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Is it Really Possible to Homeschool for Cheap or Even Free?
It’s the time of year when families, who homeschool their children or who are considering homeschooling their children, think ahead to next school year.
For us personally, there are 8 weeks left in our school year (what??), and while that is a good feeling, it has me looking ahead. I could give you curriculum suggestions, and I might at some point. But I’d like to tell you today that you really can homeschool for wayyy cheaper than you think might be possible.
A Glimpse at Our Last Two Years Homeschooling Cost
I am a total nerd, so I keep a record of each year’s money spent on curriculum. The last couple of years have looked something like this:
- 2021-2022 school year, roughly $690.
- 6 kids, grades kindergarten through 12th
- 2022-2023 school year, roughly $660.
- 5 kids, grades 1st through 9th
**These numbers include all math, all readers, all read alouds, all subjects, and even school supplies.
***It is important to note that because we have been homeschooling for over a decade, some books we don’t have to repurchase. For instance, we have collected all of the Math U See books from Primer to Zeta (which we use for elementary grades). That means I only have to purchase the student consumables pack each year, which is much cheaper than buying the whole set.
There have been expensive years, especially when we first started, and I had no idea how to make it work. In those years, I used a boxed curriculum, and I don’t regret it one bit. However, those years ran just about as much as what I mentioned above–for only two children.
>>If you need to buy a curriculum that is laid out for you, do it. And don’t feel bad about it! The best ones we have used are by far Sonlight and My Father’s World. It was not because we didn’t enjoy them that we stopped using them. I just had so many kids in different stages of life that I couldn’t keep up, and truthfully, neither could our wallets.
And then there was the year of the expensive high school biology curriculum. The books were on the expensive side, but we also purchased dissection kits and a microscope. The good news is that everything except the dissection kits are reusable, and we’ve kept them all these years.
But can school, even high school, be taught without these expenses?
The short answer is yes!
The long answer? Well, here goes….
The truth is in many states, the homeschool laws are very gracious and allow the parent to teach children in their own way, at their own pace, and at their own discretion.
Our state gives no specifics. Only that 1) math, reading, language arts, history, and science be taught; 2) we school 4.5 hours a day; 3) our school year is 180 days; and 4) we write a progress report of sorts each year for each student. According to our state laws, none of this has to be turned in–simply kept on file.
If your state’s laws are like ours, that is great for you! That means you can choose what to teach and when to teach it, so long as it’s done.
We are firm believers in Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. I recently discussed the three main reasons we were drawn to the Charlotte Mason way of education. Miss Mason believed that we, as parents, should provide a feast for the mind of our children in the way of living books.
But if it’s a feast, meaning a lot of books from a lot of subjects, won’t that be expensive? It could be, but it certainly doesn’t have to be.
So how do you homeschool for cheap or even free?
I’ll share my favorite places to get books, both new and used, audiobooks, and even free curriculum.
Where to Get Books:
We live in a society where it is easy to get your hands on good books!
You have big bookstores where you can buy new and used books–you know the ones:
- Barnes and Nobles
- ChristianBook – My personal favorite!
There are used bookstores:
- Thrift Books
- Homeschool Used Book – Support other homeschool families! (My favorite place to buy used!)
- Ebay – Though not technically a bookstore, you can find great deals on used boxed curriculum sets here.
And there are places to buy books that are more difficult to find:
- Yesterday’s Classics (I love this store! They have many out of print books for reasonable prices, which they print when you order.)
Ways to Get Free Books:
There are a number of ways to access completely free books!
Your local library
A great resource is the library if you don’t want to buy books.
But really, who are you if you don’t love buying books?? (Kidding. Just kidding.) I confess–I have a serious problem when it comes to books. Buying them.
Your library system has so much to offer. You can get books through interlibrary loan, and it’s very likely that your library has a digital library book program, which, by the way, is a great way to get your hands on free audiobooks.
There are also many, many books in the public domain you can access (and download) as audiobooks from LibriVox.
I have not personally used this site before, but it provides some neat lists and formats that will work on your Kindle. I will be using this next year!
Don’t forget that Amazon also has many public domain books you can download for Kindle.
7 Sisters is a curriculum website that offers literature study guides as well as other resources. Some are free, but I also highly recommend their other low cost literature guides. Two free ones we have used:
And if you have no idea how to put it all together, here are two completely free whole curriculum sets that I have used before:
- Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool – This is the curriculum that I used to teach my reluctant reader to read after a year or more trying to teach sight words and phonics. It worked beautifully for this child!
- Ambleside Online – A completely Charlotte Mason style curriculum by year.
The year we used Easy Peasy Homeschool, we had very little–as in almost no–money to spend on curriculum, and besides actual school supplies like paper, pencils, notebooks, and markers, we didn’t buy a thing! We followed the curriculum, using the resources they provided or suggested and books from our local library.
Why did we stop using Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool? I just couldn’t keep everyone monitored with having a toddler and a newborn. I also found that I would much rather decide on our course of study myself. More on how you can do that in the post about how to choose books for your homeschool.
Do not let the idea of cost keep you from homeschooling. There will be some expenses involved, but remember how much money you will save by not having to buy school clothes or gas for the carpool. 😉
School can be as simple as choosing subjects you want to study, finding books about those subjects, and reading them together. Homeschool doesn’t have to look like public school, and in fact it shouldn’t. It was when I stopped stressing about making it look like school, and enjoyed reading and learning alongside my children that I began to love homeschooling them!
And it cost me a lot less money!