7 Ways to Homeschool on a Budget


I’ve always said that you only need a Bible and a library card to homeschool. After 18 years, I still hold to that claim. However most folks, needing a little more structure than our family, take one look at the prices of curriculum in the catalogs and decide they cannot afford it after all. If that’s the stance you’ve been taking, follow me here and then rethink what you have thought to be the impossible; because I’m going to share 7 ways to homeschool with little or no money—after I talk about networking.

You do not want to be the lone ranger in the land of homeschooling. If you cannot find a local support group, start one. Or, at least find a few families to meet with on occasion. Homeschoolers love to share what they know and will always lead you to the free and cheap. That said; let’s talk about getting the kiddos an education without breaking the bank. You can teach your kids everything they need to know and teach them to save money in the process!

1. Borrow

Large families tend to hang onto their homeschooling resources longer than others so that they can hand them down to the next child coming up. But in the in-between years, most are more than willing to loan out to others. Need a certain biology book? Ask around your community of homeschoolers who might have it to loan.

2. Buy Used

Several websites exist for selling used homeschool resources. Check out HomeschoolClassifieds.com, VegSource.com, and LampPostPublishing.com. If you would like to see what you are buying first, attend your state organization’s convention. Most organizations host a used curriculum sale in conjunction with their convention each year. Do a web search for “state name + homeschool organization” to find one in your area.  If they don’t host a used curriculum sale, go anyway. Shop the vendors’ arena and look at all the offerings. Take notes. Then come home and try to find what interests you used online.

3. Use the Library

Everyone knows that homeschoolers love books. But the library has much more than that to offer. Our library has Rosetta Stone foreign language curriculum for check out, and they have a link for Mango languages on their website. Mango is a free service for learning a foreign language requiring nothing but a library card number. Many libraries also have music, art, and videos for check out.

Ask your librarian what resources they might have for teachers or homeschoolers. Some city libraries will have science equipment for loan—saving you a bundle on buying microscopes. Chess clubs, writing groups, even a fiber group meets at our library, all welcoming to children. Since my 11 year old and I recently took a course in beekeeping, we drove to a distant library to hear a lecture on native pollinators. Check your library’s calendar of events for similar things that might enhance your homeschooling.

4. Use the Internet

Believe it or not, websites exist that make it possible to homeschool for FREE. Check out Carlie’s Homeschool Freebies page, Jamerrill’s FreeHomeschoolDeals.com, or Homeschooling-Ideas.com for free curriculum, ebooks, lapbooks, printable worksheets, or educational apps. Librivox.org provides free audio books from the public domain. And if you feel you need a complete curriculum package, Ambleside Online is just that, following the Charlotte Mason philosophy, for free.

5. Co-op

Homeschooling co-ops are a great way to capitalize on the expertise of your friends. Seek out like-minded families with kids close in age than your own. Keep the size manageable for your home. Meet on a weekly basis for classes taught by the parents. When we did this with our children, one mom taught Spanish, one science, and one writing. We would switch class options each semester. If you cannot find an established co-op in your area and would like to start your own, get The Only Homeschool Co-op Booklet You Need to Start Your Very Own Best Co-op Ever! by veteran homeschooling mom Karen Lange.

6. Trade or Barter Services

Lorene left an engineering career when she had her first child. She teaches algebra for moms that feel unqualified to do so in exchange for other services. Holly, an accomplished artist, teaches art to homeschoolers. Mike hosts a chess club in his home. Want your child to learn a foreign language, but the cost of the curriculum is prohibitive? Ask at your support group meeting if someone there would be willing to teach your child in exchange for something you can do—even if it’s just baking them bread.

7. Forget the Curriculum

Unschooling, relaxed homeschooling, child-led learning, whatever you want to call it, learning without textbooks is on the rise. Families following this philosophy tend to educate their children as you might disciple a new believer—by spending time with them and setting an example. I like to call it life learning. We use many learning opportunities on our homestead to study academics at the same time. What better place to learn math and science than in the kitchen? To learn more about this option of homeschooling, you might want to visit ChristianUnschooling.com or LessonsfromtheHomestead.com.

Do you homeschool your children? Have any other money-saving tips for us? We’d love for you to share in the comments!

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  1. Alison

    I am a regular on this website, and we homeschool. So exciting to see stewardship of money, and a parents responsibility to disciple their children lalked about it the same place. Great article! Best book in the world is the Bible!

  2. Kathleen K

    Different families homeschool in different ways. That is one of the great advantages of doing it–we can tailor it to suit our personalities, learning styles, and goals. While I respect the rights of families who choose the unschooling method, I would never apply it to our family. We do better with laid out plans and lessons. We choose textbooks for math, instead of workbooks, and pass them down from oldest to youngest. For our history/geography, we are using My Father’s World. While it may seem an expensive investment of $300-$400+, when we realize it is for 3 children (ages 7-13) and can later be reused in the 5 year cycle (for the 7yo), it doesn’t seem like so much. While we could use the library more, I find the convenience of having the right book on our shelves a very worthwhile investment.

    We also sell, on eBay, used curriculum (or the stuff that didn’t work for us) to free space for new items and to help pay for it.

    • Carol J. Alexander

      Great points, Kathleen. Years ago I bought (used) each level of Saxon math and the corresponding DVD for teaching the lessons and was given a complete set of readers for which I only needed to purchase the workbooks. With six children, I felt this was a great investment as I could pass them down for the next 15 years. However, the longer I’ve homeschooled, I’ve seen that the same curriculum isn’t necessarily right for every child. Some years we use the Saxon math and those readers, but some years it just doesn’t work. That’s where “we can tailor it to suit our personalities, learning styles, and goals.”

  3. Lauren Boyd

    I do use consumable workbooks to help homeschool my five-year-old, and I’ve found that Amazon is often less expensive than many other websites and mortar-and-brick stores when it comes to workbooks and other school-related material.

  4. Carol J. Alexander

    Amazon is full of free stuff, too, Lauren. FreeHomeschoolDeals.com posts them frequently.

  5. The Wakemans

    Having just completed our 15th year of homeschooling, we have used all your suggestions. It does not have to cost the price of a private school education to teach your children. Being flexible, sharing with other families, re-selling non-consumables all help to make it do-able. AND it is worth-it!

  6. Christa

    Also free is homeschoolshare.com …. unit studies and lapbooks abound over there! Thanks for a great article!

  7. Sea

    I like going to the used book store too- often have lots of books and home school materials for way cheap! Even if it is slightly used it’s usually in good enough shape for us- games, flashcards, maps and workbooks too!