New homeschoolers often find themselves questioning whether they need to buy some of the more expensive educational equipment such as printers, spiral binders and laminators. While having a top-loading printer (so that you can print pages from books) is “almost essential”, a laminator is not.
Laminators help to stiffen, protecting and creating a wipeable surface for charts, flashcards, maps, games, manipulatives and mini office folders. Whiteboard markers are a fabulous way to reuse pages as children can wipe out practice sheets.
Some practical tips —
- Use cardstock behind the page to back and strengthen paper pages.
- Make sure that the edges all around the page are sealed.
- Leave a tiny plastic edge all around the laminated paper when cutting the page out.
- Tape or cover the front and the back of your pages.
- Wipe off whiteboard markers as soon as the activity is finished.
Here are some alternatives to use instead of laminating your pages —
- Use plastic page protective sleeves. These are easy to find, cheap and very practical because they already have punched holes to file your pages. Tape the opening closed or fold over and tape any excess if you want to prevent pages from shifting. Check for the quality of these protective sleeves and rather buy the thicker, sturdier ones.
- Use display files that have the plastic page pockets. Again, tape the pocket or the page to prevent any shifting.
- Cover smaller items with clear packaging tape. This is excellent for flash cards or for charts that you want to protect, but that your child will not necessarily write on. Be aware that the tape joins or edges may create a slight ridge. To avoid bubbles, start to tape on the surface beyond the page, extend the tape over the page and lower carefully.
- Clear contact paper is a wonderful laminator. You can buy it in rolls at most stationary suppliers. Align the edge, peel the backing paper and wipe the sticky plastic sheet smoothly over the page, avoiding and easing out any air bubbles.
- Spray a waterproof coating on your pages. Read about how to do this at ehow.com. I have not used this, but they suggest clear polyurethane coating, clear acrylic spray paint and lacquer spray sealers available at home improvement centers, department stores and craft shops.
- Use an iron instead of a laminator to seal laminator thermal pouches. Watch this quick little video.
- Ziploc bags are an excellent alternative. Cut the bag to fit the page and seal the edges with clear packaging tape.
- Travel tags, bookmark sleeves, write & wipe sleeves and other store-bought items are more expensive, but very durable and professional.
- You can read about other alternatives that you may need to source online or at speciality stationary shops at adapting for autism.com’s Stop laminating everything in your classroom.
But I would still recommend purchasing a laminator if you can afford it. It really does provide an exceptional, durable sealed surface and tough exterior for those pages or charts. We have used our laminated handwriting charts and mini offices for all our homeschooling years and they are still in excellent condition.
Here’s to using what you have, starting right now and making the most of your homeschool pages!