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My Love Affair With Homeschool Catalogs Vs. Basic Necessities
Gwen Fredette, 9/7/2011

Editor's note from Susan Richman.... Gwen Fredette is a homeschool mother in the Philadelphia area, and a wonderful 'blogger' about homeschooling, with a great balance on postings about homeschooling opportunities in her region (co-op activities, drama groups, field trips, special programs at area museums), and her own inspirational writing about the challenges of homeschooling and balancing all of our many responsibilities and goals. Do check out her blogsite here. I so appreciate Gwen's readiness to grant permission for PA Homeschoolers to repost selected articles here-- thanks, Gwen! I thought this particular piece would really speak to so many readers, as Gwen talks about something we are all challenged by-- finding the balance between getting 'homeschool stuff' and remembering what's really *crucial* in developing a truly positive and encouraging homeschooling *atmosphere* in our homes. Enjoy-- and looking forward to hearing your comments about what you'd deem your 'homeschooling basic necessities'. 

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Homeschool Catalogs.  I love them.  I love looking through them.  I love discovering new curriculums I haven’t heard of before.  I love buying new books.  I love book sets.  I love the way they look on my bookshelf.  I love bookshelves.  I love planners, and organizers, and homeschool notebooks that help me keep my paperwork in order and my day going smoothly.  I love cubbies, and baskets, and bins (all color-coordinated) to keep the kid’s stuff straight.  I love file systems, and homeschool manipulatives, and dry-erase boards, and bulletin boards with cute borders.  I love notebooks and pencils with my kids’ names printed on them.

But, in reality I don’t need all that stuff.  They’re fun to have.  But when I really think on it, to do a good job homeschooling, I really only need a few important things.

Homeschooling Basic Necessities

1.  A Prayerful Desire to Be the Best Teacher I Can Be. When I think back to my own school days, I have no memory of the bulletin boards, cubbies, or resources we used.  I don’t even remember most of the curriculum.  I do remember the teachers I had.  I remember the better ones as being hard-working, helpful, tough but fair, generally happy, and pleasant to be around.  I remember the bad ones as being lazy, grumpy, bad-tempered, unreasonable, or unable to control the class.  The best resource I can bring to the homeschool table is being a good teacher - to trust and pray that my God will help me to be the kind of teacher He wants me to be.

2.  Curriculum.  I do need to get curriculum, but I shouldn’t fool myself into thinking I need to buy it brand new.*  I also don’t need to buy the beautiful literature books that go with it.  I can buy many excellent used curriculums for half the price.  (See www.abebooks.com and the homeschool classifieds link on right side bar.)  Also, my library is a wealth of resources for readers and homeschool helps.  When I had little ones, I was able to skip buying the teacher’s manuals.  I’ve learned that just because a curriculum is expensive doesn’t mean it’s the best.  By asking seasoned homeschoolers what they’ve used, I’ve been able to find great curriculum that works well with our family.

3.  Shelves. I’ve needed a place to put all of my curriculums, notebooks, and supplies, but it didn’t have to be too expensive.  In the past we’ve picked up bookshelves at yard sales or used milk crates stacked on top of each other.  I know of someone who used pieces of plywood stacked on top of cinderblocks for shelves, and it worked great for their family.

4.  Workspace.  I need a place where my kids and I can do school everyday, but I don’t need a “homeschool room” or even a “homeschool corner”.  Each child doesn’t need their own desk.  My dining room table works fine.  Depending on the assignment, sometimes my kids work best on the floor, or propped up with pillows on their beds.  Because its homeschool, work can be done anywhere in our home.

5.   Paperwork.  Because I use the traditional method of homeschooling, I do need to complete and submit the correct paperwork.  The Guide to the PA Homeschool Law ( https://pahomeschoolers.c9.ixwebhosting.com/oscommerce/products.php?lawguide) has been a tremendous help for me.  It contains copies of all the forms I need and gives me information on how to comply with the law.   It lets me know what I should put in my kids’ portfolios and when I need to have them take standardized tests.   It gives me due dates for affidavits, goals, and objectives.  If you are new to homeschooling, you live in Philadelphia, and your child is under 8, you will have to submit a “Notice With Intent to Homeschool”  to your school district. (See this site for information and a sample form.  http://home.comcast.net/~askpauline/hs/homeschoolage.html)   If you homeschool via Virtual Charter School, you will have to submit the paperwork that particular school requires.  I need binders for my kids schoolwork, and I need homeschool logs to keep track of my children’s work.

6.  Homeschool Supplies.  Of course, I will need a supply of notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, etc.  Keeping an assortment of art supplies on hand is necessary.  I’ve found it helpful to buy all my science experiment materials at the beginning of the year.  By putting them in a drawer, they’re easy to find when I need them.  I’ve also found it helpful to color-coordinate by child.  That way when red notebooks are lying on the floor, I know just who they belong to.  I’ve found that the pencils and other oddities with the kids names on them are fun, but they tend to get lost quickly anyway.

So what can I buy from the homeschool catalogs?  Of course, there will still always be things to buy!  But hopefully by doing this reality check, I will have saved a bit of my husband’s hard-earned money, and he will appreciate that I’ve been a good steward of what God has given us.

Maybe with all the money I’ve saved him, we can go out on a date!

* I realize I’m shooting myself in the foot with this comment.  If you’re interested in a science curriculum for grades K-3, check out my “Glory of Kings” curriculum by clicking the button on the right side bar!

Copyright July 21, 2011 by Gwen Fredette


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