Monday, December 16, 2013

Holiday Gift Ideas for Homeschoolers

Looking for gift ideas for a homeschooling family you know?
Perhaps one of these 10 categories will help.

Or, maybe you have been directed here by a loved one, like your daughter-in-law. {Hi Ma! Just a shout out to my mother-in-law.}

Either way, read on for homeschool gift ideas. All items on the listing have been chosen for their potential educational value.

Books - Always a great place to start for the homeschooling family you know. The possibilities are endless with categories of all sorts to ponder. A few more specific ideas might be
  • classical literature {Some books never go out of style. One online listing of classics is found here.}
  • audio books {Jim Weiss has numerous titles available and his audio CDs are a favorite among homeschoolers.}
  • nonfiction selections {Usborne, DK, and Kingfisher are some publishers to check out.}

Games - Most games have at least some educational value to them.
Movies -
  • classic movies
  • musicals on film
  • documentaries and educational {Some documentaries can become family favorites. I'll readily admit when my oldest was four, he was given two videos, and  I thought, really? However, over the years they have become favorites of all our children. What are they? The Living Desert and Play Along Games and Songs}
  • biographies and true stories
  • Netflix {Don't know which movie would work the best? Give a subscription.}
Toys -
  • building toys
  • marble mazes
  • buildings {Castles and farms are two ideas.} 
  • train sets
  • household toys {Kitchen sets, tea sets, tool sets and the like are fun for younger children.}
  • puzzles {Ravensburger and Melissa & Doug offer great puzzles.}

Science Kits -

Models & Craft Kits -
  • Solar System {for the one who loves the stars - these can usually be found at craft stores and online}
  • Moon {Moon in My Room illuminates the various phases of the moon by remote.}
  • dinosaur bones {for the budding archaeologist - find one here and here}
  • robot kits {find one here and here}
  • transportation vehicles {cars and planes}
  • weaving looms
  • knitting, crocheting, and sewing kits

Memberships - Family memberships can be a gift that keeps giving.
  • museums
  • State parks
  • zoo
  • public gardens

Educational Supplies -
  • globes and maps
  • backpacks {Even homeschoolers cart books to and fro places.}
  • pencils and pens {Most children like stylish pens and pencils, and they make great stocking stuffers.}
  • erasers {Find one in the shape of a favorite character.}
  • posters {Gear it toward their upcoming lessons or interests.}

Technology - In today's age, technology can be a huge blessing. Just be sure to check with the parents for what is acceptable in their family.
  • graphing calculators
  • e-readers
  • digital cameras
  • musical devices
  • cell phones
  • internet access
  • notebooks
  • lap tops

Time - The best gift of all may just be you! Giving of your time and talents will be greatly appreciated by your loved ones.
  • volunteer at the co-op {teach one class, be a guest speaker, help as an assistant even for just one day}
  • field trips {plan one, take the children for a day out, or offer to go along}
  • read with a child {Select some of your personal favorite children's books to share. Read aloud to them, or have them read aloud to you.}
  • bake or cook a meal together
  • tend a garden together {plant, water, weed, harvest, shell peas, or can fresh vegetables}
  • pick fruit together {maybe make jam or juice with the fruit}
  • sew, knit, or crochet
  • build something {A birdhouse, rabbit cage, or mailbox could be a useful construction project.}

No matter what you give this year or in the years to come, your sincere desire to help, support, and encourage a homeschooling family is the greatest gift you can give.


Dorie and her drummer husband, Jerry, began their homeschooling journey over ten years ago. Currently, they home educate four children ranging from early elementary to high school. Dorie can be found at Homeschooling Just Next Door, Facebook, or Pinterest.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Should You Join?

Staring at the sign, we couldn't believe it.

Two choices were before us.

Either pay $125 for all six of us to enter the museum and take a guided tour, or
pay $120 to gain admittance for the day with the guided tour and become members for an entire year. Our membership would allow us to revisit anytime over the following year and take select guided tours for free. We would also receive two guest tickets with our membership.

My husband looked at me and said flatly, "We'll save $5 just by becoming members."

"But will we use it?" I asked trying to formulate some counter argument, because I just couldn't believe the pricing.

"I don't care if we ever use it. We'll save $5 by getting it today. Then, if we do want to use the membership, we can. It will already be paid for."

His logic prevailed, and we became members for one year. Over that year, we would visit two more times. On the second and final time, we shared our guest tickets with my parents and took a guided tour with them.

For our family, three visits to this museum over the course of one year for less than the cost of one visit was definitely worth the price.

And, honestly, this wasn't the first time we had gotten such a deal.

We've joined an art museum for a year We timed it to see three special exhibits including Rembrandt and Van Gogh exhibits. Not only did we see the special exhibits at no extra cost, we toured the entire museum of three floors and three wings over the course of that year, one wing at a time.

For several years, we were members of a public garden which we visited throughout the changing seasons. Our children became acquainted with numerous plants and trees, discovering how their appearances changed each season. The garden hosted numerous concerts, fireworks, and cultural events which we attended, because they were free for members.

One year we became members of a science museum. Two visits would have paid for the membership, but we timed our membership to overlap three special exhibits we wanted to see. At this particular museum, members received special pricing for these exhibits. Over that year, we saw some of the Dead Sea Scrolls, artifacts from the Titanic, and learned about espionage in addition to touring the regular exhibits.

A Few Benefits of Becoming a Member
  • If used enough times, a membership can more than pay for itself {you must calculate the cost for your individual family}
  • Special discounts or tours are often included in memberships
  • Sometimes, your family can attend off hours or special hours just for members
  • You can plan your visits and see portions of the facility. You won't have to 'see it all' because you can make multiple trips for the same price.
  • Some memberships are eligible for a tax deduction (Please refer to the specifics of your membership.)

If your family is anything like ours, you don't have an endless supply of money. Where and how you choose to spend it are serious considerations. For each membership, we carefully calculated the financial cost. If we deemed a membership worthwhile, we then researched the best time to join. We want our memberships to be as beneficial as possible. From our experience, I have comprised a brief list of how to select memberships.

How to Choose Where and When to Belong
  1. Know your family's interests. If you love paintings, then an art museum may be a great fit for your family, but if you don't it may torture to have to keep visiting an art museum.
  2. Look ahead in your children's academic lessons. Will you be studying Ancient History? A museum of archaeology and anthropology may be a good fit for that year.
  3. Discover museums in your local area which correspond to your family's interests or your children's academic lessons. Be sure to look for places you will want to visit more than once.
  4. Narrow the choices by eliminating those museums which are too far away or too inconvenient. If your family won't, or isn't able to make the trip during the hours the facility is open, then a membership would be foolish. You'll never use it.
  5. Research those museums or places on your shortened listing. What does each place cost for membership? What are the specific benefits members receive that one-time visitors don't? What is the upcoming exhibit or future show schedule? Is there anything on the calendar which you would want to see or do? Will these visits and events fit into your family calendar? Can you time the membership to view or participate in all the upcoming events you would like to see or do?
  6. Do the math!* I cannot stress this one enough. It still may not be cost effective to join. Perhaps you can visit the museum on a free day, or take advantage of a coupon offer. Sometimes a better deal is available, and a membership is not necessary.
  7. Eliminate the choices which don't work well for your family, and pursue those which do on your own timetable.
*When considering the cost of visiting, include the cost of travel, tolls, parking, and food. Also, if you will want some type of souvenir, include this into your cost as well.

All the photographs featured in this post originally appeared on my personal blog. They highlight a visit to a special event at our local art member. We were privileged to attend for free, not because we were members, but because the event and the museum were free to the community that day. It really does pay to research and calculate the costs.


Dorie and her drummer husband, Jerry, began their homeschooling journey over ten years ago. Currently, they home educate four children ranging from early elementary to high school. Dorie can be found at Homeschooling Just Next Door, Facebook, or Pinterest.

Friday, November 29, 2013

To Break or not to Break?

Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

This week, the kids and I traveled over the river and through the woods to Grandma's house! Now, we're snuggled up with family, enjoying our time together and eating too much food. I'm forgoing most of the mega deals this year, so no need to brave the Black Friday crowds.

This is the first time, though, that we've gone on a vacation like this and I brought our homeschool stuff with us! *gasp* I know, I know. Usually, I like to take the whole week of Thanksgiving off, or at least only focus on Thanksgiving-related activities.

However, this has been a really rough season for us, health-wise. I was sick for an entire 3 weeks in October, and all 3 of my kids seem to be taking turns getting sick themselves or making each other sick. That's put us way behind in our curriculum.

I'm not really one to obsess over something like that. Correction--I am that type, but I'm learning to overcome that bit of the perfectionist side of me. While I'm not in any hurry to "catch up," I also believe we need to stay on track. So, we're brought a little bit of homeschool with us.

Granted, many of our activities are still Thanksgiving (and starting Monday--Christmas) related--the books we read, the crafts we do, etc. We are still making sure to plunge on in our studies. The girls are enjoying learning about the medieval times and animal habitats in science. In another post, I'll have to share the travel books I made for them, which bits of math, spelling, reading, and history/geography in the form of games! Yes, I'm sneaky like that.

What about you? Do you continue to homeschool through the holidays? Why or why not?
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