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This was not the blog post I had planned today, but the other one is taking up so much of my mind, my heart and my thoughts, that I am want to reflect on it some more.
I am a ruminator you see, these things come slowly too me.
So today I am cheating and I am expanding on a comment that I made in a home education Facebook group.
If I was to start my home ed journey again these are the resources I would have in my house. Bearing in mind, we don’t have a classroom, or dedicated space in our house for home education. Our home is our classroom, in the same way our street is, our town is, our country is, our world is!
I have done the classroom thing in the past, but to be honest, I found that we all ended up back in whatever room I was in any way, and I simply did not have the time to sit in a dedicated classroom. I needed to be doing washing and house work, answering emails, taking phone calls and the 101 other things required to run a home. Home education has had to work for me as well, and I simply did not have the capacity to stay in one place while the children did work/stuff. If we needed a hard surface then it was the kitchen table, if we read it could be a sofa or a trampoline on a sunny day. We’ve always just made use of spaces in the home. The classroom and school at home didn’t really suit us.
We have wasted so much money over the years on educational resources, I would hate to tally up how much actually. Some I have managed to sell on, and others I need too (or at least cull out of our lives). My top tip, is that if you are starting out, it is much better to wait and see what naturally evolves in the life of your family and your children.What you think you might need/do might be lovely in theory, but in practice not work for you at all.
Here are my top ten categories of resources that I would make sure I had if starting over:
1. Computer/iPad, Internet and printer – this is an integral part of our home education. Both for accessing online resources and for online learning.
Joey uses IXL maths, and english and loves Mystery Science. All are integral to what he likes to choose as part of his Do 5 Things. On occasions we have also sat reading a book with an iPad next to us, so when we find something that interests us we can rabbit trail off straight away and watch a YouTube video about it, or find another resource. It might be something as simple as wanting to know where a country is, or what a particular animal looks like.
2. Access to TV – whether that is general TV licence or a subscription service such as Netflix, we have personally loved being able to watch documentaries and other shows that interest us. Joey at the moment is binge watching Myth Busters and the new spin-off White Rabbit Project. We’ve just finished reading Horrible Histories The Savage Stone Age, and it was great to be able to visualise some of what was being spoken about, because we had watched documentaries on it.
Let it serve you, rather than becoming a slave to it.
3. Wet weather gear and sunny weather gear– speaks for itself really. But as an expat who came from Australia, I discovered that part of the secret to enjoying the outdoors in the UK all year-long was being adequately dressed. Maybe I am stating the obvious here, but it was a learning curve for us.
4. A trampoline– maybe not for everyone, but it has been an absolute godsend for my kids to burn off energy quickly. We have never gone down the netted route because I wanted the kids to learn to manage their own risk, but we do have a huge trampoline so that the risks are lessened. I find it a fascinating side note that my 16-year-old now works part-time at a trampolining place!
5. Books that your kids are likely to read- Ok there is a fine line here between recommending a book because you genuinely think a child will like and ones that we think are a good idea to read. This has been really hit and miss for me. Sometimes I was right on the money, and others I wish I had saved my money. Occasionally I found because they liked something I had previously recommended they were more likely to trust a secondary recommendation.
Which is why the library is such a great resource.
I have found that my involvement in the reading process can often lead to kids being more likely to read. What I mean is, a snuggle on the lounge reading a book, makes listening to that book more bearable if it is not one they would ordinarily choose themselves.
With the growing popularity of audio books, and more libraries making these available for electronic download via apps like Overdrive and One Click Digital it has never been so easy to integrate literature in a more passive way into our day. Putting an audio book on while eating, driving or playing with toys helps enchance a literature rich environment.
6. Pens, paper, pencils and basic craft supplies like glue, scissors and quality tape, really just household stuff that will get you going. I had kids that seemed to need this topping up weekly because they were so into arts and crafts, and then I have Joey, who I reckon hasn’t touched glue let alone glitter for years! He does however need a constant supply of origami paper at the moment and straws (for whatever reason). So maybe hold off on buying loads until you see what they end up being into.
*note Joey has just read this over my shoulder and assures me he used glue last year to build a wooden helicopter kit I bought in Aldi.
7. Some good board games or card games –there are so many great games around both for learning and just for fun. Although I say that slightly tongue in cheek as I am of the belief that all games teach us something (intrapersonal skills especially). They are great to pull out on a rainy afternoon, or when friends are over and they are looking a bit stuck for something to do. A pack of cards kept in the glove box of the car can be a life saver when you have to wait around at appointments or the like. We have had many a game in a waiting room, or even while waiting for food to come at a restaurant.
We have also got a couple of electronic games that several people can play via phones/iPads. Games like Jackbox via Steam have been a lot of fun for our older kids (10+).
8. Household mathematical resources- A set of scales, measuring cups, jugs, spoons, measuring tape, chalk, counting beans (dried beans), buttons, Lego, scissors, a ruler, geometry set, string, resources that show fractions (or bake a pizza), different shape containers (I used to find plastic take-away containers great for this). Boxes you can cut apart and make nets from, toilet rolls, odd cardboard shapes. Straws and Blu Tack to make 3-d shapes. Essentially things that will enable you to learn a lot of basic maths hands on.
9. Kitchen science resources- Much like the above category, we have found using/having some basic resources around the house can lead to some great natural/incidental/planned learning moments. Vinegar, bi-carb, food colouring, glue, oil, lemon juice, steel wool, 9 volt batteries, old internal fittings from things like fairy lights, pipettes, ice-cube trays, red cabbage, milk, eggs, coins, jars, Q-tips (or ear cleaners as my family call them), litmus paper, coffee filters and alcohol. If you start Googling kitchen science, a lot of the above resources will be on the list of things you will need. A lot of them not very expensive or hard to get hold of.
10. A place where mess can be made– for us that has been the kitchen mostly, up until recently we had an old table in the kitchen that we used for this kind of thing. But after a recent renovation, we mostly use the island or the dining room table (which is all in the same space). An oil cloth for the table/bench is a godsend, but is also handy to have anyway as it can also be pulled outside to cover paving and decking. I would also like to add that, along with a space for mess, there also needs to be an open mind about mess. Kids are messy, some of the ways they learn are very messy, and while there are ways to help contain that mess, sometimes mess is just going to happen!
What about you? What resources would you recommend to home educators starting out?