Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Affordable Homeschool - For Lou Lou

Lou Lou visited this blog and talked about how she feels she could join the homeschoolers if homeschooling was more affordable.  It got me to thinking about how to make homeschooling cheaper.  Of course, if a household needs both incomes, that takes precedent and changes everything.  Although I know I would rather suffer with a single income, if possible, to keep my kids at home.  However, I also know I am very fortunate to be married to a wonderful man who is able to support our home financially on his own.

SO, with the caveat that I'm not presumptuously addressing two-income homeschool families, as I have no experience with that, I have some tricks for keeping your homeschool experience on the cheap, er, inexpensive.

  • Use the library.  I am convinced that a child who loves the library and who reads current magazines, historical literature, non-fiction and fiction at the library can't help but come out of that experience EDUCATED.  Learning how to learn, learning where to find resources.  All of these things are a vital part of becoming educated.  The library can be a very dynamic and engaging place.  Our library has tons of activities that are free or cheap, including excellent book clubs for children or adults.  Librarians can be an invaluable resource for finding materials and information.  Libraries also tend to have access to books and stuff from their entire library system and can, often, find materials for you.  Not to mention: you can also get free music! 
  • Your PC is, in my opinion, one of the best source of free or cheap learning materials.  You will find your child can learn typing, programming, art, spelling, and almost any subject imaginable with games on disc.  We even own an entire encyclopedia on disc.  I'm pretty sure my kids learned some basic problem solving skills from a Clifford the Big Red Dog game they used to play. 
  • Free on-line resources.  I'm not going to list them here, but there are so many excellent online resources that are free or cheap, I'm sure a child could find themselves highly educated by using nothing more than a laptop, the world wide web, and a few well-chosen websites.  News sources, history, source documents, art, maps.  You name it, you can find it online.  Seriously!  Entire websites exist to aid the frugally-minded homeschooler. 
  • Used curriculum is the most obvious resource.  I have a favorite used material website, cleverly called "Homeschool Classified Ads" that I frequent whenever I'm looking for something to add to the library for cheap.  Use it well.  I refused to even share my secret site for years because of my stingy streak.  Trade, barter, buy used stuff.  With a little inventiveness, you can find ways to get the materials you need.  Remember, where there's a will, there's a way! 
  • Television.  Yes, I said it.  Television.  Although our family is No-TV, there are some great shows on PBS, news, documentaries, etc, that can be used to supplement your child's lessons.  
  • Your very own community.  Community theater, banks, emergency services, parks, libraries, universities and colleges, volunteer activities, local politics, shopping experiences, local hobby clubs, museums, conventions, stay-cations, gardens, and more.  All of these activities offer amazing opportunities for learning and for finding areas of interest in your family and with your child.  My kids have participated in community theater, gone on a zillion interesting tours, attended local political forums, become members of local hobby clubs, and attended special lectures of all sorts.  The only limitation is your own ability to research! 
  • Being frugal, itself, is an ongoing lesson in and of its self.  The fun of finding great and unique resources is a constant source of pride for our family.  Frugality, simplicity, ingenuity, and budgeting ARE lessons!  Take it from a book horse:  less IS more.  Also lessons:  all household maintenance and upkeep chores and activities.   
  • Family employment.  I know of some families who have at-home small businesses or community businesses who have the family play a part in the running of the business.  While this may not be for every family, I have seen several very close families who work together.   
  • And finally, my favorite part of homeschooling:  create your own materials!  In general, I use textbooks with the kids or I make my own units and study materials.  If you have the internet, Microsoft Word, and a printer, you could be set!

It's worth remembering, research shows that how much you spend on homeschool does not affect what your child achieves. There is no evidence to suggest that expensive curricula is a better way to educate a child than the cheaper stuff.
Even without a computer (though you already have access to one if you are reading this!), it is absolutely possible to homeschool on a shoestring!

Actually, I had another thought.  In this country, we consider cable, cell phones, and eating out to be the norm.  In fact, did you know, these things are EXTRAS!  lol  Extras that totally suck up extra funds.  Our family has not had cable or satellite in over ten years...  You frugal families out there know just what I am talking about.  There is a real sense of pride in getting it done on  the cheap!

Do you have some frugal suggestions?
Do you have a favorite website or two?

And, Lou Lou, did this help at all!?

And, now, I am taking  hiatus from this blog for awhile... 

We are flying to San Francisco Aug 13th in the morning,
then, on to Brisbane Australia.
Landing  Down Under on the 19th!


  1. We live off of one income, but not easily. How do we do it? We take advantage of the library, make friends with people who prefer to give their old stuff away instead of trash it, we make a budget and stick to it. We don't do alot of the stuff two income families do, such as eating out, it's cheaper to cook at home. When we both worked we didnt use daycare, that can save you 600-1000 dollars a month. Instead we worked opposite shifts,not always easy but the benefit for us out weighted an negatives. When doing field trips or family vacations go when prices are cheapest. Reuse anything and everything you can. Plenty of items make great additions to a craft box. Cut out unneeded items like huge cellphone plans, massive cable packages,we don't even have cable at all, and other items that are just sucking up your income. Look for ways to lower your bills, turn off and unplug items not in use, adjust your a/c when you leave the house or turn it off all together so you aren't burning energy. Invest in a quality fan in the spring so you don't have to run your a/c until it really gets hot. Opt for blankets and a fireplace if you have one in the winter. Conserve water by bathing your younger kids together and showering with your spouse :-) . Hold a monthly yard sale, it will give you space in your home and some extra cash in your pocket. Shop sales, most homeschool suppliers have at least one sale during the year, find out when it is and take advantage of it. Make friends with thrift stores and pawn shops, you never know what you may find!

  2. Excellent list, Karen. I agree, homeschooling itself doesn't need to be expensive at all to be high-quality. It's the living expense that kick and bite!

  3. I agree, particularly about the cellphones. While my ds's friends have $150 all-you-can-use plans, now that we have teen drivers, we have a family plan that costs $20/month. That gives us 100 minutes (all you need in an emergency; we typically use less than 5 minutes a month) and 500 texts (we usually use about 20 a month). Instead of texting 60 times to plan a day out, my teens make plans with their friends and then stick to them.

  4. Lots of great ideas here. We are especially huge fans of the library and the internet here as well. I find that having the delicious luxury of being with my kids and getting to participate in their learning experiences along with them, instead of sending them away with strangers all day, is totally worth the financial sacrifices we make. You forgot to mention one of my favorite resources, under the internet heading: the many fantastic blogs out there (including this one, of course!) filled with great ideas and inspiration!


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