I like to refer to our family as accidental homeschoolers. We never imagined that we would be homeschooling Max. But online schooling didn’t work for him.
There are days when I feel like I’m a joke and nothing’s working. And then there are magical days where he spontaneously exhibits a skill we’ve been practicing for weeks. Mostly though, we have in-between days. A mix of the same old boring things (phonics and numbers) and a sprinkle of magic (deep dives into special projects like volcanoes and dinosaurs).
When it comes to homeschooling, I quickly realized that Max doesn’t really need much. As long as he has an attentive parent, some paper, and pencils, he’s pretty much good to go.
Honestly, I do most of the homeschool wanting. I temper this wanting with the reality that we’ve only committed to homeschooling this year. (So I really have to stop shopping like I’m putting up my own school. Hahaha.)
Although, I have to admit that there are a couple of things that have really helped make our homeschool journey more convenient. I juggle work, chores, and my marriage, so I’m a fan of anything relatively inexpensive that helps lighten the load. So here are some of our Squishy homeschool essentials~~
Squishy Homeschooling Essentials: 5 Things We
Can’t Don’t Want to Live Without
Before we got a printer, I made everything by hand. My sweet little boy would wow at everything I made. It was actually fun, but it took A LOT of time.
The internet is a treasure trove of materials. So many kind souls let you download their original teaching materials for free. From worksheets to learning games, I’ve downloaded and printed a whole school year’s worth of activities.
On top of that, it’s so easy to customize your own learning materials these days. From Canva templates to tracing fonts, it’s so easy to make your own learning materials.
Tip: Get a printer that uses an ink tank rather than cartridges—you’ll save a lot of money. If you can, don’t skimp on your printer. We saved a few thousand pesos on getting an older printer model, but I now wish we splurged on a wifi printer.
2. Electric Fans
We’re very fortunate to have an apartment that gets alot of natural light. Being bathed in sunlight helps wake us up and energizes us for the day (especially since we can’t really go out that much).
There’s a downside though—it can get pretty hot sometimes (especially during the summer). We have an air conditioner, but we try not to turn it on to save money. It gets so hot sometimes that Squish complains that he’s too sweaty to do homeschool.
So when I found these affordable electric fans, I knew we had to get it. It was originally for Mikey’s office, but we ended up using it. It circulates the air really well. I also love how it’s small enough to neatly tuck under Max’s desk.
3. Online Second-Hand Book Sellers
I’ve already written about how much I love online second-hand book sellers, but they really do make homeschooling a lot easier. I love using books to introduce topics or activities. I also use books to tie up different skills and lessons.
I’m not a very creative person, so I lean on books to help make things come alive for Max. Plus, I really want Squish to love reading. I want him to be a lifelong learner and I believe that reading plays a huge role in that.
I’m very biased towards physical books (over ebooks). Screens are so engaging and I can already see his natural interest in them, but I really want him to learn to love physical books.
Brand new books are really expensive here, so I love that I can get good quality second-hand books for a fraction of the price. Apart from the stores I mentioned in my previous post, here are some new online stores that I love:
- Papyrus Book Shop Ph (Instagram only) – I just discovered this Cebu-based store this week. I love how organized the seller is. She posts teasers so you can turn on notifications ahead of time. She also lets me reserve books based on the post.
- Book Cellar Manila (Instagram and Facebook) – This store posts regularly and it’s one of my go-tos because the shipping isn’t as expensive as the other stores. They feature a lot of Japanese authors and we also got our first Gail Gibbons book from them!
- Books Curated by Teacher Cam (Instagram only) – The owner doesn’t post as often as the other stores do, but I can tell that the books are carefully and thoughtfully selected. I’ve only been able to buy a few titles from her, but they’re all life-changing books.
- BookDistrict (Instagram only) – This Bulacan based store is one of my favorites. From amazing Rosemary Wells finds to our first Aliki, I’ve gotten gem after gem after gem from Book Cellar (and at really great prices too).
Tip: If you’re buying second-hand books from an online seller on Instagram or Facebook, ask about the “pile” option. Some sellers allow you to pile your purchases to maximize the shipping fee.
4. Dry Erase Board
When kids are learning to read and write, modeling helps. So having a handy dry erase board is very convenient. You can show them how to make the right strokes for the letters or you can write words slowly as you sound them out.
Early on during the pandemic, Squish was given a Crayola easel with a blackboard and a dry erase board. There are wooden easels for kids that aren’t as colorful as the Crayola one. (If you have a small living space and you’re worried about having too many kiddie colors, this might be a better option.)
Our Crayola easel has been very useful for homeschooling. The dry erase board also works with magnets, so we post words and pictures up on it all the time.
I also got a smaller dry erase board with writing lines from Shopee. It’s great for Max to practice writing on. It also comes in handy when I need a makeshift board for sensory activities.
Tip: If you’re getting an easel with a dry erase board, look for ones with additional storage. Ours came with four bins (just enough to store magnets, chalk, markers, and erasers), but I’ve seen ones that have an additional tray in between the two boards. Never say no to more storage (see below)!
5. Storage Solutions
Storage is the most underrated gift! If I could go back in time and change my baby registry, I would’ve skipped the clothes and registered for more storage. Once you start homeschooling, you’re going to need more!
For some reason, I’m less impatient when things are orderly. So I usually start my homeschool day by organizing our work area. (I usually end the homeschool day organizing too, but Squish usually finds his way there again at some point).
Don’t get me wrong—our entire apartment gets really, really messy. Mess is inevitable with young children. It’s proof of life.
When there’s mess, there’s usually a lot of living and learning going on, so I don’t necessarily hate mess. I just need to feel like I have some control over it.
Mess is even more overwhelming when you don’t know where to put things. Having dedicated storage for everything saves a lot of time and it makes clean-up brainless. Having specific boxes for specific toys also makes it easier for Squish to clean up by himself.
Here are some of my favorite homeschool storage solutions:
- Ziplock bags – I use ziplock bags in various sizes to organize all of our reading and math materials and manipulatives. I like to buy good quality bags because I reuse them a lot. I’m still using the set I got from Daiso.
- Storage boxes – I get storage boxes in various sizes and types. Sometimes, I even use food storage boxes. We have a storage box for each toy category and we do the same for his larger homeschool materials. We have boxes dedicated to puzzles and math manipulatives. (I’m hoping to get a good deal on a couple of art caddies soon—wish me luck!)
- Bookshelves – We have three main bookshelves for Sqish’s books. Two large ones in the bedroom and one Ikea FLISAT book display in his homeschool area. I try to organize the book by theme, but it always ends up messy. I like having a small one by his homeschool area to highlight the topics/themes we’re taking up at the moment.
- Cubbies – We have one cubby by his homeschool area and that’s where we keep his finished work binders (and a bunch of other spillover art materials and books). I have loads of binders from work, so I’m reusing them now to file Max’s work. (A three-hole punch is such a worthy investment!)
- Rolling carts – I made my little brother hunt down this rolling cart for me in Landers. It was on sale for Php 1,600.00 then and S&R had the exact same thing but was Php 500.00 more expensive! I use these drawers to store our “active” homeschool supplies and materials. It’s where I keep all of the worksheets and centers I’ll need for the next few weeks. It’s also where I store all the supplies Max can use whenever he wants (paper, tape, and other coloring implements).
Tips: If you want to foster independence, try to make your storage kid-friendly (ex: easy to open boxes, low shelves, etc.). Max knows that he can use all of the materials in our homeschool area. So it really helps if he can access them without any help.
While it wasn’t what we planned, I really want to make the most out of this year with Max. I love that I’m getting to know him and his learning quirks. Sometimes though, I feel like I’m learning a lot more than Max is.