I would describe my homeschooling and homemaking philosophy as minimalist.
Sadly, this does not mean that I don't have a lot of stuff! Now that I have ages baby to 8, my household requires cloth diapers and watercolors and shin guards and play dough. So, while I have more stuff than I like, I like and use 98% of the things we own.
Still, I fight overcomplicating my homeschool or kitchen with extra gadgets and refuse to keep ANYTHING that I don't use regularly or can't find room to store.
Also, I'm frugal. Living on one income means we need to count our pennies, especially as we work to overcome a massive student loan debt. So I think very carefully about every purchase!
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Nevertheless, I have found some supplies other than books that have been worth the cost. All of the items on the list have been researched, tested, and approved by our homeschool.
Staples Better View Binders - I have a small stash of binders, portfolios, and slip sheets that I've collected over the years from freecycle and my decluttering. Whenever I need a binder, I reach into my stash and make do.
However, each one of my students gets their own Staples Binder to hold their schedules, completed memory work (recitation pieces and folk songs), certificates of completion, etc. They come in many colors and they can hold up to the abuse of being thrown into a crate daily. They are also easy for my young kids to open and close and the rings will hold up!
3 Hole Punch - If you want to put papers in a binder, you need a hole punch. This one locks in a flat position so I can keep it handy in a shallow kitchen drawer right near the kitchen table at the center of our homeschooling.
Primary Composition Notebook - I give each one of my kids one of these to use for copywork and also spelling dictation practice. It eliminates the need for loose papers floating around, which keeps us organized.
In our homeschool, I prefer quality handwriting over quantity so one of these will last us throughout the primary grades of 1st-3rd. Next year, we just pick up in the notebook where we left off.
Book Lights - We like our bedtimes early and strict :-) Seriously, I credit our overall health and well-being as a family to our adequate sleep schedules. Currently, our 3-year-old (who no longer naps) begins her bedtime routine at 6:30 pm, the 6-year-old says goodnight at 8 pm and the 8-year-old heads off at 8:30.
Having the book lights helps everyone feel like going off to bed doesn't mean they have to go to sleep, even though only the 8-year-old regularly stays up late reading.
And once they are in their rooms, we keep the lights dimmed so I use my book light many evenings to read or work on homeschooling plans. But our book lights require 3 AAA batteries each, which brings me to the next item on my list:
Rechargeable AAA batteries and charger - Before kids, we never used so many AAA batteries! With book lights for everyone, kitchen timers for tracking parts of our strict homeschool schedule and a few educational toys or games that require AAAs, we use and recharge these frequently. I've actually purchased several 12-packs over the years that we've owned them.
Kitchen Timers - I have had these timers for a year and a half and now I can't imagine living without them. They are really handy for monitoring piano practice time as well as keeping me on track for ensuring the short lessons that are essential to our homeschool day.
Ticonderoga Pencils - When I started reading homeschooling blogs, everyone said you had to get these pencils. I'm not one to jump on a bandwagon when it comes to buying something that the kids are constantly getting for free, but I gave them a try and everyone was right. These pencils hold a point and the erasers do not shred after two uses.
Dry erase markers - I tear out the pages of my son's math workbooks from Beast Academy and put them in slip sheets so he can do the work in dry erase markers.
I did this to preserve the workbooks for his siblings, but I've found other benefits. Mistakes can be wiped away and the problem can be started anew when necessary. No red pens required. Plus, writing this way is less straining on the hand for early writers and a bit more fun, especially when you get colored markers.
Post-It Tabs - A small pack of these will continue to last me for years and years. I use them to mark our place in my All About Spelling teachers manual, Beast Academy answer book and other books where bookmarks would easily fall out. They last through many reapplications. I like that I can move it high or low on a page margin to help me find our exact place where we left off in a lesson.
Adhesive paper/shelf liner - My kids love books. They love them so much, that they reread them and take them to bed and lay on them and carry them around.
So I cover our paperback non-consumable lesson books with adhesive paper to protect the covers and hold the book's spines together better for the long term. I keep both Duck and Contact brand papers on hand in different sizes and use whichever fits best.
This technique adds years of life to books, but it does add some cost in my time and the paper, so I use it sparingly. I cover our Beast Academy Guides, Holling C. Holling books, and any paperbacks we use for history.
A small (8") tablet - This was definitely a splurge for our homeschool (we purchased it for less than $190 in 2016) but it has become invaluable to us.
We use Google Play Books and Kindle app to read free living books, construct spelling words using the All About Spelling letter tiles app, and listen to music playlists I've prepared for our composer studies on Spotify. My younger son also uses it to stream free audiobooks via our library's Overdrive subscription. Now that both boys use it for piano lessons and practice sessions on Hoffman Academy, it sees daily use for homeschooling.
Fortunately, all of these things could also be done on a computer, and some could be done on a phone, or just the old-fashioned way--by printing out a bunch of paper or using magnetic letter tiles.
When back to school season rolls around, I will stock up on super cheap:
- wide-ruled composition notebooks (for our math scratch work)
- white glue
- copy paper for printing and drawing
- any needed scissors, rulers, or folders
- art supplies for the little kids like markers or poster paint
And that is about all!
I use some old crates my husband and I took to college to store school books and, of course, we have bookshelves, but besides good books and art supplies and a black and white laser printer, we don't use much more to homeschool. No laminators required here!