Must Have Supplies for an Authentic Project Based Homeschool

Blog, She Wrote: Must Have Supplies for an Authentic Project Based Homeschool

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Here we are in September. Where did the summer go? If you are like me, you are just beginning a new homeschool year. We’ve looked at curriculum and learning spaces. We’ve visited routines and students in August. How about a look at supplies? The tools of the trade? Today is all about our Must Have Supplies for an Authentic Project Based Homeschool. This is a look at what we keep on hand to keep the working in progress.

Must Have Basic Homeschool Supplies

Do you have a favorite brand of pencil? Do you keep them common or does each student have their own?

  • Ticonderoga Pencils- I like American by Papermate as well, but the Ticonderoga cause the least angst among teachers and parents.
  • Mechanical Pencils- We have a large stash of the disposable Bic and Papermate brands.
  • Three Prong Folders- I like to keep a large stock of these for special notebooking projects and other time my kids want to bind their work. Cheap and easy to store, these are a long time favorite in our homeschool.
  • Pens- Half of our children are in high school. It’s time to use pens! Just the plain barrel sort from Papermate are what I have, but I like Bic as well. Oddly, I’m not as brand loyal on pens as other things in my life. (Coke is IT, friends)
  • Erasers- The white Staedtler brand are the best and this year we added pencil topper erasers made from the same polymer.
  • Scissors- The pointed Fiskar student scissors hold up really well. Rebecca upgraded to a larger pair of paper scissors this year and she loves them.

Blog, She Wrote: Must Have Supplies for an Authentic Project Based Homeschool

Must Have Paper Products for our Homeschool

Every homeschool needs paper. I like to buy mine from Staples. The writing paper is the smoothest around and they carry poster size in “bulk”.

  • Spiral Notebooks- both college and wide ruled. We use them mainly for Life of Fred math, but one never knows when it’s time to start planning the next project and a spiral notebook is the place to begin! I like the smooth writing surface on the Staples brand notebooks.
  • Loose Leaf Paper- We have stacks and stacks of the Staples brand. I stocked up last year during back to school time.
  • Engineering Paper- Ethan uses this for his math. He’s used it for years and I think Calculus is going to look pretty good on it this year! He’ll be the only writer around well versed in the use of engineering paper.
  • Poster Board- Plain white poster board is great for presentations and anything else you want on large sized card stock paper.
  • Butcher Paper- We’ve had a roll of butcher paper since our nearly 16yo was a toddler. Great for projects of all kinds, you cannot go wrong with this.
  • Watercolor Paper- Rebecca insisted I add this one to the list. It is essential for her projects.
  • Drawing Paper- I like a 50lb weight in this and the butcher paper just so it can handle wet and dry media.
  • Card Stock- plain white and colored are used all the time here.

Blog, She Wrote: Must Have Supplies for an Authentic Project Based Homeschool

Must Have Adhesives for a Project Based Homeschool

From time to time we need to stick things together. The right adhesive for the job depends on the job! You’ll always find these in our cabinet:

  • Glue Sticks- a perennial favorite of most households, these cut down on the mess. You have to apply plenty or things will come apart and though it’s fun to be prepared, these will dry up. So go easy on the purchasing in bulk!
  • Clear Glue- We use this in craft projects and Rebecca uses it in her flower pressing activities.
  • Glitter Glue- Every now and then it’s fun to have some bling when you stick things together. I like to use this as a glaze on the top for a hint of sparkle.
  • Double Sided Tape- Other than the cost, double sided tape is far superior to glue sticks. This is probably why our glue sticks last so long now.
  • Craft Glue- Stronger than most glues, you can hold items together longer, but it takes time to dry
  • Glue Gun- Rebecca is fond of her low temp glue gun. Even the dollar store variety will do. Just don’t forget to unplug it! The advantage of a glue gun is the instant hold. Can’t beat it!
  • Rubber Cement- This is an oldie but goodie. The hold is quick and there is little mess or bubbling.
  • ModPodge- Who doesn’t love this stuff? We often like to use this glaze on our finished projects for an extra layer and finished look.

Blog, She Wrote: Must Have Supplies for an Authentic Project Based Homeschool

Must Have Planning Tools for Our Homeschool

Many people have a favorite planning tool. Most folks fall into the category of having found the perfect planner or they are constantly on the search for one. Several years ago, I stopped chasing planners and I started using a plain paper notebook. The first year it was a plain store bought spiral. After that, I made my own using my favorite notebook paper and a Pro Click Binder.

  • Spiral Planner- Made by binding loose leaf paper with my ProClick Binder. In the front I have the Individualized Home Instruction Plan (IHIP) for each student. I’m required to prepare one for NY State and it makes sense to remember our goals along the way. The open format of the blank notebook page makes it easy to jot notes and other information. I don’t have to worry about using too much space on any one day. It’s freeing!
  • Student Planners- Or, if you prefer, student assignment books. I’ve tried several formats for these as well including electronic ones. After being there and back again, I’m sticking with a hand written list. The time for maintenance on the online planners (and I’ve tried them all) is too great for me. I need to spend that time on working with my students.

Blog, She Wrote: How to Homeschool with a Kindle

Must Have Technology in Our Homeschool

It goes without saying that we take advantage of technology in our homeschool. Your list of “must haves” here may be different than ours, but these are items we make regular use of.

  • Printer- Now that our kids are older, we don’t actually use the printer as much as we did when we were printing handwriting practice and other notebooking doodads. However, we still use it frequently. Our current model is the Canon MX922.
  • Desktop Computers- Highly recommended still if you have a lot of people sharing a computer. If you only have one, make it one that will stand up to many users.
  • Laptops- We have two that the kids use which are older models and have a limited life expectancy. Multiple machines are important when you have four kids using them to write papers and do research. To be sure, we have a lot of books, but finding relevant information can be just a few clicks away using the internet.
  • LEGO Mindstorms- We are having trouble with our NXT brick, so we may have to upgrade to the EV3 but we remain hopeful that Dan can Frankestein several of the ones we have into one working brick. We use these for programming and engineering work.
  • Kindles- Both the eReader and tablet models. These are invaluable to our homeschool days. Click on the picture below to learn all the ways we make use of these during our school days.

Blog, She Wrote: Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environment

Must Have Storage for Homeschool Project Supplies

So, where does all this stuff go? We have a variety of places where we keep our many supplies.

  • Essential Elements of a Home Learning Environment- This is the perfect post to tell you where you’d find all these items in our homeschool.
  • School Cabinet {Supply Central}- A look inside our early American cabinet. The perfect home for many of these supplies.
  • Project Workspace- Each of our kids has his/her own project space and they keep supplies on hand their for the work they are doing. Some of the work requires more than just these basics sorts of supplies, but we keep everything available so it’s easy to work with when it’s time.

While these are many of the items we keep on hand for general school and project time, it does not include art supplies. Even before we knew for sure we had an artist in residence, we had a lot of art supplies. I think these deserve their own post.

What are your favorite supplies for homeschooling?

How to Implement an Independent & Authentic Learning Homeschool Day

Blog, She Wrote: How to Implement an Independent & Authentic Learning Homeschool Day

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

It’s just about time for a new homeschool academic year. In fact, as you are reading this, we are beginning with our first day back. We like to have a slow start to our full load, so we begin a week before public school convenes. Over the years our homeschool “schedule” has changed quite a lot. How do we work in all of the academic and project work for multiple ages in our homeschool? Here are some thoughts on How to Implement an Independent & Authentic Learning Homeschool Day.

How Our Homeschool Routine Has Evolved

When our children were all younger and working on basic skills, we sat down together and worked at our table. We would begin our day with our unit study, working together, and move toward independent work based on their skill level. Some years we did the opposite. We began with individual skills and moved to unit study work.

Now that our children are older, there is a lot more independent work in our homeschool days. Along with more skills, comes more independence and these days you can find our students engaged throughout the day in various aspects of their own work.

As your students change and grow, so will your homeschool routine.

Instructional Time During Our Day

There are still moments in our day when I am involved in direct instruction- either for my 4th grader or for some elements of our middle and high schooler’s courses. Here are a few examples:

  • High School Science- Our high schoolers read the text on their own and do their assignments. If they are confused by a concept, they search out answers on their own from the text or online videos before seeking me out. The idea is not to spoon feed their instruction, but to encourage them to find their own answers and then discuss the concept with us.
  • Math- As you may know, we use Life of Fred in our homeschool. The books are written to the student, but depending on the age of our kids I may sit with them and hear them read the chapter to me before answering this questions at the end. If there is trouble with a concept, then I will also step in to clear up misunderstandings.

Learning Together During Our Homeschool Day

Of course, being a unit study family for many years and still today, we love to learn together with all ages. We come together on a few things whenever we can:

  • Fred Math- With all of our students immersed in Fred’s world, there is always something to discuss about Fred at the dinner table. We can engage about Fred any time, but often he comes up at dinner where our kids share what they’ve been working on.
  • Geography- We are using NorthStar Geography this year and while our two high schoolers will earn a credit, our younger boys will join in when they can.
  • Read Aloud Time- We love to hear stories together. Often times I have my teens read to us and my 11th grader loves to read to me! Reading aloud is a great way to begin your homeschool day and to get started and focused again after lunch. The benefits of building this time into your schedule are numerous.
  • Earth Science- This year we’ll be tackling earth science as a family. The younger boys (4th & 7th grades) will be studying earth science with their Adventures in the Sea & Sky curriculum while the high schoolers will be following the course set by CK12 Earth Science for High School. You might like to read more about our curriculum choices for 2014-2015 if you missed it earlier this month.

I’m excited to see how the kids will collaborate with one another this year.

Leaving Time for Discussion in Your Homeschool Day

Not only do your students need direct instruction when they are younger, you’ll find they need lots of discussion time as they get older. Your discussions can be on many topics and take many forms, but here are a few examples from our homeschool.

  • Discuss Academic Topics- anything from the book they are reading to thoughts on a historical moment.
  • Talk about Books- Book discussions are an excellent way to increase communication with your teens! If you want an easy way to talk with your students, discuss books together. That means you need to read them too!
  • Mentoring- Guiding our students as they get older and no longer need our direct instruction all of the time.
  • Consulting- I’m always available to our kids as they work on their projects. They can consult with me on how things are going and I can encourage them in their work. This is part of keeping the work going and moving in a forward direction!

As your children grow, you’ll find they need a teacher less and a mentor more. I’ve written a chapter on this topic for The Big Book of Homeschooling Ideas. If you purchase a copy, you’ll find a host of tips on how to make the transition from a teacher to a mentor.

Project Time as Part of a Homeschool Day

No homeschool day is complete at our house without project time. Each of our students has a Project Workspace where they can leave out their work and spend a lot of time working and researching. Project time might include things like:

  • Following a tutorial
  • Learning a new computer programming language by reading and testing it
  • Designing a new model rocket or custom mini-fig
  • Pinning a new insect
  • Drafting a fashion design
  • Reading & Researching on a topic
  • Building a machine like a catapult
  • Testing a hypothesis
  • Writing to add to stories and novels
  • Attending seminars and workshops related to an area of study
  • Collaborating with each other on progress

All of these are born out of their interest in a topic & represent the amount of time we’ve poured into these interests. Much of our homeschool day is wrapped up in project time. This is the time when I get to be a mentor and consultant and listen and encourage their efforts.

Blog, She Wrote: Ten Things that Make a Great Homeschool Day

Allow Room for Making Adjustments to Your Homeschool Day

For all of these ideas that work well, we’ve tried some which haven’t worked so well. You might find that a student you thought could work well independently doesn’t. Working with a more flexible routine is a double-edged sword. What makes it so appealing is also the thing that can go the most wrong!

Working consistently and experiencing forward progress in their endeavors is key. If you aren’t seeing it in your homeschool, then perhaps it is time for an adjustment. It could be a small adjustment to the schedule or it could mean rethinking your approach to the schedule all together.

How do we gauge if our routine is working? That’s a question easily answered with Ten Things that Make a Great Homeschool Day.

Other iHN bloggers are sharing their Day in the Life posts. Visit them for more encouragement as you begin a new homeschool year!

nbtsbloghopcalendar2014The Big Book of Homeschooling Ideas is on sale now. If you’d like to read more about how to transition from an instructor to a mentor for your children and teens, be sure to purchase your own copy.



Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2014-2015

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2014-2015

We are gearing up for another homeschool year here at Blog, She Wrote. This post comes just in time to write out the Individualized Home Instruction Plan I’m required to write for all my students for New York State. Here’s a look at our Homeschool Curriculum Choices for 2014-2015:

11th Grade Curriculum

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2014-2015

This is the big junior year for our oldest, Ethan. He has a heavy academic schedule in addition to preparing for college bound tests. For the first time, he is enrolled in an online class. We’ve chosen to outsource one class for the sole purpose of having someone else give a grade. I know it will challenge him to meet deadline not given to him by us and a good grade in an online class will give validity to the ones we give him on his transcript. College admissions officers like this!

  • Modern US History- We are using All American History from Bright Ideas Press for a look at modern history in the US.
  • Geography- NorthStar Geography from Bright Ideas Press
  • Worlds of Imagination Fantasy Literature- First semester he will take a Potter’s School class on Fantasy Literature.
  • Worlds of Imagination Science Fiction Literature- Second semester is focused on the world of science fiction.
  • Other Worlds- The science fiction & fantasy module of One Year Adventure Novel. Ethan has been writing his dystopian novel since the spring. It’s coming along well and so far, his writing far surpasses that of his adventure novel.
  • Trigonometry & Calculus- He is in the last quarter of Life of Fred Trigonometry and will begin Life of Fred Calculus this year.
  • Earth Science- We are using CK-12 Earth Science for High School. He is completing credits in chemistry and biology now and will do earth science before he takes physics in his senior year.
  • Spanish- With Rosetta Stone. He is working on 3 credits of a foreign language as required by one of the universities he wants to apply to.
  • Phys Ed- Ethan does a half credit of PE each year and it is mainly comprised of large group games at our homeschool co-op and at youth group. He also mows grass and does yard work for others.
  • Fine Art- He must have one credit of fine art for high school and he does one quarter credit each year by doing computer graphics and other projects for his content area work.
  • Homeschool Co-op- We participate in a ten week, two hour co-op in the spring and fall. This fall he is taking dystopian literature class along with an outdoor games class.
  • Test Prep- We’ll be working with Ethan to study for the PSAT in the fall and the SAT/ACT in the spring. It is time!
  • FLL Mentor- Having aged out of FIRST LEGO League, Ethan is transitioning to team mentor. He’s pretty excited about helping the teams this year as a mentor.
  • Part Time Job- Ethan took on his first part time job last April at a local grocery store. He works as a cashier anywhere from 12-17 hours a week.

This is a heavy academic load fairly typical of a college bound high school junior. Over the last year his energies have focused on writing. Ethan loves to write and would like to explore the possibilities in technical writing and editing. He’s excited to have narrowed his interests down and to have an answer for all those well-meaning inquiries that come his way!

9th Grade Curriculum

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2014-2015

Rebecca is our new high schooler! Her four year plan has been laid out with the basics plus a strong emphasis in her areas of interest.

  • Earth Science- She’ll be working with her brother through CK-12 Earth Science for High Schoolers
  • Geography- NorthStar Geography from Bright Ideas Press
  • Cover Story- Finish up this program
  • US History- All American History Volume II, modern history
  • One Year Adventure Novel- She is excited to start her own novel. This curriculum has been a part of our homeschool for over three years now.
  • Pre-Algebra & Beginning Algebra- With Life of Fred. She will continue to work through Algebra skills this year
  • Spanish- Rosetta Stone
  • Art- Rebecca will have a yearly art course with goals listed and a framework laid out. She’s already started with a Craftsy class in pen, ink, and watercolor
  • Sewing & Design II- More design elements and coursework for her pattern drafting and sewing with an emphasis on portfolio work.
  • Health- one quarter credit is required and is accomplished through family discussion and focus on current issues.
  • Homeschool Co-op- Usually sewing and craft classes when they are available.
  • Phys Ed- a half credit per year which is done through regular weekly activities such as large group games and seasonal activities.

 7th Grade Curriculum

Blog, She Wrote: Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2014-2015

Our 7th grader, is a huge fan of planes, rockets, and anything flight. Using Adventures in the Sea & Sky from WinterPromise seemed like a great fit for him and a nice transition from unit studies to more traditional approaches to learning.

  • Adventures in the Sea & Sky- This is a fantastic look at the history of sailing and flight throughout time- explorers, scientists, sailors, inventors, pilots. Anyone and anything that shaped the way we live today by their pioneering in these areas.
  • Cover Story- He will be finishing his magazine with Cover Story by the creator of One Year Adventure Novel.
  • Physics & PreAlgebra- with Life of Fred Physics and Pre-Algebra texts.
  • Earth Science- Primarily within the studies of sea and sky which will include oceanography & space sciences.
  • Phys Ed- Large group games weekly, bike riding
  • Homeschool Co-op- Which includes FLL and games this fall
  • FLL- He will be on a FIRST LEGO League team for the first time this year.

4th Grade Curriculum

We have one last elementary school student and he is sharp. Here are our plans for him:

  • Adventures in the Sea & Sky- He will be working with Isaac on this study and it will be interesting to see how they work together and how they will follow their interests.
  • Math with Life of Fred- He will begin the intermediate series and we’ll shore up skills in preparation for Fractions in 5th grade.
  • Language Arts- Focus on paragraph writing and short reports on our own and with WriteShop Junior D.
  • Homeschool Co-op- He loves to take whatever science classes are offered and this year will be in the FLL class as well.
  • FLL- He is a new member of our FLL team this year!
  • Engineering- Always an elective for him, he will have project time. It might be building or exploring or computer programming or solving a problem/making something better. But, he cannot be stopped!

Work Together with Multiple Ages

I always like to include time when all four of our children will learn together. Having been a unit study family only for a long time, our kids come from a homeschool background of working together and learning alongside one another. Though, we prefer to let each of our students work in their niche, we like to come together on some things. This year it’ll happen in a few areas.

  • Reading Aloud- I like to begin our day with this or use it as a tool to refocus on the work at hand.
  • Earth Science- The high schoolers will be working on the CK-12 course while the younger two boys will be doing oceanography and space science (both considered pieces of earth science) as part of Sea & Sky.
  • Geography- Once again, the high schoolers will be studying NorthStar Geography and the younger boys will tag along. I want to see how the course pans out for younger students- particularly late elementary.
  • Art- We do lots of art projects together which I love to use to adorn our walls!
  • Discussion/Collaboration- One of the things we are good at in our homeschool is collaborating with each other even now that our kids are not all working on the same level or curriculum. Asking for opinions and advice, starting discussions and review, and seeking expertise from others is something we encourage our kids to do daily.

How to Enhance Any Curriculum

Blog, She Wrote: How to Homeschool with a KindleWe have had huge success with using a Kindle in our homeschool. Both the eReader and the Fire have been assets to our learning for over a year, but especially after our three youngest kids all got Kindle Fires for Christmas last year. Learn all the ways we use Kindles in our homeschool.

We are looking forward to a new start. It’s exciting to think about what a new year brings!

Other bloggers from the iHN are sharing their curriculum choices for this year. Have a look around and be encouraged!

nbtsbloghopcalendar2014Don’t forget to drop in and enter the Geography Learning Tools Basket Giveaway through August 7, 2014.

Big Book of Homeschooling