The smell of fresh paper, the delight of sharpened-for-the-first-time pencils… it’s enough to make a homeschool mom swoon. But if I had to limit myself to spending just $100, here’s what I’d choose:
I love having a globe because it provides such a visual to learning and for some reason the novelty of looking at a globe never seems to wear off. We’ve had ours for quite a while and it’s most similar to this one but ours was cheaper, with a plastic base. However, we recently painted the base with gold metallic spray paint and now it looks like a more expensive model. (Hurray for DIY!)
You can get a good globe for around $25, but be sure to check yard sales, too; they might be slightly out of date with some of Eastern Europe but the basics haven’t changed. I’m also loving this inflatable globe the kids could play with and “accidentally” learn at the same time.
Another alternative I also love: wall maps. We had them for years and they finally got tattered so I retired them before we moved, but you can find good sized maps for as little as $5. Our old ones were so big I had trouble finding anywhere to laminate them so I used spray adhesive to attach them to a big piece of foam board; that way we could even use push pins if we wanted.
I picked up a big ol’ pile of spiral notebooks at Walmart recently for 50 cents each. Score! My personal preference is college ruled one-subject notebooks. I stock up because we use them often, and they’re great to put in Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes! I’m a sucker for pretty notebooks and will splurge on nicer ones for myself — because I’m the mom! TJ Maxx and similar places are usually great places to find fancier notebooks at reasonable prices. (<$1 and up.)
We’ve used spiral notebooks for all sorts of things: copywork, drawing, note-taking, math work, vocabulary words, nature journals, or just letting the kids doodle. You can use composition books if you prefer, but I like to be able to open flat and flip things around so spiral usually works best for us.
We also use a few 3-ring binders. Kathryn prefers them because she likes her things organized by subject. Some years I’ve used them to put everything in, and then whittle down at the end of the year to keep for each child, a portfolio of sorts — although our state doesn’t require those so it’s just for keepsake purposes. ($2 and up.)
Colored pencils, pencils, erasable pens
My favorite colored pencils are from Prismacolor. LOVE them. However, for little kids who have not yet learned not to abuse them, I get Crayola or whatever brand is on sale at local stores when they are discounted with school supplies. Also a great addition to OCC Shoeboxes! ($5 to $15 for a 24-pack.)
For pencils, I like the quality and uniformity of good ol’ #2 yellow Ticonderoga pencils. Simple and durable. ($5 for a pack of 30.)
You’re going to need a pencil sharpener, too. We’ve had the old-fashioned crank kind, and a big ol’ plug-in electric kind, but what’s working for us lately is a simple battery-powered sharpener. I picked mine up at Walmart for less than $5.
Oh, pens. I have an addiction to pens almost as bad as to pretty notebooks. If forced to choose a favorite, I’ll choose FriXion erasable pens. My personal favorite is purple ink but you have to buy those in a multi-color pack so blue ink is a close second. The little kids rarely use pens but Kathryn and I love these. ($5 to $10 per pack.)
I have an older edition of this North American Wildlife book from Reader’s Digest ($20) and it is THE BEST THING EVER. My grandmother gave it to me 30+ years ago and I spent hours poring over that thing, identifying birds and critters in our neighborhood. I still use it occasionally but very carefully, as it’s falling apart; I should probably invest in the newer one so I can actually let the kids touch it.
However, my point is I believe in having a really good nature guide to wildlife in your area. That’s key. I love other nature books, too; my kids love reading about polar bears and giant snakes and creatures from all over the world, but for a deep love of nature — based on my personal experience — they have to become familiar and connected with what’s around them. A great way to start is a bird guide (we love this one: $7) and an inexpensive bird feeder in the yard. My current feeders came from our local bird and wildlife store, so check those places, too; I love supporting local shops even if it’s not always the most economical option.
A library card
Good books are an essential part of our homeschool. And life, really. If I know it’s a book we will re-read often, or if it’s a read-aloud I plan to spread over a long timeframe, or if I need it at a particular time to coincide with something in our curriculum, then I’ll usually go ahead and purchase it. When I can, though, I take advantage of the public library. Ours here is much smaller than we’re accustomed to, and the county’s budget is smaller so there are simply fewer books, even if we request them from other branches — but they’re FREE!
For the purposes of this post, I’m not getting into specific curricula, but if you’re on a strict budget there are many FREE options. Khan Academy offers many subjects, although math is the one we’ve most used. Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool is another option, and they’ve recently expanded into high school level subjects, too. For years, we used Ambleside Online; it’s literature-heavy which can get into a lot of money but the site is great about linking whenever possible to free online editions of the books.
If you went on the frugal end of all these things, you’d have quite a bit of money left over; that means you could splurge on one of the higher end items, or just buy more pretty notebooks!
What would other homeschoolers spend their $100 on?
Find out at iHomeschool.Net: