Back-to-Homeschool: 5 Things You Need to Stock Up On Before Your New Homeschool Year Begins

As homeschoolers, we don’t necessarily run on the same school schedule as traditional schools. But I still love Back-to-School shopping. I confess that I’ve loved it since I was a kid. There’s nothing like the smell of fresh crayons and the clean look of new notebooks.

As a mom, I love the time that stores designate to Back-to-School shopping because that means I can stock up on school supplies while the prices are good. And in our state we have tax-free weekend, which makes things even better- if I dare to brave the crowds to shop. Fortunately online sites like Amazon also have great back-to-school deals…and there’s no crowds and lines.

If you’re thinking of stocking up while everything is on sale, here are five things you need to stock up on.

Back to homeschool supplies

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Disclaimer: I received a free package of Kwik Stix for this review. All opinions are my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

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If you- like me- homeschool all over the house and work with small spaces, organization is key. Over the years I’ve found a few tools that really help.

  • Fabric boxes- Fabric boxes can help to organize supplies on a bookshelf. They can give the kids a bin to store their books and school supplies. They can be used to store supplies for a specific subject or project. I collect all sizes of these boxes because they are so useful.
  • Plastic bins– Just like the fabric boxes, plastic bins have a plethora of uses. They can store the books for the year in an easy to move around way. They can organize school supplies for each child in a way that makes them portable. I also use them at the end of each school year to store the year’s materials.
  • Desk organizers– I like to keep an organized desk, and I like to teach the kids to do this to. When you’re making small spaces work, it’s essential to keep desks organized. Otherwise they get to the point where they aren’t even usable. Get organizers that will store small supplies like paper clips, staples, rubber bands as well as supplies like scissors, glue, and crafting necessities.
  • Baskets– Baskets are useful organizers because, as well as being functional, they are pretty and keep messes corralled. I keep collection baskets in most rooms of the house. As I find school items or toys or hair ties or anything else that belongs to one of the five people in the house besides me, I put it in the collection basket. The idea- although I have to remind people of this sometimes- is that people will collect their belongings each day and put them away. What really happens more often is that some child will be looking for a school book, and I’ll go to the basket, dig around a little, and – what do you know?- the book will magically appear! But at least the baskets make the messes look neater.

Writing Utensils

I can remember being forced to write in pencil in elementary school- especially for math. I hated pencil! I hated to erase and have smudge marks. I hated the way that pencils felt in my hand. I’ve been glad to find research that backs up my desire to write in pen, but it’s up to you to decide what kinds of writing utensils your kids can use in their schoolwork. I let mine choose the writing instrument they’re most comfortable with. But I recommend stocking up on whatever you choose. Because no matter how many you begin with and no matter how many times you tell the kids to keep up with them and store them in one of those handy-dandy organizers, these things get lost. They get broken. They run out of ink. The dog chews them up (true story). So stock up on whatever you and the kids like to write with.

  • Pencils- Whether you use them as your primary writing instruments or not, it’s good to keep some pencils for drawing and sketching. And if your kids are required to take standardized tests, it can be good to practice using a #2 pencil to color in the little answer bubbles.
  • Mechanical pencils– I have one child in particular who prefers mechanical pencils. I don’t know why. I hate them. It seems like the lead is always breaking off. And they don’t erase well. If you have a child who like them, I recommend getting a good brand like these Bic pencils, and don’t worry about trying to replace lead. Just use them until they run out and move on.
  • Ball point pens– My favorite writing utensil of all times is a good ball point pen. I’m pretty picky about my pens. I like to have various colors. I like pens that write smoothly and don’t clump up ink. And I like pens that are comfortable in my hand. My all-time favorites are the InkJoy pens from Papermate. I like the multi-color pack because it gives me the fun colors I want and includes the basic black I sometimes need.
  • Pencil grips- If you have beginning writers, young writers, or just kids who need help with small motor control and pencil grip, I recommend the pencil grips from The Pencil Grip, Inc. We’ve tried a number of these, and I like them because there are different varieties, and you can choose the grip that’s right for your child. We’ve also used them on pens as well as pencils.

Notebooks and Binders

Ah…this organization category is especially near and dear to my heart. When it comes to having a organized collection of what the kids have done all year, you can’t beat a notebook. Whether you use large binders for traditional notebooking or you just use binders to keep papers from each subject together, having good binders and spiral notebooks helps you to keep the work from each school year organized.

  • Binders– Each of my kids starts with a large binder for the school  year. I let them pick the binder, and they call it a “personality binder” because they pick one of the cute, decorative binders that are on sale during back-to-school time. This binder becomes the central control. It has sections for each subject that they study. And, throughout the year, as they have written work or tests, they goes into the correct section in the binder. For many subjects we use notebooking to go along with our reading. I buy less expensive, smaller binders for each of those subjects and kids use them to keep their notebooking pages throughout the year.
  • Spiral notebooks– In addition to binders, we use spiral notebooks for subjects that require the kids to work out problems on their own- like math. I choose various colors so that kids can pick the color they prefer and identify their notebook easily. I make sure to stock up on these during the back-to-school sales because they are usually very inexpensive and the kids go through a number of them with school and for personal use (journals, drawing, etc) throughout each year.

Teaching Tools

I can really go crazy in this category, ya’ll. These tools are typically things I don’t need to replace every year, only periodically. That doesn’t stop me from wanting to buy them every year, but I try to reign myself in and control frivolous buying.

  • Dry erase boards– I cannot say enough about the usefulness of dry erase boards. If I had ever had a huge school room, my dream was to have the whole bottom of the wall covered with something like this. I never had a schoolroom that large, so we’ve made do with marker boards in a variety of smaller sizes. I keep them handy, so that I can pull one out anytime I need to work a math problem, diagram a sentence, or just show the kids a visual. The kids enjoy using them also to work problems on their own.
  • Dry erase markers– Ya’ll, we go through these things like water! I’m serious. We either lose them or they dry out. I make sure to stock up on them during the back-to-school sales because I know we’re going to need so many throughout the school year. I’ve learned to go for the Expo markers because they tend to last longer.
  • Maps- You can incorporate geography into almost any school subject. Did you know that? Are you reading a book about an actual historical event? Pull out a map and see where it happened. Are you studying a scientific discovery? Pull out a map and look at where the discovery happened. You can teach geography in a contextual way through many school subjects if you just have maps handy. I recommend a large world map- I’m talking as large as you have wall space for. And this map doesn’t have to go in the schoolroom. Mine hangs on a large open wall in our living room. This large map can help you to point out where places are in relation to the rest of the world. I also recommend smaller poster sized maps of each different continent or region. These I don’t have room to hang, but I keep them handy in the schoolroom so that I can pull them out as needed.
  • Teaching posters- In addition to the maps, I recommend have educational posters that can display material that fits the age of your child/children. For example, when mine were younger, I had handwriting charts hanging up. I’ve had color bears on the wall. I’ve had clock posters. I’ve had timelines. We have the Ten Commandments. Having material constantly in view on the walls keeps it right in the forefront of the kids’ minds. Don’t have a designated schoolroom? It doesn’t matter. Hang these things all over the house. I tell people my house is decorated in “American homeschool style” which basically means that there are homeschooling supplies all. over. my. house. Homeschooling truly is a lifestyle. Claim it and decorate your house with learning materials!

Art Supplies

How do we go through twenty or more glue sticks a year? I don’t know, but it always seems that we do. Art supplies are some of the main things that I make sure to pick up during back-to-school sales because they tend to get used up very, very quickly around here.

  • Scissors- My kids are beyond the ages of safety scissors. But somehow I still have to buy scissors almost every year because ours disappear. Using notebooking and lapbooks in our homeschool means that we need scissors. So we continue to stock up on them every year.
  • Crayons/Markers/Colored pencils/Gel pens– My children aren’t little anymore, so I don’t buy new crayons every year. When they were younger, I cleaned out the crayons and markers after each school year, threw away broken and nonworking ones, and stocked up on new ones in the back-to-school sales. We still occasionally need some kind of coloring supplies to use for art work, lapbooking, notebooking, and a few other activities. So I now let the kids pick which of these to get at the beginning of each school year. 
  • Play-Doh– Even my big kids love Play-Doh, ya’ll. Do you have a fidgety child? It’s perfect for them. It gives them something to keep their hands busy with if you’re reading aloud or if they are watching a video lesson. I highly recommend that you keep Play-Doh around. And, mom of little people, let them make a mess with it. It’s okay. Keep them over the hard floors and protect the carpet if you need to, but let the kids use Play-Doh. There are so many great uses of Play-Doh. From fostering creativity, practicing making letter or number shapes, helping fine motor control, and allowing fidgety kids to move- it’s a versatile craft supply that you need.
  • Construction paper- Construction paper is useful for so many things. It obviously is good for crafting, but it’s also great to use for cutting out items to use in notebooking and lapbooking. Sometimes the kids just like to draw and paint on it. When the kids were younger, I bought it in bulk because we seemed to go through so much each year. 
  • Paint- I just saw some of you cringe. I know. I know. Next to the Play-Doh, paint is the next most-feared art supply. And, while my kids are old enough now to use any paints independently without painting themselves, the furniture, or the floor, I remember the days when it wasn’t so easy. But…a couple of years ago, I had the chance to review Kwik Stix, and I fell in love.
      Kwik Stix paint sticks

    • What are Kwik Stix? Kwik Stix are paint sticks. They are shaped like a glue stick and roll up like a glue stick, but they are filled with tempera paint.
    • How do you use them? Kids can hold them like glue sticks and use them to paint almost anything you could want to paint. 
    • How do they work? We’ve used our Kwik Stix on everything. The kids have painted cardboard. We’ve painted on construction paper and cardstock. They’ve painted on printer paper. Just rub the stick on whatever you want to paint, and you’re good to go.
    • Why do you need Kwik Stix? If you have younger kids and want to let them paint, but don’t want a giant paint mess, these are your answer. Because kids can hold them like a glue stick, it’s easy to control where the paint goes. Because the paint is in the stick form, it doesn’t spill out all gloppy on the page. It doesn’t drip on the floor. And it dries really quickly.
    • What about older kids? Even my older kids love Kwik Stix. It’s a quick, easy way to paint something. It doesn’t involve getting out water and paintbrushes and paper towels and paper plates for squirting the paint on. They can just grab the stick and go. My oldest daughter- who is a college student- took them to an event with her student activity group. The college kids used the Kwik Sitx to sign and decorate a banner as they came into the event. And then the group took the banner to display at their meetings. All of the college kids were enthralled with our Kwik Stix and wanted to know all about them and where my daughter got them. 
Back-to-Homeschool art supplies

    • Are they practical? We use these things all the time, ya’ll. It’s one of our most used school supplies and definitely something I make sure that we’re stocked up on when a new school year rolls around.
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