Does the term “free homeschooling” sound like an oxymoron? When I first began homeschooling, one of my first questions was “So where do I get my school books?” When I realized that we were in fact responsible for same, I then asked, “OK, so who’s gonna pay for the books?” After I got the answer to that one I stopped asking questions – I feared the “3 strikes” rule might apply…
So I started becoming a catalog junkie and was alternately depressed and in shock over the price of curriculum packages and “learning in a can.” We began to think: “there’s gotta be a better way…”
Google the term “free homeschooling” and you’ll get a plethora of sites! While at times it may be necessary to go that route, keep in mind that the saying “you get what you pay for” may apply here as well.
You homeschool for many reasons, but no matter what they are, I know it’s not to short-change your children for life!
In this excellent article from NextGen Homeschooling, Rosanna explains the difference between frugal and cheap. Keep in mind it’s from the perspective of a small business owner, but then again, many homeschoolers themselves are small business owners and may appreciate that perspective.
I understand that it’s so easy to cross the line into “being cheap.” And I totally understand why: homeschoolers are frequently (often?)(always?) single-income households and we need to be good stewards of the limited income we have. But Barb Shelton (whose high-school resource Senior High: A Home-Designed Form+U+La is my constant companion when our kids go through high school) really delves into the difference in her book, and offers some valuable insight ~ it’s a definite “must read” if you’re looking at homeschooling through high school ;-)!
Ann Zeiss of A to Z Home’s Cool also offers this excellent article on “Truly Free Homeschooling” where she discusses some serious considerations regarding “free” homeschooling (for example, a certain degree of privacy loss when using the internet…), and also offers some valuable resources to cut costs.
So yes, it is possible to be frugal with your homeschooling. I know some moms who have taught whole families (and graduated ’em!) on library books only! But in my mind, it all boils down to (borrowing the words of Marilyn Howshall), adopting a lifestyle of learning. For example, my husband has many friends he’s met through his membership in a low-cost car racing forum. From them we found a neat on-line tool to use with physics studies, learned of geocaching (which is a super, family-friendly little educational activity), and got some valuable website-building information. We’ve made educational opportunities out of:
- volunteer opportunities,
- crafts projects,
- friends’ businesses,
- building and repair projects around the home,
- studies spawned from field trips or books read,
- family history and geneology studies,
- co-op classes and unit study groups.
On this site and many others, you may find little advertisements for “free” homeschooling curricula, programs, ideas, books or what-have-you.
Some of those resources may actually cost some money, but many of them will only cost you a certain amount of creativity. I find it to be somewhat of a trade-off in the long-run: what do I have more of right now – money or time? And even if it’s time, sometimes due to lack of ideas, or burnout, or just too many irons in the fire, I may need to purchase something to “get us going” again.
My suggestion? Check out everything as carefully as you can before-hand!
I mean, what good is a free class when you can’t get support with a problem? Or a free accredited curriculum that doesn’t give you access to transcripts when you need them? Or a free program that closes its doors mid-year (probably because they were giving a little too much away!)?
Don’t be wasteful with your budget, but do spend it wisely, and develop some creativity as well. Your kids are watching you 24/7 ~ and learning much more than the 3R’s.
Teach them good stewardship and generosity, and let them see the value of investing in a good education!