Gifts They Can Love and Learn
Full Disclosure: These are affiliate links for the companies and items I have personally used and love.
Gifts your kids can unwarap and virtual ones for instant access!
We are a family of unschoolers - regardless of what your schooling style is, if you are looking to create more life-long learning, you can read more about educational alternatives and resources here.
1: Namaste Personality Snapshots
I have to start this list with what I feel is one of the most powerful things you can do for your family and better understanding one another.
This is the core foundational component for all of my coaching, and this is something you can do with your children to really have some quality time that is all about them!
Based on the DISC Personality profiles, I've used these in business for the past 15 years - and now I've created some variations to walk you through understanding yourself - and your family - better. My forte is working with families to help identify how the uniqueness in each of us strengthens all of us, and a great starter for this is the Family Portrait Sessions if you want some 1-1 coaching with your family about these results and how to best apply them.
*update - they are now available on Android as well!
2. Learn with Homer
All of my girls love the Homer app, and studies have shown that doing it 15 minutes a day can increase reading levels by 74%. Now, who knows how they test that for accuracy, and in the unschooling world, who actually cares. BUT, my kids are learning and engaged in the process, and that is what I'm all about! Although this app is geared toward children learning to read, my oldest daughter begged to create an account because the books were so interesting in it. It's really helped her with her spelling as well. Check out my youngest with her video testimonial here on their Facebook page.
I love this app so much, I've teamed up with the company for an extra special Mama Says Namaste discount!
3. ABC Mouse
ABC Mouse has plenty of resources for them to go along a learning pathway, and, like Homer, can be played on the computer or any mobile device.
4. Reading Eggs
The kids enjoy the different subjects in there, however there is a cat that sings a song that may just be to drive parents crazy. Headphones recommended. You'll be singing obnoxious songs after they finish every lesson!
This app is awesome. Out of all the "Learn a new language" apps, this is our absolute favorite. On top of learning vocabulary, you learn how to use it in conversation, have to repeat things back to work on your accent, and get reminders to keep up the progress. Our oldest daughter has learned a ton from it!
6. Tiny Cards
By the same creators of Duolingo, these are flashcards on steriods - super intuitive and you can learn about all kinds of things - different types of animals, languages, any vocabulary, etc - it's a new favorite in our home!
This has been our go-to entertainment app for all the grandparents phones as well. With new books always being added, it's like a virtual children's library anywhere you go. Kids can read the books on their own, have them read along, or have it prompt them to read.
8. Life of Fred Math Series
The idea behind Life of Fred is that if students have an enjoyable experience and have fun doing their math, they will remember it and use it and have a good taste in their math about the whole subject.
The sub-title on each of his math books is "As Serious As it Needs to Be". And that is just the point: math doesn't need to be horrid and dry. This is math - just as serious as it needs to be - and I can tell you from my child's smiles and chuckles, that's not very serious at all!
As a bonus, these books are very low priced compared to any other math books on the market. If you have a creative child who dreads math, check out these stories and see if it engages them!
9. Financial Peace Junior
This is not a quick "get the kids to bed" book. However, my girls love them and they really helped for them to understand how to give, spend and save and the importance of all of them.
This is an excellent resource for teaching kids not just about money, but breaking it down to our relationship with it and how you can use it for good; looking at investing, giving, saving and spending.
10. The Way of the Scout: A Native American Path to Finding Spiritual Meaning in a Physical World
This is a fabulous book Nathan has read to the girls. One word of caution - this is not a children's book. We often use adult books/resources with our kids, and not every statement may be kid-friendly.
Due to this book, my girls have learned all about survival in the wilderness - building lean-tos, what berries you can forage for, and how to really listen for wildlife. It's been a great way to bring awareness into our natural world.
11. What Your Kindergartner Needs To Know
If you're curious what other kids your child's age may be learning, this series is a great "cliffs notes" version. I've found these helpful so our kids know what others are talking about and to just give an overview of their peers.
As an unschooling family, we aren't concerned that they have every single thing covered and memorized, so this just gives us a great overview of what other kids know in each grade.
12. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
Before all the newfangled apps and goodness, this was the book I started with my oldest. It is broken down in such a basic way that kids really pick up the concept behind sounding the words out vs. simply trying to memorize it all. The script gets a bit tedious and old, so I used this as a basis to get us rolling, and then we skipped through and my daughter did a lot on her own. This really helps to lay the foundation of helping them sound out the individual letters to make words - don't get stuck on the details, but work to set the framework and have fun with it!
13. The Unschooling Handbook : How to Use the Whole World As Your Child's Classroom
Full disclaimer: I haven't read this yet. But it came recommended by friends, and I love the title of it!
14: It's Not the Stork!: A Book About Girls, Boys, Babies, Bodies, Families and Friends
This is the first in the "It's Perfectly Normal" Series - ages 4-7. This is a great basic foundation for the younger crew on the essentials of how babies are made. What I love about this book is it's not just about how babies are made, but what makes males and females the same as well as what makes us different, explaining all the definitions of sex ( for example, gender vs. physical intimacy), and okay/not okay touch. It also addresses different types of families - same-sex, adoption, blended, etc.
From the description: Young children are curious about almost everything, especially their bodies. And young children are not afraid to ask questions. What makes me a girl? What makes me a boy? Why are some parts of girls' and boys' bodies the same and why are some parts different? How was I made? Where do babies come from? Is it true that a stork brings babies to mommies and daddies?
IT'S NOT THE STORK! helps answer these endless and perfectly normal questions that preschool, kindergarten, and early elementary school children ask about how they began. Through lively, comfortable language and sensitive, engaging artwork, Robie H. Harris and Michael Emberley address readers in a reassuring way, mindful of a child's healthy desire for straightforward information. Two irresistible cartoon characters, a curious bird and a squeamish bee, provide comic relief and give voice to the full range of emotions and reactions children may experience while learning about their amazing bodies. Vetted and approved by science, health, and child development experts, the information is up-to-date, age-appropriate, and scientifically accurate, and always aimed at helping kids feel proud, knowledgeable, and comfortable about their own bodies, about how they were born, and about the family they are part of.
Caveat - this whole series is very open - so screen these to determine your comfort on talking about LBGQT sexuality and more. This first one is pretty tame - it covers a LOT, but not so in-depth.
15: It's So Amazing!: A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families
This is the second series, good for a bit older child - approx. 7-9. This one goes a bit deeper, explaining the different types of love (parent/child, sexual desire, loving a toy). Again, these dig into all the varieties of where sex comes into play - so there is talk about what goes on with peers, etc.
From the description: How does a baby begin? What makes a baby male or female? How is a baby born? Children have plenty of questions about reproduction and babies—and about sex and sexuality, too. It's So Amazing! provides the answers—with fun, accurate, comic-book-style artwork and a clear, lively text that reflects the interests of children age seven and up in how things work, while giving them a healthy understanding of their bodies.
Caveat - this whole series is very open - so screen these to determine your comfort on talking about LBGQT sexuality and more. The first two are somewhat tame - it covers a LOT, but not so in-depth.
16: It's Perfectly Normal: A Book about Changing Bodies, Growing Up, Sex, and Sexual Health
Now...I believe in an "open door" policy for questioning in our home. We are very open about sharing any information our kids ask about (check out my "no secrets" blog here), and we share based on what they are capable of understanding. That being said, this book even made me a tad uncomfortable!
It discusses SO MUCH about sex and sexuality, including all the ways you can have sex and all the ways you can prevent pregnancy. Plus diving deep into the LGBTQ gender identities. I actually stopped and told my daughter how it was a bit awkward for me to talk about some of it, not because it was shameful, but because, as much as I want her to know about sex, I'm not inviting her into our bedroom to watch! And this covers a ton. That being said, I would so much rather get through my own discomfort and be the first to talk to her about this - before she hears about it from a friend, or worse, is thrown into a situation where she discovers something new in the heat of the moment and isn't sure how to respond.
Here is the full description from the site: For two decades, this universally acclaimed book on sexuality has been the most trusted and accessible resource for kids, parents, teachers, librarians, and anyone else who cares about the well-being of tweens and teens. Now, in honor of its anniversary, It's Perfectly Normal has been updated with information on subjects such as safe and savvy Internet use, gender identity, emergency contraception, and more. Providing accurate and up-to-date answers to nearly every imaginable question, from conception and puberty to birth control and STDs, It's Perfectly Normal offers young people the information they need—now more than ever—to make responsible decisions and stay healthy.
17: The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live The Life You Want and Change the World
This isn't a children's education book - so why do I have it listed? Because it's a paradigm shifter. For every parent eager to look beyond the box and explore the many possibilities, this is a must-read. Guillebeau addresses the educational system and how to look beyond traditional structure to embrace life-long learning. Definitely check it out!
18. Cashflow for Kids
This is the child-friendly version of the Cashflow game - I haven't played this one yet, but I know the adult version can be a bit overwhelming/scary for a non math-type person, so the kids' version is an easier one for everyone to grasp.
And why is Cashflow so awesome? It completely shifted my perspective on money; from "what can I afford" to "is this a worthwhile investment?" What a powerful perspective shift, and how great to have our children learn this early!
19. Dutch Blitz
This is just "Vonderful goot fun"! I grew up playing Dutch Blitz and recently introduced it to the girls. It's simple to learn - just make stacks of colored cards from 1-10 - but it's fast paced and requires a lot of hand-eye coordination to be the first one to run out of your cards. It's a super fun game for the whole family - as soon as they can identify their numbers, they are old enough to play.
This doesn't need much explanation. It's easy for young kids to grasp, it's one simple deck, and the whole family can have fun with it. Of course, it's one of those games that can go on and on and on....
Here is your first intro for learning about money - it's a classic, and your kids will finally know what you mean when you say "do not pass go, do not collect $200" or you use your "get out of jail free" card.
22. Settlers of Catan
If you know this game, you know this game. This opens Pandora's box of possibilities, with bonus tracks and additional games like Seafarers of Catan. Along the same lines as Monopoly, you are building settlements, but you're trading clay, rock, wood and wool. Not only does this help children understand original settlements, but how to trade for goods, build strategy, and generally get hooked on a game that's fun for everyone!
23. Wildcraft! An Herbal Adventure Game
I'm super excited about this one being on our Christmas list this year: Wildcraft teaches 25 important edible and medicinal plants and their uses in mostly first aid situations. (Wildcrafting is the harvesting of wild plants). Players learn about plants by connecting the icon on the challenge or “trouble” cards with the icons on the plant cards. Though it is a cooperative game, there is plenty of strategy and drama as players travel up the mountain to the Huckleberry Patch and back to Grandma’s before nightfall. The only way to get back safely is to help each other out. However, it’s ok if you don’t make it. Grandma will come and get you. :)
Wildcraft! is a great introduction to the world of edible and medicinal herbs for children of ALL ages. It’s a beautifully illustrated, nature based, educational, cooperative game created in the tradition of the classic board games. It's compared to "Chutes and Ladders", but it combines the education of wildcrafting as well! No reading is required for younger players.
24. Love Does
Why would I put this book under "education?" Because I firmly believe one of the most important things we can impart to our children is how to love. This book is an engaging read for the whole family, and lays out a lifestyle of simply being open to love and give freely. Although it has a Christian foundation, this isn't just a religious book. It's joy, laughter, love and spreading the good. I happen to know Bob Goff, and he truly lives the life he portrays in this book!
This is a beautiful documentary to put into perspective what truly makes people happy. This shows that it sure as heck isn't money or ease of living.
26. Renee & Jeremy: A Little Love
This is the album that my intro/outtro for the podcast comes from - awesome cover songs by the wonderful Renee and Jeremy. When we heard them cover the Red Hot Chili Peppers song "Give It Away", we were sold!
And if you're wondering why this is "educational", I'll remind you how everything can be a learning opportunity! This CD helped my girls learn about harmony and melody and develop an ear for it.
This is the tip of the iceberg on tips and resources we've found that are great for our unschooling, minimalist, gypsy lifestyle. I know this will continue to grow, and you can always reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions!