If you're a parent with kids in school, then you've faced the hard decision of whether or not you are sending your child into the classroom this fall. And if your family is going the homeschool route, then we have some tips for creating an organized, and productive learning environment for your children.
We turned to three homeschooling experts who offered some advice to new "pandemic homeschoolers" and product recommendations to make their space feel like a mini classroom.
"Relax! Homeschooling is a wonderful way to educate your child. But, it won't be if everyone is stressed out," editor-in-chief of Homeschool.com Jamie Gaddy told Shop TODAY. "Homeschooling has many amazing benefits including freedom to educate your child as you deem fit, freedom to teach your child at their own pace, and the joy to be a part of all of their learning 'firsts.'"
Anne Crossman, CEO and founder of HomeschoolExpert.com points out that it takes a bit of trial and error to figure out how to homeschool effectively and to turn to teachers for advice, if possible. "Sure, there are blog sites with free tips online, but even then it would take you months to resource and analyze the advice, not to mention test it out and create your own custom resources," she said. "Most pandemic homeschoolers don’t have that kind of time. Find a couple of experienced homeschoolers to guide you."
Keep scrolling to read more homeschooling tips and must-have products to help you create a successful learning environment at home.
“There are so many ways that you can learn without an official curriculum, so just having access to the internet with some type of inexpensive computer is all you need to take advantage of all the free resources available,” said homeschool consultant Jamie Heston.
While Heston agrees that a computer is a must when it comes to homeschooling, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to break the bank. “All (your child) really needs is access to the internet and a word processor,” she said, recommending a Google Chromebook for homeschooling families on a budget.
“It’s easy for them to use and it allows you to create an (account) for each child,” Heston told TODAY. “If you want to go bare-bones you could even buy a refurbished Chromebook to really bring the price down.”
This Google Chromebook offers up to 64 GB of storage, an HD display, WiFi, Bluetooth features, a webcam and more.
Gaddy is also a fan of the Lectrus Android Tablet. “There is such a wealth of free learning apps and websites,” Gaddy said. “Having the kids use an app for math practice or vocabulary review gives mom or dad some quiet time and breaks up the day."
For an even more budget-friendly option, this tablet has a bright display with vivid colors for a great viewing experience from all angles. It also includes two cameras for crisp photos and video chats and with 16 GB, you can download a bunch of apps from the Google Play Store.
Gaddy also stressed how useful a comfortable chair can be for children learning from home. “This is so important if your child is spending more than just a few minutes in their seat,” she said. “A chair that is ergonomic is important to help reduce fatigue and encourage concentration.”
The Boss Office Products Deluxe Posture Chair comes in five colors including black, red, blue, gray and even camo. Plus, it's currently 62% off and has over 1,400 positive Amazon reviews.
Many homeschooling experts said that they recommend letting your child work and learn wherever they are most comfortable (kitchen table, couch, etc.) but if you have space, Gaddy recommends this desk from Amazon.
"If you have room to set up a designated homeschool spot, then do it. Using a student desk is so convenient to have everything in one place and to be able to walk away when you finish for the day," she said. "I recommend this desk because it's simple, affordable, and it can adapt as your child grows."
“Developing time management and independent learning is a hallmark of homeschooling,” Crossman told Shop TODAY. “(Use) a student planner where you can list your student’s assignments, chores, appointments, events and train (them) to manage (their) time."
This student planner includes 12 monthly and 53 weekly planning sections, a personalized title page, two ruled note pages, 368 stickers, a 2020-2022 holiday page and a U.S. map. Versions are available for elementary through high school, as well as free monthly printouts online.
Gaddy loves this colorful 10-drawer storage rolling cart for families since it can easily be stored in the closet and can move around the house whenever it's needed.
“The most important product for any (homeschooler) is storage,” Gaddy said. “My favorites are rolling carts (and this) 10 drawer (option) is perfect for organizing and storing your (child’s) classes for the day. You put everything your child needs for each class, in each drawer and then there is no hunting for supplies and no wasted time.”
"The kitchen table can double as a school table, especially if students can each store their supplies in their own stackable basket," Crossman said. "Include a pencil box with small essentials, that way everything your student needs is ready at the table so he can get to work and stay on task."
You can buy these Storex crates packs of three, 12 or 24 and they come in a variety of different colors.
A small bookshelf is a great way to keep books, printers and even homeschooling resources consolidated.
"There are always teacher books and reference materials as well as great readers that you'll need to keep on hand. Having a bookshelf makes this easy and keeps things neat," Gaddy explained.
The Vasagle Industrial Ladder Shelf is an Amazon No. 1 bestseller with just under 700 verified reviews. It comes in gray, brown and dark brown.
"Consider buying small whiteboards in bulk," Crossman said. "Work boards, chore boards and daily lists (will) help organize your learning space. We use these all around the house. They're inexpensive, adaptable, and environmentally friendly."
This set from Charles Leonard comes with 12 boards, 2-inch felt erasers and a handful of black dry erase markers.
While the mini-whiteboards that Crossman prefers come with their own markers, she prefers these Expo ones instead.
"Uh-oh proof, these markers are great at keeping what you need on the board all day, with an easy sponge wipe off when you’re done," Crossman said. "Even as a replacement scratch page for math assignments, these pens make for clear markings and easy reading."
"Definitely not a necessity but a chalkboard just adds a fun element to your learning day. You can easily teach a lesson to your child or share an inspirational quote to brighten your day," Gaddy said.
The Loddie Doddie Chalkboard is magnetic and comes in a 24" x 36" frame with hanging hardware to easily place horizontally or vertically anywhere in your home.
While you could certainly use any miscellaneous pen or pencil for your child's curriculum, Gaddy mentioned her favorite set of quality pens. "A long-time homeschool favorite is the Frixion pen. It writes so smooth but is also erasable."
Gaddy isn't the only fan of these pens — they have over 800 verified Amazon reviews and have earned an impressive 4.8-rating!
Crossman shared an "expert tip" when it comes to children cleaning up their school space: "For households with more than one student, give each student a pencil with different colored sleeves or markings, that way, when you find them lying around the house, you know who needs to clean them up."
These Ticonderoga, No. 2 graphite pencils provide extra smooth performance and come pre-sharpened, so they're ready to be used right out of the box.
Now that you've committed to homeschooling for the foreseeable future, you're bound to have school supplies all over the house. To keep small items like pens, scissors and glue sticks organized, consider this wooden desk carousel.
“We use all types and colors of pens and pencils throughout the day and this caddy keeps them neat and easy to share,” Gaddy told TODAY.
"Wall maps and charts are great indirect learning resources," Gaddy told TODAY. "Kids are looking at them even when they aren't thinking about learning and the knowledge passively sinks in."
This set from RMC Signature comes with a United States map and world wall map printed in vivid colors on poster paper and laminated on both sides.
"(A laminator is) is helpful for prepping charts, check-off lists, chore lists, and classroom aides," Crossman said. "It enables you to easily make a lot of the resources you’ll need as a teacher, customizing them to the specific needs of your student."
This AmazonBasics 9-Inch Thermal Laminator Machine warms up in less than 4 minutes, has 6,380 verified Amazon reviews and only costs $25.
"It seems obvious, but keeping this handy enables parents to keep pencils inexpensively at the ready, and it transports easily to the kitchen table for school," Crossman said.
The Westcott USB Pencil sharpener is an award-winning classroom essential and has three built-in USB outlets for your kids to charge their smart devices.
"When you're working hard all day and finally the lights come on and your child gets that difficult concept, you want to share that accomplishment with everyone," Gaddy said. "Bulletin boards work great for that. Post their amazing work and highlight their awesomeness to family and friends."
The DesignOvation Beatrice Framed Pinboard is made in nine different sizes to fit you wall space perfectly and comes in five different frame colors including white, brown and black.
For more recommendations, check out:
- 15 lunch boxes to make mealtime at home or in the classroom easier
- 22 budget-friendly classroom essentials every student needs
- 25 back-to-school sales you won’t want to miss
- 18 backpacks that will keep your kids organized at home or in the classroom
- 31 colorful face masks kids will actually want to wear