The longer we homeschool, the less I truly need to buy new each year. After 6 years of homeschooling, we have our curriculum staples on hand, our supply staples in bulk, and the basic organizational tools we use.
A new-to-homeschooling friend saw my 51 best supplies list (which I 100% stand by) and asked, “Okay, but if I can’t afford to go order all of those supplies, what would your top 10 be?”
This was so hard to decide!! As a firstborn girl & former teacher, I’ve always been a sucker for school supplies.
BUT – I have done the hard work.
It was touch and go there for a minute, but I was finally able to tell my friend what my top 1̶0̶ 11 homeschool essentials are.
I tried to do 10 but I forgot the printer and couldn’t make myself cut anything else. So, top 11 it is!!
REMEMBER – the most important part of your homeschool is a happy, peace filled mama. Take care of yourself, pray daily, seek God’s direction for your students. You’re the best person to teach your children. I’m not saying this as trite encouragement. I mean it from the bottom of my heart.
From one homeschool mom to another…. here we go:
1. Personal Sized Double Sided White Boards & Dry Erase Markers
Is that cheating to put dry erase markers in with a white board? You can’t use one without the other, so…. I’m going to allow it. We use these personal sized white boards for school time all the time! They might be the most use of all our homeschool supplies.
Look at that cutie pie practicing his phonological awareness. Haha!! We often practice on white boards and then put phonograms and words in notebooks as the kids get older. (My older kids use white boards for various things as well!)
We use spiral notebooks quite a bit more than worksheets these days. Copywork, creating personalized spelling notebooks, and directed writing practice are way more effective and efficient than worksheets for the budding writer. And I’ve finally found a couple good notebooks I really like!
For my 5-6 year olds, I love these spiral composition notebooks. (Above right picture.)
I’ve tried many other options over the years, and these are a relatively new discovery for me. I love them!!!! (and my 6 year old boy finds them easy to write neatly in.)
Around age 7-9, I try to teach my kids how to use 2 spaces in a regular lined spiral notebook to guide printing and cursive. Some kids have more trouble with this than others.
The composition notebooks also come in a 1/2 inch size which is slightly smaller for older kids. So if a particular child has trouble writing on regular lines, then I just keep going on composition notebooks.
My 3rd-4th grade kiddos made their own spelling notebooks last year with these really cute notebooks I found at TJ Maxx. They’ve been IDEAL and I’m doing it again this year with a fresh notebook. The kids do all their spelling lists, sentences, practice, and lessons in these notebooks. They’ve held up great & they’re so fun and cheerful.
3. Ticonderoga No. 2 Pencils & Quality Erasers
Ticonderoga pencils are the best of the best. I don’t know why… they just are. The erasers get worn out quickly, so we use these big white erasers. They last a long time.
I usually buy the plain yellow ones but Ticonderoga has a lot of fun options if you want to get wild and crazy.
4. Good Electric Pencil Sharpener
Obviously if you’re going to use non-mechanical pencils, you need a good electric sharpener. I snagged my wood-paneling pencil sharpener at a garage sale 11 years ago. I know you’re jealous you can’t have as beautiful a pencil sharpener as we have, but I did find you this 4.5 star option on Amazon.
Sharpening pencils is a good job for a little one who needs to stay busy while you work with older kiddos.
5. Basket or Tote for Each Child
We used to have these narrow baskets – 1 per child where they would usually sit to do bookwork. This year, we have 4 school-aged kids and I knew they’d be spreading out around the house a lot more. So I got these heavy duty totes last year. I LOVE them.
They’ve held up amazingly and we’ll be reusing them next year. I don’t keep any of my teacher’s manuals for the kids in their tote… it only holds their individual school materials. I put all my manuals on a separate shelf.
They’re the perfect size! Each child has one. If you store the books horizontally, they’re super easy to carry and there is plenty of room for all of our books. Plus the kids can toss in any other items we’re using at any given time… like flashcards, a manipulative clock, protractor set, whatever.
A friend of mine uses magazine files – each kid has a couple different containers for different subjects.
Another friend uses a 3 tiered cart… each of her 3 kids gets a shelf.
I know people with high school students or people who have to keep stricter portfolios (depending on where in the United States you live) will use a file box for each child to store their work.
At the end of the day, I recommend picking a very simple system for where to keep lesson content for your kids’ current work. The simpler to put away at the end of the day, the better!! It has to be workable for your own everyday life. Be willing to experiment until you find something that works!!
6. Bookshelf or Storage Spot
Maybe this isn’t really a school supply? But I do think you need somewhere to put books if you’re going to start homeschooling. Whether you have an entire homeschool room or convert a dining room or just homeschool at your kitchen table, you’ll want somewhere to toss all the books that will accumulate. Plus, you’ll want somewhere to put stuff at the end of the homeschool day. (Especially if you don’t have a dedicated homeschool classroom you can shut the door on.
If you live in a smaller space, you could get creative with simple DIY shelves in a closet or mudroom. A hutch in a living room works great too.
If you have wide hallways, you could build in some shallow-depth shelves in one spot, or do front facing shelves floor to ceiling.
These Billy bookcases from Ikea (below) can’t be beat in terms of value & durability. We have 2 wide ones in our school room and they hold a TON of books. A friend of mine has a bunch of narrow ones in a basement nook.
Find somewhere to throw some shelves because if you homeschool for any length of time, the books will come.
If I want to group books together for a holiday, season, reading level, etc., I use these bins from ClearSpace on Amazon. They’re inexpensive, cute, and durable.
In the early years, a separate kids’ computer isn’t a must. But, the homeschooling parents will get a lot of use out of a good computer.
In fact, my first two kids hardly ever used a computer until age 8-9.
Around when our oldest was in 3rd grade, my husband (a programmer) had an extra Macbook to hand down, and I figured my 9 year old would enjoy learning to type. So, we designated it the kid computer and installed a high quality filter on the internet (they weren’t allowed to go on the internet at the time, anyway).
I bought 5 year access to Typesy, a non-web based program that you download and use on the computer. Each kid has an account login and moves sequentially through the program. It was a bit of a hassle to set up but I loved that there weren’t any ads, and that it was a one time price for all 4 kids.
My rule for the kids was – once you know how to read, you can learn to type. Non reading kids don’t get to do typing lessons. It’s a big milestone in our house 😉
Any particular child’s interest in typing lessons fluctuates, but for my 9-10 year olds, I put 10-15 minutes of Typesy lessons on their independent work lists 2x a week for at least half the calendar year. Then they have the option to do 10 minutes of typing games in the program after the lesson.
By age 10, our oldest was typing pretty darn well.
Besides Typesy, we now use the computer for a few other things…
- IEW online independent writing course. (I help my kiddo get started with it, check in, and edit regularly.)
- Beast Academy Math online – each kid has a subscription. This is new to us and all the kids LOVE it.
- We use Youtube for drawing & craft tutorials too.
I like the portability of the laptop, and I like having a Mac because it’s what I know. Plus, it’s easy to use, easy to put the filter on, durable, and long lasting. It’s already 9 years old and works great!
Most of our schoolwork is not done on the computer, but it’s nice to have the option for various seasons of life & learning.
This is definitely a one of the bigger ticket items on this list, but I’d recommend saving for a good computer. You can find a secondhand Macbook Pro on Facebook Marketplace for a discount and they hold up great.
Okay. You probably don’t NEED a printer your very first year of homeschooling. But over time, I’ve found that I print so much. It’s worth it to have a high quality laser printer. We’ve had HP (do NOT recommend) and now have a Brother printer we love. We went with this all-in-one since my husband runs a business from home and I homeschool. It gets used a lot!!
Personally, I’d recommend saving up for a laser printer. They’re more expensive, but they’re FAST and the toner lasts longer than ink.
I will caveat that and say – all other homeschoolers rave about this Epson Eco Tank printer. I bought a discounted Epson from Target and it didn’t work. I must have bought the wrong model because every single other homeschooling parent I know that has one LOVES it. Supposedly the ink lasts a long time.
I mostly don’t have super high quality print needs (ink has better quality than toner), so a speedy toner-based laser printer suits me well.
9. Basic Art Supplies
I’m lumping all these together… is that cheating again!? Haha I guess it’s very hard for me to get under 11 supplies.
Our most used art supplies are printer paper, sketch books, markers, colored pencils, watercolor paints, tempera paint, oil pastels, glue sticks, scissors and tape.
Also – our kids go in and out of different craft phases. Currently, they’re into crochet (lots of yarn & hooks), sewing (fabric, felt, stuffing, thread, needles), and rainbow looms… (Lord help us all with those tiny rubberbands.) These types of crafts make great gifts or spending money purchases.
You definitely don’t need a ton of art supplies, but I recommend having the basics on hand and giving your kids time and space to use them.
This is a cute art book to inspire your kiddos! We have this one and my kids use it all the time. All my
10. Library Card
Not technically a school supply, but the library can be an amazing resource. Besides checking out books, at our library we…
- Request new books for purchase (we get 5 requests per card per month)
- Check out audiobook CDs & mp3 devices
- Use the Libby library app for audiobooks on my phone
- Check out magazines
- Hang out and play the games/ puzzles they have on freezing cold afternoons in January
- Attend fun programs like book-themed escape rooms
- Get free books from the summer reading program
- Borrow passes to the fun places in town that are fun to go to once a year, but I don’t want to pay for a membership.
And probably even more!
Never have I ever had a good system for managing library books.
I also used to have a rolling crate from Aldi. It broke, but I’ve considered replacing it because it was seriously the best thing ever. Nothing screams homeschoolers like using a rolling crate at the library.
Our library books end up all over our house. On library day, I say, “You have 15 minutes to find as many library books as possible.” They all get piled on the kitchen table and loaded back up into backpacks to return.
I try to keep an eye on the “this item is overdue” emails I get and find those things ASAP.
Our library doesn’t have a very serious fine system… If we lose something kids can “read off their fines” by keeping track of minutes on a little chart.
And every so often I just owe the library $10-30. I’ve accepted it.
It’s by no means a perfect system, but at this point in my life, it’s just not something I can lose sleep over.
Get a good globe. I bought one with a clear stand years ago because I liked the way it looked, but the fact that ocean-bordering countries are also blue drives me nuts.
I have my eye on this black one with next school year’s school budget.
We look up every place we read about on the globe. We have ancient map books and connect the ancient map to the modern day geopolitical location. The kids have memorized continents, oceans, states, countries etc. and then we practice finding those on the actual globe.
We’ve used the globe for science lessons about the tilt of the axis, revolution & rotation around the sun seasons, day and night.
Using a magnifying glass with the globe helps kids find cities and states.
The globe is just so different than a flat world map, and it’s the actual representation of our round earth. Highly recommend a good globe!
What to Buy in a New School Year
Honestly, we don’t buy that many supplies at the beginning of each school year anymore…
I usually let the kids pick a few notebooks each and freshen up the art supply stash. I usually snag some new stickers and a practical back to school gift for each kid too. (i.e. fun book, new water bottle or water bottle stickers, etc.)
Once you have your basic list of the supplies you use all the time, the back-to-school shopping at the beginning of the school year becomes really simple.
As with everything related to homeschooling, supply needs and wants vary greatly among homeschool families. It really just depends on your preferences!!
Start small, get the basics, and figure out what you need over time. And stick to your budget!! You can always buy more later.
Thats it! Those are my top 11. If you want to know the other things we’ve collected over the years (and actually use), check out this 51 Best School Supplies post. I tried to note in there some things we DON’T USE as well.
Also, I have started compiling a list of alllll the homeschool things here. Curriculum, book recs, random resources & recommendations, etc.