A Few of My Favorite Things

I’m blessed with a lot of resources for our homeschool. Some I’ve inherited from the days when I was homeschooled; some have been contributed by the kids’ grandparents; and others have been additions of our own, either through working as a consultant for Usborne Books or through the generosity of my hard-working hubby.

But definitely, among all that I have, a few items have risen to the top of the list of favorites.

10. Our Felt Board (and homemade felt-backed letters and numbers)

The felt board was an inherited item back from the days when my parents ran Children’s Church with the help of Betty Luken Bible story felts. The felt-backed letters and numbers were made by my mom, grandma, and another friend who had a “party” one evening applying adhesive felt to the back of a stack of punch-out cardstock letters and numbers. I don’t know how many M&Ms they had to eat to make it to the end of that “party,” but they’re hard work has sure been a blessing to us. I use that board and those letters every day: introducing letters to my preschooler, teaching blends and special sounds, reviewing spelling, introducing reading concepts, teaching numbers sequences, etc.

9. My File Cabinet

A recent and long-awaited addition to our school room—my file cabinet has been such a huge blessing. We picked up the file cabinet from a mission house thrift store in our first year of marriage; my husband used it to organize his sermons and seminary papers/research. This last summer, my husband offered to move it from his church office to our homeschool room and share some of the empty drawers.

I had to rearrange our school room a little bit, moving our “cozy corner” from the corner to a spot underneath the built-in desk space. Then, once the cabinet finally arrived home, I had to go through the files and empty out the outdated information to make room for the homeschool files. But now that every thing is in place, it is sooooo much easier to get out and put away my materials.The school room actually stays just a tad more organized, because I don’t have to get down on the floor and rearrange file boxes to get to what I need (keep in mind, I’m just a few days away from my third trimester; so imagine a very pregnant woman on the floor digging around in a cupboard—can you see why I am so enthralled by my filing cabinet?)

8. Nook Color and apps

I have to remind my children that the Nook is actually mine. Any time I bring it out to use for my own reading purposes, I have two bodies climbing on me and clamoring for their favorite books and apps. Of course, one of the deciding factors in choosing the Nook over the Kindle was the very child-friendly features, including “read-to-me” children’s stories and educational apps.

But then, every now and then, I’d like to use it, too.

Favorite Apps:

Kids Numbers and Math
Shape Builder
Smithsonian Channel
Drawing Pad

7. Geography Songs

I knew my kids would like these songs and would learn much from them; I had no idea how much they would learn from these songs, even Little One has learned so much more than I had anticipated. My children have memorized 3/4 of the countries of Africa and over 20 countries from the Middle East and Asia in the last three months of school, all from singing these catchy little tunes.

And the songs are really enjoyable to sing. Each song is unique and is sung in the style of the region it represents. I can often hear my daughter belting out the countries of “Northern Africa, south of the Mediterranean Sea” as she peddles her tricycle down the road.

6. Combination Dot Cards

Love, love, love these flashcards and how they have already helped my son with his addition. You can read more about these awesome cards from my review.

5. the Internet

I don’t know how my mom and other homeschool moms used to educate their kids without the help of the internet. I would be absolutely lost. The internet has been such a life-saver on so many occasions. Whether I’m researching printables and downloadable resources, perusing blogs for ideas on how to improve our homeschool, or searching for just the right song to teach skip counting, the internet has come to the rescue nearly every week of our homeschool journey.

4. Usborne books and products

Around the World stickers

We have so many favorite Usborne products that I couldn’t make up my mind which one should make it on the list. My son has loved the beginning readers that Usborne offers, and he learned to skip count by fives in just one game of the Learning Palette. Little One loves the Around the World sticker book that she gets to use for geography, and both the kids can’t wait for our atlas days each week. Everything I get from Usborne becomes my new favorite. It has really made learning at home, enticing and interactive.

 

Learning Palette

3. Teddy Bear Family Counters

My mom surprised us with these last spring, and I have used them several times a week ever since they arrived. We use them for different math lessons: counting, graphing, adding, and much more. In preschool, we’ve used them for sorting colors and sizes, completing patterns, filling shapes, and even learning the colors of the rainbow. They are so versatile—and extremely cute.

 

2. Letter of the Week

These last few favorites literally saved our homeschool. At the very beginning last year, I stumbled upon the Letter of the Week printables and Erica’s blog quite by accident. Actually, it really was the grace of God guiding me. We’d had a rough start with A Beka K4, and I was really at a loss what to try to do differently. When I saw Erica’s beautiful printables, I knew they were exactly what I needed to supplement our A Beka materials.

My son loved them last year; my daughter is thrilled to be using them this year. “And when baby gets bigger” is the regular mantra in our school room anytime these activities are out. Our K4 would not have been the same without all of Erica’s brilliant Letter of the Week activities.

1. It’s a tie! Chicka Chicka Boom Boom/ “Workbox” pocket system

I really couldn’t decide how to rank these two, especially since there’s no such thing as a list of “Top Eleven” favorites. These two elements of our school room are main stays. And another great big “Thank you” has to go to Erica for these ideas as well.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

We don’t actually own the book (yet). We’ve checked it out from the library at least three times for the maximum of nine weeks each time. We have the story memorized, and the Little One has repeatedly requested her own copy for Christmas. (I think a grandma has answered her Christmas wish, and I can’t wait to see her reaction.)

Adding the letters of the alphabet to our own Chicka Boom tree has been tons of fun. Every time we finish with a letter, it gets added to the tree. Then, we review the letters on the tree and recite the story we all know by heart: “A told B, and B told C, “I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree…”

“Workbox” pocket system.

I’ve blogged about the workbox system and our own adaptation of the method before. But it really has been a tremendous help in structuring our assignments. It keeps me organized; I have a place for all of the assignments for each child for that particular day. And it keeps our day moving; the kids don’t have to wait for me to hunt down scissors, pencils, worksheets, etc. We’ve been using them nearly everyday for about a year now, and even the Little One know how to move to the next pocket and next activity completely on her own, freeing me to take turns between the two kids and to take a brief break when I need it.

That’s it, folks.

Now it’s your turn! Comment about your favorite item, and feel free to leave links to your blog or to the website that carries your favorite item.

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2 thoughts on “A Few of My Favorite Things

  1. I’ve been thinking of investing in a reader. It’s good to have the Mom input. Interesting…

    • Post Author Tracy

      I’m not sure how the Nook Color compares to the new Kindle Fire. I got my last year, so all of my comparisons are about a year old. But another benefit of Nook is that it reads epub format, which means that even non-Nook books from CBD.com, Gutenberg press, and other free ebook sites, will all load onto my Nook. Kindle reads only Kindle formatted books (similar to the PC/Mac issues of the past). And as I mentioned in the post, I love the colorful kids books and educational apps that Nook offers. Makes dr. appts much easier. =)
      Of course, neither Kindle nor Nook comes close to the iPad—in capability and in price!

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