Purchasing 101: Forget the Curriculum; What Else Do I Buy!?

By Tammy Cardwell, homeschool author and publisher

What do I buy? It's a question that both excites and intimidates the new homeschooler. Curriculum purchases are hard enough, but what about everything else? What will you really need in your homeschool?

One of the best tips I received that first year was, "Don't buy it till you need it." I didn't always heed this advice, but I saw it for truth early on. The boys' school desks lasted maybe three months, which is about how long the school room itself survived. To have a school room or not is the first issue you'll face and it's one you should face honestly. In my home, where refusing to answer the phone was not an option, a remote school room did not work. Having a 'school' desk separate from my 'regular' desk also proved impractical. School quickly became such a part of our everyday lives that setting it off by itself was a joke. Things may be different in your home, of course, but do not assume that a school room is an absolute necessity.

On the other hand, there are some things that seem universally necessary and still other things (sometimes surprising things) that, once we homeschoolers discover them, we find we could never do without them again. Rather than go on and on from my own experience, I decided to get with some fellow homeschoolers and gather input for a list of "necessary helpfuls." One thing they all agreed on, by the way, is the importance of quality. It seems we homeschoolers tend to shop office supply stores, purchasing commercial grade tools whenever possible.

Some of the these suggestions may seem absurd to you, or even excessive, but the list will give you a better idea of what experienced homeschoolers really find themselves appreciating.

(not necessarily in order of importance or reason)

Bookshelves - everyone agrees on this one; you can never have enough
Computer - in this day and age it's almost impossible to function well without computer access
Printer - color if possible
Scanner - an expensive extra, but one that gets lots of use
Encyclopedia - get a good encyclopedia program if you can, but also have a set (even an old one that's missing a volume or two) of honest-to-goodness, pick-em -up-and-read books
High Quality Pencil Sharpener --- manual or electric; buy one that will last
Three-hole Punch This was the most popularly recommended item (after bookshelves). One lady even advised having a second one that fits in a binder/planner.
Stapler - an absolute necessity, and several suggested a long reach stapler. It's one of those things you usually can't see yourself needing until you have one
Dictionary - get a good one, and maybe one at your child's level as well
Paper Storage - file cabinets, milk crates, cardboard boxes, some place to put all the paper you are about to generate
Marker Board - shower board works well, and of course remember the wipe off markers
Good Scissors - you may also wish to have a pair of fabric scissors, because the ones you use for paper will likely munch on fabric
Rulers - I especially like my 18" flexible metal rulers. I often use them as straight edges when cutting with craft knives
Cassette/CD Player
Bookshelves - reminding you ... that books increase the R value of your walls is a common joke among homeschoolers...library building is something that just seems to happen
World Globe
Maps - especially US and world
Spiral Notebooks - yes, they're basic school supplies, but new homeschoolers don't always think to have extras on hand. You never know when you'll need one. The same goes for brad and/or Pocket Folders
Art Supplies --- quality and variety are the key words
Field Guides - trees, birds, insects, wild flowers
Large Calendar
Educational Games
Packing Tape - clear, wide tape for repairing books, maps, game boxes
Contact Paper - cheap lamination material
Microscope - yes, a good microscope is something few people ever regret buying
Index Cards - note cards, flash cards, games
Paper Cutter - sturdy, and one that's large enough to be useful
Camera Kids Can Use
Pattern Blocks
Cuisenaire Rods - I never bought these myself, but have heard enough about their usefulness that I regret the mistake
Snap Lock Cubes
Magnifying Glass
Scale And Weights
Musical Instruments - piano or keyboard, recorder, guitar etc.
Flannel Board - you can use it to display much more than flannel graph sets
Cork Board - one mom actually glued cork to a whole wall and says it's the wisest move she's made yet
Play Money
Small Aquariums -- fitted with middles, you can raise a variety of plant and animal life in them
Paper - all shapes, sizes and types
Webster's 1828 Dictionary - invaluable when reading documents from early American history, and a fascinating glimpse at the way early American's looked at things (available in both print and computer versions)
English Handbook
Baskets - to hold catalogs and magazines
Sheet Protectors - these sleeves are great for protecting papers you refer to often, special school work, ink jet printed photocopy masters, and more
Kitchen Timer - timing tests, time outs, games

Tammy Cardwell is an author, editor, and publisher. Her publishing company CJ Press has just published See I Told Me So, in which homeschool veterans from many walks of life share from their experiences-their challenges, their fears, their trials and triumphs. It's now available as an e-book and will soon be able in print version. She is the Review Editor for the Eclectic Homeschool Online, and has written Frontporch History for those who wish to study the history of their own families.



What to Teach
Homescholing Scope & Sequence

Finding Resources
General Guidelines
Let's Get Specific
Suggested Homeschool Resource Providers

Telling Others

Nuts & Bolts
Helpful Books

How Kids Learn

Older Kids
Resources for Teen Homeschooling

Special Needs

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