Another fresh new year! We’ve all been really enjoying chatting about a new rhythm and making space in our days for all the things everyone wants to do. We’ve added some new resources we’re really excited to use too, and I thought I’d share them with you!
We’re using a lot of the usual (art supplies, books, nature, etc) but as the older girls grow they are definitely adding in more resources to support their learning in lots of areas. This year we even have a highschool aged child! Wow! I guess that answers the question ‘what will you do when they get to highschool?’ Well, this. The same as usual!
It’s fascinating how they do grow and change and their interests become deeper and more complex. But, it’s also so awesome to see how it’s all still play. There is no ‘work’ and ‘play’. It is all enjoyable when you’re free to passionately pursue your interests in your own way. And isn’t that the goal? Wouldn’t everyone like their work to feel that way? I think so.
Here’s what we’re using to support that wonderful interest led learning this year…
Topping the list again this year is our community. Our unschooling group is one of our most vital resources. Time with friends every week is a top priority for everyone. They need hours and hours every week for free play with friends. We also do lots of cool stuff with our group such as markets, project fairs, talent shows, book club, discos, camps, etc. An essential part of our week!
This was on our list last year too and I am definitely including it again. One of the girls main interests is art, so this one has to be near the top of our list. We love Masterpiece Society.
This is the best art program we have found and the kids are not even close to outgrowing it. After more than a year of doing classes, they are nowhere near completing them all, and they never will be. More are added every year and the kids have not lost interest. There is such a variety of classes that you can always find something you want to do, they cover many different mediums and a range of ages. There’s something for all my kids on there. I find it particularly good for the older girls who have had many years of freely exploring art and are now wanting to learn particular techniques. The younger ones really like mixed media lessons.
In 2021 Masterpiece Society added lots of new courses including hand lettering (which Miss 11 was particularly excited about), nature journaling, LiterARTure, and drawing animals. In 2021 there are plans for courses on poetry and painting (really looking forward to this one!), abstract art for teens, and a medieval mixed media workshop. We cannot wait! This is staying firmly on my recommendations list, and for good reason. If you’re after more info, you can read more about it here.
Masterpiece Society Studio Membership (what we use) is opening for a limited time from Monday 18th Jan through Friday 22nd 2021. This is the best value option and means you get access to evvverryyyything! That’s ALL the courses on offer (currently $3700 worth!) You can read more or become a member HERE.
I’ve been eyeing off these chemistry kits for a while and the girls were lucky enough to receive a year subscription for Christmas from their grandparents. We’ve only had one box so far but I am so impressed! A few days before we planned to do the first experiment, I opened the boxes up to prepare myself. I expected that I’d need to read lots of instructions and that a lot of adult involvement was going to be necessary. Wrong! It was so simple.
The kits come with an app so you just set it up on the phone (they even give you a phone stand), the kids click through step by step and can do it all themselves. They literally did a chemistry experiment and I just watched. If you’ve got multiple children and you’ve ever tried to do an experiment with them I’m sure you know exactly how amazing this is. At the end there was even a video explaining exactly what happened in scientific terms!
Everything was included in the box (except a few batteries), and there was literally no prep needed from me. NO PREP! You just follow along with the instructions. That’s all I need to know, I’m sold. There’s even enough materials included to do the experiments more than once so it works well even though there are four kids who want to have a try at things. Definitely excited for all the experimenting we get to do this year!
Brave Writer Arrow Program
Last year we purchased the year-long Arrow program from Brave Writer. This is a mechanics and literature program you can read more about here. Basically, you read a novel every month together, and then the arrow guides you through the essentials in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It also contains fantastic questions that prompt great discussions about the book, and book club party ideas for the end of the month! We’ve been using them with our unschool group and the kids absolutely love it. Having a party with a theme and celebrating together really brings the book alive!
I first heard about the brave writer products when I read Julie’s book, which I loved. But to be honest, I thought they’d be boring. Understandable. I’d been taught that this stuff was boring at school. But as I thought more I wondered if my biases were limiting an opportunity for my kids here. So I decided to try one and see if the girls liked it (you can buy single issues). We were reading The Girl Who Drank The Moon at the time and I bought the arrow to go along with it. I really expected them to not want to do it but at least I’d feel ok that I’d given them the opportunity.
I was wrong. They were so interested! We had some awesome chats that I wouldn’t have really known how to facilitate otherwise, they even thought talking about grammar and punctuation was interesting. What? And here we are now doing a whole year of them! If you need some help in talking about this stuff with your kids (I do!), Brave writer has pretty much everything you need.
The girls enjoy math problems and often go through phases of asking me to write out endless sums for them to do. Guys, I’m all out of sums, ha! I can’t think up any more! And as they get older they also want something more complicated. Sometimes I print some out off the internet and one day when I was searching for some I happened to come across Matharoo.
Matharoo uses real-world problems from TV, news, social media, Australian nature, sport and pop culture, and I thought that was so awesome. The way math is often taught makes it seem so irrelevant to everyday life. The word problems I got in school were often pretty pointless and repetitive so I liked how these questions showed how math is used in many ways for real-world situations. Plus they often spark further discussion about current events, etc.
There is no way I could think up questions this interesting, and the older girls were definitely keen for more so we’ll be using the subscription this year. They are emailed out every week so we’ll always have them on offer for whenever they come asking for math problems! I also really like how there is no instruction on how to work things out. They are free to tackle the word problems in whatever way makes sense to them. This is always super interesting to me! Both of them have different ways of looking at things, and that’s just what the world needs.
You can read more about Matharoo and try them here.
More math! Sometimes they like using the computer for math problems. They go through phases of this. We tried Khan academy for a short time a few years ago, but it didn’t stick. We’re back this year though! The girls have been enjoying Prodigy Math for a while now, but it’s getting a little frustrating for them. At the beginning of each year it seems to reset and they have to do a placement test again, which annoys them. Sometimes they also need some more explanation when new problems are presented, and prodigy doesn’t give much of that. I think they will still use it but I also reminded them about Khan Academy.
The really great thing about Khan Academy is that it’s not just problems, it also teaches you. If you don’t know how to answer a question you can just watch a video and learn it first! Plus, it’s free! Everything is really well laid out and easy to navigate. There’s also way more than just math on there now, but we haven’t ventured into the other subjects. Maybe when they are older.
The girls love when I set up little activities for them to find. Just art invitations, story writing prompts, puzzles, etc. When we were chatting about the year ahead, they specifically asked if I could do this more often. Thankfully they got a bunch of awesome books for Christmas that are really going to help me out with this. A person only has so many ideas!
The Art Lab books are really great. Most of them have 52 ideas, so they last a whole year. They are fabulous for art ideas, and we also have the math and animation ones too. There are lots more in the series that I think we’ll be checking out when we’re done with these.
We’re still using Outschool this year! It comes and goes, depending on the kids’ interests and what’s on offer for our timezone. Generally, I find there’s a class on most things and it’s a really great resource for times when you want to talk to an expert on a subject!
Art supplies are a must. I try to keep them topped up because all the girls do art every day in one way or another.
Our essentials include:
Paints (watercolour, acrylic, poster paint, gouache, liquid watercolours)
Paper (normal, patterned, watercolour, card)
You can find all our favourites here.
I also wanted to mention this fabulous book we’re reading this year. It’s an Art History book, but it’s presented in a really interesting way.
“An enthralling journey through the story of world art, from early cave paintings right up to the present day. Discover artists and their art around the world, in 68 exciting and imaginative tales about artists and the way they created their work.”
Art History can be a bit dull. This book really brings it to life through story, and has us all captivated.
We have not listened to many podcasts before! It’s been something we’ve been meaning to do and the kids added it to the list of things they wanted to fit in this year. We decided on days we’re home, we’ll listen to them over lunch. Here’s what we’re starting with…
Letters from Afar
I signed up to Letters from Afar at the end of last year and we’ve only just started to look at. Aren’t they beautiful? You receive a letter in the mail each month from a different part of the world. Each letter contains a map, interesting information about the destination, and beautiful images.
I thought this would be a great way to learn about different parts of the world. We haven’t had any major interests in geography yet. They are always curious to learn about other countries when something prompts it though and I felt this was a good way to make sure there was enough of that happening!
Another subscription from the same people, this time about history! The kids have also been loving Yesteryear Gazette. And doesn’t everyone love receiving actual mail? Each month they get a newspaper detailing historical happenings from that month! It’s super cool and interesting. We’re learning so much! The stories often prompt further googling and always lots of discussion.
Miss 9 has been interested in coding for a couple of years now and we’ve tried a few different programs. As she’s getting older she’s outgrown them though and is really looking for a bit more. This year she’s trying out Code Changers. She has only just started delving into it but is so far loving it! She showed me a whole page of code she had written recently that looked liked gibberish to me but she was able to explain it all! The website is set out well enough that she is able to navigate everything herself and do the lessons independently. There is so much to learn and it seems just at the right level for her!
I definitely need to finish off my list with my brilliant planner again. I kept it up ALL YEAR last year. This has never happened before. I was a majorly haphazard record keeper. It is definitely down to finding the right planner for me! Mulberry is just so customisable that you get to make it exactly what you want. And that means it works perfectly for you and you keep using it! Win!
And even better, this year Mulberry designed some bonus pages especially for us! When you get your planner through this link, you also get SIX extra pages exclusive to Happiness is Here readers! Woop! Mulberry have kindly made up the templates for projects and interests, questions, etc, that I use (you can read more about how I use the planner here). PLUS a version of the weekly recording pages that go from Mon-Sun, because unschoolers learn every day, right? AND a little template for chatting with your kids and asking about what they would like to learn and create. I used this page at the beginning of the year to help us work out our rhythm and find out all the things the girls wanted to work on this year. I hope you enjoy the special bonuses from me!
And that brings me to the end of my list! It was quite a long one! And there was still more I could have included like nature, gardening, books, a daily rhythm! But I figure you get the point and you’re probably tired of reading. I hope it was helpful to you though!
Do you have any awesome resources to share with me?