Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Top 10 Ways to Homeschool on the Cheap

This picture has nothing to do with homeschooling. It was just the only one on this computer.

When we started homeschooling last year, we had no extra pennies.  ZERO.  We knew homeschooling was the right choice for our family but we also knew it was going to have to be cheap.  Scratch that.  It was going to have to be free.  Or at least free-ish.  But every time I searched for cheap homeschooling ideas, I would find tips like "Use your library!" and "Make your lunches at home!".

Now, if you're brand new to cheapskatin' (my favorite sport), maybe tips like that would prove useful to you.  But no no no, those were not helpful for dweej of the getting-paid-to-accept-a-brand-new-coat-from-Lands'-End. I am a money saving fiend!  Fiend, I tell you.  The library and I have been bff for years.  Fine, the last minute and the library are BOTH my bff.  They're not jealous of each other, I promise.

Now that we're almost a semester into our second year of homeschooling, I feel like maybe I'm ready to give you a few of my cheapskate techniques without being a complete poseur.  Poser?  I never know which one to use.

Oh no!  I'm not qualified to homeschool after all!

Just kidding.

Also, this list is really not going to be useful to all you experienced homeschoolers.  Feel free to leave your own tips in the combox, though!

Are you ready?

Homeschooling for Cheapkates: A Top 10 List

The Internet.  I know, I know.  Duh, right?  I mean, you're reading this blog.  Clearly, you have internet access.  But sometimes crazy things happen and we think "Let's cut expenses!  Do we really neeeeeeeeeed the internet?".  The answer to that must always be an emphatic YES.  From finding promo codes for websites so you can score incredible deals to hunting down the lowest prices on books to finding tips on making your own cleaners and ways to make some moolah from home, internet access is an absolute must.  MUST.  I mean, hello?  Have you searched Pinterest for homeschooling ideas yet?  Dooooooo iiiiiiiiiiiit.

Speaking of the internet, the site we used last year, which is FREE NINETY FREE was a super fun introduction to homeschooling for us.  It's called Lesson Pathways (give a clicky right there to check it out) and it is the bomb dot com.  I've heard really cool people say that.  It's, like, the new thing or something, right?

Which means, of course, you have to have a working printer.  Now don't freak out, okay?  Go to the Goodwill.  There will be a printer there.  It will cost approximately $5.99.  Or go to your facebook or your twitter (because you have internet access and it is a glorious thing) and say "Hey!  I need a printer!  Does anyone have an old one laying around that I could take off your hands?".  You will find one, I promise.  And then this printer can be used to print worksheets or (legally!) copy pages out of workbooks so you can buy just one and use it for all your various and sundry children.  

Also, coloring sheets.  

Also, shipping labels.  

I don't know what that has to do with homeschooling.

Then after you do the worksheets or color the pictures, you take the pieces of paper and you flip them over and the backs of those papers become (drumroll) SCRATCH PAPER.  You can write your shopping lists on them.  Or people can draw on them.  Or you can fold them up and make cootie catchers without wasting perfectly good blank paper that should never, ever, ever be wasted.  Ever.  Because I'm a cheapskate and I don't want to buy more paper and no I do not care that a whole ream costs just $2.99.  I do not care!  Every penny counts!

You know what else you can do with internet access?  Netflix.  And do you know what Netflix has?  Documentaries.  And do you know what documentaries are?  Easy peasy learnin' that your kids won't complain about!  Ply them with popcorn and you've got yourself an astronomy lesson.  Plus, way cheaper than cable.  Waaaaaaaaay.
You know what's not cheap?  Gas.  So if you wanna cart the kids to enrichment activities (and you probably should), try to cram them in on just one or two days a week.  This will not only save you money on fuel it will also minimize the temptation of "grabbing a snack real quick at Chick-fil-a" or "an itty bitty trip to Starbucks".  'Cause a coffee that's the same price as a printer from Goodwill is just no good for cheapskatin'.  No good at all.

But let's say you want to use an actual curriculum and not piece things together yourself in the ghetto manner heretofore described.  For the mostest budget friendliest option, don't choose a company that makes you purchase a huge box filled with their publications and pre-printed syllabi.  Not that they're bad, they're just pricey.  Instead, go with a company that gives you a book list (Mother of Divine Grace, Angelicum Academy, Kolbe Academy come to mind) so you can use your sweet internet connection and your awesome shopping skillz to get your books on the cheap.

But how does one get books on the cheap?  I thought you'd never ask!  This is really my fave tip ever and you will love it when you hear read it: Google the ISBN number.  Oh my gosh it is so fun.  Snatch the ISBN off of any book retailers website (Amazon or whatever) and then paste it right in there and hit enter.  VOILA!!!!  Then, before you make your purchase, check Ebates to see if you can get cash back for shopping at that retailer.  Sometimes the answer is a big fat YES and then you can do the super-power-jig of awesomeness

While we're talking book shopping, try to think of ways that a single book or course can be used for all your grade levelsThe Harp and Laurel Wreath is one such book.  Every grade level for every year.  Penmanship, vocabulary, poetry, memorization all in one sweet little volume.  A cheapskate's dream!

Conversation.  This one is free and maybe the most important one of all.  How do you think this thing works?  What do you suggest?  What would you do if you were in my shoes?  Which one do you prefer? Why? How do you think we could figure that out?  What do you think went wrong?  It is amazing how having the time to actually have these kinds of chats creates such excellent opportunities for learning while simultaneously allowing us to really get to know our kids and what makes them tick.

Do you have any cheapskatin' homeschoolin' tips to share with everyone?  Feel free to leave them in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday at Many Little Blessings

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  1. abebooks dot com. I CANNOT stress that site enough. I have scored some AMAZING books through them for $3 or less.

    Thanks for this, it was refreshing.

    1. Even better: Booksprice.com.

      They compare prices (shipping included) among abebooks, amazon, half.com, betterworldbooks, and a bunch of other bookstore sites. So you can make sure you are getting the best price out there in the internet land.

      And if the book you want is out of print and costs $145 on all those sites, you can tell booksprice.com to send you an email if it ever becomes available anywhere for whatever price you are willing to pay. I can't tell you how many books I've bought that way. Books that are almost impossible to find. As long as you don't need it within a particular timeframe and can wait till a sweet price comes around.

    2. Thank you! Fabulous to know something like that is out there!

  2. Yes! AbeBooks is amazing! AND you can get 5% cashback through them via ebates.

  3. I found a ton of materials on the super-busy yahoo group Cathswap. Another great place for used books is homeschoolclassifieds.com I bought very few non-consumables new.

    1. I don't know what my mental block is, but I cannot for the life of me figure out how to use a yahoo group. Isn't that so sad? I tried Cathswap and all the emails and everything made my head spin. The homeschool classifieds site is new to me, though. Thank you!

    2. The volume of mail is indeed nuts on Cathswap. When I had a month to get everything this summer, I went on digest mode where they send 25 at a time and I still must have gotten half a dozen digests most days. Once I got what I needed, I switched to no mail so I can still look for the occasional thing or post an ISO list without seeing everything all the time.

      I've never had any bites as a seller on homeschoolclassifieds but it seems like if something's going to exist used, I can usually find a copy to buy there. Not many Catholic materials but Cathswap is swimming in those so it works out.

  4. Great post, and I love that a Starbuck's coffee costs as much as a printer, but please (even though I'm uncool, you must believe me) don't use the bomb dot com anymore.

    Okay, maybe you can, just typing it made me giggle. Giggle at my lameness, but nonetheless...

  5. 'Cause a coffee that's the same price as a printer from Goodwill is just no good for cheapskatin' - best line I've read today. hands down! If we ever find ourselves led to this place, you have me totally motivated to throw on my cheapstakin' boots. If cheapstakers wear boots. Do they? Only super fab, snagged super cheap I'm guessing ;)

  6. This might seem to patently obvious as to not bear mentioning, but.....family friends and neighbors. While I only homeschooled briefly, I feel like our sons have learned a tremendous amount about the world through other adults in our lives and having them spend time with us. For example, a friend who owns a computer store. Our son, now 16, worked there for a time. At the local comic book store, he met some guys who were into modifying electronics, which led to learning how to repair bikes, which eventually led to another job. All of this before he hit 14. We have next-door neighbors who are orthodox Jews, who have taught all of us so much about their faith, about gardening , and also we have had family conversations about about Israel, US/Israeli relations etc.

    1. Yes! I guess I was slapping all of that under "conversation" but it could have used its own category for sure.

  7. Ok. Creep confession. Ok, not creep, that just sounds creepy... anyway. I threw any DUN DUN DUNH paper today and I KID YOU NOT as i plunked it in the trash I thought, "oh! Maybe I should cut it up like Dwija says!" :Plunk: on top of gravy now, sorry lady. WAAAAAAAAAA! At least my oldest isn't even two...but she does like um EAT paper with all of her cute crazy doodling and painting. :sigh: Maybe I should take a pledge? To like not throw paper? idk I might break it. agh! must. save. paper. free. money. Serious. I need to pinch pennies WAY more. Should I shop around for cheaper internet? Or leave well enough alone? Paying $28.99 + tax and fees for basic...

  8. Great tips!!!! I've been meaning to ask you about this...and look at that, you went and wrote a blog post about it. Many, many thanks ;)

  9. I just bookmarked this! My husband and his 3 sibs were homeschooled, and they definitely shattered all of my homeschooling stereotypes, and a few of my friends actually work for Mother of Divine Grace. So, that makes me like 80% on board; I'm just scared! I figure putting a curriculum together will be one thing, but I hadn't even considered that homeschooling costs more than public school. Thanks so much for the advice!

    1. For what it's worth, I feel like we spend about the same or even less
      than when they went to public school. You know why? All the fundraisers! And we had to buy our own name brand suplies & send them in, too. Oh my gosh. Every week it's another "donate to this" and "buy these poinsettias" and "walk-athon time!" No joke.

  10. I really don't know how my mother managed to homeschool three children without the internet. Seriously! Pinterest has to be the best thing that has happened for homeschooling. Ever.

    I would add a laminator to the list. Not free but Amazon runs some pretty amazing sales on them from time to time. I got mine super cheap. I think it was $15? Then you can laminate those work sheets and have the kids use dry erase markers or dry erase crayons so you can reuse them over and over. Talk about saving paper! Especially wonderful for the little ones learning to write their letters and numbers.

  11. Do a post on your favorite documentaries on Netflix.
    Do it now, woman.

    Someone who needs science lessons for today and doesn't feel like letting the kitchen be trashed in the pursuit.

  12. My park group has curriculum swap days. We all bring our books that either didn't work for us or are just no longer needed and set them out on the tables for everyone to peruse and take what they need.

  13. Youtube is great if you don't have Netflix. They won't have everything but they have some good stuff like Bill Nye and older shows like that and some classics (like BBC Narnia movies).
    Going to the website that has the state requirements for each grade in every subject can give you a lot of confidence as to what you may need help with and what you may be able to do without buying a single new book.

  14. Not a homeschooler, but a former teacher chiming in here: abiding by the Keep It Simple (Stupid) principle saves toooooons of money. Tons.

    Why? Because, unlike some (okay, most) schools I know, you won't be running out and paying for the Latest Greatest Thing in Education that Guaranteed to Turn Your Average Students into Astro-Physist-Literature-Penning-Van-Gogh-Aspiring-Nobel-Peace-Prize-Winning-Missionary-Nuns.

    Pick one thing, maybe two, per subject, and stick with it.

    Not to imply that you can't do the fun, Pinterest-inspired enrichment activities, but rather just to say that I spent a lot of my own money pursuing dead end activities as a teacher, when, really, I already had the resources right in front of me. I just needed to persevere with what I already had.

    1. Dwija, I loved reading this. Good reminders for non-homeschoolers, too! And your tip, Rhonda, is excellent!!! I love it.

  15. This Mom loves doing tip 9!
    Enjoying reading here!

  16. I am using Lesson Pathways for math for my kindergartener...love that it's all laid out for me and I can add to it if I'm feeling extra creative.
    Oh and Ebates? I LOVE that site! :)

  17. You Tube is also great for creating your own music appreciation course. You can teach kids about all kinds of music from classical to jazz to folk to Gregorian chant. My kids know the names of all sorts of musical instruments just from watching You Tube and having me point out what instruments the musicians are playing. I put together playlists they can watch.

    Oh and we also use You Tube to look up animals and watch them move and listen to the sounds they make. It's fun to read a passage in a book that talks about an elephant trumpeting and then pause to find a video of elephants so they can hear it for themselves.

  18. For a "planned cirriculum" on the cheap and from home, my sister uses the K12 program. It's basically an online/from home public school where she (my sister)is the day to day "teacher". Both of her boys have a "real teacher" too. Because it's public school, the supplies (books, art supplies, etc...) are provided free of charge.

    Also, because they were getting the reduced/free lunch program at public school, they pre-qualified to get a computer for use in school (complete with webcam and printer too)! It has to be returned at the end of the school year, but all she has to pay for is paper and ink for the printer and her internet connection (which is also subsidized and she will get a check for a percentage of the bill for the 8-9 months they were in school for in may or June)!

    While the boys need to record 4.5-6 hours of schooling every day (Mon to Fri, minus holidays and teacher in service days), they end up getting 3 to 5 day weekends most weeks because they get so much done on the other days and just "save up" the time rather than over recording their work on days they do it. They are also both way ahead of where the school says they should be (I believe it's 30% through all the courses this week, for the year), meaning that in some subjects, they will be completely done "learning" this year before 2013 even starts!

    Done rambling now. :)

  19. A printer may be cheap but ink is expensive! Did you know you can take your empty cartridge to Walgreens and they'll refill it for like ten bucks? True story.

    1. This tip just rocked my world. We drink up printer ink in this house even on the "fast draft" setting.

  20. I love my library. I go online, I put like, a million books on hold then 'ding!' they send me an email, I go pick them up and I'm spared an afternoon wandering around with five screaming kids who grab every Thomas movie and Sponge Bob comic while "forgetting" to pick out their literature selections for the week. Good times.

  21. I just came across this post from a google search and YAY I am a little less overwhelmed!!! Thanks for all the ideas.

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