When you start homeschooling, you might wonder: what exactly do I need? If the first thing that comes to mind is textbooks, think again. You can piece together a curriculum from anything fairly inexpensively. Although some homeschoolers do appreciate having the year mapped ahead of time, it is possible to commit some pretty serious blunders that way.
If you’re one of those people who wants to have a fully equipped homeschooling room dedicated to learning and teaching, more power to you! Just don’t get too worked up if everything doesn’t go exactly according to plan. Also, I would recommend leaving some room in the budget for field trips. These tend to come up throughout the homeschool year and can help by breaking up the routine, enhancing what you are studying or both.
Here is a list of homeschooling essentials, for the uninitiated.
This is obvious, right? Pens, paper, (check Staples for great deals. We bought 10 reams of paper once for something like $10 but it required a mail-in rebate.) markers, highlighters, crayons, scissors, sharpeners, post it notes, pads of paper, ink. I tend to be a bit of a stationery hog, so my stationery stays separate from my kids’ because I don’t want them getting into it and throwing it all over the place.
2. Storage Boxes
Target comes up with some pretty good deals on storage boxes around fall every year. I buy shoe boxes to store the aforementioned stationery as well as the children’s craft items like play dough, beads, and jigsaw puzzles. One year, I used plastic crates to store their pictures and school work. Since it was still preschool and kindergarten we were working on, it was fairly easy to just drop the worksheets and other crafts into the crates labeled with the kids’ names and sort through them at the end of each month.
3. Library card
I am convinced this is the one essential thing for school. There is currently so much the local library offers beyond books that no homeschooler or unschooler should be without a library card.
Yes, I said it. Dirt is an essential. Mud puddles, gardening, building, whatever it is you intend to do with it, use it. We frequently like to get the kids to get outside with us to work on either trimming trees, digging holes, spreading mulch or just playing in the dirt. Of course, depending on what age they are, they will do different things with the dirt, but sometimes, the price of giving them dirt is a mud puddle. So be it.
5. Two of Whatever YOU Like Doing
I am often seen writing on my computer or reading. So it is inevitable that the kids want these. They also seem to have an aptitude for it. So when I got my new Chromebook, I cleaned up my old laptop, put some good parental controls on it, loaded some games and some math practice work on there and handed it over to the kids. Yes, it’s sticky and the screen has been touched once too often by dirty two year old hands, but they have arguably gotten way more enjoyment out of that old thing than I can say I could have ever imagined.
6. A kitchen
Some of our favorite homeschooling moments have been in the kitchen. It is where my daughter learned to bake, use a knife on a piece of fish, mix things, make salads. It is where my toddler learned how to crack an egg. “Tap, tap, tap,” he says when he sees me with one. My husband has taken to teaching my middle son to make mac and cheese and sometimes scrambled eggs. A kitchen can be used just as easily to teach math and reading as it can be to teach cooking. And related to the above, if you like to cook, it’s just a matter of time before the kids jump in. It’s inevitable.
7. Play dough & Other Dollar Tree / Target Consumables
These two stores are a homeschooler’s dream come true. Some days, I think between the dollar stores and the library, I could easily teach my three kids for a year. These are especially handy when the children are little. Playdough, jigsaw puzzles, coloring books, some stores even carry things like workbooks for specific grade levels. Pick them up around August during the back to school sales and sometimes in June for the summer sales and stock up!
8. Shelves & a Couch
Well, you’re going to want somewhere you’re going to need to start putting all those books you will soon acquire, right? Start building NOW! Pretty soon you’re going to be scouring library sales and such. Give the kids a comfortable position to read in or construct a reading nook.
Extra bedsheets, blankets and pillows are indispensible if the kids are going to be spending lots of time at home. They love hiding themselves away and reading or playing. Provide bedsheets for them to build tents. These do not have to be 800 count cotton either. Check your local thrift stores where you can pick them up for no more than $5 a piece.
10. Video Games
While many parents are wary of video games, I am a huge proponent of them. I have found they have many benefits, teaching children to deal with failure and try again being one as well as teaching co-operation and reading skills. My kids love their video games. I wouldn’t homeschool without them. I consider them an important tool.
11. Legos and Other Building Toys
We love Legos. Who doesn’t have a set? Enough said. We also love our other STEM toys. Here is the best list I have found. Be warned, though. Unless you have older children, and sometimes even then, you will be irritated by these because you will find them under the couches and in your bedroom. You will step on them at night. And you will be tempted to sweep them away and throw them in the trash. But don’t. Because you’ll only end up needing to buy some more.
12. An Internet Connection
Remember how exciting it was in school when they wheeled in a small television set and video? Yes? That’s pretty much how we do a lot of our school, except for the, um, wheeling part. There are so many educational shows that are streaming on Netflix or Hulu and YouTube, that you could write an entire science and social studies curriculum based on those alone and complete it with field trips. So don’t discount an Amazon or a Netflix subscription.
Most of all, keep the first year light and enjoy spending time with each other more than anything else. By the end of the year, you’ll have established a rhythm and then you can begin to adjust according to what you’ve noticed works and what doesn’t. Happy homeschooling!