3 Useful Tools for Your Homeschool Year

Three useful tools for your homeschool year


Next week officially starts our homeschool year. Lord have mercy, I am not ready yet!! While there are a few homeschool supplies we love and use daily, this year we found three new items that we can’t wait to get started on using – and I’m sure will become things we wondered how we ever did without. Two of these the kids get to use and the last one is a mom-only – no kids are allowed to swipe my supplies! (Yes, I may get a bit territorial at times, I’ll admit it!)

Folding Bookstand

useful homeschool tools-7

Laurianna has a lot of larger textbooks this year in high school and this would have been so handy to have last year as well! The folding bookstand is really compact and opens/closes easily so she can take it with her to co-op and quickly prop it up on her desk to hold one of her books, save a little desk space, and keep her place in the book.

It’s actually a cookbook holder, but will definitely do the job, especially with those larger books. Above you can see a quick video of how it works.

Boogie Board eWriter

useful homeschool tools

Sometimes there are things that you just don’t want to use paper for or don’t necessarily need to have a record of. The kids will all be using the Boogie Board LCD tablet for spelling and a few other subjects that will allow us to work on the tablet and then erase it when we are done.

There is a special pen that writes on the board, so you can doodle, draw, or take notes to your heart’s content. When you are done and need a clean slate, you push a button at the top and the entire contents erase, leaving you with a fresh screen. The kids have already been having a blast drawing pictures and using it for their math work.

For us, this will also be handy when traveling and we don’t want to bring a bunch of extra paper (yes, I’m one of the moms that might make her kids do school work when we travel). There are bluetooth versions available which would sync your notes to your computer, but for now the standard board should be great for us (especially since this is 1/4 of the price)!

Erasable Pens

pilot frixion pens

These are the ‘mom-only’ supplies. Yes, they are fun and the kids will enjoy them, but sometimes I like to have something for just me. For the last year and a bit I’ve been using the Pilot Frixion pens but this year bought a set that is clickable – meaning I don’t have to take the cap off (and lose it). The eraser of the pen stays in place and the set comes in a variety of colors too. Being able to erase any mistakes = heaven. And ten colors – yes, please.

My color-coding brain did a happy dance when I saw the clickable version of these pens.

Seriously they have been the best pens ever. The ones I used last year were so handy for correcting papers, because I like using pen, but hate that when I make a mistake I have to scribble everything out. I like a smaller point too on my pens, so the .05 size is perfect for using in my planner or correcting or anything.


Homeschool Supplies We Love

Here’s a peek at a few of our other favorite homeschool supplies as well. Do you have a useful tool or supply that has helped your homeschool time? I’d love to hear about it – leave a comment and share!

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Have Homeschool Questions? Check out the 2015 Omnibus

Homeschool Questions

If you are a new, or even seasoned homeschool parent, there are inevitably questions that plague go through your mind. I’ll admit there have been some nights I’ve lost sleep while turning over answers in my head.

  • Am I doing enough with my children?
  • What do my kids need to know?
  • I have little ones too – how am I supposed to balance all of it?
  • Where in the world do I get started?
  • Do I have to schedule – and how to I figure out where to begin?
  • Are we expected to eat AND keep up with school?
  • What am I going to do with this high schooler?
  • Can I even do this?
  • (and the list goes on and on…right?)

Homeschooling can be overwhelming. You don’t even have to be a first year homeschooler to realize that! But do you know what is wonderful? There are so many resources and supports available to help us navigate the years and endless questions.

The Omnibus

Once a year, the iHomeschoolNetwork shares the Homeschool Omnibus as a one week special – and THIS week, from August 3rd through the 9th, is your week to take advantage of the savings and resources for just $25. Inside you will find some very helpful resources, no matter what stage of homeschooling you are in. Below I’ve highlighted over $80 of homeschool helps to consider.

Homeschooling 101

Homeschooling 101 Resources

Instead of just one, there are THREE ebooks (from Confessions of a Homeschooler, Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers, Mrs. Hutchinson, and Misty Bailey). Each of these ladies offers a unique perspective and insight on various homeschool questions, and these books are a great place to start for answers! All are included in the Omnibus.

Creating a Schedule that Works

Scheduling Tools

Have questions on how to figure out a day-to-day schedule? This ebook from Marlene Griffith with printable worksheets will help you break your day down into bite-sized pieces and create a working schedule. ($5.00)

The planner I personally use is also included, and includes month at a glance sheets, weekly planning pages, room for meal planning, and scheduling life in general! The planning calendar runs from July 2015 through December 2016. ($3.99)

Included in the Omnibus.

Planning Tools for Busy Moms


It really is possible to have a peaceful and balanced life (I promise). Mary Jo Tate has some great tips in her ebook From Frazzled to Focused along with customizalbe planning forms to help you figure out your priorities and what to take action on in your life. ($3.99)

Included in the Omnibus.

What Your Child Needs to Know When

what your child needs to know when

One of the biggest questions we ask as homeschool parents is “Am I doing enough? This book answer this question and even includes academic evaluations along with checklists for grades K-8. ($24.95)

Included in the Omnibus.

Planning Your Homeschool Day


If you need a homeschool planner, the Weekly Homeschool Planner is one you can use year after year. It is an editable and reusable pdf file that you can save to your desktop, add in your lesson plans, and either view it on your desktop or print off if you need a physical copy. ($20.00)

Included in the Omnibus.

The above resources are valued at over $80, but this week each one of them is included in the Omnibus for just $25. (I may have mentioned that a few times prior).  While I’ve only highlighted a few of the ones I know would be helpful in answering some of the questions I’ve had over the years, I would encourage you to read on!

Why Should You Consider the Omnibus?

iHomeschool Network's 4th annual Omnibus sale • the original homeschool bundle


One thing I am most excited about with the Omnibus is the resource list available for parents of tweens and teens. We have a daughter that is officially now in the high school years, and there are many things that can be overwhelming! This year’s Omnibus has mp3’s and ebooks dedicated to teaching during those years – and I can always use encouragement in this area!

Take a peek through the Omnibus pdf catalog for all of the items included in this year’s sale. As a quick summary of what is included:

  • 124 total resources: 47 MP3s and 77 ebooks from 100 speakers/authors
  • resources from preschool through high school
  • total value is $754
  • cost is $25 (with $9 DVD add-on)
  • cost is just 3% of the value
  • PDFs also come in Kindle/mobi format (where appropriate)
  • sale runs from August 3-9, 2015, specifically 12:01 AM Eastern Time, August 3 to 11:59 PM Pacific Time August 9.

Omnibus Dates to Remember

iHomeschool Network's 4th annual Omnibus sale • the original homeschool bundle


Note: The Omnibus is a DIGITAL product. Above you can view a timeline with all relevant dates and information for this year’s Omnibus. The sale will end at 11:59pm on Sunday, August 9th. Discounts and freebies expire September 1st and all downloads must be completed by September 4th.

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Helpful Guide for Choosing Homeschool Literature for K-12

Last year at a nearby homeschool convention I sat in on several sessions by Adam Andrews from Center for Lit. After pouring for quite some time over their resources, one of the books that made it into my bag was Reading Roadmaps: a Literary Scope & Sequence for K-12.  Since that day, there are multiple dog-eared pages in the book and it has become one of my favorite helps for choosing books for our children.

Reading Roadmaps literature suggestions for homeschool

Yesterday I shared a post on Instagram about this book and immediately received several emails from readers asking to know more about the book (and why I liked it). So – here goes! For those of you wanting a peek inside the book, watch the video clip below.

feed subscribers can view the video here

Reading Roadmaps contains and entire year’s literature suggestions for each grade level from K-12. The lists are sequential (so they build in difficulty) and multiple models are provided. You can choose a weekly, monthly, six week, quarterly, or seasonal model which will vary the reading and study time.

Each book title recommended includes the following: plot summary, conflict, story themes, stylistic devices used (alliteration, rhyming, etc…), additional resources if available, and an alternate story suggestion. The last few chapters of the guide offer a variety of literature teaching helps: assigning and grading essays, grade level objectives, grading and credits, and time periods in the history of literature.

Overall, this has been a great ‘go-to’ resource for me and is how I am building each of our children’s literature lists for the year and one that is kept handy and within reach.

Reading Lists for Our Children

Interested in seeing reading lists for our children this past year? Check out our reading choices for this year by clicking on the images below.


4th grade homeschool reading list 6th grade homeschool reading list 9th grade reading list

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Homeschool Curriculum Shopping List: Free Printable

free Homeschool Curriculum Shopping List

Every year I have a list. Or two. Or three. Sticky notes and crossed out lists of the curriculum we need with prices highlighted so I know if I’m getting the best price – especially if I happen to hit a great used curriculum sale. This year I had enough of the multiple lists and consolidated it all into one simple list that I can carry around with me to convention.

A Curriculum Snapshot

curriculum shopping list example

While I typically have my phone with me to do a quick price check, it’s great to know if a special a vendor is offering is worth grabbing right then – and it’s always helpful to know if I already own an item (not that I’ve ever purchased something twice – cough).

The literature list for each grade level is something that can quickly overwhelm me, so I made a special area for tracking what books we need to purchase as well. The overall list is a great snapshot to see what areas we may need to beef up a little academically.

Color-coded lists

You may notice there are four different colored lists. Maybe you remember that we color code our kids (don’t judge – please). It really does help me visualize which child needs what curriculum, so the four colors you see are to help me remember who the curriculum is for. It’s something silly and simple, but it works for me. (grins)

If you think this would help you out too, just click below to download a copy for yourself – and please feel free to pass along the link and let your friends know too!

—-> Download the Homeschool Curriculum Shopping List HERE <—–

Attend a Homeschool Convention

This June, I am SO looking forward to the annual Home Educators Association of Virginia homeschool convention. Aside from the amazing used curriculum sale and extensive vendor hall, they have a lineup of fabulous speakers as well (Voddie Baucham was just confirmed as another speaker, along with my friend Crystal Paine, Ken Ham, Todd Wilson and more).

If you live anywhere close to Richmond, VA (even if it is hours away!) – make plans to attend this year’s convention. This is one weekend that is automatically grayed out on my calendar each year. My husband has attended with me in the past and loved it, but otherwise a few friends and I travel together and just wander, listen, and learn. It is SUCH an amazing weekend.

Tips for Attending a Homeschool Convention

Attending a homeschool convention can be a HUGE help and boost to your homeschool year. Workshops provide teaching and encouragement for families while vendor halls and tables provide an up close and personal look at resources you may need for your children’s education. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out my tips for attending a homeschool convention, print off a copy of the Homeschool Curriculum Shopping List – and get ready to have some fun!

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Hamburger Essay Outline – Free Writing Printable

Hamburger essay outline for literature

This year we’ve been working on essay writing in one of our co-op classes. A lot. The kids are at different points with their writing skills: a few of them are all about writing out a detailed outline, complete with color coded paragraphs, while a few others need a more visual approach to grasping the concept of outlining.

Just for fun, I asked Laurianna to help me create a visual outline that would give everyone a little start on writing  and completing a five paragraph essay. Their essays and the outline needed to include:

  • a thesis
  • three key points/paragraphs
  • a conclusion

One of the things that I continually stress to our kids is the importance of being able to write a strong thesis and/or introduction, make valid points that support and prove their thesis, and then end with a strong concluding paragraph to tie it all together. Sometimes a simple visual can help them map their thoughts, make sure things flow together properly, and ensure they aren’t getting off topic.

The kids can start with the hamburger essay outline to map out their initial thoughts, and eventually they build a more detailed essay outline like below:

  • Thesis and ‘hook’ sentence
  • Main paragraph idea #1: sub-points 1, 2, and 3
  • Main paragraph idea #2: sub-points 1, 2, and 3
  • Main paragraph idea #3: sub-points 1, 2, and 3
  • Conclusion

The hamburger essay outline is just a simple pencil/pen sketch that we had fun coloring in, but it has been a help to several of our kids and the kids in co-op – and we wanted to share it with you all as well!

Feel free to download a copy here – and please feel free to share with friends!


p.s. on a completely unrelated note to anything, it just makes me giggle saying ‘hamburger’ because then I picture Steve Martin as the Pink Panther trying to say the word hamburger… and I get completely sidetracked.

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