The School Supplies You May Want to Skip in Online School

5 min to read
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As the start of a new school year approaches, do you have all of the supplies your student needs to succeed? If you’re new to online school, you may wonder what school supplies are truly necessary for success this year. While each school—and even each grade—have unique requirements, here are the common school supplies you may want to skip for virtual learning and the unexpected items you might want to plan on getting.

School Supplies to Skip for Online School Students

Loose-leaf Paper

Ditch the loose-leaf paper and encourage your student to take notes in a spiral notebook or online. Loose paper tends to get lost or damaged and makes it hard to reference notes when needed, even when kept in a binder.


It’s likely your learner will eat lunch at home most days. Instead of investing in a lunchbox, opt for a matching set of Tupperware to use for meal prepping.

Physical Calculator

Unless your student is graphing equations, they can get by just fine by using the built-in calculator on their laptop or phone instead of a physical calculator. In the real world, your student is more likely to use a calculator they have easy access to, anyway, to check their mental math so it makes sense for them to learn how to use this tool at their fingertips.

“Fancy” Versions of Normal Supplies

Each year, new gimmicky supplies hit shelves. They may look fun, but often they don’t work as well as normal supplies and only serve as a distraction for your learner. Instead, opt for the traditional versions of supplies or repurpose things you already have.  

That rubber pencil case in the shape of a crayon might seem great in the store, but your student may find that recycling an old mug into a pencil cup is more practical to keep on their desk.

Brand New Supplies

A new school year doesn’t always mean you need a new pack of pens, a new desk organizer, or a new desk entirely! You likely already have many of the supplies needed at home. While it can be fun for your student to look through all the new things in the back-to-school section, try gathering what you need from last year’s school supplies first. Take stock of what you actually need for the school year before throwing out that hardly used set of highlighters and notebooks and gathering a cart full of new things.

Too Much of Any One Item

There’s no need to buy tons of each item for each subject your student’s taking, and there’s no need to have everything by day one. You can always buy more if your learner goes through their pencils or notebooks faster than expected, or if they realize they really did need that extra-large sketchpad for their art class. Having too many supplies on hand can cause storage problems and make it hard for your learner to find what they need when they need it.

Unexpected Supplies You Should Buy for Online School

There are a few traditional supply items you may still benefit from purchasing, even though your learner is going to online school.

A Backpack

It might seem counterintuitive to get a backpack for a student who may only go as far as one room in the house to another. However, a backpack can be a simple tool to keep learning supplies organized, especially for students with small or transitional learning spaces, or who are part of a Learning Pod. Learners can keep all their printed assignments, books, notes, and supplies in the backpack rather than scattered across their desk.

Notebooks & Pencils or Pens

Even though your learner may take many of their notes online, it’s also beneficial to have the option to handwrite physical notes. Not only are physical notes immune from any technical glitches or accidental deletions, for some learners who like to doodle or add additional comments in the margins, taking notes by hand can help with knowledge absorption and retention.

A Public Library Card

While students enrolled in virtual school will have access to a digital—and often physical—selection of books to supplement their learning, having access to the local library can open many more doors. Allowing your child to develop their research skills, access librarians to help them learn more about subjects they find interesting, and explore countless books, newspapers, magazines, audiobooks, and more, is one of the best things you can do for your online school student.  

Also, many libraries host social and community events for kids throughout the year, providing a chance to make friends and meet kids their own age.

A Laptop Stand or Monitor Riser

It’s essential to consider the ergonomics of your student’s learning set up. Since they will spend so much time at their desk, ensure their screen is positioned at a height that is optimized for comfort. By raising their screen to naturally sit at eye-level, students will be more likely to develop better posture, feel more alert throughout the day, and have more desk space to take notes or review reference materials.

Ensure your learner is set up for success throughout the school year by obtaining the supplies they’ll actually need and skipping the rest. As you prepare for the fall and build your shopping list, you should also consider mistakes to avoid when setting up your learning environment

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