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In this article, I’ll make recommendations for what homeschooling supplies you need to get started, even if you’re on a tight budget.
This list includes the items many homeschooling families said they love, plus a few of our personal favorites. After all, I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did, spending a fortune on specialty items or seemingly fun workbooks only to realize what we really needed was more markers, colored pencils and regular pencils with functioning erasers. (Where do the erasers go!?)
You actually don’t need that many supplies to get started homeschooling!
This list is focused on general homeschooling supplies & helpful manipulatives more than curriculum. Many of the supplies below would be good for any age homeschool; some are specific to doing preschool, kindergarten & elementary school at home.
Now, let’s get back-to-school supply shopping…
Where to Buy Homeschool Supplies
I get most supplies at Walmart, Target, Amazon or Rainbow Resource. I purchased some art supplies from Blick online, and a few materials from curriculum specific companies – if that’s the case, they’ll be linked throughout the article.
When to Buy Homeschool Supplies
Basic school supplies are cheapest during back to school time. Everything else doesn’t really matter – just get it when you need it. Less is more.
My list is a comprehensive list of things we’ve accumulated over the years and use often. Don’t stress about having it all at the start… you’ll figure out what you need as go you, and you’ll save a lot of money by not buying stuff you won’t ever use.
Money Saving Tip- Supplies typically get discounted right after Labor Day… but, they are often very picked over. So, I make sure to get the things I really want before the sales, or else they might be gone. You can usually find some leftover notebooks, folders, binders, and specific school-ish organization containers very inexpensively after Labor Day.
How Much Do Homeschool Supplies Cost?
Like houses, cars, and groceries, there is a spectrum of how much you could spend on homeschooling. You could educate your children well for very little money with a free online curriculum, a library card, some pencils, markers & paper.
You could also educate your children well with hundreds of brand new books each year, a plethora of high quality art materials, and the curriculum that comes in a beautiful box with tons of extra fun pieces.
The bottom line is – figure out what you can and want to spend, and then stick to that.
Many homeschoolers find that the cost to get started is more expensive than the amount the spend each year after that. In the first year, you will likely grab some basic home-office things if you don’t have them (a good laser printer, laminator, white board, extra shelf, some baskets, scissors, possibly teacher’s manuals for all the math and language arts levels, etc.)
But if you care for your materials, most of those things will last year to year. You’ll use the supplies year after year, replacing only the consumable stuff (markers, paper, etc.) and you’ll recycle the teacher’s manuals with each subsequent child.
- Laminator & 3 mil pouches – not necessary, but preferred by many. My cheap laminator & pouches.
- Laser Color Printer – a laser printer and toner are slightly more expensive than an ink printer & ink. But if you plan to print for your homeschool, you will more than make up the cost in one year’s time. Printing for homeschooling with an ink printer can be very expensive. If you you’re not sure how much printing you’ll do, just wait. But, if you find that you’re constantly replacing your ink, switch to a laser color printer. This is a good basic laser color printer. This is the exact “all-in-one” color laser printer, scanner, copier we have. I LOVE having a laser color printer! And this one prints from my phone too – so nice.
(Pro-tip: get off brand toner to save a ton! It works just fine!)
- Pencil Sharpener- this one has 4.5 stars from 10,000+ reviews on Amazon!
- Post it tabs – to mark your spot in student books, curriculum manuals, read alouds, etc. Trust me! You want something for this! Some of those repositionable ones like this. (Post-it has several kinds that work well; I tried an off-brand once and they didn’t stick.)
- Post its – we use these for all kinds of things & activities
- Index cards – blank white ones and a colored pack too
- Clip-boards – we own one per person and end up using them for lots of random activities.
- Small whiteboards– we use these way more often than our large one!
- Tons of dry erase markers – so many, seriously.
- Blank printer paper
- Lined paper -if you have young children, purchase handwriting paper or plan to print your own handwriting paper from a free site like printablepaper.net. (I prefer printing to purchasing it.) I use this site to print blank handwriting paper at each child’s ideal size & this site to create custom print or cursive handwriting worksheets if needed.
- Paper cutter – this will make your life easier & be a good way to get your 3 year old to sit in one place for 15 minutes on a crazy, rainy, homeschool day… you’re welcome. I’ve had this one for 10 years.
- Smelly stickers!! – Somehow these have not lost their fun. I bought them from our local Lakeshore Learning in a bulk pack. Or, here they are on Amazon.
- Binders & Page protectors – We do a portfolio for each child. A binder with page protectors for them to store their best completed work in. This is the simplest way I know to keep a record of what they complete. We don’t save everything – just the best of the best.
General School Supplies
These are the types of things I buy in bulk, on the cheap during back to school. I usually stick to brand name for these items. We prefer fewer materials of higher quality.
I usually take the big kids with me to Walmart & let them each pick out what they need for our co-op supplies plus a few fun notebooks & folders.
- Pencils – Ticonderoga!!!!!!
- Big white erasers – these are the best ones
- Rulers – get a few; they’ll disappear in light saber battles sometimes
- Sharpies – they’re just more fun!
- Crayola markers – thick & thin; the medium tip ones are fun too
- Colored pencils – the preferred coloring material around here!
- Scissors – we bought this 3 pack for $10 that is a great size for elementary age students. (I love these teach-me-to-cut scissors for 3 year olds.)
- Glue sticks
- 3 notebooks per child – I let the kids pick whichever ones they want! Two for assignment lists, 1 for fun/ scratch writing/ whatever.
- Dry erase pockets! Sometimes they have these in the Target dollar spot during back to school season. Otherwise, you can grab them at Lakeshore Learning or on Amazon. I LOVE THESE and use them ALL THE TIME!
- Base 10 blocks – we own a set of ones, 20 tens, 10 hundreds & 4 of the thousand cubes. They’re indestructible and incredibly useful from preschool through at least 3rd grade math!! For a long time we had just the ones, tens & hundreds ($15 total) and stored them in a ziplock bag. Once we added thousands ($4 each) and started using them more frequently, we tossed them in some containers for quicker access. Some people DIY their own base 10 materials too. You can search that on Pinterest or something… ain’t nobody got time for that over here.
- Coins – Just go to the bank and get a roll of each; that should last a while
- Part Part Whole Mat Free Download – click to download, print and laminate
- Random fun things from your house to count, sort, group, etc. – mix these up over time & store in ziplock bags. Think: packets of erasers from dollar store, magnetic color counting chips, buttons, pebbles collected from outside, cool beads, colorful glass stones, paperclips, colorful straws or straw pieces, etc!
- Rekenrek – I didn’t even know what this was, but it’s been hugely helpful for our K-1 math kiddos!
- Abacus – Get one with only 2 colors for 2nd grade math on… This is something I’ve learned to use for the first time alongside my kids (like many things haha) and it’s so cool!
- Math beads – These are new to us this year… we’ve been using them for multiplication, division & addition. They’re not a necessity for the early years, but a fun new addition to our supplies.
- Choose one sort of manipulative alphabet–
- Phonogram cards & game pack
Purchase at Dickblick.com or Amazon.
We started out with cheap water color trays and printer paper. Over time we’ve added to our art supply collection and are slowly working our way through the free library of projects at Deep Space Sparkle (a website geared towards art teachers.)
We have grown to love having slightly higher quality art supplies on hand. If art at home interests you, add to your stash over time and request new stuff for kid birthdays if your kids enjoy receiving art supplies.
Some of the brushes, paints & papers come in large quantities… they will either last a long time or you can buy some cheap storage containers and share with a friend.
Favorite Starter Homeschool Art Supplies
- Washable tempera paint – better known as “regular old paint” (we’ve had bottles this size for 2+ years and just now are needing to replace some colors)// you can squirt a little on paper plates or buy washable paint trays
- Water color tray – at least 1 per kid (I usually snag 2 to replenish mid-year)
- Liquid water colors – these are the art world’s best kept secret!! They’re concentrated liquid water color & you dilute them into water to create really really vibrant paint! We’ve had our set like this for 2 school years with TONS of water coloring. A few drops in a little water goes a long way, so they last a long time. So fun!
- Brushes – this is a good multi pack and these are good large brushes.
- Thick art paper – I buy 12×18 exactly what’s linked and cut it down as needed. It’s pretty multi-purpose but if you want separate watercolor paper as kids get older, it works a little better with water colors. It’s pricier but you can cut 12×18 down and it’ll last a long time.
- Masking Tape – I use this to cover the table in paper or tape off designs on paper.
- Huge roll of white paper – 1 roll lasts a long time.
Fun Extra Art Stuff for the Future
- Oil pastel crayons – they always break for us… if anyone knows of a brand that doesn’t break, let me know!! They are awesome to use anyway.
- Variety of sharpies
- Colored art paper/ card stock – this is big and can be cut down; will last a long time.
- Various shaped sponges for sponge painting
Geography & History
- Globe – if you only get one type of map, get a globe.
- World & Country map of some sort – we like these large dry erase decal ones for the world and USA, but once they got peeled off I couldn’t get them back on. Moral: put them out of reach of toddlers.
- Go outside – nature and cool internet videos are all you need to get started.
- Microscope – optional (a good one is still on my wishlist.)
- Simple art paper notebooks if you want to do nature journaling – one per person.
How to Organize Your Homeschool Supply Shopping List
I find it easiest to jot down what I’m going to get at the beginning of the year by where I’m going to buy it.
Here’s a super simple printable blank checklist for you to use. Print it out & jot down what you want to get from each place. Click here to download the blank school supply shopping list that’s pictured below!
Or just draw a giant + sign through a piece of notebook paper at home to create the quadrants… that’s what I would do.
I also add a “don’t need” list to the same page because if I already have 7 packs of pencils left from my bulk purchase last year, I don’t need any more… no? just me?
Then I sit down to do most of my online ordering in one big session & cross things out from the list as I order them!
Pin the image if you want to save the list for later, or share on Facebook if you think others might find it useful. Also, come find me on Instagram & say hi. I’d love to hear your favorite homeschooling supplies if I’m missing any!!