My Ten Must-Have’s From the Back-to-School Aisle

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I was in Walmart today and I noticed that they’ve already started stocking the back-to-school aisle. I love this time of year! It’s like Christmas for a homeschool mom. I usually do all of my back-to-school shopping the same week of our local curriculum fair in late July so that I’m all stocked up and ready to go.

Here are the ten things with which I fill my shopping cart on the back-to-school aisle.

1. Loose leaf paper. When you buy paper at $0.10 or $0.25 a pack, it’s hard to get too upset when the kids waste create masterpieces with it.

2. Spiral notebooks. These are usually about $0.10 each and are perfect for drawing, journaling, or creating personal dictionaries. I read an interesting idea this weekend for leaving the first few pages blank for a table of contents and writing or even taping interesting things onto the other pages to create a personalized notebook.

3. 3-prong pocket folders. We use these for our science, history, and writing notebooks. I’ve also used them to create personalized “help” book for the kids by adding pages from workbooks about concepts that proved difficult to remember (example: a sheet from a math workbook, defining various geometrical terms, or the list of pronouns from Easy Grammar).

You could also use them to make one of the ABC books that the kids and I grew so fond of last year. If you haven’t made an ABC book yet, be sure to put it on your list of projects for the upcoming school year. They’re so easily adaptable for multiple ages and topics.

4. Index cards. We always go through a ton of index cards because they are so incredibly versatile. If you need some ideas on how to use them, be sure to read my ten favorite uses for index cards.

5. Crayons. The first few years we homeschooled, I foolishly only bought two packs of crayons per child — one for the beginning of the year and one to replenish around Christmas. Now, I buy…well, a lot of crayons. I use some of them to put in our boxes for Operation Christmas Child, but we just seem to go through a lot of crayons.

We have a big, plastic shoebox where I dump the crayons being replaced. This becomes the box that the kids carry all over the house, to color wherever they may happen to be. I like the kids to keep their school supply boxes in our dining room where we do school, so that we don’t waste time looking for it when we’re ready to start school. I also like to keep a separate box for art/nature study since things always seem to wind up missing from even the school supply boxes.

6. Glue. We always stock up on stick glue and school glue for various projects, to avoid running out right in the middle when we tried to make our relief paintings a few weeks ago.

7. Erasers. Please tell me that it’s not just my house where erasers are the first things to go on pencils. I buy the erasers that go on top of pencils, as well as the big, flat pink ones.

8. Markers and colored pencils. I have always splurged on markers to get the more expensive washable markers, but I get the $0.88, 12-count colored pencils. Not anymore. My step-mom got the kids 24-count markers last year and they loved the extra colors. All three of them asked me to please get the 24-count from now on. They were so creative with their drawings that I’m happy to oblige.

9. Dry erase markers. I love the fat, chisel-tipped markers. They are mine and the kids know that they touch them only if they want to risk my wrath. 😉

10. Pencils. These aren’t usually on sale (but I stock up anyway!) because I am a pencil snob. I buy only Ticonderoga pencils. Their slogan is: the world’s best pencil and they are. They sharpen evenly and write great. I’ve had friends who thought I was crazy until they tried Ticonderogas. I have no idea what makes them so special, but they’re well-worth the extra money.

What school supplies do you love to stock up on while the sales are hot?

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Kris Bales is a newly-retired homeschool mom and the quirky, Christ-following, painfully honest founder (and former owner) of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers. She has a pretty serious addiction to sweet tea and Words with Friends. Kris and her husband of over 30 years are parents to three amazing homeschool grads. They share their home with three dogs, two cats, a ball python, a bearded dragon, and seven birds.

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  1. Oh, I wanna go to the back to school sale with you! Sniff. We don't have them here like in the US. When we do they sell things that I don't need, like the big, heavy, leather back packs all the school kids use here, and lunch boxes (obento), and little hoods that the kids use for head protection in case of an earthquake while at school. Sigh. I really want some 10 cent packs of paper instead!

    Oh, and in Japan the good writing pencils never come with erasers on top, and lost erasers are a constant irritation. I have set up a little shop where my kids have to buy a new eraser if they lose one. If they wear it down to a nub properly, they don't have to pay;). Happy shopping — think of me while you fondle the folders!

  2. I believe we may have been separated at birth. 🙂 You picked my top picks too and one of my all-time favorite commercials ever!


    p.s. and no, it's not just you…those erasers seem to be eaten off overnight.

  3. First off—I LOVE that commercial!!!! It cracks me up every time I see it.

    I pretty much stock up on the same stuff. I rather buy 10 boxes of crayons now for 25 cents each than run out later and have to pay $3 for one!

    I usually hit Wal-mart, Target and Staples for back to school shopping.

  4. Oh I love back to school days. And there is nothing like a new box of sharp crayons. I have a 3 drawer plastic craft box that I got at Costco filled with kids crafts from Crayola. One of the drawers is filled with crayons, one has colored pencils and the other has markers. Each drawer pulls out easily making into a plastic bin to carry the things around with. Isnt homeschooling fun?!

  5. @Sue — That stinks that you don't have the awesome back-to-school sales, but that is a pretty nifty little factoid about the earthquake hoods.

    @Jolanthe — I always wondered where my long-lost sister was. 😉

  6. I love this time of year too. In fact, I am thinking of going to Walmart today and get some of these things. I am getting ready… 🙂 I love the smell of a new box of crayons!

  7. I have an office supply fetish… and have passed it on to my DD. Staples is one of our favorite places to go and just wander the aisles.

    I agree whole-heartedly with your choices, especially the paper, glue and crayons. We go through massive amounts of all.

    Do you suppose they have office supplies anonymous? Because I'm getting the shakes just thinking about back-to-school supplies…

  8. The commercial is funny, but it kinda loses something for homeschoolers. I think the kids' sad, sad expressions and demeanor is so sad. Totally NOT what i want my kids to feel about going back to school.

    School supplies, well, I'm still figuring this out! This year we'll be getting glue and markers and the usual stuff. Binders and sheet protectors and stuff.

  9. you are so cool! PS-the erasers at my house do go away quickly but not so much because of "using" them, but because my 2 year old EATS them! lol

  10. i'm with you on the pencils and we really need some right now. i love back to school sales!!

  11. @PurpleMoose — I look at the whole thing as very tongue-in-cheek, like my blog title…and I laugh hysterically every time I watch it. I guess it reminds me of the way my kids look at me when they are finding me totally NOT funny…which is somewhat often. ;0

  12. Kris,
    Do you find that the 3 prong folders hold enough paper to be their notebooks for the year? I'm just wondering because this will be our first year venturing into notebooking and I guess I just assumed I needed to get the more expensive 3 ring binders. I'd LOVE to use the folders though as I still have tons that I got for one penny last year!! Thanks for any tips you've got!!

  13. I was sorting through my school supply stash when I took a break to read here….too funny.

    I'm interested in your ABC book for Lindsey…but the link you have is taking me to a different page.

    Love the commercial!


  14. @Joesette — Well, that's weird. I guess I was looking at that other website while I was working on this blog post. Thanks for letting me know. I've fixed it now.

    @Jamie — The 3-prong notebooks hold enough for us when we break them down by subject. I've been debating over whether or not I wanted to combine into a 3-ring binder. I've found that the 3-ring binders are never really any cheaper during the back-to-school sales, so you could always transfer to them later if the 3-prong folders weren't working out. We just switched to the folders last year because the binders were taking up so much room. HTH!

  15. This is one of my favorite times of the year! With this being our first year homeschooling, I am especially excited!

    My daughter is a freak about art supplies, and whenever she sees a new product, like 120 count markers, she HAS TO have it. So we are pretty much stocked on pencils, crayons, and markers.

    I cannot wait to hit up Staples, Walmart, and Target!

  16. I LOVED this post! Ok, so I am addicted to school supplies and freshly sharped pencils. Here here on Ticonderogas! They're the best! (I buy in bulk at Costco because we never seem to have enough).

    I love to stock up on Composition books (the ones with sewn edges) – they seem to hold up better with my boys. And we notebook, so I stock up on printer paper, 3 ring binders, and plastic sheet protectors. Instead of crayons, I am a big colored pencil fan – the more the better.

    oooh, and I just bought some new nature journaling supplies – so excited for that!

    Makes me want to see if our WM has their school stuff out yet!

  17. Too funny! I feel the same way about my dry erase markers. They know not to touch or they are in trouble. I was just thinking about supplies yesterday looking through the Sunday paper. Great list.

  18. I LOVE shopping for back to school supplies and usually buy way more than we ever use. I go overboard stocking up on glue sticks for $.20 and crayola crayons for $.25 and spiral bound notebooks for a dime!

  19. Mine are anti-crayon, so I just bought a luxurious package of 50 washable markers, plus a little pack of 16 tiny washable markers for my purse. 😀 We use them at the park, restaurants, any time we're out and someone needs to do something quietly. We also just bought another package of 4 glue sticks. They get lost or dried out so fast…!

  20. Hey everyone. I love all the ideas, and yes, I have the same list of back to school supplies. Here CVS & Walgreens and yes, even sometimes WalMart will vie for my business marking things down so low they almost pay me to take it off their hands. LOL Seriously, they do have great bargains.
    One idea you all may love: the old crayons, you know, the broken ones – don't throw them aay. My husband has made various kinds of candles for years. We use the broken crayons(break them even more) to make container candles and they are a big hit.
    1) prepare jars(containers)-clean & dry
    2) melt candle wax
    3) pour into container and let stand a few minutes
    4) place wick in container and let set until becomes slightly firm but not too firm to place crayons into
    5) place crayons in container and use a skewer or popsicle stick to push down into wax so as not to burn firngers
    6) let sit over night so they'll set well
    We find we like to use clear glass jars so you can see the crayons through them. Also you'll want the wick to go to bottom of jar and stick up out of wax about an inch. Our children gave them to all the adults as gifts at Christmas this past holiday season and they all loved them.
    This would also be a great 'Pay it Forward' gift for newcomers to your church, as they carry the light of Jesus home with them.

  21. I love back to school sales! I was at Wal Mart and they had the cardboard bins out but not much in them yet. I'm sure I'll be shopping next week!

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