Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Things We "Couldn't Do Without" to Homeschool

There are always the things you think you need to home school.

There are things you wish you could have to home school.

There are things that you put on your list and eagerly anticipate ... and never use.

But in our 15 years of home schooling.   There are several things that I have used nearly every single year, and I'm not sure if I could process my school year without most of them!   It would certainly be a challenge to try!

1.  Plenty of writing supplies.   Pens of all colors, highlighters, colored pencils, fun to look at pencils, and Crayola Crayons.   We are BIG about writing, drawing and creating, and these are the tools we love.  Did you notice that markers are missing?  Ironically, we don't use markers much.  Except for me - I hoard my Sharpie Marker collection.  We also avoid twist ups.  But the older ones love mechanical pencils!  ...  These below are not necessarily our favorites, but they are a good sample of what might catch our eyes!

2.  Clay.   We use clay to learn about letters, numbers, shapes, and colors.  Clay doesn't dry out, so we can leave out what we create for several days.  Clay is stiff, so it gives fingers a good workout and builds finger muscles - perfect for early writing skills.  Making letters with clay also helps bridge the problems early that will lead to dylexia (it runs in our family on both sides).  Young spellers build their words with clay, then create a clay picture to show what the word means.


3.  Paper - all kinds of paper.   Construction paper, manila paper, typing paper, colored paper, cardstock, notebook paper, and drawing paper.   We recycle as much as possible.


4.   Recycled Objects ..... paper towel tubes, TP tubes, water jugs and water bottles, lids, cereal boxes, and scraps of the paper we cut away.  Plus tons more.
These lend themselves well to open ended creativity.

5.  Maps - We love maps!   The book of outlines that we use appears to be out of print, or not on Amazon ... but we often just head for the internet and find what we want to use much faster than scanning a book.

6.  Outside ... we use a lot of things that we find outside.  Rocks, flowers, leaves, tree bark, bugs and worms, sand, and other such stuff.   This adds again to the creativity.  Because we live in the country, we have a huge area to explore.

7.  Public Library and the Internet - BOOKS!!   Before the internet was so available, we only used the public library.  But over the last 4 years, with the price of gas going up, and out budget shrinking, we've turned more and more to the internet - for books to read, information, extra lessons, and even our field trips (via pictures online and Youtube videos).   It's not as nice as going on field trips for real - but it has opened up a whole new world for us to explore!

8.  Water Bottles.  My kids drink a lot.  But they also tend to spill, and of course they want their cups at their desks.  So every person has 2 or 3 assigned water bottles.  Metal or glass - or BPA free.   My goal is to eventually have each of us with one very high quality water bottle.   Someday.   But until then, it is nice to have spill proof or nearly so water bottles at every desk.   I look for easy to clean or replace straw tops, huge open tops that are easy to clean and add ice, and easy to hold onto as well as a loopy top to hold onto.

9.  MP3 players - The girls got their first MP3 players many years ago, we barely knew anything about them, but fell in love with the ability to put stories and songs onto their tiny 512MB units that ate through batteries at an alarming speed.  The following year, their aunt bought them rechargeable units that they are STILL USING!  They each have a zen Mosaic.   Scholar has been through several - a bear that had an MP3 player inside, and several Visual Land's - one went through the washer, one had a loose on/off switch, and the one he has now seems to be a better build than the one it replaced.   These things are in near constant use.  Sometimes music only they can hear, and sometimes it is stories or books that they need to "read" for school.  They can take them on walks or to do chores.
These are the ones in my house currently ... research them before committing to one - some of them are made to listen to music only and not audio books.  Song bought herself a "Pirates of the Carribean" MP3 player, but was disappointed because it automatically shuffled her book chapters.

Things we like in our MP3 players?   1.  Rechargable.  2.  At least 4 GB of space.   3.  Easy to convert videos  4.  built in speakers  5.  cheaper   6.  easy to use   7.  fairly good reputation.

We are currently looking at Innotab 2's for Sunshine's Birthday/Christmas.  She is super excited about getting her very own MP3 player!

10.  Containers!   We love little pencil boxes.  But my favorite is old lunch boxes, especially soft sided zip closed ones.   Hard side lunch boxes are great for keeping an MP3 player and headphones from getting broken.  And soft ones are great for transporting writing supplies (school boxes don't have handles).   Egg crates can house books and files.  Plastic Shoe boxes are great for all kinds of sorting for manipulative and games.  Zip lock baggies are great for small pieces and puzzles.

Watch for these items in the pictures this year!   Often we use items in a totally unpredictable way - but we've been doing it so long, that we no longer even notice.

And feel free to share your unique solutions as well.  I've seen so many "why didn't I think of that?" ideas reading blogs!

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