When It Comes to Homeschool Curriculum, Expensive Doesn’t Always Mean Better

expensive doesn't mean better

Okay. Repeat after me…

Homeschooling doesn’t have to be expensive.

Did you say it?

Bigger question- do you believe it?

You know, I’d been planning on writing on this particular subject again for a while, when, lo and behold, this question was posed on a search engine that brought someone to my site today: 

Why is homeschooling expensive?

I guess now’s a good time to tackle this topic, and I’ve got an easy answer to that query…

It’s not.

Or, more importantly, it doesn’t have to be. I can see why people think so. I’m pretty sure that a good portion of homeschoolers today are using some form of boxed curriculum, and, yes, these curriculums can be expensive. Yes, most of these curriculums are of a good quality, but does that necessarily mean that they’re better than those that are less expensive, or, dare I say it, free?

In my experience, not at all.

I think the main reason people turn to these is because:

  1. They usually have everything laid out for the parent.
  2. There’s little to no preparation.
  3. It’s familiar because it’s the format most homeschool parents grew up with in school.
  4. It’s easier than researching hundreds of different homeschooling resources.

If you’re dead set on finding a curriculum that possesses all of the above qualities, then, yeah. You’re probably going to have to shell out some bucks for those books. That doesn’t mean that you have to, though.

Homeschooling well can be done on a limited income. It just takes a little resourcefulness and a little know-how. To tell you the truth, I actually enjoy all the research and trial and error it takes to homeschool frugally. It adds an element of excitement, and, hey, I’m all for excitement. (I have to be. I have 11 kids.)

crazy lady

With that being said, today I’m going to share some tips on…

How I homeschool frugally:

(This post contains affiliate links.)

1. Using the book lists from literature-based programs for a jumping off point.

There are several quality literature-based homeschooling programs out there that are, unfortunately, also quite expensive. I don’t let that stop me! I usually either order the catalog for access to the book lists or I go to the website and copy the titles down. I really trust the selections these publishers make because I hear nothing but good things about these programs, so I simply use some of their selections and either use them as read-alouds or silent reading for my kids. Then we notebook them, of course!

2. Taking advantage of all the online freebies.

There’s just so much stuff out there that we have free access to. Why spend money if you don’t need to? And the best thing about these resources? They’re usually written by, and therefore tested by, actual homeschool moms who know what homeschooling is all about.

3. Writing my own unit studies.

This doesn’t have to be as complicated as it sounds. The best thing about this is that you can keep them as simple or as complicated as you like. You’re the author!

4. Notebooking, rather than using textbooks.

I’m fairly new to notebooking, having just started it last July, but I am convinced that this is the best thing that’s happened to our homeschool, and there are so many free notebooking pages available online. (For more on notebooking, click here for my Notebooking Playlist on YouTube.)

5. Using the library.

Other than higher math, it is my firm belief that you could homeschool through graduation using only the library. Yes, it’s that good. Give yours a try!

6. Embracing interest-led learning.

Kids- especially kids under 8- learn phenomenally just by playing. Even after they get older, kids who have grown up with the mindset that they don’t need others to show them what to learn are fantastic at using what they find to quench their curiosity. Today, my 9 and 12 year olds spent hours outside planting seeds from some green peppers we had in the fridge and tending to the plants in my oldest daughter’s greenhouse. Learning happens all the time whether we parents plan for it to happen or not!

My final thoughts:

I guess you can definitely say that homeschooling can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be. Don’t hem yourself into thinking that there’s only one way to learn, and expensive textbooks are it. There is such an abundance of excellent and, dare I say it, interesting materials out there for us to find and put to good use with our kids.

Don’t be discouraged by stories of the high costs of homeschooling. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of families out there who can tell you otherwise.

Count me as the first. 😉





Author: Shelly Sangrey

I'm Shelly, a Christ-following, homeschooling Mom of eleven children ( okay, not ALL children. My oldest is 23.) I met my husband right after graduation, and we've been together ever since. Though my life can be hectic at times... okay, ALL the time, I wouldn't change it for anything.

23 thoughts on “When It Comes to Homeschool Curriculum, Expensive Doesn’t Always Mean Better”

  1. I try to be as frugal as possible with our homeschooling materials. I particularly Project Gutenberg for free reading material and I often pick up text books from the local thrift store. It’s amazing some of the finds and the supplemental material you can get from places like that! Thank you for sharing this info, as I have already explored almost all your links 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The timing of this post is funny to me. Just this week a couple of my children begged to used textbooks. I have homeschooled for over 20 years and have 10 kids. We are relaxed, delight directed learners. I told them they could uses the texts we have on the shelf and that I would try to buy them a couple workbooks if they would really use them. I looked up handwriting and by the time I put 1 workbook in the cart for each child that wanted to “do school” I owed $100.00. I decided no and told them I would find some online for free or find some at the thrift store or homeschool bookfair. They decided they were happy reading their history and science texts for now. Another funny thing…they decided to notebook about what they read instead of answering the questions.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This was very timely advice for me since I will be attending a homeschool convention this weekend. I’ve homeschooled for 9 years now and have only spent $200 on boxed curriculum (one math for 1st grade and one science for 7th). This article gives me the extra encouragement I need to be satisfied with how our self-directed learning has gone so far and avoid falling for all those shiny new curriculums.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We buy a few inexpensive workbooks for each boy each year and then use our library to fill in all sorts of other subjects like science, history, geography and even art. We’d rather save our money for fun field trips or experiences that crop up; like the day we got to go out on an ocean science research vessel!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This was our 20th year homeschooling, with 8 kids (4 are grads now) and I spent loads of money over the years on curriculum– but tried to spend it on as much non-consumable as possible. Now, I have a nice collection of books (math, science, history) and can (almost) homeschool for free. My kids like workbooks, so I’m going to print out free resources in the order we’ll use them (more or less) and have them bound locally. Voila! Language Arts. Or Social Studies. Or math “meeting” book. I’ll pretty much do the same with the planner I design for myself (I create most of my own own planner pages, but maybe use a binder though). By the way, I give away my planner pages for those who can use them. No website (yet) though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! 20 years! That is amazing. You must be a treasure trove of information. You sound like a huge blessing to other homeschoolers. You definitely should get a website for all those great resources!


      1. Surprisingly, very few homeschoolers seem to be interested in my great store of wisdom 🙂 I’ve had a few blogs over the years, one specifically about homeschooling, and I think I had like maybe 5 followers (tracking visits wasn’t much more encouraging, either…) Maybe it’s time to start one up again…? My heart’s desire is to encourage homeschoolers.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That is a shame. I have noticed that many new homeschoolers seem to get offended if you give them advice contrary to how they’re doing things. It’s frustrating because I’ve often seen people headed straight to burnout, but they don’t want to hear it! Sigh.


          1. Just wanted to comment that a veteran homeschooler at church just suggested to unit studies to me (I’m a mom of 4 under 4 and foresee many more) as a way to cross multiple age ranges. I didn’t know what to say to her and just stared blankly having never heard of it before. I’ve been googling it, and, wow! It seems like a great way to homeschool lots of children together! I’m so glad she suggested it. Anyway, sometimes us new moms have to digest the new advice for a bit before it makes sense. We def should appreciate you vet homeschool moms more!


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