Friday, August 1, 2014

What's On Your Homeschool Shopping List?

This will be our fourth year of homeschooling.

I have been making a list of items that I'd like to buy, and making myself wait until the back-to-school sales are in full force, but oh man, it's been difficult.

My list looks much different from previous years. When I first began homeschooling, it included a full literacy/science/math curriculum and subscriptions to many, many online resources. I was just leaving my job as a public school teacher, and had never heard of the term "deschooling". As it turned out, I needed to deschool myself, which has happened gradually over the past few years. I have ordered less curriculum over time, listened to the interests of my girls, visited the library more often and discovered free, authentic ways to learn. I found repeatedly that the more expensive items were the least likely to be enjoyed, that the lessons on their own were fought against or quickly forgotten. If we need to label our schooling, we have become "relaxed homeschoolers" or even (gasp) "unschoolers". I plan a little, follow a lot, and the girls learn more every day than I could possibly teach intentionally.

 I have been watching closely and keeping track of what is actually used, and what we often wish we had, and this is what we will be purchasing for now:

  • lots of construction paper and cardstock
  • tissue paper
  • paints
  • plain white paper
  • notebooks
  • tape - scotch and packing
  • markers, crayons, colored pencils
  • binoculars
  • microscope
  • beginner pre-made slide set and blank slides
If I can talk myself into it, we will splurge on MagnaTiles or Zoob. I really want some Snap Circuits too, but perhaps I'll wait until next year for those.

After previewing BrainPop this summer, I've decided to go ahead and buy a subscription for the year, and see how much we use it. Homeschool Buyers Co-op has a promotion for up to 25% off now through 9/1, which makes it much more affordable. We have tried Discovery Streaming (not free) and PBS Learning Media (free) in the past, but had a difficult time incorporating them into our day. BrainPop seems to be much kid-friendlier and easier to navigate. I have heard great reviews from others who use it, so hopefully it will be a good purchase!

We will continue working our way through Life of Fred for math with Delaney. We still have about 6 months of our Dreambox subscription left, which did not turn out to be a good fit for her, so I think I will have Sophie try the beginning lessons and see how she likes it. The Sassafras twins have been waiting patiently all summer to finish their Zoology adventures with us, and we are all looking forward to finding out what happens to them next. Our recent trip to Florida piqued Delaney's interest in marine life, so we will be studying that until she is finished. The Sea Life Aquarium in Phoenix happens to have a homeschoolers week the week of August 11, so perhaps we will make a little trip there as well.
We have memberships to local museums and nearby National parks, lots of hiking and camping and exploring nearby, and a big backyard. I am excited to see what this year holds, and how we change during the next 12 months. 

It doesn't seem like much of a shopping list, compared to previous years, but if I have retained anything from our experience so far, it is that life happens, kids grow, and interests change. What may sound like a great idea in July may be completely boring by October. If we save money, spend it on true learning experiences rather than fancy curriculum, and get out of the house to explore the world around us, the whole thing falls into place and is enjoyable for all!

Where do you do your homeschool shopping? Any deals that you can share with me? What's on your list this year?

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