With the climate of things right now, a lot of people have either decided to homeschool this coming school year or are at least seriously considering it. One of the concerns that I was a little surprised to hear from people was the cost of homeschooling. Honestly, there are so many ways to homeschool your kids, and it is entirely possible to do frugal homeschooling and still give your kids a great education.
Before I get into how you can save money and all of that, I just want to point out that sending your kids to a public school is not “free.” You still need to purchase school supplies every year, you often get them new clothing, you pay for school pictures, and then there are fees like if your kids take the bus or take classes that require special supplies. In high school, I took sewing classes, and we always had to buy the materials and patterns we would need for the next project. Thankfully for me, we owned a lot of that stuff because my mom and I both did a lot of sewing anyway, but the cost could pile on.
Plus there are the little things like a backpack or lunch bag. I know a lot of people replace those every year or almost every year. My kids each have one. They use their backpacks when we take a road trip and use them for sleepovers or hauling their art supplies to a friend’s so they can draw cars together. We have a lunch bag for each kid, too, because sometimes we’ll pack lunches for a picnic or something, but more often than not, we put it all into one big cooler bag. And honestly, most of those backpacks and lunch bags were birthday presents for the kids. Their aunt bought them this time of year and gave them as gifts to the kids (per my suggestion) as their birthdays arose.
Speaking of gifts… this is one of the ways that we make homeschooling so affordable. We ask for things for our kids as birthday and Christmas gifts. It was a tough pill for people to swallow when we started doing this, but it was a huge relief for us. They were sad that they weren’t buying toys all of the time, but we were able to get a lot of great books and other tools for the kids, and the kids were as happy as can be. That doesn’t mean they always get stoked about practical stuff, but they are always grateful, and it’s still exciting, even if it might not be the coolest gift they get. (Having 6 kids, this also helps keep my kids clothed without dropping a ton of money once a year on school clothes. They get them as gifts.)
The thing about homeschooling is that it requires a lot of thinking outside the box and changing the way you view the world. It’s a lifestyle, not just something that you do. Homeschoolers are notorious for having vast collections of books and having the library as their home away from home. Everything is a learning experience, and the world is your classroom. Field trips happen to the grocery store, the post office, the library, the bank, and kids get to learn first-hand what real life is like. It can be a huge adjustment for a lot of people, but then again, I think that through everything that has been going on the last few months, most of you have had a trial run of that anyway. Once you can see school in a new light, you’ll view the finances of it differently, too.
There is no one right way to homeschool. I can only give you some ideas of ways that you can save. So let’s break this up into some ways that you can homeschool without breaking the bank .
If you are going the route of a curriculum, text books can end up being pricey, especially if you have to buy them for a bunch of different kids. We had to buy a collection of textbooks a couple of years ago for several kids. We didn’t even buy everything, just some books we needed, and it cost us close to $200. The upshot of that is that with multiple kids, books get used over and over again, making the price tag sting a lot less. But you can easily spend $200 on a curriculum for just one child, and that was for 3 of ours. The best way to reduce that expense is to buy used when possible.
Amazon, eBay, Facebook Marketplace, rummage/garage sales, thrift stores, and homeschool groups are all great places to get what you need at a discounted price. The plus side of shopping online for used books is that you can be a lot more specific in your search. But find a way to connect to homeschool groups in your area, and reach out to them. A lot of people will be happy to share, lend, or sell you their books if they are not using them.
If you don’t know how to reach other homeschoolers in your area, ask a librarian, check on Facebook, or at church. Chances are better than you think that you at least know somebody who already homeschools their kids. And if that doesn’t work, look up your state’s laws on homeschooling. Most states have a group that advocates for them, and they are a great resource for helping connect you to others.
Piece it Out
There is this misconception that you must purchase a full curriculum in order to successfully homeschool your kids, but that’s just not true. I’ve had a lot of people ask me what we do in recent years, and they often seem surprised when I say we use a little bit of a lot of things. We have science books from one company (and we got them used), grammar and math books from another, we don’t use any text books from history, because we have shelves full of history books in our house, and then we piece everything else together in whatever way works for us for that semester
Personally, I have only once ever purchased a teacher’s answer guide to go along with a textbook, and I found it so unnecessary that I will only ever do it again if I feel like I will be incapable of correcting their work without it. And we don’t typically use tests either. Since we work so directly with our kids, tests feel incredibly unnecessary. They do their work independently, but I am also able to work with them on a concept until they are ready to move on.
There are a lot of great online resources for homeschooling. Just remember that an online school is not really the same as homeschooling. Nothing wrong with that, it’s just different. But there are sites like Kahn Academy or Duolingo that are free to use that can teach harder subjects like math or second language to your kids. And there are sites that come with a subscription cost or require a fee to use that are also very beneficial.
Pinterest is also a HUGE resource for homeschooling parents. There are so many blogs dedicated to homeschooling. If you need science experiment ideas, math resources, games to play, instructions on how to teach music, writing prompts… you name it, you can find it on there. Even creative disciplinary/motivational stuff for the kids when you are having a hard time, and articles to help you feel sane when it feels too hard to homeschool.
YouTube has been a blessing for many as well. There are so many great channels out there dedicated to science experiments and other educational topics. Just as with anything on the internet, make sure the kids are watching things you approve of. Most channels for that stuff are really good, but some have a political slant that is just so unnecessary.
If you have little ones, teaching them how to read, write, and do math can be incredibly daunting. Basic math and writing seem to be easy for so many kids, but reading is a little more challenging. Not all kids will do well with the same type of reading program, but we dropped some cash on the Hooked on Phonics preschool through second grade set when our oldest was little, and it has served us well so far. We’ve used it will our older three and are currently using it with Doodles and E. My sister-in-law also borrowed some of our set to work with her older two when we weren’t using them, so they have been heavily used, and it was well worth the investment.
Of course, there’s just reading in general. Homeschoolers are notorious for being book collectors! (Have you seen the bookshelves we have in our house?) As I said earlier, the library is a favorite of homeschoolers. We don’t go much anymore… less and less every year since we moved, but someday, I’m sure we’ll start going again more frequently. Right now it’s more of a time issue, and quite frankly, we have so many books in our house that we are never short on something new to read.
This is where it’s great to have somebody buy your kids a book from their favorite series for a gift, or even gift them the entire series. We bought the entire Little House series for our family this past Christmas, even though we’ve read it all before. We’ll probably end up reading it again in the next year or so, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we read it again when Baby Cheeks is old enough to understand the stories.
And this is where thrift stores really shine. In our area, we have a lot of St. Vincent DePaul’s, and they have great book selections. We’ve collected many, many books from there for under a dollar a piece. We have countless books on history, religion, science, homesteading subjects, varying encyclopedias and dictionaries… and we’ve gotten kids story books, chapter books, craft books, and collections of children’s history books. I mean, I’m sure over the years we’ve spent a lot of money on books, building up our collection, but a very small portion were actually purchased at full price.
You might think that your kids don’t enjoy reading, but usually it’s a matter of finding what interests them. And a lot of people overlook the importance of reading out loud to your kids. I spend hours each week reading to my kids as a group. We study science, religion, and history together, read chapter books together, read story books, read news articles… And while some of my kids struggle a little bit with it, they really do love that time.
Aside from curriculum, you also have school supplies to consider. This is something that I would highly recommend shopping for right now while everything is on sale. I remember my mom always buying extra notebooks, folders, and pencils this time of year, because she knew we might need more as the year went on, and that they would be cheaper now than during the winter. Now I do the same thing. I STOCK UP. I think a lot of homeschooled kids often go through a lot of supplies. My kids are constantly drawing and coloring and making projects.
Paper, pencils, crayons, glue, notebooks… it’s all much less expensive this time of year. Do yourself a favor, if you are able, get a tote with a cover and get extra art supplies for your kids and tuck them away in a closet. If you don’t go through them all this year, you’ll have them for next year. And they make a great gift any time of the year for just about any kid, so it never hurts to keep extras on hand.
Seriously, if you are at all able to, now is the time to do your school shopping. You will save a lot of money throughout the year, and you should think beyond the basics and art supplies. This is the time of the year to get laundry baskets, buckets, bins, you name it, for getting your home organized. Stock up on toilet paper and tissues! (I couldn’t help but laugh about the toilet paper shortage, because we ALWAYS shop toilet paper in bulk, and it struck me that so many people were beginning to do things the way I have for years.) If you know your kids won’t dig into it, stock up on snacks that won’t go bad. Any of the things they might traditionally add onto the list as extra supplies to send that first day or week of school, think about buying it for your home.
Parents, keep in mind that YOU are your children’s teacher, and as such, you can often get discounts on things. You can get the field trip rate when you take tours places, and they usually throw in bonuses when you do that. Some states give a tax exempt week for when you are purchasing school supplies. I forget when that usually happens in Wisconsin, but if you are willing to go when a lot of other people will be in the store, just keep that in mind.
I know, I’m saying “SPEND MONEY!” right now, not save it, but sometimes you have to spend to save.
There are tons of inexpensive or free programs out there for your kids to partake in if you are looking to add extra to your days. Pizza Hut has always done the Book It program, which can be a good incentive for your kids to read, and homeschoolers can do that. There is a free summer “program” you can do from home from the Milwaukee Science Institute every year. Historical Societies often have special events throughout the year that you can sign your kids up for, and the ones around here usually only cost a few dollars per student. Our local libraries always have a free summer reading program, but they also have other fun events throughout the year. I don’t know how all of that will be this year because of everything going on, but just keep your eyes peeled and remember to be creative. Once you know where to look, it’s incredibly easy to find.
My last little bit of advice that I can think of is to find out what the rules and regulations on homeschooling are in your state. If you live in Wisconsin, check out the Wisconsin Parents Association to learn all about it. Different states have different rules, and that might affect how you go about shopping for your homeschool.
I guess that’s it! Homeschooling is not always an easy choice. You will have hard days and second guess yourself, but it’s worth it! If you have questions, let me know. I’ll do my best to answer them.
Love and Blessings~ Danielle