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What are the essentials for someone just starting homeschooling? - Page 2

post #21 of 34
Thread Starter 
I'm glad you have found a way to homeschool that works so great for you. It sounds like your setup is perfect for your family.

Part of the reason I titles the thread essentials is that I did want to know what homeschoolers - of all types, not just minimalist unchoolers - felt like they needed to begin their journey in homeschooling. If that is nothing more than a library card and the right attitude, great! If it is more than that, great! I just wanted to hear about it and have people share what they felt like they needed. I posted personal favorites that I felt like I used daily in my homeschool that makes school easier.

Thanks for your very well thought out feedback. Yours is a good perspective to bring to any endeavor with our kids. smile.gif

Anyone else have things or not things or ideas/philosophies that you feel are good things to have when you start homeschooling?
post #22 of 34

A library card.  And, in this day and age, a computer with internet access.  Pencils, paper, crayons, markers, paint, playdough, etc. are good things to have but I consider them more of a must have for kids in general, not just home school supplies.

post #23 of 34

I'm not a minimalist unschooler. Minimalist perhaps, but we use curriculum. I still think that there is nothing that is really essential.


However, in the spirit of the thread, here is what we've found helpful, without the implication that someone absolutely needs any of this:


Pencils - mechanical pencils are maybe not as environmentally friendly, but I find it helps keep them on task because they don't have the excuse of needing to sharpen pencils constantly.


Paper - printer (also used for art) and notebook


Colored pencils, crayons, and other basic art and craft supplies. We don't have a ton of stuff - some watercolors and so on, as well as supplies for "real" crafts like sewing. I personally try to avoid markers because they get awfully messy, and the caps get left off, and so on. Saving random household stuff that would otherwise be thrown away can be just as useful as buying up the craft section at walmart.


Books. Library card is great, but if you don't have access to a good library, used books from thrift stores or yard sales can fill your shelves cheaply. Or ebooks and something to read them on - there are a number of curriculums based around public domain books that are available for free, as well as the increasing number of non-free ebooks.


Printer - if you're planning to print a lot, a low-end laser printer is a good investment. Up-front cost is higher (though we've found them secondhand for dirt cheap), and each toner cartridge is generally more expensive but lasts much longer than an ink cartridge, so cost per page ends up being much lower. We use a lot of curriculum that comes as pdfs, so this is helpful for us. We have a Samsung CLP-620ND, which does duplexing (printing on both sides of the paper) and color, and an old HP laserjet printer/scanner/copier/fax that we found at a thrift store for $5 (some people find the copier function really helpful - we used to when we had to turn in work samples and DS was doing a lot of work on plastic with dry erase markers).


Some way of keeping things organized. We have a lot of 3 ring binders and those paper folders with tabs in the center to hold notebook paper, and each kid has a zippered 3 ring binders big enough to keep what they're working on plus pencils and a few books, so it makes it very portable. 


A plan - this is the "essential" that screws me up most because I get all caught up in planning and don't actually start because I don't have my booklist for the year perfect. So now I just start in with a general idea of what I want to do and keep working on the details. But a general idea of how you plan to accomplish things is helpful.


At least occasional access to computer with internet. People did just fine homeschooling before the internet became big, but it expands your options so much in terms of finding curriculum and resources, buying new or used curriculum, finding online or in-person support groups, and so forth. Presumably everyone reading this thread has at least this :)


In the past, we've used plastic page protectors to go over workbook pages, and then written on them with dry erase markers to preserve the workbooks for future kids. Haven't done it much in the past few years, but it's an useful trick. (I did similar with grease pencils when I was in elementary school, if you don't like the idea of dry erase markers.)

post #24 of 34
Another essential: the ability to say "I don't know. Let's find out."

I've home schooled without the internet and with. With is much easier and more immediate. No waiting to go to the library to look something up.

Doesn't everyone have boxes and bags full of random things to be used for crafts and projects? Toilet paper tubes, buttons, needles, felt, embroidery hoops, paint, paint brushes, crayons, wax paper, wood, nails, hammers, pipe cleaner wires, wire in general, fabric, paper, pencils of all kinds, screws, empty thread spools and cones, shoe boxes, wrapping paper. Or is that just us?
post #25 of 34
"What do you like for homeschooling?"

"You don't need anything!"

"It might deter people"

"I question the societal implications behind the wording of this question"

Ah you critical-thinking Mothering hippies. I love you smile.gif
post #26 of 34

I think the key thing a new homeschooler needs is flexibility. So as you shop for curriculum and supplies, don't spend so much that you feel locked in to a something that ends up not working for your family.


Buy used curricula, ask people for recommendations or to look through their curriculum. Build up to a full load over the first few months-- it's okay if you don't have every subject ready to go on the day public school starts. Be slow to purchase and spend as little as you can the first 6 months. Once you've got some experience, you'll be able to make purchases with confidence and spending a little more may make sense. 

post #27 of 34

I'll play:)


You MUST have somewhere in the middle of nothing and everything right?


MY must haves:


The 3 R's by Ruth Beechick- keeps me keeping the main thing the main thing for my still little children.


A large bookshelf


Low standards for keeping the house immaculate- it probably won't happen for you and it will NEVER happen for me :)


A clear plastic table cloth on my dining room table- I switch out maps and other cool things underneath it depending on what we are studying.  Tacky?  Sure.  I don't care- it is awesome because it is our only table and is easy to clean, keeps our maps nice, and we can dry erase marker stuff on the map and wipe it right off.  


A free spirit :)


I don't really do the library thing- so for me a must have is an Amazon spending fund :)  Mine isn't huge but I like to have enough set aside so I don't feel bad about buying a biography on George Washington or an old copy of The Heroes of Asgard or whatever we find interesting at the time.


Mead Composition books- I like the Primary Journal ones for younger ones and now my DD is using a regular one for Language Arts.  I love them for the same as the above poster- the pages don't easily tear out and it keeps things together.


Sharpies :)  They are just so gratifying!


Sol-U-Mel- it takes off the above listed sharpies when they get out of hand





I actually feel like I need a well thought out curriculum.  I use MFW.  I don't feel obligated to following it to the letter though.  I also am pretty much a Charlotte Mason type of homeschooler- so I have a book  For the Children's Sake that keeps me grounded- like when I was temped to switch to Rod and Staff LA.....  Craziness cured...


I have also used the heck out of my laminator and I have started all my kids on A Reason for Handwriting- so those are kind of my must haves too.

post #28 of 34

For parents, (depending on what your local requirements are):


Some binders for things: like daily/weekly record keeping, a binder for ideas for on down the road (like the map I just got locating all the National Wildlife Preserves on the I-5 corridor).  I pick up my binders at the thrift stores.  I can come up with a thousand uses for them.


Lots of magnets for the fridge, and push pins and scotch tape for posting up all kinds of crap.  One strong magnet on the fridge holds the eraser end of a pencil (which is *bing!* metal).


Containers (can be small cardboard boxes, jars and tin cans) for holding pencils and pens and collecting popsicle sticks, feathers, beads, rocks, candy wrappers, and whathaveyou.  (DD2 just used some feathers to "fletch" her "arrow").


I really like having trays (dental trays, found at thrift store) for projects.  Not essential.  Baking sheets will work, but our trays get commandeered for days.  (When you buy a "case" of juice concentrate, you get a nice cardboard tray that is useful for collecting projects, but they have higher sides.  I like both for different reasons--the cardboard isn't waterproof.)


Day pack (not absolutely necessary, but I like having it and I don't like to think what I'd do without it.)


For kids:


Extra cardboard for projects


Stuff to hold stuff together--glue, tape (duct, scotch, etc.)


Stuff for cutting: scissors, tools, probably stuff you have around anyhow


Lots lots and lots of paper


Pencil, pens, and a really good pencil sharpener or three


Stuff for exploration: magnifying glass, measuring tools, binoculars, camera, all stuff you probably have anyway


I like having daypacks for each of them for adventures so I don't have to carry it all, not the oversized school ones, but hiking type ones that hold water and a few things.  Any pack or bag will do, though, and you can get creative with canvas bags (loop over shoulders for a pack) and even baling twine can tie a nice strap for a water bottle.  Still, the day packs made for day hikes are the most comfortable.  (This is so *I* don't get stuck carrying everything!)


Library card, internet access, either at home or library or a relative's house (internet is great, not absolutely necessary)


I do like to have field guides of our own, supplemented with those from the library.  I also like those fold-out guides that are very local and fit in your backpack and weigh nothing.

post #29 of 34
Originally Posted by ocelotmom View Post

Books. Library card is great, but if you don't have access to a good library, used books from thrift stores or yard sales can fill your shelves cheaply. Or ebooks and something to read them on - there are a number of curriculums based around public domain books that are available for free, as well as the increasing number of non-free ebooks.


Even if you do have access to a good library, shopping thrift stores, yard sales, and library book sales is really helpful.  In fact, I'd call it one of our essentials.  You'll find books your library doesn't have, books that are out of print, books you didn't know existed, books so good you want to own them, not just check them out for a couple of weeks at a time.  And they're amazingly cheap.  (Cheaper than paying the suggested $1 to cover mailing costs for interlibrary loans at our library.)  We don't use workbooks enough to make it worth paying a lot for them, but we've gathered a helpful collection of workbooks and other curriculum-type materials from yard sales, etc. and spent almost nothing to do it.


Other things that are close to being essentials for us:


library card

camera (I use this to document learning for our portfolio)

computer, printer, and internet access

paper, notebooks, ballpoint pens, and pencils

art supplies (markers, colored pencils, watercolors, watercolor paper, pastels, etc.)

calculator, ruler, scissors, tape, glue

nets to catch things, containers to keep critters in (aquariums, fish bowls, commercial plastic animal containers with lids, and lots of old yogurt containers), field guides


post #30 of 34
I'm not a minimalist. I need quite a bit ^_^
I am noticing the older mine get, the less they need...
Much of this stuff is lifestyle based...I am unschool-y (not fully there, don't think I'll ever be and I'm ok with that) and our house values responsibility and independence.
This is a silly list...but it really is the stuff I Need to be the homeschool mom I want to be...I homeschool little ones so here is my list of must haves:

A tarp that covers the floor of our workspace (this allows me to be the fancy free Homeschool mom in my dreams) it comes in handy! (like for when the 3 yr old decides she's big and independent too and wants to pour her own paint and does fine until the last one where she spilled some and in shock spills just over a pint of paint on the floor...I would not have been as light hearted if it happened on, say, the rug nor would I have been as willing for her to try, fail, try, succeed). I put it down only when working with messy or indoor water projects.
(I also keep adjustable tent poles and guy lines & stakes in the car for when we have group meetings in less than favorable weather...I live in New England.)

Art supplies of choice, paper, etc...but I also have a canvas bag by the door that I can grab as we run out the door with sandwich sized ziplock bags containing: crayons, pencils, scissors, glue stick, letter stencil plastic thing, paper, paper clips, clear contact paper, hole punch, a tray or dollar store cookie sheets, Legos, and clay or playdo and fruit leather (emergency snack), a baggie with baggies, a couple of babyfood containers, $20, a magnifying glass, 1small bottle of water, hand towel, swiss army knife or leatherman, watercolors and a brush that can hold water. I will often edit the bag in a parking lot but it makes the crazy less crazy and allows for a spontaneous trip to turn into a teaching moment. (Like finding a perfectly intact dead butterfly in the parking lot or dead wasp in the doctors office...) I will also add and subtract stuff seasonally as needed. (Summer: bug spray, fall & spring: extra socks, winter: gloves)

For camping or vacations I use a small plastic tub about 12-16 qt which also holds books on the theme in addition to the stuff listed above.

Storage bins of all shapes and sizes. While I like the plastic ones, Kmart has fake canvas folding bins which come in very handy. I'm also not above a good cardboard box...

Magazine holders are good for pulling books on a theme and having them available.
Bulletin boards or dry erase boards and other organizational items du jour.

Two calendars: one on the fridge that holds everything the family (eg spouse) needs to know and another on the wall at preschool height that has information translated into pictograph for them to know what is happening. I find the second calendar invaluable as it saves me from answering the same question 5 million times, and makes even the little one responsible (but not liable). The littlest one (starting at 2.5 yrs) is responsible for crossing off the day and helps everyone understand the day is over, we aren't doing anymore activities (other than bed-based ones) until daybreak. I highly recommend it! I can't tell you just how many hours it has saved me in night time fights...

Each child has a storage device of choice. My son has a shelf, my daughter a collection of snap ware bins in various sizes to hold their...findings. This different from their toys and playthings...it's more like homeschool props they found (made) which might be delicate or special. My son calls it his natural history museum.

Well labeled recycling bin...we have a bin of stuff that recycled or sorted every 4-6 months that holds at least two tin cans, coffee cans, vinegar bottles, toilet paper tubes, egg cartons, cereal boxes, etc for craft projects in addition to the weekly stuff. This helps keep the pack rat mentality down...
post #31 of 34
Refreshing thead! Thanks for all of the helpful contributions. This is my first year in the homeschool biz, and it's just daunting. I just keep trying to remind myself of all of history's famous homeschooled people. Abe Lincoln's mom didn't spend gobs of money on fancy manipulatives. Thomas Edison wasn't surrounded by a bunch of well-prepared Montessori sensory bins. Laura Ingalls Wilder's parents didn't rush out and spend $500 at a back-to-school sale, (as a homeschooling friend of mine just did!) Albert Schweitzers parents didn't spend hours online agonizing over which curriculum to purchase from Amazon. Perspective can be a good thing! :)
post #32 of 34

Last year was our first "official" year homeschooling.  I felt like I needed to buy all sorts of things.  What I realized during the year was that I can always go out and get something if I need it!  That really helped lift the pressure I was putting on myself.


That being said, I like to get our art supplies in order and see if we need new ones.

I like using sketch books for drawings, writing and any other projects.


I also love having binoculars, magnifiers, bug boxes and nets so we can explore outside and catch some insects/frogs, etc.  Field guides are great too.


Happy homeschooling!

post #33 of 34
I've been homeschooling mine all along. My oldest is 16 now and takes a few classes at the high school now, which has been a great free resource and experience and is still on our terms. I then have four more kids and another on the way.

My main thing is to find what works for the individual and the family. It seems to be ever changing from year to year. I started really minimal and unschoolish. My oldest is very artistic and we just had tons of paper and good art supplies. She learned to read from watching me read to her. Then my second needed more structure. We started trying curriculum. Later I found the Charlotte Mason style worked great when I had a baby on my lap. Now with older grades like 11, 8, and 6th,I'm focusing a lot more on academics. (kids are going to have to make a living in the world and they aren't very extroverted). So, with that intro, here are some things I really like:
Good art supplies like prismacolor pencils and art sticks. I can't believe what little pigment is in regular crayons and pencils these days-- drives me crazy

Blank drawing books

White boards big and small with expo markers. I do one on one lessons on the small boards and group stuff on the big one. I read years ago from another homeschool parent that they do quiz game shows. They have been a big hit for us and the big board is nice for those, too.

Printer with copier/scanner

Internet. Some favorite sites are Homeschoolclassifieds.com and currclick.com, spellingcity, and starfall. Also buy sell email groups

Library, library sales, and thrift stores

Tables /desks for kids to use

The great outdoors

Classic books to read aloud, globe/maps

Real stuff like animals, sewing, weaving, clay, gardening, yoga, to interact with and do

An open mind
post #34 of 34

We online school and travel worldwide so there is a whole list of needs for us that are really driven by the school and travel. But the things I have been surprised by have been the library card/Kindle combo, and a high quality backpack that fits well.

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