Homeschooling Essentials: Supplies

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A few homeschooling essentials include all the supplies you can possibly imagine, and a few that you might not. It all depends on your child’s learning style, and your teaching style, and what age level your kids are academically absorbing this school year.
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Homeschooling Essentials: Supplies

There are a few things that we use every single day. I have a high schooler, one who is almost a middle schooler, one right in the middle of elementary school, and two who are just coming up into preschool age. I’ve been homeschooling since my oldest was a second grader, so – with the exception of only having done high school for a few months now – I’ve done it all! (Now, there’s an exaggeration!) But, you understand my point. The supplies vary a little for each level, but not terribly much.

A few supplies we use every single day, and which might be obvious. Most of these you can find on the school supplies list available inside the big stores just before the fall school year begins. And yes – I totally use those lists. I mostly use them so that I don’t forget anything, and of course I don’t feel obligated to make sure I get everything on the list, boxes of tissue and baby wipes and such aren’t a school supply in my mind. Here’s my essential supplies list:

  • Pencils. Good ones. I love Ticonderoga, and they aren’t much more expensive than the others. Believe me, you’ll be happy to have a pencil that will continue to sharpen rather than continuously break off, rendering it useful only until the first time it dulls. And do get extra erasers. Trust me.
  • Pencil Sharpener. Many to choose from, and we did just fine with the cheap hand-held ones for a long time. One day I’ll be able to afford a nice electric one, but I’ve based out on several that weren’t any good, so I’m waiting until I can get the good one. Once we were using a TON of pencils all the time (more than two students?), we bought a Wall-Mounted Pencil Sharpener… just like you see in the public schools. This one has lasted us several years now and is still going strong.
  • Pens. Lots of pens. We are forever losing our pens (even though we have two specific places they belong). For this one, I totally buy the cheap ones, as I’ve found that the “good ones” don’t last a lot longer and it’s not saving me any money. I buy in bulk. Black, blue, and red… and a few colored pens for Mom!
  • Coloring utensils, which will look different for every age group and depending on how much art you plan to do. Crayons, colored (map) pencils, markers, even chalk, colored pens, Liquid Chalk Markers, and any other fun items you might think of. You’ll need them when the kids are little for many projects and sheets, and they are easier to handle and more fun on some work pages. Middle grade and high school kids will need to color maps and add color to projects. And there’s always art to consider!
  • Paper, of all sorts, shapes, sizes, and colors. We use much loose leaf paper and spirals (get them for 10 cents during the sales!), but we also use handwriting paper for all levels, plain white computer paper for drawing and fun (and all those printables – get PLENTY), construction paper for art and organization, manilla paper for projects, and plain colored paper for lapbooking.
  • Notebooks (do you call them Binders?) and/or pocket folders. Each of my kids has a 3-ring notebook, with divider tabs for each subject. I used to do individual pocket folders when they were younger, and that set it up well for storage and records keeping, but the older kids need more space than those folders allow. It’s about a place to keep their work.

Really, I fully believe those things are all you really MUST have, the only true essential supplies. There are a few other things that I use regularly that I’d rather not have to do without, and a few things that – while you can totally do without them – sure have made my life much easier!

For instance, you really can do without the internet or even a computer and printer. You can, but if you don’t have to (and if you’re reading this I assume you don’t), having access to the internet and the wealth of freebies and printables out there really will be of benefit to your homeschool. Printables for the younger age group abound, and there are many websites with free or almost free access to help in the learning process, including fun games and more. For the older kids, I’ve found that YouTube is an invaluable teacher (with navigation help and monitoring from parents, of course), and there is a wealth of computer based learning programs as well. In this day and age, computer learning itself is almost an essential, and a computer really is one of the most helpful non-essential supplies I know.

There are always going to be a few subjects that will require supplies. Art is the top one that comes to mind. Paints, finger paints, chalks, charcoal pencils, tracing paper, scissors and glue – all that isn’t absolutely essential, but we use most of those items monthly (and some of them weekly). Most of them I wish we would get to and use more often; I’m terrible about getting around to doing the “elective” courses.

Science is another one that might require some extra supplies. It will depend on what level your children are learning, and what curriculum you use. There are plenty of science experiments and learning that you can do without a full curriculum (especially if you have internet access for ideas), and that use household items as supplies. It’s all in the freedom of how homeschool looks in your family, but be sure and check any list you might have for at least this and any other project-based subject on your list for the year.

A few “Mom supplies” I like to have on hand as well: paper clips, sticky notes, reward tickets or coupons of some sort, stickers and stamps (great rewards for the little kids!), and if you have access to a laminating machine you’ll find many things come easier. (In fact, I might add “page protectors” to the non-essential-but-really-nice list! Reuse schedules and some worksheets, alphabet pages, and more. Don’t forget the dry-erase markers.)

Games. Please do the fun things, moms. Please get fun dice, and counting bears (or beans!), print out board games, and adapt the games you already have so that they are encouraging learning. Please go outside and learn about plants by planting some plants, and draw on the windows to let the sun catch it, and find bugs outside to put in your terrariums. I’m horrible about doing these things, and I see where it is killing my kids’ love of learning. The fun things are a must. Find a way!

A Few Supplies You Don’t Need

Over time, I’ve bought into the fun of several supplies we just didn’t ever use. Your homeschool might look different than mine, but my experience has been that I just don’t use a big chalk board or dry erase board. We did some of this when my oldest was first learning to diagram sentences, and I’ll admit it worked will for his aversion to writing. (I’ll also admit that my second oldest, who also has an aversion to writing, just won’t be diagramming sentences. Not because I don’t think it’s worthwhile, because I DO, but he’s just not going to learn down that path, so I won’t waste my time.)

Big bulletin boards. Really? We did a math calendar wall, and that was fabulous. Other than that, just stick the art directly on the wall or on the refrigerator. You don’t need to decorate your homeschool room, library, kitchen, or living room with your theme of the month. Really, you don’t. Use your supplies budget to buy things for the kids to USE, not things to look at.

A big stack of CD-ROMS or DVD-ROMS. I still have the ones I bought 5 years ago – almost all of them. Get a thumb drive, get a dropbox account, get an external harddrive. DO back up all the files you find online, and do it regularly. (Let’s not bemoan the 4 years worth of files I lost when my computer crashed in 2009.) But don’t feel like you need entire stacks of disks. Unless your kids are learning video production or animation or something that will take TONS of memory, please don’t bother.

Plastic rulers. They break. Enough said. Buy the old fashioned wooden ones with the metal trim. Dollar Tree has them!

Backpacks. Unless you are travel schooling, or plan to do school away from home on a SUPER regular basis, don’t bother. Now and then, my kids beg and plead for backpacks. They like what they see at the store, or whatever. They get used ONE time, maybe, and then they sit in the closet. I have a whole box full of backpacks that have never seen the outside of my home. Don’t bother.

All in All

Your homeschool is YOUR homeschool. Grab some basic supplies, check your curriculum for needed supplies, and then go with the flow. There’s no secret society of magical homeschool supplies. There’s just a bunch of moms, out there finding what works best for their kids. Find what works, and go with it, and don’t guilt yourself into spending money on more supplies than you really need. Keep it simple, keep it effective, and keep it fun. It’s the name of the game!

5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials

Visit my friends who are also participating in this series, and find out what they consider to be the essentials of homeschooling!

Laura @ Day by Day in Our World
Julie @ Nurturing Learning
Lisa @ Farm Fresh Adventures
Lori @ At Home: where life happens
Nicole @ Journey to Excellence
Adriana @ Homeschool Ways
Brandy @ Kingdom Academy Homeschool
Meg @ Adventures with Jude
Sarah @ Delivering Grace


    • dalynnrmc says

      Those look quite interesting! Looks like they have a giveaway on their site, and might even do blogger reviews. :) Too fun. Thanks for the suggestion!

  1. says

    I am a supplies addict. I didn’t blog about them this week because i am afraid I would have waxed on and on and on and on…LOL! I agree about the Ticondoroga and extra erasers!

    I agree about the plastic rulers (broke 3 before I learned my lesson), backpacks, CD’s/DVDs….but I ADORE my wall sized white board! I use it all the time!! We have a classroom set up so it’s so convenient! Especially for our parts of speech lessons and outlining and such.
    Lisa M. @ Farm Fresh recently posted…5 Days of Homeschooling Essentials: Gotta be FlexibleMy Profile

    • says

      I am a supplies addict too! We have switched to mechanical pencils – no more pencil sharpeners! I love my white board too – both the big one and the small ones : ) I use plastic rulers when their small. I just buy those flexible ones. The flexible ones don’t break. They also serve another function as well when willful disobedience happens. I use metal rulers once they are older. We couldn’t do without our backpacks! But we do school in the car, at grandma’s, doing disaster relief and anywhere else life happens. So a good backpack is essential. Okay, I’ll stop now before this turns into a blog post in and of itself : )
      Machelle recently posted…The Process of GrowingMy Profile

      • dalynnrmc says

        I know many homeschoolers who school on-the-go. We just never have, or never had a need to, and the backpacks just sit. I tell you what though, Machelle – we have broken many flexible rulers! I know of many that have been bent so disproportionately that they were no longer usable as rulers. Now that the kids are bigger, it’s not as big of a concern, but since I can find the wooden ones for cheap I just think it’s a better investment. Besides – that way we don’t have to buy one for every student every year. :) Thanks for commenting! Blessings!

    • dalynnrmc says

      Maybe I just never figured out how to effectively use the whiteboards. I’ve just learned to get along without them, and with the fuss they caused when I tried them several years ago, I just never have had the desire to go back. I had pretty dreams about a classroom setting in the early days; now I’m happy to have a comfy couch. LOL

      Know what I almost waxed on and on about? The Three R’s post I made for Day 3. I seriously had over 1200 words, and was almost done with the first subject. I deleted, saved that deletion as a draft, and re-wrote. Thank the good Lord, I’m sure. 😉

      I appreciate your comments! Be blessed!

  2. says

    I love binders, and sticky notes :) We also use dry-erase boards, and we do have backpacks for the days we have to do school in the car. However, my kids use the same backpacks to pack clothes for sleepovers and to go to the beach, so they are multi-use I guess. I do love the dollar store, it’s where I get almost all of our school supplies.
    Brandy recently posted…5 Days of Homeschool Essentials: PlannersMy Profile

    • dalynnrmc says

      We do much dollar store shopping as well. Often, we will visit the “back to school sales” and then spend way too much on supplies, which then last us for 2 or 3 years! I think I’m finally out of single subject spiral notebooks though. :) Thanks for taking the time to comment! God bless!

    • dalynnrmc says

      Isn’t it so interesting? I can’t wait to get around to all the blogs – I haven’t had much time to read others yet. Thank you for taking the time to comment! Blessings!

  3. says


    Ok first two questions:
    1) How do you find so much time to write? I set a goal of once a week. I am struggling to stay on task with that small goal.
    2) Where did this idea come from to write about homeschooling essentials and how did you get others to write about the same thing? Is everyone writing about supplies this week? How does it work?

    Now for my comments : )

    I had a whole list I was going to put here comparing and contrasting it to yours. But really that’s the nice thing about homeschooling, the supply list will be as individualized as the family homeschooling and the curricula they choose. What I think is essential, someone else may think unnecessary and vice-versa.

    I do find this an interesting series though. It has made me think about our homeschooling life.

    • dalynnrmc says

      Time to write is an issue, but the Lord called me to it a couple of years ago when He showed me that I can and SHOULD use the giftings He gave me to contribute to our household income. So, I write often because I run it like a business. Still, I’m sure you read about my time management – I definitely don’t have it all figured out yet! I usually write late at night, after the kids are zonked and mostly watching tv (and the littles are on their way to sleep). Then I just schedule it to post the next morning. 😉 Most of my social media stuff is scheduled also; I’m not in front of the computer nearly as often as it appears. LOL

      The Homeschooling Essentials post hop is being done by The Old Schoolhouse (TOS) Review Crew. I was blessed to be chosen through an application process to be on the Crew this year, and will have the opportunity to receive curricula and homeschooling products to then post about in review style here on the blog. It’s a blessing, but it’s work in exchange for the blessing. Exactly what we need, here! God is good! There are over 200 members on the Crew, and most of my Crew posts will have links to the Crew blog site and the links to other reviews on the same products I receive this year. You can find my review for and it has much of that info and links and such in it. :) As for the Essentials posts specifically, no, not everyone will post about supplies. Everyone gets to do their own take around the “essentials” theme and however they interpret it; everyone participates for at least 3 of the 5 days, and there is a link with everyone who is participating if you’d like me to grab it for you. There’s a Pinterest board for them all, too.

      Glad it’s got you thinking! Makes me feel odd, as you’ve got so much more experience than I do. :) You are so right about it being individualized. That’s why we homeschool in the first place, eh? Thanks for commenting! You are a blessing!

  4. Jaynessa says

    Good Post! I think you really did cover all the true necessities. I don’t have a large dry erase board, but I DO have 5 small dry erase tiles they are about 18 inches square and have been very helpful, I write assignments on them, the kids do math on them and it really is more helpful than a large dry erase board.

    I think the only essential for us that you didn’t cover is a wall map, which we really must have because we use it so often and it’s part of our preschool/kindergarten/1st curriculum! :)

    • dalynnrmc says

      I thought about a wall map but couldn’t decide if it was an essential or a fun thing. We use many atlases, but for a long time we had a shower curtain that was a world map. Now THAT was fun! We haven’t done much of anything needing a big map, and I’ve found that the small ones work just fine. Being limited on space in a major way, I just decided to leave it off the list. 😉 We tried the individual dry erase boards too, but… I dunno, I just don’t see a use for them. Anything that anyone has ever told me that they use them for, we just use paper. LOL Thanks for reading and commenting! Be blessed!

    • says

      We also use small dry erase boards. I love them for demonstrating math problems the most probably. They are also great for young ones to draw on with no guilt about not saving their current work of art…LOL

      Since we have been involved in mission trips and have several missionaries in our family and close friend circle, and at one time a child fighting in Iran and Afghanistan, a large world map is a must in our household also.
      Machelle recently posted…The Process of GrowingMy Profile

      • dalynnrmc says

        HA! I hadn’t thought about not having to save the artwork. 😉 We had a huge dry erase board for a while, and it got ruined. I had three small dry-erase boards for a while; one side was plain white and the other had handwriting lines on it. We used them maybe a half dozen times. Dry erase boards are part of the reason I stopped trying to do anything fun; I just felt so many things were a waste of time and effort. Still searching for the RIGHT “fun,” I suppose.

        I would LOVE a big wall map. I don’t have a wall big enough for a big wall map right now. Still thinking about purchasing another shower curtain, though. :) God bless!