Back to School Shopping List Must-Haves for Homeschooling and Distance Learning

This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase.

Sharing is caring!

Learn the best things to add to your back to school shopping list when homeschooling or distance learning!

Are you prepping your back to school shopping list yet?

Admittedly, this year’s back to school season looks a little…different, to say the least.

Millions of kids across the country are going to school virtually and doing distance learning, at least for part of the year.

And there are also plenty of families that are gearing up to chuck traditional school out the window and try homeschooling. (Veteran homeschoolers here! )

Whether you’re doing online learning or homeschooling your kids, this school year is probably going to be different from any you’ve experienced in the past.

Heck, it might even be majorly stressing you (or your kids) out.

I hear ya.

With schools switching to distance learning, a lot of parents are having to get more hands-on with their kids’ education.

And as a mom that’s heading into her 9th year of homeschooling, I can tell you that having the right tools can make such a difference.

So if you’re putting together your shopping list for back to school, I want to make your job easier. I’ve got a quick rundown of the best things to buy to take the stress out of distance learning or homeschooling this year!

What is distance learning anyway?

kids using a laptop for distance learning

Distance learning basically means doing school at home. But it’s not the same thing as homeschooling.

With distance learning or remote learning, kids are still enrolled in their public or private school.

They still have classes they’re assigned to that are run by their teachers.

Those teachers assign homework based on the school’s approved curriculum guidelines. And those assignments have to be completed and turned in online.

Kids take tests, earn grades and do all the things they’d do in a normal classroom, academically speaking. Only they’re doing those things online, without face to face contact.

It’s a move that a lot of schools are using this fall to try and keep kids on track with learning.

Some schools are using a combination of distance learning and in-person instruction a couple of days a week.

And if your school is giving you a choice about whether to send your kids back to the classroom, here’s a post you’ll want to read from Kimberlie at PHraseD:

13 Powerful Facts You Need to Know for Back to School 2020

She’s a teacher herself and this post addresses a lot of the questions parents of public school kids might have right now.

You might also like:

27 Fun and Free Educational Websites For Kids to Learn From Home

So what is homeschooling then?

woman homeschooling her daughter

Homeschooling means doing school at home, too.

But the difference is that parents are the teachers and home is your full-time classroom. (Though, as a homeschooling mom I can tell you that in our family, learning happens everywhere. 🙂 )

Homeschooling families choose what they want to teach and how they want to teach it.

They set the schedule and routine for their school days. So if you wake up feeling meh about teaching your kids fractions again you can do something different instead.

Don’t get me wrong, there are rules for homeschooling.

Every state has specific guidelines that homeschooling families have to meet. We’re lucky to live in a state that takes a relaxed approach to homeschoolers but other states are a lot more strict.

And homeschooling doesn’t mean you and your kids are shut off from the rest of the world either.

My kids are part of a homeschool co-op that does classes and field trips. We’ve done sports through parks and rec, taken art classes and done online classes with other kids through Outschool.

Homeschooling is our preferred way to learn. But distance learning is good too if you’re not comfortable being fully in control of your kids’ education.

So now that you know what distance learning vs. homeschooling means, let’s dig into the list!

You might also like:

How to Create a Daily Routine for Kids When School Is Out


back to school shopping list

Back to School Shopping Essentials for Distance Learning and Homeschooling

Okay, ready to get into the list?

All of the items on this back to school shopping list are designed for parents and kids who are learning online or at home.

1. Computer or tablet

A computer or tablet is a must-have for online learning.

Depending on your school district, your school may lend out laptops. Our district, for example, gave out Chromebooks to kids who needed them.

But if your school’s not doing that or you homeschool, you may need to pick up a laptop or tablet for remote learning.

If a laptop or tablet is on your back to school shopping list, here are some of my top picks:

My daughter has a Samsung Galaxy Tab A and she loves it!

If you’re using a Chromebook or another type of laptop, your kids might also need a separate mouse if they’re not used to the touchpad. Here are a few fun ones to check out!

2. Earbuds or headphones

If your kids are using a laptop or tablet to learn at home, then tuning out distractions is a must.

So having some earbuds or headphones can help them stay focused on their work. This is especially great if you have younger kids who aren’t learning at the same level yet.

(And if you need some ideas for keeping younger kids busy while older kids do schoolwork, here are 25 fun ideas!)

3. Blue light blocker glasses

As a work at home mom who stares at a screen for most of the day, blue light blocker glasses are a need-to-have item.

They help to minimize some of the impacts of looking at blue screens for hours on end. And that’s good for protecting kids’ vision.

If your kids are using a laptop or tablet for remote learning or homeschooling, definitely think about adding these to your back to school shopping list.

4. Assignment tracker and/or teacher planner

When it comes to doing remote learning with your kids or homeschooling, you’ve gotta be organized!

Otherwise, you’ll lose track of what your kids are supposed to be doing.

So if your kids are distance learning right now, you’ll want to snag a homework or assignment tracker.

And if you’re a homeschooling parent, make sure there’s a teacher planner on your shopping list!

5. Basic school supplies

Back to school shopping, whether you’re distance learning or homeschooling, isn’t complete without picking up the basic stuff.

So as you make out your school shopping list, remember to add in essentials like:

  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Markers
  • Crayons
  • Scissors
  • Notebooks (I love notebooks, don’t you?)
  • Notebook paper
  • Rulers
  • Glue or glue sticks


6. Supply caddy

If you’re buying pens, pencils, markers, scissors and other basic supplies, you’ll need somewhere to keep them all!

Otherwise, you’ll be wasting precious time you could be using to help your kids learn chasing down your supplies.

An easy solution for back to school shopping is to round it all up in a cute caddy, like one of these:

7. Printer and printer paper

If you’re distance learning then you may not have as much need for a printer. But if you’re homeschooling, odds are you’ll need one for printing out worksheets, art projects and other fun stuff for school.

You don’t need to get a really fancy printer, either. We use a basic one from Canon and it works great!

Plus, we buy the basic printer paper in bulk. Some of it we use for actual printing but some of it we use for sketching or scrap paper for working out tricky math problems.

8. Learning workbooks

We really like learning workbooks and study guides to supplement our learning as homeschoolers.

They can also be helpful if you’re doing distance learning and need a little extra guidance.

(And let me tell you, I’m trying to teach my daughter algebra right now and I need all the help I can get. How did I forget math being this painful?)

We’ve used lots of different workbooks and study guide options over the years. Some of them follow Common Core so if you’re not into that, be sure to research them before you shop.

But if you’re looking for some suggestions, here are just a few of the ones we’ve tried:

9. Dry-erase boards and markers

Dry-erase boards and markers are a great back to school shopping find if you’d rather not waste paper.

This is how I taught my kids to write and read when they were little. And they also used them for drawing or playing simple games like tic tac toe.

If you’re getting dry erase boards and markers, make sure you get ones that are decent quality. I’ve found that the cheaper ones tend to stain easier so they have to be replaced more quickly.

10. Timer

Keeping kids on task when doing distance learning or homeschooling is important because it’s so easy to waste time!

Having a timer can make it easier to keep track, especially if you’re a busy mom trying to do all the mom stuff on top of school.

What else do you need for distance learning or homeschooling?

If you’ve covered the basics with your back to school shopping list and you still have room in your budget, there are a few other things you might consider picking up.

Creating a comfortable workspace, for example, might be important for helping your kids stay focused. And being comfortable can make learning at home easier for you, too!

You don’t need an entire room to homeschool or handle remote learning. We do all of our stuff at the kitchen table.

But if you have the extra space for it, you might consider creating a dedicated area for school that includes:

  • Desks
  • Or a table and chairs
  • Cubbies for kids to keep supplies in
  • A bookcase or two
  • Bean bag chairs

My favorite picks for a comfy homeschooling or distance learning spot!

Once you’ve got your space set up, there are some other things worth checking out for doing school at home.

One of my favorite resources, for example, is Outschool.

Outschool is an online learning marketplace for kids K-12. Classes are taught by professional educators as well as everyday people who have a passion for the subject they’re teaching.

(And if you’re looking for an easy stay at home mom job, check out my review of how to become an Outschool teacher and make $500+ a month on my other blog!)

Classes are taught live so kids can interact with other kids, which is great if your kiddos are missing the social side of regular schooling.

And there are so many interesting topics to check out!

For example, my kids have taken drawing classes, joined book club discussions and taken writing courses through Outschool.

So definitely give Outschool a peek if you’re looking to expand your online learning horizons!

Try subscription boxes for distance learning and homeschool

Besides online classes, we also really like subscription boxes to incorporate in our school routine.

Subscription boxes are great because they’re a nice change from doing work online or in a workbook.

The best ones give kids a chance to get hands-on with science projects, art, reading, cooking – you name it!

If you’re looking for some subscription box recommendations for homeschooling or to break up the monotony of remote learning, here are some we’ve tried and loved!

Bonus tip: A lot of these subscription box companies are offering HUGE discounts right now when you sign up for a new subscription.

So be sure to check some of these out to see if they’ll work for you and your kids!

girl working at a laptop

What’s on your back to school shopping list this year?

Are you ready for back to school shopping? Still thinking about what you want to buy?

Don’t worry; I’m right there with you. After I finish this post, I’m off to work on planning our next homeschool year!

Do you have a great find for distance learning or homeschooling to share?

Head to the comments and tell me about it. And don’t forget to pin and share this post!

Sharing is caring!

7 thoughts on “Back to School Shopping List Must-Haves for Homeschooling and Distance Learning”

  1. Here there are a lot of people switching to distance learning as well, so you are right in saying that education is going to be looking very different! I like the idea of blue light blocker glasses as this is something I need to get myself!

  2. I am not going back to school myself but I do have relatives who will find this post helpful.
    The learning workbooks & assignment tracker are an awesome option for back to school learning & preparation.
    Great post and well written, lots of helpful products and services for kids to try.


Leave a Comment