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