Five Small Things Making a Big Difference in our Homeschool

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Every year I add a few things to our homeschool to improve our routines, maintain my sanity, and address the ever-changing needs of the rapidly maturing kids in my house.

And change can be good.

This year we’ve added a few tools that are making a big difference and these are my top five.

Here are five small things that are making a BIG difference in our homeschool.

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An Amazon Dot appeared on the first day of school as the only new school supply for my sons this year. Their sisters received them for Christmas or their birthday and now it was the boys’ turn.

As homeschoolers, we didn’t have a big need for school supplies. The boys didn’t need backpacks or new lunch boxes. We have plenty of paper, pencils, and notebooks. I typically purchase fun, out-of-the-box school supplies to kick off our year so this Amazon Dot was a perfect choice.

Now all three kids have an Amazon Dot in their room. The boys were thrilled. And so am I.Our Alexa dots have made a huge difference in our homeschool for so many reasons. One of my favorite reasons is that everyone can listen to books in the evening (or during the day) while relaxing in their bedroom.

I’ve started scooping up audible deals because now all three kids can listen to their favorites during the day. You don’t have to be a member for many of the deals. You simply purchase the title and download the free Audible app to listen. The Amazon Dots keep track of where you are in the book so it picks up where you left off when it is time to read again.

Currently, the boys are listening to Redwall by Brian Jacques with their father every night. He appreciates the break it is giving his read aloud voice and I am grateful that some of their “schoolwork” is being accomplished in the evening.

My 14-year-old isn’t a fan of reading chapter books. She much prefers graphic novels, so she is using her Amazon Dot to listen to novels this year while we spend the year studying graphic novels for her English class.

I can use the drop-in feature to talk to my kids when they are in their bedrooms and I am downstairs. I can ask the Amazon Echo in the kitchen to drop-in on any of the Amazon Dots in the house. It makes it easier to ask a quick question, wake up a child who is oversleeping, or call kids downstairs for lunch.

Seriously. These tiny Dots make a big difference. I know I will find more ways to use them.

——> Check out my list of Audio Books for Families <——


I finally broke down and bought a Chrome Cast. I have wanted one for over a year and I have no idea why I waited so long. You can’t find it on Amazon because it is a google product, but I ordered mine from Target and I have no regrets.

This little gem is magical.

The Chrome Cast cable hooks into the HDMI opening on the back of my television. Using the free Chrome Cast app or google chrome extension, I can stream videos from my computer, phone, or table on to the television.

{You can find all of the instructions online.}

We watch CNN 10, YouTube videos, and more on the TV because I cast them from my tablet. I simply bookmark my choices for our school day ahead of time and then cast them to the TV when the time comes.

The Chromecast is one of five things we have added to our homeschool that is making a big difference.

The Chrome Cast has made a huge difference with our subscription to Curiosity Stream, which isn’t an app available on my TV. I have to use my tablet and cast it to my television…which brings me to my next “little thing”.


We added a subscription to Curiosity Stream for the year. For less than $2.99 a month, we have access to a variety of educational programming and documentaries.

I was worried that this would just “be another thing” on my to-do list, but we have really enjoyed a few of the shows.

Our favorite series has been the three-episode program, Yellowstone. We have enjoyed learning about Yellowstone in winter, autumn, and summer, which was a great follow up to our visit there this past summer.

5 small things we have added that are making a big difference in our homeschool.

The reason this subscription has made such a big impact is that I can add interesting shows to my watchlist and pull them out for my boys when I have to run the teenagers around town.


Now that I have older kids, our day includes a decent amount of running kids to work, classes, and activities. My 4th and 6th graders don’t mind staying home alone, but most of their school work requires assistance from me.

Curiosity Stream has been a perfect option when I am not available to work with them. The videos are interesting and educational. Also, I don’t have to worry about the ads, comments, or other videos available the way I do with YouTube.

Of course, I haven’t let them watch Yellowstone without me because I love it.

I also rely heavily on Around the World Stories, for the same purpose, but that isn’t a new addition this year.

My boys are currently working through the stories about Asia starting with China. I love that I can use the Around the World Stories website to follow up with facts, questions, and videos even if I wasn’t able to enjoy the story with them.

I will admit that it has been a hard adjustment to let the boys watch and listen without me. I miss enjoying the stories and videos with my kids, but it is also nice to have a learning option for my sons while I am driving around my daughter’s at this stage in life.

Using Around the World Stories with my boys.

I try to save a few titles for us to enjoy together, but I am learning to embrace the way things work best this year as well.


Don’t laugh, but the fourth small thing that is making a big difference in our homeschool is my new pencil sharpener.

I kid you not. I wouldn’t joke about this. Magical pencil sharpeners are not a joke.

My friend, Amy from Humility and Doxology, shared the magic of this pencil sharpener on her Facebook page and I asked her, “Are you for real? Is this thing really that good?” She assured me that it was an incredible pencil sharpener.

And she did not lie.

Finally, we can order our favorite pencils and have the perfect point. We had resorted to lead pencils because even our fancy pencils didn’t sharpen correctly in our old, lame sharpener.

That has all changed and this little sharpener has made a huge impact. We sharpen colored pencils, cheap pencils, and our Ticonderogas with ease.

Life is good when the pencil points are sharp.


Pam Barnhill’s “Put your Meal Planning on Auto Pilot ” course has been a huge game changer in this house.

Let me first confess that I am horrible at meal planning. It is the thing that I like doing the least.

It’s not that I can’t cook; I am actually not bad at cooking. It’s the planning that I can’t stand and I needed help.

This short, four module course uses an idea similar to loop scheduling to help you put your meal planning on auto-pilot. And it includes a wonderful community forum to discuss and share your ideas. I loved looking at everyone else’s meal theme “buckets”.

Five things making a big difference in our homeschool.

I am finishing up the course, but it has already made a big difference in my mindset and meal planning. I am less stressed and I have the food I need on hand.

Having my meals running on Auto Pilot is going to be a game changer for me.

What’s changing the game for you this year?

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7 thoughts on “Five Small Things Making a Big Difference in our Homeschool”

  1. Julie Schellin

    Always love reading what you share! I cracked up that you included a new pencil sharpener in this list. We finally got a new one this year after our Old Faithful died, and I love our new sharpener so much. Funny how something like that can make such a difference. Hope you all are well.

  2. Totally with you on the pencil sharpener! I’m pretty sure an electric pencil sharpener and Ticonderoga pencils were the main thing that saved my sanity. Until I tried to homeschool a first grade boy, I had no idea it was even possible to break your pencil lead so many times in one day!!

  3. Just got 4 echos-they’re on sale for $24 each! Also, the curiosity subscription is $19/year for black Friday!

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