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What are the essentials for someone just starting homeschooling?

post #1 of 34
Thread Starter 

Let's make a "Back to School" list for new homeschoolers!  Doesn't have to be curriculum, though it can be!  What are the things you just can't do without in your homeschool?  Include links if you can!


For us, a good pencil sharpener, this one is like ours.  A Good printer, here's ours: HP Officejet H470 And a whole lotta Sharpies!! (Especially the gel highlighters!)


What are your must haves?

post #2 of 34

I don't want to be a downer but I truly don't think there is much you need. And I'm always so wary of making people think they need xyz to homeschool. I've seen people homeschool on nothing, really so I'd really hate to suggest that there is anything that you need. Also, its so individual. My girls love, love, love good quality art stuff and I spend money on that, but my son could not care less what he uses to draw with (though he's fussy about the clay etc he uses). Even books-I've seen highly literate homeschooling families with hardly any books, which honestly to me are an essential, because they homeschool quite differently to me.


So without wishing to be a killjoy, I'd say there is nothing you need and my advice to newbie homeschoolers is don't rush out and buy a load of stuff now, but wait a few weeks or months and see what it is that your family seems to need.


Although I cannot deny that, personally, as the proud owner of a very similar pencil sharpener, and a dizzying array of Shapies (thank you, Craftster, for that addiction!), they are both seriously fun and versitle things. Other things that are a lot of fun and very useful IME are a glue gun, a sewing machine, a soldering iron and a kindle/e-reader (great because you can vary the font size and the low contrast helps dyslexics, but also because you have this huge library of free, out of copyright, kids classics. And I find them easier to read from than holding a book when reading to kids somehow). We've also just discovered voice recognition software-this is free on our computer, which runs Vista-and its made a huge difference to my 9 year old who struggles a lot with writing but has a lot to say.

post #3 of 34
Thread Starter 

I agree. You can do it bare bones for sure!  But there are nice things to have that people have found useful. And for someone just starting out, something on this list might resonate with them as being useful and help get them started. :)  It can be overwhelming to get started and sometimes, just having a pen you love, or a planner that works brilliantly can make a nice difference. :)


Or Post-Its....LOL Post-Its makes everything better.

post #4 of 34

Subscribing to this! Starting homeschool and it's so daunting!

post #5 of 34

An attentive parent with a willingness to find resources that fit with the child/ren's interests.  Seriously, that's the beauty of homeschooling -- time and freedom to help your child follow his/her passions. 


OK, but more practical answers would be: blank paper. Lots and lots of paper. :-D

And if you're lucky enough to have an older but still working computer/laptop, there are a TON of free educational resources for kids of all ages on the internet.  My 4yo daughter loves http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/preschool/preschool.htm and starfall.com looks pretty great too.

Oh, and of course, a library card! 

post #6 of 34

A valid library card. 


Like Fillyjonk, I sort of cringe at "must have" lists, but I'll still admit that having a computer, an internet connection, and a working printer make homeschooling a LOT more feasible for me; they even make it easier to use library resources.  Also, I like to have a stock of printer paper in assorted colours and weights.  Sometimes stuff just works best on pink card-stock.

post #7 of 34

fillyjonk - I think saying you don't need anything is a bringjoy, not a killjoy! How many people don't do things because they think that what they have is not enough?

post #8 of 34

If starting when they are young:


crayons/colored pencils


LOTS of paper

(or if you dont want to kill so many trees, dry erase markers and a big white board or chalkboard)




and i'm guessing this goes without saying for most people, but *the INTERNET*. even if you dont do online classes, google and youtube are great for the last minute questions.


Also, a netflix streaming acct is good for watching documentaries.


and a pinterest account is great for science experiment ideas, homeschool organization ideas and free worksheets.

post #9 of 34

Ah penny has just dropped, Adina I've just seen that there is a similar thread in the Back To School thread. Is this an official type thread?


Can I suggest that I think part of the issue here is that there are very different ways of homeschooling. Certainly that's my difficulty. As someone who pretty much unschools, the supplies I buy are very tied to what my kids tell me (or I perceive) that they need. I don't need anything to homeschool them, that's not really the deal. Actually the single most useful things I own for homeschooling are probably a breadmaker and slow cooker (crockpot?), because they are a huge convenience. But also, to be fair, I think generally unschoolers are quite confident in their choice really, I don't know that we'd tend to need a special pen or anything (I'm not trying to be flippant, apologies if it seems that way). Our printer is old and rubbish but we don't use it much. Only one of my kids uses a lot of paper. Etc.


So I'm not sure what the purpose of this thread is exactly, but if in some way its to help new homeschoolers in some form, it could perhaps be helpful to be clear where we are coming from. So as a green-minded unschooler its important to me to model ingenuity, resourcefulness, make do, etc and community, and mindful consumption. And so its also incredibly important to me not to hang my homeschooling fears on buying stuff. I totally get that if you are worried about, say, teaching math then you might be after an awesome curriculum and no criticism of that at all. But I also think its easy to overbuy as a homeschooler and I wish at the start someone had said, no, you don't need that stuff.


Coming at this from the perspective I do, this is really important to me which is why I just wanted to clarify.

post #10 of 34

I agree. Everyone finds their own style and essentials. It's just like with a new baby - everyone is trying to convince you to buy their product that is the magic bullet to all problems and will make everything simple and effortless. And even if you ask frugal minimalist people who share your general parenting style for their essentials, you'll still end up with an overwhelming list, because every parent and every kid is a little bit different. And this is even more true of homeschooling, since you have people starting at all sorts of different ages and abilities, and coming to homeschooling for many different reasons.


I think it is important to remember that someone starting homeschooling who has no idea what they want to do is probably someone dealing with a crisis of some sort - a bad school situation, moving, illness, disaster, or anything else that might push someone to suddenly homeschool. Address this crisis, and give the child(ren) time to heal, while using that time to do research and figure out what resonates with you. Taking a few months to do "nothing" and deschool is not going to hurt the kid's education in the long run in the slightest.


I'd also recommend starting with the bare basics - reading, writing, and math. I find that when I try to include everything and the kitchen sink, I get overwhelmed and don't do any of it. But if you start with a basic core that you can consistently do regularly, the rest will follow. 

post #11 of 34

I honestly can't think of a single specific commercial product that's essential (or even important) to our homeschooling.  Sure, we use a computer and printer and printer paper and pens and pencils, but the specific brands aren't important.  And none of that is truly essential, anyway.  Even though we make a lot of use of the computer and the internet, I could envision having a great homeschooling experience without them.  As others have said, the library is one of our most important resources.  But that's not essential, either.  I can think of all kinds of cool things we could do and learn without using books at all.  Heck, I could even teach reading without using books, as long as we had access to pencil and paper.


If it's somehow helpful to Mothering to have a thread with links to commercial products, the thread might better be titled Commercial Products You Use and Like, because it looks like most of us agree that someone just starting out with homeschooling shouldn't feel the need to spend a lot of money and shouldn't see any particular item as essential.


As Fillyjonk points out, the things that are going to be most useful are so individual.  We don't have a glue gun or a soldering iron, and we don't miss them.  (Though, actually, now that I think about it, I bet if I asked my daughter, "Do you think we should have a glue gun?" she would say, "Yes!"  I can't imagine what we'd do with one, but I bet she can.)  I could link to the really good caterpillar field guide we have, but most people reading this have probably never even felt the need to identify a caterpillar.  Hmm, maybe that would make an interesting thread - What Stuff Do You Use All the Time That Other Homeschoolers Wouldn't Find Useful At All?

post #12 of 34

1.  I ordered a piece of oilcloth to cover the table when we started and it has been indispensable.  So much stuff gets on your table, this has saved my cherry dining table.


2.  Kitchen timer, 2 minute timer: kitchen timer helps the big one to manage her time and stay on track and 2 minute timer helps motivate the little one, how many words, lines, sentences, can he read in 2 minutes.  We use both A LOT, but we use them pretty loosely.  Adding an extra five minute is easy as is turning the 2 minute over again (sometimes nonchalantly).


3.  I put a box of pencils, a box of colored pencils, a box of crayons, a box of scissors, a box of glue sticks and white glue and a jar of markers in the middle of the table.  The kids sit on either side and both of them can reach all of these tools/supplies.  This alleviates arguments and excuses to get up from the table.


4.  Spend a little while at the beginning of your first day talking about your expectations.  I did not do this, but quickly realized that this was necessary.  We ended up making little posters that we hung on the walls.  They say: listen carefully, follow directions, cooperate, do work neatly, do work completely, do you best, bring a great spirit to school.  This helps a lot when we are struggling.


Good luck!!

post #13 of 34

I agree that nothing is "needed" much like nothing on the lists for new moms is "needed".  It all depends on who you are and how you want to do things.  


My list for what I "needed" with a new baby was small.  So is my list for homeschooling.  I realize that others might not ever need the things that I really appreciate having on hand, but that is ok. This thread seems to be a great jumping point for what we find useful.  My list is coming from a fairly ecclectic homeschooler.  

1.  Paper. . . we do use a fair amount of paper

2.  White board. . . I do like to save trees and we use the white board (the lap kind mostly) quite a bit.  

3.  Dry erase markers to go with said board.  However, in a pinch you can use washable markers and a wet cloth.  Also, note that the "dry erase crayons" were not a hit at our house.  We were happy to not worry about lids, but the crayons were so messy and got all over our hands and clothes.  I will be trying the dry erase pencils this year though.  I really want to get away from lids.  You wouldn't think it would be so hard to close a pen, but for some reason (at my house) it is.  

4.  Library card-- we do use our library a lot

5.  Computer with internet.  Def. not essential, but I appreciate it greatly that we have this. 

6.  A car.  We don't live near public transit, nor do we live in an area with great public transit.  For us, a car is very near "needed."

7.  Various supplies:  it is nice to keep various glues (we love our glue gun), paints, brushes, pens, pencils, colored paper, and random art materials on hand. 

8.  We also like math tools--ruler, protractor, compass, etc.  

9.  Magnifying glass

10.  Books, magazines, games, etc.  


That's it.  One biggie though is the desire to homeschool.  If I didn't want to do this, it would be terrible.  If my kids didn't want to learn this way, it would be terrible. 


Also, something not needed (but is handy for us):  gram scale and kitchen scale.  This year we are getting a microscope.  I hope I find it worth it. 



post #14 of 34

Second that on the library card.  We visit every week and regularly have more than the 50 book limit out  (the librarians love to override).

post #15 of 34

I like each child to have a large, blank sketch book with pages that don't easily tear out.  That way, they can keep their work more organized and we're not always losing pieces of paper.  Last year, as our first project, we decoupaged the covers of the sketchbooks with collage materials and modpodge. 

post #16 of 34

This is such a timely post for our family!  We are in a situation where we feel pressed both by circumstance and desire to homeschool for the year, as Ocelotmom has pointed out, and I have been frantic about how to make the most of our time.  My daughter is only 5 and the plan is to homeschool only for one year until we move, so I was (and am!) loathe to buy expensive curriculum without a chance to see how they would work out. 


I'm so glad to read that families are doing this and enjoying it without having to buy a bunch of stuff.  Although as Fillyjonk has mentioned "must have" lists aren't always useful for all families across all situations, these posts have definitely shoved me out of the "need to buy" mode into feeling more confident in proceeding with what we already have since most of the items posted are already floating around our house!  I already try to demonstrate resourcefulness around the house by fixing or reusing items before buying new things, so I'm happy to realize this can extend into our new homeschool adventure too redface.gif Thanks for the posts!  

post #17 of 34

one essential: LIBRARY CARD  bonus - its free!

post #18 of 34
Thread Starter 

Fillyjonk - official as in I started it. lol.gif   The desire here is to get threads that are good resources for families who need them.  I started the school supplies one because often things like backpacks and lunch containers are easy to find, but hard to know what you won't be replacing in 2 months time.  So, some tried and true products are always helpful.

The one I started here because starting homeschooling it is easy to get bogged down in the "school at home" mentality and trying to set up a full schoolroom at home, and we do use stuff - even if we unschool. Paper, internet, printers, pens, library cards.  And sometimes it is nice to have this discussion all in one place. :) So, no weird ulterior motive. :)  Other than making good resource threads. Links are nice if they are products that are worth linking to, but not necessary. (Full disclosure, we do make money from some links, but I don't link to anything I don't personally use and love)  I agree that they are two different mind sets, but even I as a homeschooler need my kid to have a backpack for camps, and like recommendations. wink1.gif  And sometimes it takes a "must have" list for me to see that now I really don't need a laminator and a wall sized white board. lol.gif

post #19 of 34
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Daffodil View Post

As Fillyjonk points out, the things that are going to be most useful are so individual.  We don't have a glue gun or a soldering iron, and we don't miss them.  (Though, actually, now that I think about it, I bet if I asked my daughter, "Do you think we should have a glue gun?" she would say, "Yes!"  I can't imagine what we'd do with one, but I bet she can.)  I could link to the really good caterpillar field guide we have, but most people reading this have probably never even felt the need to identify a caterpillar.  Hmm, maybe that would make an interesting thread - What Stuff Do You Use All the Time That Other Homeschoolers Wouldn't Find Useful At All?


Heh, we have a berry field guide.  You should start that thread!  That would be great. :)

post #20 of 34

Adina, to be clear, the difficulty I had initially was that I'd assumed you were posting as a parent, not as a Mothering official looking to write a guide or what have you. No problem with that being the deal, its simply that that wasn't really very clear to me and I was answering you as I'd answer any other parent.


All that said, my understanding as a subscriber is that Mothering is a magazine with a green, anti-consumer remit. I could have sworn I'd seen an article recently along the lines of "Babies: What you don't need." and I thought that was very much in keeping with the philosophy.


Unschooling is a philosophy which, to my mind, is really not compatible with "essentials.". The stuff my kids have is stuff we all tend to use, and that's because unschooling operates as part of life. Because every unschooling family tends to be very different, I would not even go so far as to generalise that every homeschooled kid needs a good backpack-actually, my kids don't have their own backpacks, rather we have a couple of family ones that people pick from according to their needs. Unschooling often goes hand in hand with mindful consumption, and does tend to be done on an extremely fixed, single income. Sadly, I do still hear people say that they can't afford to homeschool. Yes there are some things which might be near essentials, like paper and pens, but these aren't specific to homeschooling ether: they are pretty much a given if you have kids.


TBH, without trying to be snarky, I'd say a more relevant thread to a lot of homeschoolers this September might be "homeschooling: what you really don't need to rush out and buy"


If I lost every material posession tommorrow, it would not prevent me homeschooling. Its an attitude to life, not something you need to buy into.

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