Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tools of the Trade

old friend
You never realize how much you use something until it decides to break. On Saturday, the black ink stopped flowing. At first, I thought I had a bad cartridge. Even though the display claimed it was half-full, I made a trip to Target, and $20 later, it still wouldn't print anything with black ink. Fortunately, I only had one more thing to print that night to complete my school planning, so I changed the font color to light red, and moved on.

As the week progressed, my plans kept getting thrown off because of the nearly useless printer. JT couldn't print out his latest draft of his persuasive report. I couldn't print the worksheet he needed to do for Thinkwell math. EM wanted a picture of our cat to give to his favorite art teacher that is moving away. A printer may be a luxury item to some, but in our house, it seems to be a necessity. With portfolio preparation looming, I am on the search for a perfect replacement. But this little frustration made me start thinking about the other indispensable tools I keep in my homeschooling toolbox.

confetti maker
Paper keeping is essential to our homeschooling life. We need to produce a portfolio of each of the boys' work at the end of every school year. My chosen method of presentation is a three ring binder with their work divided by subject. At the end of each week, I use my three hole punch on every paper the boys have produced and add them to the holding binder. Three times during the school year, I pull my favorite samples and move them to the keeping binder. All the remaining papers are stored in a box until the portfolios have been approved. It may seem like a small tool, but it is key to our organization and documentation of our progress.

artsy stuff
Over the years, our art projects have taken a smaller role in our homeschooling days. But when the boys were younger, I was pulling stuff from this cupboard on a daily basis. I still keep an ample supply of many kinds of paper. I also like to have good quality colored pencils, paints, and pastels available for the boys to work with. I try to have them complete one art project each month. They also like to hit up my supply closet when they are creating new board games.

Where in the world?
We have maps in several rooms of our home. The boys both had world maps on their walls until recently. JT took his down when we painted his room, but EM still has his. There is another world map on the wall in the library, and a United States map in the classroom. We also own a large collection of atlases and road maps. When we read history, I like to have the boys go to a map to get an idea of the geography of the areas we are studying. I think it's important to see our place in the global picture.

must haves
I was never a hoarder until I became a homeschooler. In the bottom of my art cupboard, I keep a good supply of glass containers that we can use for our science studies. You never know when you might want to mix up some chemicals in the classroom. I like to keep small containers, especially the ones used for spices. They work well for water and soil samples. My collection was also very helpful when we did our entomology unit a few years ago.

These are just a few of the things that make our homeschooling journey a little easier. Nothing very expensive, but all important to our daily activities. As our years of homeschooling add up, I find that I buy less and less for the classroom. It's not necessarily that we have everything we could use, it's just that I have found we don't need much to get by. Learning doesn't have to be about the fancy educational products out there. It just takes curiosity and a few handy tools you pick up along the way.

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