Written by Jamie Martin of Simple Homeschool
The days are upon us: days of newly sharpened pencils, out-of-the-box crayons, and spiral notebooks waiting for original ideas to be added to their pages. Even those of us who school year-round or non-traditionally sense that fall cries out for new beginnings and fresh starts.
The shopping this time of year can be pretty fun for homeschool parents, too. We grab deals and stock supplies, all the while getting ourselves psyched about the learning coming up in the months ahead.
And while school supplies may never have actually changed someone’s entire life, I know I’m not the only one to feel a kind of thrill when stumbling upon the perfect tool that I know our family will use regularly in our pursuit of knowledge.
A couple of weeks ago I asked readers on my Facebook page to tell me the school supplies you just can’t live without.
Here are some of your top responses, along with links for where you can order them online if you can’t find what you need close to home. Many of these are available via Amazon Prime, meaning they could be on your doorstep in two short days!
PaperMate Sharpwriter Pencils
Finding the pencils you love counts as a big homeschooling success, and when you do you want to stock up so you never run out. This type is the bestseller in all mechanical pencils, so if you don’t want to deal with the hassle of sharpening you’re all set!
Ticonderoga Pre-Sharpened Pencils
Be still my heart, if it’s possible to adore pencils I adore these.
If mechanical pencils aren’t your thing, but you’re fed up with pencils that snap off and/or refuse to sharpen, order these and say goodbye to pencil frustration. We always have a box at the ready.
Some of you on Facebook were seriously passionate about these flags. Think of them like Bookmarks 2.0, since you can restick them again and again. Plus they take up less space than a full-size post-it, handy if you have several pages marked in a single book or workbook.
Bloom 3-ring Binders
You can pick up cheap binders easily enough, but if you need at least one special one for the mama check out these from Bloom. Beautiful designs keep you inspired and organized at the same time!
Doing your math problems never seemed so fun until you knew you could do your assignment on the window!
This set goes on in bright colors and cleans up easy. (Note: Reviews state it takes a little while to get the liquid chalk flowing, so keep that in mind before you hand them over to your kiddos.)
A Paper Cutter
Paper cutters bring back some fun school memories for me–I used to love using these to help prep materials for the teacher!
This model cuts up to 12 sheets at once and has a lock to protect the blade from little fingers.
Electric Pencil Sharpener
Several of you mentioned that an electric pencil sharpener has eased up frustration in your homeschool, but some models have severely mixed reviews.
This one, on the other hand, has over 1,000 positive reviews–so it sounds like a keeper! (Or check out this one, which actually stops when the pencil is sharpened to prevent littles from going crazy with excitement and making the pencils vanish–brilliant idea!)
Oh the joys of laminating! Many homeschoolers I know rave about how they just couldn’t get along without their laminator.
This popular model laminates papers up to nine inches wide. It features a two roller system that has two temperature settings, and can be used with 3 or 5ml laminating pouches.
Praises for whiteboards were sung out loud and clear when I posed this question on Facebook! Some of you preferred huge boards, others like the individual sizes.
Get a magnetic board instead of just a regular dry erase–that way it can double as a bulletin board or be used with magnetic letters and manipulatives like those in All About Reading/Spelling.
And after you’ve bought your board, make sure you snag a nifty…
Magnetic Whiteboard Eraser
Not having a magnetic whiteboard ourselves, I have definitely found myself searching for our eraser on more than one occasion.
Solve this by getting an eraser that sticks right to your board–always there when you need it!
Plastic Page Protectors
What don’t I use these for?! They come in so handy for keeping kids’ work looking good long-term in portfolios or scrapbooks.
And if you have multiple kids using the same curriculum, just slip their worksheet or assignment in one and have them complete it with wet erase markers!
Quarter Dry Erase Markers in Bold Colors
If you like things to look pretty on your dry erase board, don’t stick with boring markers in black, blue, and red. Why not go for purple, teal, or magenta instead?!
These are fun for parent-teachers to use and might also entice those reluctant writers in your midst.
A Comb Binding Machine
Binding machines allow you to punch and bind your kids’ reports and even your upcoming homeschool plans. This one can punch up to 12 sheets at a time and bind up to 150.
Note: You have to buy the plastic combs separately–they’re also available via Amazon.
A Visual Timer
A visual timer can be a good choice for young kids, those with special needs, or visual learners who need to “see” time to understand it.
This could come in handy for timed assignments or even just knowing how much longer until you leave for Grandma’s.
Mint BarkThins Snacking Chocolate
This wasn’t exactly the response I anticipated when I asked what school supplies you can’t live without! But more than one reader listed self-care items like coffee, tea, your own store of dark chocolate, and sunshine.
It’s a fair point–as you plan for the upcoming year, don’t forget the sanity items that will fuel you as the teacher as well!
Have anything to add to this list? What supplies are favorites in your home?
Originally published on August 24, 2015.
This post contains affiliate links.
Great post 🙂 …… Ticonderoga pencils are a must have around here! I love the window marker idea…never heard of them 🙂 …..and of course. …chocolate !!! Thank you for sharing and happy schooling 🙂
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I agree with everything on your list! Love Ticonderoga pencils. I stocked up when I found them on sale. I just bought a laminator and now I really want to get a color printer. lol Now I want to get a binding machine as well! That would be cheaper than buying a bunch of binders and take up less space as well. I found a magnetic eraser at Office Depot for about $5. Now I have to get some Post It flags as well. I’ve been using paperclips to mark where we are in our spelling book and my lesson book. I’ll just have to make sure my toddler doesn’t get hold of them.
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Skip the electric pencil sharpener and get this life-changer instead: http://www.classroomfriendlysupplies.com/
It’s the ABSOLUTE BEST sharpener you’ll ever use. I promise!
I totally agree! This is the best pencil sharpener ever!!!!
Yay!!! I was hoping someone had already posted this link….I have two actually, these things are SO wonderful!!!! I love the classroom friendly manual sharpener!
I had no idea you could buy PRE-SHARPENED pencils! And we only have a lame dollar-store sharpener. I think I know what school supplies I’m lacking, thanks for sharing!
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Oh my goodness, Katie, you’re life is about to be changed with these pencils!! 😉
I loved using a comb binder for homeschool. We comb bound reports, and at the end of the year, we sorted all work into appropriate piles, then bound them together as a record of accomplishments for the year.
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I love these and have added a few items to my Amazon list! I would add a date stamper. We date everything for our reviews to show “regular” instruction.
Ooh, good idea to add, Alison!
Date stamper helps me stay accountable. Also is helpful when putting together a yearly portfolio.
The supplies that have changed my life this year are color-coded supply caddies. Sounds complicated, but they aren’t. You know the little plastic compartmented baskets with handles? Those. I found mine at the local Dollar Tree – each kid gets their own color, and I stocked up on all things color coded for a $1 each.
Then I made sure to get each kid their own pencils, crayons, scissors, etc. to cut down on whining from having to always share all the other things in our home.
Color-coding has been like magic for us this year!
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Great idea, Cara!
My kids are 1 1/2, 4, 6, 8, and coming next March…..
I am using boxed sets from Memoria Press (Hallelujah, so much easier than what I was doing) ….and so far what I really need are some quality magnets for my giant homemade magnet board. My husband cut the back off of a metal cabinet. Does anyone have any suggestions? I can’t find anything. I’ve made some that work well, but don’t really want to get out the toxic glue it required. I haven’t found anything by searching online.
Also, I need the kind of toys I don’t have. We have toys like a train set, Lincoln Logs, Lego bricks, kitchen, Imaginext, and then they go outside…….but I’m going to be buying some toys for the 1 year old! She’s into everything!
Check the hardware store. We made button magnets for Christmas and I bought stronger round magnets and then got some old buttons and glued them on top to make colorful magnets!
We made magnets from an old children’s puzzle, the early learning kind with posts affixed to the middle. Use gorilla glue to attach strong small magnets to the back. Be aware the gorilla glue will “foam up” so you don’t need much. The best thing about these magnets is that they have a post in the middle and are easy to grab.
I highly recommend vintage Boston electric pencil sharpeners. They were quality built to last. Quite reasonable and plentiful on EBay. Dirt cheap as a yard sale item!
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A Mama's Smial
I absolutely love my plastic page protectors! I think I’ll have to invest in that second sharper you mentioned. My kids are constantly way over sharpening their pencils. Our current sharper broke. So, we are awkwardly holding it then twisting to sharpen our pencils. And it might be held together with some tape!
I have that electronic pencil sharpener. I bought it because of all the good reviews and after going through several others I’d have to say that one is the best.
“Ticonderoga pencils”, where have these been all my life?!?! I never knew there could be that much difference in a “regular” #2 pencil, but I’ve been schooled!! I ordered some after I saw your post, and now I am a believer!
Love these ideas. Here’s my tip: Do you know Expo Dry Erase Markers are REVERSIBLE?-Everyone needs to know that. Don’t throw them away when they’re dried out or the kids have mushed the tip. With a pliers simply pull the tip out and turn it around, inserting the mushy, dried out end. The other side is a fresh, brand-new tip! Maybe they ARE worth the price when you know this secret. 😉
What?!?! Oh I wish I had know that a week ago when I tossed the dried out ones. Is it hard to re-install the mushy end?
Oh my goodness, this COULD be a life-changing tip! Thank you!
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We use lots of post-it notes, and big erasers, too. 🙂
These tips are great! My daughter and I both suffer from an addiction to school supplies, and especially the cute binders for organization, the gel pens and markers, and the yearly Lilly Pulitzer planner… SO we hit the sales for fun! haha. We try to be frugal, but we rarely shop and its our favorite time of the year so we get a little out of hand! THANKS SO MUCH FOR THE POST!
I’ve been homeschooling for 8 years and don’t have most of the stuff on this list. Now I want to go school shopping all over again! I’ve never thought of using window markers for math, and to be honest, I’ve never bought Ticonderoga pencils, but they’ve all I’ve been hearing about. So much stuff to buy now…
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I just bought half the things on this list! Thank you for great recommendations ! Thanks too for the other recommendation on the pencil sharpener! I bought three of the green so I can give two away to our teachers. Jamie I clicked on your links which led me to Amazon. I hope you get something from providing the links? Not sure how it works. ???? Thank you again!
Yes, I do, Tricia. Thank you! Hope you and yours are fabulous! xoxo
I bought a bunch of page protectors to use this year in our Morning Time binders. They are wonderful. I’m not a fan of electric sharpeners, though. They seem to chew up my good colored pencils. We have a wall-mounted X-acto sharpener that I LOVE. I’m teaching a Geometry class to a few other homeschool families as well, and have nice, big windows in my dining room; we may have to get those markers…I can’t wait to see what my husband does when he opens the blinds! 🙂
What’s your morning binder? Curious. I’m new.
Great list!! Everything pales in the glorious presence of dark chocolate mint – anything!
I have to agree with each and everyone! Esp #15! I’ve tried “generic” on some of these items, not the same – definitely worth the extra money on Ticonderoga pencils!! and Quarter white board markers!
Crystal – Simple + Free
Hmmm. Although I can see why many homeschoolers like this list, my of these items seem a little superfluous to me. When I think simple, I don’t think machines and window markers and two different types of pencils, I think simple, minimal. Of course my idea of a simple homeschool include buying and using less and my feelings are vastly different than many people who have commented – but less is definitely more in our home. Some of the items make sense, most don’t, in my humble opinion. A visual timer? What’s wrong with teaching a child how to use a clock? I promise I’m not trying to be a contrarian I just want people to understand that having all these items won’t make up for how you homeschool your kids. I prefer to show our children that we don’t need all these “extra” things to write, read, do math and truly live. With Love.
Crystal – Simple + Free
*many of these items 🙂
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“….. stops when the pencil is sharpened to prevent littles from going crazy with excitement and making the pencils vanish.”
This is why i’ve never bought one, i’m excited to see that someone has fixed the problem!
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We were recently introduced to the Time Timer, and it’s a little on the spendy side – I think we paid something like $25-30 for the 6 inch one that can stand on its own (rather than needing to be mounted on the wall). It is worth every penny! We have been saved from SO many fights over computer time, reading in bed at night time, and just getting ready for church on Sunday morning. And it’s a good thing we got the standing timer, because it gets carted around all over the house.
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A must in my household is those dollar sharpener from staples that sharpen big and small pencils! I am on the go a lot so they work well with traveling with my kiddos! No more broken pencils! ????
For those of us who like to (or have to) pinch our pennies, dry erase markers work perfectly on windows! I discovered this when we were remodeling our house and spent almost an entire school year commuting. It was fantastic! Everyone had their own window, thus everyone could do their lessons, whether it was math, spelling, diagramming sentences, mom dictating from the front seat, or memory work! Works like a charm, and we still use the windows in the house instead of a white board! BUT… if you need a white board, go to your local home supply store and buy white shower board. You can get a 12 x 9 sheet for like $10. Cut it to whatever size you want, (even little individual ones) edge it in cute duct tape, wipe it down with WD-40 and you’re good to go!
Thisis a wonderful list and I love that I have a good chunk of these already! We already have window markers but we MUST get the chalk! My kids like decorating my car with the markers, we get looks and people think it’s real marker sometimes but they enjoy it. (my car has eyelashes on the headlights often). I also got the timer from a teacher at a school my mom used to work at, she was going to throw it away!! My next big purchase is going to be a giant white board with an easel!
This is a lovely blog post. Thanks for sharing it with us.
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