Friday, July 24, 2020


I know a lot of parents are freaking out about having to school their children at home and think they aren’t capable of doing so because they are not teachers and they don’t know what curriculum or materials to buy.

I homeschooled my three children all the way through and I am now homeschooling my granddaughter since public schools in Maryland are going to be an online wreck. I thought I would give you some assurance and information on materials and I will add photos so you can see exactly what the materials look like. I will be speaking here mostly of grade school. Older children can still use the math program I recommend (and I recommend it for all levels of math through Trig and Calculus) and then for older children you can use a bought curriculum or just do lots of reading. No matter what make you do, just make sure they read quality stuff.... no junk books. Now to the grade school kids.

Firstly, anyone can teach young children. You do not need to be a teacher to teach them things you learned when you were eight years old! If you can read, you can teach. You are not managing a class, just your own kids (not that this is always easy!). And you do not need to teach all day, just a couple of hours is enough because you are tutoring.


THIS is the most important thing you can teach a child. They can learn anything else later. There really is no absolute time they need to learn math, history, geography, etc. But READING they really must learn to do and learn to do extremely well. Once they can read well, they pretty much can learn everything else in the world.

PHONICS!!! I cannot recommend this enough. Schools don’t teach phonics well enough these days and it shows. ALWAYS start your child with phonics and, if your child is already reading in some form, teach them phonics anyway. Once they learn how to decipher letters and sound groups (phonemes), they will become really great readers and have a lot of confidence.

Alpha-Phonics is a must. It isn’t all pretty with cutesy photos. It has pages of practicing sounds and words and IT WORKS! Do a page a day. Along with that book, they have a little set of reading books which are nice.

In the photo, you will see a set of cards to the left of the book. This is a set of 70 cards which have all the phonemes.  Above you will see an explanation about the 70 basic phoneme approach. To the right is just a fun Montessori toy which you spin the blocks to make different words out of the basic 5 short letters. To the right of that is The Writing Road to Reading which also uses the phonics approach but adds in writing. It is the one book which also has proper print letters (some workbooks have the weirdest print letters and I refuse to teach those methods of printing). With these phonics materials, your child will become an excellent reader and writer.

You will notice I have two boxes of BASIC SIGHT WORDS. One I got off Amazon from Carson Dellosa and the other are Fry’s First Hundred Words which I got off of Ebay. Although I feel phonics is the most important part of learning to read, it doesn’t hurt to have kids memorize words they will see the most in all their reading, especially those silly English words which do not follow phonics rules.


For early reading practice, I like McGuffey’s readers. They combine phonics with some sight words and have short little silly stories which are kind of nonsensical and have children and life from another century (I explained to my granddaughter these children have no phones, TV’s or cars to ride in!). But, they really do help in reading and she likes them! Dick and Jane have always been great first books and the First little Readers have cute easy stories.

You will also see a couple of books: Charlotte’s Web and Little House in the Big Woods. I read a chapter or more every day with my granddaughter. Why? Because these are quality books, with good morals, good stories, and bigger words, so she can improve her vocabulary. Also, she just learns a lot from them! We learned to make butter from cream (there is a little jar for eight bucks on Amazon that you shake for four minutes and you have delicious butter!) and a corn cob doll from Little House in the Woods. But, most importantly, and I cannot stress this enough, children do not become good readers with an excellent vocabulary and they do not learn wonderful things about the world from stupid, junk books. Too many parents and teachers believe that in order to entice a child to read, one should let them read all manner of badly written crap. I totally disagree. I think that is the road to failure. Instead, as they get older, have them read Heidi, Black Beauty, The Little Princess and the Secret Garden….the classics are classics for a reason. Then, when they get much older they will enjoy David Copperfield, To Kill a Mockingbird, Things Fall Apart, and Moby Dick. Fine writing makes for fine readers, fine writers and fine minds.

To that end, I have added a photo of the book, The Core by Leigh A. Norton’s about teaching your child a classical education.


SAXON! SAXON! Did I say SAXON? THIS is the best book ever created to learn math. It is incremental and that means, instead of doing a chapter on addition and then going on to subtraction and letting the student forget what they learned about addition, this book does constant review and keeps adding the next bit of material into the lessons. A very integrated, clear program. You child WILL learn math! And it is very easy for the parent to just do one lesson after another and not need to be a mathematician. No fancy pictures; just solid math.

Next to Saxon, I gave GO Math which is a Houghton Mifflin Harcourt School New Math practice book. I think it sucks (worst explanations ever and some stuff is idiotic) but I added this to my granddaughter’s curriculum to be sure she at least understand the new math methodology in case she returns to a regular school program. I don’t want her to have no clue what is happening. Above that book is a silly book, Do Not Open This Math Book, about new math which is written like a crazed teen with drawings and such but it does explain how it works. For parents who know nothing about new math, it can be a good tool for you to help you figure stuff out. People swear by it and I haven’t used it that much yet but I can see it has some purpose for new math understanding.

In the upper left of the photo you will see some Geometric Solids. These are just so cool! Love them and so does my granddaughter. Buy on Amazon. You will also see flash cards. These are the basic ones and then there are more at the higher numbers. I believe in flash cards so that your child can simply get these into their heads and know them answer in a second. Under those you will see Cuisinaire Rods. I love these as they are great for making equations and show how things work. They go up to ten and are good visuals.


Use anything! I bought a cute puzzle of the planets and we found a cute planet song on YouTube. We have a world puzzle and maps and books on geography, history, science, art. We have Highlights magazines (you can get a subscription or just buy a bunch off of eBay for way cheaper…doesn’t matter that they are twenty years old). Buy science experiments books or kits, take field trips to historical sites. Watch well-made movies on specific topics; volcanoes, the Revolutionary War, etc. Get books out of the libraries (when they open) or buy them at Amazon or eBay (I buy most for cheap there). AVI is one of my favorite authors who has great historical stories for children. For history, if you have teens, have them read the actual books of important people of history. Watch Hamilton (fabulous!) or 1776 (also fabulous and I think I like it even better than Hamilton!). There are so many ways to have your child learn about the world of today and yesterday. But, if you worry they are missing something, you can always follow any textbook for their age. All they need to do is learn about stuff; the order really doesn’t matter. Just be sure they LEARN things that they should like Africa is not a country! Just get them to be interested in everything! I took my granddaughter to an Indian restaurant for lunch the other week and she learned about food and art and culture. We also support four girls in India, helping them through to go to school. So, we have a connection that helps her be interested in learning about that country. Really, anything, do anything! And enjoy! And stop worrying.

So, to recap. READING is a must. MATH is the second necessity. Everything else you can just wing. Want them to learn a foreign language? Use any program! Want them to learn to play piano? They have cool piano lessons on the Internet. Have fun!

Oh, and kill the video games and television. I have always found those ruin kids for being interested in anything else.

PS. If I forgot to address anything here, I will try to add it in later.

If you have any questions, feel free to email me. I will try to get back to you.


Criminal Profiler Pat Brown
July 24, 2020


Anonymous said...

Great post!

Anonymous said...

Oh Pat, I really & truly feel phonics has led us to the point now that most children leave school unable to spell properly.

Pat Brown said...

Anon, what? Do you mean LACK of phonics?