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Great Gifts for Homeschoolers

Toys, Tools, and Experiences They Can Really Use

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Most homeschoolers I know have wish lists a page long. So on gift-giving occasions, don't be shy. If friends and family are looking for suggestions, let them know what things would make your homeschooling experience so much more enjoyable. Here are some items to get you started:

Museum Membership

Museum Natural History
Image: Kathy Ceceri
Most homeschoolers love to get out and about. And many museums are happy to welcome homeschooling families. Whether you're taking part in an educational program or checking out a new exhibit, museums give kids experiences you just can't get at home. Children's museums and science museums are a natural choice, but art museums and history museums often have kid-friendly activities as well. Or try a local nature center, and help kids learn about the living things around them.

Subscription Boxes

Image: Education.com, Inc.
You know how exciting it is to get something your ordered in the mail? Well, subscription boxes are even better -- surprise packages for your kids packed with goodies. The Wonder Box from Education.com features small, ready-to-go science or art projects for kids ages 3 to 6. Robin Elise Weiss, a mom of eight and About.com's Guide to Pregnancy/Childbirth, got one for her four-year-old and found her older children loved it too. She even expanded upon the ideas behind the activities with her own materials. As she describes,"Alka Seltzer in a film canister was a HUGE hit! We spent hours outside with that one."

Magazine Subscriptions

Muse Magazine
Image: Carus Publishing Company
Call me old-fashioned, but at my house we love to read actual paper magazines. They go anywhere, need no batteries, and contain lots of useful information. While the list of magazines still available in print is shrinking, some good ones remain. One multi-interest magazine my kids loved was Muse -- smart, funny and full of interesting information. Make is a fantastic resource for budding inventors, and National Geographic still helps readers understand the world a little better. Or choose a title catering to someone's particular interest, from computer games to knitting. And if print doesn't appeal, you can always get the digital version.

Microscope

Digital Blue QX5 microscope
Image: Kathy Ceceri

One of the best gifts we ever received was a standard, low-tech student microscope. Sturdy and reliable, we used it year-round to study plant cells, microorganisms, and crystalline structures. Although the quality was high, and we could use it to do many of the high school lab projects we found online, it wasn't so delicate or expensive that I was afraid to let my kids touch it.Compare Prices

Later we also got a digital microscope, which connects to a computer via USB cable and lets us record photos and video of tiny creatures and things we find around the house. Ours is made by Digital Blue, but there are many different kinds as well.Compare Prices

Beginning Electronics Kit

littleBits
littleBits Electronics, Inc.

Electronic gadgets are the future, and today it's not hard to build your own. Even kids can begin to learn the ins and outs of circuits and programming with age-appropriate electronics kits. Younger children will love one of the sets from Snap Circuits by Elenco Compare Prices, which connect using a snap-on grid. Or start them on the open-ended littleBits system, which lets you swap out different components in seconds thanks to their magnetic connections.

Older kids can move up to actual computing using inexpensive open-source, credit-card-sized microcontroller kits. SparkFun's Inventor's Kit takes them project by project through circuit-building and programming using an Arduino microcontroller platform and a solder-less breadboard. The truly ambitious can build their own working computer with a Raspberry Pi Starter Kit -- just add keyboard and monitor, and go!

More Educational Toys for Homeschoolers

Looking for more suggestions? Try these...

Disclosure:

Some products mentioned above were provided for review purposes.

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