Monday, February 11, 2008

Best Educational/Homeschool Deals

I had a request for this. My curriculum/educational picks and tricks are mostly geared toward preschool and early elementary. I cannot justify buying box curriculum for kindergarten, partly because I think kindergarten should be more fun than that. So here are my methods to setting up a classroom.

1. Furniture/Organization -I set up our classroom when we first moved, which is good since we're on a total spending freeze now. We bought a very nice, simple solid wood table with four chairs at IKEA ($120 for the whole set). That's where we do "schoolwork". Then I bought cabinets with doors and with open shelving at Wal Mart ($40 each). I keep the messy stuff behind the doors, and I use open storage cubes for all the items that my toddler uses during school time. I also just got an easel ($18) with whiteboard on one side and chalkboard on the other with a big roll of paper ($6) at IKEA. I bought that during the extra 10% off sale, so it's probably a little more now. I have lots of posters with the alphabet, numbers, calendar, solar system that I got at the Homewood used book sale last year. They were in my favorite area - the free pile. That's how I did it, but really, it's just about making the space work for you.
2. Curriculum - I cannot even name all the places I get books. My favorite kindergarten "curriculum" is a set of 6 workbooks and 1 Bible storybook by Rod and Staff. It costs $19.95 new for the whole set, and they are chock full of variety - lots of cutting and pasting, sorting, matching, numbers, letters, coloring. For regular text books, Buy Used. Check with your local homeschooling associations for when their end of the year book sales are. The COW Homeschool Store in Humble and The Homeschool Store in Houston ( buy and sell used curriculum. You can find a few things on Ebay and Amazon as well.
3. Unofficial Curriculum - I haunt thrift stores, and I have a massive library to show for it. I collect the classics, kids books, non fiction. I have a nice collection of Usborne books, DK books, untouched Mathmania and puzzle books, and ABeka Readers and phonics books, and they all cost $.10 - $1.00. I found a bunch of Hooked on Phonics programs at Big Lots, and some fun Fisher Price workbooks at $.99 cent stuff. If you are looking for a hard to find item, check Ebay. I found a Trace Erase board with inserts for a total of $17. I like Tuesday Morning for hands on learning stuff, and they are cheap! My son's favorite tool for counting is the magnetic numbers with stand up easel that I bought there ($3). That was the same trip that I bought some Melissa and Doug items and also National Geographic flashcards. The cheapest curriculum you can find though is at the library. Go to their website and search the database. You can put up to ten items on hold and pick them up at any county location. Recently, we have been studying growing food. We checked out a DVD, many books and bought broccoli plants at Home Depot for under $3. We are also growing cabbage from seeds. (This fascinates my sons. Although I hate it when I inevitably kill the poor plants, and I have to explain why there is no onions to dig up.) The library has a HUGE book sale twice a year - April and October, and it is well worth your time. I will post it when I find out when the next one is.
4. Fun Stuff - Don't forget those puzzles, maze books, Play Doh, and chalk. Most of our games and puzzles are from the thrift store, but I always make sure all the pieces are there. I buy Play Doh whenever I find a set on clearance. (These also make good birthday gifts, if you're in a tight spot.) I buy some craft stuff at Michael's when it's around 50% off or with the 40% coupon. I buy glue, markers, scissors, etc. once a year when Target, Walgreens, and Office Max make them incredibly cheap for back to school sales (usually late July, early August). I also make sure to stock up on stickers, rubber stamps, hole punchers, scissors that cut shaped borders, card stock, scrap paper, yarn, pipe cleaners, feathers, etc. My mom is an art teacher, so I could go on and on. (Thanks for all that paper, mom.)

Don't forget to think outside the box. I finally understand that my son doesn't have to use lined paper to learn his first letters. If he wants to use the whiteboard and a marker or the MagnaDoodle, that's okay. I have mostly been using worksheets for math, but even then, I improvise with his toys. "If you have 3 Ewoks, and 5 Rebel Fighters join them, how many are there in all? And what if the Empire captures 2 of them, how many are left?" Most of all, READ, READ, READ to them - Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Amelia Bedelia, Frog and Toad, Little Bear. We really love to read. I can finally embrace my total geekiness!


Anonymous said...

Way to teach the math with Ewoks and Rebel fighters! Teach to their interest, I always say. Made me laugh out loud!

Rebecca in TX said...

Hi Ali,
I found a great resource for free homeschool curriculm that I thought you would be interested in.

I am not buying kindergarten curriculm for Caleb either. I just can't justify it.

Rebecca Miller