Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Top Ten Homeschoool ‘Must-Haves’

One of the groups I am in on Facebook joked about getting a new table and chair set for her homeschool room, at her request, for a combo birthday/Mother’s Day prezzie. Naturally, that made me start thinking about the things that I ‘must have’ as a homeschool parent and thought I would post about it.

In anything we do (sports specifically come to mind), it seems that there is a list of requisite supplies that you need in order to successfully compete or carry out the task at hand. Obviously, when you’re homeschooling, you have to have things like curriculum (or some sort of plan, even if you’re unschooling). A dedicated school room, while nice, is certainly not necessary; school can be just as well accomplished at the kitchen table or on the floor (or in the yard, in the car, at the library, at the park… you get the idea). So this list isn’t about the typical ‘basics’ – this is all about what I, personally, have found to be indispensable for homeschooling in our house. Your mileage may vary, and I would love to see your lists in comments or a link back to your blog if you write it there!

So without further adieu….

10. Coffee – without caffeine, nothing would ever get done. I an convinced that the pyramids were built *because* they had coffee running in their veins instead of blood. Though almost any kind will do, my very most favoritest combination is Texas Pecan coffee from HEB with Coffeemate Italian Sweet Creme non-dairy creamer. If you get coffee at my house, this is probably what I am serving you.

9. External hard drive – I have a Passport 500GB one (in fabulous red), and it’s almost full. When I got it, it was much more expensive – if you’re in the market and have the extra $20, I say go for the 1TB, minimum. Over the course of your child’s homeschool career, esp if you’re starting out homeschooling from the beginning, you’ll use it. I archive everything (in multiple places, really), and frequently. Computers come and go – I can’t tell you how many friends have lost *everything* because they didn’t back-up regularly. If you’re not already, PLEASE back your stuff up!

8. support system – We’re especially fortunate to have a supportive family. Not only Loverly Husband, but my parents and his as well. I was homeschooled, and so were several of my cousins, so I am lucky to have this kind of supportive platform to spring from. However, even with that built-in support, having a supportive community around me has been and remains essential to my homeschooling success. Not only for the ‘hey we’re having a crappy day’ support, but for the inspiration, the ideas, the encouragement, the thought-processing…. the list goes on. My homeschooling ‘community’ is in parts – real life, which includes family and friends (who do and who don’t homeschool), which includes my local homeschool group; and online support. I am a part of our local group’s chat list (and the kids have their own online chat list through the group as well). I also frequent homeschool forums, blogs, websites, and watchdog sites to keep abreast of the goings-on in the homeschool world at large.

7. Gallon-sized ziplock freezer bags – this is an organizational tool for me. I store lapbooks-in-progress in them. A gallon-sized bag holds the folded lapbook, all of the papers and templates and mini-books and the source material (literature selection, guide, and/or other assorted papers) all together in one place. It may not seem like a big deal, but if you’re into lapbooks, they’re indispensable.

6. storage clipboards – This many seem like a luxury item, and it is… this whole list kinda is, really. But this feels especially indulgent. We school ‘on the go’ quite a bit and my kids are notorious for losing their work. I usually keep things in folders (and what’s not 3-ring’d into place is stapled in), but these clipboards make storage and pencil-toting easy and all-contained. We have several of them and they get a good workout!

5. My blog – I have this on the list because I am a chronicler and I mean that it’s important for me to write, NOT that I think my blog is an essential for the world at large. By ‘chronicler’, I mean that when my kids were babies, I religiously kept up their baby books. When they started school, I kept papers, then at the end of the year, I culled, but still managed to keep a respectable overview of their school year. Now that we’re homeschooling, the days tend to blend together without some sort of narration. My blog allows me to do that in an unobtrusive manner. Sure, Facebook chronicles, and with ‘timeline’ even more so, but it’s not search-friendly. With blogging, I can chronicle what we did that day, or over the week or month or season. Tagging allows me to easily find posts on lesson planning or gardening or whatever, so I can usually fond things I am looking for. And one day, my kids will be able to go back and review their homeschool career (hopefully with fond memories).

4. Swingline 747 stapler – the big daddy, old-fashioned metal one. Not the plastic one. I staple everything, especially loose worksheets or bits of paper into the kids’ folders that would otherwise be in an easy-to-fall-out-of pocket. I have been known to threaten stapling my kids’ work to their foreheads if they don’t sit down and get finished. If that threat ever came to fruition, I have no doubt that my Swingline 747 would totally get the job done. You can get it in red (a la Office Space), but mine is a big, sexy black beast and I love it so much.

3.  laser printer & cheap toner – I started homeschooling with an inkjet. It was serviceable, but ink was spendy and when I started using refill kits (which worked for a while), I ended up with cartridge recognition errors. Plus, I could drain an ink cartridge in a week. I don’t print an extraordinary amount (mostly lapbooks), but when I sit down to print, I do a lot at once. We replaced the inkjet with a wireless laser printer about a year and a half ago and OMG = <3. I get my toner through amazon, and though I have had some issues (most easily resolved/replaced), being able to print over 1,000 pages per cartridge is muy bueno. I use cheap toner because of the volume I print. If I were printing for business or something that needed to be pristine, cheap toner may not work best, but for my printing needs now, it’s worth it.

2. Homeschool Planner – this is the end-all-be-all of homeschooling must-haves for me. Without it, I would be utterly lost. It’s my schedule and daily ‘to-do’ list, and also serves as a reference when I go to put grades into the computer. I have a weekly plan and a daily plan, and when I need to find something we’ve done, it’s in the planner. I keep track of field trips, notes for our homeschool group’s blog, contacts that I have made in the homeschooling community… not to mention other personal information. All of my appointments are on the calendar, shopping lists, meal plans, birthdays… I literally LIVE by what’s in the planner. The one I use is here, blank and free to download.

and the number one thing I cannot live without… drumroll, please:

1. electric pencil sharpener – and I am not talking battery-powered. I mean one of those ugly, old-school, plug into the wall types that will sharpen a TREE. I cannot tell you how many pencils we go through. Let’s just say that I am pretty sure we’re contributing to global de-forestation. We’ve tried mechanicals, and I love them for myself (Papermate Sharpwriters are my personal fav), but for the kids, they go through them too quickly. We’ve had the Westcott iPoint Kleenearth Evolution Recycled Electric Pencil Sharpener for about a year now and it’s not let us down yet.

That may seem like a silly thing to have as the number one, but everything else has an alternative which, while not quite as good, is serviceable.  The pencil sharpener though… I’d die and/or kill someone if I had to sharpen a thousand pencils a day with a handheld.

So, what’s your ‘top ten’?

Warmly,

~h

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