Recently I was at a teacher shop with my sister, who is also a teacher, and discovered that I no longer feel the pull of fancy resources. Rest assured, I checked my temperature and pulse and both seemed fine so I must have reached some point in my homeschooling development where my credit card is safer than it has been.
At Edsco there are so many shiny things I used to think my nest needed, but at the midpoint of our homeschooling journey (provided I ever let them graduate and leave the nest) I looked at the glittery bling and thought, “I will hardly use that, if at all.” My husband would have been proud…and relieved.
However there are a few things I would repurchase if I had to start again from scratch, and since my reader Amanda asked, I’ll list them below for you.
Firstly I would buy some counters of some sort. Not because we couldn’t find anything else in the house that could substitute but because they are used sooooo much in our house. We’ve used them for counting, for adding, for sorting, for game counters, for weighing, and for patterning. I’ve even written different things on them in pencil. But their number one use has been in play. Even now they are in regular use for some purpose.
We love our unifix blocks too. They serve the same purpose as counters except that they have the added attribute of being able to connect. If I could only have either the counters or the unifix blocks, I would have to choose the counters as they are used in play a lot more than the unifix blocks.
Of course you don’t need to buy expensive counters. I bought these poker chips for $2.50. And the boys tell me that the poker chips make a much cooler noise than the proper counters, which is apparently a desirable thing in play. (And if you want to add gabbling to your curriculum you’ll have everything you need! Hehehehe)
Something I wish I had in the early days was an abacus. I didn’t realise their value until my boys were older. Instead of using counters to help with their adding (and subtracting) I would have used this abacus. The visualisation of numbers is so much clearer. When you make 7, you can easily see that it’s a 5 and 2 more. Then if you add 5 on, you can see that you have 3 left on that row of ten and then have to use 2 more from the next row. To see the answer you don’t need to count all of the beads, you can see that it’s a ten and two. In your mind, twelve will always be a ten and a two. Oh how I wish I knew this then.
Our hundreds board has also been well used over the years. It has plenty of uses and has been worth the money. The board I have has two sides – a numbered side and a blank side. It also came with the numbered and coloured tiles. What I love the most about this board is that everything is quality plastic and the squares on the board are recessed so the tiles don’t shift around. We’ve used our board for counting, place value, skip counting and addition and subtraction. When my boys add numbers under one hundred they think of this board. E.g. 23 + 45. In their mind they locate 23. They then add on the 5, moving across the board to 28 and then drop down four rows (which are tens) to their answer of 68. We’ve also just used the tiles from this set. I would buy this board again in a heartbeat.
Our MAB Base 10 blocks were one of my very first purchases. I wouldn’t want to teach place value and regrouping in algorithms without them. They help you ‘see’ the larger numbers and how they act when added and subtracted. I always start teaching addition and subtraction (particularly when it’s with regrouping) with MAB blocks. Once they can solve the problems with blocks, they just fly through the problems on paper, because they can mentally see what is happening.
Measurement items are a bit of a necessity. Most textbooks will require you to go and measure. But you don’t need anything expensive and most of the items you’ll already have in your home. Something to weigh with and something with metres and centimetres on it.
For early Geometry you really don’t ‘need’ anything. You can always find 2D and 3D shapes in the environment (and those that you can’t, you can make). However I would be sure to provide construction and spatial toys in the home, or, at the very least, lots of box construction.
However for later Geometry you will need a collection of protractors, set squares and compasses.
Finally, I would repurchase my fraction resources – my fraction circles, squares and equivalent fraction set. Sure you can make them, and I did make a set, but these are so much nicer and easier to use. We have to remember that even older kids need to be able to visualise what they are learning before being required to mentally grapple with the task.
So that’s what I’d repurchase if I had to start again. I wouldn’t bother with the expensive occasional use items for Math. They are sold for classrooms because school children are confined in a restricted environment where you won’t see a pantry full of 3D shapes, a fridge full of volume materials, or a purse full of coins that won’t be stolen.
I also wouldn’t bother with educational games. Kids much prefer to learn efficiently and traditionally and then go and play real games. Took me a long time and a cupboard full of this stuff to learn this though. Luckily there are school teachers in my family who desperately need this stuff and are more than happy to take it off my hands…as my sister did on the weekend.
Now there is more space for books!!
Yes I think that shall be the moral of this story…Don’t waste your money on shiny classroom toys. Get only what you need and spend the rest on books….lots of books!!!