Homeschooling on a Shoestring
How many times do you look at your self and exclaim, "I CAN'T!!! Its too expensive to buy all the books and pay for all the activities that I would need to join just to give my child the well rounded education they get in a brick and mortar school...." This is untrue, and I am here to prove to you that you can, conceivably, homeschool your child for next to nothing. For less than the back to school outfit and school supplies that will get dispersed amongst the many little kids in their classroom.
I will briefly touch on ALE's (Alternative Learning Experiences). Here, in our state, Washington, we have what is called an ALE that you can enroll your k-12 child in. Many do so successfully, and nearly all of their education expense is covered, including some extracurricular activities. There are several choices, including Columbia Virtual Academy, Wava, Meridian Parent Partnership(MP3). Feel free to google those for more information. While the WHO (WA Homeschoolers Organization) may not consider this homeschooling I think it's drawing lines that don't need to be drawn. For many this is the best and only option they have. Many states offer this so look into your state requirements and do some searching. Look at your state's homeschooling organization as well.
I sent out a plea for parents to contact me if they feel they homeschool their children on a shoestring budget. The response was amazing, and I thank each of you that took the time for me to interview you. I gleaned knowledge and support from each of you. Homeschoolers are an awesome bunch. My goal is to encourage people just starting out or those facing a time in their lives where they feel they just can't make it; you know, not enough money to make it from week to week, much less buy workbooks and attend activities and classes.
I admit it, we are homeschooling on a shoestring or Homeschooling Cheap, as well. We toyed with an ALE because of the monetary help but decided we would try it ourselves this year. We take things one step at a time, like most of you. I have found a multitude of resources out there that I use, as well as buying ahead. Homeschoolers passing on what they don't need anymore is a great resource. Passing on a book that you no longer need to another that can use it is paying it forward, you know? Fellow homeschooler Suzanne, homeschooling an 8th grader this year said that she does exchanges with other parents for curriculum, and this affords her the ability to get books she otherwise could not afford. In addition it allows her to check out a book before shelling out the entire cost for new. I have done this as well, doing exchanges or swaps. Just have some rules or guidelines in place.
A few web sites and groups I found that do this are curriculumshare.com and a facebook freecycle type page Homeschool Freecycle There is also a yahoo group Used_Homeschooling_Curriculum that you might want look into as well. You will need to join each of these and agree to membership terms. They are good resources to look into though. I am discovering that networking is extremely important as well, so if nothing else these three sources give you another avenue to network with.
Never underestimate the power of networking. It can be the difference between discovering a source and not discovering a source. Take Currclick for example. Occasionally they have free downloads. They offer very reasonable prices anyway, but free is better, right? Well, it's through networking that I discovered them. Another positive is finding out about free book downloads. Don't have a reader to take advantages of Amazon? They have a PC reader. I have used mine no problem for several months now. Did I mention it was FREE to download it and I have a lot of books on it that were, you guessed it, FREE. I don't buy any, I'm too cheap.
Pam, a brand new homeschooler to a kindergartner, has found workbooks at Target and online resources to be her best sources thus far. The printables and their quality at most sites, for free, are outstanding. I use the pre-writing worksheets for Bear that can be found at several different web sites. I would have never thought of doing prewriting exercises, and these web sites afforded me the opportunity to gain that grain of knowledge. If nothing else, even if you buy complete curriculum's, these web sites can enhance your child's education experience. It is also a great resource for parents that don't homeschool but want to encourage learning at home as well.
I enjoy Kids Learning Network for worksheets in pre-k and kindergarten. Worksheet Universe is another great site. There are more than I could even mention that I have successfully found and used. Remember to always surf the Internet with care of course. As far as printing, I would try to locate the printer that has the most reasonable cost per ink cartridge. Print in gray scale and fast/draft print when possible and don't forget, the backsides of what you print and use can be used for drawing, practicing a problem, etc. Reduce and Reuse is the homeschoolers motto!
One homeschooling veteran of three years says that the Internet and the library are her family's favorite sources for free curriculum. This working momma believes that, "Homeschooling should be fun and your children should be loved and always feel safe," and I couldn't agree more. Alexandria seconds the library as a great source of information for your homeschool. Sherilynn, a former educator, uses mostly living book and life skills in their homeschool. Many homeschoolers find groups like 4H, Scouts, Campfire, Robotics and more help to round out their education goals.
One thing I found with all the families successfully homeschooling their children on a shoestring are that they tend to be more eclectic and look for alternative forms of education, placing a high value on experiences and even self expression. Many were on a budget because of need, but most would not have it any other way.
Beth, a homeschooling momma to three (2 kindergartners and one 2nd grader) is a three year veteran. Beth describes her style as eclectic and they homeschool year around on a shoestring budget. She likes Charolotte Mason's methods for her children. The bit I have gleaned from Charlotte Mason has impressed me. I think many children can learn well by way of her methods and the living books.
Beth, and the other parents have echoed the sentiment, "It takes a little extra time to put things together myself, but I've found that it's worth it." Each parent that answered my plea reflected that they they enjoy not only homeschooling their children but actually creating their curriculum with their own hands. Creating their own curriculum allows the parents the flexibility to adapt it to fit with their children's learning styles and needs.
What about extracurricular activities?
There are so many things one can do to enrich their childerns' education that are free, or virtually free. Nature walks, museums, college and public art galleries at the city library are all feasible options that should be explored. Check your state or local museums. Sometimes they have a day that is free after a certain time in the afternoon. Smithsonian offers a free day every year to local museums nation wide. The day is coming up soon, so check it out. Get a membership to a local zoo, science center, or children's museum. I know we have a Seattle Aquarium pass/membership and it was very reasonable for the whole family. Our local zoo also offers yearly passes for roughly $100 (depending on the membership level). There are options. Network. I know I have said it before and I will say it again. When you network with other homeschoolers you can find out what you can do in your area. You may have a large enough group to tour firehouses, bakeries, fish hatcheries, and more. Really, the only limit is your imagination.
This year I am in a similar boat as many of you, not enough money to do everything I would love to do and discovering that I can do better with just some elbow grease. I did purchase a few books, but nothing worth $100's. This is why, ultimately, that we will not be doing a formal math this year as well. Next year, maybe.*smile* But I am finding sources on-line for math as well. The Hub just came out with a Second Grade Math complete curriculum as well. I think it will bear looking at in more depth.
Beth shares a bit of encouragement, really echoed from everyone, "To parents that live on a tight budget my best advice is to just be creative and use what you have got. Study Charlotte Mason. Use the library a lot. Find ordinary household objects to make manipulative's. Become a member of paperbackswap.com. In your mind, go forward 20 years from now. What do you want your children to look like then? What do you want them to remember? How are you going to accomplish that?" When it's put that way, it's pretty easy to answer.
A few things I have discovered to ease my time limitations are a few sources that offer download programs. Christian Homeschool Hub has an unlimited downloading program for $15 a year and Enchanted Homeschooling Mom has a $15 one time fee for life for membership and downloads. Both are worth it. Enchanted Homeschool Mom is for the younger grades mostly but CHH offers some middle and even highschool opportunities as well.
So the gist is; you can't use the excuse that homeschooling is expensive to not homeschool (although homeschool is a personal choice and not one done on a whim, everyone must do what is best fro their family and situation). Rebekah and Sherilynn homeschool for absolutely free and you can too, or at least close to free.
A few other links or web sites/blogs of interest:
- Free Phonics Lessons
- Homeschool Share
- Confessions of a Homeschooler;
- Living Life Intentionally;
- EnchantedHomeschooling Mom;
- Lesson Pathways;
- Lapbooking 101--All about it. It looks alright, I haven't poked around a lot though.
- 3 Dinosaurs
- Old Fashioned Education (this is a fundamentalist Christian source, but some use to even glean ideas from, even those of a secular slant I am certain. I haven't looked in depth at it though. Just a surface browse. *grin*);
- Ambleside On-Line: This is a Charlotte Mason inspired site.
- Writing Wizard--make your own worksheets to print!
- Homeschool Creations
- Susan Evans Hands On Learning. Really just a fun site to look at and dream of doing all those things.
- Instructor Web
- I can teach my child
- Budget Home$chool
- Teachers Pay Teachers; similar to currlick, sometimes there is a free download which is of use.
Lastly show a little love toward those moms which graciously took the time out of their day to spread some encouragement our way. Pam, Beth, and Rebekah have blogs.
What kinds of things do you do to homeschool on a budget?
Linking up with 3 boys and dog and Homeschooling on the cheap.