There was a time, early in our homeschooling days, when I spent a lot of money, far too much money, on homeschooling. I was am was am such a curriculum junkie. Just today, I pulled some items off the bookcase that I bought probably 4 years ago and never used. Now Ben has outgrown them and I will sell them for 1/2 the price I paid. This is not cost-effective.
I’ve gotten better over the years. When I quit working full-time as an RN a couple of years ago, the homeschool budget went from “whatever I wanted to spend” (usually in excess of $2000/yr), to “only what I absolutely need to spend” (more like about $250/yr). Thanks to the Schoolhouse Review Crew and other review opportunities, I still get my curriculum junkie fix, but it’s not so expensive any more.
Apart from starting a blog, working to get a following, and then applying to the Crew, there are other ways I have discovered to save money when homeschooling. In fact, although I was spending a lot of money every year, there are still many resources I was frequently using that were free or cheap. I don’t know what I was thinking and if I could change my past wasted spending in this arena, I would. But I can’t. So instead of lamenting my lack of stewardship, I will share with you some ways of Homeschooling on the Cheap.
Even with one child, using unit studies saves money. But if you have several students, you can really save money. Whether you purchase a reasonably priced unit study from a company ( Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett are my favorite), or create them yourself, teaching all of you students from the same material is far cheaper than buying separate curriculum for each subject and grade.
Especially in subjects like math or grammar, buying non-consumable products like downloadable eBooks (PDF) will save you tons of money when you’re able to use them with each child. If you’re like me and only have one child, you are still saving money. eBooks are cheaper, plain and simple.
Utilize Your Local Library
You could easily homeschool with a library card and nothing else. In fact, we practically do. It doesn’t matter what curriculum we’re using, what unit study I’m putting together, everything begins and ends with our book basket. If you don’t have a great library system, try to budget for a Kindle. You can always find free educational books for your Kindle.
Add Some Field Trips to Your Year
Many field trips are free or cheap and nothing beats that hands-on learning your kids will get! Check out my list of 18 Fun Field Trip Ideas. Most are free if you take the time to call around to arrange them.
Seriously, scour your bookcases for those items you are finished with or never got around to using and sell them! List them on your blog, your homeschool email loop, or on the many available online options. I usually use www.vegsource.com/homeschool or www.homeschoolclassifieds.com. Always check your book shelves before buying anything new as well. You might be surprised at what you have that you forgot all about.
Thrift Stores/Goodwill/Yard Sales
Goodwill and yard sales can be a great place for books, games, DVDs, music, and puzzles, not to mention cheap clothes. Need some fabric for a craft? Find a cotton shirt at Goodwill to use. We’ve found some great deals on homeschool and other educational materials at yard sales. If you hear of a homeschooler or a retired teacher having one, get there early!
Many book and education stores extend their teacher discounts to homeschoolers, as do many museums and historical sites. If in doubt, ask!
Check the Dollar Stores and Dollar Aisles
Our local Dollar Store always has tons of educational charts, maps, books, workbooks, and small toys that can be used for homeschooling. It’s the same with the dollar section at Target and Wal-mart. I’ve found flash cards, workbooks, videos, and school supplies like pencils, crayons, notebooks, and folders in the $ section on numerous occasions.
Use What You Have Around the House
Flashy manipulatives are nice, but Legos work just as well as counting bears. A cookie sheet will work as a magnetic board, and those measuring cups you use for baking will work just fine for math class.
Free and Cheap Curriculum
There is so much out there available for free and at a low cost! Free and cheap don’t always mean lesser quality either. I am amazed at the number of talented and creative homeschool moms who are willing to create curriculum and then share it with other homeschool moms. And not all curriculum companies are stealing you blind either. Some of my favorites include:
- Homeschool Share — 100s of literature-based unit studies and beautiful lapbooks. All free.
- Khan Academy — Free video tutorials on every subject imaginable. What started as a young man making you tube videos to tutor his nieces and nephews has exploded into an incredible resource for homeschoolers. We primarily use it for math, but it’s really so much more than that.
- Guest Hollow — Free literature based history and science curriclum and lots of printables. Very good quality and totally free.
- Oklahoma Homeschool — Cindy Downes offers several free unit studies here.
- DonnaYoung.org — Lots of free printables here. I still use the handwriting pages and several of the planning sheets.
- NotebookingPages.com — There’s plenty free here, but not everything is. If you can manage to budget for the $97 for the year, it’s totally worth it if you enjoy using the notebooking method.
- Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett — Not free, but some of the best deals around. There are always unit studies on sale on the Specials page. You can often get a 4 week long unit study for $5. Every Tuesday she offers a few free units for those lucky enough to be online and on Facebook with the spontaneous announcement comes.
- SchoolhouseTeachers.com — Join for $5 for your first month and then pay just $10.95/Ultimate Monthly Membership or $179/Ultimate Annual Membership for daily, weekly, and monthly lesson plans for 20 different courses taught by homeschool experts in their fields. There’s something for every age, every interest, and you could probably get away with using this and not much else. (Note that there are other membership options available.)
Homeschooling doesn’t have to be expensive. And it definitely should never be the reason for not making the decision to homeschool.