Not unlike many homeschooling families, we are on a strict budget. If you homeschool, you know that buying curricula can be a major annual expense. Multiply that by several children all on different levels and it can quickly become a budget buster!
I’m sharing a few ways that I cope with the expense of buying curriculum. These are by no means revolutionary or ground-breaking, but they might be of some use.
Buy and Swap Online
One of my favorite websites is PaperBackSwap.com. After becoming a new member, you list 10 books you would be willing to mail if someone requested it from you. After your 10 books are posted, you will receive 2 credits that allow you to request 2 free books from other members. When a member requests a book from you and they receive it, you gain another credit for another free book.
With this site, we have been able to pass along the books we no longer need and receive new books that tie in with our school lessons. If you use a literature-based curriculum like Sonlight, this can be a huge money saver.
Another way we save on curriculum is to buy it used on eBay. In March and April I sit down to fine tune next year’s school plan for each of my kids. After I have a good idea of which curriculum I need, I begin stalking. At first, I watch a few auctions to get an idea of the going price. Then I become a full-on, lurk-in-the-shrubbery (figuratively speaking) stalker. I have purchased the more expensive curriculum this way.
Half.com is another great resource when buying readers not available at the local libraries. Many times, sellers using a literature-based curriculum will list all their readers for a particular year at the same time. By searching for a title and then looking at the other books available by that seller, you can quickly scan to see what they have available. When buying multiple books from the same seller you save on shipping charges.
Buy Used from Local Sources
Once a year, our local libraries host a huge book sale. On the last day of the sale, they hand you a large reusable tote bag at the door and it’s $10 for all the books you can fit in the bag. We have purchased much curriculum and many readers this way.
Used bookstores are another great way to find classic literature and, if you’re lucky, some popular curriculum. The books are used, not the stores. Just so we’re clear.
Goodwill, Salvation Army and other thrift stores often have a large book selection. Their prices for books tend to be very inexpensive. Many times, I’ve found a Teacher’s Guide for a subject that I can use as a road map to construct lessons. This works better for lower grades.
A quick search on Craigslist will sometimes result in a good buy. We began homeschooling with the bulk of our curriculum purchased this way.
Another great source in our community has been local yard sales. We live in rural area with many Christian homeschooling families. A quick detour on our way home has given us the opportunity to buy books and curriculum at very low prices. It has also led us to know our neighbors better. Win-win.
Buy New from Local Sources
If you didn’t know already (I didn’t until a couple of months ago) Barnes and Noble offers an Educator’s Discount to homeschoolers! I was over the moon on this one. Then, a little baffled that I never knew this before, as we spend so much time there. A short application will get you a card you can use that day.
Half Price Books is another book retailer that offers a Teacher’s Discount card (homeschool teachers included).
Don’t be afraid to ask any chain retailer if they have a program that would be of benefit to you.
More Expensive Doesn’t Always Mean Better
After struggling with Tween Bee over math, I was desperately seeking out a curriculum that would fit her learning style. After trying Abeka, Horizons and various workbook supplements, we made the switch to Life of Fred math. We had to back up several books to help fill in some learning gaps. Even when purchased brand new, these books are affordable. The great news is they are hardcover and non-consumable so they can be used again for the younger ones.
Because Life of Fred has worked so well with Tween Bee, I ordered Life of Fred Trigonometry for Teen Bee for next year. After looking through the book, he decided to begin ahead of schedule and has remarked several times how much he loves Fred.
Fred has become a family friend. The kids fill me in on what is happening in Fred’s life and talk about him as if they know him personally. Fred has saved us from tantrums and tears, and that’s just me. Tween Bee actually enjoys her math now and has bumped it to the first subject of the day.
Ordering online is easy. Visit stanleyschmidt.com for ordering info and to view sample lessons.
Free is best
Library cards are free to obtain and to use. So get one already! Even if weekly trips to the library aren’t your thing, many libraries offer a free download service with an impressive selection of titles. Whether you use an e-reader or read on your computer, several formats are available. No car? No problem.
Libraries are not only good source for free books. We supplement our history lessons with DVDs from the library. Popcorn and history go well together!
Check your local library schedule and let the kids participate in the scheduled activities. Our library offers weekly story time for younger kids. Knitting and crochet classes are often taught, as well as drawing classes for teens. Take advantage of this valuable, free resource.
Useful education-based websites are popping up like dandelions in my yard. Many offer free printables, lap books, tutorials, science experiments and other freebies. Consult the Google.
My last tip:
Find and follow homeschool bloggers. They are a treasure trove of useful information. Heather Sanders if a favorite of mine. I’m not sure if it’s her writing style or the fact that her kids are roughly the same ages as mine that attract me. Many of her posts have an immediate practical application for our family. Whatever the reason, I find her posts informative and refreshing. Hop over and check her out.
Note: I am not affiliated with any company for which I have provided links. I only offer them to you as a tool to further your research. They have no idea who I am.