No matter how you educate your children, it is pretty hard to miss the start of the new school year. While parents of students going to traditional schools are saving money on school supplies, parents of homeschoolers, like me, look for ways to save money on curriculum.
There are as many different ways to homeschool as there are homeschoolers. But in general it breaks down to either following traditional academic age/grade appropriate guidelines on what a student should know (so that you can pop your kid back into a traditional curriculum at any time and they wouldn’t be behind) or following a child-led curriculum, called unschooling in some circles.
If you are following a traditional curriculum,
use this list of free online schools by state. Most of these schools will provide you with free text books and even a free computer.
If you are using an unschooling approach, then the world is your curriculum. My top eight places to find books, materials and ideas for unschooling are:
- Yard sales and swaps. Take your kids with you. Let them dig through the stuff. There are usually tons of books and projects at yard sales. Are the kids interested in something? Don’t worry if it is age appropriate. It’s so cheap that it doesn’t matter. This is also a wonderful place to find machines and electronics to take apart with your kids.
- Freecycle. Ask and ye shall receive. Does your child want a telescope? A sewing machine? A silk screening kit? Ask. Someone probably has one in their garage that they would love to give you for free. Of course, you can also look for these items on Craigslist, Ebay and Amazon, but “free” is always the best price.
- The library. One of my first communications with the fabulous Niconail was the fact that I saved over a quarter of a million dollars by using the library.
- Your neighbors’ and friends’ libraries. Most of us have friends and neighbors that have all sorts of books and toys and learning stuff that they would gladly loan to us. Make sure that you take good care of them and return in a timely manner and then you will be able to ask to borrow something else.
- Field trips. My absolute favorite way to learn and teach. I still remember the trip we took to the Heinz pickle factory when I was in grade school. When you are homeschooling, you can talk your way into places that an entire class wouldn’t be able to go. I took my kids to a cardboard box recycling facility. It was fascinating. I just called and asked and got someone who said we could come and tour. Some people will say “no” and some will say “yes.”
- Virtual field trips. In case you get a “no” for something you really want to see, then try and find a virtual field trip. Lots of businesses now have some sort of online tour. One of my favorites on this list is the virtual field trip to the Pyramids. (Note, not all the links work on this list of virtual field trips, but many of them do.)
- Free online college courses. MIT has made available 2,000 free courses. Other universities also have free online courses.
- Zero Tuition College. My new favorite. If you have a self-directed learner who is approaching college age, then this is your new home page. Some great events and ideas are going to spring forth from the movers and shakers who are part of this new community.
There are so many wonderful ways to create and discover learning-opportunities. Taking the time to talk to your postal carrier or farmers’ market vender can open up whole new areas of greater understanding. I hope you have an opportunity to try some of the above ideas even if you don’t homeschool or unschool your kids. Perhaps it is time to try them yourself. Enjoy!