Search This Blog

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

How to Homeschool When You Can't Afford It

I can't afford to homeschool. We are a one (lower) income household. On paper, I should be working, but I have discovered tips and resources that enable me to homeschool both my children on a very tight budget.

If you have felt the tug in your heart to homeschool, then money is not an obstacle. Homeschooling is as expensive as you make it. I compared what I pay for curriculum for BOTH of my kids with a public school friend, and I pay LESS than what she pays in public school book rental for ONE child.

We have now been homeschooling for seven years, and we have learned many tricks to providing my kids with a well rounded education while keeping the costs low. Just like any budget savers,it does take a little extra work, but it is worth it!

1. Library, Library, Library! 
Take advantage of local library!!!!   I am on a first name basis with most of our local library staff because I pretty much visit every week.

  Libraries today are not just for BOOKS! We are lucky enough to have cards to two different library systems (our town's and the county's library).  We have access to free Local Museum passes, free tutors, educational classes, a 3-D laser printer and software lab, and rent-able Rosetta Stone curriculum.  YOU HAVE TO ASK!  Many libraries have a plethora of resources, you just have to ask someone how to access them.

My kids take a Minecraft Mania class every semester where they are able to play other kids on a CLOSED network for Internet safety. We also attend a monthly Homeschool Book Club that was started because a homeschool mom asked the librarians to start one!

 Maybe have your high schooler enroll in a a free adult education class on how to use EXCEL, Microsoft Publisher, or even how to prepare their taxes.   If your library doesn't have a class you'd like, ask for it!  Librarians want people to come to their classes, so if you show there is interest, they may offer it.

We check out 30 books every two weeks to go along with our My Father's World Curriculum, along with great workbooks for online coding.  If you use free Charlotte Mason Ambleside, you could get all your school books from the library!  Your tax dollars fund the library, and since we are not taking advantage of the local schools system, which your tax dollars also pay for, USE THAT LIBRARY!!! See this post on how to manage the many many books you get without paying fines.

How to Manage Library Books in Your Homeschool

2. Free Online Resources
 My kids take free piano, typing, and coding lessons online.  I don't personally like my kids being on computer for ALL their subjects because it limits parent/child influence, but the resources are there to help learn any subject you need.  Check out this post of all the Free Online Resources, for every subject you could imagine

WARNING Using ANY online resources requires adult vigilance about safety, but with a few safety precautions, it is worth it. No one is above temptation (even our 'good' kids) so please keep safety barriers in for your children when using online resources.


3. Don't Curriculum Hop unless something is broken 
Unused Curriculum is the biggest Budget Buster for a homeschool mom. The joke in the homeschool community is that all homeschooling moms have a shelf of unused curriculum somewhere, but we don't. I can't afford to buy curriculum we won't use

If what your doing is working, keeping doing it.  Don't go to conferences and window shop, unless something is not working. 

If we do end up buying a curriculum that doesn't work, we almost always finish it before buying a new one (unless it is making someone cry, including me). My philosophy is unless it's making my children doubt their ability in themselves (which I have encountered this with Math and it is OK to stop and find something else), it is good for them to learn that not everything in life is perfectly tailored to them, and to adapt accordingly.

I recommend new homeschool moms buy a boxed curriculum because it gives confidence and you don't spend money (and take years off your life) looking for the "perfect" curriculum.  It isn't perfect, but no curriculum ever will be. But it is a great base, and as I grew more confident and know my kids  better, I have branched out and bought other supplements that don't go unused.

***PLEASE NOTE:  When it is time to switch, to switch, it is time to switch!  We loved My Father's World  have been able to make it work for years with tweaks along the way, but I was not able tweak the High School curriculum enough to make it work for us.  We are switching to Sonlight for High School, and that is OK.  We are able to sell our old curriculum and rent the new (see more below).                             

4. Read reviews and/or try to touch before buying 
Be brave and ask other moms if you can look through their manuals and curriculum before buying.  Some people go to conventions for this purpose, but I don't have the money or patience to go to a convention. I prefer going through a friend's curriculum because I get a real review from someone I know and trust. Use Facebook groups to connect to other homeschool moms who use curriculum you are interested in, and you get to make a friend in the process!

If you can't touch it before buying, read reviews and look at pictures of inside the book. Use the experience of online homeschool friends! All my Learning Cursive with Literature Books have real reviews from real people, with a few pictures and videos of inside the book.

5. Buy Used When Possible
I buy from My Father's World when I can (especially consumables), because they support Bible Translations, but when my budgets dictates that isn't possible, I try to buy my curriculum either USED or discounted from websites like Christian Book Homeschool Resources Other Great Places to Buy curriculum used or discounted:
In regards to just building your school room, buy used furniture!  Our desks and bookshelves are from Goodwill and Facebook Marketplace. No need to buy fancy Pinterest looking furniture for your children to be able to learn!  Half our school is done on the couch anyways!

6. Borrow/Swap/Trade
Homeschool is a giant community of moms who care about each other, many who are willing to share their curriculum and resources. We piece together our curriculum each year through borrowing, swapping, and trading, and then buying whatever is left. BE BRAVE AND ASK!

We borrow our teacher's manual and  Math U See  DVD from two different friends, then I buy the consumable workbooks from Christian Book. My boys' grade is in between another friends' children (she has one older and one younger), so one year we swapped Languages Arts curriculum for the grades we needed, then swapped back at the end of the year (then I sold that book).

 Our co-op also has a "free table" that has blessed us deeply. Women bring in their old curriculum and school resources to put it on the table, and you can take whatever you'd like!  It has been a God-Send to our family! I never sell any curriculum I was given for free, and always pay it forward by bringing back to the Free Table when I am done. 

Math U See

7. Homeschool Cooperatives
Join or start an inexpensive co-op. Homeschool Cooperatives pool their resources to teach a group of students, according to the gifting of the parent.

 Our co-op is only $35 a semester, and my kids get to take four classes; including classes like chess, gym, world geography, and show choir. I contribute by teaching the preschool-aged children all morning while other moms who are gifted in other ways teach the older kids!

If you don't have a co-op near you, invite 1 to 2 other families to join you in learning art, drama, or P.E., splitting the cost of supplies. I once started an art co-op with one other family.  We met once a month to do  art projects, like paper mache and pastels.  Splitting the cost of supplies was very cost effective.

What is a Homeschool Co-Op?

8. Combine any subjects you can across grades 
A One-Room-Classroom approach has proven successful for generations.  Combining the core subjects saves money while also allowing each child to learn at their own level. For example, you can have your 1st and 3rd grader do the same History, Science, Art, and Music.

To illustrate, while learning about Ecosystems, your 1st grader may retain that polar bears are white and live in cold weather, while your 3rd grader will also retain the vocabulary word of tundra and your 5th grader can define ecosystem.

 In the individual subjects like Math and Language Arts, you buy each child their own curriculum so they can progress at their own rate. We love our curriculum, My Father's World, because it is already designed for this approach.

9. Parks and Recreation Department
Follow your local Parks and Rec Department on social media, and check out their online calendars!  You'd be amazed at all the wonderful educational opportunities that your tax dollars pay for! Visit free nature centers and attend free classes and events all put on by your local parks and recreation department.

Our community has a large enough homeschool community that we have even requested some homeschool classes and field trips at a local park during school hours, and they happily obliged.

 A few years ago, while visiting my Dad in Arizona I found a regional park that hosted monthly homeschool program. We went on a free mile long homeschool hike guided by a park ranger! My dad was amazed that we were joined by 12 other families from all over the state and country.

10. Call area businesses for Homeschool Discounts
Many kid-centered businesses will give a discount for homeschool kids because they can come during non peak hours.

Our local trampoline park has a homeschool hop every month from 2 to 3pm, with discounted rates. The local gymnastics center has an open gym from 1 to 2 every other Friday for only $5, a fraction of what they charge for after school classes.

11. Keep books to pass down, sell, or rent
Like I said before, I do not sell books we have been given, but I do sell any books WE BOUGHT!  I have twins in the same grade, so I can't pass them down, but if you are a multi-age family (like most are), save those books for your younger children, then sell when everyone is done.

A wonderful homeschool mom in our co-op is allowing us to rent her high school curriculum while she isn't using it (my sons are in between her kids' grades). She charges an extremely fair price for all involved, it blesses us, and blesses her financially so the books are not just sitting in storage.  It was a wonderful situation and I am very grateful.

Back to School as a Homeschooler

12. Buy Partnering Memberships
Any educational membership you buy should pay for itself with partnerships to other museums. We bought a membership to an ASTC Science Museum. The membership was only $80 to our closest ASTC museum, and it also got us into 3 different science museums in Chicago for free! We used it last month when visiting a friend in central Illinois, and will use it again when we visit Alabama later this month. Most local zoos have a partnering membership with other zoos.

13. Free Bible Study Classes
Our main Bible curriculum is Awana and Bible Study Fellowship (BSF).  AWANA is a great kid's club where your child memorizes Scripture, plays with friends, and plays games. We pay weekly dues of 50 cents, which is very doable. My children and I also attend a local  BSF that has School Ages Bible Curriculum for older children. You can find a BSF Class or AWANA Club near you.

14. Dollar Tree 
Shop the Education section at your local Dollar Tree!  We have gotten math flash cards, white boards, easels to hold their books while drawing, and educational posters.  Many of these items are 10 to 20 times less than if you bought them in a teacher store.

15. Meal Planning
I know this doesn't seem homeschool related, but you can not afford to homeschool if you can't keep your grocery and restaurant budget under control!!!! Make a meal plan and KEEP IT SIMPLE. I see most moms fail at meal planning because they weirdly convince themselves meal planning will give them the time to make fancy meals!  The point of meal planning is not to try out new recipes, but to make sure you buy the groceries for the meals you plan to eat.  Our meal plan last week included Simple Spaghetti and Chicken Quesadillas.

  A lot of my meal planning happens through Freezer Cooking.


 I hope these tips help someone who is hesitating to homeschool because of money, please know that it is possible! If you have any other tips to share on how to save money while homeschooling, please comment below!

No comments:

Post a Comment