Lifesaver Homeschooling Products
After completing three-plus years of homeschooling, I have a list of my favorite, lifesaving products that make our day-to-day schooling so much easier.
Note: This post contains affiliate links, which doesn’t cost you any more but helps me support this blog.
Make it Last
I love the smell of laminating in the morning. My all-time, favorite, I-can’t-start-the-school-year-without-it is my trusty and affordable Scotch Laminator. This is a slightly newer version than mine, which I have had for three years with nary a problem. It is essential for making flashcards, check lists, chore charts, write-and-wipe pages, or anything you want to use again and again.
One of the things that I really like about this particular laminator is it has two heat settings for either 3 mil or 5 mil laminating pages. 3 mil is what I usually use for protecting a page or making flashcards, and makes a nice, wipe-proof page that is thin and flexible. Every once in a while, I will haul out the thicker, 5 mil laminating envelopes for making a stiffer custom planner cover or ID card. Both weight laminating envelopes are handy, so it’s good to have a laminator that will work with both.
Sharp pencils are essential for any homeschool, and if you’re going to use a pencil more than once, you’re going to need a pencil sharpener. I have given up on battery-powered sharpeners, because they never seem to have enough torque to sharpen a pencil quickly or you can’t find the fresh batteries when you need them. Old-fashioned manual sharpeners either need to be screwed down on top of a table or seem to make a really big mess. This Bostitch Electric Pencil Sharpener has an AC power adapter, is stable on top of our schoolroom book shelf, and has enough power to sharpen a brand new pencil in short order. We have had ours for two years, and it is still going strong.
If you have an electric pencil sharpener, it’s gonna want to sharpen pencils. And these Dixon Ticonderoga beauties are my favorite homeschool indulgence. They cost a bit more than the generic pack from Target or the free pencils you pick up at VBS, but they are totally worth the extra expense. The lead seems to last a little longer, the eraser tops don’t pop off the first time you make a mistake, and they can be sharpened again and again without the lead cracking. I usually pick up several packs at the back to school sales, but if I ever find myself looking and looking for a fresh pencil, I would gladly pay full price. They are just worth it.
This is a Stick Up!
I do have an addiction to, cough, affinity for Post-It Notes of all types, but I especially love these 4×6 Post-It lined pads in all the colors. They are the perfect size for making a “Please Complete” check list to stick to a pile of work to be handed off to a student and returned. When folded in thirds horizontally, they are just the right size for an ad-hoc bookmark with room for taking notes or writing down a vocabulary word. I also use them in our Latin lessons at our homeschool co-op because they have enough space for a couple of lines of Latin, the literal translation and the common meaning. (I stick them to the back of the flip chart I show the class – perfect teacher cheat-sheet.)
Making Other Plans
I started bullet journaling about 9 months ago, and I love it. I have tried many, many different paper planners in the past, and could never find one to meet my exact needs at any given time. This Leuchtturm1917 Dotted Journal in Medium is a great foundation for my bullet journal. The pages are smooth and study, and most pens do not bleed through. The cover is also quite durable, which is important for a book that is my constant companion and often careless tossed in my purse or tote bag. I have filled two so far (plus another for my Bible study notes) and I am looking forward to when it’s time to order another.
Binders Full of … Work
Now that my youngest daughter is well into the middle grades (starting 6th grade in a few weeks – how did THAT happen?!?!), she is working in fewer workbooks, and doing more writing assignments. So far her work is mostly paragraphs and notes for co-op presentations, and also includes map work, vocabulary lists, and notes from watching videos for her Latin class. Last school year, we made the switch to keeping all of her work (apart from workbooks) in binders, organized by subject. We use a mix of loose-leaf pages and budget-quality page protectors. After a year, I can tell it is working quite well. My preferences is colored binders (one color for each subject) with clear covers, which makes labeling and re-labeling them a lot easier. I try to avoid the economy binders because the ring mechanisms are harder for younger students to open and close. I also avoid the super-high end binders because I don’t need these to last forever, just a couple of years.
Another “trick” that saves me tons of time is printing ebooks and assignments on pre-drilled printer paper. It costs a little more, but I can usually buy a ream on sale or use a coupon. It saves me the extra step of three-hole punching a large stack of pages, and one ream will typically last an entire school year.
I think the award for the least obvious lifesaver homeschooling product goes to my trusty wireless Bluetooth speaker. The Jambox I use is no longer available, but is very similar to this model. We use this all the time in our schooling. It’s a lot easier to play morning-time hymns, memory work audios, and Latin pronunciation CDs from my phone, than fumbling around the bookshelves to find the right CD when I need it. We also use it for listening to audiobooks while we do handwork on the couch (we are really into cross stitch right now) which saves me from doing the actual reading aloud. (Homeschool mom confession time – I HATE reading aloud, so I outsource it to Audible.com as often as I can.) This little model is small enough for me to take to scout meetings and co-op class. I can lead sing-a-longs from my phone rather than tying to sing acapella (which, trust me, no one wants to hear.)
So that’s it. My list of can’t-live-without homeschool products. What’s on your list?
Once again, I am linking up with Kelly at This Ain’t the Lyceum.