Evolution Resources for Secular Homeschooling

Welcome to Favorite Homeschool Resources—a series sharing our best-loved secular books and workbooks. You can view all the posts in the series so far here.

What seems like a lifetime ago {actually autumn 2014} some much younger Agents and I visited the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. for the first time. The exhibits and displays in the Hall of Human Origins became a surprise hit, especially for {then} third-grade Agent E. 

Ever since we have spent at least part of each school year reading books focused specifically on evolution, including the big bang, early earth, Charles Darwin, and animal/human evolution.

Following are several evolution resources for secular homeschooling we have enjoyed throughout the years. We have used most of them as read-alouds, so in my opinion they would work for early elementary through middle school.

Even the ones in a more “picture book” style contain tons of great information and can provide excellent discussion starting points. Likewise, the more complex texts can be easily modified as well.

A row of colorful books on a bookshelf at the top and bottom. Text reads: Favorite homeschool resources, evolution.

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission—at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I have personally used and enjoyed. For more information read my complete disclaimer here.

Evolution Book Series We Love

Born With a Bang: The Universe Tells Our Cosmic Story 
From Lava to Life: The Universe Tells Our Earth Story 
Mammals Who Morph: The Universe Tells Our Evolution Story 

This series by Jennifer Morgan tells the story of the big bang, the formation of the earth, and mammal evolution from the perspective of the universe itself.

The first time we read these books I was not quite sold on the anthropomorphic characteristics angle. However, it is very well written and includes significant detail. {Not to mention the amazing pictures.}

The author also addresses her own faith {spoiler alert: she has a degree in theology} and the intentional decision to leave “god” terminology out of her work.

When Bugs Were Big, Plants Were Strange, and Tetrapods Stalked the Earth
When Dinos Dawned, Mammals Got Munched, and Pterosaurs Took Flight 
When Fish Got Feet, Sharks Got Teeth, and Bugs Began to Swarm 
They also appear in a single volume:
When Fish Got Feet, When Bugs Were Big, and When Dinos Dawned

These “cartoon prehistory” books by Hannah Bonner {published by National Geographic} have been a hit with the Agents for years. 

Two young primates sitting on a tree branch. Text reads: Evolution resources your students will love.

More Evolution Books We Love

Evolution Revolution
Life As We Know It

Quality resources that we have come to expect from DK. Neatly organized and colorful with just the right amount of detail. 

Evolution: The Human Story

This book is a bit advanced; it is definitely not written with a late elementary/middle school audience in mind. However, we take it slow and enjoy the stunning drawings along the way. Works great as a coffee table book as well.

Lucy Long Ago: Uncovering the Mystery of Where We Came From

A book about Donald Johanson’s discovery of Lucy, arguably the most well-known early hominid.

Have you incorporated any of these books into your evolution studies? Any other evolution resources for secular homeschooling you recommend? Click To Tweet

On the Origin of Species: Young Readers Edition adapted by Rebecca Stefoff

This edition of Darwin’s most famous work is also beautifully illustrated. We will likely use it as one of our primary texts for the next homeschool year.

{Side note: You may recognize Stefoff’s name from her work on Howard Zinn’s A Young People’s History of the United States.}

Who Was Charles Darwin?
Where Are the Galapagos Islands? 

The Who Was? book on the infamous naturalist as well as a separate book devoted to the area of the world he spent significant time during his adventures.

{Full disclosure: We have not actually read the Galapagos one, but we have read so many others from the who was, what was, and where is series of books I feel comfortable recommending it.}

Darkened night sky with dots of stars and galaxies. Text reads: Evolution resources for your homeschool.

Even More Evolution Books We Love

Animals Charles Darwin Saw: An Around-the-World Adventure
Bang! How We Came To Be
Big Bang! The Tongue-Tickling Tale of Speck That Became Spectacular
Charles Darwin’s Around-the-World Adventure
Older Than the Stars
One Beetle Too Many: The Extraordinary Adventures of Charles Darwin
Our Family Tree: An Evolution Story {We especially love this one! Our favorite evolution book to re-read every Darwin day.}
The Story of Life: A First Book About Evolution
What Darwin Saw: The Journey That Changed the World
What Mr. Darwin Saw


These are mostly picture books and simple biographies, but include lots of great information and can easily be adapted for older students. Face it, evolution is a complex topic to tackle, and everyone needs to start somewhere.

They are the kind of books you could read to a second grader or a seventh grader and they would both get something out of them. Many include extensive appendixes and/or book lists for further reading. 

Have you incorporated any of these books into your evolution studies? Any other evolution resources for secular homeschooling you recommend? Let me know in the comments! And don’t forget to check out the other posts in our favorite homeschool resources series.

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Favorite Homeschool Resources {Middle School Language Arts}

Welcome to Favorite Homeschool Resources—a series sharing our best-loved secular books and workbooks. You can view all the posts in the series so far here.

As a homeschool momma and lover of words, I love choosing language arts books with the Agents. Following are several homeschool resources for middle school language arts we recommend.

{Note: If you would like to peruse the books the Agents are reading for fun this year check out our Goodreads account.}

A row of colorful books on a bookshelf at the top and bottom. Text reads: Favorite homeschool resources, middle school language arts.

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission—at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I have personally used and enjoyed. For more information read my complete disclaimer here.

Middle School Language Arts Books We Love

Everything You Need To Ace English Language Arts in One Big Fat Notebook: The Complete Middle School Study Guide

As I mentioned in our list of favorite middle school math resources, this entire series has been a huge hit. The language arts book covers grammar, usage, fiction, nonfiction, and writing; and includes quizzes and reading lists.

Grammar: Write Here, Write Now
Punctuation: The Write Stuff  
Creative Writing: The Plot Thickens  

We love Basher Books! Each concept is introduced by a different character or group of characters {e.g., in Punctuation the Divide and Conquer Crew covers parentheses, dashes, hyphens ellipses, colons, and semicolons}. The chapters are relatively short, but you could also easily just read one page a day {in order, or not}.

Painless Grammar
Painless Writing

As with painless math, these make great reference books. We tried including them in our read-aloud time, but unlike the Basher books they were not particularly conducive to going through page by page. Still, great books to have around when you need to double-check a particular grammar rule or brush up on your writing mechanics.

Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook

Found this at the library randomly one day—we were not looking for a book like this at all—and the Senior Agents ended up loving it and re-reading it a few times each before it went back. Written by Anne Mazer and Ellen Potter, it is more motivation and inspiration for the writing life than how-to details. {Think Bird by Bird for your tween/teen.}

More Language Arts Books We {Still} Love

When I wrote about how to homeschool multiple ages together I addressed choosing excellent resources regardless of reading level. 

When teaching multiple grade levels sometimes your book choices won’t be a perfect fit for everyone. It is okay if what you are reading is “too simple” for your oldest and “too much” for your youngest. If you read a variety of books—and a lot of them—it will balance out. And sometimes you just want to re-read some fun titles because it’s your homeschool and you don’t need to follow arbitrary rules.

That’s how we feel about these next several selections. Your mileage may vary with how your own middle schoolers view including these “young” titles. Mine personally find them more sweet and nostalgic than groan-worthy. {Also, I still have one student in elementary, so it works for us.}

A Mink, a Fink, a Skating Rink: What Is a Noun?  
To Root, To Toot, To Parachute: What Is a Verb?
Feet and Puppies, Thieves and Guppies: What Are Irregular Plurals?  
How Much Can a Bare Bear Bear? What Are Homonyms and Homophones?

These are just a few examples of the Words are CATegorical series by Brian P. Cleary, which provide an introduction to the parts of speech and basic grammar concepts. They are all roughly 30 pages and have lots of illustrations with only a sentence or so on each two-page spread. Simple enough for early elementary yet my middle schoolers still find them entertaining {and quaint}.

He also writes The Punctuation Station, a fun journey of animals trying to find their way to the correct train with the help of savvy punctuation marks.

When teaching multiple grade levels sometimes your book choices won’t be a perfect fit for everyone. It is okay if what you are reading is “too simple” for your oldest and “too much” for your youngest. Click To Tweet

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: Why, Commas Really Do Make a Difference!
The Girl’s Like Spaghetti: Why, You Can’t Manage Without Apostrophes!  
Twenty-Odd Ducks: Why, Every Punctuation Mark Counts! 
Eats MORE, Shoots & Leaves: Why, All Punctuation Marks Matter! 

Lynne Truss writes these cool punctuation books, which illustrate quite comically just how important punctuation can be, and what happens when you get it wrong. They are all an easy, one-sitting read aimed at grades 1 through 4, but can provide a fun review for older students as well. 

{Yes, it’s the same Lynne Truss who wrote the “grown up” version of Eats, Shoots & Leaves.}

Happy Endings: A Story About Suffixes 
Nouns and Verbs Have a Field Day 
Punctuation Takes a Vacation 
Silent Letters Loud and Clear 

Robin Pulver takes a humorous look at the English language in these books {just a sampling here}, which cover parts of speech, spelling, and punctuation. Several chronicle the adventures of Mr. Wright’s {right} class, in which a group of elementary students come to appreciate just how important good grammar is. Others include Miss Doover {do over}. Like the Lynne Truss books, these are aimed at elementary students, but appropriate {if not silly} for older students as well.

Look At My Book: How Kids Can Write & Illustrate Terrific Books 

Of all the creative writing books we’ve tried, the Agents like this one by Loreen Leedy the best. It includes step-by-step guidelines for young wannabe authors to plan, draft, edit, and illustrate their own works. Even now that they are older, they still return to the simple yet concrete guidelines this text provides.

Old-fashioned ink pen writing pointed at a lined notebook page with a few indecipherable words written. Text reads: middle school language arts resources your students will love.

Middle School Language Arts Workbooks We Love

I’ll be honest: We’ve never found a complete curriculum of homeschool resources for middle school language arts we felt strongly about. Or even one that covered just mechanics or just writing.

{I know what you’re thinking, and nope not even that one. Or that one. Or even the one pretty much every homeschooler I have ever known raves about.}

However, we still need something specific for practicing skills, and we love a good workbook, so . . . we have found the following to be great for getting in written language arts practice without committing to a curriculum. 

As with others we have come across, you will find that many do not go past sixth grade {again disappointing my workbook-adoring children}.

Brain Quest Workbook Grade 6 

Brain Quest also covers math, science, and social studies, and provide an excellent overall review for the school year. In the language arts section specifically, the sixth grade version includes spelling and vocabulary; literature comprehension; research and analysis; writing; pronouns and punctuation; and metaphor and meaning.

Language Arts: Grade 6 
Reading Skills: Grade 6 
Writing Skills: Grade 6 
Spelling Skills: Grade 6 

Flash Kids Harcourt Family Learning offers tons of specific practice in multiple areas. You can chose to have them all in rotation at the same time or focus on one topic/workbook.

{Note: While I have seen a few similar titles for grades 7 and 8, they appear to be much older editions and not as readily available, which is why I have only linked the grade 6 workbooks here.}

Spectrum Language Arts Grade 6 
Spectrum Reading Grade 6 
Spectrum Writing Grade 6 
Spectrum Spelling Grade 6 
Spectrum Vocabulary Grade 6 

{Spelling and Vocabulary stop at grade 6.}

Spectrum Language Arts Grade 7 
Spectrum Reading Grade 7 
Spectrum Writing Grade 7 

Spectrum Language Arts Grade 8 
Spectrum Reading Grade 8 
Spectrum Writing Grade 8 

We love that the Spectrum workbooks includes several options for later grades. Because of this it has quickly become one of our favorite go-to series for written work.

Have you and your students read any of these homeschool resources for middle school language arts? Let me know your thoughts in the comments! And don’t forget to check out the other posts in our favorite homeschool resources series.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also sign up to receive new posts via our monthly e-mail newsletter here.

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Homeschooling Update {December}

December was not nearly as chaotic as November, although I do feel like it rushed right on by. Looking forward to a productive and organized new year, in our homeschooling and beyond. 

We are still in the midst of numerous home improvement projects—and still unpacking from the move—so I am personally feeling a bit unsettled. Hoping that by January’s update we will be feeling much more together and be ready to share photos of our new spaces.

Two evergreen trees with lights; one slightly blurred. Text reads: December secular homeschooling update.

Homeschool Antics

While not intentionally, we seemed to slow our homeschooling schedule a bit between Thanksgiving and the New Year. We have never been much for taking a lot of time off around holidays, but this year we dealt with more obstacles than usual this time of year {e.g., contractors working in the house during the day, not having everything we need unpacked, not getting settled into a “new house” routine soon enough}.

Moving forward, though, I want to be back on track with our typical {albeit flexible} schedule by the end of January. Even though we homeschool year round I still feel like the start of the new year is a good time to pause and evaluate. 

We have plans to get together with some local homeschoolers next week, so I am hoping the Agents can make some connections as well. 


Holiday Traveling

We spent a few days between Christmas and New Year’s visiting relatives out-of-state—as always, mostly nice but definitely exhausting. 

The cat showed his displeasure with being boarded at the cat hotel by hissing at me excessively upon our return. I was not particularly impressed with the place we chose; I think the next time we travel we will look for someone who can come to our home a few times to feed and check on him. 

{Our previous aloof cats would have been fine for up to a week without us, but this high-maintenance one needs fresh wet food every day due to his lack of teeth.}

Blogging {and Other} Ambitions

In addition to my usual grandiose plans for the new year—you know you have them, too—I will be incorporating a number of blogging goals into future posts. I hope you will follow along throughout the year and share some of your intentions as well. We’re all in this together.

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Favorite Homeschool Resources {Middle School Math}

Welcome to Favorite Homeschool Resources—a series sharing our best-loved secular books and workbooks. You can view all the posts in the series so far here.

One thing we have discovered—to our disappointment—is that many homeschool resources for middle school math tend to assume homeschoolers prefer video lessons. {Actually, I find this assumption to be prevalent with a lot of subjects, not just math.} Even some “text-based” programs have DVDs and online supplements to be used in conjunction. 

However, we tend to be book people, and so our favorite homeschool resources for middle school math reflect that. Following are several book series and workbook options we recommend.

A Different Kind of Math Book

I’ll be honest; these are not your typical textbook-style, teacher-led books. If you are looking for something that provides daily lesson plans and clear do this, then do that instructions, these may not be the resources for you. 

In many cases they are more math stories than math instruction. They also assume you already have a solid foundation of elementary school math. We enjoy them because they introduce math concepts in a more engaging way, and we don’t mind digging in and figuring out the specific how-to on our own. Truthfully we re-read some of them every school year just because they are fun—even after they seem a bit “young” for our current students. If that sounds like your jam, read on. 

A row of colorful books on a bookshelf at the top and bottom. Text reads: Favorite homeschool resources, middle school math.

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission—at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I have personally used and enjoyed. For more information read my complete disclaimer here.

Middle School Math Books We Love

Everything You Need To Ace Math In One Big Fat Notebook: The Complete Middle School Study Guide 

We absolutely love this entire series of books! Agent E worked her way through the math one for her sixth grade year. It provides an excellent review of basic concepts and a great foundation for getting started with algebra and geometry. 

I’ll be honest; these are not your typical textbook-style, teacher-led books. If you are looking for something that provides daily lesson plans and clear do this, then do that instructions, these may not be the resources for you.  Click To Tweet

Algebra and Geometry: Anything But Square!
Math: A Book You Can Count On 

The Basher Books have been long-time favorites around here. They are so much fun to read, and introduce complex ideas in a fun way. My only criticism is that if you don’t already have a passing knowledge of the terms used, some of the quirky phrasing might go over your head. 

Mathematicians Are People, Too: Stories From the Lives of Great Mathematicians {volume 1}
Mathematicians Are People, Too: Stories From the Lives of Great Mathematicians {volume 2}

We read these a few years back and really enjoyed learning more about the people behind the math. I always especially love digging into the contributions of the women who have traditionally been left out of the discussion. 

Painless Pre-Algebra
Painless Algebra 
Painless Geometry

Truth: We like this series, but not enough to own it . . . yet. They make terrific reference books, and come in handy if you can’t quite remember the right rule or formula and need a quick way to look it up. {They also have a great language arts series.}

More Math Books We {Still} Love

Sir Cumference and All the Kings Tens
Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi
Sir Cumference and the Off-the-Charts Dessert
Sir Cumference and the Roundabout Battle

These are just a few examples of what’s available in the series. Okay, so these aren’t 100% aimed at middle schoolers. But . . . we love them so much and have read all of them every year since Agent E was about second grade. Each story shares a different adventure {set in the world of knights and castles} that ultimately teaches a simple mathematical concept.

What’s Your Angle, Pythagoras?
Pythagoras and the Ratios

These are fictionalized versions of what Pythagoras might have been like as a mischievous youth, and super fun to read. Again, more geared toward slightly younger students, but favorites we keep coming back to even as the Agents grow.

Open math workbooks sits next to a wire-bound graph paper book and a mechanical pencil. Text reads: Middle school math resources your students will love.

Middle School Math Workbooks We Love

Of course we also need to practice the skills we read about. My students all love a good workbook. I know “worksheets” get a bad rap in homeschooling circles, but it is so convenient to have a nice, bound book of review problems arranged by topic or grade. These are some of our favorite written practice resources for middle school math.

Brain Quest Workbook Grade 6
Math Skills: Grade 6 {Flash Kids Harcourt Family Learning}
Math: Grade 6 {Skill Builders}

You will find that many workbook series only go up to sixth grade, which is kind of a bummer when you have homeschool kids who love workbooks, like mine do. These are a few that we loved for early middle school, but sadly they do not have seventh and eighth grade equivalents.

Algebra: Grades 6-8 {Skill Builders}
Geometry: Grades 6-8 {Skill Builders}

The Skill Builders series, however, does include algebra and geometry for this age/grade range. We like these for the extra practice; however, they are not very descriptive when it comes to actually explaining the process or how one arrives at the answer. I recommend these particular workbooks are best used for review.

Spectrum Math Grade 6
Spectrum Math Grade 7
Spectrum Math Grade 8
Spectrum Algebra Grades 6-8
Spectrum Geometry Grades 6-8

This series from Spectrum {which also includes language arts and science} is one of the few that includes options for seventh and eighth grades. In addition to the ones listed here, they also have workbooks for middle school math covering word problems, critical thinking, and statistics. 


Practice Makes Perfect Algebra 1
Practice Makes Perfect Geometry

We already loved the Spanish workbooks from this series, so we decided to check out the math ones as well. What I love most about these workbooks is that they give more detailed explanations of how to do the problems. Unlike many of the others, they are not just practice/review problems with limited context. Instead, it offers more of a textbook/workbook hybrid—perfect if you have a student who prefers reading about concepts and figuring them out rather than watching a video presentation. 

Have you tried any of these fabulous homeschool resources for middle school math? Let me know what you thought in the comments! And don’t forget to check out the other posts in our favorite homeschool resources series.

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also sign up to receive new posts via our monthly e-mail newsletter here.

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Homeschooling Update {November}

November breezed right by in a whirlwind of packing, cleaning, traveling, hotel living, and unpacking. Of course homeschooling got done—as it always does—but what a reminder of how grateful we are to be able to engineer our days the way we can.

I cannot imagine having to toss register three kids for two new schools and get them caught up and adjusted and—oh, by the way—drive them to and from said schools from a hotel across town every day for two weeks into the mix. No thanks.

Cornucopia decorated with fall leaves and filled with various vegetables sits on a wooden table. Text reads: November secular homeschooling update.

The Move

Well, the biggest news for this month is that we completed our cross-country move from San Diego, CA to Virginia Beach, VA. We shipped our household goods {and cars} the first week of November, then flew out with five humans, four suitcases, and one feline on Friday, 8 November. Truly an all-day process—not to mention “losing” three hours with the time zone change—but we survived and have happily settled into being east coast residents once again.

We spent a total of fifteen days in two different hotels. Thankfully the Agents go with the flow with that sort of thing and did not completely disintegrate. We tried to get out and about and not go stir crazy, but it was cold and rainy most of the time, and then I ran over a nail and the car was out of commission for a bit. At least they can mostly entertain themselves and make things generally more survivable now than when they were all babes. 

The House

The house we moved into is actually not “new” to us—it is the same house Hubby and I lived in when we first married back in 2003, and where toddler Agents E and J lived until we moved to Naples, Italy in early 2010. {Agent A had never lived here; I was six weeks pregnant when we moved out.} 

However, after years of keeping it as a rental property, the house needed a lot of love. Luckily, my fabulous husband is good at all the things, and he has been making repairs, painting the entire inside, and generally creating a livable space again. We also replaced the carpeting upstairs, acquired a few new kitchen appliances, and will soon have new flooring downstairs as well. 

I feel like we usually have more things unpacked and put together at this point {we’ve been in the house for twelve days now} but we’re taking it a bit slower this time and making sure everything is the way we want it long-term. Still hoping to put up the tree and decorate this weekend and hopefully have the place looking like “home” by Christmas. {We will keep Christmas simple like we usually do.}

The Anniversary

While the move certainly took up a lot of our emotional bandwidth this month, I personally also passed a difficult anniversary. My dad died five years ago, a week before Thanksgiving 2014. Honestly, the time leading up to the holidays will never be the same again, always overshadowed. 

In reality it has been six years since I could have a real conversation with him, as he was pretty ill and out of it most of that entire last year. Contrary to popular platitudes, time does not make it easier, just different. 

For my friends who also miss someone this time of year, I get it. I have written about some of the ways I have processed everything as a non-religious person {because everyone always seems to want to bring the god angle into it} if you’d care to check it out.

The New Obsession

We always manage to find a new silly thing to obsess over, and during this particular moving adventure we discovered a new favorite show while having access to cable TV at the hotel. If you have not seen We Bare Bears on the Cartoon Network, we highly recommend. {It also has several—although not all—the episodes on Netflix.} 

Why this crazy little spectacle has become such a hit with the Agents, I do not know. However, I would be willing to bet that Bear merchandise will be dominating our Christmas shopping this year. 


The Homeschooling

Yes, we have been “doing” school through all of the craziness as well. We traveled with several books and workbooks, and also visited two new libraries while still living at the hotel. While I wouldn’t say we were up to 100% during this month, we did accomplish quite a bit given everything else going on. 

We have eased back into our loop rotation and will hopefully be back into more of a predictable routine for December. No doubt that will also include exploring the town, the zoo, the aquarium, and even more library branches. 

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also sign up to receive new posts via our monthly e-mail newsletter here.

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Homeschooling Update {October}

We usually do not take an official “fall break” in our homeschool for the same reasons we do not take summer break—it is just easier to chug along more or less continuously unless we have a specific reason for scheduling time off. 

The month of October, however, has been sort of a whirlwind of travel and organizing and moving plans, so we will likely take probably one full week off soon—possibly two—while we prepare to sell the house and relocate. 

Autumn leaves still on the branches with a sunny sky as the background. Text reads: October secular homeschooling update.

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission—at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I have personally used and enjoyed. For more information read my complete disclaimer here.

We started the month with a trip to Hawaii—a first for Momma and the Agents, although hubby has been several times for work. Last week we took a cruise {Disney, of course} to Mexico as our final big travel on the west coast. 

Now we are pretty much in crunch mode for cleaning and planning and packing. School is still happening every day, but we are going through a bit of a slower period and mostly trying to get to a good stopping point in all of our subjects. Our library bookshelves look very empty compared to their usual. 

This is just how homeschooling looks for us right now. We have made it through many transitions and I do not stress about what we are getting done {or not getting done} because I know it will all balance out. Homeschooling year round means less pressure when life happens.


We plan to travel with a minimized collection of materials, and spend a lot of time checking out our new town. {Which is not technically new to all of us; hubby and I lived there from when we married until the Senior Agents were toddlers.} 

While getting a new library card will be high on our agenda, we will also travel with a few books. Since we will be in transition for most of November, we plan to include two favorites for this time of year: Mayflower 1620: A New Look At Pilgrim Voyage and 1621: A New Look At Thanksgiving

By next month’s update post, we should be in our new home and somewhat settled and back into our groove. 

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How To Homeschool: Teaching Multiple Grade Levels Together

Welcome to How To Homeschool—a series addressing all aspects of secular homeschooling. You can view all the posts in the series so far here.

Anyone homeschooling more than one child will at some point face the issue of teaching multiple grade levels together. For the 2019-2020 homeschool year we have students in 8th, 6th, and 3rd grade. So, one preparing to wrap up middle school, one just beginning middle school, and the youngest right about the grade we start kicking expectations up a notch

In traditional public or private school, they would obviously be in different classes, and the older two would likely be in an entirely separate school. Here at The Oscar Darwin Homeschool for Happy Humans {yes; that is our official name}, however, we have no choice but to make a mixed-age “classroom” work.

Following are a few tips for teaching multiple grade levels together. I realize our students are not that far apart in age {currently 13, 11, and almost 9} so this may not work as well if you have, say, a 6-year-old and a 16-year-old. But we have used these ideas and you may find them helpful as well.

Sharpened colored pencils in order from light to dark form a semi-circle. Text reads: How to homeschool, teaching multiple grade levels together.

This post contains affiliate links. I receive a small commission—at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase. I only recommend products and services I have personally used and enjoyed. For more information read my complete disclaimer here.

Work Together, But Independently

I find it useful to have everyone doing the same kinds of things together, even if they work at different levels. For instance, all three students sit at the table and work on math and language arts simultaneously, using student-appropriate material at their own pace. 

This will give your homeschool more of an old-fashioned one-room schoolhouse feel, which can greatly benefit everyone. It makes it easier to switch gears if everyone is doing written work as opposed to one student completing a reading assignment, one working on science experiment, and one solving math problems on the whiteboard. Often I sit with them and do my own “work” {blogging drafts and planning} at the same time. 

Here you can also enlist the help of your older students; they can help the younger ones if a problem arises while you offer one-on-one help to another sibling.

You Do Not Need To Stay At Grade Level

For the most part, it is totally fine if what you study does not follow typical grade level expectations. If chemistry fascinates your second grader, go for it. If your middle schooler wants to cover algebra and geometry in the same year, great. 

I used to be a huge fan of checking those “what do second graders need to know” and “which subjects are typically covered in sixth grade” kinds of websites and books. And, truth be told, sometimes I still do. 

However, these are all just suggestions and averages. While certain concepts do build on each other, there is no reason why you can’t mix it up. 

You probably remember from your own school experience there were specific subjects you learned in certain grades and that was just the way it was. But why? Obviously some areas need more order than others {I would not ask my third grader to factor polynomials} but most of it can be pretty arbitrary. 

For the most part, it is totally fine if what you study does not follow typical grade level expectations. Click To Tweet

Do we need to explore the life cycle of a butterfly in first grade? Do all fourth graders need to know their state history just exactly then? Did it matter what year you took biology versus physics? 

When you consider possibilities beyond “do this because you’re in this grade” teaching multiple grade levels together based on interest becomes much easier. 

Open book with two pages wrapped into the shape of a heart. Text reads: How to homeschool, teaching multiple grade levels together.

Choose Excellent Resources Regardless of Reading Level

When teaching multiple grade levels sometimes your book choices won’t be a perfect fit for everyone. It is okay if what you are reading is “too simple” for your oldest and “too much” for your youngest. If you read a variety of books—and a lot of them—it will balance out.

I touched on this a bit when I discussed exposure over mastery in 3 Things That Might Surprise You. I strongly believe sharing good ideas from quality resources is more important than translating everything into a teachable, testable moment.


For example, during  the Senior Agents’ 3rd and 5th grade years, we read Evolution: The Human Story by Dr. Alice Roberts. This is a great book, but it is not geared toward kids at all. It is extremely dense with information and graphics, and we had to take it very slow. We even skimmed parts. But, they loved it, and wanted to re-read parts of it a few years later, when more of it began to click for them.

As another example, since Agent E {now 8th grade} started 1st grade or so we have been reading the Words are Categorical series of books by Brian Cleary every year. This collection covers parts of speech and grammar in a whimsical way with lots of examples. It is definitely geared toward younger students and can be kind of silly and even cheesy. But, we can read them very quickly and they provide a great overview each year when we begin our grammar studies. 

Are you teaching multiple grade levels together? Do you have any additional advice to share? Next we will look more closely at creating a realistic homeschooling routine. I encourage you to check out the other posts in the How To Homeschool series as well. 

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Homeschooling Update {Weeks 13 and 14}

Hope everyone is enjoying the final days of September. Starting in October I am going to move to monthly homeschooling updates, posting a summary at the end of the month instead of every Sunday. Because—as evidenced by the title of this post—weekly updates are apparently too much for me to keep track of.

We did have a couple of lovely homeschooling weeks, though. I feel that we have accomplished a lot in the first three months of the school year, and we have settled into a content groove. Of course, we will be uprooting all of that soon with yet another move. But more on that later. 

Sharpened colored pencils in order from light to dark form a semi-circle. Text reads: Homeschooling update weeks thirteen and fourteen.

In the meantime we will be doing some traveling. If you follow along on Instagram you can {temporarily} expect to see more photos of humans and beaches and landmarks and fewer photos of cats.


As I was thinking about our upcoming plans, I realized I have not made any attempt to tie our trip to our homeschooling. We went to two libraries this week, and I did not search for a single book on our destination. We plan to make a trip to a very significant historical landmark, and I did not incorporate it into our history studies. There are numerous books and movies I can think of just off the top of my head that we could have read and watched just for fun and I did not even consider them.

Am I even a homeschool parent at this point?

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Homeschooling Update {Week 12}

One of the many things I love about homeschooling is the scheduling freedom it provides. We do not have to choose between going to school and worrying about what is going on at home, or staying at home and worrying about what we might be missing at school. 

This week our adorable kitty needed some intense work done by a veterinary dental specialist. The Agents, of course, are very attached to this feline and just had to be there in the waiting room the entire time. Then after we returned home, they wanted to be close by and make sure he was okay. 

Luckily we were able to decide to forgo school for the day, knowing we can make it up later. Instead we focused all our energy on making sure our sweet cat principal stayed safe and healthy. Not like they would have been able to concentrate on anything else, anyway.

I am happy to report that Oscar {Agent O} is doing great. He is down to just six teeth now. Adult cats typically have 30 teeth. He came to us two years ago with about half already missing. They removed some remaining ones that were causing him issues, but I don’t think he will even notice. He is very capable of compensating and has adjusted well to life with minimal teeth.

Sharpened colored pencils in order from light to dark form a semi-circle. Text reads: Homeschooling update week twelve.

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This week we added a new art book to our loop schedule: Rachel Ignotofsky’s Women in Art. It just came out this week {we had pre-ordered it} so we haven’t really gotten a chance to take a careful look at it, but I think it will be a welcome addition. 

She also authored another of our favorites, Women in Science, which we read last year and will probably add into this year’s loop schedule at some point as well.


We are very close to wrapping up our review of the first 20 lessons of Coffee Break Spanish, although I am a bit torn on how to proceed. I feel that we are mostly ready to move on to lessons 21-40, yet as I pointed out in last week’s update we could always use more frequent practice, especially with conversation. For now, though, it seems to be our most successful attempt at foreign language learning so far.

Agent E {grade 8} has been working through the series Practice Makes Perfect Spanish, which is very thorough and will give her a great foundation for high school or even college level Spanish. Of all of us, she would definitely be the most prepared if we ever had to rely on our Spanish writing or speaking skills. 

Should be business as usual here the next few weeks, then a bit of travel planned for October. How was your week? Any exciting plans coming up?

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Homeschooling Update {Week 11}

We spent the weekend at Disneyland—probably our last visit for a while—and I should know better than to think I am going to accomplish anything other than laundry and maybe feeding people the evening we come home from any Disney trip.

This was the first time we stayed “on property” at one of the resort hotels, and it definitely cut down on the amount of travel time. However, unlike at Walt Disney World, I wouldn’t consider it a necessity, because everything is much more contained to start.

The Grand Californian is a pretty sweet hotel {and expensive; we used DVC points for our room}. Unfortunately with just a two-night stay we did not have the opportunity to check it out as much we would have liked. The Agents have already requested a return visit so we can spend more time taking advantage of the amenities. 

Sharpened colored pencils in order from light to dark form a semi-circle. Text reads: Homeschooling update week eleven.

We had a four-day week {we did school on Labor day, but left for Disneyland on Friday}. I like that with our loop scheduling this year we do not feel behind when we miss a day. 

One tweak I might make to our loop, however, is to rotate Spanish in twice. I feel that we need to bump up our lessons to every other or every third day. Especially if we are going to have any chance of practicing our conversation skills with an acquaintance we will see next month. 


Because we start the school year so early the Agents have already finished up a few workbooks and projects. So now I am back to my continual mission to find the best way to organize and store completed work. 

We have eight years for Agent E, six years for Agent J, and four years for Agent A. Right now it resides in a combination of boxes and plastic bins, which is not optimal. What kind of storage solutions have you come up with for keeping your students’ work? 

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