Tuesday, May 7, 2013

H is for Homeschooling Cheap

Homeschooling is something we feel that God has called us to do, but it does mean that we have to make it go on one income while I teach the children. As a result, our educational dollars have to stretch! Here are a few of the ways we have done that. I pray this would be encouragement to anyone who is planning to homeschool: that this is not about the money, but the effort!

1. A heritage of learning.

One of the reasons we knew homeschooling would be a good fit for us, was that both of us were home-schooled  When we announced we planned to homeschool our children, you can imagine just how much our moms were pleased. We had the full support of our extended families, and the full boxes of their leftover books!

While this wasn't always a perfect fit, it was a huge blessing. I discovered quickly books that were outdated and used up. Emma's history book referred to the Berlin wall and the USSR, but many books, such as language arts and spelling, are really timeless. We especially love some of the old readers!

While you may not have parents who are curriculum hoarders, you may know a "retiring" homeschool mom who was one. It easy to find her; she is likely the chairwoman of the "Homeschool Graduation Committee" in your homeschool support group. ;) Find a homeschool mom to mentor you, and ask if she will loan (and likely she will give) you some of her old curriculum.

2. Find a lending library.

Our homeschool group has a lending library for curriculum. Every year I donate a box of books that didn't work for us, and check out a box of books that I hope will! It's wonderful to be able to spend an afternoon there flipping through curriculum without having to buy it first. (And then I remember I'd signed up to help "organize" and clean the library that day, not read it all!)

We actually have two homeschool groups in town, and thus, two lending libraries. You will find pretty much every group has them. They are filled with items donated by those who switched curriculum, or those moms who retired without anyone begging for their books! (see #1)

If your homeschool group doesn't have one, start one! It will be full in no time when hoarders like myself start unloading baggage. The hardest part is finding a place that can host the library. Maybe a church with an extra classroom with a lock? Maybe a local Christian hang out with a storage room? Maybe a homeschool mom with a garage she doesn't mind opening for others from time to time? Your homeschool group may even want to rent a nice storage unit and build some bookshelves!

3. Be an opportunist.

In our area, there have been several schools closed due to district consolidations. Every few months a school shuts it's doors and an auction is held. It's a sad day, for the school anyway.

Watch for those school auctions. You can get desks, blackboards, reference books, and even unused workbooks for next to nothing. Once our homeschool group was invited to a closing educational services unit to pick up any curriculum we wanted "before it goes in the dumpster."  We filled our car trunks and pickup beds, and whatever we couldn't use went in the lending library. I managed to get an entire set of Saxon Math (1st through 7/6) that day. *score!*

Ok, I'm going out on a limb here and baring my soul. I confess I have even dumpster dived for curriculum. I had missed the auction for another school-closing, and whatever hadn't sold was being dumped out the front doors into a large construction dumpster. There were three of us homeschool moms in there, and I had brought my pickup. I scored 6 school desks and a box of geography workbooks still in the shrink wrap, among other things. I would have found more, but that was all I could see by the light of my cell phone. For the record, dumpster diving is perfectly legal in most states as long as you don't trespass on private property.

When a local college upgraded their entire computer lab, they sold all the computers there (not that old, but they had their operating systems wiped) for next to nothing. You could get a nice computer for $25 plus the cost of installing Windows.

4. Shop, swap, and sales!

Shopping on ebay or even at yard sales, you can often find books for bargain prices. Most curriculum fairs or homeschool conventions include a used curriculum swap and sale. It's a great place to sell what you have, but won't use, and to find what you need. Show up at the end and offer to buy whole boxes of books for bottom dollars. I guarantee that most of the people there would rather give the books away then haul them home.

A good friend put me onto this swapping tip(thanks B!). I have mentioned before about swapping for free books on Paperback Swap .com. She took it the next level on her smart phone. There are apps (for both Android and iPhones) you can download to link to your PaperbackSwap account. They are able to use your phone camera to scan bar-codes of books and see if they are on wishlists of other swappers. She suggested that I use this feature to pick up cheap books for swapping. Recently, I was at the library, and they had a "stuff a bag for a buck" fundraiser. I flipped through the shelf, scanning books and checking their "wishing" status. I filled a bag with books I already knew I could "swap" on the site. I have found several good books on my curriculum list, and have requested them with my credits. My only cost? The postage for mailing off the books (usually about $2) and about 10 cents to buy them.

5. Sign up to sell or review.

If there is a curriculum or company your heart is just set on, call them up! Tell them how you love their stuff, and offer to staff a table at your next curriculum fair or trade show. Ask if they have an affiliate program where you can earn credit by selling their books to others. You would be surprised at the opportunities out there.

If you are a blogger like myself, be sure to follow the Review Crew blog (see the button in my side bar?) in the fall when they are looking for new reviewers. I've enjoyed the fellowship with other homeschool moms, and the opportunity to try out new curriculum for my honest review here on my blog. I feel I've become a better blogger from hanging out with these ladies too!

6. Keep an open mind. 

By now I'm sure you're thinking that I will use any book without discrimination. That's only partly true. When I began my homeschool journey I thought I knew what I liked. I'd been homeschooled myself and I'd formed plenty of opinions throughout the years. Without my giving away my age, I will say that a lot has changed on the curriculum front since then! Being on the Crew this year has exposed me to lots of books I would have never considered buying. I've tried out lots of things I never knew I would love so much! Yes, also a few things I didn't. But it made me realize that you really have to open a book and give it a test drive before you know if it is for you. I am completely willing to try out a book, and not keep it if it's not working, especially if I got it for free. I also love that I can swap the books I don't love (see #4) for books I do! I can also sell them and use the cash to buy what I really want. Bring on the school auctions and library sales!

7. Don't forget the best things in life are free.

One last thing: remember that the most priceless stuff your children will learn won't come from a curriculum. You are training these kids by the actions and behaviors you model. Whether it is your ethics, your Faith, or just how to find the right books at the library, your kids are learning from you. All. The. Time. No pressure. :)

"As homeschooling moms, we don’t just undertake teaching a set list of educational goals, but also of life. We have a special opportunity for modeling behaviors before our children all day long. They are our disciples.
This may come as a surprise, but we aren't raising children; we are raising adults. They are children now, but isn't adulthood the end goal? When we hit an impasse with a school concept, we aren't just teaching our kids math anymore. We are teaching so much more: how to deal with frustration, how to look at a problem in a new way, or even how to ask God for help." -Practical Grace for the Homeschool Mom

There is SO much more I could say here, but there's a whole blog cruise on the topic, and you'll have plenty to read. So, get going already!


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  1. The dumpster driving made me laugh. We did very well recently when another home educating family brought up the contents of a classroom from a school that was closing and then sold them on. We have never had such a plentiful supply of art stuff!

    1. I debated about sharing that! lol! But it was SOOO fun! hehehe!

      Thanks for stopping in!


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