School supplies you will need for Distance Learning in 2020-21

by Mama Loves Home
School stationery supplies

As the new school year approaches, about now is when we are normally fitting out our kids with new school shoes, labelling water bottles and restocking pencil cases. But 2020 has required quite a different approach to the new school year.

As many of us ended the last school year, distance learning (whereby school work is still set within the formal school structure but the work is completed at home) is becoming a distinct reality for the start of the 2020-21 academic year.

While the prospect of this ongoing situation still has our heart slightly palpitating (read we are NOT trained teachers and still run full-time work from home jobs!), the inner organizer in us knows, forewarned is forearmed.

The situation was thrust upon many of us last March and many of us entered a phase we can best call ‘crisis schooling’. However, we’ve now had a long break to reflect on what has worked for us and how to be better prepared with the right home learning environment.

In assessing what school supplies we might need for the upcoming year we have balanced that virtual learning or distance learning (possibly in combination with some face to face sessions being introduced) will likely be required for the first semester at least.

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Distance Learning Supplies Checklist

Everyone’s situation will be slightly different, so we’ve put together here our suggested home school supplies list for you to think about. Some items will require a little more upfront investment than others but remember they may very well be required for learning models going forward.

A laptop

After battling through with shared devices and very old tablets, this has been our biggest investment for distance learning to help our household run smoothly.

We are a divided camp here at Mama Loves with both Mac and Chromebook products – it really depends what you already use and are used to as it helps to have devices compatible across your household. Whilst it might be quite tempting to buy a “cheap” laptop, look for a few handy built-in features:

  • Front camera
  • Earphone jack
  • Multiple USB sockets

A mouse

Whilst computers come with a built-in mouse, any long period of time at a desk your child will find it much more comfortable to use a separate mouse.

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A dedicated desk

I bet we weren’t the only ones who started our distance learning journey on the kitchen table, surrounded by the breakfast dishes and the laundry.  Now, if space permits, it’s time to create the kids their own little dedicated space in the house with a comfortable desk and chair.

We’ll talk more about the best at home school desk set up in our next post.


Whether it’s listening to instructional videos or live lessons with their teachers, as soon as you have more than one person in the room, headphones will help everyone concentrate. Some kids will prefer buds, whilst others full ear coverage.


As much as we try not to be wasteful with paper and ink, some tasks (math we find in particular) is simply easier to do when the papers are printed out in front of you. Don’t forget you’ll need ink too (which within a few months can be double the cost of the actual printer itself!)

We have been a big fan of HP Printers for years, which include a scan function so you can get nice clear copies made of any printed out work – your teacher will thank you for this!!

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Paper & Notebooks

If not supplied by your school, you will need to get yourself a selection of lined notebooks, as well as blank white paper for the printer.

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Poster Board

We were kicking ourselves for not buying more of this last term before our lockdown! From lifecycles of tadpoles to flower reproduction systems, drawing fantasy worlds, create your own treasure map – we went through a lot of poster card!

An alternative is a long roll of butchers paper and you can tear off the size of poster sheet you need.

Dry Erase Board

We found this one of the most helpful things to have in our impromptu home school classroom. It would help as a parent to have a planner up for each day what topics the kids had been assigned on one side, and on the other side we could put workings out and explanations, as well as a daily timetable when we’d stop for snack and lunch.

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Having something visual really helped us to see where subjects might overlap, or at least tasks where they could get involved with each other work. It also helped us plan out when kids might need parent 1:1 time, when silence was needed for calls, or when an older sibling could help a younger sibling with work they’d done before.

Don’t forget your whiteboard pens and eraser >>

We are also trialling this new weekly whiteboard planner which will help us all plot out our weekly school and work commitments – whiteboard format this year as we know how quickly things are changing!

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You know how much we love an organizing basket! We keep a basket beside each child’s desk with all of their books and paperwork that can be filed away at the end of each day under their desk.

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For our older children, we have also found a desktop organizer has really helped keep things on track so they can separate out books and paperwork for each subject, space permitting.

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Desk caddy

In place of their traditional pencil case, we have desk caddies, keeping all those stationery supplies within easy reach.

Basic stationery supplies

Regards of whether they will be at school or home, you will want to do a double check on their stationery supplies. Your needs will vary by age group, and your school will most likely provide you with a list of the most commonly used items. You should think about:

  • Pencils
  • Ballpoint pens
  • Colored pencils
  • Eraser
  • Pencil sharpener
  • Highlighter pens
  • Sharpie pens
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Glue stick
  • Geometry set
  • Paper clips
  • Hole punch
  • Stapler & staples
  • Post-it notes

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A good colored pencil set

For pencil cases in the past, we have always just packed a cheap pack of 12 color pencils that inevitably get snapped, leant, lost and broken by Christmas. Learning from home, we have invested in a premium box of colored pencils for the kids to share.

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Not only has this provided them with a much greater choice of colors (and a wider vocabulary!) we’ve also seen this as a “something special” about getting to work from home. Being able to use “the nice pencils” is a real treat and changed their enthusiasm for coloring-related activities – and you can see the result with all these poster cards we’ve been creating!

A poster paint set

This may depend on your kids’ age group, however, across all our elementary kids last semester we found there were painting tasks that popped up weekly. Keep a few old shirts on hand for art smocks, a small paint pallet and at the very least the primary colours and black and white paint for their home creations.

Boxes, boxes and more boxes!

Tell us we’re not the only ones who’ve been storing toilet rolls to egg cartons since they were in kindergarten! There’s always a call out at school for these supplies so we’ve been spending the summer stockpiling our own little box empire ready for the new semester.

No investment needed for this one, just separate out the most useful looking shapes from your recycle bin!

A wall clock

We know that they should have a digital clock on their computer too, but especially with the younger ones, this helps them keep on track, and a great way to teach your kids to use an old-fashioned analog clock too.

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Do not disturb!

OK, we are not big fans of closed doors in our home unless essential. And we count being on a call – whether it’s your own work call or your child’s zoom call with a teacher – one of those essential occasions. When the door is shut and the don’t disturb sign on, that’s when we want the rest of the household to respect our privacy.

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We hope this back-to-school guide – 2020 edition will help set you off on the right put wherever your 2020-21 learning journey may take you.

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