If you are homeschooling on a budget, the chances that you can afford every fancy curriculum item is rare. If you are like my family, you are constantly finding ways to be frugal and save money on educational purchases.
We don't use a lot of curriculum anymore, but when we do make the occasional purchase here is how we try to save money doing it:
1. Have a plan
You will make less impulse purchases and stretch your budget further if you sit down and make a plan. Make sure to include accessories and supplies. Have this list handy when you go shopping so you can jot down price comparisons and check off items as you find them.
For online shopping, sit down with your family and discuss what will actutally get used before you make a large purchase. It is very appealing to buy a pre-packaged curriculum for multiple members of the family. However, this plan doesn't not always work depending on individual learning styles, the strengths and weaknesses of the curriculum, and the time involved.
Remember- the more children you have the harder it will be to maintain separate records and lesson plans for each.
2. Go to the library
Before you decide to purchase materials and books for a unit study or project, check the library first. Many times you can find all the resource books you will need. If they don't have exactly what you need, ask for an inter-library loan.
Don't forget to browse the magazine and reference sections. You can often find entire programs to borrow, such as Hooked on Phonics or math tutoring.
If you are looking for a foreign language program, you can ask if your library offers any. Our local library provides free access to Mango, an online foreign language program, to its patrons.
While you are visiting the library, ask if they have a state library card. The Kansas Library Card gives you access to online references, downloadable ebooks and audiobooks, and journals not available locally.
3. Use the Internet
Living in the age of information means that you can study almost anything through a Google search. A lot of homeschoolers fail to use the internet as a vital curriculum tool. There are thousands of free resources at your family's fingertips.
4. Buy used
If you have a plan and know whatyou want, you can look for used versions before you seek out new books. Several online swaps exist, but the best place to find used curriculum is usually your local homeschool group. Some larger groups have used sales where you can browse and buy to your heart's content.
5. Utilize what you already have
Look around and find what you already have that you haven't fully utilized. Spend some time reading that stack of books you bought last year before you go out and buy more stuff. Take inventory of art and craft supplies, repurpose and recycle, and invent creative ways to learn.
Instead of buying a curriculum about telling time, use an old clock and some quick thinking to come up with a game. Use games like Yahtzee, Monopoly, and Farkle to teach math concepts. Create your own phonics flashcards with some cardstock and pictures out of magazines.
If you want to preview a certain book or curriculum you can always ask fellow homeschoolers if they have a copy you could borrow and browse through. Someone with a cyclical program might be willing to let you borrow books on the years they are not using them.
Be careful how you use this option. Make sure you are not infringing on copyrights by making copies of workbooks that you do not own.
7. Put it on your gift list
If you are willing to wait or you just can't afford a certain item, you can put it on your wish list for family and friends. Christmas lists can be great opportunities to add science kits, craft items, audiobooks, and other supplements that might otherwise be out of your price range.
Don't expect people to always buy what you ask for. Be thankful for the extras you do receive.
You may not be able to save on everything you must buy for your homeschool. You can, however, make those purchases count by being smart about what you buy and what you can do without.
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