Saturday, August 21, 2010
Tuesday's Blog Cruise topic is how do you afford to homeschool and how do you save money while homeschooling. In once sense, we save money BY homeschooling because our second choice for schooling our children would be the local church school so we would have the tuition expense for that if we chose to STOP homeschooling. BUT . . . that aside, here are my thoughts on the topic.
We save money buy not buying expensive "boxed curriculum" and textbooks. The internet provides so many options, and we prefer to use more of a delight driven approach anyway (we choose topics that are of interest to one or more of the children).
If I find a free downloadable resources, I save it, whether I think we'll ever use it or not. Homeschool Freebie of the Day has a freebie every weekday, I check it daily and I'm not sure I've ever NOT downloaded it. Currclick offers a weekly freebie they also have special promotions a few times a year where they have lots of freebies, if you sign up for their mailing list, you'll know when they are. The Old Schoolhouse Store has a Free section, that I check every so often, there's also a link there to sign up for TOS's special offers list, which gives you 2 free ebooks a month. And again, being signed up for TOS's mailing list will notify you when they have other promotions that often include free, or greatly discounted products.
Over the last couple of years I have collected a huge amount of resources, if the children say they want to study xyz, I just search on my computer and often can find what we need.
Even though we school year-round, I make sure to buy any school supplies that I know we'll need, during the back-to-school sales, basics likes glue sticks, paper, crayons and markers are generally much less during the back-to-school sales.
Ask about homeschool discounts. In most cases I've found that it just means I sign up for their "teacher discount" program. But it can often save a small percentage off of purchases &/or they send you coupons. Craft supply stores (AC Moore, Michaels, etc) and bookstores like Borders and Barnes & Nobles are good places to check. Also, teacher supply stores.
Remember to save the pennies too. My kids could go through REAMS of paper with their craft projects and writing stories and such. Whenever any of us print things out one-sided and then don't need them, we put the paper in a bin, and that's the paper the kids can use as much as they want, whenever they want. They generally don't care about the printing on the back and it's paper that would have been recycled otherwise. Also, if I know they'll need extra practice on something, like handwriting, I'll slide the page into a plastic page protector and then have them write on the page protector with a dry erase marker, rather than having them go through several pages of paper.
We use our library whenever we can. And when we need books that aren't in the library, I try to order them used from half.com Amazon sells used books too, but you have to pay full shipping on each used item. Half.com gives a discount on shipping if you order more than one item from the same seller. So I keep a list of all the books I'd LIKE to have, then when we need a specific book for something, I find the lowest price on half.com and then check that seller (which is typically a company that sells old library books and has lots of books available) for all the other books on my wish list, often I can find at least a few, at $1-$2 each, and then combine the shipping, for further savings.
Library and Educational Services is another site we love. It's a site that provides wholesale/discount prices for books and other media for schools, churches, etc. And homeschoolers can sign up for an account too.
Another way to save money is to buy memberships to zoos and museums. Last fall we had an extra day in Columbus, OH on our way back from Indiana (visiting family), and we decided to take the kids to the science museum there. Even though we didn't figure we'd be back in Columbus within a year, the membership was reciprocal with other science museums all over the country, so we decided to buy a year's membership instead of just the one day passes (the year's membership was less than 2 days entrance for the 4 of us, Little Bit of course was free). So far this year, in addition to our day at the COSI museum in Columbus, we have spent 3 days at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, 3 days at the Children's Museum in Pittsburgh, 2 days at the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, and an afternoon at the small museum in our own hometown. Needless to say, the purchase of that membership has been well worth the money.
Keep your ears open for other homeschool deals. Colonial Williamsburg in VA holds a 2 week "homeschool days" every spring and fall, during those dates homeschoolers can go to Colonial Williamsburg for a FRACTION of the normal admission fee AND there are extra demonstrations and hands-on activities planned during that time as well.
All of these are things we've done to keep costs down. And even in these things, it can be adjusted based on budget. Obviously, if we couldn't afford the science museum membership, we wouldn't have HAD to go to science museums. Since we could, we made the money stretch as far as possible by getting the membership instead of a one day pass. Combine trips, all those days I mentioned at Philadelphia and Pittsburgh museums, were when my husband was working in one of those cities anyway, we just traveled with him, his company paid the hotel, so that saved that cost, and in addition to the fun of the museums, and getting time with Daddy in the evenings, we had an indoor pool for the children to play in.
When you do buy resources, try to get things used, and try to plan things that can be reused. After A1 and A2 fell in love with the Little House books when we read them for bedtime stories, I decided to go ahead and buy a year-long unit study on the Little House books. I bought it and we used it last year, adjusting things as needed because they were younger than the recommended age, BUT they enjoyed it, and now we have everything and can re-use it in a few years when the big girls are old enough to do the more advanced activities and Little Bit will be old enough to enjoy the stories and easier activities by then. So we'll get 2 years (at least) out of that purchase. And who knows, Little Bit may choose to use it again when she's in the recommended age range (3rd to 6th grade). I'm also loaning it to a friend this year, so that's another year's use someone can get out of it.
Think of ways to make things yourself, or make do. When I was at a teacher supply store last week, I saw teh CUTEST "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" set! It was a big palm tree with velcro letters to stick to the tree, I loved it! Little Bit already loves the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom book, BUT rather than spending the money on it, I filed the idea away and at some point will figure out and make something similar. perhaps just a felt tree with felt letters, but I'd love to have a 3-D tree like that one was, we shall see . . .similarly, there were some cute games for improving fine motor skills where you use plastic tongs to "feed" the monkey plastic bananas (or whatever), even my 7 yr olds thought it looked fun, but instead of buying a $20 game, I ordered some of the plastic tongs from a homeschool site, when they get here we can design our own games with dried beans or whatever. . .
I honestly believe that, if we needed to, we could homeschool for several years without any "cost" just by using the free resources I've collected, and other free options (there would be some "school supplies" needed, but those are needed for school children too). Remember, you don't need math manipulatives, you can teach your children to count using tomatoes as they help pick them from the garden, or gravel in the driveway or little toys you already have. My children are learning fractions by helping to cook. As they get older, I sometimes have them help me to do the calculations to double or halve a recipe to further learn fractions. They learn to read by reading "real" books that we have or get from the library. They practice their writing by copying Bible verses. . . nature is all around us and provides a lovely science curriculum free for the taking. If we don't