The Best Picture Books for Second Grade Math

Did you know that reading picture books can help your child excel in math?! You can use books to introduce a new concept in a comfortable way or to review something they've learned already. Picture books can help deepen your child's understanding of important math concepts and help connect them to the real world. Reading also makes math more fun and accessible for some kids. Here's a list of books that are perfect for math concepts that are usually covered in second grade. All of these books are suggested in H4RL's second grade math curriculum. If you're looking for excellent math resources, visit our elementary curriculum page to learn more. I'm a licensed teacher and I designed our math curriculum to help you love teaching your kids math and ensure they have a solid foundation of mathematical understanding. It's fun and effective! Check it out, and then go enjoy one of these books with your child!The Grapes of Math by Greg TangBold pictures present math as visual puzzles with real world objects. Readers are asked to look at the quantities in a way that makes it easier to find the total rather than counting by ones. Examining how the objects are arranged, one discovers that grouping them in different ways makes it easy to count by fives or tens or to make a quick multiplication problem. This is a great one to look at and discuss together, giving time for your child to think before you talk. Even Steven and Odd Todd by Kathryn KristaldiSometimes it isn't easy to get along with people who approach things differently than we do. Steven enjoys keeping everything nice, neat, and even. In his life, things are in pairs or sets of four, six, etc. When his cousin Todd comes to visit, though, Steven is very uncomfortable with the odd numbers that arise everywhere. This book manages to make the mathematical concepts of odd and even into a cute story about differences in people.Each Orange Had Eight Slices by Paul GigantiMath in the real world on every page! Repeated addition and multiplication are illustrated with bright colors. Each example has two math steps to it. For example, there are four trees, that each have three nests, which each contain two eggs. I think it's brilliant how much math they've packed very simply into just a few pages.Arctic Fives Arrive by Elinor PinzcesA cute way to practice counting by fives. In this rhyming story, five of each type of animal arrive and pile onto an iceberg. It gets rather crowded! The text guides the reader through skip counting up, and then the animals enjoy a view of the northern lights. We count back down by fives as the animals leave at the end.Shark Swimathon by Stuart J. Murphy The shark swim team wants to go to camp, but in order to get to go they must swim 75 laps. Throughout the book, their coach subtracts the number of laps they swim each day from the amount of laps remaining, until they reach zero - and their goal! Read the directions here to play a similar game.The Good Neighbors Store an Award by Mark RamsayThis book is designed to teach addition with regrouping. It's written about mice, so their cheesy reward even looks like base ten blocks! The good neighbors work together to figure out how to store all of the cheese they have been awarded.The Good Neighbors' Cheese Feast by Dan HarperOh, no! Some of the neighbors don't have enough cheese to make their recipes for the cheese feast. Subtraction with regrouping comes to the rescue as they figure out how to prepare all of the dishes for their celebration.If the Shoe Fits by Jennifer DusslingThis cute story about mice turning a shoe into a clubhouse introduces some simple measurement concepts. First, the two mice try to measure with their feet, but their feet are different sizes so their measurements are not the same. Then, they try a cheese stick (they are mice, after all). That works fine, until someone takes a bite of the cheese stick. Finally, they use paperclips, and they're able to determine that the shoe will fit in their playroom. How Big is a Foot by Rolf MyllerThe king decides to have a bed made for the queen in this story. Unfortunately, when he uses his foot to measure the queen and the builder uses his own foot to measure the materials, it doesn't end up being a good fit. It's easy to see the need for standard units of measurement in this book. Since it's about a king and queen, you may want to enjoy listening to it read with an English accent by Cindy Cartwright. She does a wonderful job.Keep Your Distance by Gail HermanThe sisters in this story aren't getting along very well, but don't worry, at the end they realize that they wouldn't want to be separated! Along the way, they talk about measurements in inches, feet, yards, and miles. Readers will gain an appreciation for the sizes of these measurements and see a list of conversions at the end of the book.Inch Worm and a Half by Elinor PinzcesAn adorable inch worm happily measures things around her, until she runs into a problem. What if something can't exactly be measured in full inches? Some shorter little friends join in the measuring fun, using half, third, and quarter inch lengths. What a fun way to introduce simple fractions of a whole in the context of measurement! Twelve Snails to One Lizard by Susan HightowerThis is a funny one! The beaver and the frog try to measure with different animals as their units, until they finally realize that it's a lot easier to use a yardstick. Inches, feet, and yards are introduced. How Tall? Wacky Ways to Compare Height by Mark WeaklandRhyming text makes this book a lot of fun. Compare the height of various objects by lining smaller objects up as units until they equal the larger object. Children will relate as the book uses familiar things such as giraffes, dolls, and penguins.How Tall, How Short, How Far Away by David AdlerHow did they measure in Ancient Egypt? What about in Rome? Find out and try it yourself in this book. Readers will also learn about the two systems of measurement used in the United States today, the metric system and the customary system. Choosing appropriate units for measurements of various sizes is explored as well.Eating Fractions by Bruce McMillanThis book introduces fractions in a very simple way. There are few words, and the photos are from a couple decades ago! It's still great for demonstrating halves, thirds, and fourths of a whole. The fractions are shown as numbers, words, drawings, and as parts adding up to a whole.The Lion's Share by Matthew McElligottWith the feel of a folk tale, this story is both a lesson in fractions and sharing. Each animals takes half of the lion's cake as it is passed around the table, so the first animal gets half, the second gets a fourth, and so on. This helps to illustrate that one half can mean different amounts depending on the size of the whole from which it is cut. At the end of the book, each fraction is shown as a part of the whole cake.Jump, Kangaroo, Jump! by Stuart J. MurphyFractions aren't always parts of one whole object. They can also be one big group divided into smaller, equal groups. That's what happens in this book as the animals are divided into teams for various competitions. Readers see one half, one fourth, and other fractions in a different way in this cute story. Suggested math activities to go along with the book can be found on the author's page here. Whole-y Cow! Fractions are Fun by Taryn SoudersWhat fraction of the spots on the cow are red? This book presents sets and asks the reader to identify what fractions meet certain criteria. It's important that kids understand that fractions are a part of the whole set, so while in this case our numerator would be the number of red spots, our denominator would be the total number of spots, not just the number of blue spots. There are plenty of opportunities to practice naming fractional amounts in this book.Game Time by Stuart J. MurphyCentered around a soccer game, this story incorporates units of time. The game is one week away, then one day away, then an hour away. During the game, time is counted in minutes. Throughout the book, the illustrations represent these times on calendars and clocks. The author has listed a few related activities on his site.Just a Second by Steve JenkinsThis book is packed full of nature facts while helping kids understand more about just how long units of time really are. Readers will learn how many times different types of birds beat their wings in a second, how far various animals can travel in one second, what happens in one minute or one hour, a day, week, month, or year. A brief history of these units is also shared. The book even explores what can happen in less than a second. It's a fascinating look at time!I.Q, It's Time by Mary Ann FraserA little mouse lives in the classroom, but really wants to be a student, not a pet. As the school day progresses, times to the quarter hour are mentioned and shown on clocks. The mouse constructs his own clock that shows the hours and minutes around the edges. Children will enjoy this cute story and will learn a lot by constructing their own clock just like I.Q.'s!The Great Graph Contest by Loreen LeedyThis book explores various types of graphs and the questions they can be used to answer. Colorful, busy illustrations place them right into the action of the story.Looking for math curriculum that you and your child will love? Feel confident that your child has a solid understanding of math concepts with H4RL's resources!At H4RL, you'll find educational resources to add wonder and delight to your homeschooling journey. Jill, a homeschool mom and licensed teacher, has created Enhanced Read-alouds that provide mini unit studies based on high-quality children's books. Related activities for reading, writing, math, science, art, and more are woven into learning journeys that your family will love. Jill has also created a full math curriculum (kindergarten, first, and second grades are available as of June, 2023) that shows you how to teach your child all essential math concepts in fun, hands-on ways. Learn more on our elementary curriculum page!

The Best Picture Books for First Grade Math

Did you know that reading picture books can help your child excel in math?! You can use books to introduce a new concept in a comfortable way or to review something they've learned already. Picture books can help deepen your child's understanding of important math concepts and help connect them to the real world. Reading also makes math more fun and accessible for some kids. Here's a list of books that are perfect for math concepts that are usually covered in first grade. All of these books are suggested in H4RL's first grade math curriculum. If you're looking for excellent math resources, visit our elementary curriculum page to learn more. I'm a licensed teacher and I designed our math curriculum to help you love teaching your kids math and ensure they have a solid foundation of mathematical understanding! It's fun and effective. Check it out, and then go enjoy one of these books with your child!Penguin Place Value by Kathleen StoneFish that the penguins catch is stored in boxes of ten and on platters of ones. Using manipulatives with this story such as paper fish and small boxes or base ten blocks can help kinesthetic learners connect with the concept of place value. Practice writing the numbers for various amounts of fish.Subtraction Action by Loreen LeedyThe animals in this book introduce the concept of subtraction, related math terms, and real life situations in which subtraction is used.A Fair Bear Share by Stuart J. MurphyIn this adorable story about a family of bears, two-digit numbers are displayed as tens and ones. Ten ones are regrouped as a ten, and the numbers are added together. There is a lot of math to be explored here! Some suggested activities from the author can be found here.How Long? Wacky Ways to Compare Length by Jessica GundersonGreat illustrations make this book a lot of fun. It demonstrates lining objects up end-to-end along another, larger object, in order to see how many of the smaller object are needed to equal one of the larger object. This is a fantastic introduction to nonstandard measurement (not using units such as inches or centimeters, but instead using fingers, pretzel sticks, etc.). On a simpler level, it will get kids thinking about the concepts of longer and shorter, comparing lengths and thinking proportionately (how many of these do I need to make one or more of those?). Super Sand Castle Saturday by Stuart J. Murphy Tallest, longest, and deepest - it's a contest at the beach! This book uses both nonstandard (shovels) and standard (inches) measurements to compare sand castles. It addresses the error of using units of different sizes; if you're shovel is longer than mine, then we can't really compare our castles by measuring with the two different shovels. While objects vary in size, though, inches are always the same, so we can use a ruler to measure and compare various objects. A great real-world, practical look at measurement. The author has included a few related activity suggestions on his site.The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric CarleThe story of this ladybug unfolds on the hour as each hour of the day goes by. In the book, the times are shown on an analog clock. You can make the connection between this and a digital clock by writing each time as the hour and minutes with a colon between them as well.Telling Time with Big Mama Cat by Dan HarperIn this charming book, a cat tells us about her day. I like that on each page, the time is shown on a clock in the home, as part of the illustration, rather than just a clock face drawn on the page. Most of the times are on the hour, but some are at the half hour or even at 5- or 15-minute increments. As mentioned with the previous book, writing the times as they would be seen on a digital clock would be a good extension.A Second is a Hiccup by Hazel Hutchins and Kady MacDonald DentonThe sweet, rhyming text in this book gives real life, relatable examples of things that take a second, a minute, an hour, a day, a week, a month, and a year. This is an excellent way to help children become more familiar with these abstract concepts.The Doorbell Rang by Pat HutchinsThe cookies are ready, and two kids divide them equally. Then the doorbell rings, and they redistribute them among four children. Then the doorbell rings again! Have some cookies ready and divide them between the same number of plates as there are children at the table in the book as you read the story. Everyone is disappointed when the doorbell rings and each child already has only one cookie. What should they do? Luckily, it's grandma with more cookies! Looking for a math curriculum that you and your child will love? H4RL's math lessons use a variety of fun activities to build a solid foundation of mathematical understanding. In addition to math, you'll find resources for poetry, reading, calendar time, and more. Enhanced read-alouds provide ideas for making excellent picture books even more fun and educational. You can access it all with a membership, and if you order printed math books you get a discount every month. Visit our elementary curriculum page to learn more!

Best Rhyming Books – with Activities!

These fun books are an excellent way to teach reading with rhythm and rhyme. Preschoolers, kindergarteners, and first graders will love these wonderful rhyming stories and the fun activities that extend the learning after you read!Here are 33 books with rhythm and rhyme that are great read-alouds for preschool, kindergarten, and first grade.Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan ThomasThis funny story with simple rhymes will make kids laugh. All the dust bunnies call out words that rhyme – except Bob. It turns out he has a good reason, though! Make puppets on popsicle sticks of Ed, Ned, Ted, and Bob (just copy a page and cut them out, let your child draw them, or draw them yourself). Then, play a game with your child. Ed, Ned, or Ted calls out a word to begin each round. Three of the puppets will say rhyming words, but not Bob!Barnyard Dance! by Sandra BoyntonThis one is so much fun! Active children will enjoy dancing with the farm animals. Read it with the rhythm of a square dance! You may have to practice first, but it’s even more fun when you play fiddle music like this in the background.How Big is a Pig by Clare BeatonA sweet, simple book with interesting illustrations created with felt and beads. Even very young listeners will enjoy this one. After reading, try making your own art with felt! Purchase a set with different colors and cut an assortment of shapes. Allow your child time to explore and see what the shapes can be combined to make. You could even take photos of their creations and then write a story to go with them! If you’d like some guidance on what shapes to cut out, try these. I Know a Rhino by Charles FugeThis is an adorable story that little ones with big imaginations will love! Vivid illustrations will captivate young readers, and just two sentences per page keeps the story moving along. For lots of ideas to keep the learning going, check out H4RL's Enhanced Read-aloud unit for this book.A Hippy Hoppy Toad by Peggy Archer This is a fantastic book! Filled with rhythm and rhyme, the story follows a toad as he meets other animals, takes a ride on a shoe, and ends up back where he started. Can your child retell the story, listing the toad’s adventures in the order they happen in the book? It may help to page through the book and peek at the illustrations again.Dino-Soccer by Lisa WheelerIf you have a sports fan, be sure to check out this wonderful rhyming series! Cheer on the herbivores and carnivores as they compete in hockey, football, swimming, and many other sports. Then, go out and try playing the sports the dinosaurs enjoy! If you can’t try it yourself, go to a game or watch one online. Learn some of the rules and techniques.Where is the Green Sheep? by Mem FoxI love this book. We find sheep doing all sorts of things in the delightful rhymes and illustrations, but we just can't spot that green sheep! Where could it be? Kids can join in as you repeatedly read, "but where is the green sheep?" Be sure to be very quiet and whisper the words when you read the ending so you don't wake the sleepy sheep!Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin, Jr. and John ArchembaultIn this fun book full of rhythm and rhyme, the letters of the alphabet climb a coconut tree and then all fall down. Encourage your children to clap along as you read this one. For letter practice, you could also have your child place magnetic letters onto a cookie sheet (the tree) as they are mentioned in the story. Then, when you read “boom boom,” your child can bang and shake the cookie sheet and make them all fall off!Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna DewdneyIf your child ever begins to feel impatient or worried when you take too long to come and say goodnight, they have something in common with the llama in this story. In wonderful rhyming verse, the suspense builds as we wait longer and longer for mama to come upstairs. Animated readers may be shouting along with Llama llama at the climax!Big Red Barn by Margaret Wise BrownThe lilting, rhyming lines of this book make it a great bedtime read. It isn’t a story with a lot of action, but rather a wonderful description of the barnyard and what the animals are doing throughout the day and as the sun goes down.Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andrea and Guy Parker-ReesThis cute story about being yourself contains a lot of great rhymes, different than the simple standard words you often hear in rhyming books for children. After reading, put on some music, feel the beat, and do your own dance. If you want to practice more rhymes, put simple words on the floor (use painter’s tape) and dance on them! In order to step to a new word, you have to read it and call out a rhyming word.Kermit the Hermit by Bill PeetThis book is a bit on the longer side, but it’s a wonderful story. In rhyming verse, readers hear the story of a greedy crab who looks for a way to repay a boy who saves his life.Duck in the Truck by Jez AlboroughIn this fun story, Duck’s Truck is stuck and some other animals try to help him get it moving again. The lines about the sheep stepping through the muck are particularly fun due to the alliteration. Kids can jump in each time the truck is “still stuck.” Ask your child if they think the ending of the book should be changed. Shouldn’t Duck go back and help the animals who helped him? Work together to write rhyming lines that create a new ending for the story.Mr. Scruff by Simon JamesWhat a cute story! All the dogs and owners have names that rhyme. But what about Mr. Scruff? Find out who adopts him when you read the book together. Can you think of more pairs of rhyming names for pets and their owners? Pam and Sam. Patty and Hattie. Bob and Rob. Mavis and Davis. Draw, print, or cut out pictures of the pets and owners you think of and label them with their rhyming names (maybe Rob is a snail and Davis is a guinea pig).Hand, Hand, Fingers Thumb by Al PerkinsWhile this may not be the best book for teaching rhyme, the rhythm is so much fun! Your kids can drum along as you read about these drumming monkeys.Mrs. McNosh Hangs Up Her Wash by Sarah WeeksChildren who enjoy silly stories will giggle at all of the things Mrs. McNosh hangs on her clothesline. A fun extension with this book would be to put rhyming pairs of words and/or pictures on index cards. Put up a clothesline, and have children use clothespins to pin the rhymes on the line in pairs. If your child likes this book, check out the other stories about Mrs. McNosh!I Saw an Ant on the Railroad Track by Joshua PrinceThis lively book with rhythm and rhyme is a tongue-twister for sure! There isn’t much variation in the rhymes (“ack” words), but it’s a lot of fun. The suspense builds as the big train comes closer and closer to crushing the ant. Write “ack” on an index card, and make a list of the beginnings of all of the words that end with “ack” in the story. Move the index card down the list, reading each word as you go. Can you think of any more? Add to the list with your child. To make this activity fit the book's theme, draw a train on the "ack" card and train tracks on the list of words! Practice reading in train-wheel rhythm - building fluency!Rhymoceros by Janik CoatWith pairs of rhyming words and no other text, there isn’t a story to follow in this book. What makes it worth including is the variety of rhymes. While books that focus on the story may repeat simple rhymes through the text, this one focuses on the words. Can your child think of other rhymes for the rhymoceros? Trace the outline of the rhymoceros from the book and have your child illustrate pictures to go with their rhymes.Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle There’s a lot packed into this one! Farm animals, trucks, and a lesson about friendship and helping others. Unlike many books with so much rhythm and rhyme, this book also includes enriching vocabulary. Making animal sounds and beeping a horn brings this book to life.Snowmen at Night by Caralyn BuehnerThis imaginative tale tells what snowmen do when we’re sleeping. It’s delightful, with wonderful rhymes. If you enjoy this story, read about some other snowy adventures by the same author.Dog on a Frog? by Kes and Claire Gray and Jim FieldFrog uses rhymes to invent some crazy places for all different sorts of animals to sit. Enjoy giggling at this silly story. Then, go back and read the blue page again – the one that lists all the animals. If you read the first half of each rhyme, can your child remember the other part?Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy ShawShort sentences filled with rhymes tell this silly story.  Now we know why sheep don’t drive.  Can you write a similar rhyming story?  Perhaps it could be about pigs in a rig (semi-truck).  Or maybe you could write about a horse on the course (is it driving a golf cart or a race car?).  Could a goat drive a boat?  Maybe a rooster goes for a ride in a rocket with a booster!Harry Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy by Lynley DoddMeet Hairy Maclary and his other dog friends. If your child enjoys these characters, check out the other books in the series.Stand Back! Said the Elephant. I'm Going to Sneeze. by Patricia ThomasOh, my! Hear about all the troubles it causes for the other animals when elephant sneezes. But what about when the elephant laughs? Detailed illustrations bring it all to life as the rhyming verse shares the animals’ woes.The Caboose Who Got Loose by Bill PeetA great many rhymes are included in this story about a caboose who doesn’t enjoy life as a train car. It’s too loud and scary. She envies the houses and cabins that sit quietly in one place. For a writing and art connection, ask your child to imagine that they could be a train car, a house, a cabin, a lighthouse, an airplane, or any other kind of vehicle or dwelling. Have them draw a picture of what and where they would be, and then write a paragraph describing what their life would be like and why that is what they would choose.Chimpanzees for Tea by Jo EmpsonThis story is sure to make kids giggle. When he loses his list of items to get at the store, a boy tries to remember what his mother wrote down. Hilariously, the items are gradually replaced by animals with names that sound like the foods he was to purchase for tea. The rhyming practice is not as straightforward in this book as it is in others, but the story is so much fun. After reading the book, work with your child to come up with a list of items that could be on a grocery list for tea, breakfast, or dinner (just a few items). Then, make a matching list with silly, rhyming animals or other things to buy instead. Ask your child to draw a picture showing how it might turn out!Rhyme Crime by Jon BurgermanIn this clever story, a thief replaces everything he steals with objects that rhyme, leading to some silly pictures! Kids are able to predict the rhyming word before you turn the page. At the end, they can use the pictures and rhymes to solve a mystery. After reading, discuss – were you able to predict all of the rhymes that would replace the stolen items? Were there any that you thought would be different? What other ideas can you think of (what other choices did the author have)? What would you have chosen?Hip Hop Lollipop by Susan McElroy Montanari and Brian PinkneyThis book has excellent rhythm and rhymes.  It’s a fun story about bedtime for a little girl who loves to dance to hip hop rhythms.  Instead of using only small, simple words, the author has included vocabulary such as gyration, jubilation, rotation, relaxation.  Can your child think of any other words that end with “tion?” Moose, Goose, and Mouse by Mordecai GersteinCan Moose, Goose, and Mouse find a house they will all like? Find out in this short, silly adventure. The sentences are packed with rhyme, making them fun to read and hear. Three rhyming words are used to describe the house the friends want: funny, sunny, and with a bunny. What kind of house would you want? Can you use three rhyming words to describe a fun place to stay? What would it look like? Use words to tell about it or draw a picture! See You Later, Alligator by Sally HopgoodTortoise says goodbye to all of his friends in rhyme before heading out on an adventure to see the world. The problem is, saying goodbye takes so much time that he never manages to get going! After enjoying the story, do some problem-solving. How could the tortoise say goodbye and have an adventure? Where would he go? What would happen? Write your own story!Zin! Zin! Zin! A Violin by Lloyd MossThe best way to enjoy this book is to listen to the instruments while reading! Read it yourself first so that you don’t miss the wonderful rhyming words. Then, watch it here This book is included in’s Enhanced Read-aloud activities for Ada’s Violin. Check it out for additional learning activities – writing, art, and more!Dinosaur Roar! by Paul and Henrietta SticklandWith few words and lots of dinosaurs, this story will hold the interest of young readers and keep their focus on the rhymes. It’s a fun one to read over and over; kids will learn the words and join in.The Story of Easter by Alice Joyce DavidsonThis book is part of a wonderful series, all written in sweet, rhyming verse. A little girl named Alice magically enters into stories from the Bible to witness important moments in history. Then, she returns home and thinks about the impact those have on her life today. The whole series is a treasure that helps to store God's word in our children's hearts.The Snowbelly Family of Chillyville Inn by Cheryl HawkinsonIf it happens to be the Christmas season when you’re exploring rhymes, this is an adorable story about a family of snowmen preparing to celebrate. Have some hot cocoa, snuggle under a blanket, and enjoy!Looking for more rhymes and activities? The Poetry for the Primary Grades unit at is full of fun, educational ideas for using wonderful poems!At H4RL, you'll find educational resources to add wonder and delight to your homeschooling journey. Jill, a homeschool mom and licensed teacher, has created Enhanced Read-alouds that provide mini unit studies based on high-quality children's books. Related activities for reading, writing, math, science, art, and more are woven into learning journeys that your family will love. Jill has also created a full math curriculum (kindergarten, first, and second grades are available as of Oct., 2022) that shows you how to teach your child all essential math concepts in fun, hands-on ways. Learn more at!

What is a spiraling curriculum and why does it matter?

Have you ever heard people talk about spiraling curriculum, and wondered what they meant?  If you picture the metal wire that binds a spiral notebook, you’ll see that it keeps coming back around to meet the pages as you travel up the wire.  It does not cut through at the same level, but nonetheless is passing through the same pages again and again.  A spiral curriculum does essentially the same thing.  A child’s studies will come back around to the same ideas at different points throughout their learning journey.  Just as the wire does not enter the same point in the pages every time, the learning is at increasingly complex levels each time a subject is revisited and may place emphasis on different aspects of the same topic.  I love the freedom a spiraling curriculum gives.  It takes away the pressure of making sure we eek out every bit of learning before leaving a topic.  It allows us to introduce complex topics to our young children, letting them make sense of as much as they are able.  It builds a foundation of understanding that serves as prior knowledge the next time we return to the subject, providing a springboard that enables children to investigate on a deeper level.  It reinforces concepts that we learned a while ago, that may have been dangling precariously at the edge of brain storage, soon to be lost forever.  Instead, the knowledge is saved, strengthened and extended.  The concept of a curriculum spiral has an added benefit for homeschooling families.  In addition to giving one child more opportunities to learn about a subject, it also enables us to meet each of our children at their own level while sharing experiences, lessons, and discussions.  A younger child will benefit from hearing more advanced insights from a sibling who is revisiting the topic.  For example, every spring frogs can be heard in the woods.  A preschooler may learn to identify the sound, look at pictures of frogs, notice how their bodies are shaped and learn about where frogs live and what they eat.  A primary student might learn about the life cycle of a frog and what makes it an amphibian.  An older elementary student may learn about different species of frogs and what unique characteristics help them survive in their habitats.  A middle school student could dissect a frog and compare its anatomy to that of a human.  A high school student may focus on what it means for frogs to be an indicator species and collect or find data to test a hypothesis about the health of local ecosystems.  While each child is working at his/her own level and exploring different aspects of the topic, we could have discussions, visit parks or museums together, and watch the same educational shows on our shared topic.  While young children may not be ready for complex aspects of a topic, spiraling allows for more complicated questioning and investigations over time. If you need more proof of the effectiveness of spiraling curriculum, think about your experiences as you homeschool your children.  I am learning so much more about many of the topics we’re studying than I ever did as a child!  Maybe this time, I’ll actually remember something about history.What does a spiraling curriculum look like in math? This is probably where the greatest debate lies between spiral curriculums and those built on mastery. When you think about it, all math curriculums spiral to some extent. Children learn to add in kindergarten, and then we revisit addition with two digits, four digits, fractions, variables

Choosing a Major: 8 Common Mistakes

Did you know that 42% of people who pursue a 4 year degree do not graduate within 6 years, and 80% of students change their major (Horn, M. and Moesta, R., 2019)?  This increases the cost of college and delays their earning potential.  Below are 8 common mistakes that lead to these statistics.1. Picking a major and not a career.The number one mistake people make when choosing a college major is picking a major before they pick a career.  The importance of this mistake cannot be overstated.  This leads to many of the other problems that students face later on.  The first thing teens should do is to identify what they want to do in life – which jobs would be a good fit.  Then, they can research the best path toward accomplishing their career goals.  Picking a general field of study and then trying to figure out what they can do with that degree upon graduation can lead to delays and disappointments.2. Picking what is familiar.Another mistake students make when choosing a major is making a decision based only on what they already know. So many people pick a career based on the jobs they have been exposed to growing up.  If your parents were teachers or engineers, you will be much more likely to pick one of those career paths because they are familiar to you.  There are so many career fields out there, and it is likely that many students may never even have heard of some that they may enjoy most.  That’s why so many adults regret their career choice; they find out later about different options and realize that other careers may have been a better fit for them.3. Not seeing the bigger picture.Too many students (and parents) focus on just completing enough classes in high school to graduate rather than taking a step back and considering that the whole reason why they are doing all of that studying is to prepare for a successful, happy life.  It’s important to figure out what you want to do in life and then focus on the best path to get there instead of just pushing through all of the standard courses because that is what everyone else is doing.4. Just doing what they love.People assume that as long as they focus on what they like, they will be happy. There is much more involved with finding a fulfilling career than simply matching your interests.  There is a famous saying:  if you do what you love, you will never work day in your life.  Although there is some truth in this, every job has its downside; that’s why they pay you.  As Jeff Corwin, a TV biologist who gets to travel the world and explore amazing places, said:When I am exhausted from two days of travel, beat by sixteen hours of uninterrupted filming, or sick from an exotic bug that has set up camp in my lower intestine, I remind myself that I’ve got one of the neatest jobs in the world. – Jeff Corwin, zoologist and TV show host (Hestermann, 2015)Even really amazing jobs have their drawbacks.  Lights, a famous singer, once said, “It’s hard to escape when your hobby is your job.”  If your hobby is your career, then many times you have no way of escaping from your job and relaxing.  The very thing you used to do to relax is what you do all the time and there is now stress tied to it.  The fun diminishes when something you used to do by choice becomes an obligation.5. Believing that they already know what they are good at.As Business Guru Peter Drucker said, “Most people think they know what they are good at.  They are usually wrong…And yet, a person can perform only from strength.”Many times we do not realize what our true strengths are until later in life.  That’s one of the challenges with choosing a career path as a teen.  At that age, people just do not have the life experiences to really know what they are good at and truly enjoy.“People who use their strengths during work every day are six times more likely to be engaged at work and three times more likely to say they have an excellent quality of life”. (Rath, T. StrengthsFinder, 2007)“You are most likely to enjoy a job when the majority of what you do uses your main strengths and your favorite skills.”Christen, C.  (2015).  What Color Is Your Parachute?  For Teens (3rd ed.).  New York, New York:  Ten Speed PressIt is essential to find a career that utilizes your strengths because you will enjoy it more and get far greater satisfaction from your work.  Many of us struggle to accurately pinpoint our strengths, though, especially because we tend to take some of them for granted, assuming everybody is good at those things because they come easily to us.  It’s hard to truly evaluate ourselves.  Teens need help identifying what their strengths are before making a career choice because finding a good match will have a huge impact on their long-term career satisfaction.6. Not truly understanding the career before deciding.So many professionals we know, including doctors, lawyers, teachers, and engineers, have said, “I really wish I would have known… about my career before I chose it. I may not have chosen this career.”  No job will be perfect, but often people have an idea of what a career is like when they choose it which may not be founded on facts and real experiences.  That is why it is so important to understand what the career is really like before committing to it.  While it is certainly possible to change careers later, it definitely isn’t easy.7. Choosing a major without knowing what career options it opens up.Many people just pick a major because it sounds interesting or it’s familiar, without understanding what kind of jobs that degree prepares them for until they graduate and submit applications. There are countless stories (just read reddit) of other students picking a major and then graduating just to realize after college they either cannot get a job with the degree they have OR they do not want the jobs that are available to them with that degree OR that the jobs that are available with that degree do not pay enough to offset the debt they have accumulated.  We know a student who majored in music and could play 3 instruments very well.  He graduated from a small college with a great music program only to get a job driving school buses.  He loves his job but he is finding it difficult to pay back the student debt for a degree he didn’t really need to for the career he ended up in.8. Choosing a college first.Many homeschool students have dreams of attending a specific college. This may be because this is a college they have grown up hearing about or maybe it’s where a friend or family member attended.  They set their goals on attending that school and then just pick a major from the list provided.  I recently heard a bright homeschool girl say that she got accepted into her dream school but didn’t know exactly what she wanted to do. She sat down with an academic advisor and they decided that she should pursue a business degree since that seemed to be the best fit among the college’s offererings.  However, this young lady also said she really loved organizing things, filing, tracking data, and doing math.  While some jobs that can be obtained with a business degree may utilize these strengths, a better fit for her probably would have been accounting, which leads to a different set of career opportunities.  Remember, academic advisors are in a position to help students find a program of study only within the offerings of their own universities, and may not be aware of other possibilities that could be better for the students’ futures.Avoid mistakes. Plan well.Homeschool 4 Real Life's career exploration and planning resources can help your teen prepare for a great future. The self-paced video lessons explain important aspects of career satisfaction. On-line tools identify personal interests, strengths, and preferences. The searchable database helps students learn more about careers and determine which ones would be a good fit. Short videos and in-depth interviews enable teens to understand what it would really be like to do various careers on a daily basis. Give your teen an edge. Prepare for the future with Homeschool 4 Real Life. Click here to learn more.

5 Ways to Get More Scholarship Money

You’ve heard parents say their kids all got scholarships, and you wonder, “Wow, are all of their kids just amazing, or do they know some sort of magic formula for college admission and scholarship awards?”  Here’s some good news:  your homeschooler will probably get a scholarship, too.  But it may not be exactly what you’re expecting…Scholarships are awesome; they’re essentially free money.  Who doesn’t want free money, right?  The full ride scholarship (covering the full cost of college) is everyone’s dream. Because college is so expensive, getting the entire education paid for is truly an amazing gift. The Chances of Getting a Full RideUnfortunately, the chance of getting a full ride is extremely small.  Unless your child is incredibly gifted athletically or within the top 1% academically, he or she will probably not get a full ride scholarship.  There are 80,000 valedictorians and salutatorians each year.  Thousands of students get perfect scores on the ACT and SAT, and hundreds of thousands earn a perfect 4.0 GPA (due to over inflated GPAs) [Washington Post]. In fact, only  0.1% of students (1 in 1000) get an academic full ride scholarship [prepscholar].  As for athletics, even if your child is the best athlete in the city and does receive a scholarship, many only cover a portion of the cost of college (unless your teen plays one of the mainstream sports like football or basketball) [Washington Post].  Bottom line:  it’s very difficult to get a full ride scholarship.  So most likely, those other parents who told you their kids got scholarships were not talking about full ride scholarships.The Good News About ScholarshipsBut take heart!  Don’t give up yet.  The rest of the stats are actually quite positive!  In fact, 82% of students receive some form of free financial aid (money you do not have to repay – usually grants or scholarships) according to market research done by Sallie Mae [“How Americans Pay for College, 2019”].  That means your child is more likely to get a scholarship than not (free money!).  So, while those other parents should absolutely be proud of their children, they should not make it seem like they have accomplished something that you can’t attain. There is no secret formula to getting tons of scholarship money.  In the end, colleges and universities are businesses; like all businesses, they have operating expenses they must cover.  Therefore, they cannot afford to give all students a free education.  In fact, all colleges expect that the primary responsibility to pay for college falls on the student and parents [Springer, Rieder, & Vining Morgan, (2017).  Admission Matters (4th ed.).  San Francisco, CA:  Jossey-Bass]. An average of 43% of college costs are covered by either the parents’ or student’s income and savings.  Approximately 31% of the cost is covered by free financial aid and the other 26% is covered by loans (either parents or students) [SallieMae]. More Good News About ScholarshipsThe encouraging news here is that roughly a third of the cost is covered by free money!  So, with an average kid (by definition, most of them are), you can expect to get about one third of college for free.  There’s a really good chance you’ll be one of those parents telling people that your kid got a scholarship.Now let’s talk details.  There are different forms of free money.  Grants are usually free money given by the federal government based on the families’ need.  Filling out the FAFSA is the first step toward getting need-based money.  You can get an idea of how much you might receive by clicking the “Estimate Your Aid” button and using the FAFSA4caster tool. are usually given out by the universities, state, or local communities and businesses.  These are given based on merit (because of academics, special interests, leadership etc.).  This is where hard work pays off.  Five Ways Your Teen Can Get More Scholarship Money1.  Apply to as many scholarships as possible.  It’s simply a numbers game. 2.  Perform as well as possible in school, getting the highest grades possible.3.   Take as many higher level classes as possible.3.  Show leadership skills by being active in community service activities, team sports, etc. 4.  Get great letters of recommendation from coaches, pastors, and especially from those who know your child as an academic student.5.  Finally, your child should apply to schools where will he/she will be in the top 25% of the incoming class (in addition to your child’s dream school, if that’s different). Finding ScholarshipsAn incredible variety of scholarships are available, ranging from those for duck calling [], being  vegan, being tall, being a rural student, to those for being left handed [] and many, many more. There are even scholarships specifically for homeschool students []. Free websites can be very helpful in finding scholarships for which your teen may be eligible (some listed below).  You should never have to pay for help finding scholarships.  If you are, then it’s probably a scam.  There IS NO SECRET METHOD to getting a scholarship. The Reality of DebtThe fact of the matter is, even with a partial scholarship, time is still money.   More and more students are taking longer to finish their 4-year degrees.  Families planning to pay for 4 years can end up with 50% more debt than expected when it stretches to 6 years - as it does for 59% of students [National Center for Education Statistics].  Why are they taking so long to finish their undergraduate degrees?  One major reason is that 80% of students change their major at least once [Local News 8].  These changes can mean that classes they have already taken no longer count toward their major, and additional classes are required.  So even though the majority of students are receiving some scholarship money, the student debt still adds up.  The average student debt for graduates in 2020 is close to $30,000 [My Credit Summit]. What’s really disappointing is that once they graduate and enter the workforce, only 13% of people are truly engaged at work, enjoying what they do.  Most are disappointed, stuck in career fields they don’t enjoy [Gallup].  Then, they spend their careers moving from job to job, trying to find something that motivates and inspires them, something they can feel good about doing. The problem is, they still have no idea what that might be. The SolutionThe best way to minimize college debt and maximize career satisfaction is to have a clear, well vetted career plan before you start paying for college classes.  The best thing your teen can do is spend time now to identify personal interests, strengths, and talents as well as what type of career field will fit them.  This will pay huge dividends down the road as they will spend less time in college and have higher career satisfaction later.  Choosing a college and planning how you will pay for it is important, but your teen’s first priority should be figuring out which career path will be a great fit.  Many students head off to college thinking they have it all figured out, only to find out that their chosen path is not what they expected.  This leads to regret - either while in college, or after they get a degree and enter the workforce.  Don’t assume that because many teens “know” what they want to do in the future, they are immune to changing their minds later.  The more time teens invest into figuring out which careers will be a good fit, the more satisfied they will be with their choices. We created the career exploration resources at Homeschool 4 Real Life to help your teen figure this out before they start paying for college.  In addition to helping your teen choose a career, we provide details about choosing a college and applying to college.  We also outline many different methods of paying for college.  Whether your teen is just starting to look into careers or has been thinking about it for a while, the career exploration course at will give them an edge in planning for a great future.  Come join us; we can’t wait to meet you!Websites where you can begin searching hundreds of scholarships:Scholarship.comCollegescholarships.orgScholarships for homeschool students

4 Ways to Boost Your Child’s Math Confidence

It's important to help increase your child's math confidence because confident students learn more.  Why?  One major reason is that they don’t give up.  Students who believe they can find a solution aren’t stopped by mistakes or difficulty.  They keep thinking and try to find a different approach.  This leads to deeper understanding, more flexibility in problem-solving, and more efficient mastery of concepts.  These students are also likely to spend more time doing math since they are happier while studying it.  More time leads to more progress.  Focusing on increasing your child's math confidence can increase the time your child is willing to wrestle with math concepts. Another factor is attitude.  Confident students look forward to thinking mathematically and have a positive outlook as they approach new concepts.  Students who fear that they won’t be able to figure it out may be apprehensive.  This stress can actually lead to the release of hormones that make thinking more difficult.  By putting effort into increasing your child's math confidence, you can help your child's brain be more ready to think through tough problems and remember new strategies later.There are many more reasons to want our kids to be confident in their mathematical thinking, but let’s go ahead and talk about how to boost your child’s math confidence.1. Be confident - it's contagious!Make it very clear to your child that you believe in her mathematical thinking abilities.  When you consistently convey that you are confident that she can understand the concepts and solve the problems, she will begin to believe it, too.  This doesn’t mean that you keep pushing when she’s tired or may truly not be ready for a concept.  Make it clear that you’re stopping to give her very capable brain some rest and that you know she’ll be able to figure it out eventually.  Good mathematical thinking takes time and isn’t always done in one sitting!2. Be positive - find what's correct.None of us enjoy being wrong.  We all feel better about it when someone begins by telling us what we’ve done correctly.  Take the time to examine your child’s work or listen closely to his explanation.  Even if there are mistakes or flaws in his reasoning, find a positive place from which to start.  Maybe he realized the problem called for adding the numbers together, but his computation was incorrect.  Maybe he drew an accurate picture to help him solve the problem, but wasn’t careful as he counted.  Perhaps he underlined the important information in the problem – we can still praise that even though he had no idea how to begin solving it!  There’s a big difference between how a child reacts when he hears “No, that’s wrong.  Let me show you how to do it,” as compared to, “I can see that you drew the four pigs in a pen, just like it described in the problem.  That’s a great start!  Let’s see if we can figure out together what we need to do next.”  3. Be involved - share your thinking.When you think aloud as you solve a problem, children become more familiar with the problem-solving process.  They understand that you don’t know the answer immediately when you look at a problem (even though you may arrive at it very quickly when the problem is simple). Rather, you must go through a process of understanding the question, pulling out the necessary information, figuring out what calculations must be done to find the answer, and then using efficient strategies to solve it.  This builds children’s confidence because they know how to approach a problem and that it is okay to take some time to think through it.  We can also share with our children that when we think about a problem in different ways and hear someone else’s thinking, it extends our understanding and we become better mathematicians.  I had to make it clear to my daughter that when I shared my thinking about a problem, it wasn’t because her thinking was wrong or mine was better. It was because I wanted to deepen her understanding by sharing another way.  4. Be reassuring - explain the process.Help your child understand that good things happen in math when we’re willing to work in our uncomfortable zone.  We build on what we know and work together to push into new levels of understanding.  This can feel confusing at first, until our brains sort it all out and make the right connections and we finally say, “Aha!  I get it!”  My daughter was always more willing to keep thinking even when something was difficult and confusing once I explained to her that I didn’t expect her to completely understand it, but just to try and see how much she could figure out.  We often worked beyond her grade level, just to get used to the feeling of mathematical exploration and lay some mental groundwork for the future.  She was very motivated by the thought that she was working on math that much older children typically learn!Keep these ideas in mind next time you work on math with your children.  Work on increasing their math confidence in order to maximize the amount of time they're willing to work on math and keep their brains in learning mode. Help them become confident mathematical thinkers who will approach even very difficult, multi-step problems with thoughtful confidence.Click here to learn more about how Homeschool 4 Real Life can help you teach math in ways that boost confidence.

Take Time to Reflect

As a parent, it’s important to take time to reflect on how things are going for our kids and for our family in general.  Homeschooling makes it even more critical that we do this.  For one thing, it gives us a few minutes to sit down, put our feet up, and still be doing something productive!Good days and bad daysTaking time to reflect is just as important on good days as on the bad ones.  We need to think about what went well, why it went well, and how we can make more of that goodness happen!  On bad days, we need to pause and remember that it was just one day, one tiny piece of our life and learning with our children, and it’s okay!  The most important thing is to consider the root of the problem and what we can try to do differently that may be a step in the right direction to help other days go more smoothly.Topics for reflectionWhat is it that we’re reflecting on during this time?  Well, the list really could be endless.  Just choose one or two things that really stand out when you think about your day or things that you want to work on the next day. Maybe you'll spend time thinking about where to find ideas for instruction or practice for a certain concept or skill. You may want to think about how your kids are feeling (about their learning or other things) or how well they're getting along. Thinking about how you want to prioritize the various ways your family spends homeschool time can also be valuable. When my children are having difficulty with something, spending some time thinking about what could be causing the problem and what might help can increase the wisdom with which I respond. This will help me to be better prepared to handle issues the next day.  I might even decide that it would be a good idea to talk with the kids and help them brainstorm solutions the next morning, before we dive into school work and other parts of our day. Benefits of reflectionTaking time to reflect along the way can make our homeschooling journey more calm and peaceful.  It can also help us to have more fun and learn more effectively.  Don’t ever think that time spent thinking and praying about how to best support your kids and your spouse while still taking care of yourself is frivolous or wasted.  In reality, it’s probably among the best ways you could spend a few minutes at the end of your day. You should walk away from your time of reflection feeling like you have a better handle on how your family is doing and what they need.  You may want to jot down a list of what you plan to try or what resources, information, or support you need to find.  Even if you don’t come up with plans or solutions during your reflection time, you’ve still laid valuable groundwork for progress the next day.Time well spentSometimes we get so busy trying to squeeze everything into the hours of each day (there are never enough!) that we forget to pause and think about if we’re happy with how we’re spending those hours.  It will benefit your children (and you!) so much if you take the time to reflect on the ups and downs and what steps you can take to increase the enjoyment and effectiveness of homeschooling for your family.  Don’t feel like you have to find all the answers and figure out how to have everything picture-perfect the next day.  Just becoming more aware of where you’re at and where you’re going will benefit you and your family, and you can start working on the first steps you’ll take to make progress on that journey.  Remember, if you need some ideas or support, we’d love to talk with you in the community forums at or connect with you on our Facebook page!

The wrong way to homeschool

Wait – I thought there was no wrong way to homeschool! Well, that’s somewhat true. Families homeschool in many different ways and their children learn and thrive. However, there is one mistake that new homeschoolers make that often ruins the experience. Here’s how it happens.Let me tell you a story

what you need to know about applying to college

Applying to college: How you can stand out!

The college admission process can seem intimidating, and sometimes it’s impossible to figure out why some students are accepted while others are denied.  The truth is, you can be an amazing student with impressive achievements and a long list of activities and still not be admitted to many universities.  There are some things you need to be aware of when applying to college. During the development of our career exploration course, we talked with a college admissions officer to learn more about the process and to find out how homeschooled students can maximize their chances of acceptance.   Read on to find out how to make your college application stand out.One of the major points that he wanted us to understand is that admissions officers are responsible for crafting a class.  Their task is not simply to admit the “best” students as defined by a set of criteria, but to choose the right mix of people who will contribute to the university in desired ways.  Students applying to college are evaluated not only on the basis of their individual merit, but by how they fit into the mix of students who applied that year. Of course, looking the best you can on paper is a good idea, but don’t be insulted if you aren’t accepted to some of the places where you apply.  A rejection letter is not proof that you are any less awesome than you had previously believed, just that you didn’t fit the profile that the university was looking for at that time.So how can you predict what colleges are looking for and make sure you write your application to match that?  You can’t.  Instead, your goal when applying to college should be to show them the best version of yourself that you can.  This is done in three ways.  First, you have to be the best version of yourself that you can.  Then, you need to write well and include the things that make you awesome in your application essays.  Finally, you must provide ways for the universities to see you stand out among other students.  Let’s take a closer look at each of these.Be the best version of yourself.This means working hard through high school.  Challenge yourself academically.   Get involved in activities that interest you and try to make sure that some of them are aligned with college majors that you’re considering.  Take on leadership roles.  Serve your community.  Do something unique, that most of their applicants probably haven’t done.  This is where homeschooled students have an advantage.  With more flexibility in your schedule, you can volunteer or intern while other students are in school.  You can do an in-depth exploration of a topic that interests you.  Just make sure to complete basic high school curriculum requirements as well.Rock your essays.When filling out your college applications, the essay portion is your chance to shine.  Use this to let them know more about who you are, what makes you exceptional, and what you can contribute to their university.  Admissions officers read a lot of essays.  A LOT.  This essay cannot tell them that you love math and work hard on your assignments and enjoy orchestra.  They will never remember you.  Tell a compelling story that highlights important aspects of your character and personality.  It should be unique, so that people who know you would recognize you in the story, or be reminded of you, even if it was anonymous.  Show your value.This last point requires some extra consideration for homeschooled students.  Though grades, test scores, and statistics are not enough to get you in, they are very important.  These measures are how admissions officers compare students with their peers.  Students who attend schools are compared to the rest of their class.  Homeschooled students must take care to provide ways for admissions officers to get unbiased data on their performance.  The best way to do this is to take the SAT or ACT.  If those are not a good option for you, then you could take some graded courses, perhaps at a local college.  If a parent has been your main teacher, you should absolutely include mom’s or dad’s letter of recommendation.  However, you should also provide at least one other letter from someone who can speak about your academic abilities (for example, from the instructor of that community college course you took).  When applying to college, it's important to keep your audience in mind. Admissions officers work hard reviewing all of the applications they receive, so do your best to make yours clear, interesting, and impressive.  Look for opportunities to excel academically, pursue your interests, serve your community, and develop leadership skills.  Apply to more than one school that you would be happy to attend, and try not to take it personally if not all of them say yes.  Find out more at us in the H4RL Career Exploration Course to find out more about applying to college and planning your future.  You know you’re awesome – we’ll help you prove it!