When I talk to new homeschoolers, a question that I often get asked is, "Where do you buy your curriculum and other supplies?" I've happily answered this so many times, it's a shame these stores don't pay me some kind of commission.
Because I am associated with a charter school, they pay for all of my art materials and curriculum. So if I'm ordering online, I just take a screen shot of my online shopping cart and then email that jpeg to my ES (Education Specialist). Or if I select things in store, when I go to check out I tell the clerk that it is a school order. They then ring everything up, put my cart on hold, and print out an invoice for me to give to my ES. Then my ES orders those things for me and delivers them to me a few weeks later.
A Brighter Child
We get text books, workbooks, games, posters, fun science kits, basic math manipulatives, etc. here.
I never order from this store online. They are most valuable for their physical location. Their store clerks are homeschoolers themselves and very knowledgeable about the resources they carry. They hold free "how to homeschool" classes occasionally and are always willing to give advice or insight on choosing products. Once I was thinking of switching from my very reasonably priced math text that works just fine, to a more glamorous and expensive system that I had read about. Thanks to the Brighter Child employee, I decided that "if it isn't broke, don't fix it," and stayed with the cheaper text.
They have a nice play area for the kids to stay occupied while I browse, and a sitting area with table where I can spread out and skim through books while I make decisions.
A Brighter Child also offers onsite classes for kids of all ages on several subjects.
We get text books, workbooks, art supplies, fun science kits, etc here.
This is an online-only shop. Their big draws are their huge selection (their yearly catalog is the size of a phone book!) and their cheap prices. For everything the sell, they show the normal list price, and then the Rainbow Resource price. It's always a good savings. And if you order $50 worth at a time, the shipping is free!
I will often browse A Brighter Child so I can see the materials in person, and then in the end order it from Rainbow for the cheaper price.
One drawback is that their search function doesn't seem to always work. So if I'm just browsing, I may not be able to find what I'm looking for. But if I know what I want and search a specific title name, then it's fine.
Another tiny drawback (but that depends on your perspective) is that they also sell religious-based materials (such as Apologia Science, which is based on the Bible.) Because of this, it seems to take the school a tiny bit longer to approve orders because they take extra care to make sure that they are only paying for secular curriculum.
We get mostly fun and hands-on stuff here. Science resources, games, educational toys, art supplies, bonus math manipulatives (at Brighter Child, you can get colored counting bears, but at Lakeshore you can choose between colored counting planes, dinosaurs, bugs, animals, etc.)
Their online store and the physical location are equally awesome! If I'm not careful, I could blow our whole budget on fun stuff from Lakeshore. They also host free craft activities for kids on Saturdays.
Brainy Zoo Toys
Brainy Zoo is another fun place to shop for "extras." The kids like to browse here because they have a lot of toys spread around the store for them to play with while mommy drools over craft kits, science kits, DaVinci models, and the like.
Thankfully, Office Depot online is also an approved vendor for our school. This is where I get basic school supplies like printer ink, paper, pencils, dry erase markers, glue, etc. I even buy cheap paper plates from Office Depot with our school funds. Paper plates are invaluable to our school routine! I summarized some of their uses in this previous post.
This is a new resource to me. A friend of mine who homeschools independently (not associated with a charter so therefore has to buy all school supplies on her own) told me about this one. She finds all kinds of great deals on used textbooks in their online store.
Last school year I asked the school to approve them as a vendor. And now I've submitted my first order to them. I found a craft book on their site that I have not been able to find through any other approved vendors. I will find out in a couple weeks if there was any hiccups in ordering with them through the school!
When I was a new homeschooler, I was excited but felt pretty lost and didn't know where to start. I am so thankful to my friend Epsi who took me under her wing, drove me to Brighter Child, helped me select our first curriculum, and told me about other great resources. And now I'm so glad I have this blog as a way to "pay it forward" and perhaps help others that are in the same position that I once was.
What's your favorite place for curriculum and school supplies?