Many of us are faced with the task of schooling our children at home. Whether you are nervous, excited, frustrated, or some mixture of all of these, you are not alone.
I homeschooled for over twenty years. For more than half of those of years, I worked full time. While home education is not always easy, it can be done.
A major ingredient of success is organization and preparation. For starters, you will need to stock up on school supplies and have an area prepared for working on activities.
The key is to teach children the proper care and use of your materials.
You can do this even if you live in the tiniest of spaces. If you have the space for a shelf and a designated area, great, but if not, a small rolling cart, a basket, or a bin will work to store your supplies.
The key is to teach children the proper care and use of your materials. These are not really toys, but tools. Your first “lesson” of the school year should be how to use and care for the supplies. Trust me when I say that gentle instruction in this area will save you loads of time and frustration further down the road.
It may seem obvious, but decent pencils are a must. Buy a package of quality pencils and keep a good sharpener on hand. Do not let soft led, broken tips, and smudgy erasers steal your time.
Again, quality is everything. You do not need to buy a colossal box of a million colors. In the world of school supplies, more is not always better. Buy the nicest set of crayons and/or colored pencils you can afford. Definitely choose less colors and better quality in this area. Not to point any fingers, but the yellow and green box we grew up with is a great choice for quality in an affordable package. The same goes with markers. Depending on the project, you may want fine tip or broad. I prefer colored pencils to markers for almost every project. They do not smudge as easily and more forgiving.
Buy a package of white copy paper. This unlined gem is the unsung hero of many a school day. For younger students, it provides a decent surface to draw, color, and create. Older students can work math problems, create labeled drawings for science, draw maps in Social Studies, and pretty much have a blank canvas for any great idea.
If you want to up your paper supply game, watercolor paper is perfect for a thick surface that will soak up paint and create a sturdy surface for younger artists.
Tracing paper is also a fun one to stock. Students can work on their fine motor skills while tracing the 50 states, the parts of a plant, or whatever content you may be working on.
For the truly committed to free expression, consider a roll of white paper from your local school or art supply store. I bought a large roll of white paper on a bolt when my oldest was a toddler. We used that roll through the academic careers of both of my children and there was a little left for a graduation banner. Yes, it was an expensive purchase in the beginning, but it did pay off. I also love the tracings we made around the kids that they created almost every year of elementary school.
Construction paper also has its place. I prefer to buy a heavier stock than is generally available in the school supply aisle. Office, craft, or educational supply stores generally carry a wide variety of colors and weights of colored paper.
Before we leave the discussion of paper behind, remember to purchase some kind of lined paper for students to keep their handwriting on track as they write.
This kind of paper is easily available at almost any store or online at this time of year. Wide or college ruled. I usually stick with wide ruled until high school.
There are also lined papers you can purchase to help your student in the early years as they learn to form letters properly. Some children will take to this quite easily but most will need extensive practice. If your child is learning to write their own name for the first time, write their name for them on the lined paper and have them practice tracing it, first with their finger, and then with a pencil or crayon. This is a great activity to practice at the breakfast table and can be adapted for older children by providing a quote to copy. This is called “copywork” and has been a truly excellent practice in my house for developing handwriting skills and sparking discussion about famous quotes and lines from books.
A small bottle of white school glue and a glue stick are essential. But, while we are on the topic of adhesives, may I suggest adding some other items to your box of tricks? I still remember the “writing station” in my second grade classroom as a child. My much beloved teacher stocked that area with loads of paper and writing supplies but she also added… wait for it… tape. And lots of it. Wide tape, masking tape, scotch tape, double-sided tape. I am sure if she were still teaching today, she would add washi tape. Children love tape. I made many a wonderful project at that table. If you want to add some tape and give permission to get crazy with it, I would go for it.
Next Level At-Home School Supplies
If you are still reading and have some more pennies in the jar, here are a few other ideas for making the most of your education journey.
This old-timey favorite still gets high marks for fun and versatility. Sidewalk chalk can take spelling words to the driveway and provide some outside time alongside your lesson. Math problems also make great driveway art. Colored chalk and a personal chalkboard are also fun for students. Chalk is dusty but forgiving and a fun medium to explore.
7. Paints and Brushes
Watercolor sets are lots of fun. Acrylic or tempera paints are also a good choice. Depending on the age of the child, you may want to purchase washable paints.
I have also put a small squirt of dish soap in paint and mixed it up before using with younger children. This can help take out stains from small spills.
As with the crayons, buy the highest quality you can afford. If you must skimp, buy good brushes and less paint. Brushes can be very frustrating if they are shedding hairs and will not hold the paint well.
I suggest experimenting with the art supplies you buy to see how they work before using them with your child. Do not forget to demonstrate how to use these items before handing over the supplies. Show your child how to dip the paintbrush, rinse between colors, and properly clean up afterwards. It saves a lot of frustration on the side of the parent and the child when even seemingly simple tasks are demonstrated first.
A good rule of thumb is you do it while they watch (narrate what you are doing), do it once together, and then you watch them do it on their own.
8. White Board and Dry Erase Markers
A small individual size white board is a nice tool and has many uses. I find it particularly helpful when helping a child with math problems and learning to read.
Write a simple word like “cat” on the board, have the child sound it out and read it to you. Then erase the /c/ and add a /r/, continue switching the beginning, middle, or final letter as the child practices sounding out the different words.
9. Blank Books and Journals
I purchased blank books for my children to keep a sort of educational journal as they were coming up. An artist sketchbook or a blank journal provides a place to make a keepsake of children’s art and compositions. They have multiple uses across many content areas. Self-portraits, copywork, lists of favorites, musings on favorite books, drawings to illustrate the reading in their science book, and all the doodles and sketches of horses, robots, Pokemon, or whatever your kids are into. Make sure you date the entries, you will be glad you did.
10. Your Own Creativity
The list of items to use for education is truly endless. Use your leftover cereal boxes to create a box book report, save bottle caps for math counters, bits of leftover wrapping paper can become collage materials. As you begin this school year, remember that you do not need all of these materials to get started. If you have nothing but a stick and the dirt in your front yard, you can still have your child write their name in a creative way. Gravel from the driveway provides 10 small items to practice counting. Start with what you can and add items for special treats or holidays.
Quality school supplies can make your educational path a little smoother. Your love, kindness, and support fuels the journey.