Saturday, September 10, 2005

Home squirreling at yard sales

First question: Why do some people think that homeschooling is such an elitist thing, only for people with lots of money? Second question: Why do some homeschoolers spend so much on curriculum? Mama Squirrel has been picking school stuff up at teachers' yard sales, other peoples' yard sales, and church sales over the past month, and for about $30 she has found enough stuff to keep a family with young children going for a whole year. Maybe we're lucky, maybe we're blessed, maybe Mama Squirrel has just been at this long enough to know what's worth getting. Probably all three. But anyone else could do the same thing. They wouldn't find the exact same items, but they could put just as good a bagful together for the cost of a couple of pizzas.

Oh, and one other comment: the stuff that gets used the least in the Treehouse is usually something produced specifically for the classroom (and not because it's written for large groups, but because it's usually pretty lame). Case in point: an unnamed music-and-math resource book we picked up today, which has such classic songs in it as this (sung to the tune of Three Blind Mice): "Let's make a people graph / Let's make a people graph / Of all our friends / In the classroom. / Boys stand over here. / Girls stand over there. / Then line up in two rows / So we can compare, / So we can compare." Ponytails says she'd rather sing Aiken Drum any day.

So all right, even Mama Squirrel picks a dud sometimes.

These are the worthwhile things we've found lately:

What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know (Hirsch) (this contains most of the folk tales included in our AO-HELP curriculum, plus poems, paintings to look at, a bit of geography, and math games)
Grade K Learn at Home (all-in-one book--but it's just a tool, not a toolbox, as one of the Amazon reviews says)
Family Pastimes Brainy Puzzle Pack (we've already tried one of the games in this, co-operative Tic Tac Toe)
Family Pastimes Harvest Time (co-operative game)
A Fuzzy Felt set from the 1970's (actually several different sets jammed into one box, missing its little felt board but that's not a problem)
Science for Fun Experiments (Gibson)–good for early grades
Three Bears (Galdone)–very worn condition, but it was already a favourite
Stuart Little (nice hardcover copy to replace our paperback)
Helga’s Dowry
Bob Books First pack (12 booklets)--Crayons is not sure yet if she likes these silly Mat-sat-on-a-rat books; the plots are a little bit lacking! But they're easy to resell.
Unifix cubes (a whole bagful)
Large snap-together math cubes (ditto)
Base 10 set of blocks and cubes
The Reading Teacher’s Book of Lists (1984 edition, but in nice shape)
Set of laminated times table cards
Small cardboard alphabet cards
Some Scholastic books from the 1970's (riddle books and a book about Marco Polo)
Laminated world map


coffeemamma said...

Dollar stores are a gold-mine, too. Just this past weekend I picked up some lower-case alphabet stickers, wooden letters (the actual shapes, not just letters printed on wood!), a huge bag of rounded glass bits for sorting, etc., counting sticks (little bundles of differently coloured sticks for grouping), Tutti Frutti modeling dough, finger paints and painting paper. For about $10, Baby is set for kindergarten ;-)

Mama Squirrel said...

I love our dollar store too...besides the school stuff, I keep seeing all this neat kitchen stuff for a dollar. I got a cheap version one of those whisk-tongs-lifter contraptions that you see on late-night TV ads (kind of a grown-up version of Transformer toys)--it doesn't work that well except as a whisk, but for a dollar I don't mind.

I'm also hooked on a couple of their organization things: the everything-for-a-dollar store we go to (it's right beside our grocery store, so we can check it out almost every week) sells black plastic magazine holders (which I learned you can also use on their sides), and also file-sized cardboard boxes that go into a sleeve (you fold them into shape and they're about the size of a large book)--I've bought at least one of these for each squirreling's old school papers, and a couple for myself.

Mama Squirrel said...

"On their sides" meaning horizontal rather than vertical, not as in knocked over.

coffeemamma said...

LOL! I had visions of children crashing into book shelves and knocking everything down ;-)

I have to be careful in the kitchen department, too- our drawers are overflowing already.

Another thing we often find are nice hardback sketch books, those big plastic envelopes for storing papers (great for the kids' artwork), small Lego sets for cranky days, and Hot Wheels cars. Sometimes it's all junk, other times, I can easily put down $50!

Gracie *loves* going treasure-hunting there with me, so it's something we do just the two of us. Trying to avoid "monkey-in-the-middle" syndrome, and all that...

Ellen said...

Any tips on how to find a teacher's yard sale? =) I have some great learning resources I've gotten from yard sales. We've also gotten a ton of wonderful classic children's books this way.

Mama Squirrel said...

Hi Ellen,

No, no special tips--the ads themselves often say "retiring teacher's sale" or something like that.

Thanks for stopping by!