When it comes to school supplies, I’m definitely a minimalist. I would much rather spend more of my homeschool budget on books for the kids to read, and field trips, than fancy schmancy school supplies that will mostly end up being clutter.
I think often of people who are admired in our culture, and how little they had by way of “school supplies”. Laura Ingalls, beloved American writer, had a piece of chalk (one piece), a slate that she shared with her sister, and just one or two good books, one being the Bible. Abraham Lincoln read Aesop’s fables over and over because it was the only book he had, and he did math by “writing” sums on a shovel (with what… a piece of coal? A stick burned at the end? I’m not sure).
My point is that we don’t need a lot of “stuff” in our home school classroom. A few things you don’t need:
- Math manipulatives. School supply stores are full of tubs of doohickeys and tchotchkes you can purchase for use as math manipulatives. Today my 1st grader (and her 2 year old sister!) did their addition and subtraction work with … navy beans. You can use raisins or nuts (fun because you can eat them after a correct answer!), Lego pieces, small toys, gewgaws, knickknacks, baubles, thingamajigs, or any other small doodads lying around your house… and I’m sure you have plenty of those!
There are a few things that area fun and helpful however. Here are some of our favorites:
I prefer these over regular pencils because they don’t need to be sharpened. Pencil points breaking, needing to hunt down a sharpener, the accompanying mess… it’s a distraction.
Post-Its and Post-It Flags
I find uses for these every day. The flags are great for keeping your place in teacher’s guides and student workbooks. They don’t rip the paper. They don’t fall out like bookmarks. They don’t damage the spine like shoving a pencil in there would. When you pick up the book, you can turn immediately to the spot you’re starting at that day.
The multiple colors are great for keeping track when you’re teaching two kids out of the same book, or for quickly flipping to a section you need (like instructions, index, or the answer key).
One Homeschool Binder
Some home schooling parents are big binder freaks. To each his own, but I’ve never been big on having a ton of binders. I don’t save schoolwork, for one. I find that it’s immensely satisfying to throw stuff away at the end of the day. It has a finality to it. The kids love ripping pages out and tossing them.
My oldest son has a writing notebook that he uses for Writing With Skill (Susan Wise Bauer’s suggestion), and a history notebook that he writes test answers in (so he doesn’t mark in the book, saving me money when the next kid uses it). He also keeps a Literature notebook (also Susan Wise Bauer’s suggestion, per The Well Educated Mind), where he keeps notes about the books he’s reading.
Some children, however, like to have a binder to keep their work. My 9 year old daughter is the only child who enjoys doing this, so I let her. She likes to add additional stuff to her binder, like extra material she prints out from the Internet, stories she writes, etc. (This is work that she isn’t required by me to do, but does on her own.)
I do have a homeschool binder… just one, for myself. I keep stuff in it that I need to have at my fingers each day, all in one place. I wrote about creating a homeschool binder here. It has answer keys, our daily and weekly schedule, and other goodies that I’ll actually use.
Notebooks and Composition Books
Of course, we buy these by the caseload when they go on sale super cheap! There is never, ever enough paper in a home school household, it seems. So I stock up when the various stores have them as loss leaders for .01 or .05 each, and buy enough for the whole year.
Emergency Chocolate and Wine
For mom, of course! I get these two cheap at ALDI.