Homeschooling on a Shoestring

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- By Kim Jaworski, Homeschool Resource Specialist 

You don’t have to go broke to have quality curriculum and a wonderful homeschooling experience for your family. Here are some things to consider before purchasing books or materials.

 

  1. Be very cautious about making purchases at homeschool conferences. It can be tempting to make impulse buys with vendors offering “specials” and trying to talk you into their products. No special price is a bargain if the materials aren’t the right fit for your child. And you may be able to find it cheaper second hand.
  2. Use your library as much as you can. Books, videos and other materials can be checked out at your local branch or requested from the larger library network. Educational magazines are also part of the children’s section. Passes to museums, historic sites and other educational destinations can often be accessed through your library, as well.
  3. When you must purchase something, be sure to check for second hand options. Used curriculum sales, online sources like half.com or ebay, used book stores and even thrift stores and garage sales are great sources of used books, curriculum, craft supplies and materials of all kinds.
  4. Talk to other homeschoolers to get reviews of the stuff they use, especially before buying expensive items. Always try to get a good look at the item you’re considering to ensure you’re getting the right product for your child. And be sure you know what can be returned if you aren’t satisfied.
  5. Another cost saving strategy is to share materials and resources whenever you can. Educational videos, games, reference books and models can all be shared among homeschooling families. Your co-op could operate its own lending library or circulate a compiled list of which families have what items to share.
  6. Cooperative ventures can also save money. Trade piano lessons for Spanish lessons with another family. Or trade babysitting for math tutoring. Trade what you have for what you need!
  7. It’s also a cost saver for several families to combine funds and hire a Spanish or Sign Language teacher (or another professional whose services you care to hire). The group can meet in a mutually convenient library meeting room or church classroom for the sessions. Your local community education catalog can often provide the names of instructors who might be available, or check through your network of family and friends.
  8. Always keep in mind those purchases which can be reimbursed through your school district or which qualify for the education credit or subtraction on your Mn Income Tax Return.
  9. It doesn’t hurt to buy with an eye toward re-sale. DVD courses, educational videos or computer software can be re-sold when you’ve finished using them.
  10. Keep in mind those purchases which can easily be used for more than one child. Children may have different learning styles, but most kids learn more readily when an experience is hands on and interactive. Models, games and activities help children better understand the concepts you’re trying to teach. Look for materials that bring the learning off the page.

But most importantly, don’t rely on packaged curriculum. A course of study listing from a home education book or found online, can chart your course and keep you on track, but you can use your library and items around the house, a field trip and some great videos from Netflix or youtube to teach the material. A textbook is probably the least interesting option. See what else you can find!