If you have kids who color, you need Lyra colored pencils.
These are the best colored pencils I have found. I have gone through the "just get cheap ones, it won't matter" stage, to "The gurus recommend good pencils so I'd better get Prismacolor" stage to the "I'm not sure colored pencils are all that," stage. That was until I came to these. I have in this picture a mixture of pencils, but they are all Lyra brand, both the "Ferby" types and the "Color Giant" types (the ones with painted sides). My daughter, who loves to color, absolutely loves these pencils. They are fat, they do not wear down quickly, they sharpen beautifully, and they never break inside--you know, that thing that happens when you're happily coloring along with a pencil and suddenly you have half a pencil and most of your lead stuck inside the sharpener? That never happens with these. The color is smooth and intense and blends beautifully. If you are starting out homeschooling with a young child just go ahead and spring for these and save yourself the heartache of spending over and over for inferior colored pencils. Spring for them if you have an older child, too. But wait, there's more...These pencils also have a set specifically designated for skin tones. My daughter is very particular about coloring people the right color. There is a whole box available for just skin tones. You need these. I didn't know there were so many varieties of brown "skin tone." Here are just a few because I have all of ours mixed together. There were 12 shades of skin tone in the pack.
In saying this, I am not suggesting that Prismacolor colored pencils are not good quality--they are. It is hard to find a soft lead that blends nicely and lays down smooth, intense color, and they certainly do. There is also greater variety of colors with Prismacolor, but for general coloring purposes, not to mention blending, these Lyra colors are the best. I would just save my money and purchase the Prismacolor much later.
If you have children who read books, and if you plan to discuss those books with your kiddos, then you need my next favorite thing:
This book has helped me tremendously in learning how to introduce literary analysis to kids. In studying literature with my kids, the thing I don't want to do is kill the love books for my readers. They really don't need to understand everything about literary analysis yet. What they need to know is how to really love and appreciate a book and how to ask questions about it. This book guides parents as they walk with their children through various book selections. The skills gained from these authors' experience leading elementary book club discussions will take students far in their journey of reading.
My only reservation about this book is that in my opinion, they start the kids a little young. Not only would I not do a book club like this until 5th grade or so, I would also not discuss some of the selections they have chosen with children of the age they are describing. It is not a matter of them being unable to do so, but rather a matter of protecting their innocence for as long as possible.
This week we discussed Call of the Wild using the Deconstructing Penguins model of discussion with children aged 10-12. Every single student stayed fully engaged for over an hour as we discussed the beautiful progression of Buck from pampered prince to full-fledged King of the wild things. I have to credit this book with helping me to structure a conversation with the students that kept them so engaged for so long. All of them left feeling a deeper appreciation for the book than they had when they arrived. Mission accomplished.
Stay tuned for more of my "Favorite Things" as I think of them.