Insider Tips for Homeschooling Your Kids Without Spending a Dime
DOLLARS & SENSE on 04.25.12
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I nearly fell over when my neighbor told me that sending her daughter to a private kindergarten would run them $18,000 for the year! We have convinced ourselves that "good" parents are willing to spend whatever it takes to ensure their children receive a top-notch education, and who can blame them? But what if your child could have that same opportunity and at no cost? Welcome to the wonderful world of homeschooling.
When my husband and I finally committed to the idea of homeschooling, we began to wonder how much it would all cost. It certainly couldn't cost as much as a private school, but could it be free like public education? Believing that this would not be a cost-free endeavor, we began to search for thrifty ways to save big on our educational materials, and we were quite successful.
But spending a little here and there has started to add up and we wondered if we could cut back further, without sacrificing our children's education. The great news is, we can!
The Three Sources of Free Materials
1. The Internet
Seasoned homeschoolers tell me that before the internet, not only was homeschooling harder-- it was expensive. These parent-teachers have joined together in sharing their ideas and resources, and all at no cost to you--but you need to know where to look. Homeschool Share is one great place to start. Their motto is "many minds make light work". With tons of lesson, unit, grade, and subject plans, you could plan out years' worth of materials from this one site alone. Take for instance their chocolate unit plan (yum), which incorporates subjects like math, English, home economics, and social studies all into one neat little package. All you have to do is either print the materials or read through them and incorporate them into your own homeschooling style.
My other top internet pick is Homeschool Freebie of the Day. The Erskine family posts a new freebie Monday through Friday, each and every week. With downloadable books, free printable materials, and tons of other helpful tools and tricks, the site is a must-read for both rookie and veteran homeschoolers.
If you'd like a complete list of hundreds of free websites, check out the book Homeschool Your Child For Free. It's an invaluable tool in connecting you with sites across all subject areas and interests. Of course if you're really being frugal, you should just borrow it from the library (like I did).
2. The Library
It may seem obvious that the library is a homeschooler's best friend, but be sure you are taking full advantage of all they have to offer. My local library not only allows me to borrow all the books they have, but they will interloan books from other locations, and occasionally even purchase books that we want. Be sure to make friends with your local librarians, because they are a huge asset to leading a free homeschooling life.
Libraries also often have DVD's, educational CD-ROM games, and access to databases and e-books through their website. Another often overlooked library benefit is free museum passes. Be sure to ask what passes they have available and which they hope to make available in the future (hint: you may want to make suggestions). My library has more than ten museum passes that we borrow on a regular basis, saving us a lot of money when we take field trips.
If you're looking to pick up some new curriculum or educational tools, then you may need to consider this last insider tip: Homeschoolers are not only quite frugal, but also very generous -- willing to loan or give away unused materials. A few months ago I walked away with ten boxes of elementary educational materials from a mom whose children were entering middle school. I kept what I needed and am now passing on the rest. So contact your local homeschool network and host a curriculum swap day -- you're sure to walk away with new or gently used materials without getting out your debit card.