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Alright, now that I got you here with my click-bait-y title, I’m going to tell you the truth. You don’t need any supplies for homeschooling. Often in life, we tell ourselves we can’t get started with something we sense is worthwhile because we don’t have the proper equipment. We use this as an excuse to keep from acting and as a distraction from the work involved in getting started.
Purchasing a beautiful homeschool planner and a bunch of stickers to decorate it with is more fun than sitting down to plan curriculum. Designing a Pinterest-worthy homeschool room is more fun than researching the intricacies of your state’s homeschool laws. Shopping for shiny new school supplies is more fun than arguing with your kid about why he does, in fact, have to spend a little time on school this week.
More important than fancy stuff is a cheerful attitude, a confidence that you are doing the right thing, and a willingness to experiment. When you’re just getting started, don’t let a small budget, a tiny apartment, or a lack of fancy supplies be the thing that prevents you from homeschooling.
That said, there are several things that have made educating at home a little easier for us. In the spirit of the comments I made above, my first resource is free and takes up no space.
GET A LIBRARY CARD!!!
Yes, I’m shouting at you. Get a library card and learn to use the library system in your city, county, and state. You will save so much money on books and will often have access to tons of resources besides books. With our card, for instance, I can check out books all over the state through inter-library loan. I have access to language learning software, online courses like Lynda and Great Courses, free streaming movies, ebooks for adults and kids, and current magazines available to read in an app on my tablet. We can even print files via a 3D printer and check out musical instruments.
Check to see if your library has an educator card. Often, they provide perks like longer check-out times, greater total numbers of books you can check out, and reduced fines for overdue books.
If your local library stinks, consider paying for access to a better library. Many allow non-resident borrowing privileges for a small fee.
Tablets: We would be lost without our tablets. As I mentioned above, we get lots of electronic resources for free through the library. We consult YouTube constantly when the kids ask all those ‘why’ questions I can’t answer. I often purchase books and workbooks in digital form so that they don’t take up as much space and can be easily reused by my younger son. We use apps to practice phonics and chess. We’re an iPad family, so we like the latest iPad 9.7-inch.
Printer: We have loved our Brother printer. We have the previous model of the one pictured above. The cost for the unit itself is a bit more than I was used to with the HP printers I’d used previously, but the ink seems to last forever. I wouldn’t print special photos with it, but for all our school needs, including copying (in color and B & W) and scanning, it has been more than adequate.
Laminator: Do you need a laminator? No. This one goes solidly on the nice-to-have-if-you-have-the-space-and-money list. (And if you aren’t concerned about the environmental implications of using one).
That said, with a laminator, you can make any page write-on-wipe-off. You can protect flimsy game pieces and frequently-used reference sheets. You can make flash cards and protect pages that will be used for multiple kids. You can make math manipulatives. You can protect your student and teacher ID cards.
Ticonderoga pencils: Cheap pencils will drive you crazy. Go with these.
Pencil Sharpener: This one by Kutsuwa works well.
Pencil grips: These have really helped my kids to learn how to hold a pencil properly. When we were first learning to write, we stuck them on crayons, tablet styluses, and dry erase markers, too.
Erasers: We get a lot of mileage out of these Pentel Clic Erasers.
Dry erase board: I don’t have a large, blackboard-style dry erase board, although many of my homeschooling friends swear by them. We do love our small handwriting lapboard, though. When we first started kindergarten, my son refused to write on paper, so we did all of our handwriting on it. I took photos to include in our homeschool portfolio.
Dry Erase markers: I know the reviews for these are kind of ‘meh’ but we have really liked them. They are thin enough to hold like a pencil, they don’t have a strong odor, and they’re in bright, cheerful colors that look nice on the board. I haven’t had to test whether or not they wash out of clothing yet–knock on wood. If you leave the ink on the dry erase board too long, it is difficult to wipe off. You can use a little rubbing alcohol to make your board look like new.
Dry erase pocket sleeves: If you decide to forego the laminator, these are useful for making worksheets write-on-wipe-off. They’re great when you’re doing a maze, practicing handwriting, etc. They’re also useful if you’d like to use worksheets with more than one student.
Copy paper: I’m not particular about brand. I bought a case, which has lasted us a very long time.
Three hole punch: I tried buying three-hole-punched paper, but I never seem to load it in the printer the right way. This hole punch is useful for putting together my homeschool portfolio.
Crayons: I would have gone crazy for this set as a kid.
Glue sticks: We like this kind that go on purple before drying clear.
Scissors: These are a solid choice.
Butcher paper: Rolls of paper are nice for art projects that can’t be contained in 8.5 x 11.
Microscope: This one is cheap and works well.
Binoculars: Much of our focus in science has been on observing nature around us. These binoculars are great for seeing birds and other animals close up on our nature walks.
Magnifying glass: This is great for looking more closely at an insect, a leaf, or a rock when we’ve found a new treasure.
Manipulative cubes: These are really useful for visualizing math. My kids love this set, which fit together like Legos.
Learn how to tell time clock: Sure, we all look at the time digitally now, but it’s still an important life skill to have.
Dominoes: These are a wonderful way to visualize numbers, plus there are lots of fun games you can play with them.
Geography/social studies supplies
Map puzzles: Putting together this puzzle helped solidify my sons’ understanding of US Geography.
Things we haven’t needed
A dedicated homeschool room: We homeschool at the dining room table, snuggling on the couch, sitting outside on the balcony, or basically anywhere else we feel like doing it. It’s one of the reasons I love the tablets/electronic resources so much.
A ton of money: I’ll be writing a post specifically about budget later, but our homeschool expenses were around $1,100 for Kindergarten ($450 of which was a weekly swimming lesson we took all year) and about $450 for First Grade. The majority of my purchases can be used by both my boys, and many things can be sold on the thriving homeschool resale market. Don’t shy away from homeschooling because you’re worried about the cost. Libraries, free electronic resources, and secondhand supplies are all available to keep the cost down.
An All-in-One Curriculum: Again, I’ll be posting specifically about what we use to teach the various subjects, but I pieced our curriculum together through a series of affordable resources that fit our family’s budget.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about our essential homeschool supplies. Remember that while all of these are nice to have, homeschooling can happen with very little in the way of materials. Don’t let a low budget or lack of space stop you.