Homeschool on a Budget
Excellence Without the Extra Cost
By Joy Kita
When you choose to homeschool your children, you are embarking on an adventure that will challenge your patience, enrich your relationships, and change the tone and rhythm of your days. There may be the occasional moments when you question the reliability of your sanity, but on the whole it is one decision that yields large pay-offs and little regret. It is also a decision that has the potential to become a monumental monetary investment. After all, a quality education is costly, right?
To get the best you must pay for the best—at least that is what some people/companies/curriculum providers might have you believe. Resist the urge to buy into the mentality that spending a lot of money is the first line of attack in educating your children, and take a moment to look at alternatives. You have choices—good choices that will elevate your child’s education to a higher level of learning and sophistication within a reasonable, frugal budget.
There are people in the world who believe that education should be free. These beliefs have led influential change-makers to create learning platforms that produce quality material for little to no cost. This is good news for the savvy homeschool family who wishes to teach and learn without the expensive price tags that adorn textbooks and classroom courses. Homeschooling on a budget for one child or ten is well within your reach.
Careful deliberation at the beginning of the year is essential to protect your wallet and time. Making a list of the subjects you wish to teach is a critical step. There may be a curriculum out there for everything, but that does not mean you need to purchase it.
Traditional schools have a rounded approach to learning: they teach a little bit of a lot of subjects to fill the gaps of time in a long day. You need not mimic the learning structure of public schools if another way suits you better.
If you identified the “core” of a child’s education, you would find yourself with three subjects to teach: math, reading, and writing. Other subjects are secondary to these, providing enrichment material that supplements and rounds out the learning journey. Curriculum publishers may offer an entire grade’s worth of supplies in a box, but that does not mean your child needs everything it supplies.
Math is an important subject, and many resources are available at different price levels. Workbooks are reasonably priced; the teacher’s manuals are not. Ask yourself if you need the teacher’s guide book. In the early years you may find that you do not. It is fine to go with the workbook only. As your child grows and the math becomes more challenging, you might consider purchasing an answer book rather than the teacher’s manual. Not everyone will need both.
Partner with another homeschooling family, buy together, and share. The Internet offers many websites that provide free printable worksheets to supplement textbook lessons. There are safe educational sites with math games to correspond with the material as well. Visual games can go a long way in providing clarity and understanding of many math concepts. Quick tip: Have your student write out his multiplication tables on index cards.
Reading is another critical component of your child’s education. There are families who rely solely on good literature to teach grammar, comprehension, spelling, and vocabulary with great success. Become friends with your local librarians, and take out stacks of books for free. Project Gutenberg is an online resource that offers thousands of great works of literature for free. Print what you need, or read straight from the computer. Visit garage sales, flea markets, and thrift stores in search of great bargains on books. Quick tip: Organize a simple book co-op with other families, sharing your resources for free.
Writing is an expansive, stand-alone subject that confuses a lot of people. What is its scope? How many books and workbooks do you need to teach all aspects of this subject adequately? Actually, writing is not a complicated subject, and you can teach it well with few outside resources.
Take the subject of spelling, for example. Word lists that correspond with grade-level readiness are available online. (Do not be fooled into thinking you must stay within the confines of the lists for specific grade levels.) Hunt for words that are suitable for your student/school to learn. Use a list of words that your student misspells to create a unique, personal list of words to master. Identify spelling words within the quality literature your students are reading. Haul out the dictionary for definitions and alphabetizing practice.
Copy Scripture verses for penmanship practice and memorization purposes. Read poetry and create your own.
Don’t forget about creative writing. Make writing jars from tea canisters, and then put the names of characters into one, a variety of potential settings into another, and types of conflicts in a third jar. Students can then draw out a single entry from each jar and write a story based on those prompts. Quick tip: Use portable chalk boards or white boards for writing practice or dictation for younger students.
The three R’s, reading, writing, and arithmetic, represent the bulk of your child’s education; the rest of the subjects provide enrichment. Fill your days with science and geography, history and art if you desire. These are great subjects to use for child-directed learning.
Ask your children what they want to learn about. Find out what they are curious about. Don’t just follow them into the rabbit hole; dig it for them.
10 Best Websites That Offer Quality Material . . . Free!
1. Quirks and Quarks—Award-winning radio science program that delves into topical science inquiries. http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/
2. Ted Talks—Site that hosts video presentations of ideas worth spreading, from innovative change-makers around the world. http://www.tedtalks.com/
3. Enchanted Learning—Treasure trove of printable material ranging from simple coloring pages to labelled diagrams. http://www.enchantedlearning.com/Home.html
4. Spelling Time—Award-winning interactive spelling program. http://www.spellingtime.com/
5. Old-Fashioned Education—Directory of free homeschool curricula. http://www.oldfashionededucation.com/
6. National Geographic—More than just a magazine! http://www.nationalgeographic.com 7. Seterra—Geography quiz game. http://www.seterra.net/ 8. NASA—Top science material. http://www.nasa.gov/
9. Khan Academy—Free world-class education with a focus on science and math. https://www.khanacademy.org/
10. Kids Know It—Educational fun for the young and young at heart. http://www.kidsknowit.com/
Joy Kita is a mother of four and is the blessed wife of Stan. She has been homeschoolingfor seven years and is currently the director of a thriving co-op with more than eighty children. She is an author specializing in adventures for boys. Her newest book, Fable Nation, will be released by Brighter Books in 2013. She stays motivated by her all-consuming love for the Father. You can read her blog, Fluorescent Fingerprints, at http://www.joyamykita.wordpress.com, and check out her innovative publisher: http://www.brighterbooks.com.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the August 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at http://www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at http://www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.