Saturday, August 18, 2012

Homeschooling on a TIGHT Budget, Part 1



Notice, I didn't say "homeschooling on a budget." Most of us have a budget; but there are some that have a very tight budget.

So, it depends on what a tight budget means to you. For some, that means you have one child and must spend only $400 this year on their curriculum. For others, it means finding ways to school your 6 children on $100 total. OUCH!
 Well, I’ve been so broke that I didn’t have more than $20-$30 to spend in a whole year for 2 kids. And guess what? They are now about to be 16 and 12 and can read, write, and do sums. Well, actually, they can do more than that, but you get the point.
 The first thing you need to realize is that it’s not a curriculum that makes your kids smart. It’s the ability God gave them to learn. And if they have that built-in, they can learn from any materials put in front of them. Second, remember that as parents, you love and care for your children more than the best teacher on earth. YOU have what it takes!
So, armed with that useful bit of information, let’s think about what you have at your fingertips:
If you have preschoolers, well . . . you need little more than some good picture books, blocks, fingers and toes, crayons, pencils, paper, a Bible, and a parent.
 The picture books can come from any local library, or even your church’s library. Read a book with your child, talk about the subject matter, draw some pictures WITH your child about the subject matter, and look up anything that interests him. If it’s about sharks, talk about their teeth, or the ocean, or ships, or anything related that catches their interest. If it’s about Squanto, talk about Indians, pilgrims, America, corn, hunting, etc.
 Read the Bible and pick out easy verses to memorize. Make a chart with some paper and markers to show the child’s memorization progress. Little kids are like sponges; they can memorize and are proud to do it. Talk about the heroes of the Bible. Talk about God’s power and love and teach your child to pray.
 Build block towers and talk about colors, shapes, measuring, and numbers.


 
 I could go on, but I think you get the idea. I have lots of ideas on my blog for preschoolers! You can also search online for “preschool activities” and find more information than you could use in a lifetime.

If you have elementary school students, you need a little more to work with, but it still doesn’t have to be a fancy curriculum. Again, the public library is one of your best sources. Create a unit study on any topic from history, cooking, science, math, art, crafts, etc. and check out all the books you can on the topic. Get some to read to your kids and some for them to read aloud or to themselves. Pull out topics they can write short paragraphs about. Check their spelling and grammar after they write, correct it, and have them do a final copy. If you’re not too great with the spelling and grammar, get a library book with all the rules. Take a field trip or visit a museum. Dress up in costume. Make a new recipe. Watch a historical movie. Have the children give an oral report. Follow the rabbit trails. It will be fun, and as your kids are learning, you’ll be making memories as well.
 During one of our particularly challenging financial times, I checked out a library book with simple science experiments. It was easy to understand (and I am NOT strong in science) and it explained the results of each experiment. We did a new experiment each day and discussed what the books said. It was so much fun, and my kids thought they were getting a great science education.
If you’re concerned about math at this age, go to the internet, my friend. There is a wealth of free help online, including free printable worksheets, online games, and parental helps. Even if you don’t have a computer, you can do this at the local library. You can use the computers, print, and sometimes, let the kids play educational games. Just do a search for whatever you want, and you will find it.

I also taught my oldest child her U.S. geography and state capitals for free using online resources. We found online games and quizzes that she played each day, and I made my own flashcards for the state capitals. She practiced those daily and in no time she had learned it all!
You can read about how I taught my 2nd child to read with practically nothing here.
 As your kids get older, it may seem harder, but if you are committed to homeschooling, trust God and let Him provide. You can do a co-op with another family. Borrow books from other homeschooling families. Trade books. Check used book sales. Teach them what you know. Ask a close friend or family member to tutor your child in what you don’t know. Check out educational videos at the library or Netflix. Join a local co-op and try to schedule your kids in subjects that are hard for them to get at home.
Although you may have your dream curriculum in mind, it might not be available to you during this season. Be open to what’s available and use it. Have fun with it. I bought a used copy of Learning Language Arts Through Literature because it was only $3 one time. It wasn’t my first choice, but we used it and my daughter really enjoyed it.
Make a list of the subjects you need, and then be on the lookout for how to fill that need in a very thrifty way.
We live in a very stuff-oriented society. So we think we need lotsa-stuff to teach our kids. But in reality, you can provide a few really good books and teach them how to learn, and they will take off.
Finally, don’t fall into the fear of grade levels. Grade levels are set up for public schools to teach many kids in an efficient manner. They are meant to make sure that everyone is learning the same thing, and so that parents feel secure that the kids are being taught. In your homeschool (depending on where you live, of course) it’s not about grade levels. It’s about learning. Period. So if your child doesn’t learn cursive until he’s 10, or doesn’t learn to read until he’s 12, it’s really okay. They WILL learn.
Here are a few last suggestions for pinching pennies and for getting school material creatively:
  • Sign up for Swagbucks and get Amazon products for FREE. I use my Swagbucks for all kinds of things on Amazon, including books. Well, mostly ALL books! It’s a free search engine that pays you to search and the rewards are real. I know of another blogger with EIGHT children who purchases lots of her curriculum with Swagbucks.
  • Save your pennies. Literally. I have a jar that I throw all my change in after purchases. When it’s full, I cash it in. This is my curriculum jar. Whatever the amount is, I put it toward new books.
  • If you get a tax refund each year, budget some of that for your books. Plan ahead, find good deals, set a budget, and stick to it.
  • Check the discount stores, like WalMart and Target for inexpensive learning materials. I actually found some really fun Barbie and Pooh workbooks for my younger kids at Dollar Tree for $1 each, and they loved them. Flash cards, writing practice, mazes, etc. are all easy to find at these stores.
  • Visit Book Samaritan online. They are a non-profit organization that helps homeschool families in need. I can vouch for these folks, because I was on the receiving end of their help a few years back. You simply tell them what books you would like to use, and they try to meet the need. No charge. It’s a great organization!
In my humble opinion, YOU, the parent are the best teacher your kids could ever have. All you need is a willing heart and a courageous attitude and you will find a way to teach your children through the rough times. Usually, the tight budget season doesn’t last forever, and when it’s over, you can begin to add to your school budget again.

Click here to read HOW and WHY we homeschool.

Read Part 2 here.
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