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Shopping List for New Homeschoolers
Welcome to the wonderful adventure that is homeschooling, and congratulations on your decision. You probably feel a bit overwhelmed right now, and aren't sure exactly where to begin. Don't worry-- many have forged the trail ahead of you, and are ready to give you all the advice you need.
One big concern for you might be what you should get now that you've decided to take on this responsibility. Aside from the obvious-- pencils, notebooks, rulers-- you might be thinking, "what will I need?"
Before you go running out to randomly purchase expensive textbooks, realize that 1) they're not the only supplies you need and 2) you should not rush into expensive purchases blindly. It pays to take some time to get used to being home and working with your kids before you splurge for more formal materials. This is the list of things you should consider getting first, and you can work your way up to curricula when you know your child's level, learning style and understand more of what you're looking for.
Craft and Project Supplies
Craft and project supplies are good to have on hand whenever you have kids in the house, but they're especially important for new homeschoolers. Before you dive head-first into formal curricula materials, it's good to take a period of 'deschooling' to relax and get used to your new lifestyle. Deschooling generally involves just getting used to being with each other and working together in a non-formal way, to get you both used to other ways of learning.
During this time, it's good to jump in with some fun projects, such as Lap Books, skills practice or project displays. You might also take the opportunity to get some simple science kits for kitchen experiments and the like.
Some materials to consider include (but are not limited to):
- crayons, markers, paints, colored pencils
- file folders, cardstock, construction paper, project boards
- ruler, protractor, hole puncher, compass, scissors
- printer paper (both white and colored), printer ink
- cotton balls, pop sticks, beads, glitter
- PVA glue, glue sticks, tape, staplers
Lap Books are a great project you can start together
Before you know where you're going, you have to know where you've been. The best way to start homeschooling is not to arbitrarily go by your child's overall grade level-- but to meet your child where he is on various subjects. To start getting used to a bit more of a schedule and introduce structure into your day, consider getting some practice workbooks.
By going assigning pages of practice workbooks and going over concepts with your child, it will give you first-hand knowledge of the skills that are his strengths, and where his weaknesses may lie.
A variety of workbooks can keep your day chugging along-- math, spelling, language arts, history, science, geography, etc... a single workbook can take just a couple of weeks, or a month or more to complete, depending on how many pages you work on each day.
If you think your child's skills are solid in a given subject area, get a workbook that reflects his current grade or perhaps a grade or two above-- just don't be disappointed to find he's not there yet. If he's struggling too much, you may have gotten too far ahead for him, so it's good to go back and get some workbooks that are a grade level or two below what his current grade would be.
It's better if the work is easier, because small successes will be encouraging to both of you. This will be an excellent review opportunity for what he's learned already and help you decide what you're looking for in a more formal curriculum.
Music and Art
Two subjects you might enjoy introducing right away to keep the atmosphere relaxed and enjoyable are music and art.
Now if you're worried you don't have an artistic or musical bone in your body, don't fret! You have a lot of options-- you can get a computer program or video set that teaches your child, you can bring your child to the local community center or learning centers where they offer classes for kids, or you can hire a private teacher.
Either way, it's good to have the supplies on hand to start with and assign a certain amount of time per day so that your child can practice and enjoy some creative freedom.
Okay, you're finally there-- you've been easing into the homeschooling lifestyle for a few weeks or months and you're interested in more formal curricula. There are many to choose from, some of which will give you all you need and you just follow the instructions.
Remember, when you purchase homeschool curricula, you don't have to get all the same grade level in every subject-- if your child struggles behind with reading but is far ahead in math, you can buy books at the appropriate grade levels to accommodate him.
Also consider his learning style-- some curricula take a more hands-on approach, they're more project oriented, you can hop around to different topics; others are very linear, take a classical approach and are heavy on reading/writing. Be sure to do your research on the kind of curricula you need if you want to make sure it doesn't sit on the shelf gathering dust.