We all want the best for our children. The best education, the best home, the best food, etc. But in this modern society, the best usually means expensive. However, as stay-at-home moms, we often are required to live within a strict budget. Most families need two incomes just to cover the expenses of raising a family. And we have made the choice to give up that second income in order to stay home with the children. So how can we homeschool on a budget?
If we are living on a strict budget, does this mean we need to sacrifice high-quality education? I think not. In fact, with access to the internet and a library, I think it is entirely possible to homeschool your entire family on a budget of less than $50 per month.
Here are the 5 things that can help you learn how to homeschool on a budget. Some of these are a bit expensive initially. But the investment will help you keep the long-term, yearly cost down.
- A Budget
- Ambleside Online
- Books & Ebooks (Kindle, computer)
- PDF curriculum (Printer)
- Laminating Machine
The first seems a little obvious. If we are already living on a budget, of course, we need to homeschool on a budget as well. However, what I mean by this is that we need to be intentional in our use of the money for homeschooling.
We need to be looking for ways to fit the curriculum into our budget and not our budget into our curriculum. If you can easily afford a full curriculum on your husband’s salary this is not really for you. However, if you are already living paycheck to paycheck, you need to find a way to include the education of your children into the budget without taxing an already tight bank account.
The Charlotte Mason method is a great method for a small budget. Because it is reliant on living books and reading for learning, supplies can be gotten fairly cheaply. Simply plan out the year with the supplies needed. You can space out your purchases throughout the year by simply buying them as they are introduced.
This works particularly well if you are using the next resource.
This really is one of the best resources to homeschool on a budget. Especially if you want to use the Charlotte Mason method. I’ve spoken a little about Ambleside Online in my post, Bilingual Charlotte Mason Method. It is an entirely free homeschool curriculum. A yearly schedule is available for each year from 1st grade up until the last year of high school.
By using Ambleside, you not only save on money but you save on time. Because the year is already laid out for each term, you do not have to spend extra time trying to schedule for each subject. The hard part is done for you.
All that you are required to do is assemble the resources. They give you the list and even where you may find a free copy. If it is unavailable as a free resource, they will give you links where you may purchase it.
But don’t disregard the library. Often, you will be able to find a copy of the book you are looking for in your local library. Be aware, however, that books are usually scheduled over an entire term and sometimes over an entire year. If you are borrowing from the library, you may need to renew or reschedule the book to fit into the times when it is available to you.
This just leaves the cost of supplies such as paper, notebooks, pens, and pencils. Things that do not cost too much by themselves.
Which leads to the next resource on the list.
Books & Ebooks
If you are trying to homeschool on a budget, you should use living books, not textbooks. If you went to university, you know the high cost of textbooks. But living books can be found for much less. A used bookstore can have a large collection of great books for ridiculously low prices. I would even go so far as to say that the older books are often better for education than the newer ones. I once bought a stack of 15 classics for less than $5.
But books can also be borrowed from the library for next to nothing (depending on the cost of your library card). This comes in handy when there is a book you really want to use for your lessons but it costs more than $20 and you just don’t have that in your budget. (Please note the warning above in regards to the Ambleside schedule.)
However, if you aren’t picky about using physical books only (like I used to be), ebooks can be an even cheaper option. There are multiple ways you can use these with varying prices.
The first is entirely free (as long as you have internet access and an e-reader of some sort). Project Gutenberg is my favorite website for finding valuable classic books for nothing. If a book is no longer protected by copyright laws, chances are it can be found on gutenberg.org as a free download.
Some great examples for books we are currently using in my homeschool are The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, An Island Story by HE Marshall, and Secrets of the Woods by William J Long. Just using these 3 books in our school teaches literature, history and nature study (science) for an entire semester.
The files can be downloaded for free and read either straight off the computer or by using an e-reader of some sort. Like the Kindle.
Now, purchasing a Kindle can be a bit of a stretch to the budget. Even the cheapest, simplest version is nearly $100. However, it is an investment that I highly recommend. I bought mine over 5 years ago and have yet to have a problem. Plus, I can use it to read for pleasure or in school. I wrote a little more about how I use Kindle in our homeschool in my post, 10 Favorite French Resources.
If, however, you do not want to purchase a Kindle and already own either a computer or a smartphone, I would recommend a membership with Scribd. This is basically an online library that gives access to both ebooks and audiobooks for a monthly fee. It is not too expensive at $8.99 per month and has hundreds of thousands of books (new and classic) to choose from. I personally love this since I do not have easy access to English books in France and often can’t find them in the library.
If you need workbooks or worksheets, I would suggest looking for resources in PDF to allow you to homeschool on a budget. Homeschools have never been so well represented as today. With the number of homeschool bloggers and even teachers creating and selling educational resources, you can teach just about anything using only PDF printable documents. If you already have a printer at home and use HP Ink, it can even be fairly inexpensive. Otherwise, taking your PDFs to places like Staples can be a manageable expense.
Online stores like Teachers Pay Teachers offer work for a minimum price. What is great about buying these files instead of workbooks is that once you own the file, you can print as many copies as you would like for your family. Unlike a workbook which either must be photocopied or bought for the next child, you can use it over and over. I especially like some of the more fun resources that can be found like puzzles, games, and mazes.
If you have an abundance of time on your hands (forgive me while I laugh hysterically) you could probably even find an entire curriculum in free PDFs. Searching through the deals at Teachers Pay Teachers, and on every homeschool website out there, I’m sure it is possible. But I wouldn’t recommend it. The inexpensive price (usually between $3-5) is usually worth it for the time it would take to scour the net looking for all the deals.
Which brings us to our last resource.
Now, this last resource to homeschool on a budget is not really a necessity. However, it is a personal favorite of mine for some of the tools that I use in my homeschool, specifically the PDFs I mentioned above. Instead of printing these files each time my children want to play, I just laminate it and we have the game for a while.
My children love mazes. But I don’t always like printing copies over and over. Instead, I print one copy, laminate it, and the children use whiteboard markers to trace the answer and then erase it to use another day. Or I’ll print out a puzzle, laminate the pieces, and they can solve the puzzle multiple times.
The price of laminating machines is ridiculous compared to where it was when I was young. I use a machine similar to this one found on Amazon. And I can often find sheets at some of our local discount stores like Aldi. But even the sheets available from Amazon are not priced too badly. One pack of 50 sheets can last for nearly an entire school year. For me, it is worth the initial investment.
It is entirely possible to homeschool cheaply. This is especially important for families who have made the decision to live on one income in order for one parent to stay home with the children. These 5 resources can help if you are trying to figure out how to homeschool on a budget. Each one can help you save money in the long run and can be used for multiple children.