9 Awesome Alternatives to Using a Whiteboard
Are you and your kids bored of the ol' whiteboard?
Yes, they are useful. Yes, every homeschool base of operations should probably have one (preferably one that's magnetic, but I'll save that rant for another post)...but darn they sure get boring after a while! As those of you who have worked with me before know, I'm constantly preaching about keeping the homeschooling experience fresh and exciting. So, while whiteboards are useful and needed, they are kind of like school schedules...important to have but also equally important to frequently improvise on.
Here are a few alternatives to the ol' white board to spice things up a bit.
1. An even more old fashioned chalkboard.
Okay, I know this one is pretty obvious, so let's get it out of the way first. They may be super old school, but there are a couple new spins on this old dependable method to spice things up. Try using chalk markers, like these, for a less dusty option that makes writing on a chalkboard neatly (or at least legibly) as easy as using markers on a whiteboard.
2. The Wall, Door, or Tabletop
No, I'm not crazy (though I do get asked more often than can possibly be normal). When I first suggested this to one mother I worked with, she immediately thought I meant letting the kids at the walls with crayons. But while I do think that could be an interesting way to decorate a wall section for the very brave (or those who have no idea how hard it is to scrub all that wax off the drywall)...what I'm suggesting is a bit less extreme.
Everyone by now will have seen the chalkboard paint fad going on these days. Why not paint a section of wall with chalkboard paint in your homeschool base? It's a DIY approach that it cheaper than buying a large chalkboard to use and since it is simply painted on rather than hung, it doesn't take up the valuable real estate the walls of every good homeschool base always is.
You can find regular chalkboard paint just about anywhere nowadays like this one that comes in both black and green.
Or, you can buy it in spray paint form here
Of course, some people can't paint because they rent, or they might just feel a bit intimidated at the idea of painting a wall or wall section so dark. For those of you in either of those categories, there's also this chalkboard contact paper.
In my last house, I painted the back of my office doors with chalkboard paint and I loved it! An interior door is a great place to paint (or stick on) a chalkboard and it looked great! I actually got a lot of compliments on it from people who visited even when it was wiped clean and just looked like a black-painted door. One word of caution though, if you are using paint or spray paint rather than the contact paper on drywall, a door, or any other surface that isn't perfectly smooth (which, in my experience, is pretty much everything) only use regular chalk! The chalkboard markers will be nearly impossible to completely impossible to wipe off of these surfaces. I repeat: DO NOT USE CHALKBOARD MARKERS ON PAINTED ON CHALKBOARD WALLS OR OTHER SURFACES! Chalkboard paint is awesome and so are chalkboard markers, but the two don't mix well. Don't say I didn't warn you.
3. The Glass Windows or Doors
Dry erase markers work the exact same on glass as they do on whiteboards and still comes right off, so why not let them use that pained window in your homeschool base to neatly separate their math problems? Or how about those big sliding doors that lead to the backyard? Once you realize how much glass you actually have in your house you'll see the nearly endless possibilities for kids to work in just about any room when you or they feel the need to mix it up a bit. Do you have a glass shower door? Use it! (Just make sure it's clear of any soap scum first to avoid colored stuck on soap scum). To make the excitement of doing this even cooler, try using these Chalk Window Markers for projects they'll want to keep up a while. It's the exact same thing all the downtown chic shops in most areas use to decorate their windows for Christmas.
Another option that I personally use all the time because they are as fun for me as for the students I work with (who also LOVE them!) is this specific type of Crayola Crystal Effects Window Markers. The cool thing about these are that they crystallize as you write and everything ends up really, really pretty. It's also neat to watch the crystallization process.
I'm like an eight year old when it comes to these Crystal Effects Window Markers. They are just so much fun! One side note about these, though, is that they work much better in the windows on warm, sunny days and sometimes won't crystallize if it's cold or rainy outside.
4. The Driveway or Sidewalk
It's the biggest continual blank canvas most of us have! USE IT! It's awesome and transforms any assignment into an instantly fun activity. Next time your child is getting frustrated with a lesson, try switching the lesson outside onto the driveway. It's especially great for large diagrams and more tedious tasks like long math problems or sentence diagrams.
To mix things up even more and make more artistic driveway pursuits even more fun, try switching out the regular old chalk for some sparkly glitter chalk like this:
Or even 3-D chalk like this. Every kid I've ever used this with has been amazed with it! I've had 13 & 14 year old students who thought they were too cool for everything and even they were obsessed.
Don't want to kneel down to correct them or get chalk on your pants? Well, they make something for even that small problem now.
I've never used one myself as I just don't mind the chalk getting all over me, so I can't swear as to how well they work, but if you want to try one out you can find them here.
5. Your Television
Technology is the homeschooler's friend and it's making it easier and easier to do everything at home that students might have access to in any traditional school (plus a bunch of other things that students sitting in traditional school classrooms do not).
Turns out that if you have a T.V., an Ipad, and AppleTV you can do more than any Smartboard can anyways. If you are interested in this approach, you can read a really helpful article that explains the whole concept and details much better than I probably can by clicking here.
6. The Bathroom Mirror (or any other mirror)
Like glass windows and doors, mirrors can be used with anything safe for a whiteboard. Most of us have already used them at one point or another to write quick self notes on, etc. but how about for a self diagram? For one lesson in which a student was working to learn basic Mandarin, I had him draw a quick diagram on a full length mirror to label all of his basic body parts (quick note- it's much easier to do this with two people there so that one can draw while the other stands still). For the next month, every time he looked in the mirror he had a personalized visual reminder of his Mandarin vocabulary.
Are you lucky enough to live at or near the beach? Hold your classes there! I'll save the million and one educational benefits of a beach classroom for another post, but just know that a good writing stick on an uncrowded beach (think non-tourist season during work hours) is all you need to work wonders on children who are stuck, stressed out, or need a change up for almost any lesson. Personally, it's my favorite place to teach math for lower all the way up to high school levels.
Not only does the semi-moist sand work great as a writing medium, but there is just something about teaching and learning new skills there that makes it harder to become stressed. It also makes for some wonderful memories for both the teacher and the student. One of my students who learned long division via the beach stick method still regularly brings it up years later as a great memory. For everyone else, try a moist sandbox or even dirt (depending on what type you have where to live).
8. The Side of an Old Barn, Chicken Coop, or Storage Shed
So maybe you don't live close enough to have regular access to the beach. If you live out in the country like I do these days, you likely have at least one of these things. I'm lucky enough to have all three on my small farm and I cover all three of them over in chalk all the time. Why not? It comes right off with a water hose (though on older wood you may need to use the jet spray setting).
For everyone who lives in nether extreme and has a house in the neighborhood, take a look at your back deck or porch. The wooden floor boards there are also options, depending on what type of finish you have coating them.
9. Plastic Sheet Protectors
If you need something smaller or more portable, buy a pack of plastic sheet protectors like the ones here.
You can put worksheets, practice quizzes, or anything inside really and once the student is finished the dry erase marker will wipe right off. Just be sure to buy the fine tipped dry erase markers for this instead of the regular fat ones.