Six Workbooks That Work

A couple of weeks ago I featured a post by a home-schooling friend who goes by the name of CaptiousNut.  His blog Marginalizing Morons is advertised as “an online home-school curriculum, for adults!”  He has frequently commented on my posts and in his comment on “Have You Ever Done This?” he mentioned that he finds workbooks to be helpful in handling those “daily disasters” that can come along and throw all your home-schooling plans out of whack. 

Some time later I was thinking about this and reflecting on all the different workbooks I have used over two decades of home-schooling and so, in the interest of helping you find workbooks to mitigate your own discombobulated days, I am offering my list of six workbooks that work!


Calculadder Math Drills – I have used Calculadder drills for almost 20 years.  I found early in my home-schooling “career” that home-schoolers are great at getting math facts down cold, but not necessarily fast, which is equally important. Calculadder is a series of timed drills designed to help your children move to the automatic recall of facts. Calculadder starts with the most basic facts and continues through fractions and decimals review, percents, English and Metric units, and geometric concepts. It is important to note that the book numbers (1 through 6) don’t necessarily correspond to grades.  You can review what is covered in each and decide which book you want to start your child at.  In addition, if you have a child that might get a little stressed by the “timed” nature of the drills (like my youngest) you can always adjust the time and then gradually allow for less time to complete a page. This is a workbook activity that takes minutes a day to complete but has immeasurable benefits for your child. (Calculadder is also available as CD’s if you don’t mind printing out your own workbook pages.)


Explode the Code – It is just my personal opinion, but I believe “Explode the Code” is the best phonics program around.  As a matter of fact, after struggling with my older son learning to read, I had him do a quick phonics review using “Explode the Code” in 3rd grade (on the recommendation of a home-school friend) and in a short time he was reading and loving it!   As a result, the only materials I used to teach my middle son to read were Explode the Code and Christian Liberty Press Readers.  (As it turned out, I didn’t use any phonics program with my youngest son because he taught himself to read by the age of four – true story!)   While Explode the Code and Christian Liberty Press Readers are not connected in any way, I discovered that they dove-tailed perfectly in terms of what sounds were taught when.

Vocabulary from Classical Roots – Over 60% of the English language contains words derived from Greek and Latin roots.  The premise of these workbooks then, is that by teaching our kids these roots they will have a better command of the English language and improved reading comprehension.   I have successfully used “Vocabulary from Classical Roots” with my kids and wholeheartedly recommend it.  I know some home-schoolers (especially those who use the Classical teaching method) will teach full-fledged Latin programs, but I just never could get motivated to do that.  I believe that using these workbooks gave my children an excellent exposure to Greek and Latin roots in a format that was very easy to use.  I recommend starting with “Book A” somewhere between 5th and 7th grade and then going from there.  And don’t feel like you must get through a workbook every year – I believe we should make workbooks fit our home-school and not the other way around, so don’t get bogged down by the parameters set by the publishers.  Allow your children to work through these workbooks at a pace that you decide is best.

Apples Spelling Drills – I need to tell you my spelling philosophy and that is, if your kids don’t need a spelling curriculum don’t waste your time on one!  How do you know if your children need a spelling curriculum?  Pretty easy.  Are they naturally good spellers?  Then they don’t need one.  Allow me to explain: my two oldest children (like me) are naturally good spellers.  This is something that I could easily discern by the time they were in 3rd or 4th grade (hint: DON’T start a spelling curriculum before 4th grade…you might just be wasting your time!)  On the other hand, my second son (3rd child) – like his dad – is not a naturally good speller, so…when he was in about 7th grade I bought “Apples Spelling Drills” for him to use.  It worked wonders.  It teaches spelling very logically by emphasizing commonly misspelled words like homonyms (for example: their, there, they’re), contractions, suffixes, and other spelling rules.  Easy for your kids to use, which will make your life easier too!


Maps, Charts, Graphs – I started using these workbooks many years ago as an easy introduction to using maps.  As it gets into the more advanced workbooks it is a good geography program (or supplement) as well.  They start out very easy.  You could start your child in Book A as early first grade.  My son used Book A last year in second grade and I plan to have him progress through the entire series.  Again, I like to use workbooks that are stress-free for me!  Maps, Charts, Graphscertainly fills the bill.

The Geography Coloring Book – I feel this workbook is not only a great geography tool but it can also be a nice change of pace for your middle- to senior-high schooler.  You could use it earlier than that, say starting in 5th or 6th grade,  but I think it is interesting that even colleges use this as a resource as do adults who simply want a refresher.  The Geography Coloring Book is another workbook that could be used as a supplement to a geography program or as your core geography curriculum.

One last note:  One appealing trait of all these workbooks is that they are inexpensive.  So they can be a great addition to any homeschool curriculum you might be using.

What workbooks have you found to be a useful addition to your curriculum?  Let me know in the comments!

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  • Brook (Matt5verse6)

    Happy Monday, SITStah! Visiting from Goose Tribe. Thanks for the information about these workbooks. Currently we are with a “virtual school” but the comfortable I get with homeschooling the more I want to branch out… I do love our current curriculum though… for now. I hear Alpha Omega is excellent along with Rod and Staff and a few others. Anyway, thanks for your input. Hope you have a fantastic day.

    Kindest regards,

    • Anonymous


      Thanks for stopping by and commenting! There are lots of great programs out there…you might want to check out my review of Sonlight which I posted here a couple of weeks ago. Keep up the good work, Brook!

  • I love “Classically Cursive” by Vertas Press for penmanship. It is classical in its approach of imitating beautiful (modern) handwriting; and, the content is not frivolous.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for sharing this! I have heard of Veritas Press but am not familiar with “Classically Cursive.” Handwriting is another subject that we still DO need to teach our kids, even in an age of computers. And having a program that is easy to use – or as you say, “not frivolous” – is a great bonus.

  • Angela W.

    I’m visiting from the Hip Homeschool Blog Hop. I’m your newest subscriber!

    • Anonymous

      Well, thank you! I am looking forward to sharing with you and I hope you will come back in the future and add your voice to the conversations here!

  • Explode the Code, IMO, is the BEST program ever made for phonics!! I used it for my oldest and never had to “teach” him to read and now he reads at quite an advanced level (just word decoding, not comprehension), and my middle son has been reading since he was just barely 5, also using ETC!!

    Thank you for the suggestions!! I hadn’t heard of some of these things!


    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the support! I agree with you – teaching my middle son was easy-peasy using Explode the Code. Totally painless!

      Glad you like my suggestions. And thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  • I am very much interested in “Vocabulary From Classical Roots” – though it looks expensive. How many books are there?

    • Anonymous

      Hey, CNut!

      Each workbook is only about 10 bucks. You can check through my link to see. If you buy the answer key that’s maybe another 10 bucks. The keys are convenient but you could easily correct the workbooks yourself. I only used one workbook per year so to me they were a very cheap addition to my curriculum.

      They have it set up as 4th, 5th, and 6th grade workbooks and then you start in Book A in 7th grade. That is according to the publisher. I never used the 4th, 5th or 6th grade books, I only used the workbooks with the letters – there are five of those: A through E.

      Go to: (there is a link on my resources page) – you can check out all the levels there and what they cover.

  • Hey hoped over on the homeschool blog hop. I’ve not used these books yet as the LO is too little for them but I have browsed through them. thanks for the info!

    • Anonymous

      Glad you stopped by! Am I going to look stupid asking what you mean by “LO?” In any case, glad you checked in and left me a note!

  • Jen

    This is a great list! I would agree with ETC and Maps Charts and Graphs – we have used both for several years and have been very happy. I need to check out Calculadders. Thanks for sharing, stopping by from HHH today.

    • Anonymous

      I think “Maps, Charts, Graphs” might be off many people’s radar i.e. they have never heard of it. I think I picked it up originally at a convention YEARS ago, but honestly I’m not sure. I just know that I have used it with my kids for almost my entire home-schooling “career.”

      And ETC – can’t rave enough about it! It was a godsend for me.

      And I love Calculadders because it is effective and only takes minutes a day.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting!

  • Great helpful reviews! Off to check them all out.

    • Anonymous

      I’m glad you found this helpful…and thanks for stopping by!