There’s no one right way to homeschool your children, and no one state-of-the-art, extra expensive curriculum that’s guaranteed to be the best approach to learning. Rather than shelling out big bucks when you first start homeschooling your kids, it’s better to get a sense of your kids’ learning styles and tailor your lesson plans to them. And trust me, there are plenty of ways to tailor those lesson plans without breaking the bank. Here are just a few suggestions.
Plan ahead. You probably know that when you start homeschooling, you need to plan out lessons ahead of time rather than just winging it day by day. It’s the same deal when it comes time to make a materials budget. When you’re planning out your lessons, make note of what essential materials you’ll need to buy and come up with a good price estimate. Set a limited budget ahead of time and don’t let yourself go over.
Visit the library. If you need certain books for your curriculum, check your local library before you pay full-price. If your library branch doesn’t have the book, it may have an Interlibrary Loan system that will allow them to obtain it from other libraries in the city or the state. Plus, taking the kids to the library can be a great educational outing; let them pick out a book or two that they want to read for fun while you’re there.
Go on free field trips. You might be surprised at the number of free educational opportunities available in your area. Even smaller towns tend to have some free museums or wildlife preserves that you can take your children to when everyone needs to get out of the house.
Collaborate with other homeschooling families. If you know other parents who homeschool kids close in age to your own, consider splitting the price of certain curricula and sharing the materials. This will require you to have your lessons planned out well in advance, though, so that you can figure out which family will have which resources on each school day.
Find a local homeschooling group. As homeschooling grows more popular, homeschooling support and social groups have sprung up around the country. If there’s a homeschooling group in your area, joining can give you and your kids a good way to go on inexpensive field trips, do group projects, and share resources.
Look for free homeschooling resources online. There’s no shortage of useful sites that pop up when you Google “free homeschooling resources.” You can find everything from science experiments to flash cards to worksheets for free online, so spend some time searching around for useful materials before you decide to pay for everything.
Look for reusable materials. If you have younger kids who will eventually be going over the same curricula as your oldest, try to buy reusable materials rather than, say, a workbook that your kids are meant to write or draw on.
Go to a homeschooling curriculum fair. If there’s a homeschooling curriculum fair in your area, by all means, go. Many of these fairs offer great discounts so that you can purchase curricula for much cheaper than you would be able to online.
Take advantage of back to school sales. Fall back to school sales don’t just have to be for kids attending public and private schools. Many teaching and student supplies are deeply discounted in August, right before most kids go back to school, so make sure that this is when you do most of your school shopping. I’ve seen good deals on the Anatony Now website.
Buy used materials online. Here’s another example of when spending some time on the Internet can pay off. Sites like Amazon often have used books and other educational items on sale for a fraction of their original price. You’ll still have to pay shipping sometimes, but it may be worth it based on the amount of money you save on the product.
Make your own materials when you can. Before you decide to pay for something like flash cards or a class calendar, ask yourself if it’s something you could make yourself with a few simple supplies like notecards and markers.
There’s no reason why you need to break the bank in order to homeschool your children, especially with the number of online resources and homeschooling support networks available. Do some advanced planning and research educational materials before falling into the trap of assuming that the most expensive curriculum is what’s best for your kids.
Juliana Weiss-Roessler enjoys writing about homeschooling with her husband Josh. Her writing has been featured on high-traffic websites, such as Yahoo.com, and in major publications, such as PARADE and People. Follow her on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.