How to plan a FREE or {nearly} free Homeschool year

How to plan a FREE or {nearly} free Homeschool year

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Over the past few years, my goal has been to homeschool as frugally as possible. With 4 kids in the house, pricey curriculum just isn’t in the budget. So I have almost perfected our {nearly} free homeschool year.

Tips on homeschooling for free or nearly freeHomeschooling can be as expensive or as frugal as you make it. The first year we decided to homeschool, I went out and bought curriculum, manipulatives, books and pretty much anything – anything – I could find. While I found most of them at garage sales or on great sales, it is a really quick way to become a curriculum junkie. And not in a good way. Don’t ask me how I know.

But thankfully, there are several ways you can homeschool for free or {nearly} free without becoming a curriculum junkie! Here are some of my favorite tips and ways I have saved our family thousands of dollars on curriculum.

1. Decide your method of schooling – First, you need to decide which method of schooling you would like to use. There are 5 main styles – Traditional, Classical, Unschooling, Unit Studies and Charlotte Mason. I would also add Eclectic Homeschooling to the group, which brings the total to 6 main styles. We are definitely an Eclectic style of homeschooling in our house. While I have certain curriculum that works for our oldest, there are some that don’t mesh well with him so I pick and choose what works for both him and me. And now that we’re adding in preschool and Kindergarten this year, we will be even more Eclectic!

2. Decide your school year – Are you going to school the traditional Monday-Friday, except holidays until your 180 days (required in most states) are up or year-round? You could do a 6-1 where you school for 6 weeks and then take a week (sometimes two) off to plan and regroup, which also gives you a year-round homeschooling feel. When planning out the school year keep your method in mind, because some styles lend themselves to 5 days and some are flexible enough that you can easily get away with 4 days. First, I schedule our family trip home for Thanksgiving, other holidays, my husband’s days off (Fridays), birthdays (we give the kids their birthday off from school work and usually take a day trip somewhere special) and finally any family/friend visits planned. We homeschool Mon-Thurs since my husband is off on Fridays. We typically plan those as family days to spend together either at home or taking a special day trip somewhere.

3. Decide on your curriculum – Now that you have decided on a method and planned your school days, it’s time to pick out curriculum. Again, you will want to keep your method in mind when searching for curriculum, but here are a few tips that help me decide on what I need and want. How do you know what level to start your kids?

a. There are online tests that can help you evaluate where they are and what style of learning suits them. I found this extremely helpful for our oldest in the area of math. Starting out in Kindergarten, he tested nearly two levels ahead for math, which means he would have been bored out of his gourd if I had started on the lowest level.

b. You can observe them for several weeks using various methods of learning and see what works. This is a little more difficult and definitely more time consuming, but I think it does work. With our oldest we sorta jumped in blind, because he had attended preschool outside the home. But with the younger three, I have had them home with me since they were born. So observing them has been pretty natural.

c. Or just wing it, like I did – although, that’s not recommended. Other than the short math test I gave him, I pretty much used whatever I found in my hunt for bargains on curriculum. For some things – flash cards, memory games, alphabet learning – that’s okay. But for subjects with definite learning styles (i.e. math, science, history, etc.) the garage sale finds did not always work out so well. Needless to say, our first semester was a little rocky.

4. Search online – You have your method and curriculum picked, so now it’s time to find it! I always take to the internet first. Our philosophy is to buy used when we can, then buy on sale and finally, if all other avenues fail, buy it new. There are many ways to find used curriculum including, but not limited to: Facebook Groups geared toward the buying and selling of used curriculum, Facebook groups for your local homeschool chapter, Google+ groups specifically for buying and selling used curriculum and always check out Amazon! And don’t forget to hit up your homeschool friends with older children. We all need to purge our “inventory” every now and then!

5. Watch for Sales!! – Before you buy, make sure you have checked around and know your prices. Most of the time it’s cheaper to get a book used, but sometimes you might find it on sale BRAND NEW for only a few dollars more, which is much better in my opinion. I have created a simple and easy to use printables to help me track my curriculum wants, needs and pricing, which works for me. You can download them {free} from my site and learn more about how I organize my curriculum from researching to purchasing to storing it in the school room.

FINALLY…if you are really looking to homeschool for {free} it is possible! There are hundreds of sites that offer FREE printables in every subject imaginable. You can find many of them highlighted here at Frugal Homeschool Family daily. I also create fun seasonal and themed printables over at In All You Do. Another great source for finding printable freebies is Pinterest. Follow my Homeschool FREEbies Pinterest board to keep up with my own printables as well as those I find around the web.

What are your favorite tips for free or {nearly} free homeschooling?

Heather Bowen

Heather Bowen is the founder and owner of She and her husband live in North Carolina where they homeschool their two daughters. Heather is a former Labor & Delivery Nurse who traded in her scrubs and began blogging full-time in 2013. She is so glad you're visiting her blog today and hopes to connect with you!

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