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!
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