Is it Possible to Homeschool on A Budget?
Many families are hesitant to take up homeschooling simply because they view the option as very expensive. Some people indeed spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on homeschooling, but that doesn’t need to be the case for everyone. Just because you are unable to purchase the latest and greatest packaged homeschool curriculum along with all the supplements and add-ons doesn’t mean you can’t homeschool on a budget.
The truth is that there are homeschool families who have homeschooled without spending a dime! This route takes a lot of preplanning, searching, time in piecing together a curriculum, but it can be done. In the world we live in, technology has given us more knowledge at our fingertips than many students have at an ivy-league university! And there are surely plenty of resources that make homeschooling a breeze for your children.
How Much Does It Cost to Homeschool?
Like many other questions related to homeschooling, this question has no single answer. Most will tell you that homeschooling costs an average of between $300 and $500 per year, with some homeschoolers spending much more, some much less, and some nothing at all. The real question is, what is your homeschool budget? What do you want to teach, how do you want to teach it, and what are you willing to spend on it all?
For packaged homeschool curriculum that comes complete with textbooks, workbooks, lesson plans, grade books, and resources, you can spend well over the average amount. But for some homeschool families, this is what works best. For instance, a single homeschooling mom homeschooling two children doesn’t have time to put together a full curriculum from the ground up, nor does she have the time to sit for a couple of hours creating specific lesson plans. In this case, a packaged homeschool curriculum is an answer to prayer!
On the other end of the spectrum, there are countless ways to save money and homeschool for absolutely nothing. Unschoolers do this most often, but so do many others, using other homeschooling methods. For instance, during the school year, I tried free homeschooling, I used a combination of what you might call unschooling, eclectic, and relaxed and I paid nothing or very little for the materials I used. I utilized websites like Gutenberg.org, for free educational books and textbooks, as well as free books like the McGuffey Readers and hundreds more that can be found on Amazon for your Kindle or Cloud reader, as well as free printables from various websites.
Other low-cost materials can be found in thrift stores if you keep a close eye out. Some homeschoolers donate their used curriculum pieces here and sometimes, you can even put together a near equivalent of what you would spend hundreds of dollars on if you don’t mind creating your own lesson plans and workbooks. Thrift stores are great places to find super cheap Living Books that can be used with the Charlotte Mason Method, and the list goes on. I’ve also found microscopes, and other lab resources at thrift shops that were in perfect working order, and I only spent pennies on the dollar.
Another low-cost way to homeschool is to utilize a co-op. Co-op's are valuable and pull from the experiences of other parents in the group. These kinds of learning environments are low-cost or no-cost and can have a lasting impact on the educational experiences of your child.
If you’re looking for a kind of “middle-of-the-road” price range, consider online classes or coursework. You can sign up online and all courses and materials are there online as well. I do strongly suggest that you don’t simply purchase this and set your children in front of it with no guidance. It can be a great tool, but it can also cause problems if children become bored with the methodology, so use with caution.
Internet Resources that Really Work When You Homeschool on a Budget
When you’re ready to move forward with putting together a curriculum of your own, there are plenty of websites that make learning easily accessible and many times, completely free of charge. Some homeschooling curriculum providers offer extensive online learning content and charge a great deal for it. But you’ll find many similar lessons online in video format absolutely free. Is it as good as the paid content? Some would say so; and others would say no, but if it suits your particular needs, it doesn’t matter what anyone says.
Let’s take a look at some of the resources you can utilize on the web.
- Khan Academy offers excellent online video classes for grades K through 12 as well as interactive programming and test prep courses for the SAT©, GMAT™, and MCAT®.
- Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool is not only completely free, but it breaks down subjects into daily lessons with links, printouts, and tons of resources to help along the way. It truly is “easy peasy”.
- ClickSchooling is a web-based curriculum that is also completely free. Every day offers a different theme, so you’ll always know what to expect.
- Starfall is a reading website that is focused on early education, especially preschool and is interactive in teaching pre-reading skills.
- Time4Learning is not free but does offer low-cost, online learning for pre-K through grade 12. It doesn’t cover every subject that is legally required in every state, so be sure to check your own local regulations to see how this website would work with that.
These are just a precious few of the websites that provide free, or nearly free, learning materials. A simple search will yield thousands more and you can skim for the ones that look like they will work best for you.
Scour the Web for Blogs
Bloggers offer some of the most exceptional content available to homeschoolers, both old and new. Many bloggers take the time to put together countless resource posts and “Ultimate Guide” lists that are meant to give you a great start on any topic, at any grade level, high school included. Others create link roundups that offer freebies and other resources and materials that are always helpful for the homeschooling family.
Even if you come to a homeschooling blog where the writer isn’t degreed with college-level learning in the field, you can still usually trust the content they provide. These are the ones who do countless hours of research to make sure you have the information you’re looking for. A good example is the blog posts where they compile tons of links and resources per subject. For example, an entire post might provide extensive information on homeschooling a special-needs child, applying for free college aid money, or preparing to homeschool on the road.
Don’t Forget the Library
This is, by far, one of the best opportunities for “free education”. In the library, you can study anything at all, choose to read any Living Book that is available, teach the Dewey Decimal system (yes, it still exists), and extensive other topics including methods of research and so much more. In fact, it could be a great way to simply break the monotony of regular academics by going someplace different.
Take Advantage of Discounts
In case you didn’t know, many field trip destinations such as amusement parks, zoos, and museums offer special dates on which they offer discounts to educators. Sometimes, they even offer freebies! The same holds true for stores like Staples, JoAnn’s, and Michaels who often extend their discounted rates to homeschoolers, as well. This is a great way to cut your supply costs for many of the resources you’ll use throughout the year.
Another “discount” we often forget about is the “back to school” sales you can find at most department stores and school supply centers. At stores like Target, Walmart, and Walgreens, you can find tons of educational or resource items priced at between 50-90% off the regular retail price! This is great for notebooks, note cards, flashcards, activity books, pencils, pens, binders, and many great resources … you name it! These work just as well in homeschool as in public school, so be sure to take advantage, because they’ll certainly be put to good use.
There are lots of ways to homeschool on a budget. But under no circumstance should you think that because you don’t have a stack of expendable income, you can’t homeschool! As the old saying goes, "where there’s a will, there’s a way"! Long before public school was ever a mandate, people were educating their children with what they had on hand, if they used anything at all. Indeed, times have certainly changed, but the fact remains. If you want to homeschool your child, especially in this age of information, there’s nothing stopping you - especially a budget.