I’m no homeschool veteran. I only have one child and he won’t be five years old until May. However, I have homeschooled him since he was about two and a half years old. Gentle things, at his pace and based on his interests. Mommy’s writing out a blog post? He wants to practice his writing too. Daddy’s studying Japanese? He wanted to learn too. Interested in space? We’ll check out the space station channel on the Roku. It’s a lifestyle and one we embrace wholeheartedly.
That being said, I have found some things that we’ve come across that are going to be mainstays for several years yet. Just a few things that we love and adore, which have been great helps and have either made things easier for the family, for me as the main teacher, or have helped my son master something he was having trouble with. Here’s our top 10 tools for homeschooling – in no particular order.
The Pencil Grip – This has been an incredibly useful aid in helping Boobear learn how to hold his pencil properly. The Pencil Grip is recommended by OTs, and helps teach the right way to hold a pencil by making sure the child places his fingers where they should go. The Crossover Grip works the same way but it has an added little shield to help make sure that fingers stay where they should go. These grips are soft, flexible, and work on fat or skinny pencils, colored pencils and even crayons. Added bonus for us: these are helping my husband fix his grip so he can write more than a sentence without cramps.
Pattern Blocks – This is one of those things that I wasn’t convinced was worth the money but finally I broke down and bought a set. After all, I could always sell it, right? No way am I selling this! My son adores them. I found some printables online with patterns for him to match up, plus he enjoys using a mirror to reflect the pattern (one of the bonuses of him getting into my purse!) and just making general pictures. His ability to follow patterns has greatly improved, not just in little exercises but in stories and even math. I wish I had gotten these sooner!
Cuisenaire Rods – This is something else I wish I had gotten sooner. These little rods seemed like a waste of money and I wasn’t sure they would do any good in teaching my son math concepts. I didn’t think they’d be concrete enough for him. So I got a set and some Base 10 Flats when I noticed that he was picking up on numbers rather quickly. Big hit – he builds with them, he has figured out by himself just through playing that certain rods equal certain amounts based on the squares on the flats, and both he and his father have fun building things with them together. Pyramids, robots, you name it!
Apache Laminator – This has proven to be one of the best investments I have ever made. I will admit it – I need a 12 step program to get away from laminators! Flashcards, writing practice, file folder games, you name it, I laminate it. Important papers or sayings for the wall are also good candidates for laminating. It’s certainly saved us money over the long haul. This particular one is very small, fast, and doesn’t have a weird odor.
LeapFrog DVDs – These are a must for anyone’s top 10 tools for homeschooling if you have littles. These DVDs teach numbers, math concepts, letters and their sounds, blending, and all kinds of other things. They’ve made an enormous difference not only in the ease of teaching my son letter sounds but also his pronunciation. He catches it in song where he didn’t in simple speech and the fun songs and friendly animals really keep his attention.
I Can Read Phonics – We love these! You get a little box full of phonics books. These are similar to BOB books but are more interesting. Right now, we’re using the Biscuit series but eventually we’ll get the Superman, Batman, Star Wars, and Spiderman series. Each book focuses on sounds, like the BOB books, and as you move through the books they get progressively harder. Boobear is loving reading about Biscuit’s adventures and actually asks to practice reading.
Motivated Moms – This has been a blessing for everyone in the family. You can choose your favorite style of daily cleaning schedule. Full size, half size, by the day or by the week, with or without a Bible reading schedule – it’s wonderful. There’s space to add your own chores as well. I print out a sheet for the week and tape it on a cabinet. It helps me – and the hubby – stay on top of what needs to be done. I’ll admit I forget to dust or forget to put up clothes every day. Those annoying check boxes that demand a mark? They help keep us on track. Seeing it all written out in bite-sized pieces makes keeping up the house much easier.
Mom’s Toolbelt I love this site! There are forms for everything, from the family budget to forms to make an older child their own student planner. Book lists, menu plans, lesson planners for all sorts of lessons – it’s all there. Many of the forms are editable. All of them are very pretty – you can choose from seasonal art or swirly art. So far I’ve made a homeschool planner, family home binder, and a binder for recipes.
Easel – This is one of the best investments I could have made. It folds up, which is excellent for a small space, and fits between my washer and dryer. One side has a chalk board, the other a dry erase board, and you can connect little trays to either side to hold chalk, paints, markers, or whatever else you need. A dowel in the middle holds a roll of butcher paper for art projects. This was how Boobear first learned to write.
Legos – This isn’t going to come as a surprise to any homeschooler! Legos are a huge hit. Legos can be used as math manipulatives to do everything from talk about size to patterns, fractions, and even addition or subtraction. They can be used to build and create, use them in science, use them for anything! Before it’s over, I can see us having a huge stash of legos.