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.
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.
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.