Yes, we homeschool and yes, we homeschool on a budget.
If you have been around The Peaceful Mom very long, then you are probably aware that we are a homeschooling family. I have had a few people ask how we are able to educate our children with our “low” income, so I am sharing what has worked for us. By the way, it is a widespread misconception that more money means a better education, but that is another topic for another day. 🙂
As for how we manage to educate on our income, here are my top 5 tips for homeschool on a budget:
Use Free Resources
The best way to save money on homeschooling is to take advantage of free materials and activities. There are many, many free resources available through your public library and online.
We have not only found books at the library, but science and history dvds, audio books, children’s books on tape (great for learning readers!) and preschool learning kits. If your library doesn’t have a wide selection, try local homeschool groups. Some have lending libraries or access to materials for a small charge.
Local extension agencies and colleges often provide free classes and information. You can also turn local events into learning experiences like a Medieval Festivals (although some charge an arm and a leg!), state fairs, etc. Think creatively!
Click here for a list of FREE Homeschool Resources online.
Another great way to save is to borrow and/or trade materials with a friend. If you have something you don’t need this year, offer it to others in your homeschool group in exchange for something you do need.
This past year we used an expensive American History program which I was able to borrow from a friend. I had both my 9th and 11th grader do the work since we had it for one year. The previous year, we borrowed a World History Program. This year we traded our math curriculum with another family because we are both using a level that the other one has, but isn’t going to be using.
If you want to borrow curriculum, make sure to set some ground rules:
*make a complete list of everything you are borrowing/lending
*clearly convey the time frame you are loaning the material for
*take extra good care of the materials (don’t bend the books back, get them wet, etc.)
*if something happens, replace the book or item
Just a note- If you lend your materials to someone, have an open mind and hand. Your books and other items will more than likely not be returned in pristine condition. If this will bother you, don’t lend them out. Sell them or save them for use with your next child.
While I have had many good experiences with borrowing materials, I had one unfortunate experience. I loaned out an expensive curriculum, but I did not make a list of all the books included and found when they were returned that many were missing. The person who borrowed them claimed that they weren’t there to begin with. 🙁
Hand-me-downs can be a great thing! Any books or materials which I purchase to use for an older child, we pass down to the next one in line. Other than social studies, I have a complete high school curriculum that we just keep using with each new high schooler. This cuts costs tremendously!
For consumable workbooks, my children write their answers in a composition book so that the workbook can be used again–another big money saver.
For younger children, you can also place workbook pages or printable worksheets in a page protector and let them write with a dry erase marker. They think it’s fun and you can use the worksheet again!
New books are nice, but used books can be purchased for 50% or less off the retail price. Wear and tear will eventually happen anyway, so why not let someone else lose money purchasing curriculum new?
Check the Amazon Homeschool Section (some new items are mixed in) or check for local homeschool group used book sales. VegSource is another good place to look for a variety of used homeschool materials.
I recommend doing some research and deciding what you want first, because if you search for used materials online without any framework, everything will look good and you will end up spending a lot of money. Sonlight Curriculum has great reading lists for each grade level and most of the books can be purchased used or checked out from your local library.
I list this last, but honestly, if you are a Christian, prayer should be your first resort, not your last. Ask God to provide the items that you need.
My son has a math learning disability, but we have found that Teaching Textbooks works well for him. The only problem is the fact that it costs between $200 and $300 for the textbook and cd roms.
A couple of years ago I still did not have his math a week before school started. I prayed and waited, and God came through. You can read about it here.
How Do You Save On School Expenses? Leave a comment.
(Please Note: My readers come from diverse backgrounds and have differing opinions. Please keep that in mind when you comment. I would like everyone to feel welcome here, no matter what their choices. Thanks!
Also, if you are not a fan of homeschooling, please refrain from commenting about how homeschooled children need to be socialized. Homeschooling does not mean that we stay at home all day, every day. We have lots of interaction with people of different ages, backgrounds and races, and my children are consistently praised for their behavior, intelligence, communication skills and sense of humor. I can’t speak for anyone else. 🙂 )
Jennifer Pepito says
I wrote a book called Bountiful Homeschooling on a Budget, and many of my suggestions are similar to yours here. We have also found that we don’t need a curriculum for every subject. With plain old fashioned paper and pencils we can do book reports that also become grammar lessons, and lots of handwriting practice happens with a verse to copy and some punctuation explanations. A book, such as You Can Teach Your Child, by Ruth Beechick is a good help in learning how to teach without curriculum.
The Peaceful Mom says
Thanks for the tips Jennifer!
I homeschool my 3 children. 1st grader kindergarten and preschool age. while I mostly use A BEKA, I also get a lot of printable stuff at http://www.theteacherscorner.com. They have tons of free stuff for every grade. Also I know supplies can be costly (paper.ink.) so I signed up for office max rewards. If you homeschool you qualify for the teachers card. Its free to sign up and for every $75 you spend,you get $10 credit. Also every quarter,if you buy certain items then they will credit that amount to you for the next quarter. I usually choose to buy more of the select items so that the next quarter I have free money and spend nothing to get even more free items.
Becky Trowbridge says
Ok, a couple of things! I have found for buying used curriculum I go to homeschoolclassifieds.com! I love that sight. We have a half priced books close by and that is wonderful as well! Sometimes our good will have books that I can use as well! thanks for your posts!
Thanks for that idea Becky. I hadn’t heard of that site.
I am a grandmother to five wonderful homeschooled children (and two babies who will grow up into homeschoolers hopefully). I LOVE to contribute to my grandchildren’s education! I enjoy listening during read aloud times, but sometimes wish I could do more. This blog made me think that I can! Parents, keep a “wishlist” handy so that if a grandparent asks, you can quickly rattle off needed resources. And grandparents, you usually have the time and perhaps extra dollars, so get with the program and help! Also parents, it never hurts to ask for one small toy for birthdays, Christmas, etc. and the difference to be given in cash for school purchases. I know that some may disagree with this, but honestly, don’t you think a good education is the most precious gift of all, next to their Christian faith?
SUPER idea! Thanks!
we’ve just kinda started homeschooling but doing some basic math & phonics with stuff i already had. and then i’ll get more of a plan together (we were not going to homeschool until my husband got a new job in a different state a month ago). we love abebooks.com for used books! i’ll definitely be back to look at this information. perfect timing!
I have a suggestion also. I am a public school teacher,(please don’t bash me, I’m just trying to feed my family). I usually have a surplus of resources at the end of a school year that I have to throw away. Why not reach out to the public schools and ask them to donate curricular material that wasn’t used?
Hi! Of course I won’t bash you–I was actually a public school teacher and I believe strongly that everyone should do what is best for their family. 🙂 Great idea too!
Oh, sorry, I didn’t mean you personally. Folks who homeschool occasionally jump on me for various reasons and I didn’t want that to be the case this time. I love your blog, it’s the only one I read on a daily basis! 🙂
Thanks so much! I’m glad you’re here. 🙂
We will be starting our 6th year of homeschooling. We are SO blessed to have a college-prep, homeschool extension program in our city that focuses on Christian worldview and critical thinking. It is very challenging. While there is tuition (mostly to pay the tutors) it is far less expensive than private school in our area….and a better education. I had alot already for my 7th and 8th graders but my 10th grader didn’t have anything. His booklist was 2 pages long (ancient history and literature contributed significantly to that). So, I bought almost all the needed books on amazon or half.com. I used credit card points to get amazon credits. That helped. But, homeschooling can be done less expensively for sure.
Rach merritt says
Keep an eye out for e-books now. They are available many times for free or at least a bigger discount especially for the older grades. We do A-Beka mostly-I can save big by using previously used books that I get from family, but most of my used books come from E-bay. You can tell by the stars if they are a great seller. We got all books that don’t have to be written in on E-bay this year. I made a list of what I needed–then crossed them off as we got them. Also I had a sweet lady that God supplied to help us pay for the books we got. The power of God and prayer is amazing!! Also we do have a homeschool group that has a resource room–and we take advantage of it. If you have Netflix, they have some great documentaries that you can also use. Don’t forget the internet–I get all my extra work sheets from websites that offer free printable pages!! 🙂 Thanks for the ideas.
All terrific ideas Rach–thanks!
We have the children work on khanacademy.org. Watch the inspiring story how this man helped his neice and nephews learn math over the internet and now my children can too. My sophomore was taking Calc at school and needed help and it was like a private teacher, while my 4rth grader learned basic math.
I homeschooled for seven years before I put my kids into public school last year (I was pregnant with my 9th and needed a break). To my amazement, the fees, clothing requirements, supplies, project needs, etc. cost us over $500 for four children in public school! Homeschool was always cheaper.
We’re homeschooling again this year.
I’ve invested in books over the years, most of them from ebay or used from Amazon or half.com. I have my kids write the answers from workbooks in a notebook, and I buy all the year’s supplies while everything is dirt cheap in August. At most I’ll spend about $100 for homeschooling this year.
Craft supplies, etc. are best at Dollar Tree. What I can’t find there, I simply improvise or modify. My kids’ creativity usually goes beyond the suggestions in their books anyway.
My older kids are going part time at the local high school–a very convenient option for us–so I don’t have to pay for distance education, and I negotiate the fees with the school. No need for them to have a locker, none want a yearbook, etc.
This is awesome!
Right now Chloe is just starting preschool. We purchased most of our preschool workbooks from walmart for less than $3 a book. I also used my free resourced to download and print ABC and 123 flash cards. I found free daily curriculum that doesn’t require expensive books, in fact I can use the books I bought with it. I guess with preschool it’s pretty simple to find the things you need.
Thank you for the tips! When they are older I will definitely apply them. We have a good sized income but we also have quite a bit of debt that needs paid. I’ve started implementing your tips into our daily lives in order to cut spending. I really need to work on my own will power with spending, but I have already seen a substantial change. We no longer have to live paycheck to paycheck worrying things won’t get paid.
I am so excited for you Crystal. Thanks for letting me know!
I’ve been surprised at my lucky finds on paperbackswap.com many times. Sometimes I find a particular book or text that I need. Other times I’ve just searched for something general like “Geography” or “World History” or “8th grade” and found a gem that ended up being our main source for the year.
Great idea Janet–thanks!
I could use tips for keeping track of and returning library books! The library is such a great resource, but lately we’ve been having trouble with late fines. I used to have a “library day” once a week, but since at the moment we only have one car, it’s hard for me to get to the library during business hours consistently, and other times when I’m heading to town (and could put the books in the drop box) the library books are the last thing on my mind (for example, when I’m trying to get the family to church on time).
We have used the library day once a week as well, but another thing that I started doing was bringing the receipt home and putting it on the fridge or writing the due date in my calendar. It’s not so cheap when you have to pay fines, right? 😉
karen b says
we have a special shelf for library books. when done back on the shelf it goes, then you can just grab them quickly if need to. has worked for us for a long time & very seldom have we had to pay fees, me or the hubby drops off while doing errands:) we don’t have a recipt @ our library but the due date on calendar is a good idea:)
Not sure if it is like this everywhere, we are in SC…but a homeschooling friend told me that when the kids have their own library card then there are no fees. We will be checking this out this week at our first homeschool trip to the library!
That is not the case where we live, but I make my kids keep up with their own cards and their due dates. They also have to pay their own fines if they fail to return something (or tell me it needs to be returned). It helps to teach responsibility in a low risk environment. 🙂
J Murphy says
good stuff here…. I don’t usually lend, but I like hand me downs and used curriculum sales…. I either sell or give away unused items,as I dislike the worry of how things are used/kept.
We make full use of educational memberships at museums,and if we want to go somewhere, I find out if it’s cheaper to get a small group together vs. going on our own….it’s pretty easy and yields big savings!
Last year I got a membership at a small museum,which translated through reciprocation at a BIG expensive science museum which we visited multiple times…the total cost was about 21.00 for the membership (edu. special)
Yes, those transferable memberships are great.
Cindy Alewine says
A note about the library…we are on the Pines system here in Georgia. If our local library doesn’t have a resource, they can get it for us from any of the other libraries in the state within 2-3 days. That has been wonderful. We also signed up for free foreign language lessons through our library. It’s all online.
I love your blog and have pinned many of your articles so I can reread them 😀
We used to be a part of that system–it is nice. So glad that you like the blog.