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Back to Homeschool on a Budget

by Tara Kuczykowski on August 4, 2009 · 21 comments

The following is a guest post from Julia Wessels of The Frugal Find:

Photo by Angie Warren Photography

As a new homeschooling mom to 4, I was a bit taken aback by the cost of curriculum.  I realized it would be a bit more costly than public schools, but surely it would be cheaper than private school, right?  Unfortunately, I got caught up in all of the supplies I "needed" to make it seem like a school at home.  I had forgotten that I wanted it to be home first, school second.  Thankfully I realized this before any major money was spent.

I'd like to share with you some of the invaluable resources and tips I've found to make my homeschooling year a huge success, not only educationally but also financially.

Dig up what you already have at home:

Make a list of things you have around the house already that you won't need to re-buy for school this year.

Do you have a kitchen table? Good, because you won't need a separate "learning area".  You will find the kid's wouldn't use it anyways. Half the time we end up at the kitchen table or on the couch, and often we are in bed reading, comfy and cozy.

Do you have baking supplies, measuring cups, a measuring tape, clothes pins, coins? If so, you're well on your way to developing an extensive math and science curriculum for all ages. You don't need that telescope or microscope for your kindergartner; that can wait several years.

Do you have any older or broken electronics? Electronics such as broken dvd players, alarm clocks, etc. are wonderful for that child that loves to "see how things work".  They are often just a couple of dollars at your local thrift store.

Do you have board games? I am a big proponent of making learning fun. What is more fun than playing games?!  If you can make "school" fun at an early age, you are instilling a love for learning that will far surpass any amount of worksheets or expensive Latin curriculum.

  • Monopoly teaches money recognition to your younger children and economics, business, and finance to your older children.
  • Scrabble teaches letter recognition and spelling.
  • Candy Land teaches colors, and well, it's just plain fun!

Explore your community resources:

Public Library: The most valuable resource in your community is definitely your public library, and it's free!  The library contains a wealth of information, and –  more importantly – your children will be able to find books, dvds, or videos that interest them.  If your child is a bug lover, you can easily develop a curriculum that has bugs as it's focus, and your child will be all ears!

Homeschool Co-Ops: Joining a co-op is  also a very important aspect of homeschooling.  Co-ops provide a great opportunity for your child to gather with other children who are in the same boat on a weekly basis, and since the children will most likely be different ages, they will learn a variety of precious life skills.  At co-ops, you also have the option to tap into each other's strengths.  Maybe a mom in your group loves science and you have a passion for teaching math. Teaming up and sharing the teaching is fun for the kids and a huge relief to you.

Museum Memberships: This is  a very valuable asset to you in your local community.  Look out for reciprocal programs where you get into other musuems or zoos at no cost or half price.  Of course, you can imagine the learning that can be done at a variety of museums and at the zoo, but it's also a fun get-a-way day for the kids.

Other free resources:

Your Personal Computer & Printer: If you have a computer with internet access and a reliable printer, you could easily get through the first few years for close to free with resources such as these:

  • Live Webcams of local zoos and marsh lands
  • Free printable curriculum
  • Free printable worksheets and coloring pages

Homeschool Websites and Blogs with Valuable FREE Resources:

So, what will I need to buy?

School Supplies: You will go through a ton of school supplies, but being the frugal lover I am, I have to tell is the time to stock up!  The Back to "Homeschool" sales are prolific, and if you stock up well now, you should be able to get through the entire year!

  • Crayons
  • Pens
  • Paper
  • Notebooks
  • Printer Paper
  • I'd also suggest a good size Dry Erase board, maybe it's just the teacher in me, but I love being able to draw diagrams or spell out words for the kids on the white board.

Just remember, homeschool supplies are all around you.  When you stop and think about it, you're teaching all day long already with a variety of tools.  Most of the day is a learning experience for your child one way or another.  Try to look at everything you do throughout the day and pull out the teachable moments and highlight them. I believe you will find you are well prepared for your homeschool journey!

This article was written by Julia Wessels, mom-blogger at The Frugal Find, finding you the best deals so you can maximize your resources.  I am a mom to 4 kids ages 2, 4, 6, and 8, and wife to an adoring husband.  I also serve as the Children's Pastor at our church.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Krsitin T. August 4, 2009 at 8:26 am

I hope you don't mind but I linked to this article from my blog; there is a lot of great tips in it for the homeschooling parent to prove homeschooling doesn't have to cost a fortune. I'm hoping it will make my brother in law reconsider private school, which does cost a small (huge in my home) fortune.


2 AJ August 4, 2009 at 8:40 am

I think that is awesome that you are homeschooling, I have tossed that idea around in my head for some time now. My daughter is going into 2nd grade this year and the feeling to homeschool becomes stronger with each year. Good luck and Thank You for inspiring your readers!


3 Julia @ The Frugal Find August 4, 2009 at 10:02 am

Thanks Mandi for allowing me to guest post, it truly is an honor!

AJ - My heart was tugged at the same way you're describing. My daughter went to public school for K and 1st grade and each year I just felt it wasn't quite right and she needed to be home. She is thriving at home now, not that she was behind academically or socially at all, but her spirit wasn't being fed. I am not sure if that makes sense, but we all agreee for our family this is best. However I will never be the one to say that every family should Homeschool, imo it is a calling and if you're not being tugged or led in that direction then wait.

Thanks again Mandi!


4 kathy August 4, 2009 at 2:05 pm

i like the other mom, have been thinking the same thing i have a son going into 4th grade and i have a 3,2,1 yo. i live in philadelphia and feel that the public is horrible and getting worse by the second. private forget it with 4 i would never be able to afford it. to anyone who homeschool my concern in my case is my education. i graduated high school, that is as far as i went. do i have tohave training in education to do it?


5 The Knowledge Lady August 4, 2009 at 2:08 pm

Prices are way up on everything. I got sticker shock the other day just looking at back to school clothing. Don't forget that if you have friends you can do a swap for items you don't use and that they might need. My daughter has had sleepovers with her friends and they turned into clothing swaps. Now we are organizing a 4 family clothing swap. Everyone takes a bag of clothing that they don't want anymore (must be in good condition) and takes it to the swap. The girls just love trying on the clothes and getting comments from the others. It's a teenage thing and saves us money.


6 Laura August 4, 2009 at 2:59 pm

The Knowledge Lady - I completely agree! Clothes are so expensive, and kids enjoy wearing other kids' clothes. Even if the clothes aren't brand-new, they are new to the kids and that's good enough for them! My daughter is 2-years-old. I have siblings with kids ages 18-months to 7 years, and I know a great family with kids ages 1, 2, 4, and 6. We trade and hand-down clothes all the time, and it's a huge budget saver to share clothes that a single kid might only wear once.


7 A Frugal Friend August 4, 2009 at 5:56 pm

Wow - I had no idea the curriculum is so expensive. My little one is just 2 so I hadn't even been thinking about school yet.....thanks for the great post. Very informative for all of us parents with little ones fast approaching school age.


8 Jessica August 4, 2009 at 8:39 pm

What a wonderful post!! My husband and I had our first child, a 7 month old son and we've been talking about homeschooling. Where do we begin?? Do you have to register with the state? we're in Ohio. Do you have to submit your curriculum? I'm just wondering how it is monitored. We are planning on having more children, 4 we hope. I think it sounds like such a great idea! So many times kids don't flourish in the public school system and homeschooling lets them show their true colors! =) Please feel free to e-mail me any "beginner" tips. Thanks!!!!


9 Tara Kuczykowski August 4, 2009 at 10:16 pm

Jessica, Ohio has a great state-funded virtual academy program. They provide you with the curriculum, computers, printers, etc. at no charge, so I'd definitely look into that when the time comes too.


10 Jessica August 4, 2009 at 11:21 pm

Hi, I am a fully-homeschooled graduate and just have to say:

1. Don't forget eBay, craigslist and local trades/swap meets. Lots of moms who become empty nesters can pass along their main curriculums. And there's always that unused book or extra item that someone didn't need waiting for a new home.

2. If you really want to have a traditional classroom atmosphere then network with local businesses and schools. My mom turned an office room in our basement into a cute little classroom, complete with a hanging flag, a big whiteboard on one wall and little cubicles with desks. The younger kids got adorable little desks all lined up. She even got a cheap tv at a garage sale and suspended it on the wall for weekly video lectures.


11 Jessica August 4, 2009 at 11:30 pm

It's great to see a post geared to homeschoolers! I am also a homeschooling mom of 4, ages 6, 4-1/2, 3 and 1. When venturing into the land of homeschooling, curriculum can be a HUGE sticker shock! However, I've found that ordering from Ebay can save a ton of money. A lot of homeschoolers change their mind from year to year or even just sell their teacher's manuals when they are finished with them. Often you can even find brand-new workbooks or textbooks in great condition. Before you buy anything new, check ebay first, but keep in mind what the new price would be before placing your bid--you don't want to end up paying more than you would have if you bought it new!

Another option is to ask around and find out if there is a local homeschool group in your community. Ours has a used book sale every year so homeschoolers can make room on their shelves and pay for their new stuff. Again, know what you are looking for and what price you are willing to pay.

And I agree with Julia's advice about using the kitchen table. You don't need to set up a separate school room in order to homeschool. I just cleaned out a cupboard in my kitchen to put homeschool supplies in. I use magazine holders that I asked for on Freecycle to keep each child's workbooks together. I ended up getting them from a church library that was cleaning them out and wanted to find a new home for them, so it worked out great! And homeschooling in the kitchen allows me to tend to the other kids, work on dishes, or start dinner while staying close enough to help.

And to Jessica who was wondering about homeschooling, find out about your state's rules, as each state is different. Be thinking about how your child best learns, and how you will be able to teach. How much time will you be able to devote to teacher prep? What is your budget? There are TONS of curriculum choices out there that will fit just about anyone's needs. Don't be afraid to try ask around, then try something and switch if it doesn't work out (and resell it on ebay!). Tara suggested a free state-run virtual school, which might be an option, but keep in mind you will then be doing public school at home, not being able to choose what you and your child want to focus on. If you want more say-so into what your child is learning, you'll want to pick your own curriculum.

I'd be happy to talk with you more and share more "beginner" tips with you! Feel free to email me at momforhim at gmail dot com and/or visit my blog and click on the "homeschooling" label to see what we've been doing some "mom tips" that I've found helpful.


12 Tian August 5, 2009 at 5:15 am

WOW, nice pic!
Thanks a lot for sharing such a lot of information. It is very helpful.


13 Sky August 5, 2009 at 5:17 am

Great Work.I'd like the thank the blog owner for posting it.
Great Comments. I'd like to thank the readers for sharing more helpful and relevant information.


14 Nevin August 5, 2009 at 5:17 am

It is very informative. Thanks a lot for sharing it.
I've bookmarked your blog. Keep working.


15 Rob Wilcox August 5, 2009 at 11:13 am

What an incredible list of resources. I've already forwarded this to my wife and colleagues, and we're all saying that when most of our kids started school, there as nothing like this out there! Thanks for a great, timeless post

Rob Wilcox
Founder - FaceFile
One Click Could Save Your Life
Free Personal Safety Through Cell Phones


16 Heather Rehs August 5, 2009 at 12:22 pm

We are using the Ohio Virtual Academy that Tara mentioned in a previous comment. School "starts" the 17th but I have already started my oldest daughter so I can get used to the program and understand everything. So far this has been a great opportunity for us to home school our children and keep it affordable. OHVA sent us everything we needed from workbooks, schoolbooks, chapter books, teachers guides, mineral samples, art supplies! The only thing we have had to buy is regular school supplies like paper, pencils, crayons, markers and such. The school also has a daily to do list so you know which lessons you have to do and are not at a loss for what to do next!! This works great for us because I have a 4th grader who is a slower learner and a 6th grader who is faster and each girl can work at her own pace! If anyone wants more information on this than what you find on their website please feel free to contact me.


17 Sweet Serendipity August 5, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Wonderful post. I enjoyed it :D


18 DebbieP August 6, 2009 at 10:10 am

As a veteran HS Mom I'd like to add a very crucial point when beginning your HS experience-know each child's learning STYLE.
Before you even begin purchasing all those cool supplies/textbooks, find out how each child learns the best. Most kids learn thru 3 basic ways-kinesthetic (hands-on, learning by doing), audio-hearing instruction and visual. Often times a child may use a combination of several styles.It will be your challenge to discover your child's ideal style, there by providing them the very best learning experience possible! In our case, my very inquisitive & outgoing daughter craved ANYTHING she could do hands-on. In her teens she was assisting in a veterninary office, even participating in minor surgeries!
Observe them-see what gets 'em really excited! You want to instill in your kids a real joy for learning, a joy that will last a lifetime. :)


19 ~ Junkyard Jennifer August 9, 2009 at 2:40 pm

This post is so relevant as my husband and I have decided to home school our three children (7, 5, 3) this year for the first time ever. Thank you for the resources and information! I'm so excited about it but also a little nervous as I'm struggling to find an affordable cirriculum. I'd like to try following one or at least find some guidelines to create our own (which is my first preference). I'm at a bit of a loss right now. If anyone sees this and can offer some help and suggestions, I'd greatly appreciate it! (whimsicaljunk [AT] yahoo {dot} com.) This is all such new territory for me even though I've been doing my own research on it for the past several months.

I'm in Minnesota and I'm hoping to figure this out soon as (by law) I will need an actual calendar cirriculum to present to our superintendent when the school year begins. And, that is what I'm looking for. If anyone can point me in the right direction to possible resources for creating your own cirriculum, I'd really appreciate it. Although, as I mentioned above, I'd also be interested in possibly following an affordable cirriculum at first, just to get the feel of things.



20 Ann May 13, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Thank you--I just decided this week to home school...


21 homeschool cirriculum November 4, 2010 at 11:20 am

I have looked at many sites and not come across a site like yours that tells everyone about everything they need to know. I have added you to my bookmarks,can anyone else suggest other related topics that I can search so I can find out more information about home school cirriculum.


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