We’ll be embarking on our 14th homeschooling year soon. Some of my homeschool essentials may have changed over the years as my children have grown into teenagers (and one young adult), but today I’m highlighting 10 that have remained fairly constant.
1. Kids. Let’s face it, y’all. They may drive you batty some days, but kids are pretty important to this whole homeschooling thing. Without kids (or grandkids), who are you going to homeschool? You could homeschool the neighbors’ kids, I suppose, but that’s really tutoring and not quite the same thing. (Plus, you’re a stronger person than I am if you’re willing to homeschool the neighbors’ kids.)
Kids are pretty essential for your homeschool classroom. Beyond that, one mom’s essentials are another mom’s don’t bother. So, take the rest of this list with a grain of salt, but these are items that I’ve thought of as must-haves over the years.
2. Dry erase board (preferably magnetic). I remember talking to my step-sister, a homeschool mom, just before we began. I mentioned that I’d like to have a dry erase board, but that it probably wasn’t necessary. She assured me that it was.
She was right.
3. CD and/or mp3 player. Modern technology would push me to list only the mp3 player, but not all libraries and curriculum vendors have caught up with modern technology. We’ve used our CD player to:
- Practice foreign languages using curriculum that included CDs
- Sing along and learn facts such as multiplication, states and capitals, and the Preamble to the Constitution (a la, Schoolhouse Rock)
- Listen to classical music while studying composers
- Listen to music from various countries while studying the country
- Listen to lessons on CD from various curriculum vendors
4. Access to great books. It doesn’t matter if your books come from the library or Amazon (love me some Amazon Prime) or you download them to your Kindle, access to great books is a homeschool essential right up there with kids. Historical fiction and engaging biographies are our favorite ways to study history, and The Magic School Bus makes an awesome jumping-off point for elementary science.
5. Good electric pencil sharpener (and Ticonderoga pencils). I thought maybe I was crazy for excitedly sharing a photo of my new pencil sharpener on Instagram last year – until so many of my homeschool mom followers responded with excitement. Hey, when your kids are forever losing their pencils, it’s nice to have a big box of Ticonderoga pencils and a good electric pencil sharpener in your school room – even if your school room happens to be your dining room.
6. A good planning system. If you’re crazy forgetful like me, you need a good planning system in place. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a spiral notebook, a special mom binder, online, or even my personal favorite, a customized A Plan in Place planner. You just need something convenient that you’ll use consistently.
7. Engaging resources. If you’re bored, your kids are going to be bored. If your kids are bored, they’re not going to be getting as much out of school as they could be. That doesn’t mean that you have to become their entertainment coordinator, but I like to use fun stuff as much as I can.
For example, even my 8th grader (at the time) much preferred the hands-on Pin-It Maps to the blank outline maps in her workbook. And all three of my kids have strongly preferred Teaching Textbooks to any other math we tried.
If your kids (and you) are going to be spending your days doing school, why not make it as engaging as possible?
8. A laptop or computer with internet access. If you utilize online courses, you’ll definitely need a computer with internet access, but even if you’re not using it for full courses, you’re probably going to want to use it for some things. I don’t like the kids to spend too much time online during the school day, but we’ve used our laptops for:
- Watching YouTube videos related to our topics of study
- Using Google to find out how to do something or for research on a school-related topic
- Online dyslexia therapy
- Watching CNN student news
- Looking up definitions
- Playing online review games
9. Storage solutions. Homeschooling often means lots of stuff – books, art supplies, math manipulatives, supplies for science labs, etc. You may or may not have a dedicated schoolroom, but you do need places to store your homeschool supplies.
Why, yes, we do have a bookshelf in our dining room. I also make effective use of my China hutch and a potato bin my grandfather built years ago, and I love me a nifty plastic storage box.
10. Printer. I have had a printer since we began homeschooling and I honestly can’t imagine homeschooling without one. I use my printer for printing:
- The kids’ assignment sheets
- Pages from digital curriculum
- Written assignments that the kids typed on their laptops
- Recipes to add to my meal plan (Yes, that’s school related. Hello? The kitchen is our cafeteria.)
Over the years, we’ve upgraded our printers a few times. These days I would not buy a printer that didn’t have the following features:
- Flatbed printer/copier/scanner
- Wireless printing capabilities
- Black and color printing
I’m probably spoiled, but that auto-duplex feature is such a time- and sanity-saver!
I know I’ve probably left some things out, but overall I think this list is fairly universal despite your students’ ages (mine are teens) or your homeschool style. (More relaxed homeschoolers may not need a good planning system, but a good system for recording your students’ accomplishments could fall under that heading.)
What must-have items would you add to the list?
This post is linked to Hip Homeschool Moms.
photo credit deposit photos