So you are brand new to schooling at home and wondering what all of these homeschool parents buy to make learning easier. Do they buy the same stuff that you send off to public school? The answer depends largely on what type of schooling your children will do at home.
For a full homeschool curriculum, you will need everything from student supplies, to teaching aids and textbooks. For an online school where the instruction and materials are provided by a school organization, you will need considerably fewer teaching aids.
Computer with Internet Access
Even if you are not attending an online school, it can be hard to get away from using a computer or the internet for at least some course work. If your home is not already equipped, each student needs access to a computer with reliable internet access.
While some learning activities can be done on a smartphone or tablet, there is really no substitute for a computer. Desktop or laptop is probably a matter of personal preference as long as the computer can run the software applications needed to participate in coursework.
Think about where you will do school. If you are using the kitchen table, you may want to buy cushions for the chairs. Do you need desks and task chairs? Consider a dedicated bookshelf to store textbooks and class materials. Or additional lighting like a desk lamp.
You will want to create a workspace that is comfortable and free from distractions so that your children can engage in learning. As much as possible, this should be a separate space from other common household activities.
The first thing that probably comes to mind is traditional school supplies like crayons, scissors, and glue. Make no mistake, you will need plenty of these items. The specifics vary by grade level, but here are some ideas:
Pencils. Buy good quality wood pencils that won’t clog up your pencil sharpener.
Notebook Paper. A healthy supply of lined notebook paper will be needed for writing assignments, critical-thinking questions, and math problems. Whether you opt for loose-leaf pages and three-ring binders or neat, spiral notebooks is a matter of personal taste.
Composition Notebooks. Great for journaling or science lab books.
Scissors. Buy at least two pairs of age-appropriate scissors. The best price to be found on these is during back-to-school sales so it doesn’t hurt to have an extra pair in case one gets lost.
Glue Sticks. Preschoolers and kindergartners will go through a lot of glue sticks. Every craft seems to require sticking pieces of colored paper onto another shape and glue sticks are the least messy way to achieve this.
White Glue. For elementary-aged students, craft projects are still plentiful and improved dexterity allows them to use white glue with a little more accuracy.
Crayons. For preschool through early elementary, crayons are a good tool for coloring pictures. As kids get older, they can progress to markers and colored pencils.
Colored Pencils. For older elementary through high-school students, colored pencils are a great tool for precise drawings and colorings. These are great for art projects, lab books, and creative assignments.
Markers. Completely optional and dependent on your personal preference, markers can be a step-up from coloring with crayons for older elementary and middle school students.
Headphones or Earbuds. Invest in a comfortable pair to listen to online lectures and videos.
Calendar or Planner. Keeping track of assignments is still the student's responsibility. While some schools provide an agenda to help teach students organization, you will need to provide this for yourself at home.
Folders. Choose a method for organizing loose-leaf papers and worksheets. Folders work well, in conjunction with color-coding for each subject.
Pencil Box. Buy simple organizational pieces to keep pens, pencils, and colored pencils together for a neat and tidy workspace.
Electric Pencil Sharpener. This one may not be as obvious as the student supplies that you are accustomed to purchasing. A pencil sharpener is typically something that the teacher provides for the classroom. If you do not own one, it is a worthy investment for your schooling at home journey.
Laminator and Pouches. At schools, teachers have access to laminating supplies for a variety of classroom materials. These can be used to make easy, dry-erase worksheets that are reusable.
Copy Paper. Speaking of printing worksheets, you will go through plenty of printer paper while schooling at home.
Stapler and Staples. Another tool that you may not have at home and that is usually provided by the teacher is a stapler for attaching worksheets.
Dry Erase Boards. Maybe you want a large whiteboard for teaching or just a few individual whiteboards for students.
Dry Erase Markers. For students to complete laminated worksheets.
If your child is attending an online public or private school, curriculum materials should be provided. For more traditional home school routes, curriculum materials become an additional expense. Luckily there is a wealth of resources for free or recycled curriculum materials available in local home-school groups and on the internet.
Textbooks. Online learning is fun and all, but there is no substitute for a well-organized textbook as a learning tool. Consider including traditional textbooks in your learning curriculum. Too much online learning can hurt engagement.
Workbooks/Worksheets. Will you buy bound workbooks or print loose-leaf worksheets? Choose a method and a way to stay organized.
Video Lessons. Youtube has a wealth of video lessons in all subjects. As the new homeschooling teacher or educational monitor, you will need to break up the schedule so that you are not teaching every subject. Video lessons can either be stuffy and boring and interesting and engaging. Video lessons are worth selectively including in any curriculum.
In addition to the primary computer with internet access, you may need access to some additional tech items to complete coursework.
Printer. Being able to print worksheets on demand is pretty handy when schooling at home. Although you can do them digitally on a tablet, there is no substitute for putting pencil to paper.
Tablets or Chromebooks. Whatever your choice is for student use, it is hard to avoid using technology to make learning easier. There are no computer labs or libraries to check out tablets at home so you will need to provide something if your child does not already own a device they can use.
Whether you are playing the role of teacher or educational support, this one applies to you. You may have seen some of these things on your public school supply lists which are provided for the teacher to use in the classroom. Others, you may not have thought of because, well, the teacher was buying those from his or her budget.
Sharpie Markers. These are available in every color of the rainbow and there is no better tool for labeling.
Highlighters. A stash of highlighters can help mark teacher guides or grading student work.
Calendar or Lesson Planner. As the one in charge, you will need to keep track of all learning activities for everyone. Organization has become more important than ever. Invest in a good planner or take the time to set up a good digital template.
Wall File. Get organized with activities for each day using a wall file with lables. Label each file with a student name or subject and store prepped lesson materials here for easy retrieval during study time.
One of the tricks of schooling at home is that you not only have to supply materials for regular school work but also extra-curricular like art and music. If you have ever shopped the aisles of your local arts and crafts store, you might have noticed that art supplies can add up quickly.
The good news is that your student does not need the top-of-the-line, professional-quality art supplies. A decent set of pencils and a drawing pad will meet their needs.
The supplies that you will need vary by age group, but here are some recommendations:
Colored Construction Paper. Necessary for elementary-aged children. Less common for older kids.
Scissors. You may have already purchased these under general supplies, but if not, art projects typically require access to a pair of scissors.
White Glue. Elmer’s glue is a common supply for elementary students.
Acrylic Paint. There is no need to buy every color of the rainbow, primary colors can be mixed to create any desired shade. Pick up red, blue, yellow, white, and black.
Paint Brushes. A budget-friendly set of beginner artist paintbrushes will be sufficient for homeschool art lessons.
Drawing Pencils. A set of standard graphite pencils in varying hardness is best for artistic drawings.
White Eraser. A good quality, soft, white eraser is best for clean corrections on drawings.
Colored Pencils. For students who take an interest in drawing, high-quality colored pencils provide a step-up from the Crayola basics for artwork. Colored pencils are an optional supply, best suited for older students who show a genuine interest in drawing.
Drawing Pad. Buy each student their own sketchbooks for drawing lessons throughout the school year.
Watercolors. Tubes or trays are both good options, with the brand being more important. For younger students, Crayola watercolors are probably sufficient. For older students, opt for Prismacolor for richer colors.
Watercolor Paper. One pack of this should be good for everyone to share.
Oil Pastels. One box of these will be good for everyone for the year. Oil pastels are a fun and forgivable medium for students of all ages.
Canvas Boards. You can get these inexpensively at Dollar Tree or Dollar General stores and they are great for inspiring your young artist to create more authentic art pieces.
Painters Tape. Great for taping drawing or watercolor paper down to the table or for creating negative spaces in artwork.
This new schooling at home adventure that we are all embracing in the face of nationwide school closures presents a unique set of challenges. One of the realizations that might come out of it, is how much it costs to provide an education.
Every August, families of school-aged children lament the costs of sending their kids back to school. While it is possible to school at home on any budget, the cost of providing everything from basic supplies to technology and art takes a decent chunk of change.
Some families will be glad to see schools reopen and others will warmly embrace their newfound appreciation for schooling at home on a more permanent basis.