Thursday, August 1, 2013

What Supplies Do I Need For Home Education?

Home education can range from nearly-free to ridiculously expensive.... it all depends on the family and the decisions made regarding style and curriculum. But there are lots of tempting books, curricula, games, gadgets, kits, supplies, etc., and it's hard to know what is necessary, what is optional but fun, and what is just clutter and overkill.

A dear friend of mine (who is a successfully-graduated home educator) has reiterated to me on multiple occasions, "The only things that you need for home education are a Bible, a math curriculum, and a library card."

I've had time to ponder this, and over several years I have come to realize how true it is. We need to teach the Bible. We need to teach math. And just about everything else can be accomplished by the reading of good-quality, twaddle-free literature.

Of course, most of us use far more than just that short list - but when one is experiencing a panic attack in a homeschool exhibit hall, it's a good mantra to repeat: "Bible, math, library card. Bible, math, library card. I really can do without all of the expensive gizmos and gadgets!"

In the practical sense, what does one need for home education? Though that answer will vary by family, here are the basics that I have found necessary. (This is only for lower-elementary education - upper level children will have different needs.)

Bible - A Bible curriculum or just a Bible. We use the latter.

Reading Program - Lots of great choices! We use Rocket Phonics.

Math Curriculum - Pick one. We use Singapore.

Handwriting Curriculum - Or you can make your own!

Living Books - This is where the library card comes in, though it's also great to have a good collection of your own. Homeschool curriculum sales and garage sales are great for building one's personal library at a low cost!

Basic School Supplies - Pens, pencils, erasers, mini-whiteboard & pens. You really don't need much! For older children, composition books, binders, loose-leaf paper.

Art & Craft Supplies - Crayons, paints, chalks, crafty stuff. This too will depend on your family's personality. Our family's art supply is pretty basic, but you artsy people out there will want to have a bigger variety of materials to work with.

Useful Websites - I have a huge list of home education blogs in my blog reader, and they are such a blessing! Check my sidebar for a (very incomplete and partial) list, as well as the blog buttons. I would also include useful online forums and Facebook groups.

Local Support Group(s) - These are essential for finding encouragement, friendships, field trips, information, gatherings (Park Days, playdates, etc.), Moms' Nights Out, local information, wise counsel, etc. Make sure you have one of these - or more! I currently am involved in two homeschool support groups, am about to join another, and have several more that I could join if I had the time. They are usually very low-cost (one of my groups costs $15 per year, the other costs $12) and are worth their weight in gold.

And finally....

LOTS and LOTS and LOTS of computer paper and ink cartridges. Did I mention that you'll need LOTS? (And for those of us who love to notebook, the same applies to cardstock.) The other day I actually found myself wondering if we should invest in a professional-style printer/copier so I wouldn't have to change ink cartridges every other week. Stock up.

And that's it! For us, it's really been pretty basic. Besides the extremely-pricey curriculum that I bought our first year, homeschooling really hasn't been that expensive.

I know that for the future, there will be more items that will be required. More supplies, more textbooks, more activities and related items, etc.

But the truth of "a Bible, a math curriculum, and a library card" still holds true as an underlying foundational principle - that home education does not have to be complicated and pricey - and remembering that can help us all keep our sanity when we're bombarded with ads, offers, and "you must have such-and-such to successfully home educate!" propaganda.

Maybe I should make this my mantra before I head into next year's exhibit hall.

What other essentials would you add to the above list?

Our handwriting curriculum for the year - total for both books was $15. Next year I'll skip the teacher's manual (which is sitting next to me right now, unread) and the price will drop to $7. Not bad! 


  1. Hey I read something tonight that made me think of your safety curriculum. The person wrote the important caveat that even if a person knows your name, they can still be a stranger. Made sense since adults can get kids' names from nametags, hearing other people say them, etc.

  2. Jen - That's an awesome one! I added it to our curriculum this morning and went over it with C. Thanks!! :)


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