Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Essential Homeschool Supplies

With so many educational products available and a multitude of options for educating children, there are very few items I consider essential.

PreK-Kindergarten

For preK and kindergarten aged children most parents want to encourage their children to learn in a way that is fun and motivating for the child. At this age, fun is key. Kids can quickly see the difference between a game and an educational activity disguised as a game. When parents push too hard, kids begin to rebel, so keeping learning fun and making activities a choice, not a requirement goes a long way toward building a lifelong love of learning.

School districts and states have long lists of requirements that specify when children should learn their letters, sight words, numbers, and a host of other skills. Although these guidelines can be helpful, most homeschoolers are free to teach the same skills in any order that works. Typically, kids aged 4-6 learn their letters and numbers, the basics of reading, adding and subtraction and begin writing letters and words. Teaching these skills does not require curriculum and should be fun.

Many parents believe that workbooks and reading curriculum are required to teach these skills, but these methods are not always enjoyable for the children. In addition, parents can save lots of money and have fun playing with their children teaching these same skills.

Now my list of essential items may be surprising, but homeschooling youngsters should be fun and cheap. Remember curriculum is not required.

1. Library Card
2. Art Supplies
3. Paper, pens and pencils
4. Deck of Cards - 12 Decks (6 Red/6 Blue) Wide-Size, Regular Index Playing Cards by Brybelly
5. Dice - 30+ Polyhedral Dice | Random | 35 Dice in 5 Complete Sets
6. Small objects such as beans, little plastic animals, coins, bottle caps, etc - Eureka Tub Of Animal Counters, 100 Counters in 3 3/4" x 5 1/2" x 3 3/4" Tub

Reading to children is the best way to get them to develop a personal interest in reading, so a library card is an obvious item for the list. Choosing quality books goes a long way towards developing excellent readers and learners. Not all books are created equal. Some books use rich language and tell an entertaining story all while managing to teach. Others use simple language and contain plots that all seem the same. One character was mean, the other overcame the problem and they were all friends in the end. While this common plot may be engaging, it can become very familiar and repetitive.

Given time and practice, it becomes easy to spot quality books. My Language Arts page is a good place to begin selecting quality books.

Art supplies may not be such an obvious choice for the essential list, but they are a sneaky way to teach a variety of math, reading and writing skills. Drawing pictures develops the same hand muscles required for writing, as does cutting, gluing and creating. Letter books, number books, personal calendars, recipes, can all be created with art supplies. In addition, parents can write down stories kids dictate and then children can illustrate them. Although math workbooks present math problems in the abstract way they are commonly seen in schools, the same skills can be introduced using dice and cards. So many simple games can be played and invented. For example, a parent could draw a picture with clowns holding balloons. There could be one clown holding one balloon, a clown holding two balloons, etc, up to six balloons. The dice could be rolled and the first person to roll each number could be declared a winner. Just playing simple games, or playing on a daily basis can result in kids learning these essential pre-K and kindergarten skills.

If this isn't convincing enough, here are some of my favorite preK-kindergarden resources which provide a little more direction.

Five in a Row (Five in a Row): Volume 1 - This is a literature based curriculum for young children. Parents read the same quality picture book to their child five days in a row. After reading each day an activity which focuses on a traditional subject area is completed. For example, after reading The Story of Ferdinand, kids may color a map of Spain, discuss vocabulary words found in the story, or try creating their own black and white drawing. Here are a few more resources that are helpful for preK-kindergarten age.

ThinkFun What's Gnu (ages 4-9)
LeapFrog: Letter Factory (ages 3-7)
LeapFrog: Talking Words Factory (ages 4-8)
LeapFrog: Complex Word Complex (ages 4-8)
Leap Frog videos - Letter Factory, Word Factory, Complex Word Complex - These videos are great for teaching kids to read with little effort. All three of my children loved them as they were the only videos they were exposed to at this young age.

Early Elementary (6 yrs-8 yrs)

Once kids begin reading, the real key is to keep them reading. Again, there are very few items I consider essential. On the contrary, I believe, if kids are interested in learning about spiders, they should be given a multitude of spider books. After all, they will learn about spiders while improving their reading skills. If they enjoy fiction, they should be filled with stories. Whatever they are interested in, they should be given tons of books on the topic. Many people believe that children need exposure to all types of genres such as non-fiction, biographies and fiction. As they get older, there will be plenty of time to explore different genres. A better goal than exposure to various genres at such a young age, would be to develop a love of reading. What better way to develop the interest than to help children find books on topics they enjoy.

Therefore, a library card tops my list of essential items as it will at each and every age.

This is also the perfect age for developing an interest in a hobby. Whether its photography, knitting, fixing bicycles, or cooking, hobbies motivate kids to improve a variety of skills. Reading is most obvious, but hobbies also help to develop math and writing skills as well as logical thinking and executive function skills. So my recommendation is to skip the curriculum and instead focus on deepening and broadening interests. Here's a list of games, kits and toys that help children develop hobbies.

Science Toys
Thames and Kosmos Air+Water Power Plus Science Kit (ages 7-12)
Thames & Kosmos Remote Control Machines (ages 7-12)
Snap Circuits SC-300 Electronics Discovery Kit (ages 4-11)
ALEX Toys Craft My Flower Press Kit (ages 4-12)
The World Record Paper Airplane Book (ages 6-11)
Syma S107/S107G R/C Helicopter with Gyro- Red (ages 7-18)
Elenco 300-in-One Electronic Project Lab (ages 12-18)

Games
Lost Cities (ages 8-18)
Classic Farkel Game (ages 5-15)
Sumoku (ages 7-18)
Speed! (ages 4-12)
The Settlers of Catan (ages 7-18)
Bananagrams (ages 4-15)
Bicycle 3-Track Color Coded Wooden Cribbage Game (ages 5-18)

Building
Imagability Wedgits To Go 35 Piece Set (ages 3-10)
Magna-Tiles® Clear Colors 100 Piece Set (ages 3-10)


Crafts
Harrisville Designs 7" Potholder (Traditional Size) Loom Kit (ages 5-10)
Hand Made Maple Drop Spindle With 2 oz Merino Wool Spinning Fiber Kit (ages 7-15)
Rainbow Loom 2.0 Bands with Metal Hook (ages 5-13)
Kumihimo Starter Kit: KumiLoom(TM) Disk/Bobbins/Booklet/Necklace Kit (ages 5-15)
Perler Beads 6,000 Count Bucket-Multi Mix (ages 3-10)
Clover Flower Large Yo-Yo Maker (ages 5-12)

Upper Elementary (9 yrs-12 yrs)

This is the age I like to introduce some curriculum to students. Once kids can add, subtract, multiply and divide, read and write on their own, they are ready for more structure. Here's my list of essential resources for upper elementary students.

Parents should continue reading to kids and try to expose them to new topics. Science can be introduced through books and hands-on experiments. The The Magic School Bus Chapter Book (20 Book Set) and InquisiKids Discover & Do Volume 3 Science with Batteries, Science and Your Body, Science with Weather are super science resources.

This is a short list of essential items. In addition to the above items, kids should continue to develop their hobbies and interests by reading and researching on their own and with help from adults. They should be given lots of time to read and exposure to books either through the library or an at-home library.

 

Junior High and High School (13 yrs-17 yrs)

At higher levels kids should continue with their math program and expand on their knowledge of history. Strong readers will enjoy this selection of history story books. American Government, American History, American Literature and Economics are all interrelated subjects that should be taught together. Uncle Eric Series 11-Book Set Latest Editions is by far the best place to begin these subjects. As opposed to the traditional approach to education which tends to have students memorize a series of facts, these books answer the question why. They explain how government policy changes the economic prosperity of people. After reading these books, students will have a deep understanding of how America works and know much more than the names of the three branches of government.

High school aged students should begin a blog or keep a writing notebook where they either answer essay questions related to their reading or give their opinions on topics related to their reading. For example, Should every organization be self-supporting in order to justify its own existence? For example, if an organization, whose sole purpose is to enlighten, educate or inform, cannonot survive without the contributions of government or private benefactors, should it exist? Students should be given the opportunity to express their opinions on topics such as this.


Education should be flexible as each student is unique. They should be challenged based on their own personal level and interests. Because of this, it is difficult to create a list of essential resources, but is easier to create guidelines for recommendations. Education should be motivating and interesting with goals of developing interests and independence.

Comments and questions! I would love to hear from you on this topic.

Looking for more activities to do with children? Be sure to check out the pages of this blog; Math, Language Arts, Science, History, Geography, Arts and Crafts and these other great Blog Hops

2 comments:

  1. I love your emphasis on reading - it's a big part of our homeschool. So often the books my kids read get translated into their games and quiet play. For instance, after reading one of the Redwall books, my 8-year-old got out his legos and tried to rebuild it. He learned about drawbridges and fortifications and building, all while playing.

    One of my crucial supplies during the younger years is a box of "junk": pieces of cardboard and foam, empty egg cartons, popsicle sticks, cardboard tubes, whatever. The kids have learned all kinds of stuff from using these materials - especially problem solving, when one material doesn't do what they want it too.

    My kids like textbooks and workbooks, but they certainly aren't the only way to learn.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes a box of junk is great. I always had one when my kids were young. I saved toilet paper tubes, cereal boxes, thread spools and everything. They loved to build with the stuff.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...