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Photo by Jeramey Jannene

One of the myths that many new homeschooling families fall prey to is that you have to spend money to educate your children. When you are just starting out, I suggest that you hide your credit cards. One wise mom advised new homeschoolers to leave their wallets in the car when visiting curriculum fairs. If a purchase is not worth the trip back out to the car, it is probably unnecessary. For elementary students, there is not much you need beyond a library card, some paper and pencils. If you have a computer and a printer, you have a fully functioning school. Everything else is extra or can be found around the house or cheaply at thrift stores or dollar stores. Let me show you how.

The Library

 

Guess what? I never taught my children how to read. Instead, we read and read and read. By the time they were five years old, they all instinctively knew how to read, having been read to since birth. Have you considered using real books in your homeschooling? Textbooks are often dry and boring to read. Living books, on the other hand, are full of inspiration and are fascinating to young minds. My kids learned more about frontier life from Laura Ingalls Wilder than from any history text. We read stories, picture books, books about frogs, books on the civil war, biographies, myths – the variety is endless. Our elementary science program has largely consisted of library finds. Books we can’t buy, we check out. This has saved us lots of money and lots of shelf space. When we find a book that we check out again and again, we know that it’s worth spending a bit to own. Then we scour used book dealers before heading to Amazon.

Find out all you can about your local library. Make friends with all of the librarians. Know your checkout limit. We are lucky enough to have a wonderful library system. Our checkout limit (sometimes unknown by the newer librarians) is 999. This is probably unusual, but even if your library limits you to 5 books, you can choose books for 5 subjects. Many libraries now have online renewal capabilities, so fines are more easily avoided. I also suggest that you designate a shelf, box or bag to keep your library materials safe and accounted for.

The Printer is Your Friend

 

Do yourself a favor and invest in a good printer. This does not mean that you must rush to your local big box store and buy the latest printer with all the bells and whistles. I just bought a lovely Dell laser printer for well under $100. A laser printer is nice because you may be printing a lot. Lasers have the advantage of being faster and the toner lasts longer, too, despite being more expensive. I’ve gone through several printers, mostly used and free, and the laser was the best by far. We get many public books online and print out copies for everyone. You can take them to your local copy store to get it spiral bound, or invest in your own binding machine from the office supply store. I would not be able to homeschool if I had to purchase all my books.

I use my printer in many other ways. I make labels for time lines, print out paper dolls to use for story narrations, create assignment sheets and handwriting paper, and print out maps for the kids to color. The possibilities are endless.

The Computer/Internet

 

If you have a computer with internet access, the world is literally at your fingertips. There are art museums, music libraries, and readings on every topic imaginable. Some curriculum, such as the Ambleside Online Curriculum, are available for free online. With a computer, you have access to homeschooling tools, such as planners, assignment sheets, maps, and handwriting resources. Even without internet access, you can create presentations, charts, and other materials.

Don’t forget about open source software, such as OpenOffice, which are free to download and use. The full version includes a writing program, a spreadsheet program, presentation software, a drawing program, a database program and formula software. I now use OpenOffice instead of it’s Microsoft counterparts and am a very happy camper.

When it comes time to plan your year, don’t automatically think that you must grab your credit card or checkbook. See if you can find it free first!

Do you have any money-saving ideas for homeschooling ? Let me know in the comments section.

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Photo by Katelyn Thomas

Now that the deer in the headlights sensation has worn off, we are trying to move forward with our lives. Life does not stop when the breadwinner is laid off. There are a million things that we don’t think of that need attention. It’s very overwhelming. In fact, it’s very tempting to just escape and procrastinate. But that does no one any good. In fact, ignoring the situation can MAKE IT WORSE.

The Pit of Despair

 

When my dear one was laid off, one of the things that I worried about was that one or both of us would sink into a depressive pit from which we could never emerge. To some extent, that did happen. Spouse hid his head in a riveting historical novel (which he had read at least three times before) for two days. He just stayed in bed and read. I, on the other hand, spun around trying to fix things – you know, be proactive. I felt resentful that he was not trying to fix the situation immediately. I really didn’t react with much empathy. Never mind that he was laid off on a Friday and deserved a weekend off. Neither his reaction nor mine helped. Instead, after the flurry of activity, we both got sick for 2 weeks. The kids did not. Finally, I succumbed to a rather deep depression for a few days.

Initial Decompression

An acquaintance mentioned that my husband and and I were both probably “shell-shocked” and needed some time to decompress from both the layoff and the toxic work environment that he had endured for 13 years. I relaxed and tried to allow my husband to grieve his job loss and come to grips with our new situation. I immediately sought counseling. I am still on a waiting list, but just the act of calling to make an appointment relieved a great deal of stress. We leaned on family and friends to get through this period of initial shock.

The Plan

What did help was sitting down calmly and attacking the problem systematically.

  1. We agreed to have weekly financial meetings. These meetings would help us to work together and keep me from feeling that I had no control over the situation. He would tell me how his job search was going and I would refrain from repeatedly asking him about it. I would keep him abreast of our income and expenses and provide a weekly financial report.
  2. We brainstormed a list of things we needed to do to keep our family afloat financially, medically, and emotionally. When the list was done, we assigned tasks for each of us to do to run the household. This gave both of us direction and purpose in taking our family to the next stage.
  3. We made it a priority to safeguard our physical health, our mental health, and our emotional health. We committed to eating healthy, taking daily walks, and doing yoga. As I mentioned, I called for counseling. We decided to keep some things, such as weekly skating (only $10 for me and the 2 younger kids), occasional movie rentals (under $3 per movie), and date nights (using coupons and 2 for 1 deals only) in the budget for now.
  4. We re-instituted the weekly family meeting to keep the kids informed. It is important to remember that a lay off affects everyone, down to the cat (though he doesn’t have as much to say).

We haven’t heard back yet about that job. Our future is still uncertain. Our lifestyle will change of necessity. But we will emerge stronger and with more life skills than we had. It will take all of us, working together, to build a new life.

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