Recently, I posted about getting prepared to homeschool, and that got me thinking. There are lots of supplies we need to have around if we want to do this homeschool thing right, and those supplies differ from home to home. We know the basics: paper, pencils, crayons, scissors, glue. I mean, especially in the early grades, you could almost homeschool entirely just with those few tools on hand.
But what are my favorite homeschool tools?
The ones I really never want to do without. I mean, my homeschool wouldn’t fall apart without them, but I would definitely not be happy. And you know what happens when mama’s not happy.
So I compiled a list for you. If you aren’t already using these things, or if you’re just starting out, maybe this list will help you be better prepared. Or maybe you’ll want to chuck things at me and scream: No, no, no, KT, there are other homeschool tools that are So Much More Important. If so, let me know in the comments. I like to dodge.
1. A solid printer
Okay, I kind of have a crush on my laser printer. For our first couple years as a homeschooling family, I was using a color printer/scanner that I honestly loved. But I was shelling out about $40 in ink. Every. Month. Ugh. Sure, their worksheets and notebooking pages were pretty, but honestly, folks, did that help them learn any better? So my amazing, phenomenal, crush-worthy brother HL-2270DW went on sale 2 years ago for $99 and I snatched it up. Know what I pay for ink now (including toner and drum)? About $30 a year. A year, my friends. And you already know I plan all our lessons myself, which means I print A Lot of Stuff.
$30 a year.
Get a laser printer. Even if you pay full price, you’re still going to save scads of money.
Listen, I don’t care if you visit the public library or compile a library of your own–have oodles of books available for your littles. The great thing about the public library is it’s free. I mean, you know, so long as you return your books on time. There’s a lot to be said for getting to read books for free. Plus, most libraries have activities and programs for littles of all ages, and many have programs specifically designed for homeschoolers.
Having your own library of books at home means your littles can always get their hands on something to read. If you saw mine, you would think I brought the library home with me when I left. I’m not kidding you, I have thousands of books. Two rooms full of shelves in the house and my beautiful husband built me a writing building that is shelved floor to ceiling. (That’s it up there. Isn’t it awesome?)
Yeah. All full.
I am well aware that I’m obsessed.
3. Freezer Paper
If you’ve read my blog at all, you’ve heard this one before. I heart freezer paper for art projects and charts. It’s less than $5 a roll and it lasts at least a semester, and you can make murals and charts and all kinds of goodness for Not The Price Of Art Paper. Love!
4. 3-Hole Punch
This one might also be labeled Binders. Because we keep all those printables, plus lapbooking projects and notes on lined paper, and any other paper that goes with a class, in binders. So without my 3-hole punch I would be mildly insane.
Okay, I know. I Am mildly insane. I would be a bit crazier.
5. Teacher Planner
Speaking of binders, one of the most important tools you can have at your disposal for homeschooling is a good teacher planner. I have several printable planners that I have downloaded from around the interweb, some of them include things like meal planners and grocery lists, but I prefer to keep my planner clean and concise.
If you look in my subscriber freebies, you’ll see the planner pack I made up for myself, which consists of nothing more than a weekly planner printable, a daily curriculum printable, and a weekly project printable. School stuff for school stuff. I want to be able to open my planner and see what I have planned for each day without having to search through a bunch of stuff that really has nothing to do with school.
Don’t get me wrong, I have used those meal planners and miscellaneous lists, I just don’t put them in my teacher binder.
I’ve told you, I’m obsessed with being meticulous about our school plan. Add anything else to it and I am suddenly in the midst of chaos–my disorganized nature takes over and I will start imagining the steps it will take to cook dinner that evening before we even start to learn.
It’s a problem.
6. Vinegar and Baking Soda
You can make a whole lot of science experiments with these two simple ingredients, and I have. Volcanoes, exploding ghosts, balloon inflation, boiling test tubes… You name it, we’ve done it in our homeschool. I would say we do at least 3 vinegar and baking soda experiments a term. Mostly because we like to watch it bubble up and see what will happen next.
Also, there is never a time when we don’t have those 2 ingredients in our kitchen, so it makes for a quick and easy demonstration when we need one.
Clipoards are fantastic tools. We use them all the time for having school outside or taking notes on a field trip.
We also keep our scientific method printables on our science clipboards so the boys can move about their experiments without having to go back to their seats to fill out their hypotheses and observations. Plus, they’re boys, and for some reason it makes them feel more like real scientists to be carrying a clipboard around as they work.
I know, there are also crayons and paint and chalk pastels and a ton of other color-type art tools to be used, and we use them. But markers are pretty flexible. Ever colored a coffee filter with marker then sprayed it with water? Suddenly you have a beautiful abstract painting.
We make a lot of charts, too, on freezer paper. For instance, when we studied composers, we made a list of the composers we were studying and charted out their era, style, popular pieces, and other things about their lives. When we studied the Middle East we made a chart that listed each country, its capital, exports, main religion, points of interest, etc. We hang these charts on the classroom wall and add to them as we go. The boys love how it helps them keep everything compartmentalized.
Markers. Where would our colorful charts be without them?
9. A large desk or table.
We use a large drafting table for their desk. That way when we move from math or English to Science or art we don’t have to move from our spots. We just put up the books and spread the project over the desk.
We tried smaller individual desks for a while, but these boys are huge and moving from spot to spot caused more trouble than it was worth. I swear, Middle is the size of a small grizzly–he’s better off planted where he is than trying to maneuver constantly through tiny spaces.
10. A sense of humor
This is perhaps the most important tool at our disposal. If we weren’t able to laugh at ourselves and with each other, I think we’d all go bonkers. More bonkers than we already are.
It’s not only important to have a sense of humor during school, it’s important to hold onto it with all hands and teeth when you’re dealing with people who don’t understand this whole homeschool thing. We learned early on that laughing together was the best part of our day, and we hold to that no matter where we are or what we’re doing. We laugh when the socialization question comes up. We laugh when we discuss this ridiculous upcoming presidential election (what to do otherwise?), and we laugh when we’re struggling with a math equation or a particularly snarly scientific explanation sets our teeth grinding.
Look at how much fun these littles are having during a bird-watching lesson. I mean, can you beat that? Not even with a stick.
We have fun every day, and it makes the learning process so much better for all of us.
Plus, laughing makes up for the times when I feel like screeching, “Are You Even Paying Attention?!!”
You know what I’m sayin’.
I think I could homeschool all year using just these ten tools. Of course, there are probably hundreds of others we use in reality, but these are the main ones that I couldn’t do without. Do you have tools you use in your homeschool that you don’t ever want to do without? Let me know about them; I’m always up for suggestions.
Just don’t chuck things at me.