As teachers and musicians with four kids, we know what it’s like to homeschool on a budget. Our income has never been high and we’ve had to be pretty resourceful over the years to pay for the growing needs of our family.
This has been true in homeschooling too. A short foray into curriculum research will reveal plenty of pricey options, ranging from $50 for a years’ worth of curriculum in just one subject all the way up to thousands of dollars for complete homeschooling programs.
When you’re on a low budget, the cost of curricula can really add up quickly- especially if you’ve got multiple kids! That’s not to mention the cost of school supplies, activities, private lessons, tutors, resources for children with special needs… and all the food you will need in the house when the kids are home all day!
When we first started homeschooling, I bought into a distance homeschooling program that included a box curriculum and individual teacher help. I absolutely loved it, but it was not cheap. What it provided was one on one guidance for both me and my child in our first year or two of homeschooling when we were just getting the hang of it. I didn’t regret a penny of that money, because it gave me the help I needed when I was feeling insecure and worried about our journey.
However, when it came to our third year, I was ready for something different. I was adding in a second child, and the program would not be cost effective for us to continue with two enrolled students. Plus, as so many homeschoolers will attest, very few children are doing all subjects at the same grade level across the board. For this reason, we decided to look for individual curriculum options that would better meet our family’s educational and financial needs.
Now, homeschooling 3 of our 4 kids and going into our 6th year, we have found lots of ways to whittle down our curriculum costs for a very affordable homeschool program.
Here are some guiding principles that have helped me to keep our budget low.
Don’t have the curriculum that you need? Just ask around! You can ask a homeschooling friend, family member, or even your local co-op if there’s any curriculum they have that they don’t need this year. Obviously this only works if they have materials that work well for your child, but it doesn’t hurt to check.
Use the library.
Your local library is a wealth of information and resources for you. You can use it in a few different ways to access the materials you need:
- Use it to find the required books in your curriculum. If your curriculum has a set reading list, borrow those books from the library instead of purchasing all your own copies.
- Create your own curriculum from library resources. There’s no rule that says you have to use a pricey curriculum. You can look up the recommended scope and sequence for the grade level of your child in each subject area, then use those topics as a guide for choosing your own books. For example, if your state requires your student to study earth science during elementary school, then look up specific topics within earth science, and check out books on those topics. This also works well for history studies. If you’re studying American history, there’s no reason why you can’t check out library books on Native Americans, colonization, the Revolutionary war, etc… Work through a timeline and find resources on each major topic.
One of our local libraries even has a homeschool swap shelf, where you can leave curriculum that you no longer need and pick up anything there that you could use… for free.
Try free or low-cost online options.
There are countless free or very low cost educational resources online. Some of these are a one-time purchase; others are subscription based. Here are some of the resources we have used in our own homeschool. Be aware that there are many, many more out there- especially in the post-covid world.
- Khan Academy (and the Khan Academy Kids app for kids aged 2-5)
- Read Theory
- ABC Mouse
- Reading Eggs
- Storyline Online (books read aloud by actors!)
- Reading Bear
- Read Write Think
- K12 Reader
- Get Epic
- Xtra Math (math facts drilling)
- Mystery Science (an open and go science program for multiple grades)
- Scratch (great for learning to code)
- Libby (by Overdrive) (free audiobooks through your local library)
- The Kid Should See This (curated videos for kids of all ages)
- The Good and the Beautiful (grades 1-5 PDF versions of their language arts curriculum are free)
- Easy Peasy (free “all-in-one” homeschool curriculum)
Look for family schooling options.
If you have multiple children, consider looking for options that work for multiple grades. This way, you are only buying one set of books for several kids, saving you both time and money. Some examples of family-style options are:
- The Good and the Beautiful (faith-based K-8 science and history curricula)
- Mystery Science (secular online science lessons)
- Story of the World (family style, classical, narrative-based history)
- Curiosity Chronicles (secular. multi-grade, dialogue-based history)
- Family Math (a series of books with math activities and games to do as a family)
- Brave Writer (Writing and language arts programs)
Again, there are many options out there- don’t be afraid to explore and search for an option that works for your family! You can read more on homeschooling multiple grades here.
It goes without saying, but if you’re willing to put up with some wrinkled pages and highlighting, you can get a used book for a heck of a lot cheaper than new. I’ve saved a lot of money this way over the years. Check places like Abe Books, Thrift Books, Ebay, and yes, Amazon, for used options that keep more cash in your bank account.
Find free resources in your community.
Look for free community classes, attend festivals and historical events, or check out a free concert. Of course, you’ll have to find things that are available under covid guidelines, but there are still many options available with wearing a mask and social distancing. Within a half hour range of us, we have been able to find all of these for free:
- Library classes for homeschoolers
- Story time for young kids
- Free art classes
- Free homeschool co-op
- Historical demonstrations
- Shakespeare in the park
- Community festivals themed around books, movies, seasons, and more.
- Concerts for kids
- Demonstrations and rallies
- Community service opportunities
- Nature talks and walks
- State parks, full of trails for hiking and biking
- Participating in public school programs
The list goes on and on… We live in a semi-rural area that is close to some smaller cities. If you live in a larger metro area, I bet there are tons of opportunities available to you! If you live in a more remote area, you may have less access to community events but more access to the outdoors and all that it offers.
It’s entirely possible to homeschool on a budget.
As you can see, free and low cost homeschooling options are plentiful! Taking a little extra time to think creatively and/or do a little bargain hunting can help you create a rich homeschool experience on only a little money.
Share ways that you homeschool on a budget! We can all learn from each other.