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 5 years ago and never used. Now Ben no longer can use them, and I will likely sell them for 1/2 the price I paid. This is not cost-effective. Learning how to homeschool on the cheap became a must for me.
I’ve gotten better over the years. When I quit working full-time as an RN, 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 review opportunities, I still get my curriculum junkie fix, but it’s not so expensive any more.
How to Homeschool on the Cheap
Over my many years of homeschooling, I have discovered ways to save money when homeschooling. In fact, even during those years when I was spending a lot of money, there were still many resources I was frequently using that were free or low cost. 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 what I’ve learned about how to homeschool 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 (our favorites come from Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett, 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. Watch bundle sales for the best deals on ebooks. Also, an important tip for ebooks – learn how to keep them organized. It does absolutely no good to have a hard drive filled with great materials but no idea where you’ve stored them.
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. You can begin by downloading these 175 free books for your kids.
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 20 Field Trip Ideas. Most field trips can be free if you take the time to call around to arrange them. But memberships to local zoos, science centers, and historical museums are great investment for your homeschool. Be sure to ask if they offer an educator discount.
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 local homeschool group, the many available Facebook groups and other online options. I have literally made as much as $2000 in 3 days by doing this. Also, always check your book shelves and hard drive before buying anything new. You might be surprised at what you have that you forgot all about. Don’t even ask me how many times I’ve purchased something twice because I failed to do this.
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! Also watch out for summer sales held by local homeschool groups. Ours has a big sale every year. You can likely both buy and sell at one.
Many book and education stores extend their teacher discounts to homeschoolers, as do many museums and historical sites. If in doubt, ask! A few I am aware of include:
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 Walmart. I’ve found flash cards, workbooks, videos, and school supplies like pencils, crayons, notebooks, and folders in the $1 section on numerous occasions.
Use What You Have Around the House
Flashy manipulatives are nice, but Lego bricks 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:
- Ultimate List of Free Homeschooling Resources for Middle and High School — this is a list I’ve gathered of over 70 resources.
- Homeschool Share — this huge collection of literature-based unit studies, many with lapbooks are completely 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.
- Productive Homeschooling — There’s plenty free here, but not everything is. If you can manage to budget for the Proschool Membership, it’s totally worth it if you enjoy using notebooking in your homeschool. There are great benefits no matter what curriculum or homeschool method you use, or what grades you are teaching.
- Unit Studies by Amanda Bennett — Not free, but some of the best deals around. There are always unit studies on sale on the Weekly Specials page.
- SchoolhouseTeachers.com — The best deal in homeschooling with more than 450 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. It’s one low price for your entire family, with nothing else to buy. There are monthly, quarterly, and yearly options to fit any budget, and they have frequent sales. Watch for their best sales in January, May, November, and the best deal of all – the BOGO sale held annually every August.
Homeschooling doesn’t have to be expensive. And it definitely should never be the reason for not making the decision to homeschool. In addition to all of the above suggestions, many bloggers are busily preparing free and helpful resources. Many of them post those in my Facebook groups – Christian Homeschool Connect and Homeschool Family Freebies and Giveaways. We’d be thrilled for you to join us in either/both.