Homeschool Essentials (2021)

For kids who are traditionally schooled, back to school shopping usually entails new shoes, clothing, and backpacks, in addition to the ubiquitous items like paper, pencils and glue.

However, for kids who do their learning at home, the needs are a little different. Chances are, you’re more concerned with things like storage and organization than you are with buying the latest and greatest pair of kicks.

Through years of trial and error, sometimes having a dedicated school room and more often not, I have come up with a list of homeschool essentials that help keeps us sane and organized throughout the school year.

Ready? Let’s go.

A thermal laminator.

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I never realized how much stuff I really needed to be laminated until I actually got my machine. We have laminated chore charts, “remember to” signs for the kitchen and bathroom, various certificates, special pieces of my daughter’s art, labels for kitchen and bathroom organization and I’m finding new things to laminate every day. I would definitely recommend this laminator for the price and ease of use.

This little machine will save you so much money in paper and printer ink. Need a multiplication chart? Print one out and laminate it. Have puzzles and worksheets? Laminate them and have your kids use dry erase markers to complete them. You’ll love this so much you’ll start looking for weird things to laminate, just because you can. Recipes, artwork, cell phone bills. Laminate all the things!

A Kindle or e-reader.

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It is reliable, easy to read and easily to hold in any position while reading in bed or your big rig. Being able to order and download as much material as you want and not have to worry about disk space is nice.

Maybe you’re the world’s most organized person who never forgets to reserve reading materials from your library in preparation for whatever unit study or curriculum you’re using. But chances are, one day, even you, Organized Mom, will forget a book that your child needs. We have several Kindles floating around our house and my favorites are the kind that only downloads books and articles. That way, there’s no temptation to play a game or browse a website whilst using them. Most states now have an extensive library of materials, which might even mean fewer trips hoisting that laundry basket.


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This is the best laptop deal you can get, full stop.

The screen is GORGEOUS and much better than laptops at twice or three times the price. This boots in about 15 seconds. It has some heft but is still very light. You can carry this all day in your backpack and not even know it is there. The power brick is about the size of a Toblerone tube. I plan on buying an extra to travel with.

This will work as a consumer laptop as is, as I said, but add some memory and a hard drive and you are CRUSHING. This is much better than what other companies are offering as a budget laptop.

Whether you use online classes, disc programs like Teaching Textbooks, or just need to access the library or sites for printables, a good, basic PC is a necessity. My preference is for laptops, as we do school all around the house. Typically, we don’t purchase a lot of software either. I use Google Docs for almost everything, and as long as there is wifi, it works very well.

Wireless Printer

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* You get started with lots of ink. For the average home, it’ll be a long time before ordering more ink.
* The ink is easy and safe to load. And it feels wonderful to be cartridge-free.
* Print quality is excellent, to say the least, with highly legible text that’s appropriate for most businesses and personal use. Also, its color photo-quality printing is superior to laserjet printers at anything like the same cost.
* Long-term cost is widely variable depending on many factors such as humidity, and it’s far superior to any printer that uses cartridges.
* The control panel is intuitive whether one controls the device there or on a phone or computer, and easy to use, in my view.
* This printer is well-documented with a 220-page user manual that’s available as PDF online. This user manual is written in correct and plain language, demonstrating quality editing that’s expected from Epson or any of its peers.

It is the best one we ever had and the cheapest ink tank printer among Epson printer lines but there is a couple of things you should have known before buying, read the reviews here.

A sturdy, plastic, lidded storage box for personal books, folders, and supplies.

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The lids snap on well but are very easy to take off, and these smaller size boxes are lighter to carry than the standard 56 qt size. Everything fits together and stacks great.

Kids are free to add stickers and decorated these however they choose. I love that it keeps smaller items all together and intact as we often have to move them from room to room. They stack easily and usually hold up to an entire year or more. You can also use these for your not-ready-for-school children as an activity box that they get to use during school time. When Judah was small I kept his ‘school’ box filled with a rotating supply of play clay, containers of dried beans, measuring cups, puzzles, coloring things, and more. He loved it and it was so helpful to have him occupied constructively whilst I worked with his older siblings.

A hard-side pencil box.

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This is a very nicely designed pencil box. The lid stays closed securely which is great! This will definitely do the trick with all kinds of storage aside from school use. My only gripe was that it was a tad smell for all of the items kept in it.

Perfect for keeping personal writing utensils, scissors, and glue from siblings’ sticky fingers.

Ticonderoga pencils.

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Upon testing I found both the eraser and tip to be resistant to breaking off. Even when I put excessive pressure on the tip it flaked off and still had plenty of points to finish a sentence. It took considerable force for me to actually force it to break. The tip seemed to hold up just as well when you sharpened it again. At a competitive price and recognizable quality, these are better than most of the pencils I used growing up.

Simply the best there are. They mark well, and they’re the only traditional pencil that doesn’t seem to get chewed up by pencil sharpeners. Seriously, Cheaper pencils will not save you money in the long run.

A great planner.

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I love how it has yearly planning, monthly planning, and then weekly planning. There are information pages to help beginners learn how to use the planner and even ultimate planners for younger students and teens. I love that I get to fill in the dates and I’m not subject to having it prefilled so that if I were to buy later in the year, I don’t feel that I’ve wasted money on a planner that’s over halfway through the year. It’s also helpful for homeschoolers that start at the beginning of the year versus following a traditional school year. I would recommend this to anybody who is looking for a homeschool planner.

There are lots of planners out there, some printable, some hard copy. This is the one I like the best because it was designed by a veteran homeschool mom and is perfect for those with multiiple children. Whether you are someone who plans ahead or just keeps a daily record of what work your kids have accomplished, this is the planner for you.

A sketchbook and various art supplies.

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For the price and for being cellulose-based paper, this is nice! It is great for Plein air sketching or any general watercolor sketching. Also works amazingly with gouache. Takes fountain, gel, and other pens nicely and has an agreeable tooth for pencil. I like it better than either Moleskine or Stillman & Bern watercolor books, which I have used extensively. It doesn’t behave like 100% cotton paper but expecting it to do so is unrealistic. I use binder clips on the short side to keep pages from moving around or curling; works great.

We’re talking colored pencils, watercolors, brushes, stickers, old magazines to cut up…the works. I always make sure each of my kids has his or her own sketchbook, even my non artsy kiddos. We’ve used them as nature journals, scrapbooks, yearbooks, scribble books, and more.

Just a little tip. Did you know that studies have shown that we humans listen and absorb heard information better when our hands are busy? That’s why people doodle whilst on the phone and why we remember better when we takes notes in lectures. So letting your child doodle when she listens to you read or teach can help her remember better. I’ve found this to be true with my kids and recommend trying it out.

Library Card.

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This one is getting five stars for durability, value for money, and sturdiness. The patterns help to hide dirt, it is lightweight yet still very sturdy and had great quality. 

This is probably an obvious one, but if you haven’t considered it, a library card is something that you will use nearly every week. And what fun it is to take your little one to the front desk to get his own, brand new, plastic card that he gets to sign. Not to mention the euphoria your child will experience at his first overdue fine. Buckets of fun, I tell you. But seriously, with all the programs, materials, and ebooks available, a library card really is a key to the world.

The Our Groceries App.

And, just for fun, I’m going to throw in a bonus.

If you’re anything like me, you make plenty of lists. Groceries, Target runs, To-Dos, and then you lose them. Or leave them at home. This app is free and can be used by multiple people. You can make lots of lists that your spouse and kids can access. The next time you head to Aldi, your list will be at your fingertips. Forgot the eggs again? Text your husband and ask him to stop on the way home. He’ll just need to open the app to see what’s needed.

Seriously, this app has proven itself worthy again and again. Get it now.

There you have it-my essentials list.

What items would YOU add?

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