With the right set of tools, any job is easier and can be accomplished in a more efficient manner. Whether you are washing the dishes, building a shed, or homeschooling your children, having the right tools is essential. If you are new to homeschooling and being an educator, getting the right materials and tools will make your life much easier and simpler. Planning ahead and having the necessary items will ensure that you are positioned to succeed. The rest is up to you.
- A library card. Books are one of the most important, if not the most important, tool type for your homeschooling tool box. The format may be changing, but books will never go out of style, especially in the world of education. You need them to help your children learn how to read. You need them to instill in them a love for reading and gaining new knowledge, and you need them to gather information. You may have plenty of books around the house already, but with a library card, you can get any book you want. For the little ones, you can change out the picture books on a weekly basis at no cost. For the older kids, you can get books for research and learning about new subjects. If your local library does not have a book you want, they will find it and borrow it from another library. At most libraries, you can even check out eBooks, DVDs, and other types of materials.
- A computer. Books may be irreplaceable, but computers also play a very important role in learning and in organizing. Educational games on the computer can be a great way for kids to learn. Use them to supplement your other types of lessons. The more variety you give your children, the more interested they will be in learning. Using computer games along with books, lectures, activities, outings, and movies, you can provide a varied world of learning. Additionally, your computer can be your saving grace when it comes to staying organized and keeping records. You can declutter your homeschooling area by keeping computer files on grades, lessons, activities, and everything else you need to keep track of. Certainly homeschooling and many other tasks were accomplished without computers in the past, but having one makes life easier. Just make sure you always back up your files!
- Internet access. A computer by itself is a great tool for staying organized and for using games and educational resources, as long as they are not online games and resources. The Internet has a stunning array of games, activities, lessons, and other resources right at your fingertips. And much of it is completely free! No, you don’t absolutely need to have an Internet connection, but without one, you are missing out on a world of materials and information. Just beware that not all information online is good information and that searching for something worthwhile can turn into a time suck. Use good judgment and set time limits for how long you will search for what you want. Also consider investing in a good Internet filter so that your kids can freely learn online without stumbling across anything inappropriate.
- Television with a DVR and DVD player. Yes, watching TV can be valuable. There are channels that have great programming to enhance the learning going on in your homeschool environment. Really great history, science, and nature programming abound on cable channels. With a DVR, you can record programs that you think might enlighten your kids or add to their lessons. With the DVD player, you can check out movies and documentaries from the library to watch. Use the TV as another tool in your toolbox, not as a regular babysitter or lesson planner. Remember that variety is the key to good learning. A complete lesson on insects could certainly include a documentary on the lives of ants in the rain forest in addition to reading books about insects and going outside to collect and identify local critters.
- A paper calendar. While the computer is a great organizational tool that can save you time and sanity, having a pen and paper calendar is important too. Use one that includes plenty of space for every day of the week so you can write in details and times. This type of calendar is a great way to sketch out a rough plan for each day, week, month, and for the entire year. You can add things in with pencil and erase as needed. It can act as a working tool that changes as you and your plans change. Having a schedule that is set in stone just doesn’t work with homeschooling. You, and your calendar, must be prepared to change at a moment’s notice and adapt to unforeseen events.
- Paper. This might seem like an obvious necessity when it comes to learning, but you will be surprised at how quickly you go through all kinds of paper. You need big pieces of inexpensive newsprint for art projects, brainstorming, and scribbling for the youngsters. You need lined writing paper for when the young ones are learning their letters and how to put them together into words and sentences. They will go through plenty of this paper. For the older kids you need lined paper and notebooks for journaling and writing. Scrap paper, construction paper, and drawing and painting paper will also be valuable. You may be wondering why you can’t simply use the computer for writing. Typing is clearly an important skill as well, but children need to hone their fine motor skills by writing on paper with a pen, pencil, or other writing implement in hand. Even the older kids can benefit from the links that form or are reinforced between brain and hand when writing on paper. Computers and tablets may be the way of the future, but don’t let your kids miss out on the important benefits of actual writing.
- Music and art supplies. One of the great things about homeschooling is that your kids need not miss out on music and art, which are regularly being cut from public schools for reasons of funding. Creative outlets are very important to learning. If you can afford to, have some musical instruments that your children can experiment with. At the very least, have a variety of types of music on CD or on the computer so that your children can experience and learn about music. Having classical music or jazz to listen to while working is a great way to incorporate music and to help your children focus. Having a variety of art supplies on hand is great too. Work on art projects every day as a way to relax and have fun while stimulating the creative process.
- A support group. Homeschooling your kids will be one of the most rewarding but also difficult things you will ever do. You will rarely regret spending this time with them and teaching them the way you want them to be taught. However, going at it totally alone can be more than a challenge; it can be downright terrifying. Join up with a local or regional homeschooling group so that you can commiserate with and learn from other homeschooling parents. If you live in an isolated area with limited access to other homeschoolers, consider joining an online group. You can still discuss problems and new ideas with others even if you can’t see them in person. Another option if you have no other homeschoolers nearby, is to join up with groups at your church. Your kids can get involved and meet other kids. You can get time away to spend with like-minded adults, even if they are not homeschoolers.