How to Homeschool without Spending a Fortune

How to Start Using Montessori at Home
Montessori Monday – DIY Cards and Counters
North America Pin Map Activity (Photo from We Don't Need No Education)

North America Pin Map Activity (Photo from We Don’t Need No Education)

My kids are already grown, so it’s too late for me to save money while homeschooling. But I’ve learned a few things from homeschooling my kids through high school and doing lots of online research since then.

Homeschooling options are almost unlimited now, so you can even homeschool for free. While completely free usually isn’t the best option, you can homeschool inexpensively.

Of course, if inexpensive options feel overwhelming to you, you can save yourself time and avoid hassles by spending more and purchasing more ready-made curriculum. You just have to find the right balance between saving money and saving time. They’re both valuable. If it were me, I would pick and choose ways to save money that fit my style of teaching and my kids’ learning styles.

Here are some ways to save money that can be used according to what feels right for you and your family:

Read reviews and talk to other homeschoolers before purchasing curriculum.

This is extremely helpful, and you can do a Google search of almost any curriculum to find reviews online. There’s even a site called Homeschool Reviews. I attended homeschooling conferences and read books like Cathy Duffy’s 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. Now Cathy Duffy has lots of reviews online, too, at Cathy Duffy Reviews. There are also many reviews at The Old Schoolhouse. If you Google homeschool reviews you’ll find links to many more homeschool reviewers as well.

There are wonderful homeschool groups online. Here are links to some homeschool groups and other groups I network with: The Wonderful World of Online Communities.

There are some Montessori material reviews in the comments section of this post and a linked post: Where to Buy Montessori Materials. Many of the Montessori materials listed are inexpensive versions that are suitable for home use or are inexpensive printables that can be used to create attractive and effective Montessori materials.

Parts of a Bird Activity  (Photo from Discovery Days and Montessori Moments)

Parts of a Bird Activity (Photo from Discovery Days and Montessori Moments)

Montessori Print Shop has a section of reviews of their materials, such as the review at Discovery Days and Montessori Moments of Bird Nomenclature 3-Part Cards (adding a felt bird and showing how they’re used at home). Here’s a post showing a hands-on activity for elementary level: North America Pin Map from We Don’t Need No Education using inexpensive Montessori printables (photo at top of this post).

With homeschool reviews, it’s important to keep in mind your homeschooling orientation and the homeschooling orientation of the reviewers. Some curriculums that were highly recommended wouldn’t have worked at all for me or my family. We needed a strong emphasis on Montessori and/or unit studies, “living books,” and hands-on learning. A standard textbook – no matter how good – wasn’t the best choice for us.

If you do your research, you’re more likely to find a curriculum that works for you and can be supplemented easily with materials found online that you can use to add life to your curriculum. That beats buying lots of different curriculums, trying to find the best one. It’s always possible to get the wrong curriculum anyway, but that’s probably part of homeschooling and education in general.

Recycle your homeschool materials.

As much as your children’s learning styles will allow it, pass your curriculum down to your younger children or sell it online or at a homeschool curriculum fair. Even though I only had two children, I was able to pass down most of my son’s homeschool materials to my daughter.

I actually had a whole Montessori school full of materials that I was extremely lucky to pass on to my children before selling. When they were older, I had a huge sale with invitations to Montessori school owners along with the general public.

Hip Homeschool Moms ButtonNow, you can sell used Montessori materials and almost any homeschooling materials online. Hip Homeschool Moms even has free homeschool classifieds where you can buy, sell, or trade homeschool materials. There are also Yahoo groups for selling materials online.

When your children are young, many materials can be used, put away for a while, and reintroduced again later. Many Montessori materials can also be stored and reused when your children are older. Cards and activities with zoological classifications, leaf shapes, constellations, etc., are great as supplements later on.

Use free or inexpensive printables and make your own materials.

Montessori-Inspired Homeschool Preschool Activities (Photo from Fun with Mama)

Montessori-Inspired Homeschool Preschool Activities (Photo from Fun with Mama)

I used to create Montessori trays totally by hand, which I loved to do. Unfortunately, I’m terrible at drawing and had to find materials to trace or cut out. Today, it’s easy to create professional-looking activity trays in very little time by downloading free printables. You can typically find hands-on objects to go with the trays inexpensively around the house, at garage sales, in thrift stores, or at hobby stores. The trays in the photo above used free printables for some of the activities in a letter B theme from Fun with Mama.

Examples of activities that can be put together easily at home (Photo by Julie at The Adventures of Bear)

Examples of activities that can be put together easily at home (Photo by Julie at The Adventures of Bear)

How to Set Up a Montessori Homeschool Classroom has links to many Montessori resources and ideas for Montessori activities that can be prepared inexpensively for home use. There are links to LOTS AND LOTS of ideas for inexpensive homeschool activities, such as the ones shown in the photo from The Adventures of Bear.

Here are links to some amazing free printables available online:

Spelling using star beads and free printables (Photo from Explore and Express)

Spelling using star beads and free printables (Photo from Explore and Express)

Free Montessori Materials Online (example in photo from Explore and Express)

Match the Coins Activity using a free printable (Photo from 1+1+1=1)

Match the Coins Activity using a free printable (Photo from 1+1+1=1)

Free Preschool Printables for Activity Trays (Including kindergarten printables such as the one in the photo from 1+1+1=1)

You can also make many materials that don’t require printables. There are links to many ideas for making your own Montessori materials in this post: How to Make Your Own Montessori Materials. Because Montessori materials can be expensive to purchase, you can make many of your own or substitute materials that will achieve the same purpose.

Montessori at HomeJohn Bowman’s e-book Montessori at Home: The Complete Guide to Doing Montessori Early Learning Activities at Home has many ideas, printables, and links for using Montessori education inexpensively at home during the preschool/early-elementary years. The e-book itself is only $8.95 and is a newly revised edition with 296 pages filled with activities and ideas!

Here are posts with links to worksheets that are generally used for elementary and older:

Free Homeschooling Worksheets from Homeschool-Curriculum.org

Worksheets from Homeschooling Adventures

Free Math Worksheets from HomeschoolMath.net

Oklahoma Homeschool (free homeschool forms and worksheets by Cindy Downes)

Check out fantastic finds.

2-D figure - toothpick hexagon (Photo from Learning Workroom K-8)

2-D figure – toothpick hexagon (Photo from Learning Workroom K-8)

There are so many amazing resources available online. I have a whole category of posts called Fantastic Finds. Check out the posts for many free homeschooling resources: Fantastic Finds. There are sites like Learning Workroom K-8 with whole themes of materials (photo from Learning Workroom K-8 post Geometry: Making 2-D Shapes with Manipulatives).

Be creative for high school and beyond.

Consider what type of high school experience is best for your student. Here are links to posts about what we used: Homeschool High School. Using AP courses and concurrent high school/college courses can give your high schooler a head start on college and take care of high school credits at the same time. My daughter LOVED being a concurrent high school/college student for a couple of courses.

A very helpful resource is the free online Khan Academy with a “library of over 2,400 videos covering everything from arithmetic to physics, finance, and history and 180 practice exercises.”

If you’d like to know more about Khan Academy, watch this video:

YouTube Preview Image

Free World U is a free online Pre-K-12 accredited school. There are many other online courses and schools as well.

Academic Earth has “online courses from the world’s top scholars.”

MIT OpenCourseWare is a web-based publication of “virtually all MIT course content. OCW is open and available to the world and is a permanent MIT activity.”

There are more resources at Top Ten Tools for a Free Online Education from Lifehacker.

What are your favorite ways to save money while homeschooling?


Linked with The Mommy Club Resources and Solutions at Milk and Cuddles and Crystal & Co. , Pinterest Tuesday, Show-and-Share Saturday, Link & Learn, and The Sunday Showcase at Mom to 2 Posh Lil Divas and Classified: Mom.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting with the theme “Money Matters.” This month our participants have shared how finances affect their parenting choices. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

Visit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Money Matter$ — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares her experiences on several ways to save money as a parent.
  • A different kind of life… — Mrs Green from Little Green Blog shares her utopian life and how it differs from her current one!
  • Show Me The Money! — Arpita of Up, Down & Natural shares her experience of planning for parenting costs while also balancing the financial aspect of infertility treatments.
  • Material v Spiritual Wealth – Living a Very Frugal Life with Kids — Amy at Peace 4 Parents shares her family’s realizations about the differences between material and spiritual wealth.
  • If I Had a Money Tree — Sheila at A Gift Universe lists the things she would buy for her children if money were no object.
  • Financial Sacrifices, Budgets, and the Single Income Family — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama looks at the importance of living within your means, the basics of crafting a budget, and the “real cost” of working outside of the home.
  • Overcoming My Fear of All Things Financial — Christine at African Babies Don’t Cry shares how she is currently overcoming her fear of money and trying to rectify her ignorance of all things financial.
  • Confessions of a Cheapskate — Adrienne at Mommying My Way admits that her cheapskate tendencies that were present pre-motherhood only compounded post-baby.
  • Money MattersWitch Mom hates money; here’s why.
  • Money? What Money?! — Alicia C. at McCrenshaw’s Newest Thoughts describes how decisions she’s made have resulted in little income, yet a green lifestyle for her and her family.
  • What matters. — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life might worry about spending too much money on the grocery budget, but she will not sacrifice quality to save a dollar.
  • Making Ends Meet — Abbie at Farmer’s Daughter shares about being a working mom and natural parent.
  • Poor People, Wealthy Ways — Sylvia at MaMammalia discusses how existing on very little money allows her to set an example of how to live conscientiously and with love.
  • The Green Stuff — Amyables at Toddler In Tow shares how natural parenting has bettered her budget – and her perspective on creating and mothering.
  • Jemma’s Money — Take a sneak peek at That Mama Gretchen’s monthly budget and how Jemma fits into it.
  • 5 Tips for How to Save Time and Money by Eating Healthier — Family meal prep can be expensive and time-consuming without a plan! Dionna at Code Name: Mama shares five easy tips for how to make your cooking life (and budget) easier.
  • Belonging in the Countryside — Lack of money led Phoebe at Little Tinker Tales towards natural parenting, but it also hinders her from realizing her dream.
  • Total Disclosure and Total Reform — Claire at The Adventures of Lactating Girl gets down to the nitty gritty of her money problems with hopes that you all can help her get her budget under control.
  • Save Money by Using What You Have — Gaby at Tmuffin is only good with money because she’s lazy, has trouble throwing things away, and is indecisive. Here are some money-saving tips that helped her manage to quit her job and save enough money to become a WAHM.
  • Two Hippos & Ten Euros: A Lesson in BudgetingMudpieMama shares all about how her boys managed a tight budget at a recent zoo outing.
  • ABBA said it — Laura from A Pug in the Kitchen ponders where her family has come from, where they are now and her hopes for her children’s financial future.
  • Money vs. TimeMomma Jorje writes about cutting back on junk, bills, and then ultimately on income as well ~ to gain something of greater value: Time.
  • An Unexpected Cost of Parenting — Moorea at MamaLady shares how medical crises changed how she feels about planning for parenthood.
  • 5 Ways This Stay at Home Mom Saves Money — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares 5 self-imposed guidelines that help her spend as little money as possible.
  • Frugal Parenting — Lisa at My World Edenwild shares 8 ways she saves money and enriches her family’s lives at the same time.
  • Conscious Cash Conscious — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares her 5 money-conscious considerations that balance her family’s joy with their eco-friendly ideals.
  • Money, Sex and Having it All — Patti at Jazzy Mama explains how she’s willing to give up one thing to get another. (And just for fun, she pretends to give advice on how to build capital in the bedroom.)
  • Money could buy me … a clone? — With no local family to help out, Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wants childcare so she can take care of her health.
  • Spending IntentionallyCatholicMommy loves to budget! Join her to learn what to buy, what not to buy, and, most importantly, where to buy.
  • New lessons from an allowance — Lauren at Hobo Mama welcomes a follow-up guest post from Sam about the latest lessons their four-year-old’s learned from having his own spending money.
  • How to Homeschool without Spending a Fortune — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares tips and links to many resources for saving money while homeschooling from preschool through high school.
  • It’s Not a Baby Crisis. It’s Not Even a Professional Crisis. — Why paid maternity leave, you may ask? Rachael at The Variegated Life has some answers.
  • “Making” Money — Do you like to do-it-yourself? Amy at Anktangle uses her crafty skills to save her family money and live a little greener.
  • Money On My Mind — Luschka at Diary of a First Child has been thinking about money and her relationship with it, specifically how it impacts on her parenting, her parenting choices, and ultimately her lifestyle.
  • Spending, Saving, and Finding a Balance — Melissa at The New Mommy Files discusses the various choices she and her family have made that affect their finances, and finds it all to be worth it in the end.
  • Accounting for Taste — Cassie at There’s a Pickle in My Life shares their budget and talks about how they decided food is the most important item to budget for.
  • Money Matters… But Not Too Much — Mamapoekie at Authentic Parenting shares how her family approaches money without putting too much of a focus onto it.
  • Parenting While Owning a Home Business — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, Lauren at Hobo Mama lays out the pros and cons of balancing parenting with working from home.
  • Crunchy Living is SO Expensive…Or Is It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy talks about her biggest objection to natural living – and her surprise at what she learned.
  • Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems — Sarah at Parenting God’s Children shares how a financial accountability partner changed her family’s finances.
  • The Importance of Food Planning — Amanda at Let’s Take the Metro discusses how food budgeting and planning has helped her, even if she doesn’t always do it.
  • Kids & Money: Starting an Allowance for Preschoolers — Kristin at Intrepid Murmurings discusses her family’s approach and experiences with starting an allowance for preschoolers.
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