First Nations

Our new BC curriculum has placed greater emphasis on an understanding of First Nations culture and history, and after reflection and discussion with various stakeholders, it is clear that this is an opportunity for us to build on a number of values shared by Catholics and First Nations Peoples. By developing a sense of shared cultural understanding, we can foster reconciliation and healing in our Canadian context, and build a new historical chapter that looks forward in hope and solidarity rather than backward with hostility and misunderstanding.
Indeed there are many shared understandings and spiritual values that can be mutually celebrated, as described by Pope John Paul II in his apostolic journey to Canada in 1984, in a homily given September 15th:
Through his Gospel Christ confirms the native peoples in their belief in God, their awareness of his presence, their ability to discover him in creation, their dependence on him, their desire to worship him, their sense of gratitude for the land, their responsible stewardship of the earth, their reverence for all his great works, their respect for their elders. The world needs to see these values – and so many more that they possess – pursued in the life of the community and made incarnate in a whole people.
These shared values are a great foundation on which to build. While we must neither ignore nor obsess over the complex relationship between Canada’s aboriginal peoples and the European explorers and immigrants, focusing on some of these shared values can help us to explore the historical realities with mutual respect and empathy.
Following are some constructive resources that explore these shared values and historical realities in Canada:
  • The ministry of education has recently created a document exploring Aboriginal Worldviews and Perspectives for the Classroom, which includes a list of First Peoples Principles of Learning––a great starting point for drawing connections to Catholic principles and facilitating a discussion of shared values.
  • offers a great variety of First Nations resources focusing on cultural awareness and education through stories. Their booklist is grouped into resources for adults, teens and children. One book in particular, From Time Immemorial, offers an account of the history of the coastal First Nations from pre-contact to the present.
  • Apple Press also offers several selections exploring First Nations and Inuit culture (the same company who distributes the Canada Map Books).
  • is another good source for reading material, with a database of books searchable by title, author, topic, and grade/reading level.
  • CBC also offers a list of ten illustrated storybooks for children exploring First Nations history and culture.
  • The Canoe Kids series offers a magazine subscription to stories of various indigenous groups, including Haida of Haida Gwaii and Ojibwe, among others.
  • In an interview with Scarboro MissionsReverend Leverne Jacobs, an Anglican priest and an Ojibway, offers some beautiful and highly personal insights on aboriginal spirituality and its relationship to Christianity
  • also offers a thoughtful comparison of the two spiritual traditions, including some prayers.
  • Canadian Saints, featuring stories of fourteen Canadian saints, presents another beautiful approach to learning about this aspect of Canadian history: through the lives of the saints. Through them we can come to understand the issues and struggles of our nation with compassion and understanding. Published by Justin Press.
  • Visual Journey: Northwest Coast First Nations and Native Art Colouring Journal features 14 journal entries and art designs to explore First Nations history, culture and art.
  • Indigenous and Northern Affairs has also created a site for learning about Canadian Aboriginal learning circles that integrates a variety of subjects into activities.
  • Throughout BC there are also a number of Aboriginal Friendship Centres whose mission is to facilitate education and understanding, and who can share insights on how we can all grow together. 

Computer Literacy

As we all know, computer literacy is much more than learning to use Facebook and Youtube. For any of you who would like to incorporate computer skills into your ADST program, here are some websites and apps to help your children build technical skills on the computer: offers a free program for learning to type, with a simple interface that focuses on building skills. Highly recommended.

Blockly––a free app and website where students use visual icons to move characters around the screen. A simple, easy introduction to coding.––a great free resource to teach students in phases how to code. Students can advance at their own pace. There is a teacher training section of the program as well to give teachers a sense of the program. The student program consists of 20 coding lessons for early readers, another set for beginner readers, and more advanced lessons for those who complete the first two levels. There is also a teacher dashboard where teachers can see student progress. *This is NOT an app, but is online so students can access it at home too.

Lightbot and Lightbot Junior––these are the true coding apps from the Hour of Code.  The Lightbot the app is free up to a certain level. Lightbot Junior is $3.49.

Lightbot Junior is suitable for students from Kindergarten up. It has a gentle learning curve and only a few concepts of coding are explored in detail. The program works through a symbol-based system and the code is displayed on the screen, so there is very little reading required and the app teaches each concept with a well-planned progression of skills. This app is a great place to start learning, and when students have mastered the concepts they can continue their learning with the Lightfoot app.Lightfoot is $3.49 or can also be bundled with Lighbot for $5.79.

Lightfoot is recommended for Grade 2 +. There are five sections and they all use a symbol-based system to control character movements. The code is displayed on the screen and is editable. A large range of coding concepts are covered and skills are built gradually. The app also has exciting graphics and sounds.

Kodable––a free app until you reach a certain level, but by the time this stage is reached students are usually ready to move to a different app. Best for younger students (Kindergarten and Grade 1).  It uses a range of coding concepts with a lot of repetition and review of concepts. The app also has a range of learning resources.

Daisy the Dinosaur––a free app suitable for students in Grade 2 + (or younger if they can read). There are only a few tutorial levels where students learn basic codes, but the real value in this app is in the free play mode where students can explore combining the codes.

BeeBot––a free app suitable for students of any age. It has a gentle learning curve and is fun to play. One drawback to this app is that it does not display the code on screen and does not allow editing, which makes problem-solving solutions difficult.

BeeBot Pyramid––A more challenging version of BeeBot and it continues on from where Beebot ends.  The learning curve is more challenging and it is recommended for Grade 2 +.  The coding is done with a symbol based system that is engaging and feels like a game.  Like BeeBot it does not display the code on screen. Price is $1.19.

Robot Logic––a free lite version ,or $2.49 for the full app. Suitable for Grade 1 +.  It has a challenging learning curve but has voice tutorial for all new concepts.  The coding is done through a symbol based system to control character movement.  It covers only a few basic coding concepts but is challenging in the sub menu aspect and great for students who have completed basic coding concepts.  Levels also have multiple solutions and points are given depending on the level of the code you write which challenges you to improve codes.

Move The Turtle––suitable for Grade 1 + and is unique as it uses Logo programming language. A wide range of coding concepts is covered and students can have their own accounts within the app which makes it handy for shared ipads.  One drawback to this app is that it is very text-heavy, without voice instructions to help explain difficult parts. Price is $2.99.


The following list appeals especially to Catholics of course, as we are a Catholic school. However, there are a number of resources focusing also on various virtues and healthy lifestyle that may be of interest to those with other perspectives. Buen Camino!

Catechetics and Preparation for the Sacraments


Teens and young adults

  • YouCat––a summary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church written for young people. Also corresponding to paragraph citations in the CCC.
  • Word on Fire is an apostolate created by Bishop Robert Barron, with articles and videos on a range of topics. Geared more towards teen and adult faith formation.
  • Ascension Press offers a range of bible studies for all ages, including the ever-popular Great Adventure Bible Timeline, as well as other focus areas in Scripture and the spiritual life.
  • You: Life, Love and the Theology of the Body is video series produced by Ascension Press, presenting John Paul II’s teachings on human relationships and sexuality to teens.  Hosted by Brian Butler, and Jason and Crystalina Evert.
  • Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations––a great cultural read for adolescents, offering advice for growing up. Written by two brothers when they themselves were 18.
  • The daily readings are available from Evangelizo (also available as a phone app).


Bibles and catechetical stories


Health and Lifestyle


Does it matter who’s telling the story? Absolutely! Questions concerning perspective and bias aside, it’s also important to get a good storyteller. The authors and resources listed below are chosen for their accessibility for different ages, as well as several options for exploring history from a literary or ‘living books’ approach.

World History––

Living books approach––book lists of great historical literature and biographies:

Canadian History:

Canada––online resources:


I’ve listed the most popular math programs with a short description below, but in fact, Exodus Books puts all the major math curricula into one place with reviews for your reading pleasure, when you are at leisure to really grapple with the most difficult decision every homeschooling mom makes: which math program to use……… and stick with. Best of luck!

  • Singapore Math––the most popular, generally because of the thorough but efficient approach, often slightly grade ahead of BC grade-level outcomes. Colourful and straightforward, popular with kids and parents alike. Singapore is available with PO from The Learning House.
  • Math U See––a practical approach, focusing on conceptual understanding through visuals, manipulatives and games. Video lessons also available  which is a selling point for many parents, especially for students who struggle (as they can rematch the videos as necessary.) Developed especially for those who struggle with early numeracy skills, though useful for all students. 
  • RightStart Math––an excellent math program to build skills, incorporating many games and manipulatives, and geared to a variety of learning styles. A word of caution though, that this program does require significant parental planning and involvement, especially at the younger ages.
  • Life of Fred––an innovative math program incorporating a continuing narrative into each lesson. Great for those who are always asking, “Why will I need to know this??” Note, however, that this program does not emphasize numeracy drills, so is often used as a supplement to other programs.
  • Snap Math––for grades 7-9 only. Aligned to BC outcomes, with a straightforward approach, and just a few practise questions before each review. These workbooks really do get students through math in a snap, perfect for middle graders who just want to get things done!
  • Aleks Math––an online program that also meets BC outcomes (more so than Teaching Textbooks)
  • Ikoma Abacus––this is an interesting approach to learning about numbers, but as far as I know is only available in Vancouver at present.


Great math additives….

  •––good for practise with the basic operations. Simple but intuitive.
  • The Verbal Math Lesson––developed to help make mental math fun, and less paper-oriented
  • Anno’s Math Games––a book of math games reinforcing key mathematical concepts for primary students, especially focusing on charting and sorting skills. Available as a free pdf (linked above) or through Amazon.
  • Singapore Word Problems––an addendum to the Singapore programs, but it can supplement any math programs to encourage and develop problem-solving abilities
  • Life of Fred––while this can be used as a stand-alone program––barely––it is more appropriate as a fun and creative supplement to encourage children to see how math fits into other areas of life, and vice versa.

Math Tutorials Online

  • BC Exam Bank––this is a great place to start when figuring out placement according to BC’s outcomes, or to test students as they work through curricula
  • THSS Math – for secondary math, and geared to BC outcomes
  • Purple Math––a great tutorial site, even for secondary math
  • Math Is Fun––a good games site, to build skills
  • Khan Academy––excellent tutorials for both math and science topics, with a searchable database


According to BC’s Ministry of Education, English language arts skills include listening, speaking, reading and writing. No kidding! So yes, we want our children to learn to listen, speak, read and write effectively (emphasis on listening, some days). Within that, there are heaps of options. Below I’ve listed the most popular with families at ASCEND.

Early Readers

  • Siegfried Engelmann, Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons is the most starting point for most of my families. There is also now a newer edition for those who don’t like the way letters are arranged in the original––and shorter too: Teach Your Child to Read in 20 Easy Lessons. A good ‘short-cut’ approach for many, especially as so many don’t work all the way through the 100 Lessons in the original.
  • Run Bug Run! is a phonics reader with a collection of short stories developed by All About Learning, so correlated to All About Reading and All About Spelling, although it can also be used as a stand-alone reader.
  • Other popular early readers include Catholic Heritage Curricula’s Little Stories for Little Folks readers and the Bob Books series.
  • Learning Language Arts through Literature is a ‘living-books’ approach that closely fits BC outcomes. It focuses on all areas of language arts: reading and comprehension, as well as phonics, grammar and spelling.
  • Five in a Row is a series of read-out-loud lessons and discussions for a variety of topic areas, matched to quality children’s books. The books themselves can be purchased together in a pack, or borrowed from the library. I really like the idea behind this program because it contextualizes lessons about geography, math, science language, and ethics within a short, engaging story.
  • Come Sit By Me offers a similar program to Five in a Row, but focuses on Canadian content, and also includes biblical content––so a great alternative for the Canadian Catholic context! Oriented to the primary grades (4-7 year olds) and available through Maple Tree Publications.
  • All About Reading––a thorough beginner reading program, especially helpful for struggling readers.
  • is a multi-sensory reading program geared especially towards struggling learners.




Writing Skills

  • Developed by Andrew Pudewa in accordance with the principles of the Suzuki violin method applied to language learning, The Institute for Excellence in Writing builds skills systematically so that students become strong communicators, ready for the post-secondary world. The Writing Intensives are a great introduction to writing at the 4th grade level especially, as students prepare for Foundational Skills Assessments (FSAs). The writing program focuses on style, organization and form in preparation for secondary and post-secondary writing. Highly recommended.
  • Memoria Press offers a range of resources for all areas of language arts. A classical approach that is both efficient, thorough and engaging.
  • Webster’s Online Academy offers online writing classes according to the Excellence in Writing principles
  • Martin Cothran, Classical Rhetoric with Aristotle: Traditional Principles of Speaking & Writing
  • Jump In is a workbook for learning to write persuasively. Oriented to middle grades, from Apologia Press.
  • Susan Wise Bauer’s Writing with Ease series is a writing program geared towards the intermediate grades (in the logical phase), building on earlier skills learned in Primary Language Lessons. I am not as familiar with this one, so any thoughts or experience you have to share is welcome!
  • If you’re looking for some quick-reference cheat sheets, Rainbow Resource Centre has a range in all subject areas, including English norms and grammar.


Writing References


Presentation Skills

  •––a website and app that allows students to create lively and polished presentations for their subjects. Suitable for grades 6+. Free to parents if a ‘school-based email’ is used to create an account.
  • Word Play: Write Your Own Crazy Comics, for those who would like to learn comic-booking skills.




Literature for Boys


You can also check out some reading lists here:

  • Simply Charlotte Mason has a page dedicated to various book lists, with the goal of building your own curriculum––but you can also just use the lists, no need to turn everything into a program!
  • Ambleside Online, another Charlotte Mason site, offers a full curriculum organized by subject, so again, you could just use the titles as good reading, or do more with it, as you prefer.
  • ‘Twaddle-Free’ living book lists is also based on the principles of Charlotte Mason for reading good literature, or ‘living books’.
  • The Read-Aloud Revival has several book lists with suitable works, available through (free) email subscription.
  • 1000 Good Books List was put together by the Classical Christian Education Support Loop.