5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials: Essential Supplies

Today is the second of 5 Days of of Homeschooling Essentials. You can read my first post- What Isn’t Essential- here. And don’t forget to check out some of the other posters I have listed at the end.

homeschool supplies

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So, in Day 1 I told you what I didn’t think was very essential in order to homeschool. Today I’m going to begin to look at some of the things I do think are essential. I almost hesitate to use the word “essential”. I know some people who homeschool very effectively with very little. I know unschoolers who may not use any of the things I think are essential. So, when I talk about what is “essential,” my disclaimer is that these are things I think are really important, things I really use really often.

There are some supplies that I love to use for homeschooling. These are things I think are invaluable, things we use on a regular basis.

1. A computer with internet. I joke with other homeschoolers pretty often about how in the world people homeschooled before the days of computers and the internet. At any given time of the day- or night- I may be using my computer to get information that I need for homeschooling.

I use the internet to find free resources for books that I want to read. There’s always a free unit study or lapbook or study guide out there. I look up pictures of things we’re talking about. Often in our art study I’ll look up example pictures to show the kids. If we are talking certain places in history, I can look them up online. I can find maps. I can find timelines. You Tube alone is a wealth of resources- science experiments, math problems worked out, Shakespeare performances, classical music performances.

I’m sure that it is possible to homeschool without a computer and internet, but I wouldn’t want to.

2. Books. I took time a few summers ago to organize all our books with a website called Library Thing. I entered every single bar code of every single book. I tagged them all and put them on shelves based on the tags. (I would have liked them alphabetized but I knew they wouldn’t stay that way!) I entered 1,347 books. I’ve probably gotten at least 50 more since then that I haven’t kept up with organizing.

I love books. I love living books- books that stand the test of time, that can be read again and again, that make kids want to come back and read more. I love fiction. I love nonfiction. I even love some textbooks.

If a child can be taught to read and to love to read, he can learn anything at anytime. Reading and books are invaluable.

3. Craft supplies. Creativity is important for learning. Children- especially young children- learn best when they can do things with their hands. Sometimes it doesn’t seem as if cutting and pasting and drawing are very “academic,” but all of those things foster creativity which is very important for higher level thinking.

I’ve always kept paper, crayons, pencils, markers, paint, rulers, glue, tape along with all kinds of extras like pom poms, wiggly eyes, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, tissue paper. We have a huge old wardrobe with cubby holes just filled with all kinds of goodies. I keep scraps and bits of things that I think the kids could repurpose.

Along with all of these crafty supplies, there needs to be a relaxed atmosphere to create. Messes will be made. Glue will spill. The table will be marked on. But this is an important part of the creative process. Don’t give too much guidance. Some planned crafts are fine, but creativity really comes in when kids are given the supplies and then just allowed to create. If kids are younger, only give them access to a few supplies at a time and supervise them well; but still allow them the freedom to just explore and create.

4. Manipulatives. I love hands on math. But manipulatives aren’t just for math.  I’ve used manipulatives for science and even for reading.

Even though my kids are getting older, I still often find myself pulling out manipulatives often. Manipulatives give the kids a chance to see things visually, to touch them and move them and count them. Even advanced concepts can be made simpler with hands on manipulatives.

We have base ten blocks, counters, clocks, and play money for math. We have microscopes, scales, and experiment kits for science. We have letter tiles and sentence strips for reading. A manipulative doesn’t have to be something you spent lots of money for from a curriculum company. Many of these things you can make yourself from supplies you have on hand. Here is a great site with instructions for making your own math manipulatives.

5. Educational toys and games. I’m a little sad that my kids are outgrowing this essential. But from the time they were very small, we’ve had toy shelves in the school room to hold educational toys and puzzles and games. I wanted there to be things in the schoolroom that they could play with while they waited for me to work with someone else. I started this idea as a classroom teacher; and it really worked for us at home also.

Over the years the things I’ve kept on our activity shelves have changed but here are a few we’ve had over the years: lacing cards, puzzles, blocks, magnetic play sets, felt sets, play do, and more. Having these things lets the kids have things to do while I read aloud, while they have to wait for me, or just when they need a break. Melissa and Doug toys and puzzles have always been favorites for us. (I’m not an afilliate. I just really love them!)  I also like to make “center games.” These are often used in school classrooms with learning centers, but they work well as activities for us also. Here are some free math centers you can make. And here were some great ideas for literacy centers.

I think that there are very few things that are actually “essential” for homeschooling. But all of these are things I really love and use very often. These are our “essential” homeschool supplies.

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