15 Homeschool Essentials: What I Can’t Live Without!
As I am beginning to plan our 5th year of homeschooling, I have realized that my list of homeschool essentials has drastically changed over the years.
What I thought was obvious – was not that obvious.
And what I thought was essential – turned out to be not so essential.
I have spent money on things I didn’t need to.
And I have tried to save money on certain homeschool supplies where I should have invested money instead.
If you are just looking into setting up your homeschool or if you have been running your homeschool for a few years – this list of my top 15 homeschool essentials will help you to avoid my mistakes and spend your homeschool $$$ in the right places!
Top 15 Homeschool Essentials:
1. High Quality Pencils
You would think that any ‘ol handful of pencils would be just fine, right?
Pencils are the main tool for just about any homeschool, so that means they matter. They are a homeschool essential like nothing else on this list.
For that reason, don’t grab just anything off the shelf and check it off your homeschool supply list.
Because cheap pencils and pencils with the cute pictures on them do not perform well – trust me. When you sharpen them, the lead falls out. The eraser doesn’t erase well and/or tends to crack.
These are the kinds of things that frustrate students, distract from your lesson, and waste precious moments of attention span.
The gold standard for pencils is Ticonderoga. My kids now prefer them to anything else, and so do I. The quality really does matter.
2. Reliable Pencil Sharpener
In the same way that pencils matter, an industrial strength pencil sharpener is a homeschool essential that you will never regret buying.
I have personally gone through over a dozen pencil sharpeners since I started homeschooling, and I have hated everything I bought.
Because I just grabbed something cheap off the shelf and it always went dull very quickly, jammed, and or broke in less than 3 months.
My kids were always so annoyed as they tried to hunt for the “good pencil” that they could actually use while the sharpener was on the fritz…again.
It annoys me to admit that if I had just invested a little more money and bought something higher quality, I would have actually saved myself money AND hassle.
Today, we use this pencil sharpener and I LOVE it. Like really love it. I can sharpen 2 dozen pencils and all our colored pencils in one sitting and it just won’t quit.
3. Crayola Art Supplies
Art supplies are not just used in art class. You will often find curriculum calling for art supplies to complete history projects, science experiments, literature assignments, etc.
For that reason, it is a homeschool essential that you need to pay attention to.
Yes, it is tempting to grab the off brand stuff off the shelf and save a dollar, but that will come back to haunt you. Again, personal experience talking here.
The off brand markers and paint are never truly washable, which can make projects stressful.
The crayons and colored pencils tend to have noticeable lower quality and don’t last as long. This frustrates kids who are trying to produce their best art work.
You can check out a bundle deal on Crayola art supplies here or keep your eye out for a deal at Hobby Lobby, Walmart, or Dollar Tree.
****Tip: Consider buying art supplies that are only for school use and a separate stash of art things for play. That way your school things stays nice for when you need it.
4. School Supply Organizers
As you start to amass all of these supplies, you are going to need a functional place to store and use them.
Frankly, I’m embarrassed that I did not buy these organizers from the very beginning.
I spent way too long searching for supplies in disorganized cabinets, trying to jam crayons back in a box, and dumping out entire pencil pouches because we were looking for a certain color.
The minute these organizer arrived, I knew they were the homeschool essential I had been missing!
What a concept to have everything right in front of you!
I’m sure I was just late to the party on buying these, but let me share with you all the reasons they are my one of my favorite homeschool things:
They are clear, so my kids (and me!) can see everything and grab only what they need.
No more dumping out whole boxes of crayons or other art supplies all over the table.
My kids can pick up after themselves so much easier. Putting crayons and markers in this organizer is so much faster than trying to fit them all back in a box.
It has made it much easier for my kids to share supplies since it sits very nicely in the middle of the table.
The carrying handle makes it really easy for even my preschooler to take it to another room if she needs to.
I am no longer constantly looking for a sharpened pencil when I need one.
No more pausing a lesson to grab glue sticks, scissors, tape, etc. Every time I leave the room, I know I have to work at it to get their attention when I come back. All I have to do now is grab the organizer I need!
You can shop all things homeschool supply organizers here!
5. School Work Display Options
As you dig into your homeschool year, you will quickly find that you are producing a lot of assignments and projects that your kids want to display.
Every one is a masterpiece!
But do you really want to tape things all over your wall?
Nope. That’s not really going to cut it. Especially if it’s something with glue and/or paint that needs to dry.
Your kid (and you!) is going to want to see their work recognized and cherished, so you will need this homeschool essential – options to display school work!
Depending on the size of your homeschool and your budget, this could mean a lot of different things.
Consider purchasing a bulletin board, “Look What I Made!” Clip Sign, Hanging Wire Art Display, or a bunch of new magnets for your fridge!
For more ideas, checkout 5 Easy Ways to Celebrate School Work At Home.
A globe is an indispensable homeschool essential that you will use more often than you think.
So many subjects have ties into geography and you will find yourself reaching for it several times a day.
I have needed it when teaching history lessons, social studies, astronomy, literature (“So, the Narnia kids are from London. Where is that mom?”), music (yep, music around the world!), and other subjects.
You might think it would be easier to use a map, but I found that kids have a really hard time grasping the abstract concept of the flat map they are looking at actually being round.
You can see a marked difference in their grasp of a subject when they can run their finger around a globe.
We started out with an inflatable one, but my kids had a hard time remembering it wasn’t a toy….so it often got lost and ended up with a hole.
After shopping around, we switched to this one. It is much bigger, more accurate, and definitely not a toy. My kids really like that it lights up!
7. Functional Storage
As you start to gather your homeschool essentials, you are going to need a place to store them that works for you and your homeschool.
What does that look like?
It needs to be big enough to hold the books, workbooks, teacher’s manuals, supplies, and manipulatives that you need to make it through a homeschool day.
It gets really old when you have to rummage through a disorganized cabinet that is out of the way from where you normally have school.
When I finally broke down and bought a bookcase that was dedicated to just homeschool stuff – it was a real game changer for us.
Now everything was in one place, which saved me so much time during the homeschool day. It also made it easier for my kids to find their own supplies AND put them away.
Big Win-Win there!
****Consider picking up some bookends to keep everything from falling over.
*****Only use the bookcase to hold things you are actually using – not supplies you won’t need for a month or things you don’t use anymore.
8. Curriculum You Love
For most homeschool families, solid curriculum is by far the most important homeschool essential of all. And I would agree.
When you love what you have, you are more likely to trust the process of educating your children, enjoy your homeschool day, and actually be consistent with homeschooling.
But….how do you find it???
Sadly, I cannot recommend anything that will be a “one size fits all” for every homeschool. And I would also caution you that there is no “perfect”curriculum.
You have to look at your kids, how they learn, your own personality/teaching style and start doing research.
I know it is a time consuming and stress inducing process, so I dedicated an entire page this blog just to reviews of curriculum that I have actually used!
Check out all my super honest reviews here!
9. Library Card
Curriculum is great, but I think we all know that any school worth its salt takes regular visits to a library.
Whether it’s getting new books to read, resources for a research paper, or literature for read aloud time – the library is the place to be!
You might be thinking that its better to buy your own books, but they can get really expensive over time. Plus, they are super heavy for those of us who move often.
And let’s not even talk about running out of storage space.
For those reasons, we are borderline obsessed with our local library.
We take weekly trips there and I let the kids roam the kids section. They come to me with handfuls and handfuls of books that I stuff into an enormous Ikea bag.
We have exceeded the limit of 50 checkouts at once several times, so I had my oldest daughter get a library card just in case.
This weekly infusion of new books keeps my kids engaged in reading, excited to hear new stories, and primed for learning.
Our library is so important to us that when we were house hunting to move, proximity to the library was actually a factor for me!
If you don’t have a library card, get one! It is a priceless homeschool essential.
****Consider devoting one bin or shelf to library books. That way you always know where they are when it’s time to return!
10. Magnetic White Board
Our magnetic white board is the center of our homeschool.
I found out pretty quickly that my teaching style requires me to draw everything out to explain it….and blessedly my kids are visual learners!
I constantly use it to explain science concepts, break down math problems, display copy work, and sound out words.
There is something about making everything big on a white board that really works for all of us.
Just this week, I used it to teach how the scale of a map works. We measured a room and furniture dimensions, and then drew a map of my kids’ room on the white board.
My oldest also loves to mix things up and take her spelling tests by writing the words out on the whiteboard. My younger 2 love to draw pictures on it while I read aloud.
I love the magnetic quality that holds my favorite markers, our daily routine cards, and papers we use often.
The only thing I don’t like about our white board is that I didn’t buy one twice as big.
Trust me, you will always wish it was bigger.
11. CD player/Alexa
Many homeschool curriculums require a CD player. Whether its playing a music CD or listening to an audio lesson, a CD player is very handy.
We also love using Alexa to play classical music. It is the perfect white noise while my kids are trying to concentrate. As an added plus, classical music has been shown to improve academic performance and focus!
Alexa has A LOT of other neat tricks that you many not have thought to utilize in your homeschool. Check out “Alexa, Homeschool the Kids!” for all the Alexa skills you’re missing out on!
12. Analog Clock
I’m sure there are digital clocks all over your house: the stove, microwave, cable box, your phone, etc.
But reading an analog clock has sadly become a dying skill for kids.
Having an analog clock displayed in your school area is a great way to reinforce the importance of analog clocks and to practice the skill!
Along with writing in cursive, this is a homeschool essential for us.
13. Math Manipulatives
Regardless of what online, workbook, or other math program you are using, elementary level kids NEED math manipulatives.
It is absolutely a homeschool essential to help kids take the abstract concepts of math and make them more concrete.
Check your math curriculum to see what you will need, but at a minimum look into purchasing these manipulatives:
14. Homeschool Co-op
I know there are those who don’t agree with me, but a co-op is a homeschool essential!
Here are some of the huge benefits your kid will get:
A great opportunity to meet friends
Chance to learn from a different teacher and teaching style
Learn from other parents who are more skilled in a subject than you are (i.e. art, computers, foreign language)
Opportunity to do things you typically can’t in a homeschool (i.e. public speaking, dodgeball)
Connection and support from other homeschool families (this is huge for homeschool moms!)
Group rates for field trips
Headphones are not just a virtual school essential!
We use ours everyday and I am quickly realizing that I need more than one pair!
What are they for?
Well, one of my kids uses them when she is doing her online math or Spanish lessons. Another kid uses them when she is playing an online educational game and doesn’t want to distract everyone else in the room.
Another great use is plugging the headphones into Alexa and listening to classical music while completing independent work. This will help your kid to focus and not be distracted while you are teaching or attending to another kid.
More Homeschool Essentials!
Okay so these things may not seem like they are a homeschool essential, but they are definitely a homeschool nice to have!
Reading Nook – essential for encouraging a love of reading!
Indoor Recess Ideas – essential during bad weather and winter!
Mini Whiteboards – one of my favorite homeschool hacks!
Reward System – essential for keeping your students motivated and productive!
Recap Top 15 Homeschool Essentials
There you have it!
Those are my top 15 most essential homeschool items. The things you need to invest in and they things that are going to pay off the most.
What is essential for your homeschool?
Your laminator? Tablet? Printer?
I would love to hear what essentials make your homeschool go round! Please share them in the comments!
Want to make sure you remember this for later?
That would be essential 🙂
Pin it to your favorite Pinterest board and share with your homeschooling besties!
Such a helpful post! I’m loving all your tips and suggestions!!
Thanks Amanda! 🙂