"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men." ~Luke 2:14
2013 Homeschool Gift Guide
Every year I hand-pick an assortment of homeschool-friendly products that would make great Christmas gifts. These include items that we have at home and I recommend, things that I’ve seen elsewhere and liked, and some of them are even on my own wish list. ;) See also the previous years’ recommendations:
NOTE: Amazon links are included for quick and easy ordering. If you find something that you like, please purchase directly through my links so I can earn a small commission for my efforts. Thanks!
Every child should have a Jack-in-the-Box, and this one is a classic. I can't believe they still make the jumping jester - it's exactly the same as the one that we bought over 20 years ago! The kids (teens now) still take it off the shelf once in a while and play "Pop Goes the Weasel." Just so you know, it's more of a decorative heirloom item than a child's plaything. It's a bit tricky to push the clown back in, the metal tin can be dented, and the paint can be scratched. But wind it up and let it "pop," and your baby will be thrilled!
Even though this is called a tumbling mat, it can be used as a baby play mat. It's great if you have hard wood floors with no carpeting. It's soft but easily wiped clean, and the bright primary colors are perfect for baby's room. Later on it can be used as a sleeping mat, tumbling mat, and exercise mat. This mat is a lot easier to keep clean than a play rug, and it's a lot thicker than the interlocking foam floor tiles; plus I like the multipurpose aspect. The mat is foldable and portable, and even has handles for easy carrying if you want to take it to Gramma's house. According to the manufacturer it's non-toxic, Phthalate-free, and Greenguard-certified (conforming to low chemical emissions for improved indoor air quality). The mat is vinyl, which means it can get wrinkled and torn, but since these mats are marketed to preschools and daycare centers I'm sure it will hold up fine at home.
I love the simple, old-fashioned, sturdy wooden construction of this rocking horse. Pair it with a cowboy hat and bandana for your favorite little cowboy or cowgirl! This is another classic toy that we've had for 20 years. It lasted through all three of my boys, and they loved riding it. Ever since they grew too big for it, we still get the "horsie" out every year at Christmas time and decorate it with a santa hat, red socks, and a jingle bell harness - and Teddy Bear gets to sit on its back and go for a ride!
This is a great first LEGO set for toddlers. The DUPLO blocks are large-sized for small hands, but they still resemble the bricks that their older brothers have. (They are compatible with LEGOS, too, so they will still be useable when the kids get older.) This set comes with more blocks than other DUPLO sets, which is good because you can never have enough blocks!
This is an updated version of the Learning Resources cash register that we have. The newer one has a built-in scanner, scale, and coin slot. It also rewards transactions with lights, sounds and voice messages. But what I really like is that it holds actual-size money. It comes with coins and bills, and even includes a coupon and credit card! Students can practice coin identification, addition, subtraction, and place value as they play four featured games that increase in difficulty as players advance. It's also great for imaginative play and learning basic calculator skills.
Tired of your cheap plastic play food getting squashed and the cardboard boxes getting crushed? Check out this set of SOLID WOOD pantry products! Get this to go with the cash register above, and stock your play store. Melissa & Doug are known for their quality, educational toys.
This prequel to Monsters, Inc. is a hilarious and heartwarming story of how two mismatched monsters met and became lifelong friends. The Collector's Edition includes hours of exclusive bonus extras, including an inside look at the world of monsters and the animated theatrical short film "The Blue Umbrella." Get the original Monsters, Inc., too, if you don't already have it.
This buildable LEGO memory game for 2-4 players is a must-have for Hobbit fans! The game is all about finding the missing Dwarves who have gotten lost in Hobbiton, using hints left by micro- figures Gandalf the Grey and some Hobbits to help you search. The game is configurable as well, with different variations spelled out in the instruction book.
Make a burglar alarm to protect your things. Construct a loudspeaker for your music. Assemble a reading lamp and a flashlight. Construct a plant watering monitor to tell if a plant needs watering. Create and send Morse code messages from your own unit. Become an electrical engineer and build eight awesome gadgets that really work! For ages 10-15, imported from Czech Republic.
Build your very own miniature version of the iconic DeLorean time machine from the Back to the Future movies! Selected by LEGO® CUUSOO members, this amazing model features lots of cool details like opening gull-wing doors, fold-up wheels, flux capacitor, time travel display, and two license plates. Extra engines and wheels are included so you can recreate the different variants of the time-traveling car. This unique set comes with two minifigures: Doc Brown and Marty McFly, along with Marty's skateboard. Also included are building instructions and a fascinating booklet containing production notes, original images, and fun details from the movies. The car measures over 2" high, 5" long and 3" wide. Pair this special LEGO set with a DVD or BluRay for your favorite Back to the Future fan!
Hit the big time and own the world's top brands with the Monopoly Empire game! This is a scaled-down version of Monopoly, for when you lack the time or attention span to have a marathon Monopoly session, but you just want to play a quick game. The uniquely branded tokens consist of an XBox controller, McDonald's fries, a sports car, Coca Cola bottle, Paramount Studios clapperboard, and a motorcycle. Choose a token, move around the board, and start building your empire. Buy your favorite brands one by one, and slide their billboards onto your Monopoly Empire tower. Be the first player to fill your tower with billboards to win. You'll need to make some smart moves to take down the competition and be the first to reach the top, but it's more of a social game than a strategy game. We love this game because it only takes about 15 minutes to play, but you can play it over and over again as many times as you want.
Remember when you were a little kid it and was a challenge to build a straight tower? Well, now you can purposely build one that's crooked! LEGO Architecture inspires architects, builders, designers and architecture enthusiasts everywhere by using LEGO bricks to interpret famous structures. Collect all of the models in the LEGO Landmark and Architecture series! Other sets include the White House, Big Ben, Seattle Space Needle, Empire State Building, Sydney Opera House, Brandenburg Gate, Burj Khalifa Dubai, Rockefeller Center, and more. Each set includes a booklet that provides design and historical details.
Yamaha probably makes the best student guitars in the cheapest price range, and these guitars last long as well. For an inexpensive beginner’s guitar it's really hard to find something more reliable. A classical guitar is recommended for beginners because the fingerboard is a lot wider, and its body is slightly smaller, than the steel-stringed guitar, and classical guitar strings are made of nylon, so they're softer and easier on the fingers. The classical guitar's sound is much mellower, which is good if you want to play classical or folk music. This complete acoustic guitar package for beginners includes a full-sized guitar, digital tuner, padded gig bag, and DVD.
Learning for Life: Educational Words of Wisdom is a unique gift for homeschool moms. It contains nearly 3,000 quotations by more than 1,000 people on teaching, learning, and the pursuit of knowledge. This treasury of classic and contemporary rhetorical gems will inspire and encourage you in your day-to-day teaching.
Does Dad enjoy reading? An e-reader might be the perfect gift. Some dads may be reluctant to put down their paper books and pick up an e-reader but once they give it a try they’ll be hooked. Millions of titles in the public domain, such as the Bible or Pride and Prejudice, are available for free – and the e-book editions of books are usually cheaper than the paper copy, which means Dad's book money goes further. “Whispersync” technology marks the last page location, so he can pick up exactly where he left off reading without the hassle of bookmarks. Kindle's Smart Lookup feature integrates entries from The New Oxford American Dictionary with information from X-Ray and Wikipedia so he can access definitions, characters, settings, and more without leaving the page. “Time to Read” is another great feature for busy dads, which helps him to know how long it will take to finish a chapter or book. He can adjust the screen's brightness to create a perfect reading experience in all lighting conditions, from bright sunlight to bedtime reading that illuminates the screen, not the entire room. Dad can even customize the text size to suit his tastes and reading comfort. Kindle Paperwhite also connects easily to your home Wi-Fi network or Wi-Fi hotspots on the road for quick, convenient access to books and content anywhere you can access Wi-Fi. Dad can finally do away with his collection of musty old paperbacks!
Is anyone in your family a Duck Dynasty fan? Test your Robertson family knowledge with the Redneck Wisdom Family Party Game! Answer hilarious trivia questions based on Duck Dynasty TV show, and guess the missing words in ridiculously funny quotes by Willie, Phil, Uncle Si, Jase and the rest of the crew. Trick other players with your believable answers and spot the genuine quotes from among the decoys to score. Includes more than 500 questions and quotes to keep you guessing. For 2-12 players, ages 10 and up.
The Kindle Fire is the first major tablet to allow different people to have their own accounts on the same device, which makes it perfect for families. Parents can create a profile for each of their children and choose what books, apps, games and videos they want to give their kids access to. With Kindle FreeTime, parents can also set daily limits for Kindle Fire use, or restrict certain categories - like games and video - while leaving unlimited time for reading.
The Kindle Fire is a strong competitor to Apple's iPad tablet, at a much more reasonable price. Amazon's business strategy is to make money on the selling of digital content, rather than on the device itself. For example, a subscription to Amazon Prime includes unlimited streaming of movies and TV shows. College students can enjoy Amazon Prime benefits at half the cost, just $39 per year. This will give them full access to Prime Instant Video and Kindle Owners' Lending Library. They can also save on textbooks by renting books through Kindle Textbook Rental.
Kindle Fire gives you instant access to the most popular free and best-selling apps including Netflix, HBO GO, Facebook, Hulu Plus, Magic Piano, Pinterest, Pulse, Pandora, The Weather Channel, and Zillow. In addition to the Amazon Appstore, the Kindle Fire includes access to Amazon's MP3 music store, Kindle e-books, and audiobooks by Audible. With Immersion Reading, the Kindle Fire can synchronize e-text with companion Audible audiobooks to create a more immersive reading experience, as well as deepen learning and comprehension.
Kindle Fire uses the power of IMDb to bring Amazon's exclusive X-Ray service to movies. Simply tap on any scene to instantly see which actors are currently on screen, jump straight to other movies in which they star, and more. For books, tap on any page you’re reading to find background info, biographies, and more from Shelfari and Wikipedia. Kindle's Whispersync technology automatically syncs your last page read, your last level played in a game, and the last movie scene you watched, so you can easily get back to the spot where you left off.