many to choose from! Among our favourites are:

BBC documentaries like Blue Planet and Orbit Earth.

The Magic School Bus – there’s a surprising amount of science packed into these shows and books

Mythbusters – crazy experiments on a grand scale.

Bill Nye the Science Guy – loads of full-length episodes on You Tube.

Steve Spangler Fun experiments and commentary. I love the Steve Spangler website too.

Homeschool magnet project
Fun with magnets

Another reason I love science is because science is the subject in which I learn the most alongside my children.

I remember next to nothing about my own primary school science. I have vague memories of the fun being drained from experimental play by being made to fill in worksheets. And I have a very clear memory of being told, “Whatever you do, don’t put your magnet in the iron filings.”  Guess what this curious seven year old did?

The most vivid memories I have are of a five day school trip I went on (aged nine) to a residential science centre. During those precious days I learned that the striped patterns in the cliffs that lined the beaches I’d grown up on were layers of shale, limestone and sandstone. I learned how you can tell how polluted a place is by the colour of  lichens. I learned that my left eye was dominant, and that different parts of my tongue were sensitive to different tastes.

I didn’t learn these things by reading a book, or listening to a teacher in a classroom (even though I enjoyed both those activities). I learned the science I remember most by walking on beaches, by rubbing my finger against rough lichen-covered walls, and by moving markers in front of my eyes. I learned by being outside, by doing, by having fun.

Looking forward

You won’t be surprised to hear that I don’t have a detailed plan setting out what we’re doing for science for the rest of our homeschool years. What I do have is a couple of kids who often choose science topics for their project work and who happily drop what they’re doing when I suggest doing a science experiment. In my experience, where there’s enthusiasm, there’s learning.


This post is part of the Homeschool Help series. Next week we’ll be talking about our favourite Apps.

For more ideas about how to do homeschool science, visit:

Hwee at The Tiger Chronicles – Science in our home.  How we learn science has evolved.

Julie at Highhill Homeschool – Creating your own science curriculum.

Savannah at Hammock Tracks – Science with my scalliwags.  Science without a formal curriculum.

Nicole at One Magnificent Obsession – The epic failure that wasn’t.  Science is so much more fun than a curriculum.

Chareen at Every Bed of Roses – Science in the junior years.  It’s about exploring the world around you.

Erin at Seven Little Australians – Kindling and fanning scientific minds. Sharing how our family kindles an interest in scientific matters and how we keep that interest alive.

Bernadette at Barefoot Hippie Girl – Scientifically speaking.  Shoes off and hands on.

Collage Friday


 Science Sunday


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I paid for and use all the products linked.

Why I’m Glad I Joined Our Local Homeschool Group (Even Though We No Longer Go)

should i join a local homeschool group

I first heard about homeschooling from parenting coach (and unschooler) Scott Noelle, who at the time lived Seattle.  I loved how technology enabled me, in England, to get coaching from someone on the other side of the US – but when I thought about taking my children out of school, five thousand miles seemed a long way from the nearest homeschoolers I knew!

Our local homeschool group – Community on our doorstep

In search of kindred spirits closer to home, I turned to technology again.  I was excited when Google told me there was a homeschool group just fifteen minutes from our house, and within weeks I was enjoying tea and cake with some of the kindest, most welcoming ladies I had ever met, while my five-year-old happily played with their children.

Here were real life families thriving without school (their children looked just like normal children – shock!) – I’d had no idea these people were right on our doorstep!

In those first few months after we took the leap,  homeschool group was the highlight of my week. I would look forward to it for days, and by the time I got there I was in a state of such high excitement the other ladies must’ve thought I was completely bonkers. I wanted to hear everything about these women’s experiences of homeschooling, and I also had an urgent need to talk, to these wonderful people who understood what was going on with us. I had a million questions, which my dear new friends answered patiently, and they lovingly supported me through some difficult times while my husband and extended family questioned my desire to homeschool.

When my extroverted six-year-old daughter met our new homeschooling friends in the summer school holidays, she decided she wanted to leave school too. “I used to think it was just J(5) sitting at home all day. Now I can see you have fun!” she said.

That was three years ago, and although because of my children’s particular needs we no longer attend that first homeschool group, we count several of the people we met there as very good friends.  We would have missed out on so much if we had never been a part of it.

Something for everyone

If your local homeschool group isn’t a good match – or even if it is – I recommend trying several different groups.  In the three years we’ve been homeschooling, we’ve been to four different homeschooling groups.

We attended our most local group for the first year we homeschooled. During that time we also went to another group for two terms. It was more structured than our main group, and my daughter enjoyed the variety of activities offered – they did fencing and drama, for example. A third group we enjoyed very much – it began with a wonderful art class and the rest of the time the children played with sticks in a tall hedge (my two were in heaven!) – but we decided it was too far away. With the fourth group we hit the jackpot.  It’s also further afield, but it’s a perfect match for my intense, freedom-loving children – we’ve been there almost every term-time Tuesday for the last two years.

The value of network

We made real friends at our first (most local) homeschooling group. Friends we’ve been on holiday with, friends we go for long walks in the woods with, friends who’ve joined me in a  (parents only) Homeschool Inspiration Group. And that first group also gave us access to a rich local network who generously invite us to everything they organise.

Thanks to our participation in that group we’ve enjoyed field trips to galleries, botanical gardens and a space centre, we’ve taken part in homeschool sports and swimming sessions, and we often meet up for ice skating. We’ve also done French lessons and trampolining classes together – and that’s all since we stopped going to the regular group meetings!

Looking to the future

I think I will continue to appreciate our local homeschool network as my children get older. Although at the moment all our academic work is done within the family, in future I anticipate setting up learning workshops to meet my children’s maturing educational needs.

Friends will also become increasingly important as C(9) and J(8) grow older. Having a wide local network to draw on will, I hope, allow my children to find the friends with shared interests and values who will be an important part of their development into adults.

why I'm glad we joined our local homeschool group

More on homeschool groups

For more info and other opinions about homeschool groups, head over to the other Homeschool Help blogs:

Homeschool Support at Every Bed of Roses – Where do you get your homeschool support?

Home Ed and Otherwise at The Tiger Chronicle – Our successes with different groups.

Unable to Commit at Barefoot Hippie Girl – A sad story of how the inability to commit sunk a home school group.

Local Homeschool Group at Highhill Homeschool – I will always be a member of a homeschool group.

It Takes a Community at Seven Little Australians – Erin has been involved in home education support groups for three decades.  She shares an overview of that journey and the importance the groups have played for her family.

Homeschool Groups– This mom’s Lifeline!  at One Magnificent Obsession – Why our homeschool group is pivotal to our homeschool experience!

Local Homeschool Support Group – A Breath of Fresh Air at Hammock Tracks – No blog, forum or online group recharges or equips me to be a better home educating mother, like my local support group.

Collage Friday


Weekly Wrap Up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

The Pros And Cons Of Joining A Homeschool Co-op


pros and cons of joining a homeschool co-op
Photo credit: USFWS

As the popularity of homeschooling increases, so do the opportunities for getting together with other homeschoolers. One way to do this is to join a homeschool co-op.

There are advantages and disadvantages to joining a co-op.  But even if you decide that a co-op isn’t right for your family, you needn’t miss out on the benefits. A co-op doesn’t work for us right now – I’ll share below about some of the things we do instead.

What is a homeschool co-op?

Here in the UK,  a co-op is a group of homeschooling parents who get together regularly to teach their children. Each parent offers a different class and children choose which classes they want to take.

Co-ops might meet weekly, fortnightly or even monthly.  They can be quite informal, but most  groups that consider themselves co-ops rather than social groups have a bit more structure.

Benefits of joining a homeschool co-op

1. You can pool resources and leverage your talents. Your children can benefit from another mum’s artistic flair while you get to run a science course, or vice versa.

2. Variety. Your children have a larger choice of subjects than you might think to offer. Even if you do project-based or interest-led homeschooling, there are topics your children might not come across in your home environment. You never know where that might lead.

3. Exposure to different teaching styles. One of the benefits of homeschooling is that we get to know our children’s learning styles and can tailor our teaching to help them learn best. But another adult’s teaching style might be a natural match with your child’s learning style, which could be good for their confidence and help them understand tricky topics.

4. Social benefits for the children. By seeing the same people regularly, your children will have the chance to make friends with similar interests. They’ll have valuable opportunities to learn to work collaboratively. Extroverted children in particular will benefit from co-ops in this way.

5. Of course, the adults also get to make friends and mutually support each other in their homeschooling goals. When I first took my kids out of school, I was like a sponge around the experienced homeschoolers I met in real life – I was so eager to absorb every bit of the wisdom they had to offer. Joining a co-op in the early days of homeschooling provides a ready-made support network.

6. It’s inexpensive. You get the benefit of (relatively) expert teaching without paying for private tutoring. Curriculum costs can be shared, and you can save money by bulk-buying craft or science materials.

Disadvantages of joining a co-op

1. Being part of a co-op means having, to some degree, a common educational philosophy. Most homeschoolers find their homeschooling style changes over time (or with the season). We also tend to be independent and love our autonomy. Establishing shared values with all members of a co-op can be tricky, and staying in synch over time can be even more challenging!

2. Time commitment. If you have a child that already wants to do a heap of activities, you may not have a day or half day a week free to participate in a co-op.

3. Availability.  Once co-ops successfully get going, they may not accept new members.  (Then again, with more and more homeschoolers out there, you could start your own.)

4. Your children may not be a match. Even if you do find a co-op which shares your educational values and which accepts new members, your children may still not be a match to the co-op environment, particularly if they have special needs. My eight year old son, for example, has Sensory Processing Disorder and still relies on me to help with his emotional regulation.  A co-op class probably wouldn’t work for him yet.

What’s the alternative?

What if you can’t or don’t want to join a co-op but would still like to experience some of the benefits of being in one? Here are some alternatives:

1. Joining your local homeschool group will offer many of the advantages of a co-op but usually on a more casual basis. I’ll be sharing next week about our experiences with our local homeschool groups.

2. Set up or join a homeschooling parents’ support group where parents meet without children to talk about homeschooling. I’m in the process of setting up a “Homeschool Inspiration Group” with four lovely local ladies. We all have slightly different homeschooling styles, which I’m sure will benefit the group. My plan is for us to share ideas and resources, to inspire each other by talking about what’s working for us, and to support each other with any homeschool-related issues. I’m very excited about this and will share more about it with you soon. This is a good option if, like me, you have a child with special needs.

3.Tutoring, either paid or on a skill-swap basis with another parent. Tutoring in small groups may not be as expensive as doing it individually, and can provide social and teamwork opportunities. Our family extrovert, C(9), loves her group guitar lesson, and both my children used to do group French lessons with a native speaker in a group of eight.

4. Workshops and clubs. For the social and collaborative benefits of being in a co-op, you could invite other homeschoolers to join your children in a workshop (or series of workshops). Patricia Zaballos’ Workshops Work: A Parent’s Guide to Facilitating Writer’s Workshops for Kids has me excited about starting a writers’ workshop for my kids and some of their friends at some point. Denise Gaskins, author of my favourite maths book Let’s Play Math, talks about how to start a homeschool maths club here.

homeschool help series

There’s a season for everything.  Just because we’re not in a homeschool co-op right now doesn’t mean I’m ruling it out for the future. But it’s good to know that even without being in a co-op, my children and I don’t have to miss out.

For more ideas about homeschool co-ops, head over to the other Homeschool Help ladies’ blogs.

Savannah @ HammockTracks talks about The Ins and Outs of Co-Ops and asks “Why are you participating?”

Hwee @ The Tiger Chronicle shares her afterthoughts about joining a co-op in  Our Co-op Experience

Julie @ Highhill Homeschool shares three different ways to run a co-op in How does homeschool co-op work?

Nicole @ One Magnificent Obsession talks about how to evaluate if a homeschool co-op is right for your family in The Co-op Question: Yeah or Nay?

In Creating Synergy Erin @ Seven Little Australians shares how she fosters synergy in a country where co-ops are not common

Bernadette @ Barefoot Hippie Girl talks about why she looks forward to organizing or joining a co-op in the next few years in Beneficial Co-op(eration)

Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses writes about moving forward in strength when she shares the load – Together Everyone Achieves More

How To Make Sure Your Kids Eat Healthily When You Don’t Enjoy Cooking

making pancakes

I don’t really like cooking. Sometimes I feel guilty about this – surely taking delight in serving up delicious home-cooked meals is a natural part of being a good mum? Then I remind myself that just because my own passions happen to lie elsewhere doesn’t mean I love my kids any less.

It seems unlikely that I’m the only homeschooling mum who feels this way, so this post is for anyone else out there who’s trying to make sure their children eat a healthy, balanced diet while spending the minimum amount of time in the kitchen. I’ll share my tips, and I’d love to hear yours.


When it comes to cooking, I want:

1. To make sure my family eat regular balanced meals

2. To provide access to healthy snacks

3. To make sure we all eat the better part of our five portions of fruit or vegetables a day

4. To encourage healthy eating habits for life

5. For my children to be able to cook for themselves by the time they leave home

Cool tools

Being very absent-minded right-brained and with a slightly crazy schedule, I need all the help I can get when it comes to getting food onto the table.

Apps are life-savers for the organisationally-challenged, and one in particular – MealBoard – has made a huge difference to me when it comes to cooking for my family.  (MealBoard isn’t available for android phones, but Food Planner seems very similar.  Or you could use an offline menu-planner, if you’re organised enough to keep track of paper.)


I’ve used MealBoard to plan my menus and shopping lists every week for the last three years. It cuts down the amount of time I have to spend planning our meals to about ten minutes a week – yay!

You do have to invest a bit of time at the start, loading your favourite recipes onto MealBoard. You can do this manually on the phone or a computer, or you can import recipes from fifteen different websites, including AllRecipes and BBC Good Food.

Balanced meals and family favourites

You can group recipes into your own categories. I categorise by:

  • food type (poultry,  pasta …)
  • meal type (lunch,  snacks, side dishes, crockpot meals …) and
  • people  (C(9)’s favourites, J(8)’s favourites …)

This means I can easily pull together a week’s worth of balanced menus and make sure everyone gets their favourite dish from time to time. I can plan crockpot meals for days we’re home late, and meals that require more preparation for less busy days.

MealBoard Screenshot - homeschool menu planning

Shopping lists

Once you’ve loaded your recipes, MealBoard lets you create a weekly shopping list at the touch of a button.

MealBoard Screenshot - homeschool menu planning

If I notice I’m running low on something mid-week – flour, say –  I can add it manually to my MealBoard shopping list.

Recycling menus

If you’re really clever, you can use MealBoard to cut down menu-planning even more by using templates. You can save and re-use as many menu plans (each up to a month long) as you like. So you could rotate two monthly menus, or save menus by month to reflect seasonal preferences.

I don’t use this function so much, perhaps because my kids’ tastes are still changing so our menus are gradually becoming more sophisticated. (Hey, did I just use the word “sophisticated” in a post about me cooking?)

Grocery Shopping

I do almost all my food shopping online at Tesco.  This does mean I sometimes miss out on tempting seasonal produce, but it does mean less waste and saves a huge amount of time.

I create my week’s grocery list on MealBoard, add in “My Usuals” stored on the Tesco website, and make sure I schedule delivery for when everyone’s around to help put away.

Teaching the children to cook

Perhaps unsurprisingly, neither of my children has shown much interest in cooking so far, but I’m encouraging them in small ways. C(9) makes her own sandwich for lunch most days, and she can also poach, boil and scramble eggs.

J(8)’s favourite lunch is rice and peas, which he can make but only by standing on a stool to reach our microwave, so I’m waiting until he’s a bit taller to expect him to get his own lunch daily!

Learning to cook at our home education centre
Learning to cook at our home education centre

The children also cook at our weekly home education centre visits, and – strangely – their French class!


When we switched to a low-gluten, sugar and dairy diet to help with J(8)’s sensory processing issues, pancakes (made with gluten-free flour and goats milk) became a favourite homeschool snack.

Both children enjoy making a bowl of pancake batter, and C(9) will even cook the whole stack for us to enjoy together while reading aloud. We serve our pancakes with fresh fruit, ham and sometimes a drop of agave nectar.

Muffin tin lunches
Muffin tin meals make food fun

To answer the frequent cries of “I’m hungry!” I make sure there’s always plenty of fruit available – usually apples, satsumas, grapes, strawberries, blueberries, melon and mango or pineapple.


I’m a big fan of the Brave Writer lifestyle, which involves a lot of cakes and cookies. Given my non-fondness for cooking, if it weren’t for our family’s dietary restrictions I probably wouldn’t bake our own – but even I can see that a warm home-baked cake on the table is much nicer than a shop-bought one. When I’m organised, I make a cake on a Sunday for us to enjoy over poetry teas, read-alouds and free-writes throughout the week.

poetry teatime
Poetry teatime with home-made gluten-free sugar-free  lemon cake

Our food routine

Fruit on a stick
Fruit on a stick

Breakfast – everyone gets their own (sugar-free) cereal, usually oat cereal or oatabix with goats’ milk

Mid-Morning snack – fruit or (gluten & sugar-free) pancakes

Lunch – C(9) makes her own sandwich. I make soup for myself and rice with vegetables for J(8)

Afternoon snack – fruit. If I remember, I get out the bamboo skewers. (What is it about eating  it off a stick that makes food more fun?)

Dinner – as dinner time approaches, I check MealBoard to see what’s on the menu. (I love how this makes me feel like someone else has done the planning for me.)

We eat all together at the table whenever we can. At weekends, my lovely husband (who likes cooking about as much as me) cooks a roast on Sunday and pizza, fajitas or burgers on Saturday.

Pancetta & veggies to serve with pasta - quick and nutritious - my kind of meal!
Pancetta & veggies to serve with pasta – quick and nutritious – my kind of meal!

I’d like to enjoy cooking.  I’ve tried many times over the years to inspire myself into getting better at it, but nothing seems to stick. It’s not that I dislike anything in particular about the process, it’s that there are so many other things I want to be doing instead.

During one of my attempts to enjoy cooking more,  I excitedly told my friend Diana (a mum of three, whose gorgeous meals cooked from scratch leave me in awe), “I’m learning to cook!”. She commented politely that in the twenty years she’d known me, I’d repeatedly described myself as “learning to cook”, and all the while I’d been managing to put food on the table. So perhaps I should acknowledge myself for what I do achieve!

More food for thought

Muffin Tin Monday – fun and creative meal and snack ideas

It’s Not About Nutrition – a blog about encouraging healthy eating habits. I’ve subscribed for a while and I like the message

Jamie’s Food Revolution –  A cookbook for beginners that even I can follow. (The UK edition is Jamie’s Ministry of Food)


More from the Homeschool Help team

For more inspiration on the subject of juggling cooking and homeschooling, check out these posts from the other members of the Homeschool Help team.

Cooking Tips For The Homeschool Mom  Savannah at Hammock Tracks says “Even if you don’t enjoy cooking, there are ways to conquer the “What’s for dinner?” question without calling Dominos!”

Nutritious Meals, Quick! Hwee at The Tiger Chronicle shares 3 simple tips that have helped her prepare nutritious family meals every day

Realistic Meal Planning For Homeschool Mums Nicole at One Magnificent Obsession on how to avoid eating at Chik Fil A every night

Strategies For Cooking Healthy For A Family Julie at Highhill Homeschool shares 5 strategies for preparing healthy meals when time is an issue

Plating Up Erin at Seven Little Australians says the key for her family to successfully juggling cooking is organisation

Hippie Method: Food Philosophied Bernadette at Barefoot Hippie Girl writes about how she makes easy, delicious (relatively) healthy food from scratch – almost every day

Coming up from the Homeschool Help team

Next week the Homeschool Help team will be talking about homeschool co-ops – why? or why not?




Homeschooling And Extra-Curricular Activities – How Much Is Too Much?

Homeschool help  1

“Do you make your daughter do so many extra-curricular activities because you feel guilty about taking her out of school?” asked a rather blunt acquaintance a few weeks after I began homeschooling my seven year old.

The question took me aback. For a moment I fell into anxious self-examination.

Was the woman right? Was I enrolling C(7) to every club going out of some paranoid fear that she was missing out, now that she was home-educated?

Then I remembered why C chose to be homeschooled.

Here was a child who enthusiastically threw herself at every opportunity (the more physical the better). Who at age six, looked up local judo clubs when I (concerned about our already busy schedule) dragged my heels following her request to learn it. A child so busy trying to fit in school, homework, her many sports, her artistic activities and playdates, that I barely saw her.

And when I did see her, it was as chauffeur and personal assistant to a tired and all too often grumpy little girl. Clearly, something had to go.

After some discussion, we realised that the obvious thing to let go of was school.

Without school and homework taking up the bulk of each day, C(7) was free to throw herself into her passions, see friends, enjoy plenty of downtime,  have a relationship with her family and learn everything she would have at school in much less time.

“No. My daughter left school so that she would have time do all these ‘extra-curricular’ activities.” I told the blunt woman.

Looking back, I wonder if the woman (who was planning to homeschool her two pre-schoolers) was feeling insecure about how few activities her own children did.

But comparing ourselves with others is a sure path to an unfulfilling and unsuccessful homeschooling experience. Only we know the needs of our own family.

In our home, my challenge is to balance the needs of the introverts (my son and me), with those of my extremely extroverted daughter. While J(8) and I crave quiet time immersed in our interests at home, C(9) wants to be out trying new things and meeting new friends.

I would love to be one of those homeschoolers who manage to limit their outside activities to one per child. But to C(9), sharing a house with a couple of introverts, that would be torture.

homeschooling and extra-curricular activities
C(9) in her element at a St George’s Day parade on Sunday

Our Activities

Here’s what our extra-curricular schedule looks like this term:

C(9)’s activities

Monday – karate

Tuesday – group guitar lesson, home-ed centre, gymnastics *

Wednesday – Cub Scouts, free swimming

Thursday – climbing

Friday – Stagecoach (3 hours of singing, drama and dance)

Sunday – rugby (September – April)

*Tuesdays also involve 2 hours driving – just don’t ask me to string a sentence together after 6pm

J(8)’s activities

Tuesday – home-ed centre

Wednesday – Occupational Therapy (1-1), swimming lesson

Thursday – climbing

Balancing everyone’s needs

So how do we introverts cope?

Some of C(9)’s activities are close to home, others involve J(8) and me waiting around for her.  We use waiting time to listen to audiobooks, walk in nature with our dog, read,  write and meditate (me), and play iPad games (J). We have our own headphones and, frankly, while C(9) – we love her very much! – is off talking to other people, we enjoy a bit of peace!

Looking ahead

As C(9) gets older I know her social needs are going to continue to challenge me – but I love that I get to spend so much time with my young bundle of energy.

If homeschooling her through the years to come means organising teen clubs and writing groups, art workshops and science co-ops, I’m up for it. She won’t be at home forever, and I want to make the most of every moment.

homeschooling extra-curricular activities - horse-riding
Horse-riding at her cousins’ house

How much is too much?

How many activities should your child do? Only you and your family can answer that. If two activities a week leaves you with no energy to do what’s important to you, then two is too much, no matter how outgoing your child is.

And if someone asks why you’re “making” your child do so much, just smile and know that you’re doing what’s right for your family.

The Homeschool Help team on extra-curricular activities

This post is part of the Homeschool Help series written by six different home-educating mothers from all over the planet.  I’ve been enjoying reading the series immensely, so I’m delighted to have joined the team.

The Tiger Chronicle – Any Room For Extras? A few ways to look at extra-curricular activities.

Barefoot Hippie Girl – Just A Homebody.  Picking and choosing what’s best for your family and life season.

Every Bed of Roses – It’s All About A Science Of Relations.  It’s not about how busy, it’s about building a memory.

Highhill Homeschool – Benefits Of Extracurricular Activities. Extracurricular activities are good for kids – mostly.

Hammock Tracks – Extra Curricular Activities And Family Goals. How do you choose when and where your children (or even you) participate in extra curricular activities?



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...