Monday, 4 June 2012

The best freebies for home education/ homeschooling. Free books, ebooks and games.

Home Education on a budget:
I'd like to say when deciding where, or in fact whether to send my child to school, that his well being was the only consideration. I'd like to say that, but , like most families, finances did play a role in our decision. I had ruled the local schools out, but if money had not been an issue, I might very well have tried a private school such as Steiner education. I do  spend far too much on books and science toys, but I also take advantage of as many free resources as possible. This is my list of free online resources - some of which are really phenomenal. The first two have collections of complete online ebooks  which your child can read absolutely free of charge. I have rated these on a 5 star rating basis, but I have not listed any sites which I would give less than 3 stars. If the site has no stars it simply means I haven't used it enough to give a fair rating. In addition, at the very bottom I have posted an online review site for adults. By writing reviews I have been able to earn free Amazon vouchers - which have translated into quite a few free books for our home education programme.

Oxford Owl - reading and maths:
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This site now contains both reading and maths, but the maths section is new and still very limited. It is  recommended for ages 3-8, but we did use it with my youngest from age two. Of course a parent's help will be required with a very young child. This site is an absolute treasure trove for home educators. It has some excellent articles for parents on helping your child learn, fun games, but best of all it has  massive online library with 105 free full length ebooks you can listen to the computer read the story, or turn the sound off and let your child read themselves. These are top quality, fully illustrated books by well known authors, exactly like the books you would buy in a books store except online instead of in print. These books are all graded, or levelled for developing readers, so not only can you find just the right level for your child to enjoy these, you can also use this site to determine the correct level if ordering graded readers. If I had to choose just one free online web site for home education - this would be it.

Starfall Phonics - reading
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Toddlers - to about age 8.
The main areas are:
"ABC's - Let's get ready to read" which teaches the alphabet and sounds with fun games and animations.
"Learn to Read - Zac the Rat and other tales" . This section is truly amazing with 15 complete phonetic story books, animations and several games to teach children to read.
"It's Fun to Read" a collection of poetry, games and music for the newly emergent reader.
"I'm Reading" a collection of 14 complete online fiction and non fiction books for early readers, plus world folktales, Greek Myths, Chinese Legends, plays and comics.
This site is completely free, you do not even need to register to use any of these activities, but they have developed another section for paid memberships.  But the free section alone is one of the  very best sites I have found, and includes a wealth of online reading material and games. This site really helped so much with teaching my oldest to read at age 5. The animations showing phonics rules like when "two vowels go  walking, the first one does the talking" and a brilliant song / animation showing how the silent e makes the long vowel song. My youngest at age 3, has been enjoying the alphabet games lately. He especially loves the games where he separates upper case and lower cases letters.
I  still use this with my 7 year old for the more advanced books and myths and legends.

Jump Start World, Math Blaster and Knowledge Adventure - all subjects
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Ages 2 -12
All three of these sites are owned by the same company, Knowledge Adventure but only the last site is completely free of charges. I have decided to include Jumpstart Virtual world and it's sister site Math Blaster because both sites do offer a limited amount of play for free. I have to admit I have been a member of this site for 3 years now and joined the day after discovering it, so my knowledge of the free portion of the sites is limited, but it is certainly worth a try. Membership does cover both sites, and after paying for a month I bought a lifetime membership, which I consider one of the best investments I have ever made for my children's education.

Oxford Project X  free worksheets  - reading.
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This site is limited as it designed primarily to promotes Oxford's Project x books. It does however offer a wealth of advise for parents on helping children read, and in particular, encouraging boys to read. It also offer a number of free worksheets to print up in teacher resources, as well as fascinating look at how CGI illustrations are created for the children. While the website will be most useful to families using the Project X books, most of the worksheets could be used without the books with very minor adaptations.

The series itself is, in my opinion the most exciting development in children's reading since Dr. Seuss started his "I can read it all by myself " series. These books are truly innovative and original and in our experience, have worked miracles with my sons reading development as he has eagerly poured through these books, from level 1 to level 9 in a matter of months. He was just desperate to get to "the good books", a continuing series of adventures stories featuring four children who can shrink down to pocket sized and must save the world from the evil Dr X. Within a year he had made it to level 16, which is as high as Oxford readers go. He did start outgrowing these stories by the time he reached level 14, but this is only because Oxford's Project X had developed his reading to such a degree that he was able to move on to paperbacks, and soon thereafter, young adult  and graphic novels.

Other free educational sites:

Multiple Subjects:
BBC Bitesize * * * * *
Brilliant selection of maths, english and science activities.
Shephard Software's Kids Corner * * * *
Ages 3-10Wide variety of children's education games including maths, science, animals, health, vocabulary, the world, and the USA.
Kids Know It
Homework Help *****
Very good general education site, but especially useful for history.
National Geographic KIds
Arcade style educational games.
Brain Pop
A bit of everything from history, maths and English to weird science .
Top Marks
Games for all subjects and all ages - very large collection - all free.
The Khan Academy ****: Educational videos on almost everything, I believe this is intended for adults, but there is still plenty for an older child or teenager.
Thinkfinity - everything from lesson plans to free games:

Cool Math 4 Kids
Penguin Math**** - very simple animations but fun way to practise math facts - feed the penguin the fish with the correct answer.
Timez attack ***** Exceptional 3-d graphics - fun and very educational - plays like a real video game - but we can't figure out how to open doors :( Still worth a try. Free and Paid versions.

Marvel Comics and Marvel Kids ***** Never underestimate the value of comics to make children want to read. You can read a good number of comics here, completely free of charge:
DC Comics *****
(Please note - I have never found anything on either site not suitable for young children, but comics have become an adults medium rather than children's. I have some printed comics with material that is questionable for young children - so please preview the adult Marvel and the DC sites before letting your  very child read - the kids sites will have nothing to worry about. If you should find anything out of order, please let me know. I have listed these as we do get quite a lot of good reading material here - but I do preview  comics first now. If your child is 12+ I would not be concerned, but it's always best to have an idea what younger children are reading).
Phonics Play ***** This site has paid section, but a large number of good quality games are available free of charge
Read Write Think ***** A number of free resources and games - including Fractured Fairy Tales - Takes some to to explore the site and find the best materials but well worth it.

Planet Oz Kids - Ace Detectives
Free online mystery game, ages 8+
Oxford Reading Tree - Traditional Tales * * * * *
Three complete story books to read online, "Rabbit on the Run", "The Frog Prince" and Finn MacCool".
Free children's ebooks , small collection, but proper storybook format, pages that turn, illustrations etc..
All family Resources
The Complete Brothers Grimm - read online for Free

Spelling & Grammar
Grammar Games Online
 Kids Spelling, Grammar and Writing Games ( quite a bit of reading too)

Kid's First For Health from Great Ormond St Hospital * * * *
Ages 4 -18. Wide variety of health related topics including an interactive body tour.
Ed Heads - Activate Your Mind * * * * *
Ages 8 - 18. Hands on interactive projects + lesson guides. Explore the weather, design your own cel phone and create a stem cell line are just three of the activities children can choose.
Nasa for Kids
Genetics / genome - wealth of information plus online games such as pass the genes.
Cells alive
How to Make Science Toys ****
These are all common - and well known science tricks, but they are still fun. If you have a couple of good science project books you've likely done most of these, but if not do check this out (a nd it could save you buying a book)
Horrible Science *** This site has a fairly limied amount of content other than advertising for their books, but what there is, is good.

Geography / World Cultures
Kids Web Japan * * * * *
One of the very best sites I have seen to teach children about another country. This site has everything: folklore, geography, technology, culture education and much much more.
Folklore and Myths
Short unillustrated stories from around the world
Planet Oz Kids Myth's and Legends
More stories from around the world, as well as some brief animal facts and information on animals and indigenous peoples. School activity downloads also available. Unillustrated or one single illustration for most.
International Children's Digital Library
Online story books, fully illustrated from around the world.
Online story books, fully illustrated from around the world.
Kids Homes Around The World
DLTK's Countries & Cultures Activities

BBC Schools Primary History * * * * *
Learn about ancient Greeks, the Romans, anglo Saxons, Vikings, Children in Victorian Britain, or Children in WW2.
Channel 4 Learning History Essentials
Brief facts, activities for home and quiz for various periods in history from ancient Egypt to Victorian Britain.
Kidiedia *****
Listed as a history site, this virtual encyclopedia for children also includes a fair amount on the sciences.
Horrible Histories *****

Creativity - Animation:
Go Animate

Art Attack *****
Crafts for Kids - simple layout massive variety of projects grouped by subject
Planet Pals

Free Books:
Write reviews on books - or just about anything else on dooyoo and get free Amazon vouchers to buy all those books we so desperately need in home education. You don't have to be an experienced writer - just make a genuine effort to tell people about the products you won and use. To get the most from this site:

Do write about products you really feel strongly about - write about your favourite things.
Do read and rate other peoples reviews - not only will this help you learn how much detail you need on this site - but most people will return the favour and your miles which re cashed in for £ will grow.
Do give opinion not just stats.
Do use the site to explore and find curriculum. There are quite a large number of reviews on this site for children's books, science toys and educational material.
Do ask if you have any questions about products here - almost all of the members are very happy to tell you a bit more about whatever they review. Speaking for myself - I love sharing my favourite books and science kits - I just don't know when to shut up if you ask for more info :)

Don't ever copy anyone else's work. Copied reviews are the quickest way off this site.
Don't write about products you don't own.
Don't get upset if a takes a few weeks to get top rates, or take offence if members ask for more details.
Don't tell how a book or movie ends or any major spoiler without warning readers first. Really spoilers should only be used in children's books, where there is a valid reason for doing so - such as an ending that may upset a child, and with clear warning before giving any spoilers.
Don't expect to make a living or get rich quick. You can make £20 + a month in a reasonable period of time, which cold go a long way to buying children's books. But you can not make a living from home on this site.


  1. What a fantastic list of resources! I was home educating (due mainly to traveling around too much) for a year last year and found some useful free info that I don't see on your list. As soon as I get the chance I will boot up my old PC and see if I can find the links.

    Really enjoyed reading through your blog - lots of home education blogs are about the fun ups and downs of teaching at home, but this is a much more serious and considered approach. And, on a more shallow note, I love the library backdrop!

    Sue (SueNorth from dooyoo)

  2. Here's a maths curriculum that was really useful for giving me a structure on days when inspiration was a bit lacking:

  3. Hi! This is Loopy-lou33 from dooyoo just checking your blog out. Great stuff with lots of useful resources. Have you considered joining the mumsnet bloggets network or tots 100 for more exposure? Both are free to join and a great way to introduce others to your blog. x