It's that time of year again! My kids are finishing up the school year, and I'm getting ready to fork over a good part of my meager tax refund for next year's curriculum.
Don't get me wrong, I'm very thankful that we don't have to shell out the $400 – $2000 per month required for private schools in our area. I recently read an article that showed high school parents were being charged nearly $600 for their child to attend public high school. It looks like you have to pay no matter what you decide to do! But I do believe that you can spend far less by homeschooling, and that's just one of the benefits.
I will be honest – we don't have much money, but I would homeschool no matter what the cost was. If it was $1000 per month, I would find a way, because I believe in it that strongly. But even though money isn't an issue (I mean, it seriously IS an issue, but not in a way that would prevent us from doing it), I don't want to break the bank! I use My Father's World, but these are ways to save money on any curriculum. Here are a few ways to spend a little less on your homeschool costs this year:
1. Check the library – A few years ago I really wanted to try “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.” For that child, we didn't love it, so I was glad we had checked it out at the library instead of purchasing it. At any rate, if it's a book you'll only need for a short time, your library can save you tons of money.
For My Father's World, there is an extensive book list at the back of the teacher's manual, and we check out dozens of books every week. This year, for “Exploring Countries and Cultures”, we had books on animals, cuisine, dress, geography, climate, and history for every country we studied – all from the library. Inter-library loan was invaluable because we would request dozens of books at a time. If our library didn't have it, chances were another library did. Plus, we could request that our library order books that we needed.
2. Choose a “free” curriculum – I've heard great things about Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschooling, and it's completely free! There are many free homeschool options, specially for Pre-K and Kindergarten when “formal” school may not be the best. Another great option is one of my new favorite books, Debbie Pearl's Big Book of Homeschooling. The ebook is around $8, but I found dozens of excellent free ideas that have been a HUGE hit in my house. My kids have loved everything we've tried, and they are all designed to foster creativity and a love of learning.
If you want to try to homeschool for free, I would start with Pinterest and work from there. My Pinterest Account has some ideas to get you started. 🙂
3. Thrift stores and garage sales – We've found great encyclopedias and reference books, along with Primary readers and other early learning books at garage sales.
4. Craigslist – Craigslist is great for curriculum. I found a $500 curriculum set on Craigslist a few years ago for $90. It came with NEW Teacher's Manuals and textbooks and I only had to purchase student workbooks. It was AWESOME, and by far my best curriculum find to date! The best thing about Craigslist is that you can look over the books before you purchase. Of course, if you're a paranoid weirdo like me, you should watch out for Stranger Danger and meet in a public place, and take your big strong husband with you for safety. 🙂
5. Local sales groups – Find a local community sales group (Facebook is great for this), and post an ISO (In Search Of) for whatever you are looking for. You might luck out and find someone just finishing up the books you need.
6. eBay – If you're searching the internet for great used curriculum, eBay is a great place to get started. Lots of homeschool moms sell their used curriculum. Several times I've found brand new overstocked items, or new “scratch and dent” books.
7. Publisher's websites – It takes some time, but if you keep an eye on the publisher's website you can get a feel for what time of year the curriculum is cheapest, when shipping discounts are offered, etc.
8. Homeschool Fairs and Expos – Sometimes at homeschool events you can get codes for discounts or free shipping. A friend of mine recently told me that she was offered a huge discount visiting booths in the last half hour before the booth closed for the day. Many homeschool expos and conferences also have used curriculum sales, and I've found some great deals. It's definitely worth checking out!
9. Buy curriculum that you can re-use and pass down from child to child, or a multi-age curriculum (like My Father's World, Heart of Dakota, Trail Guide to Learning, or many others). Multi-age curriculums work by combining students in certain subjects, like history, science, geography, and Bible, then teaching students on their own levels for math and language arts. For my kids, our multi-age curriculum allows me to teach certain subjects all at once while adjusting the difficulty level for each child. This method allows us to save money by buying one curriculum package, then different math and language arts books (often from different manufacturers) that address each child's learning styles.
10. Curriculum Swaps – There is a MASSIVE list of used curriculum sites at Smockity Frocks. This is an excellent resource!
11. Ask for Teacher's Discounts – if you have a Teacher's I.D. card from a homeschool co-op, some stores and events will offer a Teacher's Discount. Homeschooling parents qualify for a Teacher's Discount at Barnes & Noble on educational materials.
12. Split the cost of a curriculum with a friend – Do you know someone interested in the same curriculum? If you're willing to split the cost, especially for a cool science or art program you can meet and do together, you can save some serious money. For example, I've always wanted to do one of the Magic School Bus science experiment kits, but they look like something that would be even more enjoyable with friends.
13. eBooks – If you own a Kindle, there are tons of books available for free with Amazon Prime. Some of the suggestions for Charlotte Mason education from Amblesideonline.org are free on Kindle.
14. Find printable books – Confessions of a Homeschooler has developed amazing curriculums for very reasonable prices, PLUS she has tons of free printables! Check out your favorite homeschool bloggers for other free or cheap learning resources.
15. Trade! Host a homeschool swap party and trade with friends from your co-op, church, or other homeschool families you know.
If you are struggling with the right curriculum for you, I have a few tips that can give you some direction.
Of course, once you receive your curriculum you'll need to organize it! I use a really simple method to organize my homeschool worksheets.
These are my top 15 ways to save money on homeschool materials. How do you save money? Do you have any great tips on saving money on homeschool books or supplies?
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