back to school

Essential Back-to-School Shopping List for Homeschool Families

It's that time again, back to homeschool shopping. To be honest, when these days roll back around I think, this is why I'm homeschooling. School supplies!!

Can I get an amen?

When I was still in school, each year, I got so excited for the new school year. I would get new supplies, new clothes, and a new start. This was the year I'd stay organized, on top of my school work, and be student of the year.


I still feel this way, but at least I now have the skills to make most of my organizing efforts stick. Small victories matter.


Back-to-homeschool shopping, planning, preparing, and scheduling is the real New Year.


It's time for back to homeschool shopping! Here's a list of the essential school supplies you need in levels of most important to that'd-be-nice-to-have. Super helpful and great resource-- totally check it out!

There are affiliate links in this post, they help run this blog and do not change the price for you.


Today, I'm going to share with you the 3 different levels of essential school supplies each homeschool family needs.

We'll start with the absolute most essential, then add to that the next level of essential.

Then we'll add on some great things you'll want. Then, our final level will be great things to have, but totally not necessary, but can seem essential.

Does that last one make sense? It didn't for me either, and yet, at the same time, it does.

Last, I'll talk about what didn't work for us and back to homeschool shopping for clothes.



Absolute most essential homeschool supplies

You probably have some of these on your list already, but just in case, you don't, add them in.

Take advantage of the sales as much as you can. It'll be cheaper in the long run, unless you're like our family and our budget is always the tightest right when school starts.

This is usually why we don't buy any new curriculum until October or so. I try as much as possible to take advantage of sales, but if it's not going to work for your family, it's just not. Don't stress it, don't push it, just move on.

Whew, now that that's out of the way, let's get back to business.

  1. Printer
  2. Paper and/or composition notebooks
  3. Pencils
  4. Folders
  5. Library card
  6. Books
  7. Crate (or place to store children's work)


Screen Shot 2016-08-07 at 10.55.19 PM

I have the HP LaserJet Pro 200 M251nw (here's the updated version of the same laser printer).

This is my favorite favorite supply.

The day could go to heck, things can go wrong, but I've got my trusty printer to get me through. Melodramatic, yes, but that's how I roll.


Since I'm super duper cheap I buy super duper cheap ink refills and they are wonderful! They last forever and the ink is the same quality as the HP brand's.


When this printer dies I will replace it with a laser printer with a copier. I don't know why I didn't think I'd need the copier function. Doh!

Paper & pencils


Composition notebooks

You can't not have them, unless you hate convenience and life.


Composition notebooks are used as

  • yearly journals
  • scripture study journals
  • spelling words
  • math notes
  • history
  • science
  • just for fun

In my home I have to guard the paper with a pit bull.

Since we don't have a pit bull, they are always stealing paper out of the printer, out of the supply cabinet, out of their binders, and out of my notebooks!

They even tore up their sketchbooks!

Yes, I almost fainted when I saw what they'd done.

Worse, they tore pages out of MY sketchbook. MINE!

Pages that I had drawn on.

I won't say there wasn't gnashing of teeth going on when I found my drawings covered with basketball team names, a green stick person, and cut into game pieces.


Having an abundance of composition notebooks and blank paper for them to use for fun is vital for their safety my sanity. It also helps to cut the paper clutter down.

I do recycle their notebooks (after tearing out select pages for keeping) to cut down on tree deaths.


I organize each kids' completed work into the crate.


I have hanging folders for each kid and term.

Inside each kid's term are the subjects broken down into color-coded file folders. I check a paper and then walk over to the crate, drop it in and done. It's off my desk, and out of my life.


Next essentials for your homeschool shopping list


Dictionary and thesaurus

In Robinson Curriculum, vocabulary is huge. Using the most accurate dictionary and thesaurus is also huge.

I found some great dictionaries in a few antique stores. My next task is to find an old thesaurus instead of using the online one.


It's time for back to homeschool shopping! Here's a list of the essential school supplies you need in levels of most important to that'd-be-nice-to-have. Super helpful and great resource-- totally check it out!

Regardless of your curriculum choice, pick up an older copy of the dictionary.


Reference books

We are on our way to collecting some fantastic reference books.


We have 4 bookshelves in our schoolroom.

  1. Filled with fabric buckets full of books grouped by theme and age.
  2. Our preschool-toddler area.
  3. Houses our printer, morning basket, and daily work bins.
  4. Holds our curricula, reference books, strictly educational books (that I don't want little hands on), and extra supplies.

Oh! I have a storage cabinet that I store our crate in, and it will house our desk carousel.

Not essential homeschool supplies, but it sure feels like it


Oh this is a beauty. I use this for my preschool and kindergarten items, but not as much for my older kids' stuff. A laminator is vital for younger kids.



I use these super cheap laminating sheets. They are thin, but they get the job done. If I want to make sure a certain page is sturdy I print it on card stock paper and it's perfect.

** Skip the laminator if you don't homeschool youngsters. Just find a friend with one or go to a copy shop and have them do it.


Each kid has their own binder and cute dividers.

We are going to be notebooking more this year, and use the binders for this rather than the crate. I'll find a way to bind them at the end of the year and store them in the crate, or keep them on our shelves for reference.

Index card box & cards

We use the card box, dividers, and cards for our memory work during Morning Time.

We have poems, folk songs, hymns, and scripture verses written on color-coded cards and organized into our memorization system.

Pencil sharpener

This is a definite must (contradicting myself, aren't I?)

We use this one:

I like it a lot, except that when it falls on the ground the trap door pops off and shavings get everywhere. Staining my carpet gray. No bueno.

The solution would be to duct tape the trap door closed, or get a new one, or new kids that stop dropping the dang sharpener.

We used the duct tape and kept the kids.

White board

We love our white board. We have ours mounted on the wall with velcro strips, that make it easy to take down and use in a different part of the house and then hang back up when we're done.

I keep hoping that I'll run into an awesomely gigantic one someday.


Desk Carousel

I ordered this beauty a few days ago. I can't wait for it to get here! I'll update this post after we use it with a picture of it in action and my thoughts.

It's time for back to homeschool shopping! Here's a list of the essential school supplies you need in levels of most important to that'd-be-nice-to-have. Super helpful and great resource-- totally check it out!

Kindle Reader

We own 2 kindle readers. They're held in these great padded cases.

It's time for back to homeschool shopping! Here's a list of the essential school supplies you need in levels of most important to that'd-be-nice-to-have. Super helpful and great resource-- totally check it out!


I was really hesitant to get a kindle, I know I prefer actual books, and they're better, but honestly, I didn't have the room to print all the books (Robinson Curriculum) and I had too many mess ups when I was printing them (user error) that I was going through paper and ink too fast. Which was costing lots of money.

In the end, the sweet deal of a price I got on them won me over in combination of the cost and time needed for printing.


  • The kids like the novelty of their kindles.
  • They enjoy reading on them.
  • Saves time
  • Saves money
  • Tons of parental controls that locks out access to the internet.


  • It's easy for them to say they're done reading without being able to verify. I have to rely on their book tests and integrity a bit more than I feel comfortable.
  • Upfront cost.

*** I really wanted to add this to the 2nd essential list, because it feels so vital to our school, and yet, if you have access to the most essential items, you don't need them.

Baskets and Bins

We use a collection of baskets and bins from the dollar spot in Target, the Dollar Tree, Walmart, and any random thing that showed up in our house one day.

I'm always changing what they're used for, and sometimes they turn into more work than they're worth.

For the most part, they are very efficient and helpful. I don't like stuff scattered about and get overwhelmed easily if it's all up in my grill.

I get bins and baskets that aren't see-through to help cut the visual clutter and store them behind doors or in bookshelves to provide containment.



I have two big maps, a US and a world map. They are HUGE. Much bigger than I realized when I ordered them, though if I had paid attention I would order them again. They are pretty heavy and have gotten torn on the corners from coming off the wall.

It's time for back to homeschool shopping! Here's a list of the essential school supplies you need in levels of most important to that'd-be-nice-to-have. Super helpful and great resource-- totally check it out!


I'm going to try using this mavalus tape to see if it holds up better.

I moved them to the hallway to the school room for easier access to them and to keep the school room walls free for other goodies I want to put up. Plus, there's not much room on the walls with all the lovely windows in there

Rolls of paper

These rolls are perfect for history, science, art, and really anything you can dream of. I'm dreaming of a beautiful mural for this year. It's totally happening.

Your homeschool wish list


Supplies that didn't work for us

That cart everyone uses.

We had 2. I tried it 2 stinking times and they both were rickety and heaven forbid you put anything heavy in them (workbook) and the tray slipped. They eventually broke and I say good riddance.

Pocket charts.

I liked the pocket chart for our tiny space that we used to live in. I had a tiny under the stairs closet to fit everything in. It was hard.

I used the wall with pocket charts. It worked and it didn't. The pockets sagged, things got lost in there, or were just too heavy for the pocket. The kids had problems putting things back away inside them.


Back to school clothes

These really aren't necessary for us homeschoolers and I love that. I don't have to drop a billion dollars on "cool" clothes.

2 years ago, I did buy uniforms for the kids. These were their homeschool clothes.

Each child had:

  • A church outfit
  • Pajamas
  • 2-3 play outfits
  • 4-5 school uniforms

It was awesome. They were adorable.

It's time for back to homeschool shopping! Here's a list of the essential school supplies you need in levels of most important to that'd-be-nice-to-have. Super helpful and great resource-- totally check it out!



  • Laundry was a breeze
  • No trying to match clothes
  • Put them in the school mindset
  • Affordable


  • White shirts got stained easily (I have the black thumb of laundry)
  • Took time to hunt down the best deals
  • Making sure they changed outfits before playing

If I do it again, I'll have navy tops and khaki bottoms to help with stains.

Here's what I got:


Homeschool shopping wrap up

#1 Don't get things that work for my homeschool. Get things that work for YOU, your children, and your method.

#2 Get the most important things first, and save up for the rest. Don't compare, don't stress.

#3 Don't buy everything all at once; you want to make sure they work for you.

You can buy a dollar store version and test out bins for a certain area. If it works, eventually buy a sturdier version. If it doesn't, you're not out $50 and stuck using it out of guilt.

#4 Evaluate quarterly.


#5 Be sure to buy something super fun as well! Maybe some stickers, cute erasers, a new poster, or binder.

Have the Homeschool Fairy deliver it the night before school starts for an extra flair of back to school fun.


I wish you the best of luck and hope that this resource helps make your homeschool shopping adventure totally doable.

Your turn

What is your absolute favorite homeschool supply?






Looking for more help with homeschool planning?

Homeschool: How to Get Started

Homeschool: How do I Plan?

120 Ideas for Back to Homeschool

Easy Plan for Your Not Back to School Party!

10 Signs You Need Homeschool Organization Help immediately


More school supply help?



120 Ideas for Back to (Home)School

Last year I found the first day of school crept up on me and I stood there without so much as a "Yay! It's the first day!"  Not even a blinkin' picture.

What kind of mother does that? This kind.


I was determined that I would not let this year go by without doing something special to commemorate the day. Something... anything.

Getting back to school (even if you've been doing it over the summer like us) is a fun event! It's the time of new beginnings and fresh starts.


As Homeschoolers back to school is just as fun and important as non-homeschoolers.


Enter research time! Wow, did I find some great ideas! I wanted to share them with y'all. I decided to put them in all one spot so you wouldn't have to go searching and searching like I did.

Now you'll just have to click and click.


120 ideas


Trust me, I've found some goodies for y'all!




Photo Ops

1. Giant Polaroid  Make your own polaroid frame photo prop.

2. Pencil Prop Cute giant pencil photo prop.

3. Chalk speech bubble  Fun DIY sign.

4. Same outfit on first and last day of school. See how they've grown!

5. Chalkboard sign  Make your own sign with a canvas and some paint. Personalize with their details.

6. Photo checklist  Not all of these photo ideas are for homeschoolers. You can adapt the list to suit your situation. Have fun with it!

7. Printable sign

8. Printable signs (put on a stick)

9. Printable sign

10. Big Letter/Number Sign Use a big wooden letter and paint it! Cute photo prop

11. Graduating year T-shirt Make a T-shirt for their graduating year and take a photo with them in it every year as they grow up.

12. Chalkboard sign A framed chalkboard.

13. Large Printable Sign This one is editable with photoshop and she printed it at a copy shop.

14. Sidewalk chalk Make a grade year sign on the sidewalk. Add in some personal details or fun pictures. Pose away!

15. Paperstrip backdrop Cute backdrop for some pop of color.

16. Mini Chalkboard Such a cute little chalkboard.

17. Mom holding all the signs of each kid Show what grades mom is teaching this year!

18. Printable Bus Sign Cute school bus sign.

19. Hashtag sign Modern #photoprintable

20. Photo props Cute photo booth-like props



Interview Your Kids

21. Interview made into a special page Ask your questions and design them into a pdf or pretty document to print and keep.

22. 21 questions to ask Great questions to ask. Put them on video or write them down. Or be crazy and do both.

23. First and Final Day Ask your kid the same questions at the start and end of the year.

24. Printable interviews Free printable for each grade level.

25. Back to school Survey Another fun set of questions.

26. K-12 Printable interviews More I tell you, more!

27. My summer printable What did you do this summer interview!

28. first and last day memory page Put your memories down on paper!


Celebrate it Up!!

29. You're so Sharp themed party - with printables

30. When I Grow Up Fun idea for what you want to be when you grow up party.

31. Ice Cream Party Who doesn't love ice cream? Don't answer that. I"ll just pretend I didn't see that.

32. Dessert Party Desserts people, desserts!

33. Apple Party Cute classic apple theme.

34. "Be Brave" I love this idea. Be Brave is their slogan for the year.

35. Going Places Great theme.

36. Wheels on the Bus Cute for the little ones. Even if they don't ride a bus :)

37. Coffee Date for Moms A fun celebration for the moms and dads to celebrate the start of a new year.

38. "Future is Bright" Another fun theme.

39. Milk and Cookies party Milk and cookies people, milk and cookies! Classic after school snack!

40. 50 more Celebrations Dude, my hand would've cramped if I tried to post more of these. I ♥ Naptime did it for me.




Special Meals

41. Lunch box notes Gotta love lunch box notes!

42. decorated lunch bag Make their brown bags look extra fun.

43. lunch survey A fun way to get to know what your kiddo has been up to at school (or wherever if they're homeschooled)

44. lunchbox notes Love fun printables!

45. lunchbox jokes Jokes! Who doesn't love a good laugh? Your kiddo could use some cheering up.

46. owl lunch bag Another fun way to decorate the classic brown bag.

47. back to school luncheon Celebrate with a special lunch. Invite some homeschool families.

48. back to school dinner Special dinner either the night before of the night of.

49. back to school breakfast Have a feast!

50. back to school bash Invite the friends over!

51. breakfast butterflies Cute special breakfast meal.

52. back to school feast !ith crowns!

Cute treat bag full of whatever goodies you want! School supplies, treats, gifts, whatevs.



53. Back to School Fairy visit Have her visit the morning of.

54. Fairy Treat bag Have her visit the night before.

55. Magic School Bus Same idea, but it's no fairy, it's a Magic Bus, baby! *cringe* Sorry about the cheesiness.



A Little Something Fun to Give

56. First Day Ribbons Little badges for them to wear with their new grade!

57. Decorate a Composition Notebook Decorate a notebook for them to use all year long.

58. Craft Stick Bookmarks  They're designed to look like pencils, crayons, or super heroes.

59. Decorate Journals Make journals together!

60. School binders Have a special binder just for them.

61. First day Certificates These are just for your preschooler and kindergartener.

62. Smile catchers Fun little toy you can put in their lunch box. You know those folded thingys you used to say who your crush was and all that fun stuff. What's its name?

63. Back to School Mad-Libs Who doesn't love a good mad lib?

64. Washi tape bookmarks, clothespins, thumb tacks, dry erase board, and labels  Lots of cute supplies you can make with washi tape.

65. Crayon Favor Box Cute cute giant crayon stuffed with whatever treat you want to put in.

66. Button Book Marks Sweet little things!

67. Personalized Pens Decorate a boring ole pen.

68. Pencil Bag So fun, it looks like notebook paper

69. Personalized Pencil Cans In the post they aren't personalized, but you could definitely make one for each child.

70. bottle cap magnets Such a fun thing. If they have a locker, a magnet board, or anything really.

71. School supply crate A fun idea to decorate their curriculum/supply box.

72. Dry Erase Clipboard Could be a great tool for keeping them on task.

73. Printable bookmarks Cute easy bookmarks! Free!

74. mini chalkboard easels Cute little gift.

75. Survival bag Scroll down a bit in the post to see it.

76. First Day Survival Kit Gotta survive that first day!

77. pencil can with pencils Make a fun pencil can and then fill it with fun pencils!

78. Back to school pencil cases Love pencil cases!

79. notebook cover Fun way to cover a notebook.

80. Schultute A cute way to give a bunch of gifts. Could be used along with the BTS Fairy.

81. back to school bag Great idea.

82. school tools Fun fun! Fill it with whatever supplies they love.



Yummy Treats

83. Lucky Charms goody bag Cute little cereal bag.

84. Apple Cupcakes Adorbs!

85. Gumball Rulers So clever! You gotta check it out.

86. Rice Krispy Apples So simple and fun

87. Confidence Cookies I hearts and flowers this idea.

88. Edible Glue Stick What a cute idea - a fake glue stick filled with white candy!

89. lemon cake cookies Lemon. Cake. Cookies. Yummmm

90. 7-up treat Cute little saying to go along with the 7-Up!

91. bookworm cupcakes So cute. There's a couple more cupcake ideas on this post as well.

92. tic tac printables Cute little printables to put on a Tic Tac box.

93. apple cake pops So cute!

94. back to school cookies She did a fabulous job on these cookies!

95. edible crayons Such a fun idea to make together.

96. Back to school cupcakes Cupcakes! Love!!

97. hershey kiss pencils These are so cute. Big pencils but with candy instead of graphite. Win!

98. apple jelly bean treat Super cute! Jelly beans are so yummy.

99. crayon cupcakes Cupcakes made to look like crayons. Love the wrappers. Post has a party idea as well.


Won't Be Boxed Into a Category (a.k.a. Don't put Baby in a corner)

100. Countdown paper chain Fun free printable chain!

101. Morning routine printable Great idea to get the kids ready for their day.

102. Alphabet art Cute way to decorate your home.

103. Be Awesome Today print A fun print to keep near your kid's desk.

104. Countdown banner Another fun countdown idea.

105. Back to school printables Lots of cute and practical stuff here:  lunch checklist, refrigerator note, daily school clothes labels, and school money.

106. Printable Reading Log A fun printable to keep track of reading.

107. Crayon Wreath Make a cute wreath for your door or school room. Run out of crayons during the school year just steal one from your wreath. ;)

108. Ruler Wreath I love this wreath!


little miss drawings


Great Ideas Without a Blog Home

109. Write a letter to your child

110. Scavenger hunt for school supplies.

111. Scavenger hunt for a treat at the end. Maybe a gift, or special meal, or a gift card.

112. Make goals with your children.

113. Ask them what they want to learn this year. What are they looking forward to this year?

114. Make a list of "firsts."

115. Start a newsletter.

116. Draw or paint self-portraits.

117. Homeschool club parties -- some homeschool clubs and co-ops have back to school parties.

118. Field trips - go somewhere fun on your first day back!

119. Do something special that non-homeschoolers can't do!!

120. Go out to eat for breakfast/lunch/dinner.



Are you exhausted? I am!

Obviously you cannot do them all. If you try I'm calling an asylum and have you committed. I'll visit once a year and bring you a shiny red apple.


What are your family traditions for the first day of school? What new ones will you start this year?


I'll report back to tell you which ones we decided to try this year!

♥ Rochelle

jonathangarcia via photopin cc