essentials tools for new homeschoolers

 You've fretted and thought over every angle of education for your child. Perhaps you had to convince your spouse, perhaps you had to face condemnation from friends or family. Deciding to home-school can sometimes be a hard enough decision to make. Once you've decided your decision making isn't finished, though. Now you must find what to have on hand, how much money are you willing to spend, do you go with a pre-packaged or design your own curriculum? There are enough options to make the decisions seem overwhelming. To make homeschooling as smooth and FUN as possible, I keep my kickbutt home school kit on hand. There's the complete kit at home and a Travel HS Kit for the car.   Take a deep breath. Let education be fun and not a chore of childhood!  There are some steps necessary between making the decision to home-school and filling your kits. First things first - check out the local rules and laws for homeschooling. Each state is different, just as some districts within a state can be different. You can check out websites such as www.hslda.org or you can purchase State compliance kits from sites like www.3Moms.com , these kits come with all the paperwork filled out (as well as several sample curriculum's), the kits run on average of ~$50.00.   I also suggest joining local support groups and on-line support groups. You can find local groups through sites like Yahoo! Groups and looking in your local paper - if worst comes to worst, take out an add. You can also join on-line communities. I highly recommend www.cafemom.com which is a community solely for mothers. There are several homeschooling groups on there - some are faith based and some are secular. This will help for days of frustration and times when you just need the shoulder of someone who completely understands what you're going through.

The following Kits should not break the bank. For the most part mine were collected over the first year - this includes birthdays and Yule (or other gift-giving holidays). Many art supplies can be found at the Dollar Store (a personal favorite of mine). I made a pact with my husband that I would never buy anything at full price (without a sale or discount) without discussing it with him first. Most of our art supplies were bought in late August from stores such as Marks and Walmart - as they are having going back to school sales (for instance, I got crayons at 56 cents each, rulers for 25 cents, paper for $2.00, coloring books for $2.50 each, workbooks for about $4.00, etc). So, don't look at the following kits and have a financial heart-attack, I spend no more than $400 per year on homeschooling two children. This includes $20/year for work-sheet sites like www.enchantedlearning.com and interactive independent learning sites like www.time4learning.com costing on average $20/month. Otherwise I supplement our curriculum's with free worksheet sites like www.starfall.com and www.dltk-teach.com

Must Have Home Educator Kit for the Home: I keep the following items in large Rubber-maid containers in my living-room closet, so they are easily accessible.   *Computer & Printer: This is an invaluable resource. My children utilize the computer for independent study - researching projects, studying and interactive learning. I also use the computer to printout worksheets and search for vocabulary lists. Not to mention on-line support groups!  *Basic Coloring Supplies: pencils, crayons, colored pencils, paints, washable markers, plain drawing paper, construction paper, multitudes of coloring books (early elementary).  - I also will print out coloring pages, this is fabulous for any age as you can find worksheets for those in middle or high school (like coloring the map of the United States).   *Basic Art Accessories: scissors (of all shapes and sizes), ruler, protractor (upper elementary to high school), tape, glue (both sticks and liquid), I also keep a kit for scrap-booking, as they usually come complete with glitter, frames, pretty paper and such.   *Project Supplies: This is a build off of the art supplies. You can have a variety of clay and play-dough, pom=poms, popsicle sticks, etc. This will be a fabulous way to introduce science topics as well as play time. For instance, my children just finished learning about the layers of the earth. We used play-dough to make our own earths, a different color for each layer (inner core, outer core, inner mantle, outer mantle, and crust). This was an introduction to Earth Quakes and Volcanoes.   *Variety of Workbooks: Again I pick up many a workbook at back to school sales and discount stores. You can find them by grade level. I've used them both for review of past information as well as working on a new subject.   *Index Cards: I go through a whole lot of index cards. I'll make flash cards for each month - ones of the monthly vocab list as well as ones for the math concepts we might be covering. There's no need to spend a whole lot of money on fancy cards when a pen and index card can make your own!   * Curriculum Supports: These can be books like the Core Knowledge Series "What Your _____ Grader Needs To Know" printed by the Core Knowledge foundation, A Delta Book by Dell Publishing; New York, New York. You can also search on the computer through your state's educational web-links for your state standards, which will give you an idea of what other kids your children's' age are learning. This isn't necessary if you purchase a pre-packaged curriculum.  * Library Card: You will learn the beauty of the local library when looking for early reader books, or researching a new topic. Young children will also enjoy reading times and art days. Our local library even had a local Llama farmer bring a llama for the kids to learn about.   *Friends and Family: I always request used workbooks and books the children used throughout their public school year. This is a cheap way of getting spelling books or math booklets.  Homeschooling Car Kit:  I keep the following in a bag in my trunk, you never know when you'll feel like some Parking-Lot or Traffic Jam Schooling...  *Washable Markers - it's important to not have regular crayons or markers if you don't want your seats, doors and windows to end up very colorful.  *Magic Erase Markers & Booklets: This is one of the best inventions for long trips. These markers do not color on anything but their specific booklets. They aren't really economical, but fabulous for a little distraction time. They tend to run about $10.00 for the booklet and another $10 for the markers, but they're worth it in my opinion.  *Cd's: As long as you have your MP3 or if you don't mind listening to nursery or phonics songs, these are also great for entertaining the kids. I've found some fabulous Cd's for phonics (grades k-3) from KidZone. They go through early phonics - like letter sounds - to more complex phonics - like letter blends and when Y is a vowel - my children love them in the car or home! They tend to run about $10 - $20 per CD.   *Magnetic Drawing Boards: These are great for those of you who don't want to mess with markers, or who don't want the hassle of locating dropped tops. My children love them and they can run anywhere from $10 - $20.   *Books: I keep a selection of books that either relate to the science topic (like Volcanoes) or concept (like early readers). These are also great, but can get frustrating as you'll have to listen as they spell out words they don't know. To avoid this frustration, I'll put a selection of picture books and flap or pop-up books in the kit as well.  *Car Games: At stores like Target and Walmart, you can purchase little car games. These are great for the long road trip - you can find Battleship and Checkers and such, many are magnetic to prevent losing the pieces.   *Worksheets: I'll also change worksheets each month to reflect the topics we've been covering. This is great for an afternoon picnic, so you can still cover 'school' but not loose out one the beautiful day!   

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