The back to school game changes a bit when your kids get older and you don't necessarily receive a school supply list for middle and high school so that you know what your kids need for the year. So here are my suggestions that I've used with my own large family on school supplies for middle and high school– what you should have on hand, and how to keep it all organized!
It was so much easier in elementary school when my kids were sent home with a list of school supplies they needed for the year. Our Parent-Teacher organization even took it a step further making the entire process completely pain-free by sending parents a link to a school-supply ordering website where you could just click a few buttons and the entire “3rd grade package” of supplies could be purchased and delivered to your child's classroom prior to the 1st day of school! Talk about winning!
Of course, there were always a few parents who preferred to go school-supply shopping the old-fashioned way- with a list in hand and a child or two in tow who would inspect each and every folder to make sure they chose the perfect color! (And then it was always a surprise when that parent later learned that all school supplies were turned into the classroom to become “community property” of the class!)
One thing to take into account with older kids is that a child's preference comes into play- do they prefer one large binder for all of their classes or smaller binders for sections of the day or even a thin notebook for every class? Do they prefer to write on wide ruled or college ruled paper (or even graph paper)? Wooden pencils with a pencil sharpener or mechanical pencils? Felt tip or ballpoint pens? Yellow or multi-colored highlighters?
The choices go on and on. In the beginning, they may not have an opinion- but as they progress through school they most definitely will develop one!
The other thing I have noticed is that even when the teachers provide a list of school supplies- you typically don't send everything into school at one time in a large shopping bag. Often it means that they are simply providing a list of things that the students are meant to have on hand at home and will be asked to bring these items in at different times during the school year.
So it helps if you are set up at home with a starting inventory of what the kids will need throughout the school year.
School Supplies- What to Keep On Hand
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Hopefully, your child's school gave you a list of items to have on hand at home, which is a great place to start! But I also like to keep a few additional items on hand that you don't usually see on a school supply list, so on a Sunday night when a child “suddenly remembers” that they have a poster due the next day, you aren't trying to find a store that sells poster board at 9 pm! Here's what I suggest:
Items to Send In With Kids at the Start Off the School Year
Items to Have On Hand at Home
- Page Protectors
- Composition Notebooks
- 2-Pocket Folders
- One Subject Spiral Notebooks
- Markers / Colored Pencils
- Post It Notes
- Index cards
- Construction Paper
School Supplies- How to Keep Them Organized
The first place you want school supplies to be accessible to your kids is in the location where they will be doing their homework. I like to use a cleaning caddy to create a portable homework station that we can move from room to room- depending on where my kids are doing homework.
For the items that they will need to re-fill pencil cases or even bring in to school, I try to store everything in two shallow desk drawers that we have in our kitchen.
As the teachers ask my kids to bring items into school, they'll know exactly where to go to get what they need. I also purchase an extra set or two of each item and just keep them around. If the kids don't use them this school year- they'll be available to kick off our school supply inventory next year!
Binders, notebooks, folders, and everything that goes inside of them like dividers and page protectors take up a lot more room! So I took one deep drawer in our family room media cabinet and designated it just for school supplies.
At the end of the school year, I'll take whatever the kids bring home that is still in decent shape, and put it into our supply pile for the next school year. (And be sure to check out those composition notebooks! Some came home with only a few pages used- so I just neatly tore those out and we will re-use those books this year.)
Our “mud room” area is in our basement- and that's where the kids come into the house after school and generally take off their shoes, coats, and drop their sports gear. But their backpacks all come along upstairs since that is where they will need them when they start working on homework.
I've long since given up the battle to get them to take their backpacks downstairs and hang them on hooks when they are done (it just doesn't happen). So instead my husband made this “backpack tree” that holds 8 (very heavy) backpacks! It's a much neater way of storing them all!
And as you can see, I've also tucked two plastic bins beneath the backpack tree to hold shoes- because I was tired of finding them in our entryway too!
What are your best tips for organizing school supplies that you keep at home for your older kids?
Looking for Some More Back to School Ideas?
- Back to School Checklist (free printable)
- How to Get Your Home Organized for Back to School
- How to Create a Homework Caddy
- How to Create an Organized Homework Space in the Kitchen
- How to Organize the Kids Closet for Back to School
- 20 Organized Kids Bedroom Ideas
- Teaching Kids to Clean Their Rooms (in 4 Easy Steps!)