Being a homeschool mom involves a lot of (hard) work. I am constantly on the lookout for items that can make some part of my day either easier or more efficient, the same as you. If they are free or inexpensive that is a huge bonus.
Here are seven items I use daily:
(not in any particular order)
1. Erasable Pens
These are the ones I have used for years. I use them in my Homeschool Planner and they work perfectly. I choose a different color for each subject (orange for math, for example) and it makes it easy to see at a glance the plan for the day.
I have tried to use online planners in the past but as much as I wanted to love them, I didn’t. I prefer a paper planner. One of the best features of digital planners is the capability to rearrange your plan while keeping it looking very clean and pretty. These erasable pens give me a way to erase and rearrange when we our day goes a little different than planned, and that keeps my paper planner nice and clean looking.
This pack comes with several pens and they last the entire school year, certain colors even have ink a few months into the following year. My daughter also has a set she uses for her schoolwork when she doesn’t want to use a pencil. They certainly aren’t cheap, but since they last for so long, they are worth it to me. There is a smaller 12 pen set here which costs less.
Updated in July 2019:
I have since found a new brand of erasable pens, Parkoo, that are working well so far (I haven’t had them very long yet). They are cheaper too! The option I bought has 14 pens. (I did get it at a discounted price during Prime Days but regular price still isn’t bad.) You can find it here. There are many different sets on Amazon right now of that brand, some are smaller than mine (and cheaper!). And there are a few on sale at the time of writing this. You could even add it to your wish list and watch for a deal. 🙂
2. Homeschool Planner
For years, this was the planner I used. It is simple but doesn’t cost very much and has a lot of room for lesson plans which is super important to me.
Then I switched to piecing together my own planner from this website, and making my own weekly planning pages in Microsoft Exel. Tina’s website holds a wealth of information and she is so generous with all of the options she offers homeschool moms to build their own planner. If you are a subscriber to her e-mail list (I am) then she gives you access to even more planner forms and other freebies.
These days I design my own homeschool planner from scratch. This way I can completely customize it to fit my family’s needs. While I do not have my exact planner for sale on the website, I do offer a few here. I plan to offer many more options in the near future. It’s on my ever growing to-do list.
3. Items Needed to Bind Notebooks at Home
There are so many free or cheap homeschool printable resources online that I like to use in our homeschool. We used to use 3-ring binders to organize the printables for most subjects but have now switched over to using ProClick Binding for most subjects, as well as our planners.
Are you familiar with ProClick? It’s like mixing the best features of spiral bound books with a 3-ring binder. It allows your “bound” book to open all the way same a spiral bound book, without being permanently bound. Instead, it easily opens at any time so you can add or take out pages like you can with a 3-ring binder, then you re-close it and it is “bound” once more.
I started out buying the prepunched ProClick paper but when I was running low I decided to buy the ProClick binding punch. (I was actually able to get it at a much cheaper price at a local office supply store using a 40% off coupon, so shop around if you decide to buy one.)
You also will need some binding spines. There are a few different sizes on Amazon, and even more sizes and colors here. (If you buy from MyBinding.com be sure to watch for coupons and sales to get the best price.) If you are interested in trying out the ProClick Binding System to see if it may work for you, I recommend buying this pack. It comes with everything you need to try it out without making a big investment. (It costs around $10 at the time of this article.) Of course, if you live close to me you could come on over and try out mine to see how it works. 🙂
To make easy covers for your ProClick books design the covers using Cardstock paper (either on the computer or by hand), laminate them, then cut them down a little so they fit in the ProClick Binding Punch. The final touch is softening the corners of the cut side of the cover (since you had to cut off two of the rounded corners). I used to just cut it with scissors to round it off, but now use this corner cutter which works great and makes it much easier.
4. A Laminator
For years I used clear Con-Tact paper to “laminate” papers for school. While this is a very inexpensive option, it is very time consuming and can be quite frustrating. It does add some protection and durability to the paper but it just doesn’t do as good of a job as a laminator. There are laminators for almost any budget these days. (I’ve even seen them at Aldi!)
Here is the one I bought and use. I really like it and have not had any problems with it–and it has been used A LOT. Gone are the days of cutting Con-Tact paper to size and trying to apply it without bubbles.
Note: I do not use #3 or #4 (items to bind notebooks at home and the laminator) every single day, but do use the books and papers I made with them daily so I thought it was fitting to include them in this list.
5. Google Calendar
While I prefer to use a paper planner for homeschool planning and blog planning, etc., to keep track of all my appointments or things I need to do throughout the day (pay bills or start supper, for example) I use Google Calendar.
Yes, I do sometimes have to set reminders for when I need to start supper. I guess I should be happy I don’t have to set reminders to set reminders…ha!
Why do I use it? Because it’s free, syncs between devices, has the ability to customize how you set up reminders for events, and you can even use different colors for different reminders/events. I just add appointments as I make them and anything else I need to remember as I think of them, set a reminder to pop up at the time I choose, and I am ready to go!
I don’t know about you, but with all I juggle in a day it can be easy for something to slip my mind. Google Calendar is an easy way to get reminders of all of my commitments and “to-dos” for the day.
6. A Few Really Good Knives
Years ago I used the cheapest knives I could find. I still don’t spend very much on knives (I don’t buy the most expensive ones, and I always try to find them on sale) but I am willing to pay a little more to get a good knife.
My favorite paring knife is a Tramontina that I got when we lived in Guatemala. I can’t find a link to the exact one to show you. We got it soon after we were married (2003) and it still works great. It is not serrated and is very sharp (if it gets a little dull, I just resharpen it and it is like new again). I use it daily to slice up fruit or veggies.
If I need a little bigger knife I use one of my Chicago Cutlery ones. And I have a large generic brand serrated one that I use for bread. I do have other knives, but could probably get by with just those three.
7. MadeOn Hard Lotion Bar
This hard lotion bar is something that I just recently discovered and started using. I am truly amazed at how much it has helped! For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with dry skin on my hands causing cracks on my knuckles and finger tips, especially in the winter.
I heard about a free sample of this lotion bar and decided to give it a try. I’m so glad I did since it actually works. It is the first product that has truly helped my dry hands and I am impressed. It is different than lotion; it looks a lot like a bar of soap. You just rub it all around your hands for a few seconds and then rub it in as you would any lotion.
It is made of three ingredients–shea butter, coconut oil, and beeswax. It does make my hands a teensy bit greasy briefly, but not enough that it bothers me, as some lotions do. It lasts on my skin for quite awhile, even after several hand washings.
So, there’s my list of items I use daily. These seven things really do help me as I go about my day. They help me plan, do things more efficiently, remember what I need to, and even keep my hands from getting cracked. I hope they are helpful to you, as well.