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Giving your children a first class education need not cost a small fortune.  Homeschooling can be very successful without spending hundreds of dollars every year.  There were a couple of years when we only spent $25 for the entire school year.  Other years we spent more.  What we did worked.  My assurance of that?  My children have received full-tuition scholarships to BYU-Idaho, the Presidential scholarship to USU, and graduated college with honors. You have the ability and resources available to you to be a successful homeschooling parent whether you have lots of cash or limited funds if you are willing to be disciplined, focused, and can keep a sense of humor on the challenging days!

There are a myriad of free resources:

  • Barter-Trading what you can do for those things with which you are struggling.  In the past our family has bartered for “stuff”, tutoring, sewing lessons, help with the younger children, you name it!
  • The public library-Most parents vastly under-utilize this resource. Books, CD’s, music, magazines, classes and presentations, and some of the best books sales available.  Get to know the librarians at your local branch.  They can be gold mines in ideas and information!
  • Convention/curriculum fair vendors-Their advice can be as valuable as their products BUT KEEP IN MIND-if a vendor spends time working with you, ethics dictate that you purchase from them instead of looking for a “better deal” somewhere else.  Their time is money.
  • The internet-wow! Ideas and forums for the Moms, ready-to-use curriculum and games, places to order wonderful supplies, access to recordings of great music, art pieces to study, answers to just about any question you or your child may have.  Gotta love it.  (Ensure that you have a good filter so that the seedy side of life does not get an open-door invitation to your home!)
  • Catalogs-lots of catalogs.  Ever notice how ordering from one company can increase your mail exponentially?  That’s okay.  Look through your favorites with a new eye.  What can you create for your children?  What could they do?  What things ought to go on gift idea lists for the grandparents?  What could your children earn money to purchase for themselves?
  • Share what you have; ask for assistance with what you need.  People are generally flattered if you ask for their help in a certain area.  (Thank yous are always a good idea.)

There are great resources that are close to free. 

  • Shop second hand.  Thrift stores, yard sales, used book sellers are all gold mines!  If you have never tried it, you are in for some surprises.  Keep in mind what you all ready own, what you need, and know the retail prices for the things you are trying to find.  Some things will be bargains; others will be over-priced.
  • Community Education classes-for a minimal fee you can get your feet wet in a vast array of subjects.  Great for adults and kids alike.
  • Become familiar with stores such as All A Dollar, WalMart, Big Lots, etc.
  • Conventions, support group meetings, seminars.  Some charge a fee, others are simply the cost of a babysitter.  (Know what you’re getting if you are paying more than a few dollars.  Overspending is easy and can be frustrating if you do not come away with usable information.)  Meetings provide an opportunity to gain great information, and to create a support network.  Can’t find one that fits your needs?  Consider starting one.
  • Public television-technically it is free, but if you are using it consistently, send them at least a small donation.
  • Field trips-great for bringing your curriculum to life and giving everyone a break.  Look for smaller learning opportunities as well as the larger, obvious ones.  (Does someone in your area train helper dogs?  Keep bees?  Remember the Depression?)
  • The newspaper-history as it happens, biographies, recipes, humor (always needed), science, art, field trip ideas, editorials.  I love it.
  • Throw a party!   Turn your next unit into a celebration.  Dress in period dress, serve period food, play the games and listen to the music that fits with your study, maybe even put on a play.  Invite the grandparents, neighbors, whoever.

Curriculum ideas

Language Arts

  • Memorize poetry and other significant works (or portions of them)
  • Study other languages.
  • Play Mad-libs, Scrabble, or other language games
  • Put on a play
  • Read a book and then watch the movie. How do they compare?
  • Read, read, read and talk about what you are reading.  Just remember to use great literature!
  • Write. Journals, letters, stories, reports, jokes, nonsense words, poetry, research papers.  Write with them.  Write on your own.  Share what they are writing with others.
  • Learn to write an outline.  It will help them in coming years as well as now.

Mathematics

  • Make your own manipulatives from wood, felt, beans, paper, cloth, just about whatever you have a surplus of can be a learning tool.  Get the whole family involved.
  • Play math games.
  • Teach life skills; budgeting, financial planning, cooking, building
  • Find a math book at a second-hand store or on line (often for a small fraction of what you would pay retail.)
  • Barter for a good math tutor if you need one.

Social Studies

  • Be social. Leave home.  Get to know a variety of people from variety of backgrounds.  Try new things.
  • Serve/ volunteer/ get involved.  Spend time helping at the food bank, the library, a hospital, the local shut-ins.
  • Get involved in the political process with your children.  Campaign, put out fliers, participate in a “honk and wave”, learn about the principles and freedoms we have the good fortune to enjoy.
  • Experience other cultures through festivals, food, music, neighbors, art, maps.  Learn some basic vocabulary.  Sing a song in the language it was first written.  Try re-writing a basic board book in a different language.
  • Study the holidays.  How are they celebrated in other places?  What are their origins?  What holidays are unfamiliar to your family?

History

  • We LOVE history!  You get to learn about real people who did REAL things.  Use real stories!
  • Science, art, music, and family stories all have a place in your history study.
  • Have a time line.  Let me say that again.  Have a time line.  EVERYONE needs to see how things fit together.
  • Study documents and speeches.  Memorize some.  Dissect others.
  • Purchase a copy of the 1828 Webster’s Dictionary. ( I realize this class is on saving $$$$.  Some things must be purchased; this is one of them.  Use it often to make it well-used and loved.)
  • Put on a play or write a radio broadcast for events you have studied.  (How would news have spread during the period you are studying?)
  • Study world history as a complete picture.  (What was happening in Europe or the Middle East during the Revolutionary War?  What was happening in Asia during Europe’s Dark Ages?)
  • Stay away from textbooks.  They are boring,  have limited information, and put people to sleep.
  • Build models, make costumes, recreate the things used in the past.
  • History is fun in the kitchen.  Make johnny cake or hummus or hard tack.  Live with just the items the pilgrims or the Templar Knights would have had for a day.
  • Watch good documentaries or historically-based plays or movies.

Science

  • Plant a garden.  Preserve the surplus.
  • Watch the weather by building your own instruments.  (There are great books at the library for this.)
  • Start a collection.
  • Learn survival skills, first aid, basic health, and nutrition.
  • Keep a pet.
  • Get into the kitchen.  Learn about reactions, heat and cold, bacteria etc.
  • What did you want to learn about as a child?  Now is the time.
  • Check experiment books out from the library.
  • Read about famous scientists
  • Use your hands.  Get dirty.  Dissect things for biology.  Go rock hunting for earth science.
  • Keep a nature notebook

Geography

  • Make a map or collect them.  Display them as you study history or various cultures.
  • Contact different tourist centers for informational packets, or look for information on the internet.
  • Learn to use a compass.
  • Study the changes in the earth’s physical geography or political boundaries.
  • Memorize countries and capitols/states and capitols.
  • Talk with people who have lived in different parts of the US or other countries.
  • Study your family background.  When did your ancestors come to America.   From where?  Where did they settle?
  • Study the wildlife of the earth.  Where do they live?  How have they adapted to survive?

The Arts

  • Be creative.
  • Learn by doing.  Try different handicrafts, look at books on famous works of art, art technique, or famous artists.
  • Try needlework, sculpture, painting or any other art media.
  • Go to an art museum.
  • Keep a nature notebook.
  • Attend music concerts at the local high school.  Attend the annual musical.
  • Many churches or schools have non-denominational concerts that are free, covers multiple genres, and is always fun.
  • Check out CDs at the library.  There is a series of CDs that introduce classics by adding memorable and goofy lyrics called Beethoven’s Wig.  I highly recommend it.
  • Learn about the lives of famous composers.
  • Take instrumental music lessons.  (Barter maybe?)
  • Teach your children the basics of rhythm and tone.  As a family experience different styles of music and performance.  Not sure where to start?  Ask the best musician you know to help you find resources.  (They may even volunteer to help.)
  • Learn to lead music as a family.
  • Read plays.  Go see one.  It could become a habit.
  • Attend dance concerts.  Learn the basic steps for ballet, tap, jazz, whatever.  (You may have a twelve-year-old in your neighborhood who could share what they have learned.)
  • Teach proper etiquette for attending a concert, play, or museum.

Real Life

  • Teach your family to cook, clean, do laundry, etc.
  • Have a basic schedule for your academic days.  When do you do chores, academics, free time, etc?  Stick to your schedule.  The phone, door, and other appointments can derail the best of intentions if allowed to do so.
  • Homeschooling is a family affair.  Keep Dad in the loop.  Share chores, meals, and decisions as a family.
  • When you have a genuine emergency or life-changing event, make it part of what you are teaching.  As a family, we experienced miscarriage, death, military deployments, moves, unemployment, illness (Mom spent six months on her back in bed), heart surgeries, and a few other opportunities for learning.  Just remember that your children will learn to handle the unexpected by watching you handle it!

Just a few other thoughts:

  • Textbooks are not necessary to a good homeschool.  My personal exceptions to that rule are Math U See or Saxon Math (for 5th grade and older) and The Making of America for studying the Constitution with your teens.  If your teens are specializing in a specific science, get a good high school text for them to work through.  As a rule, classic literature provides a much more diverse and interesting education.
  • Use 4-H and Scouting books.  They are interesting, inexpensive, and easy to understand.
  • Put a stop sign on your door.  Let the phone go to voicemail.  Focus on your children.
  • If you bought something that everyone dislikes, forcing your family to use it does not do you any favors.  Put it away to try again later or sell it or even give it to someone who can use it.
  • Have a book with a bad text?  Take it apart and save the pictures, maps, lists, etc. for future projects.
  • Make games, flash cards, dominoes, whatever.  You can often produce things rather than purchasing them.
  • Give learning games, books, etc. as gifts.  You can spend your money on fun but inane things, or you can spend the same amount on a well-thought-out item that will be appreciated and effective.
  • No one loves your children as you do. You can do this. Just remember that bad days will happen. Challenges will crop up. That’s okay.  Square your shoulders.  Keep going. Call a friend. Take a break.  Go for a hike.  Bake cookies.  Have a game day.  Start again tomorrow.

Survival Skills

  • Write a family or school mission statement.  Know where you are headed; it makes avoiding detours much easier.  We found that some things are interesting, but not necessary for where my family is going.
  • Collect aluminum cans.  Hold a yard sale.  Sell things you aren’t using in a consignment shop or on ebay.  Use the money acquired to buy needed school supplies or for an annual pass to something you just can’t get enough of in one visit.
  • Have a home library.  Yard sales, thrift stores, used book sellers are great resources for inexpensive, classic, interesting books.  We now have a library of over 3,000 books.  The average price paid is under $5.
  • Cut costs in other areas.  Hang out your laundry.  Cook from scratch.  Lower your clothing budget.  Use it, re-use it; do not discard anything until you are sure it is really dead.  Learn what you really need!
  • Ensure what you doing is both legal and ethical.  Thrifty and dishonest are not the same thing!  If it feels shady, don’t do it.
  • Know what you have.  Money spent because you cannot find what you own is money lost.  Clutter and lack of focus can be expensive.
  • Set your priorities for acquisitions.  Search and pray for what you really need.  It is out there somewhere.

Spending large sums of money is easy when you homeschool.  There is so much that can be of worth and/or trendy.  But it is so often unnecessary.   Your homeschooling journey can be a tremendous opportunity for learning, growth, and creativity.  Tight finances and limited resources are a reality, but do not need to be the determining factor on how well we educate our children.  Learn to think “outside the box”, pray, work, and you absolutely can prepare your children for the rest of their lives!

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