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Let Frugality Enrich Your Homeschooling


How much does it cost to homeschool?

It’s hard to say for sure--there are likely as many answers as there are homeschooling families. It’s possible to spend quite a bit on curriculum materials, office and organizational supplies, lessons, and field trips. But what if your family’s budget is more limited? Can you still provide a good education for your children, especially if, like many homeschooling families, you are already living on a single income?


It is possible to homeschool very frugally, though what this might look like will vary. Some families will have fewer expenses than others, some will have more to spend, and every year will bring its own unique needs and circumstances. Nonetheless, it’s possible for families in just about every situation to enjoy a more simplified approach to homeschooling.

Of course, every family will have need of the most basic necessities: pencils and paper to write with, seasonally-appropriate clothing, nourishing food, transportation, and the like. For most families these days, a computer could also be considered a necessity. There may also be yearly paperwork or testing fees to take into consideration. These are the most basic non-negotiables: the “first tier” of necessary expenses. 

I would consider the “second tier” of necessary expenses to be those things, beyond the basic necessities, that are unique priorities for your own family. For some families this might be piano or karate lessons. For others it might be art supplies, a museum membership, or a favorite magazine subscription.  Perhaps an older teen is interested in taking some classes at a local community college, or maybe you have several small children and would like to invest in some beautiful, sturdy toys and books that can be handed down to be enjoyed by multiple siblings in turn. Maybe it’s a favorite curriculum that’s on your list--in our family, we have a favorite math curriculum that we add new levels to each year. Once you have determined these things, whatever they may be, you can set aside the necessary funds.

Now for the fun part: creative frugality! There are so many free or low-cost things to do that it would be overwhelming to list them all. Instead, let’s focus on two basic categories: local community resources, and online/distance resources.


Community Resources

The local public library is probably one of the greatest local resources most families will have at their disposal. Aside from the obvious delightful research possibilities, it’s also a great place to learn about other community resources and events. Chat with librarians and with other patrons, and check bulletin boards for postings about things you might find interesting! Many libraries also have groups and activities for older kids and teens, in addition to the classic younger kids’ storytimes.

Meeting up with local homeschooling groups in your area can be another great way to get to know other families. Not only can you and your children meet new people and find support and encouragement among like-minded friends, but you can also benefit from each other’s unique talents by teaming up on educational co-ops or similar arrangements. It’s also possible to arrange outings and field trips together, often for a group discount.

In fact, in general, family, neighbors, and friends can also be great people to learn from. Perhaps you have an aunt who longs to teach people to knit, a friend who tends horses, or a grandfather who loves baking bread or woodworking.  Are any of your family members veterans, or retired from careers your kids find intriguing? Do you know anyone who was raised in another country, or who has stories to share about their travels? Does anyone you know speak a second (or third) language? Maybe that friendly neighbor with the huge flourishing garden would enjoy some help picking weeds (and some company!) as you learn together about how delicious things grow? You can barter some of your own time and skills too--everyone has something good to offer!

When it comes to supplies, thrift stores, garage sales, and library book sales are great places to find all kinds of neat materials very inexpensively. Your children will love to explore alongside you, finding dress-up clothes, toys, nifty housewares, and things to use to build and create art. 

Additionally, many small businesses and family farms will periodically offer tours, lessons, and open houses. These can be great chances to learn and have fun (and support small businesses!) without having to travel very far. During the summer, see if your local parks are offering any family events--where we’ve lived, various parks have hosted small festivals, sports, games, live music, and even outdoor movie nights! 



Online Resources

The internet can also be a great resource. On a purely pragmatic level, it’s a convenient way to find out what the homeschooling regulations are like where you live: What are the mandatory school ages? Will you need to file paperwork? What are the standardized testing policies? 

It’s also a great way to learn about, purchase, and swap books and other curriculum materials--and to discuss them and read reviews before you do, so you’re more likely to buy the things your family will actually use and enjoy. There are groups, forums, blogs, and other sites devoted to curricula, methods, and supplies, as well as for general discussion, inspiration, and support. 

There are also a number of websites where you can find helpful printouts--calendars, book logs, worksheets, foldables, games, and coloring pages--either for free or for a modest fee. If you are so inclined, there are also a number of sites featuring interactive games for both younger and older children, some of which are surprisingly open-ended and creative.

In addition, many large collections of older books have been gathered and digitized by a number of organizations and have been made available for reading online or for download to an e-reader. Since all of these books are old enough to be out of copyright, it means that many of the classics, as well as other old favorites (and new favorites), can be found for free! While paper books do have their advantages, this is still a great way to access lots of wonderful material.

Online tutorials are another treasury waiting to be tapped: there are scores of websites and videos about all kinds of things, from astronomy to pasta-making to embroidery. It’s so easy for a simple question at the dinner table to turn into a new interest or hobby when your research can begin right away at home and be continued at just about any time. So many spontaneous conversations can be unexpectedly fruitful, as your natural curiosity leads you to explore each topic together, making connections between subjects and thinking of new questions and activities. 

Ultimately, there are so many things that children freely learn when their days are spent in an atmosphere of peaceful wonder, surrounded by interesting things to see and do--and the opportunity to pursue them!  And while this environment may include as many formal lessons and purchased curricula as are right for your family’s circumstances, they need not be the only components. As it happens, many of the things that create this environment cost very little money, and incorporating them into your days isn’t just a way to “fill in gaps” or to save money in a way that is somehow second-rate or austere; but is instead a very natural way to enrich your days. And finally, a lifestyle of simplicity and frugality is itself valuable, as children practice resourcefulness, creativity, and a variety of practical skills that will continue to serve them well as they learn throughout their lives. 

About the Author
Liz Gauvain
Author: Liz Gauvain
is a starry-eyed, scone-baking wife and mom of five, each one with their own distinct personality! She enjoys knitting things to keep people warm, having good conversations, learning about whatever catches her interest, and sneaking in some writing whenever she gets a chance.

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