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After so many years as a homeschooler and then elementary school teacher, I have definite back-to-school favorites when it comes to necessities. Trust me – your child’s teacher will be thrilled if you send the ‘good stuff’ instead of just the pretty stuff! Check out my favs below (and you might be surprised at some that made the list!)

Pencils are the essential workhorse for students and teachers! And worth every penny to get the best. I’ve bought the cheap ones, the neon ones, the ones with unicorns and footballs and balloons. None of them measured up to Ticonderoga pencils. Do yourself, your child, and their teacher a favor and spring for these pencils.

Those wonderful pencils need someplace to live – along with crayons, colored pencils, glue, scissors and so much more! Bless the teacher by buying a QUIET pencil case, like this one. Can you imagine what a classroom filled with 20 plastic pencil boxes could sound like? Or metal?? Trust me on this!

An electric pencil sharpener will keep your life easier during homework! Yes, you can find good manual sharpeners. But they are usually expensive. This brand of pencil sharpener has always worked well for me. In fact, it’s what’s on my desk right now!

If money is tight, spring for the best pencils (above) and the best crayons – these ones! There’s a reason it says “Preferred by teachers” on the box. I’ve never found any brand that matches the quality. And that doesn’t just mean the color – it also means not breaking and being thrown away!

It’s a toss-up on whether teachers prefer markers or colored pencils. And it depends on the grade to some extent. But Crayola wins again in the marker category. These broad line markers are classics for lower elementary.

If broad line markers are the classics for lower elementary, then upper elementary must prefer the fine line markers (at least, that’s my experience!). I like these markers so much, they are what I use at home when I need markers. They’re colorful, reasonably priced, and last a long time.

When it comes to colored pencils, Crayola is good, but not great. My favorite brand of colored pencils is a bit pricey, so Crayola still made the cut as the best budget choice. unless you have a budding Rembrandt, these are probably all you need.

This is my favorite brand of colored pencils. The color is richer, the lead softer (and breaks easier!), and the feel smoother. But they are also pricier. So judge what’s most important to you and your student. I have Crayola for my young grandchildren, but I use only these!

Scissors are another item where the brand really matters. Hands-down, the best scissors are Fiskars. They have every type of scissors your student could need, from blunt tip to fine point to adult. Worth every penny. I bought a few each year to add to my classroom supply during back-to-school sales.

Glue is a necessary evil for a lot of elementary teachers. Make their lives just a little bit easier by skipping the bottles, buying LOTS of small glue sticks (it limits the amount of glue they can use at one time), and getting the purple-but-dries-clear type!

Highlighters are important for most upper-elementary to high-school students (and beyond). If your student prefers pastel colors to bright yellow, these are great. I have them and use them constantly (yes, even at my age I love my highlights!).

For the classic yellow highlighters or neon colors, you can’t beat Sharpie. Although I love my pastels, I still keep these on hand. Sometimes you just really need a strong color to make something pop!

Technology notwithstanding, school is still a paper-intensive activity. Teachers make a LOT of copies. If you want to make your child’s teacher happy, buy him or her a ream of printer paper at the beginning of the school year – and then again after the Christmas break!

You think you’ll remember all the firsts: the first day of PreK, the first day of middle school, the first day of senior year. Trust me, mama (and daddy), you won’t. So make a permanent memory with pictures and these cute First Day/Last Day signs.

Thankfully, almost all schools now allow students to have spill-proof water bottles with them in the classroom. This is one of my favorites. Water really does make the brain work better! Let them drink up!

The school year always brings so much to keep track of! Field trips. Games. Parties, Concerts. School pictures. Holidays. You need a calendar front-and-center in your home. I love having a whiteboard calendar where everyone can see it.

Are you surprised to see this on my back-to-school favorites? You shouldn’t be because you and I both know after-school snacks make messes. And these bar cloths are the best washing-drying-pan-holding cloths ever. They do it all! I always have lots on hand.

When I do need a dishcloth instead of a bar cloth, these are the best. I use them until they fall apart. And that takes a while. They’re like a combination cloth and sponge. Far better than paper towels and so much less waste!