In my last (and first!) post I briefly mentioned back to school essentials. This got me thinking about the ‘essentials’ for home education. I often see people ask “what do I need to teach my child at home?” “Is it expensive?” “What should I buy?” Well, annoyingly, there is no short answer to these questions. It depends on your family, your lifestyle and more importantly, your children and their interests. Some interests cost more than others. Some lifestyles are more simple. Others have different educational approaches so the cost and materials can vary considerably.
We’ve recently celebrated 1 year of learning at home so I’ve been reflecting on our time. It has been amazing! However I realised that during that time I’ve purchased a lot of things. Not gunna lie. Most of these things are already long gone or forgotten about. Were they worth the money I spent? Even the small and inexpensive things soon add up and before you know it you’ve spent £126.50 in The Works on stationary and books! (True story) This got me thinking, which items have been of the most value to me, as a home educator? Which things have benefited the kids the most? What did the children really enjoy? So, to summarise, I’ve wrote this blog post aimed at those who are new to home education and those asking themselves what do you REALLY need to home educate?
This! If I had to pick just one item which I couldn’t homeschool without it would be a Desktop PC. If you haven’t already got one, then I really recommend you invest in one. I’ve always preferred PC’s over other devices due to their usability. I mean, sure, you could use a laptop or even a tablet – but it just isn’t the same. PC’s are much easier to use and far less limited. Around 7 months after we began home educating my old PC broke. I lost everything I had on there. Its safe to say that my world ended! Fortunately the computer was really old and had lived a long, purposeful life so I thanked it for its service and decided it was time to go. We let the kids dissect it and we learned about the hardware and purposes. It was good fun. Now, we had an excuse to build another computer!
PC’s are a great tool. It can be used by yourself to create resources, download free printables or most importantly – for the internet. Your children can also benefit from using the PC. I believe it has enhanced Zips & Bears learning immensely. In todays world computer skills are a big deal and technology changes rapidly, so for me, it makes sense to incorporate this into our learning. A PC has allowed me to do a huge amount without limitations. It has proved to be a real benefit in our home so for these reasons, and many more, it is my top HE essential.
A computer without the internet is like bread without butter. Previously we had a standard broadband connection, which was quite hit-and-miss. We initially went for a budget package with a cheap provider, hoping to save a few pennies. I now regret this. We spent just as much time disconnected as we did connected, whilst still paying for the full service. Once we began HE I switched to fibre optic broadband as soon as I could.
Best decision ever!
Admittedly, it costs a little more but its worth it for the good service with fast speeds. No longer am I bored half to death whilst waiting for a video to buffer. No longer is Zips disconnected during important research about gravity! And no longer am I disconnected half way through an episode of Vikings! 😉 So do it! Upgrade or switch to fibre-optic.
If you are household which has a high internet usage or if you have many devices connected via Wi-Fi, then you would probably benefit from connecting your PC to the internet directly through an ethernet cable. It is much faster and there are no interruptions, meaning faster browsing for you and instant loading for games and interactive webpages.
A PRINTER WITH BACK UP INK
Yet another very important tool! I’ve gone through three, yes THREE, printers within a year. Ooops! Right now I have a HP DeskJet 3630
. Its nothing overly-spectacular but it wasn’t expensive and does its job very well – plus it came with free ink! Bonus! I’ve had this particular one for 4 months now and I’ve had no problems, despite working it to the extreme. The print quality is good, the colours are good and it looks pretty too. Once you have a printer, you can download and print a tonnes of free printables that are available online. I use my printer for everything. Children love to print their work too. Something about seeing their work printed brings a sparkle to their eyes. Bear tends to use it for printing her latest ‘Paint’ masterpiece and Zips prints off his stories, research, designs and pictures.
Top tip: Always have a spare set of inks ready for when you run out as they have a habit of doing so at the most inconvenient of times! For the printer above you need HP 302XL Black & Colour Ink Cartridges.
. I found the inks WAY cheaper by buying them refurbished from Amazon rather than getting them refilled at Cartridge World. In fact, HALF THE PRICE!
PAPER, PAPER, PAPER AND MORE PAPER. OH, AND GLUE.
I’m certain there is a cheeky little elf who sneaks in while we’re sleeping to steel all the paper. We never seem to have enough. The amount of paper we were using increased four-fold when we started HE. Possibly more .You’ll want a good variety of paper. Look for different sizes, colours, tones, textures, thickness and shapes. We love the IKEA paper packs for arts and crafts and project work. Crafty Crocodiles also have a good selection of paper at reasonable prices. Don’t forget a boat load of glue too!!
PENCILS AND OTHER STATIONARY
Obvious, I know. Pencils, erasers, scissors, sharpeners, rulers, stapler and a hole punch. These are all very useful in a homeschool environment.
I’ve recently converted from fibre-brush pens to pencils. We are using these ones which we purchased on a recent Ikea haul. Before these, we hated using pencils. Most we found seemed so light in colour that they barely made a mark on the paper. This caused the kids to become very frustrated and they eventually refused to use them. So, we used fibre-tip pens instead. They last longer than the usual felt-tips as they don’t dry as fast but we’ve still gone through what feels like millions. We used the Go Create range from Tesco. It is £3 for 50 and we would order them with our groceries. I could have ordered them on subscription as I bought at least a pack a month! I always allow the children free access to pens and paper so lids would ‘vanish’ regularly. The pens would then dry up and as soon as I chose to throw it away, BOOM. There, right in front of me I would find the lid!! Maybe it is the elves? This happened so much that I soon had a huge collection of lids! We began using them for maths activities as counters, so although they did get use, I still feel they are not worth replacing so often. We are now a pencil kind of family. We’ve been using the same pencils for 3 whole months, and I expect we’ll be using them for at least 3 more. I’m currently on the look out for more amazing pencils which come in more shades than the Ikea ones. Any recommendations?
My organisation skills are non-existent! I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve stored all the work we’ve done and want to keep in two simple black boxes all year. I haven’t organised them in any shape or form. We don’t keep every single piece of work that we do as after a six months we were quite literally swimming in papers and projects. We keep any that the children are really proud of, and any we think are appropriate to keep at that moment. The box we use if this one. I do plan on enhancing my organisation skills soon, as the work we’ve done and want to keep will soon overflow. I plan on organising and categorising the work into folders, with space to include any plans, information and resources I need. I’ll keep the blog up-to-date with my progress.
And that is it! My recommendations for the BARE MINIMUM homeschool essentials. Many people will already have most of these things. It really doesn’t take much to provide a good education at home, just patience and being there by your child’s side. In fact, many home educators don’t even see ”home” that often! Most are usually out, learning by doing. Experiencing the real world in a hands on way. You will always learn more about money by shopping and using money, than you would by looking at it in a book or by writing money sums.
If you have these bare basics, or something similar, then YOU can HE. Yes, that’s right you! A parent is a child’s first educator and knows them more than anyone. Of course, there are other items which are very good to have, such as a laminator, paints, passes, etc although you wouldn’t NEED them to educate at home. You could live without the laminator, for example, but you would probably find it much more difficult without pencils.
I’ll be writing another post soon all about these optional extras so keep tuned.