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Homeschool Supply List for Minimalists (With Tips)

Since we’ve been minimizing our homeschool in preparation to move into an RV, I thought I’d get a list together of the few homeschool supplies a minimalist will need.

What does a homeschool supply list consist of for minimalists? Internet access, an eReader, digital books, paper, pencil, and a pencil sharpener are the most basic supplies that every student needs. We will need only the necessities to do our deskwork, and a few odds and ends to practice our activities. But as the student progresses into Middle and High School, they will need additional supplies to support their growing interests and abilities.

How Much Space Do You Need and What Should Be In It?

Aka, furniture, storage, and space.

The first thing to consider is the amount of space that you will need for your “schoolroom.”

You will not necessarily need a lot of square footage if your homeschool day is divided into deskwork and activities. Most of your needed space will be for storage.

But first, let me explain the difference between Deskwork and Activities.

Deskwork is the part of the day where Reading, Writing, and Math are completed. These subjects require the use of a table or desk on which to write and a chair on which to sit.

Activities cover the schoolwork that allows your kiddo to get up and move around. Generally, this type of schoolwork is performed in a more relaxed environment and includes P. E., Music, Art, and other Electives or Extra-Curricular activities.

Now, before we go on, I want to mention something. Below, you will notice one thing being mentioned over and over, and it might be a little annoying.

We recommend Lap Desks with storage capabilities.

If you do nothing else to minimize your homeschool space, get a lap desk with storage. It keeps things organized, and is a handy writing and eating surface. Plus, they stow away easily.

For deskwork and activities, minimalists will need:

  • Desk, Table, or writing surface – Most minimalists might wish to use the kitchen table for this. However, if this is not optimal for your living space, traditional school desks, T.V. Trays, or lap desks are another option to consider.

MiniMize Tip: We enjoy using lap desks with storage capabilities, as this allows each child to keep supplies inside, which can then be easily be tucked away when deskwork is finished.

  • Shared Supplies Container – This will hold the supplies that can be shared by everyone. This includes arts and crafts supplies, scissors, glue, rulers, and pencil sharpeners, among other things. You will need this regardless of the type of desks you use. *See Shared Supplies, below.

MiniMize Tip: Before choosing a container, gather the other shared supplies (below) and make sure that they all fit inside.

  • Individual Supply ContainerYou will only need this if you are using the kitchen table, or other shared common area without storage capabilities. In this case, you will need one container for each student. You can use tubs, but we suggest lap desks with storage inside. Even if this is not the desk you use on a daily basis, it provides storage, an alternative workspace, and a T.V. tray for meals. *See Individual Supplies, below.
  • Chair – Duh. Let them sit down. However, you only need extra chairs if you are going with traditional school desks. All other desk and table options can use the kitchen or living room furniture for seating. Lap desks also allow your child to sit on the floor, bed, in the car, or pretty much anywhere appropriate for the moment.

MiniMize Tip: if you often travel, such as RVers do, we highly, highly, recommend a lap desk. This will allow your student to do school in the backseat and not have to wait until you reach your destination (unless they get carsick, of course).

  • The GymnasiumJust kidding. You only need a large, open area (the yard, or a park) to do some Physical Education activities. For movement exercises such as Pilates or yoga, just make sure you at least have floor space.

Once you have a spot in which to do schoolwork and a way to store all of it, then you’re ready to gather the tools which your student will use each day.

What do Minimalist Kids Need for Homeschool Deskwork?

Your students, regardless of their age or grade level, will need a few basic supplies for the main part of their studies. We prefer to keep these tools as small and portable as possible.

This section is divided into two categories: Things you can share and things that each child needs for themselves.

Shared Supplies for Minimalism

You will only need one set of these tools.

I suggest that they are stored in a separate container away from the common areas of your home (*See Shared Supplies Container, above).

The reason for this is that these supplies all seem to either get up and walk away or become the unfortunate victims of what appears to be random hate crimes.

These supplies tend to run away from home. You will never discover where they went, or who assisted them in their escape. Likewise, if you do find them, they’ll be broken or irreparably damaged.

Hoard these tools like treasure. We prefer to keep our shared supplies in the master bedroom so that they are less likely to be “borrowed” without permission.

Supplies you can share:

  • Pencil Sharpener – While it seems to be a good idea to give each child their own small pencil sharpener, these will be quickly broken or lost. Something inside children compels them to enjoy constantly grinding objects down to a nub. Those little sharpeners are no match for this type of constant use. Having one good quality sharpener that is monitored by the parent or teacher will divert this habit and save on expenses in the long run.
  • Dice – These are used for memorizing math facts. 12-sided dice work best, but you can also use 6-sided dice and roll 2 at a time if needed. You will need at least one 12-sided or two 6-sided die for each child on the math fact memorization level.

MiniMize Tip: Store dice in a zip-loc bag or another small pouch inside your Shared Container.

  • Ruler – Your student will turn this into a lever, gun, paddle, catapult, flyswatter, saw, and a number of other imaginative devices. If you give them continuous access to rulers, you might need to stock 365 rulers for each and every child. They will break and become lost continuously.

MiniMize Tip: We prefer to use tape measures from the sewing section instead of traditional rulers of wood or plastic. Small, retractable tape measures work very well for storage, but keep an eye out when in use. They are easily pocketed and smuggled away.

  • Music player (boombox, phone, MP3 player, computer, etc.) – You might not need a separate music player at all. If your phone or computer plays music, this will suffice. We simply added it to the list so you’d be aware that you need a way to play music.
  • Internet Access – You will use the internet to download the books and resources your student needs onto their Kindle. If you can get internet access in your home, we absolutely recommend it for access to videos, community support, and more. However, if you cannot, there are alternatives.

MiniMize Tip: The local library and Wal-Mart are two locations with internet access; and there are others. If you are unsure, just as an employee.

Individual Supplies for Minimalism

You will need one set of these supplies for each student.

Have your child store these supplies inside their desk or container (*See Individual Supply Container, above).

It is up to you whether you want to allow constant access to these supplies. However, keep in mind that the more access they have, the more time you will spend tracking down the supplies before they can begin their schoolwork.

Believe me, I thought I wanted to give my children full access to learn 24-hours a day. What I found out was that it meant less time for school and more time playing hide and seek with inanimate objects.

Our boys are not gifted with the skill of organization; so, we keep everything together in our room with the shared storage container until school time. We only allow the children to use these supplies with our permission, and they must give them back after a specific time period.

Think of this like checking a book out from the library.

Minimal supplies for each individual:

  • Kindle or eReader – These are wonderful to minimize the amount of space you need to store schoolbooks. Computers and smart-phones will also work. However, if your child has access to the internet, he or she will be constantly tempted. Until Middle and High School, we suggest using Kindle Paperwhites that require you to download what they need to do school and don’t have Wi-fi capability.

MiniMize Tip: Store workbooks and worksheets in PDF form on these devices and have your child write their answers in their spiral notebooks to avoid the need for a printing capability.

  • Pencils – No matter which age or level your child is on, they will need pencils, at least for Math. But these things will disappear daily. Let them keep ONE pencil in their individual supply box and store the rest in your shared box.

MiniMizeTip: Ticonderoga pencils are by far superior to any other brand. They break less and last longer. Save yourself the headache of constant pencil issues and buy the more expensive brand. Even if you don’t save money, you probably won’t end up spending more when it’s all said and done, and you will have fewer issues.

  • Eraser – No matter which pencil brand you go with, your kid will demolish a pencil eraser before finishing a single math lesson. Go ahead and get them each their own pink eraser. Cheap ones work fine. However, we don’t recommend sharing these, as they become a way to interrupt others’ work.
  • Index Cards – You will need these to make flashcards for Math Facts, Spelling, Vocabulary, and the like. They will probably use these cards every single day. The reason we aren’t suggesting buying the flashcards already made is that writing the information is another form of learning and Index cards are very affordable. Store flashcards bound by rubber bands or in a zip-loc bag or pouch inside the student’s Individual Supply Box (or lap desk).

MiniMize Tip: We do not suggest using plastic index card boxes, as these tend to break easily, take up too much space, and ultimately don’t hold everything.

  • Spiral Notebook – The easiest way to handle paper is to use a spiral notebook. It keeps the papers bound together (*See Supplies for Parents, below). We use a one-subject spiral. To avoid flipping to new sections in multi-subject notebooks, we do all daily work on the same paper and only start fresh when needed. This saves paper consumption. You may need 2 or 3 per student for a school year.

To avoid issues with the spiral getting in the way, use a notebook that flips on the top of the page, instead of the side. This is a major issue for left-handed kiddos. You can use fly-leaf notebook paper if you prefer, but this will require a binder or folder and you will begin noticing random papers all over the place. Plus, binders are bulky and won’t store well.

MiniMize Tip: Buy notebooks in bulk during the end of summer back-to-school sales to save money. These might be bought for as little as $0.25 cents each at this time of year.

If you bought nothing else on the list, I would say that you have enough at this point.

For Activities, Electives, and Record-Keeping, you can always come up with something that doesn’t require supplies. However, we choose to keep the following supplies to help enrich the learning experience.

What do You Need for Minimalist Homeschool Activities?

You really don’t require anything for homeschool activities. There’s always a way to do activities with materials you have around the house.

Music requires nothing more than your voice, and maybe a pot or spoon to keep the rhythm. Kids can get very creative coloring with nothing more than dirt; I’m just saying.

But if you want a little more than the bare basics, here are my suggestions.

Minimalist Supplies for Activities:

  • Sketchbook – My children covet their Sketch Notebooks! I bought these on one of my Ambleside forays, and even when I don’t use their Nature Journaling curriculum, we continue to use the sketchbooks. It’s a nice way to incorporate Art, Science, or just about anything without paper getting everywhere. Every kid needs their own. Store it in their Individual Box.
  • Coloring Supplies – Map Pencils, Crayons, and Watercolors pair nicely with the Sketch Notebooks. I prefer map pencils, simply because they don’t melt, don’t require water, and travel well. I would get everyone their own set of coloring supplies to avoid interruptions while doing deskwork. Store it all in their Individual Box.
  • Scissors – Scissors are nice, specifically ones that fit little hands. But I would keep these in your Shared Supplies Box. You can probably get away with keeping only one pair to share. Also, if you value your curtains, sheets, furniture, and hair, I wouldn’t suggest giving full access to scissors at any time of the day; even if everyone has their own pair.

MiniMize Tip: If you’re extremely minimalist, teach your kiddos how to do the fold, lick, and tear trick to skip scissors altogether.

  • Glue – Nice to have on hand for random projects. However, absolutely keep this in your Shared Supplies Box! Otherwise, your littles will glue everything in the house.

MiniMize Tip: Glue sticks won’t last long, and they take up a ton of room. To be honest, I don’t even think they’re less messy. I suggest the regular ol’ liquid glue. Just buy one bottle and share it.

  • Other Arts and Crafts Supplies – Buy ONE small (very small) tackle box and limit supplies to those compartments. Now, I’m not talking about a box for each different supply. I mean, a tiny jar of glitter in one compartment, a small collection of pom-poms in another, one spot for buttons, another for ribbon, etc. ALL in the same little box. When it’s full, you don’t get anything else until there’s room in the box. Got it?
  • Music – Use your computer or phone to store digital music. Skip CD’s, tapes, and records.

MiniMize Tip: YouTube. Enough said.

  • Instruments – Now, this is up to you and your student. However, I have one suggestion. Stick to acoustic instruments; unless you are studying Piano and don’t have the room for a large acoustic version.

MiniMize Tip: Use YouTube for instruction if you cannot use a live instructor. We LOVE Hoffman Academy for Piano and they have a YouTube channel, too.

Do You Need Extra Supplies to Homeschool a Minimalist Kindergarten?

While you don’t necessarily need more to homeschool Kindergarten, there are a few things that might be helpful.

Go ahead and get the stuff above, though; because we are trying to get out of this Kindergarten stage ASAP. These extra supplies are simply to ease into school; do not allow them to be used as a crutch.

It is nice to begin schooling with your child comfortably, however. Doing so sets them up for success.

For this reason, I suggest a few things that you will only buy ONE TIME. When these supplies disappear or get used, move on to the supplies we listed above. If they’re hanging around after Kindergarten, get rid of them.

This is all for comfort, and not necessary. In fact, many graphologists recommend that you limit the use of some of the following to avoid handwriting issues in the future.

Extra Supplies for a Minimalist Kindergarten:

  • Folder with pockets – This is the only stage where I suggest using loose-leaf papers in a folder. You don’t need anything fancy, because you will soon move on to the spiral notebook approach listed above.
  • TICONDEROGA My First Tri-Write Pencils – These pencils are awesome! Big enough for little hands to grasp, and the added triangular shape makes buying special grips a thing of the past. These pencils will save you a ton of time trying to show your kindergartener how to hold a pencil all day long. Use these until they get too clunky or they all disappear; then move on to the regular pencils listed above.
  • Pencil Sharpener for Large Pencils – You will only need this if your regular sharpener does not fit large pencils. Keep this away from your little, though. Sharp things are scary.

MiniMize Tip: We prefer the Mobius & Ruppert Brass Round Double Hole Sharpener. It’s small, but your kindergartener will not be sharpening his own pencils anyway. Plus, it works well for map pencils and pastels, too, which tend to not sharpen well in most other options.

  • 10 ½” X8” Dotted Midline Paper (Grades 1&2) – This is the beginner’s writing paper that’s turned sideways, used to train your student to write tall and short letters evenly between the lines. Use fly-leaf to avoid complaints about thick pads of paper against their forearms. Buy one pack of this (appx. 500 sheets) and when you run out, move on to the paper that’s not sideways (below).

MiniMize Tip: Don’t worry if they need to use multiple sheets per day. We want this stuff to go away as quickly as possible!

  • 8” X10 ½” Dotted Midline (Grades 2&3) – This is the same paper as before, only not turned sideways. Buy a pack of this, use it up and then switch to regular spiral notebooks.

*When this paper is gone, your child will struggle to write smaller. However, it is crucial that they do not continue writing this big past Kindergarten. If they do, you will notice that they are unable to concentrate in general. I’ll go into this topic some more at another time. For now, train writing tall and short letters and use up the paper quickly.

  • Counting materials – Dried Beans, pennies, buttons, or other assorted things to count.

Tip: Use a small cup or bowl to contain these small objects and watch your babies! No choking!!

  • Readers for extra practice – At this stage, it is helpful to have lots of little books to choose from and read. And let’s face it, little kids will be more inspired to read physical books than a Kindle. However, there are also lots of digital books you can use at this stage, too.

MiniMize Tip: Try a place such as Goodwill to find lots of used readers for practice at a great price. We don’t suggest the library simply because the books tend to get ripped and worn.

If you think Kindergarten seems like a lot of extra supplies, just wait. This is the beginning of their homeschool experience. The ending gets pricier, and you’ll be wishing for those expensive pencils to be the worst of it.

Will a Minimalist Need Extra Supplies to Homeschool Middle and High School?

You will need extra supplies for Middle and High School. It comes with the territory.

Most of the following assume that your child will be using computers and learning to use documents online. This becomes a little pricey going forward.

Some parents make this added expense part of their teenager’s responsibility. You might explain to your teenager, for instance, that he or she must get a job and fund these extras themselves. Just a suggestion.

However, if you are choosing not to use computers and the internet in your homeschool, you will still want to consider parts of this list.

Supplies for a Minimalist Middle and High School:

  • Laptop or Computer – When your child reaches Middle School, you will want to begin incorporating computers into their daily work. The addition of Electives and Research Papers might require more continuous access. If you’ve been homeschooling for a while, their Kindle might be worn out, too (let’s hope so). Make sure it’s capable of incorporating MS Office and building a website or blog.
  • Microsoft Office (LibreOffice) – When you have introduced a computer into homeschool, make sure that it also has Microsoft Office or something similar.

MiniMize Tip: Free programs similar to MS Office include Google Docs and LibreOffice.

  • Domain Name and Web Hosting – The MiniMize Life suggests that you have your high schooler learn to build a website and then post his or her schoolwork on the site. This is very useful in today’s world, and a neat portfolio to use while applying for college. Our recommendation for both is BlueHost. Their excellent customer service will work nicely for a first-time website designer.

MiniMize Tip: If you can afford to go all out on this and pay for a class, we recommend IncomeSchool. This collection of courses will walk through the entire process and show how to make money at it. But if you find IncomeSchool too expensive, there are lots of free instructional websites out there your student can use with a bit of searching.

  • Internet Access – This one goes without saying if you’re building a website. The library and Wal-Mart just won’t cut it. If it is not doable, just don’t incorporate websites, and you’ll be fine.
  • Various materials required for Electives – Now, I can’t spell this one out for you. It all depends on which Electives your student pursues. But be aware that most Electives come with some sort of expense; whether it’s gear for sports, instruments for music, or books and classes for Computer Science.
  • Driver’s Ed – It had to be said, and I’m sorry. Your kid needs to learn to drive. In some places, you can do this yourself, but you will need to check into the laws in your state.

MiniMize Tip: In Texas, we liked using an app called Aceable paired with the book, Drive Right, by Margaret L. Johnson, et. al.

Which Supplies Will the Minimalist Teacher Need?

You are going to personally need a way to keep records and create resources. It’s not very much but might be one of the most important parts.

Supplies for Minimalist Parents:

  • Internet Access – We covered this above. You will need this to download books, email scanned images of schoolwork, keep records, and find videos and resources for your homeschool.
  • Devices (computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone) – This goes along with your internet access, which I’m sure you’re aware of. In a pinch, you can use only a smart-phone and a few helpful apps to do everything. But we suggest both a laptop and either a smartphone or tablet with a camera.
  • MS Office or similar – This is another topic we discussed in the Middle and High School Supply list above. You will need one of these options to keep records and transcripts and to create other resources for your children. Microsoft is my own preference but others, like the free options listed above, work as well.
  • Scanner App – This works well with the camera on your smartphone or tablet. Get in the habit of taking a picture of your student’s work with this app and email it to yourself or an email account set up for your child. Doing this will allow you to trash those papers ASAP. This way, you can check the documents for your records if needed. Plus, doing this daily will date stamp your document!

MiniMize Tip: Include a short description of the work in the subject line of your email to locate it easily.

  • Pen or Marker – Hide this from everybody. They will see it as a special, magical pen and want to use it for everything. But you need it to circle mistakes on your child’s writing, so keep it hidden!
  • Booklist – Without a booklist, this entire Homeschool Supply List for Minimalists is useless. Your booklist should contain everything your child needs to know by graduation. Choose The MiniMize Life’s suggested list or another. Either way, the booklist is your main school plan.

Additionally, if you decide that you want to print books, worksheets or anything else, you will need the following supplies listed below.

*However, using kindles and spiral notebooks will alleviate the need for these optional supplies unless you must print records or forms. Somewhere such as Office Depot might be able to do this for you.

Optional Supplies for Parents:

  • Printer
  • Printer Paper
  • Toner

Keep Your Supplies to a Minimum

Homeschool supplies tend to get out of hand very quickly. If you do not map out your homeschool plan thoroughly, you will find that you have lots of supplies that hardly ever get used.

What’s worse, they will get in the way, and can potentially be dangerous.

I once had an entire shelf of about 100 binders full of paper break and fall behind my desk. I only escaped the avalanche by jumping onto the desk at the last moment.

This clutter will make you feel awful.

Avoid this by sticking to the basics and finding tools that can serve more than one purpose while making your life and parenting responsibilities easier.

Do you have any ideas on how to minimize this supply list even more? Anything you feel should be added? Let us know in the comments, below.


Mindy is retired as a corporate office professional, where the whole of her '20's was spent in sales and sales/marketing support. She currently spends her time as a housewife and mother, writing articles of a rambling nature, and schooling her four children. Mindy enjoys reading and has a plethora of musical whimsy, which she inflicts on her family in spite of their pleas. Her favorite quote is written by Dr. Arthur Robinson stating that "People who can think do so with their brains."

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