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How to Start Homeschooling on the Cheap When You’re on a Tight Budget

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Are you interested in how to start homeschooling your kids?

A lot of parents are looking into homeschooling these days as an alternative to public school.

We’ve been homeschooling since my kids were 3 and 4. Every year I give them the option to go to public school or charter school and every year, they choose to stay home.

Every school year is different when it comes to what we learn, the field trips we take, the extracurriculars we do.

But there’s one thing that’s always the same: I don’t go broke spending money on homeschooling stuff. 

Because it’s so easy to fall down a spending rabbit hole with homeschooling.

Between curriculum, supplies, co-op groups and “extras”, homeschooling your kids can end up costing more than sending them to regular school if you’re not careful.

So if you’re wondering how to homeschool on a budget or if it’s even possible, first let me say that it’s absolutely doable.

I’ve learned a lot about how to save money as a homeschooling family over the years. And I want to help you start teaching your kids at home without going broke!

In this post, I’m sharing some of my best tips on how to start homeschooling and do it without blowing your budget.

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What Is Homeschooling?

woman homeschooling daughter

If you’re brand-new to homeschooling, you may not even fully understand what it means or how it compares to distance learning and remote learning that many schools offer.

In a nutshell, homeschooling means that you’re in charge of your kids’ education.

Instead of following a lesson plan that’s prepared by a teacher and approved by the school district, you create the lesson plans.

It’s up to you to decide what to teach, when to teach it and how to teach it.

If you want to skip classes and go on a field trip in the middle of the week or have pajama day every day, you can totally do that.

Distance learning, on the other hand, basically means public school at home. Kids follow a school district-approved schedule and lesson plan, with classes held online via Zoom chats.

What Are the Benefits of Homeschooling?woman and daughter homeschooling

Homeschooling is not for everyone, let me say that. Because some days it’s way hard.

But if you’re up for the challenge, there are so many great reasons to start homeschooling your kids.

You can decide what to teach (or what not to).

At our house, I decide the core stuff like math and spelling but my kids get to pick their electives.

So this year we’re doing a deep dive into Japanese culture and history because that’s what my daughter is interested in. And my son is learning about robotics and supercars.

You can tailor what you teach to what your kids are interested in or want to learn more about. It’s a great way to feed kids’ passions and help them develop lifelong hobbies and interests.

Homeschooling is flexible.

One of the best things about homeschooling is that you’re not obligated to follow the traditional school schedule.

If you want to do schoolwork in the afternoons, you can. Or if you want to take a month off for the holidays, you can.

And it’s so much easier to work around doctor’s appointments or running errands. You don’t have to worry about your kids being counted absent for the day because they had to go to the dentist or doctor.

You can bond with your kids.

Homeschooling can be a good way to really get to know your kids and bond with them, something that isn’t as easy to do when they’re in regular school for 8 hours a day.

My kids and I have made a ton of memories homeschooling because we’ve learned and done so many things together.

Homeschooling lets you get hands-on and be involved in what your kids learn and how they experience the world.

Homeschooling doesn’t mean your kids miss out on socialization.

This has to be one of the biggest myths about homeschooling. That because your kids aren’t in public school all day they must not know how to socialize.

And that’s just wrong.

Homeschooled kids can and do build connections with other kids (homeschooled or not). That can happen through homeschool groups, church groups, sports, art classes – you name it.

Homeschooling allows kids of different ages to interact and kids also learn how to talk to adults. And they can form friendships without the emotional stressors that sometimes go along with being in a traditional classroom.

Are there downsides to homeschooling?

Sometimes, yes.

Like when you’ve explained the same math problem 10 times and your kid still isn’t getting it, that can be super frustrating.

And sometimes you might feel like a homeschooling failure when you see other moms in your co-op group who have their kids taking ballet classes and acting in commercials and playing three sports at once. (Been there, done that.)

And of course, there’s cost. Because even though you pay taxes to fund your public schools, homeschoolers don’t get any tax breaks.

But despite all of that, we wouldn’t trade homeschooling for anything. Because the benefits far outweigh the downsides.

How Do I Start Homeschooling My Child?

boys homeschooling

If you want to know how to start homeschooling, there are a few things to keep in mind.

First, every state has different legal guidelines on how to start homeschooling. Our state has really loose rules but other states are more strict.

You can easily find out what the rules are in your state by visiting the Homeschool Legal Defense Association’s website. This is an excellent resource for homeschooling families.

Next, you need to think about how you want to approach homeschooling.

There are different philosophies and teaching styles to choose from, including:

  • Montessori
  • Waldorf
  • Charlotte Mason
  • Classical
  • Interest-based or delight-led learning
  • Eclectic
  • Unschooling

We started out as classical homeschoolers but now we’re most definitely eclectic homeschoolers. And we have some friends who started with a Waldorf approach but are now full-on unschoolers.

Unless you know exactly which path you want to follow you’ll probably change things up along the way. And that’s fine because that’s what homeschooling is all about – finding what works best for you and your kids.

Once you know your state’s homeschooling laws and how you want to homeschool, the next things to decide are:

  • What you want your daily school schedule to look like
  • How you want to handle things like homeschool co-ops or extracurriculars
  • Which homeschool curriculum you want to use

That last one is where things can get tricky. You don’t want to fall down that spending rabbit hole, remember?

So here are some ideas for how to start homeschooling while stretching your pennies!

How to Start Homeschooling on a Budget

woman homeschooling daughter

Before we dig into the money-saving tips for homeschooling on a budget, here are answers to a few questions you might have:

How much money does homeschool cost? 

As little or as much as you want to spend. Seriously.

There is no set price tag for homeschooling. It all comes down to what you can afford and where you want to spend your money.

Is it possible to homeschool for free? 

If you’re on a really tight budget or a one-income family, finding ways to homeschool for free or little money can be a lifesaver.

And the good news is, there are ways to homeschool for free or very little money!

There are so many resources out there that can help you build a curriculum and teach your kids that are awesome and affordable.

Do I need a computer to homeschool?

Not necessarily.

But having a computer can be an advantage if you want your kids to be able to watch videos, play games or complete interactive lessons online.

If you need to get a laptop at low cost, Notebooks for Students sells discounted laptops to homeschooling families.

Ready to learn how to start homeschooling while saving money? Here are my best tips!

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how to start homeschooling

1. Set your homeschool budget and decide what you’re willing to spend

Creating a realistic budget is the first step for how to start homeschooling.

Depending on how much you have to spend, your homeschool budget might include amounts for:

  • Homeschool curriculum
  • Sports, art classes and other activities
  • Co-op fees if you plan to join a homeschool group
  • Supplies and equipment

If you don’t have a lot of money to spend, figuring out how to stretch your budget means prioritizing what’s most important.

For example, if you absolutely feel like you need a prepackaged curriculum to homeschool, then you might spend more of your budget on that and less on extracurriculars.

I don’t spend a lot of money on curriculum since I’d rather spend it on classes or sports or field trips with our co-op group. But you have to decide what’s most important to you when divvying up your budget.

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2. Research free homeschool curriculum before you buy one

If you want to know how to start homeschooling on a budget, using a free curriculum is your best money-saving option.

Packaged curriculums are great, don’t get me wrong. But you don’t necessarily need to spend $500 or $1,000 on it every year.

And if you have multiple kids you’re homeschooling that might be impossible on a tight budget anyway.

So if you’re looking for free homeschool curriculum, here are a few that we’ve used and loved:

  • Easy Peasy All in One Homeschool: This is a complete, free Christian online homeschool curriculum that goes from Kindergarten to Middle School. And if you have high schoolers, there’s a separate free homeschool curriculum for that as well.
  • Khan Academy: Kahn Academy features a ton of free online courses covering everything from pre-K math to AP U.S. history.
  • Ambleside Online: If you’re leaning toward Charlotte Mason-style homeschooling, Ambleside Online is a free homeschool curriculum for guided learning. There’s a lot of reading involved but most of the books you’ll need are available free online.
  • Starfall: Starfall is a free online learning site for grades K-3. My kids loved playing the games here and they were able to learn while having fun.
  • Typing.com: My kids still use this free online typing program. Kids can learn how to type starting with the basics before moving on to more advanced techniques.
  • Duolingo: We love Duolingo at our house! We’re currently using it to learn Japanese and Spanish. The lessons are super easy to follow and best of all, it’s completely free!
  • Code.org: If you have older kids who are interested in learning how to code, Code.org will teach them for free!
  • e-learning for kids: This free online homeschooling site also takes the games approach to helping kids learn.

If you have a little money to spend, you can also check out sites like ABCMouse.com or Kids Discover.

My kids loved both of these sites when they were little and they’re a fun way to encourage a love of learning early on.

Use this link to try ABCMouse.com for free for 30 days!

Sign up here to start exploring Kids Discover!

Bonus tip: Make your own curriculum

If you don’t want to spend money on a curriculum or you just can’t afford it, you can homeschool for free or little money by making your own curriculum.

We’ve done by using:

The beauty of homeschooling is that everything can be counted as learning if you want it to be. 🙂

 

mom and daughter homeschooling

3. Check out other ideas for how to start homeschooling for free

Free homeschool curriculum isn’t the only way to save money while teaching your kids.

If you’re looking for other ways to homeschool for free, check out these options:

  • Use your library. Libraries can be a great free homeschooling resource if you want to check out books, DVDs or audiobooks to help with learning.
  • Try a curriculum swap. If you know some other homeschooling families, a curriculum swap is a great way to save money. You can trade curriculums or supplies you’re no longer using without spending a dime!
  • Shop your home for supplies. Before you start shopping for pencils, notebooks and other homeschool supplies take a look around to see what you already have. Chances are you probably have some supplies you can use, saving you a little money.
  • Write reviews in exchange for products. If you’re a mom blogger , then you could have an easy way to homeschool for free right under your nose! You can reach out to companies that sell homeschool curriculum or supplies and offer to write a review post for your blog in exchange for free products.

If you have a laptop or tablet, there are also a ton of free learning websites to check out. Some of our favorites include:

We also like watching educational shows on Netflix and documentaries on CuriosityStream and Amazon Prime Video.

Some of our favorite shows include:

  • The Who Was Show? (because we love these books!)
  • Horrible Histories (love these books too!)
  • Brainchild (if you like science)
  • Our Planet
  • The Universe

If you don’t have Amazon Prime yet, click this link to try it free for 30 days.

You can also get a free trial for Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, which gives you access to more than 16,000 kid-friendly books, videos and apps!

4. Shop sales and use cashback apps when buying school supplies

There may be some things you need to spend a little money when figuring out how to start homeschooling.

For example, you may need to buy:

  • Pens
  • Pencils
  • Notebooks and notebook paper
  • Folders or binders
  • Markers, crayons and other art supplies
  • Glue sticks
  • A calculator
  • Rulers

But you don’t have to go broke buying those things.

Here’s how you can save money on buying back to school shopping supplies:

  • Compare sales prices before you start shopping
  • Pick up school supplies for just a buck at the Dollar Tree
  • Check out thrift stores or Goodwill for supplies
  • Shop on tax-free weekends if your state offers them
  • Buy in bulk if it’s cheaper
  • Only buy what you need

If you’re shopping online, an easy way to save money on school supplies is to use cashback apps.

Cashback apps pay you back a percentage of what you spend when you shop partner retailers.

Three of my favorite cashback apps to use for back to school shopping are Rakuten, Ibotta and Dosh.

Rakuten pays you a percentage back, sometimes as high as 14% of your purchase, when you shop online or in stores at partner merchants. When you sign up for Rakuten using this link, you can even get $10 in cashback after making your first purchase!

Ibotta lets you earn cashback at retail stores, drugstores and grocery stores which is great if you’re shopping for school supplies at all three. Right now you can get a $20 cashback bonus when you sign up for Ibotta!

Dosh also pays you cashback at top retailers like Walmart, as well as at restaurants. You just sign up for Dosh, link your debit card and start earning cashback automatically!

Cashback apps are a painless way to save money on school shopping, whether you’re buying supplies, electronics or new clothes.

Grab your $10 Rakuten bonus!

Get your $20 bonus from Ibotta!

Start earning cashback instantly with Dosh!

 

girl homeschooling on a laptop

Are you planning to start homeschooling this year?

Figuring out how to start homeschooling can be a little overwhelming at first. I know it was for me.

But homeschooling can offer so many benefits and it gets easier the longer you do it.

Does your family homeschool for free or on a budget?

I’d love to hear your best tips for saving money as homeschoolers!

Head to the comments and tell me your best ideas for how to start homeschooling for free. And don’t forget to pin and share this post!

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Comments

  1. Great ideas! Our kids attend public school but some of these ideas can transfer over to that situation this school year. It’s certainly going to be a unique year for everyone.

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