When you begin homeschooling you’ll probably ask yourself a hundred questions, and that’s totally ok! It’s good to have questions about such a major thing. I’m here today, however, to hopefully give you one less thing to worry about.
What are the most important things to have when you homeschool? It’s not easy to narrow the list down so I sat and thought about what 5 things have made the biggest impact in our homeschooling over the last 17 (wow, I’m old) years. And, here is my list of essentials:
5 Homeschooling Must Haves
1. Internet! – When we began homeschooling the internet wasn’t much of a thing and we still had to dial in and block incoming calls in order to spend 20 minutes loading one website. There wasn’t a lot of homeschooling information out there back then, but today is a completely different scenario!
The internet is a wealth of support, ideas, curriculum, lesson plans, information..need a dictionary? Internet. Need another word for snort? Internet. Need to find a free field trip for your group? Internet.
Along with the internet you’re going to need a good way to print materials. I don’t print a lot, preferring my kids to use their laptops like a book with a notebook to write in, but sometimes I just need to print. For small jobs I have a Brother All-in-One that I LOVE. I love that it will print on both sides of the paper without needing me to flip paper, that it’s wireless (and the wireless actually works!), and that I can save money buy buying individual ink cartridges as needed.
For larger jobs, like than 280 page science text, I prefer Best Value Copy. They always have great coupon codes (check the right side of the website for them!) and if you sign up for their mailing list the frequently send out shipping coupons. The aforementioned text cost around $24 to print, bind, and ship through Best Value, the local chain office store wanted nearly $100!
Another good idea for households with internet and children is some kind of device that will keep your family safe. Now, I’m not big into censoring stuff but I do have some kids who would wake up at 1am to play online, making us all suffer with their crankiness the next day. Circle with Disney is a really cool device that will shut down the internet when you want it to, but it’ll also filter content to keep little eyes safe, because let’s face it, sometimes kids may look up some perfectly innocent term but the way it’s phrased may bring about some really…let’s say interesting…search results, not to mention ads.
2. Library Card. Obviously a library card is great for allowing you to check out books and videos in person, but it can do so much more. Here are some great non-library things you may be able to do with your card:
-Check out digital books & audiobooks with Overdrive
-Check out audiobooks, comic books, moveis & tv shows with HooplaDigital
-Learn new languages and research your ancestry with your library’s online services
-Check out family passes to local attractions
-Play games and make Lego creations at library after school clubs
3. Art supplies (lots and lots of them! LOTS!) The best time to stock up is when the back to school sales start happening, especially if you’re able to wait until the week after school starts to pick up clearance deals. Also, keep your eyes on Amazon for sales, art stuff seems to hit another sale cycle around Christmas shopping time.
So, what art supplies do I recommend? Well, it depends on the age and how into art the student is. My teen’s lists include copic markers (holy expensive, batman!) but here is a good list to get you started:
-watercolor paint palettes
-acrylic craft paint
-paint brush sets
-several pairs of scissors (and then two extra pairs!)
-regular school glue
-crayons, crayons, and more crayons!
-sketch books in a small, portable size and a larger size
-tape, a whole lot of clear tape
-chalk pastels (not the cheapest you can find, trust me. Splurge just a little.)
-little doodads (googly eyes, glitter, sparkley things, foam stickers)
-old shirt or apron to use as a smock
4. A good pencil sharpener is worth it’s weight in gold and unicorn tears. Trust me. We’ve gone through a lot of pencil sharpeners in our nearly two decades of homeschooling but the only one that has lasted more than a few months is the CARL Angel 5 (also known as the Classroom Friendly Sharpener, read my review here)
You’re going to need some GOOD pencils to go with the sharpener, and just as with the sharpener, the quality of the pencil matters. Teachers have long loved Ticonderoga No. 2 pencils for their durability and easy of sharpening. Twice a year I buy a case of 96 pencils and they last us (almost) an entire year!
5. A way to stream digital media! Netflix, YouTube, Curiosity Stream, Amazon Videos, Great Courses Plus…the opportunities for learning via television are never-ending! You can stream the media in many ways. The easiest is to watch on your computer, you can even wheel your computer to your television and connect it via an inexpensive HDMI cable, though some older TVs and computers may require a 15 pin VGA cord instead.
Other ways to stream media are through a video game console, my favorite is the Wii because it’s available to buy used to inexpensively these days. You can also stream through an Xbox 360, Xbox One, and Playstation if you have one of those.
Set-top boxes are also great, and inexpensive, ways to stream and usually act more like a standard cable tv subscription with channels you can log into and buy. You may need to get a basic cable subscription to use some channels (we get free basic cable with our internet plan, it includes all major networks and HBO), but you can stream YouTube, PBS, and PBSKids for free, as well as some other channels. They’ll also stream most of your paid subscriptions like Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Video for free. Each set top box works a little differently. We have a Roku (pro is that it streams Amazon Video directly, con is that it’s streaming is slowish) and the AppleTV (pro is that it is fast and works with all of our Apple devices, con is that you have to airplay Amazon Video). Other popular choices are the ChromeCast and FireStick.
There are lots of great educational materials on YouTube and Netflix, but by far my favorite streaming service for educational purposes is Amazon Video. The search feature is wonky, and you have to be sure you filter for free Prime videos, but the selection cannot be beat! Netflix is what I use for entertainment, Amazon Video for school!
Meg Grooms is a decades-long secular homeschooling mother of 6 children, ranging in age from preschool to married with kids of their own. Always a vagabond at heart, Meg and her family have embraced a slow travel lifestyle, currently calling Southern California home. Your guess is as good as hers as to where they’ll end up next.
Meg blogs about secular homeschooling and gameschooling at Homeschool Gameschool.