Monday, September 29, 2008

Money Monday: Thrifty Homeschooling

Homeschooling on a Budget: The Happy Wife

As I said last week, I would share my tips for homeschooling on a small budget.

-Utilize your local public and college libraries. Public libraries not only have great books that cover many subjects, but they also have great programs as well. Our local library offers storytime, a chess club, book clubs for several age groups, and tons of craft/story activities. College libraries often have curriculum and school-type books that local residents can check out. Just ask. They also will often have child-friendly activities.

-Skip boxed curriculum and create your own. There are lots of free resources online, just type the words "free (insert subject of interest) lesson plans" in a search engine. There are also some sites with low subscription rates that will give you access to tons of printable worksheets/books. Enchanted learning is a favorite of ours. I also have a homeschooling blog where I post activities related to a theme each week. I break it down by subject area and most of the activities are free or very inexpensive.

-Network, network, network. Find other homeschoolers in your area through Yahoo groups (type your city and the word homeschool in the group search box). I have done this in a few states and every time have had great results. The groups are a great way to find low cost field trips or to get enough people together to get the group discount rate for a place you want to visit. This is also a great way to find what local resources are available in your area for homeschoolers. Our city school district does a textbook giveaway every spring and it is through our Yahoo group that we learn the details. We also participate in a homeschool bowling league which is a better deal than any other bowling league I have ever seen ($2 a game, includes shoes and a trophy and pizza party on last day and you only pay on the days you attend). Our group has also arranged book swaps where everyone just brings what they want to get rid of (newbies don't have to bring anything) and it is a free-for-all. Another benefit of these groups is that there is often at least one certified teacher in the bunch and if you live in a state that requires an assessment or testing by a certified teacher, you already have one accessible.

-Along with networking is swapping "skills". If you are a math major, but can't speak a word of Spanish/French/German, find someone who does and swap tutoring with each other. Of course the subject areas are interchangeable.

-Freecycle and craigslist are also great sources of homeschool materials. eBay is good if you really need something specific or really want to use boxed curriculum.

-Find out if your local school district provides anything you can use. Some districts may allow your child to participate in sports or other activities. Some may provide textbooks or allow you to borrow materials such as microscopes. It never hurts to ask.

-Attend fairs and festivals and keep an eye open for free, local events. Some of our best learning opportunities have been in these locations. Fairs also often have lots of coloring books, pens, pencils, crayons, etc as well as links to websites with educational activities.

-Take advantage of teacher's discounts where applicable. Many place offer homeschoolers the same discount they give to teacher's. Check bookstores and office supply stores. In late-summer, Staples and Office Max had back-to-school events for teachers and gave away a bunch of school supplies (and breakfast!) to everyone who came. Pizza Hut also offers their Book-It program to homeschoolers.

-Turn everyday chores and errands into lessons. Cooking dinner is a lesson in nutrition, measuring, fractions, and home ec. Grocery shopping is a math lesson along with nutrition and home ec. Encourage the kids to talk and ask questions at doctor's offices and use their "models" to teach while waiting to be seen.

As you can see there are free lessons everywhere, you just need to know where to find them. I would love to hear how others reduce their homeschooling costs.

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