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What basic items does every homeschooler need?


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As we begin homeschooling within the next month, I am wondering what non-curriculum specific items we should have on hand (i.e. a dictionary). Also, I am getting ready to shop for our dedicated homeschooling room this weekend. Any ideas on what items I should make sure to buy (bookshelves, etc.)? Thanks so much!


ETA - I saw a poster ask so I thought that I would add this information to the OP. My children will be in 2nd and 4th grades next year. I have also have a child in Kindy, but he will not be homeschooled next year.

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Ikea is great for bookshelves. My homeschool room is totally Ikea :)


Hmm... things we use every day.









I am hoping to hit up Ikea on Saturday. My shopping list from there is already fairly long. :-)

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A good printer, lots of binders, a good supply of paper (lined, plain white, construction), index cards, a white board or chalk board, markers, crayons, colored pencils, pencils, pens, page protectors or a laminator, more bookshelves than you think one person could ever possibly need!

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Not sure what's the age of your children so just listing what we use often.


Pencil sharpeners

Plenty of erasers - my kids broke even the polymer ones :(


geometry set (compass, protractor, set square)

post-its - I get cheap ones as "bookmarks"

world atlas - we use that more than a globe

dictionary and thesaurus

wide-ruled or college-ruled paper or composition books

graph paper



magazine holders - they are useful for putting assignments in.

3 ring binders

Whiteboard/Easel board -depending on age and personal preference.

art supplies

plastic boxes - to keep art supplies, science supplies, odds and ends

music supplies - whatever you fancy.

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Things we use frequently:


three hole punch




pencils, pencils, pencils--I swear my children are beavers and eat them.


lots of big erasers that truly erase--not those cheapo plastic things.


we love our dry erase markers, a good eraser for those markers, and our lap sized whiteboards.


an atlas or two--we like the student grade ones from National Geo.


printer/copier/scanner, and paper, paper, paper.


we use these side-loading page protectors (and dry erase markers) to make our workbooks non-consumable.


lots of coffee for you. :)

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Don't forget that the back to school sales start in July and you can get basic supplies very inexpensively.


A lot depends on the age and number of your child/ren. For instance, with one child, I don't need a big whiteboard---we have a small one that we have used occasionally. If you have younger kids, you probably want some sort of math manipulatives, but for older, not so much.

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Lyra pencils and pencil crayons


We each have a large drawing board. It gets used for an art surface, but also as a portable board on which to do puzzles or various crafts.


Nice art supplies (quality paint, brushes, crayons, pencils, pens)


Math manipulatives


A couch

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Math manipulatives (especially c-rods, abacus, 100 chart, and fun counters like M&Ms or little teddy bears)

A really good printer

Paper for said printer

Card stock

A laminator is a bonus

3-hole punch

Staples Better Binders

Pencils (I actually like the Twist'n'Write rocket pencils for younger children)

Good quality pencil crayons and art supplies

White board and markers (or individual white boards) -- I have both and use them daily

A good wall map (laminated, preferably)

A globe

Some good books to own and re-read

A library card for the rest

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Chocolate, dark, high quality


Library cards


Ticonderoga pencils


Good pencil sharpener


Big white board


Good quality colored pencils, markers and water colors


Plenty of paper of different weights and sizes




Binder rings


Index cards


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Our personal library's reference section includes an elementary and collegiate dictionary, Usborne World History and Science encyclopedias, Kingfisher World History and Science encyclopedias, a thesaurus, an atlas, and some nature guides.

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Thank you all for your awesome suggestions. I actually feel much more prepared after reading through everything, and for the most part, we are in pretty good shape! For the following items, what specific brand would you recommend?



Atlas - Would you get one book for the world and one for the USA? Which brand?

Pencil Sharpener

Dictionary - At what age did you transition from an elementary to collegiate dictionary?


Wall Maps - plan to get both USA and world


Thank you again, and I will be sure to post pictures when we are up and running!

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Atlas--we have a world and a U.S.


Dictionary--one son used collegiate from the beginning, two other boys have needed the kid's one till about 3rd grade.


Pencil Sharpener--after killing two electric pencil sharpeners, we now have a crank sharpener screwed to the wall in the kitchen (where we do most of our school). Love it.

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Basic crafty materials: construction paper, glue scissors, folders (should you go the lapbooking route); straws, coffee filters, rubber bands, balloons (for science); markers, crayons, color pencils, white paper (geography or art).


In general, we never seem to have enough basic, #2 style pencils. They ALWAYS lose them or are wasting time sharpening them.


If you have a daughter like mine, there's not enough glitter in the world. :p

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A printer with double sided printing capabilities is my biggest recommendation.



White board, both for hand held and wall

a good pencil sharpener

three hole punch

a write on/wipe off world wall map with US on back (or what ever country you are in)


When buying supplies I have found the cheap stuff usually costs more because you need to replace it often. Go with quality, does not have to be the top of the line though.

If you need to cut corners do not do it on things you will use over and over.

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GOOD pencil sharpener




usb sticks or dropbox on computer


3 ring binders, the ones with a place to put stuff in the front

3 ring punch

case of printer paper

lots of printer ink

glue sticks



blank cd-r for audio stuff

good mp3 player for audio stuff

file folders

5 subject notebooks

a fully stocked wine cellar. :D

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Things we use daily here:



pencils, pencils, and more pencils

pencil sharpener

erasers (TONS of them)

glue sticks

three-hole punch


paper (printer paper, notebook paper, lined paper for binders)


TONS of ink (I should buy stock, I swear :lol: )

USB sticks

page protectors

kid scissors

math manipulatives


bookshelves everywhere

baskets for assignments, sorting art supplies, storing subject matter, etc

DVD player

You Tube (for videos related to different subjects)

File folders for lapbooks

laptop/desktop/tablets for various assignments

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Thank you all for your awesome suggestions. I actually feel much more prepared after reading through everything, and for the most part, we are in pretty good shape! For the following items, what specific brand would you recommend?



Atlas - Would you get one book for the world and one for the USA? Which brand?

Pencil Sharpener

Dictionary - At what age did you transition from an elementary to collegiate dictionary?


Wall Maps - plan to get both USA and world


Thank you again, and I will be sure to post pictures when we are up and running!



We have National Geographic atlases, both for the world and USA.


The electric pencil sharpener is a Boston that DH had when we met, so it is over 15 years old.


5th grade was when we made the switch to the collegiate dictionary. In our case it may be that our elementary dictionary is extremely lame.


We have a Scholastic children's thesaurus I picked up at a sale several years ago.



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What I consider my must haves for every year:


*Coffee, by the barrel

*digital camera to document our journey

*copy paper and ink

*laminating pouches, for my often used laminator

*white board markers for one of my several white boards.

*coil notebooks

*hilroy scribblers( I don't know ifyou guys have these in the states, here they are staple bound notebooks that come 4 to a pack for like 0.25cents at back to school sales- I use these for everything)

*duotangs (I use these for everything I don't use the hilroy scribblers for)

lined paper)

*mechanical pencils

*good flowy pens




Also used frequently though not necessarily daily:





*file folders (and card stock, though I am beginning to print on that less)

*3 hole punch


*reinforcements(I hate torn holes on paper)

*selection of variously sized binders

*glue sticks (I swear I should have stocks in glue sticks with the amount we use)

*copious amounts of tape

*good scissors (we have fiskars and a type that is like a store brand that works even better than fiskars and is more comfortable. I buy triple the pairs of scissors in comparasion to the number of kids I have, so that I am never stuck looking for a pair-though I solved the mystery of the disappearing scissors when I couldn't find any last week-dd had 12 pairs in her room)


Used even less frequently but love having on hand



*triple beam balance


*painting boards (The kind with the clips and be elastic to use either on the easel or just on your lap outdoors

*fairly large selection of good art supplies. Cheap stuff is good for primary grades, but having unfettered access to real artist supplies really brings out the talent in your kids (conte, pastels, proper water color paint-not the trays from the $ store; acrylics, clay and other modelling mediums, soap stone for carving etc)


And lastly the very very most important items that every good homeschooler should have

*sense of humor


*creativity (for thinking outside the box, not necessarily artistically)


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You should wait until July 5th to shop for all of your school supplies! This is when all of the retail stores set up for "back-to-school" mode, and you'll be able to get all of your basic supplies super cheap!



This. I take my kids to the back to school sales and let them experience all the fun of picking out stuff for a new school year.

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You have a good list of recommendations here. Just wanted to chime in to tell you to buy these erasers: http://www.amazon.co...?ie=UTF8&psc=1. :D


Really good coffee and/or tea.


Did anyone say post-its? They are always in my pocket. :tongue_smilie:


I have to double (or is it triple?) the suggestion for these erasers!! I bought them a year or so ago and they have never broken and they erase cleanly. We love them. In fact, I tell my boys that once a pencil gets really short and it's time to throw it away, don't throw out the eraser. I have a small basket I keep these in and any used ones go there, to get reused. Good, quality supplies will definitely save you money and time in the future...words to live by when you home school. I bought mine from here, though, more cheaply (and they arrived in record time): http://www.discountofficeitems.com/office-supplies/writing-correction/correction-supplies-erasers/erasers/paper-mate-arrowhead-pencil-eraser/p27926.html


I love the suggestions regarding:

chocolate (just a piece now and then makes a world of difference!)

coffee (and having a Starbucks around the corner is a benefit...plus it gets you out of the house for a few minutes)

a sense of humor (this goes without saying...an absolute necessity)

planning ahead and purchasing paper, folders, binders, pencils, art supplies, etc. at the back-to-school sales will save you a lot of money and time (even if you over-do-it a bit...)

post-it notes (we use these all the time...but I don't skimp on these; the other brands just don't work as well)

bookshelves, bookshelves, bookshelves...

reference materials and two wall maps, a US and a world (I can't tell you how many times my sons use these...they refer to them all the time)

a 3-hole punch

a printer/copier

a library card and a set day every week or every other week to go...make it a habit and you'll rarely have over-due fines (ask me how I know...)

outside time each day, if possible.


And finally, something I don't see listed here, but since you're going to Ikea soon, don't forget: A DESK FOR YOU. I used the kitchen table with my kids, then they got older and bigger and the answer keys and materials I needed grew bigger, so I used a small desk we had hanging around, which was too small. So my dh found a wonderfully big and pretty (I'm the only female in the house so pretty was important) glass-topped desk through Craig's List and I love it! He's about to put a couple shelves on the wall next to my desk so I'll have space for everything I need. Don't forget about your needs!



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Pencils (if you use them)

Pens (for you and as a "treat" - buy lots, they will walk away)

Gluesticks (many more than you think you'll need)

Good crayons (I bought these ones from Rainbow and they have convinced this lifelong crayon-hater!)

Doodle pads - just knock down a forest and pulp the whole thing now to save time.

Whiteboards - a couple of small ones and a big one for you... with markers, of course

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Canvas bins -- love them! And lots of adorable colors to choose from. Martha Stewart (Home Depot) makes some with label slots now, but if you get Closet Maid (Target) which has no label slot, you can use Martha Stewart reusable chalkboard labels (got mine at Staples) and liquid chalk pens to make your labels. ~$6/bin; and they fit beautifully on bookshelves. They've been a lifesaver when it comes to organizing school stuff in my teensy little space. PS- had a few C&B bins which I didn't like; they collapsed too easily.

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Something to write on and with






That's my bare bones, didn't have much more than that 200 years ago and managed list.


In fact, upon reading history I am so shamed by how much was managed with so little, that I'm often tempted to purge everything and do as they did. But then I chicken out.

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Everyone has had great suggestions. I just want to echo the storage tips. Homeschooling for me has meant a lot supplies and books and then you have to store all those supplies and books! I would invest in a large bookshelf or storage unit with baskets or bins. Buy the biggest one you can afford and fit into your space, you'll be thankful later as stuff accumulates :)


I would also find something, a basket, bin, etc to store library books separate from your own books. If you use the library a lot, you don't want to misplace the items.


Personally, I would hold off on buying too much stuff beyond the basic back to school supplies until you get a feel for what you need. I've homeschooled for 10+ years and never had wall maps or microscope. I am not saying it wouldn't have been nice, but it just wasn't absolutely necessary. I guess what I am saying is, don't overbuy the first year. Take some time to realize what you are "missing" or what would really add enrichment. It's too easy to just gather stuff because it sounds or looks neat, but a lot of it is not absolutely necessary to homeschool.

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I would wait to get things until they seem to be needed. When we started homeschooling I went out and bought a bunch of 'must haves' that we never used. If I was there again I would get the curriculum we were planning to use (no extras or buying ahead) and look around the house for basic office supplies then wait to see what's needed. It's easy to buy something when and if its needed but can be difficult to sell things you find you don't have a use for. You'll probably find a bunch of things the first couple weeks of school that you realize would be great to have, maybe a globe and dictionary. Then after that things will just come up. Maybe you'll be thinking about how to explain a certain math concept that is coming up the following week and find a manipulative to order or you'll come up with an art project and take a trip to the craft store to pick up the supplies.


My best advice is to invest in quality items once you know they will be used. A single package of really good colored pencils gets more use than twenty packs of the inexpensive ones from the back to school sales. The summer sales are great for things like glue and paper that you can be almost sure you will use but even inexpensive supplies can become a burden if you buy what you don't need or don't have a place to put them.


I should say that I like to keep things simple if possible. We have some little pencil top erasers so I won't have to deal with big erasers on the floor or getting lost. We don't have a printer set up since when we did I found myself printing things we didn't really need to use then having to buy folders and binders to keep all those extra papers in. We regularly get rid of books we don't need to avoid feeling like the house is cluttered with shelves.


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A cheap laminator from Walmart paired with a pack of pouches from Sam's will revolutionize your life. Seriously.


I concur with everything else posted, but may I add that it is imperative that you have your own pouch or pencil box for your supplies. If not, the kids raid/steal/clumsily borrow your stuff, and before you know it, everything will be gone. I like to stock mine with Sharpies, dry erase markers, pencils, pens, post its, my glasses, and a roll of stickers. ;)

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I went through a stage of needing a lot and have been gradually scaling back and back and back. I even spent months without a printer, and still only have only very limited ability to print.


Just fold up a large piece of art paper.

Writer's Express handbook

National Geographic Beginner's Atlas

Simon & Schuster Thesaurus for Children

The Large Print American Heritage Dictionary

The Encyclopedia of Country Living

Strong's EXPANDED and Exhaustive Concordance


Quality mechanical pencils

Crayola 24 regular crayons for large areas; crayon sharpener.

Crayola 24 twistables for small areas; regular pencil sharpener

School Smart Cursive Notebook Paper

Simply Poly Binders These are very soft and flexible like a regular notebook; I prefer the clear ones.

3 hole punch


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I'm replying without reading all the way through, so forgive me if these are repeats.


I caution against buying too much...in the name of buying all things educational/school-related, after 10+ years I am drowning in school materials and impulse purchases...


I stay away from back to school sales. Okay, I didn't at first, but now I do. It probably depends on the store, but I have found that the cheaper crayons/pencils/pens/notebooks that I purchase then are the ones that go unused. YMMV, of course.


Our must haves:

-A scanner


-A good b&w and color printer


-Library card at library that will collect holds and does ILL well


-Garage sale stickers (I tape these to the bottom of the spines of books--sorry purists--to organize them. I also put initials with a checkmark for each child on the top of the spine so that I don't try to make a child read a book multiple times when they've geez, already read that one, Mom, you keep asking me about it)


-Baskets...piles of books that are used day after day can be put in a basket, and still look attractive and be accessible


-A timer (I have one from Amazon that is like a dice cube that I love, but doesn't have 15 minutes argh)


-If they are using a computer, REALLY good headphones (comfortable and quiet)


-A good geometry set (ruler, compass, protractor)


-A variety of weights of paper/cardstock, and large ream of printer paper (you can print any kind of lined paper you need)


Things that are useful:

-A globe


-Prismacolor colored pencils and the prismacolor sharpener you can buy (love it)


-Box watercolors


-Different glues...a variety seems to help when your standby glue just doesn't seem to cut it


-Handheld hole punch


-Tape dispenser and a couple varieties of tape (scotch, masking, and duct)


-Proclick binding machine


-Snacks/foods prepared beforehand (freezer?) so that studying isn't derailed constantly by "but I'm hungry" and a lunch mealplan so you don't lose momentum in the day (we have a weekly repeating menu)


-Rolling scrapbook bags (each dc has one that their "current" books and work go into. They can roll into different rooms, or even throw in the back of the car, and school goes "with them")


-Post-its...use on front of books to assign chapters, use as bookmarks, memorize concepts etc


-Favorite brands of products that they love and stick to and restock as needed. When you are low, re-order. Stick to the brand, and you won't sit down with substandard tools because they "were there." Our favorites are ticonderoga pencils, papermate clear tip mechanical pencils, and sharpie gel highlighters (they don't soak through paper), and paper mate comfortmate ultra retractable ballpoint pens. Oh, and pentel hi-polymer block erasers (they don't leave eraser dust everywhere).


Things we DIDN'T need but bought (I'm not sure I would replace them)

-laminator (really could have used contact paper)


-3 ring binders (they are too big and clumsy for our needs...we use smaller swing-arm clamp binders)


-3 hole punch (see above)


-comb binding machine...mine collects dust and mocks me. I'm much happier with the proclick binding machine mentioned above


-magazine subscriptions


-notecards (DD15 is only NOW using them...after they have littered the house for a very long time)


-a balance for manipulatives (was big, and was a concept they got in a day)


-a big box of chemistry equipment, and a microscope. We WILL need it this year, but I bought it far in advance of when we will actually USE it.


The kids also have:

-a simple laptop or netbook with internet connection...they get this when they are 12


I'm running out of time--we have to run to swim and dance...aack...will have to stop here!! Cheers!


ETA: I previewed this instead of posting, and ran out the door (forehead slap). Then, I read the thread while waiting for the kids, and realized that I have repeated what many have said. Hopefully there is a little bit new, or it helps prioritize by echoing others' necessities.

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Thank you so much for all of the advice, and I promise that I am continuing to read all of the suggestions.


To whomever suggested that I have my own box/place for supplies, thank you! I know my personality, and this is definitely something that I would have ended up doing down the road. Thank you from saving me the initial aggravation. :-)


I do want to err on the side of less rather than more. As many posters have said, it is much easier to buy something that we need rather than get rid of extra items we don't end up using. I do plan to shop the BTS sales in July/August, and I have used this thread to create a "shopping list". Even as a SAHM, I picked up a lot of our cheaper art supplies for the year during those sales.


Thanks again, and I love seeing all of the suggestions.

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I'm somewhat of a minimalist, but these are things we use a lot that I didn't see mentioned as much:


pre-punched paper

mechanical pencils

and YES to the sticky tabs!

When you begin homeschooling, all of a sudden you need lots of bookmarks! Sticky tabs work well for this. You can label them if desired, they don't fall out, and they work particularly well for marking your spot in a binder.


If you have younger students, I highly recommend an adjustable-height, or raised chair with a footrest. There was a recent thread on these.

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So many great responses... looking for different ideas....


If you are going to have your kids use a computer then:

--some way to backup or store your data elsewhere...

I use google drive. (We have lost too many hard drives to trust them anymore!)

--some way to restrict computer use and internet access.

We use laptops and it's hard to see what they are doing sometimes. Games are too tempting and so is email, chat, etc. We use our router for basic restrictions. I did a trial of KidsWatch for a bit and might go back and purchase it for next year. It's the only one I found that not only restricts computer time and internet access but also which programs on the computer can be executed and when. Not perfect but works well enough.


Reference books:

ABCs and All Their Tricks


and if you can find a contraption to keep the pencil from falling out of their hands or at least from getting lost, please let me know!

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