Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Homeschooling on a Budget


    Homeschooling on a Budget

One topic that has come up many many times over the years, is how do you afford to educate your children on a limited income. Or, I cannot possibly homeschool because we can’t afford it. Over the lifetime of our homeschool, we have had lean years and we have had other years where we could afford to buy our hearts desire…. Though, I must admit, I am still very frugal.

   So in this post, I would like to share some real resources and ideas that we have put into place in our family. My prayer is that these ideas will be a blessing to you and your families. I hope that if you are unsure how you are going to acquire all your needed supplies for next year, that perhaps some of these ideas will help you.  Some will be free ideas, while others will be low cost.

  The one thing that you tend to  sacrifice when homeschooling on a lean budget, is time. Depending on what kind of homeschooler you are, that will differ. But one of the easiest ways to save money is to do your own planning.  When you buy boxed curriculum you are paying for them to do your leg work.  So at minimum you can start by not buying boxed curriculum.   However, that can still only save you so much. You will need to get creative, and that is where I hope this post will help spark even some other ideas of your own.

  One thing that I try to do, is to not allow our days to become just worksheets and school work when money is tight. So I also look for ideas and activities that we can do, that will be fun and educational all at the same time. I will share some of these here.

 So work through this entire post, and see what nuggets you find through out that might be a blessing to you and your homeschool. One thing that really helps homeschoolers succeed, are other homeschoolers!   If you have tricks that have helped you homeschool on a lean budget, please post a comment and share them with us!!! 

A great place to start is a great e-book on currclick that costs $5. It is chock full of freebies that will help your homeschool.  http://www.currclick.com/product_info.php?products_id=25765&it=1&

   Another way to help with costs, is looking at the method in which you homeschool. There are several different methods out there.

   You can find some helpful information on the different homeschool methods here: http://www.thehomeschoolmagazine.com/How_To_Homeschool/Articles.php .  I have found that a literature rich, Charlotte Mason type method is one of the most economical ways to homeschool. Here is a website that will explain Charlotte Mason more in depth. http://homemade.truepath.com/ When you use a literature rich method, you can usually acquire books for relatively little money. I have included links later in the post to both free books online as well as to notebooking pages you can use with them for free. 

  Another way to educate on a lean budget is by using lapbooks, file folder games and making games out of regular household supplies. As well as doing experiments with supplies from around the house.  Here is a website that is full of creative ideas, that may spark some for you. http://heartofthematteronline.com/. There are more links in the links section at the bottom if this post to show you how to make file folder games and lapbooks. At a mom's night our homeschool group recently held, onf of our mom's how to make learning games out of common supplies and existing games. For example, you can use a jeopardy game (or make your own) and make up the categories to go along with a unit you have just studied. And then make up the questions, just like on the TV show Jeopardy. The children then can play the contestants, and review all of the facts they have just learned!      

  As you can see there are many options, you just need to think out of the box. So many times we get stuck in trying to emulate the classroom, that we forget we have many more options available to us. Please take some time looking through this post. I pray that you will find something that will help your homeschool.  


How to Find Free or Nearly Free Books and Supplies

One of the best resources is your public library. Not only can you check out for free some awesome resources, you can also watch for their friends of the library sales, and purchase books for dirt cheap. These sales usually last for about a week and they are usually crowded, but you can walk away with bags of books for almost no money.  Books are usually 25-50 cents each, and then on the last day they are usually a buck a bag! So I usually go to the sale at least twice.  The first day and the last.

Join Staples Teacher rewards program. You will earn a percentage of your purchases back, in the form of a check to spend at staples. In August they have their annual teacher appreciation day. You will get a free bag of goodies on that day. Along with free coffee and donuts. This is a fun morning to spend with fellow homeschool moms!  I have received flash drives, calendars planners and more on these days. They  also hold raffles on that day for big ticket items. Also, there are no limits on the sale items that day. So if there is an item you want, but normally there is a limit of 3, on that day, teachers will have no limits! And yes, they recognize homeschoolers as teachers! Also, if you turn in your used ink cartridges there for your printer, you will receive $3 per cartridge. They will send you a check once a month to spent at Staples.

Watch the back to school ads. Walmart, Target, Staples, even sometimes the grocery and drugstores, will have their art supplies and pens and paper, etc.. for dirt cheap. I stock up once a year. I do my best to not have to buy these at any other time of year.


Free Curriculum Online

One of my favorite things to recommend when people are having trouble acquiring curriculum, is Old Fashioned Education (OFE). http://oldfashionededucation.com/fullcurriculum.htm

Some of you have heard me discuss this before, however, I have also had people who have been confused on how it works, so I thought I would take some time to explain.

   OFE was designed by Miss Maggie, a homeschool mom of I believe 2 boys. Very active boys. And at the same time her family had little or no money to commit to the education fund. So she had to be creative. And that creativity is now blessing thousands of homeschool families. It has even blessed mine.

   As with any other homeschool product you can tweak it to fit your individual needs. But here is how it works.

Miss Maggie has designed curriculum complete with lesson plans all the way up to the 11th grade. Generally you will still be required to purchase a math or science curriculum of your choice. However some years, especially the younger years, she does offer science, an there is a math program available, however I found it to be confusing and always purchased my own.

 How does Miss Maggie offer this, well she is not going to send you any books! These are all available online. She has scoured the internet and these books are all books that have lost their copyright, which means they are written prior to 1925. For example, 10th grade history, they are using the text, Beacon Lights of History Vol 6. When you click on that title, it will take you to the “Project Gutenberg” site, where you can download the book, to read or print.

  How to implement: You have a few choices, you can use her program as she has designed it. You have the choice, of printing out the books or you can read them on the computer. It is up to you. There are some very large books, and some very thin ones.   Now if you do  not want to follow it exactly how she has designed it for the entire year, then she has also supplied all the resources by subject. So you can pick and choose what you would like to use. There are some real gems in there!

   If you find yourself in a real bind to come up with curriculum, and perhaps even if you don’t, check out Old Fashioned Education.


Educational Internet Freebies


Here I have compiled a list of great freebies that you can use in your homeschool. No matter your homeschool method, one or more of these are bound to be helpful! 


Free software for learning mnultiplication. http://multiplication.com/


At this website you will find two math videos, pre algebra and basic math, as well as a game. All available to download for free. http://www.xpmath.com/videos/math_videos.php


This is not free, however, there are 2 free programs and all 7 programs will only cost $4.30 Math and Language Arts.



Language Arts

Online Grammar and Writing Handbook by Scott Foresman for grades 1-6.  These are complete books that are on PDF. http://www.sfreading.com/resources/ghb.html   


This is a listing of G.A. Henty books that are available to print or download.



Phonics and reading comprehension



Free online spelling curriculum



Free Audio Books Online









Answers in Genesis offers many of their science books for free.  These are the same books that are available for purchase. So check here to see if there is one you cannot afford, maybe it is on the list!  http://www.answersingenesis.org/cec/online_resources.asp



Seterra is geography software that is available to download for free.




Bible Curriculum




Online Typing curriculum http://kids.learn2type.com/NewUser


Free Spanish Lessons



These are notebooking pages you can print out for free that would go with an array of subjects.




Study Materials

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary Online



Teacher Resources

Free Charlotte Mason E-books on the left http://simplycharlottemason.com/


Too many wonderful things to list!





File Folder Games and Lapbooking




Full Curriculum

Ambelside Help, this was actually designed after Katrina, however there are lots of great resources listed.



Old Fashioned Education




Flash cards, videos and games


Free Dvd’s


I pray that some of these will help you in your homeschool!!!


Friday, June 19, 2009

2009 TOS Planner

There is one thing that I have often said to the homeschoolers in our area,  and that is, "Nothing beats homeschoolers helping homeschoolers!"And that is the truth.  If you are anything like me you have purchased, or been given "teacher planners", while they can be tweaked to work for what we need. We really do not need the 30 desk seating charts. And forms with 30 slots for children. When there was nothing better available, these would meet the need.

Enter in The Old Schoolhouse 2009 Planner. The people at TOS had put out an awesome planner last year, and let me tell you they have out down themselves this year!.  What is really awesome, the listened to all the feedback that was given to them last year and have created 40 more forms to help you in your home and your homeschool. Last year's planner was 247 pages and I thought that was big, however, this year's planner comes wieghing in at a whopping 374 pages!!!

So what exactly is the TOS 2009 Planner. It really is everything that you need to run your home and your homeschool at your fingertips. Best of all, it is a download. There is no waiting for the postman, you can get started right away!

Let's get down to the brass tacks of it all. Last year, what I did, is I only printed out the forms that I thought I needed. And to be perfectly honest, there were probably many more I could have used that I forgot about.

So this year, right after I downloaded the planner, I printed out the entire planner.  Now, I know what your thinking, that is alot of ink and alot of paper. Yes, it is, however, I printed in black and white, and my printer prints double sided. Anyhow, this works much better for me, I can already tell you. I am a hands on kind of girl, so I want to "see" and "hold" what is available. I can tell you that I will be using many more pages than I did last year.

When I need to duplicate the page, I can just pull it out of the the three ring binder and make the copy.

For some of you, the thought if printing out the entire planner might be overwhelming. So I do have an idea on how to take care of that as well, so you will not forget what you have available. Print out the table of contents, along with what ever forms you think you will use. That way when you are looking for a specific kind of form, you can look it up in the table of contents, prior to searching on the computer, or flash drive or disc you have saved the planner onto. The other thing I would do, is print out all of the resource lists, and articles. For instance, there is a reference sheet on the Branches of Federal, State and Local Governments, and one on the presidents, and the periodic table of elements, just to name a few. If you have those all printed out and in the back of your planner, you can reference those in an intant, without having to search for them. And if you are anything like me you need all the time saving tips you can get!

You will also want to print out the 24 recipes included, which all come from homeschool mom's!  There are even handwriting alphabet sheets in the back, so if you have a child who needs work, you will have those at your fingertips as well!

In addition to all the wonderful homeschool forms that are available in the planner, they have froms to help you better manage you home. They have forms such as Emergency Medical Information, Homekeeping Weekly Schedule, Menu planning, food inventory log, prayer journal, daily bible reading, garden plans, car maintenance and an address book plus many many more!

So with all of that, what are my favorites... I will have to tell you there is so much to like, but my two main favorites are the "year" calendars from 2009-2012! That comes in handy when making long term plans! And they have homeschool forms with 5 children on it! WooHoo! That's how many I have! I never can find forms with 5! They also have forms for 2, 3 and 4 children as well!  I love having the information on the resource lists handy. You could say that you could access that info somewhere else, that is true, however, it is much easier to have all in one place.. and with someone else doing the leg work!

And they also have some great forms for homeschool groups in there. And those are gong to come in handy for me as well!

One thing I was just mentioning when talking about homeschooling on a budget.. one way to save money, is not purchasing "boxed" curriculum where they lay out all the plans for you, and in turn do the planning  yourself. However, the one thing you do, is sacrifice time. However, with the TOS 2009 Planner, you could have both. You can save money and have awesome planning tools at your fingertips, that will make the job much less daunting!

Please visit the TOS STORE and check out the planner. Right now the cost is $39.00. Also, if you order by July 12th you will recieve the 2008 planner excerpts for free! That is a deal!

Happy Planning!!!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Do you have a homeschool room???


Do you have a Homeschool Room?

We recently had a discussion amongst homeschoolers, and the question was posed, do you have a homeschool room? Which has lead to several of us sharing photos of our respective rooms. So I thought I would put this together as well.

Here are 2 shots of our "school room"

This view is from the entry of that room. This room is actually a second master bedroom. Actually the larger master. It has a slider that goes to the backyard.

Here is from the opposite side of the room. You can see the doorway in which I was standing in the last shot. You can also see there is another doorway, which is a walk in closet, which is great for hiding "stuff".

Now as you see we have a wonderful space that we have created for us to learn in. However, that is not where we do our learning. O cannot really tell you why. Some days we use the room when i want to use the chalk board. However, on most days we schoool in the front of the house. Sometimes on the couch, at the dining room table, or gathered around my desk, so I thoght I would share a few shots of where we actually learn.....

Here is our dining room/ music room.....

This next shot is of our dining room table. I have to tell you, one of the best things I have done was put this wall map on our dining room table and cover it with vinyl. In the past I found our wall maps ended up becoming "art" and were not interactive at all. But now, whenever we sit down we can utilize it. Not that we do every time, but often times!

We spend alot of time on the couch and chairs. We will do our read alouds there, our devotions and sometimes bible study in general. You will also find the kids sprawled aorund the coffee table working on "seat work" or playing a game. Notice there is a basket of books between the recliner and the couch. I keep books there at their level of reading I ahve some strugglers, so having books at easy access, where they don't have to hunt is key!

One more shot... both of these are taken from the dining room, this one I have tilted a bit, in order to show the door that leads to the "school room" and my desk.....

Now the next two shots are of my desk. We spend lots of time there. When I have a student that needs extra help, while the others are working independently, we will do that at my desk. Which is why we purchased an "L' shaped desk. Also, if there are videos I want to share with them that are on line, we do it there as well.

This next one you can see shelving behind my desk, I use this for books and DVD's and other resources that we use alot. That way they do not get "lost" on all those bookshelves in the "school room".

So how do you use your space? Do you have a school room or do you school all over? Or both? Leave a comment and tell me all about it! I love to hear other homeschoolers make it work for their family!

Happy Homeschooling!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

What Is the Goal of Your Homeschool?

You may be saying to yourself, didn't you discuss this, just the other day. And I did. Though, that post really discussed the foundation of your homeschool. However, on this post, I want to look at, what is it that you want to accomplish with your homeschool. This has come up several times with me over the last several days.

One was in a sermon I heard at church, and the others came up during conversations with homeschool moms.

So let's start with, when looking at the end of your hoemschool journey, what would success look like? The answer to that question will be different for every family, and perhaps even for the people within that family.

However, I have been thinking about that quite a bit lately. It could be due to the fact that I have 3 high schoolers now. The end is much closer than I have imagined.

For me, when I think of success,  here are my goals. I would like my children, to love the Lord, live for the Lord and to love their family. And to be perfectly honest. That is what it would take for me to feel we have been successful.

Ok, so I am spending time doing academics. And I want them to able to attend whatever college they want to attend in order for them to fufill what ever it is the Lord has for them to do in this life. But, when push comes to shove, the most important things to me, is living and living for the Lord and loving their family.

Let me tell you what really set this in stone for me. You may have recently heard about Jessica Hulcy from KONOS curriculum. SHe was in a horrific car accident. She is recovering now, and her family her husband Wade and their for boys, ( men) have been giving updates via The Caring Bridge website.

As a KONOS user, I have read about and heard about Jesica and Wade's boys. And now, in real life, not a punch line, not a story to illustrate a point, they are updating the thousands of homeschool families, who are following and praying for the recovery and healing of their mother.

The words they have written, about their mother, about the faith they have in their Lord, I cannot tell you what it has done for my heart. Jessica and Wade have done an amazing job in raising those men.

And I thought, that is what it is all about. I really do not care what line of work my children fall into. I want them to be faithful to their Lord, and love their family. That would be success.

Everyday I pray that I am the mother I need to be, to raise godly children, into godly adults, who will then in turn, raise godly children. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Miserly Moms by Jonni Mc Coy

  Miserly Moms, Living Well on Less in a Tough Economy,     

by Jonni Mccoy

Miserly Moms, has been a book I have heard about over the years, but had never actually read. I was thrilled to have the chance to read it! And let me tell you, I loved it!

It does not matter whether you live in a small town, or a big city. Or if you have stayed home for years, or have recently lost a job and now are at home and trying to cope with less income.

Not matter the circumstance, this book will help you! It is chock' full of ideas and methods to help you save money. And the best part, is that it is all time tested by Jonni McCoy herself. These are all the steps that she implemented in own family, to live better on less!


Please visit, here to buy the book!           

Consider Why You Homeschool

      As our school year comes to a close, you are bound to feel either ecstatic, that the year is over, or you may be wondering where on earth all that time has gone and realizing you have yet to reach your goals for the year.

     Over the last several weeks I have had  several conversations with many different Mom’s and Dad’s. And what keeps coming back to me, is that we need to remember why it is that we homeschool.

     Have you ever had a time where you sat down and put pencil to paper and wrote down why  you homeschool? If you have not done this, you may want to spend some time in prayer as a couple  and figure out what the foundation of your homeschool is. You might ask yourself, why is this important? Can’t we just buy the books and teach the kids? Why yes you can. However when the tough times come, when you are having a difficult time conveying something to your children or you are questioning why in the world you decided to take on this endeavor  in the first place. It is helpful to have a foundation that your school has been built on.

  And that foundation should be Jesus Christ. If we as Christians build our foundation on anything other than Christ, it is likened to building our house on the sand.  Things like finances, academic goals, job changes, health, emotions, are all subject to change. However, A foundation built on the rock of Jesus Christ,  is constant, the same, unchangeable, steady.

  If Jesus Christ is our foundation, then the reasons why we homeschool will ultimately reflect that. Our long term goals for home education, our children and our family will  reflect Christ in every way.

  When those finances change, what are we going to do? While methods may need to change in order to fit our budget, we need to make sure that our new method, or choice will reflect Christ, and not compromise what we have set out to do.

  Even if you are not going through a big change in your family, going through the process of reflecting on your purpose of homeschooling will help you make every decision you make in your homeschool.  

  We go through this process throughout every year.  It helps us to decide what curriculum to use and  what extracurricular classes and activities we are going to participate in for the year, or semester. Will this class, or this activity, or will this book help us to reach our goal, or does it fit in with our homeschool mission.

    For our family, I can tell you that it has really helped us to stay on track through the different seasons of our life as we remember, why it is that we homeschool.

    In closing, I want to go back to the beginning of the article, where I mentioned, that perhaps there might be some who are feeling deflated at the thought of the year ending. Solely because you feel you have not measured up to what you had set out to do.

   Let me assure you that you are not alone in feeling that way. At some point in our homeschool careers, all of us feel that way. We homeschool mom’s have a way of expecting quite a lot of ourselves. Far more than we expect of anyone else. We all know that saying, “ The grass is greener on the other side of the fence” I recently read, “The grass is greener where you water it, so start watering!”  Try not to look at others successes, in 2 Cor 10:12 it says, “ ..but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise”.  We are not supposed to look at others and measure or success or failure. We are to look to the Lord. Remember, each of us, mom’s and children alike are on our own personal walk with our Lord and our journey will not look the same.  Start and end each day with prayer and time in your bible. Take time to evaluate or reevaluate how each person in your family is spending their time. Make changes accordingly. Changes that will support the foundation of your school and your family. And take time to enjoy your family. The Lord will guide you through this journey called homeschooling. Why not enjoy that journey???