If you have read the previous post about the most common curriculum blunders homeschool moms make, you’re probably wondering about how to create a curriculum for the coming year without spending thousands of dollars. If you’re new to homeschooling, or just want some ideas to keep the children occupied this summer – also without spending large chunks of money – read on!
Here are some ideas that have worked best for our family.
#1. Sheet protectors
I’ll admit it. The first time someone suggested these to me, I thought the idea was cheap, and not in a good way. However, today, I see these as the most effective way of saving money while homeschooling. Worksheets and other consumables, especially when the children are younger, are the biggest expense in our homeschool year. If you’re homeschooling multiple children, that number goes up exponentially.
A simple fix is to use sheet protectors with dry erase markers. You don’t need anything fancy. A pack of 60 from the stationery store works just great. Slip it on to any workbook page, give the child a marker, and wipe it off when done with a paper towel to use again later.
You’ll get more use out of every sheet, more practice, and spend less money.
Coupons come in extremely handy when shopping for school supplies. Late July and early August when all the back-to-school sales fill the stores, combine coupons with already low advertised prices to get the best deal on pens, pencils, erasers, and other stationery.
Also, do not underestimate the power of coupons for saving you money on everyday meals. If you’re committed to a specific diet in your family, as many of my friends are, you can still clip coupons just one day a week by being extremely selective in what you clip. Toothpaste, shampoo, mustard, mayonnaise, laundry soap, dish soap and sausages seem to be my favorite for buying with coupons.
Again, be sure to combine coupons with store sales for the best price.
#3. Select online resources
Ambleside and Easy Peasy Homeschool are the two best websites I know for free curriculum. If your resources are limited, these are the best way to get a good education covering all the basic subjects without spending too much. We have used Easy Peasy and can attest that it is completely free and based on free websites. If you would like to buy the print version of the readers, however, you will have to pay to have them.
If you like to do lots of research (like me!) Pinterest can be invaluable for everything from preschool to high school. You could actually piece together a solid curriculum for each year with just the information found online. It can be done, but it will need some time and some resourcefulness.
#4. The county library
Speaking of resourcefulness, have you visited your local library yet? If you’re local to Sacramento, you can rent books, audio books, music CDs, DVDs, as well as things like sewing machines, video games and musical instruments through their new program called Library of Things.
The local library also holds used book sales on a regular basis but mostly through the summers. Use these to stock up on books for the year. We are still reading books we picked up last summer, mostly because we’re finally over my daughter’s reticence to story time.
#5. Video games and free apps
I have found video games and apps invaluable in our homeschool. If you do not like to use these, feel free to leave them out but the sheer number of them and the willingness on the part of the children to learn with video games, websites and apps makes me want to provide them. I also like that in some regard the children are self-directed in this method of learning and I don’t have to lead them as much as I have to with all other forms.
Abcya is my go-to place for learning games, as is the online drills section of Math-U-See. You can also use Khan Academy, which is currently expanding and adding more subjects. Other apps we use regularly include Math Bingo, First Grade Math, Second Grade Math and Learn to Read. Poke around and you’re sure to find others. Some of my friends swear by Stack the States for geography, Field Trip for history (provided you drive, at least around your city), and Duolingo for foreign languages.
We also love, love, love Minecraft. Enough said.
#6. The odd ones
These are the ones no one talks about, but every homeschooler worth his salt has used in a pinch. Use comics in the Sunday newspaper to strengthen or teach reading and the newspaper to deal with social studies and current affairs. Want to teach math? Consider using basic pantry supplies like macaroni as manipulatives – I’ve done it. Fractions? Cook with the kids.
Art? History? Geography? Do a random search on Netflix through the streaming movies and see what comes up. I recently found this amazing resource for learning history through movies. I have also in the past subjected my daughter to (I mean enjoyed, haha) Ted Talks about bacteria when she was sick with the stomach flu. The longer you look, the more you realize all it takes to homeschool is time, effort and patience.
If you look and ask and hang out with other homeschoolers long enough, you will soon find a treasure trove of free or almost free resources.