When folks are first introduced to the idea of homeschooling, one of the first hurdles to get over is the expense. For whatever reason, people seem to think a lot of money must be spent to provide each child with a separate boxed curricula. The benefit to using such expensive curricula is that it can be used straight out of the box with little to no preparation on the parent's part. This might even be a positive alternative to dropping even more money on private school tuition if you have only one or two students.
However, the drawbacks are easy to see. Many homeschooling families consist of more than a few kids and if a parent were to provide each child with a separate, pre-packaged, grade-level curriculum, the costs would add up quickly (one first grade level package from a popular publisher costs $839). Besides the economic burden pre-pacakged curricula can place on the homeschool budget, there are other factors to consider. Burnout is one; dislike is another. When mother is busy spreading her time between each child working on their own subjects at their own level, she can easily become burned out on homeschooling. Children, too, can become weary, even though the curriculum publisher has attempted to provide intellectually nourishing materials. When everyone begins to dislike the curriculum, having become its slave rather than its master, then there is regret in having made the initial purchase. And although families can recoup some of the initial investment by selling gently used materials online, they will never be able to get back the cost they spent on the materials.
Some Frugal Choices
Thankfully, the internet is a great place to find frugal and free resources for home education. While some resources may not be as easy to use as curriculum that comes straight out of the box, the small amount of work to create a tailored education for your child is well worth the savings.
One resource we have begun using this year is Discovery K-12. Discovery K-12 is a free online curriculum that has assignments for each grade from Kindergarten through twelfth grade. It makes use of age-appropriate educational YouTube videos, short lessons, self-chosen readings, and spelling lists. My sixth grader really enjoys using this independently.
Another free curriculum is Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool. I'm less attracted to this very popular resource as it uses a Creationist/Young Earth approach to science. They are also still working on the high school courses, as not all of them are yet available. Still, it's a nice resource to have.
For those who like a more classical approach, there are the Charlotte Mason-inspired curricula from Ambleside Online and Mater Amabilis (Catholic, which only goes through grade 8), as well as An Old Fashioned Education. Many resources for these curricula can be found for free online or can be easily gotten at the local library.
Not everyone is able to or wants their children to spend the bulk of their time on the computer for their learning. They might want to really tailor the learning experiences to their child, creating a truly individualized education. Or, perhaps they don't want to be spread thin ("like butter scraped over too much bread") and would rather group their children together for as many subjects as they can. This is where multi-level learning comes in.
For us, multi-level learning was a great way to save money. Children close in age can be grouped together to use resources for a certain learning level. The whole family spends time learning about the same topics in history, science, art, music, etc. Refer to the posts in the link above to learn more about how we have done it in the past. The key idea here, is that we spent money on a few curriculum choices that would last throughout the ages of our children.
One curricula that I love whole-heartedly is Connecting With History (affiliate link). This curriculum weaves together history, religion, language arts, some science, and fine arts through the use of resources for the different age levels, from preschool to high school, so that the whole family can learn together.
Another resource which we just began using this year and will continue to use until our youngest has finished his schooling is Learn Math Fast. This unique math curriculum is designed for easy implementation at home, either with a small amount of parent input, or in a self-directed manner with an older child. The system contains seven volumes which introduces the student to the four operations, then fractions/decimals/percents, measurement, simple geometry, pre-algebra, algebra I and II, and high school geometry (with proofs, etc.). It is without a doubt the most effective math curricula I've seen and the seven volumes are very cost effective. The beauty here is that these paperback books are non-consumable. You just go to the website with your code and download the appropriate pdf files for the worksheets and tests that your child needs.
In addition to free and inexpensive curricula, there are all sorts of awesome resources at your disposal on the internet. Homeschool parents and school teachers alike post lesson ideas, reading lists, lesson plans, and worksheets online. This is an incredibly cheap way to get a lot of "bang" and it's not only limited to the elementary grades. For example, I purchased a used Biology textbook some years ago, before Common Core was the educational buzzword. After some snooping around, I found The Biology Corner website which has labs, worksheets, and guided reading sheets coordinated with the text I have. My total cost for this high school course was under $10 (we made use of some "found" items for our labs, like a recently deceased bullfrog, flowers, etc.). Pretty good bang for my buck, I must admit!
Homeschooling resources need not be expensive. Peruse websites like Homeschooling on a Shoestring for ideas. Join Facebook groups and e-mail lists. Make use of those search engines to find materials--you'd be surprised what's out there for next to nothing! And with the extra money you save coming up with your own tailored curriculum, you can go somewhere awesome. A great field trip is worth its weight in gold.