When I first began homeschooling, I was certainly wishing someone would give me a printed list like all the schools got so I would know what to buy. I over-bought for sure the first few years but...eventually we used it all. Since the stores put those school supplies out right after Independence Day, here is a list for you! You want to get to that stuff before the mobs hit it and everything is on the floor.
Spiral Notebooks/Composition Notebooks
These are literally .35 at my Walmart. I stock UP on these things. We use them year-round for menu planning, grocery lists, to do lists, drawing/taking notes in church, school...everything! I usually buy between 10-20 and I get a mix of college and wide ruled. If you aren't obsessive about spiral notebooks like me, I would say 2-3 per student would be good. We use them a lot for working math problems in, writing, journal, etc.
Some teachers will tell you there is only one pencil: Ticonderoga. I admit they are good. We have used off-brand pencils as well. There are some that haven't been so good. Buy a few kinds and see what you like. When you think you have enough, buy some more. Buy like you are purchasing for a class of 30. Save yourself from waiting while your children wander around the house looking for a pencil while you shriek, "HOW CAN THEY ALL BE GONE?"
The cost between pre-sharpened and not is negligible so spring for the pre-sharpened ones if you can. Even still, you will need a pencil sharpener. I suggest 2 kinds: a community pencil sharpener and individual ones they can keep with them. I've been through several electric pencil sharpeners over the years and they all break. You know what hasn't broken in over 14 years? My old-school pencil
sharpener husband screwed onto the workbench in the garage (pencil shavings get everywhere so inside is not a good idea). I grew up going out to the garage to sharpen our pencils as well. Some things don't need improving on. You can't beat the price either.
I usually grab a couple of bottles of Elmer's School Glue. We don't always use it for school, but my kids are pretty artsy so we like having some. I stock up on glue sticks while they are on sale because the price increases by 300% after school starts. Seriously, you don't want to have to buy glue sticks in the middle of the year! In elementary grades, we used a LOT of glue for lap books, art projects, cut and paste worksheets, etc. In the middle school and high school years you won't need as much, if any. Still, I usually get 4-8 sticks per child. They really don't last long.
Here is where homeschool freedom comes in! Parents, you can buy your children bigger scissors if you want to! I remember how incredulous my daughter was when I suggested she just get a grown-up pair of scissors. Her hands were big enough and everything takes less time to cut with them. Of course, safety first...if you have little ones around especially. And Mom, buy a pair or 2 for you while you are at it. They seem to go wherever the pencils go.
Little kids get the chunky markers, older kids get the skinny ones. Mama gets the permanent markers/Sharpies. Color pencils are used even in high school. My daughters had to color in pictures of cells in Biology, color maps, etc. The older they get, the more quality of color pencils I would invest in. Crayons are super cheap this time of year so I stock up and not just for school. Younger kids get a new box of crayons when school starts, and a replacement box in January. Toss those used ones into a bucket for fun coloring time. Put a box in your church bag. Pack some for a trip. Crayons are always good. Highlighters get a LOT of use in our homeschool as well. I like the multi-color packs.
This is going to depend on how you homeschool, what kind of curriculum you are using, and the age of your students. You will have to figure out how you want papers stored. Do you want a binder for yourself to keep your teacher stuff in? Does your student have a consumable workbook? They might not need a binder or folder. Will you need subject dividers? Think through how your curriculum is to be used and decide what you might need because again: they are cheaper now! If you don't use it this year, you can always use it another year.
To School Box or Not To School Box?
That is the question. I have certainly purchased plastic school boxes for my kids. I have also had a tabletop spinning organizer. The only problem with that is when you want to pack up and go to the library or somewhere else for school. You can't take the tabletop organizer with you. I have also put all the color pencils in one school box, crayons in another, pencils in another one. It's really up to you, but you will need a way to contain the supplies and have the kids be able to access and put them away easily. For the last several years, we have been using little metal pails from IKEA. Everyone has 3 to keep their stuff in.
Rulers and Math Supplies
My girls have all needed rulers for math through the years. We have 3-4 in a drawer and never need to re-buy them. Is a calculator required? Protractor? Check your curriculum!
When my girls were small, I always stocked up on construction paper. Like I said, we were artsy. We don't use it that much anymore, but we sure do use printer paper! Notebook paper is also a good thing for older kids. Decide on college ruled or wide ruled.
Now for the other things:
Backpacks---will you be attending a co-op? Going to another location for school? Even just traveling to the library some days? A backpack can be good, but may not be necessary for your family.
Lunch boxes--Again, we used our lunch boxes every week when we were in a co-op. Now, we don't ever need one. Then in May, my youngest daughter had to opportunity to attend a Star Base camp. I had to quickly order a lunch kit from Amazon. They can be used for field trips as well but sometimes your family can just take a cooler.
Erasers--big pink erasers never seem to get used up so that is probably a once and done buy. Some people like the pencil top erasers for when the eraser on the pencil gets worn down.
White boards/markers--individual white boards can be a great thing to use in homeschool! We work our math problems on them sometimes rather than paper, the kids draw while I read history, or any other use you can think of. Baby socks make good erasers, or you can buy the kind designed for white boards. I really like this company for whiteboards. They have a lot of unique ones like the American map white board we have.
Office supplies--staples, a stapler, correction tape, scotch tape, copy paper, printer ink, pens, paper clips, post-it notes and flags, stickers, hole punch.......it's like Christmas in July for nerds like me. Remember, you don't have 20 something students. A little goes a long way.
I wish I could just give you a printed list of what to buy. You can find them online for sure but here's the thing: every homeschool family is different! Check your curriculum to see what is required. Know how artsy your family is. Know that you can always buy some more later. Know that if you over-buy, you can save it for the next year. And know that all you really need to teach your children is some paper, something to write with, and a library card. You can't mess this up. You will find your homeschool groove and know just what you need one day. (And then your kids will all be in completely different grades and it will keep you guessing. haha) (no, but really)