Homeschooling can be expensive. Curriculums and games and toys and supplies can all cost a pretty penny. But I am here to help you if you don’t want to spend a fortune on homeschooling and still be successful.
Through our charter we have a budget for the year. This budget covers on-site classes, curriculums, games, toys, supplies, and even local classes. If the item is non-consumable (teachers guides, toys that aren’t made, books, etc) we have to return it to the charter eventually; if we ever leave the school or we no longer have a need for it. BUT I am a weirdo and don’t want to give things back. This is probably one of the main reasons we have so much stuff because I become attached to all our stuff and never want to get rid of it. But I digress.
So, because I want to keep the things we have our eye on, we buy them ourselves.
There are a few things we do get through our budget: printer paper and ink, gymnastics classes once a week, two on-site classes a semester and curriculums we don’t actually use but we get to keep our CT happy.
Most of the things we use on a daily basis, however, we bought or were gifted to us. So I would like to share some tips to not break the bank as well as some of our most-used, favorite homeschool must-haves.
First up: homeschooling on a budget.
- Shop around. Walmart, the Dollar Store, and even Target and Costco have workbooks, and of course school supplies. I was shocked when I went to our local Dollar Store for buckets and found half an aisle of beginning writing paper, workbooks, flash cards, calenders, and learning supplies.
- Yard Sales, curriculum shares/swaps, craigslist, and sales/clearance. I have found so many amazing toys and learning resources at yard sales, and have been fortunate (and unlucky) to live in a town that has lost a few awesome toy and school supply stores. So when they went out of business, I jumped on a ton of sale and clearance items that cost over half off of original prices!
- Share. Do you know any homeschoolers in your area? Maybe they have a kiddo a little older than yours? Ask if they have any unused or lightly used curriculums if you are going the curriculum route. Ask what their favorite homeschool resources are and ask to borrow them.
- Library! If you are not following a curriculum and are going more in the delight-directed homeschool route (aka unschooling), the library is an awesome place for resources. Our library had videos, CDs, books on tape and so much more besides books as well as some free classes and events.
- DIY. Getting an all-in-one curriculum sounds so nice, and there are some great ones out there! But if you are anything like us, a full-blown curriculum just doesn’t work for you. That isn’t the end of the world! There are still tons of stuff you can do to keep up learning! Podcasts, Youtube, the library, field trips, games, and so many more. One of my favorite bloggers Jill Krause has recently embarked on a homeschooling journey with two of her four kids and she has a fantastic idea for getting homeschooling done in a fun way! You can check that out here.
- Wish Lists. I am a HUGE fan of Amazon wish lists. I’m not going to lie, I abuse the wish list button a lot. I have so many wish lists for so many different things. But it has been really great for birthdays and Christmas. My family is awesome at asking what we would like or what we already have, so I create a wish list each birthday/Christmas and share it with them. My mom will usually take the items on my list as suggestions and get a ton of similar items, whereas my sister and aunt stick to the list. Either way is great, we are getting toys and games and books that will support us in our homeschool journey because our family wants us to be successful.
Next: homeschool must-haves
- A Laminator. You may think this is a frivolous purchase, but let me tell you something: this is my most used homeschool-related gadget. I use this thing so much sometimes I have to turn it off to let it cool down because I have been using it all day. You can make worksheets reusable to be used with a white-board marker, you can make your own books or photo albums, you can preserve artwork (I have many subject dividers in my homeschool binder that are the girls’ artwork), you can do so many things with a simple laminator. We got ours on sale for under $25!
- Bananagrams. I genuinely love all the Bananagrams products. We started with the original banana and it was great, but then we were given the My First banana, and Word-A-Melon and they have changed our homeschool days. We use one or both of these games DAILY. I’m not kidding, they are amazing! The original and My First bananas are $15 on the Bananagrams website or at Target!
Rory’s Story Cubes. I go into depth about how we use these in my blog post, but in a nutshell; use to build imagination, a speech building game or to practice writing! There are MANY different packs/themes you can find, all of which I want desperately! But the original 3 packs can be found at Target for $8 each! We loved them so much I gifted one pack each to our Speech therapist and resource teacher at our charter.
- Mobi. I plan to do a review of Mobi Kids if I ever get my hands on one! But for now I will tell you about the original Mobi. This is another zipper-pouch game (we have a thing for pouch games apparently!), that is full of number tiles and math symbols. Think Bananagrams for math equations. There are so many uses for this game and not just as it is intended to be used. This is an ongoing theme in our homeschool, I don’t think we use many things as they were intended. But, this is a wonderful math skills game!
- Chapter books for reading out loud and Level Readers. We are raising readers in this household. My girls LOVE reading/looking through books/being read to. We have found bunches of children’s books, chapter books and level readers at yard sales, used book stores and curriculum swaps. They can be up to $5 at our local (tiny) toy store, or Target, but if you find clearance books they can be $2-3, or at used book stores for $1-2. Shop around! Chapter books such as The BFG or The Phantom Tollbooth are great for reading out loud. We read a LOT, we usually get through one chapter book a week. I have noticed a significant difference in both girls’ language since we started reading together last year.
- A basic all-in-one workbook (Brainquest or Scholastic brands can be found at Costco and Target). For us, we don’t follow one curriculum. I am currently in the middle of writing my own all-in-one lesson plan/curriculum I hope to publish someday soon. But for now, I jump around from book to book of the curriculums we bought through our charter. However, I have returned more often than not to the $15 Scholastic workbook Gwama got us at Costco (we don’t have a membership). It is really straightforward and laid out well. Because of Bug’s hatred of worksheets though, we don’t usually finish or use the worksheets, but I use them to play a game off of: let’s spell this word, let’s do this math problem etc.
- Internet + Printer; if you have access to the internet and a printer, you can do anything! I have Googled what 1st graders are taught or are expected to know at the end of the year and have based our learning off those guidelines. I have printed off worksheets and games and made our own Velcro game binder. I have found board games and their rules that I have printed and laminated then 3-hole punched and put in our binder.
These must-haves truly got us through our first year of homeschool. We made them a bigger part of this year’s homeschool after seeing how well they worked for Bug last year.
I was not paid for any of my reviews, I genuinely love using these products, and we love how versatile they can be. If you can think outside the box, you can think of some fun games to play, adding some fun to your daily homeschool!
I wish you luck on your homeschool journey. Please know, though, that just because someone is doing something, doesn’t mean you have to. That is the beauty of homeschooling, you do what works for you and your kiddo and family. Don’t let anyone tell you you are doing it wrong; if you are moving forward, if your kids are learning, then you are doing a great job.