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Homeschooling Creatively on a Budget

Homeschooling Creatively on a Budget

Finding your feet when starting to homeschool your child can be difficult. It’s taken me around five months to figure out how to do it in a way that works for me and my darling daughters – and that feeling of accomplishment changes daily! Initially I would have loved to buy an expensive curriculum, but realized quickly that a pre-made schoolroom was not why I wanted to teach my girls at home. I love being able to choose what we do and when we do it. My girls love art and creating sculptures of robots, princesses and  trees, they love writing their own books and illustrating them, and reading is their greatest pleasure. I don’t want to take any of that away, only add to their joy of learning in their own way. At first I was overwhelmed at all the choices out there and the high costs…but then I realized I can do it my way and on a tight budget!

Homeschooling does not have to cost a lot of money. All over the internet I have been reading about how to do it for almost nothing! There are a ton of free printables on many websites that are perfect for grade schoolers to practice writing, coloring, math, and science! You can also find affordable sites that give you access to all their resources for about $20 a YEAR! Now that is cheap and so worth it! Try Googling “homeschool resources online” for some great sites (just don’t buy into everything!).

We’ve also incorporated a weekly library visit on Friday mornings so we can have a huge stack of books to read all weekend. A stroll down the non-fiction aisle in the children’s section will be inspiring and exciting as you see awesome images of frogs, space ships, volcanoes, sharks, flowers, ballerinas and much more. All you have to do is pick up a few and thumb through them – the ideas will flow! Your child is going to be excited to bring home new books (or videos or books on tape) and you will find that you’ve already got things in your arsenal of supplies that will allow you to expand on your new subject or theme. (Check out cool printable worksheets about amphibians, outer space, the earth’s core etc. online again…).

Occasionally we’ll find a book that they fall in love with and don’t want to return (or I do). So I look it up on Amazon.com and see if they have a used version for a lot less than a new one and I order it for our home library. This saves money and no one gets upset when they can’t find their favorite book about nature walks or Frog and Toad.

Don’t forget the possibility of trading or swapping books with friends and family members. Teenagers would love a chance to pass down a treasured book to their young siblings or cousins. And if you have several homeschooled friends, ask them about borrowing curriculum ideas and resources.

One of my favorite hobbies is to flea market or hit the garage sales. To make it feel like I’m actually on a mission and not just buying junk I have trained my eye (this took months to perfect by the way, just ask my husband) to seek out homeschool-worthy curriculum pieces, such as workbooks, coloring books, scientific paraphernalia (such as microscope slides, dried insects, shells, bones), paper and art supplies, kid friendly magazines, lightly used teacher curriculum idea books, posters, and boxes of old crayons that can be melted down and turned into new ones!

A few of my favorite finds are: plastic cricket boxes (with lids that allow your bugs to breathe), a vintage microscope, kid craft books, science experiment books, three years of Highlights magazine for $5, vintage watercolor boxes with the paint still intact, and a metal toolbox tray that we keep all our crayons in.

Plus, while you’re perusing the aisles of the local flea markets you can brainstorm for future projects! Finding old machinery, tools, glass jars, large scale baskets and bins is easy and might inspire you to stretch your creative juices to a whole new level.

And lastly, the easiest place to find school supplies all year long is at your 99 cent store or dollar store. Stickers, rulers, index cards, tape, flash cards, watercolor paints, journals, paper and more are super affordable and you can stock up any time. But don’t forget to fill your shelves with crayons, glue, notebooks, pencils etc. during the back-to-school sales in August/September – because you won’t see the 49 cent box of crayons for another year!

Remember that it is possible to make something out of other people’s junk without spending the grocery money, and that you can find inspiration all around you, online, from friends, the library, but mostly your children will be your guide on this miraculous pathway of learning that we call learning.

Sarah Bradford-Burton is a California girl turned midwesterner, a Christ follower, married, and the mother of three extraordinary daughters (ages 4, 6, and 21). With her entrepreneurial spirit she co-founded and writes at The Blog Guidebook (a blogger’s guide to blogging), works from home on several small businesses and loves encouraging others in web design and marketing. She teaches a baking and cooking class for high schoolers in her homeschool co-op – sharing her love of whole foods, organic and gluten free cooking with others is a deep passion in life as well as finding a cure for her daughter’s severe allergies and eczema. Sarah loves to entertain, travel and just started a book club! You can find her home blog at DifferentDog.com

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  • Great post! It is easy to get caught up in all of the shiny new curriculum that’s out there. I’ve just recently been exploring all the free resources on the internet.

  • This is very inspiring.
    We are beginning PreK in our house, and it is all I can do to keep myself from spending an arm and a leg!

  • i loved your article. i feel the same way. it seemed a box curriculum was an easy solution but i found not all of it fit what i wanted to do. if i wanted a prescripted program, i could send them to school.. so i have an overflowing school room (lol) it seems to fit my chaotic life better than reading from a premade curriculum. though that seems nice too for the organization of it and i bought one the first year, i seemed to always veer off of it and adding my own things! keep up the great info!

  • I love this article!! My husband makes fun of me when I ask him if we can add a book sale to our vacation itinerary! I love library sales though, and I also make it a point to search the books, puzzles and game sections at the thrift store, and I also hit up after school sales, and regularly peruse the clearance aisles for craft supplies or other neat goodies! Even though he laughs, he really does appreciate that I make a conscious effort to be frugal.

    • I totally forgot about all the clearance aisles! It’s kind of an obsession. I need to stop doing that and collecting stuff. I picked up a ton of vintage games at a garage sale for about $5 last summer…thrilled the kids, that’s for sure! I even shed a few tears when I got a little record player just like the one I had when I was a kid!
      Thanks for your comment!

  • Garage sales and Goodwill is awesome. You can get a set of encyclopedias there.
    I have gotten so many awesome sets of books. Childcraft, Young Scientists, People and Places.

    We found a vintage globe too recently. Old maps are so neat. Some say Christopher Columbus thought he was going to hit Asia first, not knowing that America was there. Either way those maps from the 1500s are cool.

    The library is great. I think Librarians like homeschoolers, we fill up the daytime.

    And used curriculum sales are amazing for finding great deals. Just know what you are looking for.

  • Great post! We homeschool on a budget, partly b/c my husband is currently unemployed, but mainly b/c we have five kids. I love the challenge of finding the materials I want for the best price available. I use cathswap on a regular basis, and sometimes, people are even willing to barter (for a crochet or knit goody instead of cash). You mentioned the dollar store. Don’t forget that there is more than just the office supply aisle. There are tons of uses for almost any one product in the store. The kitchen section in particular offers so interesting and useful solutions.

  • I enjoyed your post thanks! I was wondering how you make new crayons, do you have a mold? Sorry if this is a silly question.
    what caught my eye the most is you sharing that your daughter has allergies to ?? gluten and eczema, i am not an expert, but I am a christian who does not believe in coincedences. I just watched a special on PBS or KCPT and a woman was on there sharing about the book she wrote “perfect health” or the road to perfect healt. More importantly, her topic was PROBIOTICS, and she said that in children symptoms like the ones your daughter has can help/reverse with the use of the right probiotics.
    hope this helps and i pray she finds the relief.
    H.S.M of 3 Jamie

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