The high costs associated with homeschooling are often one of the reasons people choose not to do it. We can’t afford it. We only have one income. We have too many children.
It’s true that there are a good many homeschool curriculums out there which are high quality, with the high price tag to prove it, but today I’m going to let you in on how we homeschool 10 kids for under $1000/yr.
Since we are a one income family of twelve, it is absolutely necessary that I am resourceful enough in acquiring materials so that homeschooling will not be a financial strain. At this point in time, we plan on homeschooling all of our children through high school, so it is crucial that I find something affordable that works for our family.
Believe it or not, this is easier than you think. In fact, $1000 is actually a high number. I believe that this year we were able to keep our costs to below $500 for curriculum for all 10 children, but I’ll say $1000 just to be conservative!
In no particular order, here are the 10 biggest tips to homeschooling effectively, but frugally.
1. Take full advantage of your local library. I cannot stress this to you enough- the library is probably the biggest asset any homeschooler can have, and it’s free! Besides having oodles of books that cover just about every topic known to man, most libraries also offer an audio/visual section with DVDs, CDs, and audio books, children’s programs, and free classes in everything from photography to computers to gardening. I am confident that you could homeschool using just the library up through high school and quite possibly all the way through.
What’s more is that the library contains thousands of living books and trade books- not dull textbooks which often are too boring to pay enough attention to in order to actually learn anything. While we do have some workbooks and curriculum here, the bulk of our learning happens through library books.
Even if you live in a smaller town without a large library , for a small fee out-of-towners can acquire a library card from one in a nearby city- a small price to pay when compared to the average price of most curriculum.
2. Buy used if you can. Don’t automatically assume that you must buy your chosen curriculum straight from the publisher. Always, always check Amazon, eBay, curriculum fairs, etc. first. I don’t think there’s been one book I was looking for that I didn’t find from one of those sources.
Of course, you do want to be careful and read the description to make sure that the books are in good condition and have not been written in. Also remember to see how much positive feedback a seller has before purchasing anything from them. My rule of thumb is that I will not buy from someone with less than 98% positive feedback.
3. Ask around to other homeschoolers to see if any of them have any curriculum they are not using that you can borrow, or can even keep. Several years ago when I decided to start using unit studies, I had decided upon saving up for the Konos curriculum. I mentioned to a friend that I was hoping to eventually purchase it but would have to wait until I saved up for it because it was over $100 (This was before I knew about Amazon. Hooray for Amazon!). She laughed and said that a friend of hers has that curriculum and was looking for someone to give it to because she no longer uses it.
Lesson learned? Always communicate your plans with fellow homeschool travelers. You never know what resource may just pop up!
4. Buy reusable curriculum. I realize that most curriculum is headed towards the use of consumables, but I highly recommend looking for textbooks that can be passed down the line. Consumables may seem cheaper at the outset, but keep in mind that you have to replenish them year after year. Reusable curriculum is recyclable!
One important note: If you buy a reusable textbook, and it does not work for the child who it is being passed to, do not feel obligated to force it on them. Either save it for the next child or sell it. The curriculum has got to fit the child.
5. Use unit studies. Unit studies are awesome for so many reasons. Besides being a time saver because they are designed to be used as a multi-level resource, they are a huge money saver, as well. Since they are cross-curricular, they take away the need to buy books for each child for every subject. Instead of each student having a science book, a math book, a reading book, a writing book, a social studies book, etc., these subjects are covered by unit studies using activities, field trips, and-yes- library books. With unit studies, at the most, you will only need a math book and a language arts book, and even that is questionable because any subject can be incorporated into unit studies.
In fact, if you’re interested, I have three free unit studies here on my blog:
Try them out! These unit studies will easily get you through at least 22 weeks of school- and they’re free. 🙂
6. Take advantage of all the free resources the internet has to offer. There are thousands of free unit studies, free copywork, and free notebooking pages. I would be remiss to leave out Khan Academy, which is mainly math but also covers a host of other subjects, and YouTube, which, when monitored, has a huge array of educational videos to browse.
7. Don’t forget about Netflix and Amazon. Learning doesn’t only happen with books. My 16 yr. old son hates to read and has learned all about military history through documentaries and historical fiction movies. There is a worldwide misconception that books are the best mode of education, but this simply isn’t the case. I often find that some of my kids are better able to retain information they watch on TV.
8. Take advantage of the world around you. Life is a wonderful curriculum. Take your kids to the grocery store, the bank, the park, the creek, a neighbor’s house, the local fire station. This is a huge advantage that homeschooled children have over school students because they are actually learning in the real world– not a replication of it! Homeschooling is preparation for adult life. What better way is there than to include them in it?
9. Apply for a teacher’s discount at participating stores. Barnes and Noble and A.C. Moore offer educator’s discounts to homeschooling parents along with school teachers. Research it. Find out which stores in your area provide the same courtesy.
10. Stock up on supplies over the summer. Even if you plan on homeschooling year round, this is the time you should head to the stores to purchase any stationery supplies you’ll be needing because this is when stores will lower their prices on these items in preparation for back-to-school shopping. Just last week we were able to get crayons, markers, and colored pencils for .50, folders for .15, binders for .97, and spiral notebooks for .17. Timing is everything.
I hope these tips have been an encouragement to you. You do not have to be super wealthy to homeschool, but super resourceful, and with practice, that’s something that we all can achieve.