I am embarrassed to admit this openly, but the first year we homeschooled, I budgeted $1000 for curriculum and supplies.
For one child.
Thankfully, over the past 8 years of homeschooling, I have come to realize a couple of things. First of all, just because someone on Facebook says a product is THE best thing ever doesn’t mean I have to buy it. And, chances are, with the exception of a new set of Prismacolor pencils and a few 1-inch binders, I probably have everything I need already. If I don’t have what I think we need, there are better (read: cheaper) ways of getting what I need besides breaking the bank.
I have learned a few things along the way to help keep me from spending too much money and completely cluttering my house with stuff. I hope these tips are helpful for you!
Take stock of your closets and bookshelves.
I am a disorganized mess with our homeschool books and supplies. I cannot tell you how many times I have bought a book or other resource . . . twice. This summer I am working to completely declutter every shelf, cubby hole, box, and closet that could possibly hold anything we might use and dividing it all into 3 piles — keep, give, or sell. And then I am cataloging it all so that I will know exactly what I have.
I know, the giving and selling part is hard. We all love our stuff, but if you have never used it and it’s been in a box for a few years, it’s time to let it go. Use the money you make selling the good stuff to buy more good stuff. Or not. You may find that you don’t really need to buy anything!
Take stock of your computer’s hard drive.
Remember that e-book sale from 2 years ago when you bought 15o books for $12? There’s probably some great stuff in there that you never did a thing with. Spend some time going through those folders. Find the great items you can use and delete everything else, or at least move them to a different file so the good stuff is easier to find.
It’s like decluttering your schoolroom bookshelves; you will feel so much more organized.
Take stock of your public library.
I know, some of you don’t have the incredible library system I do. But many of you do. And even if you have a small library, it’s likely that there are services and books that will supplement your homeschool well. My favorite thing about our online library services are “lists.” I can create a database of lists — one for each subject — and add books to it that I know we’ll want to check out when the time comes. I also have a list for read alouds and classic literature I want my son to read. It’s a handy way to organize our literature selections for the year and it saves me so much time and, well, time is money. All I have to do is click on my lists and add the book to my requests.
Our library also holds free classes, both for homeschool students and for the public in general. We’ve taken science, geography, and history classes. I just recently registered us for Treehouse, an online video and interactive learning platform that teaches people how to design and develop websites and mobile apps. Classes include coding languages like HTML, CSS, PHP, and Ruby, as well as iPhone and Android apps. All completely free through our public library.
Take stock of the needs of your homeschool friends.
Remember those items you found you have to sell or give? Chances are good that you have some homeschool friends with their own boxes of stuff they need to sell or give. Perhaps you can help each other out and do some trading. We used to have monthly support group meetings locally, and there was always a table for folks to bring things they wanted to give away, and we were free to take what we needed. Perhaps you could set up a trading post one weekend and do something similar. Or, if you’re like me, you could just tell your Facebook friends what you have and what you need. That usually works well for me.
Take stock of all the free resources available to you online.
There’s a lot of junk out there, but truly, there are some amazing free online resources to help you homeschool. Here are a few of my favorites:
Homeschool Share: 100s of literature-based unit studies, many with beautiful lapbooks and/or notebooking pages to go along. All free. For your elementary-aged kids, you could completely homeschool with HSS and the 3Rs and have a full, rich, fun, and frugal homeschool.
Khan Academy: Khan Academy has more than 3000 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 use it for extra math instruction, but it’s really so much more than that. Something new they’ve added is the ability to track your student’s progress. I believe you could completely homeschool for free just with Khan Academy and your local library. Especially your middle and high school aged students.
Ambleside Online: Ambleside Online is a free homeschool curriculum designed to be as close as possible to the curriculum that Charlotte Mason used in her own private school. This curriculum is taught using “living books” most of which you can find at your local library or free online. There are yearly plans for K through high school, including artist and composer study, nature study, Bible, history, science, poetry. Everything you need for a gentle, living books approach to homeschooling can be found here. And it’s all free.
MapMaker Interactive: MapMaker Interactive from National Geographic is one of our very favorite geography resources. Here you can explore the world by customizing your own maps and printing them. The options for customization are endless. And it’s completely free.
DonnaYoung.org: If you’re looking for handwriting sheets, planning pages, charts, calendars, math printables, science printables, or nature journal pages, this is your one-stop shop. Lots of free printables here.
As you can see, you don’t have to keep spending tons of money to homeschool. If you’ve been at this for awhile, it’s likely you already have most everything you need. By taking inventory of what you have, using your public library to your advantage, and scoping out quality free online resources, homeschooling can still be fun, full, and fabulous.
Just take stock before you add stock!
How are you saving money homeschooling? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks, too!