Reader’s Question and Guest Post: Frugal Homeschooling

by Jenn @ Frugal Upstate on August 27, 2007

I am not a homeschooler-I just want to make sure that is clear! I think that homeschooling is a wonderful and challenging endeavor-but whether or not to use the public school system or to homeschool is a very person decision.

To be quite frank, unless I was in a situation where it was necessary (say living in a foreign country etc) I don’t know if I would ever be organized enough to pull it off~I think it would just be too tempting for me to keep procrastinating. I didn’t even work on the voluntary workbook they sent home from Kindergarten at the end of the year. We also are lucky enough to live in an area with a wonderful school system, and so far Princess has thrived there. Buddy has done well in group nursery school~he really likes all the interaction.

So when I got the following reader’s question, I knew I needed help:

Dear Frugal Upstate,

I like to consider myself frugal but there’s always room to learn more. So with that in mind, what frugal ways/tips do you have in homeschooling on a shoestring budget?

Laura Williams

Luckily Alexandra, from Happy Hearts at Home, was kind enough to help me out as a subject matter expert.


Homeschooling does not have to be an expensive endeavor, but it does take some work to keep the expenses in check. Most pre-packaged curricula will be more expensive than a curriculum that you put together yourself. For the most part, you tend to pay for the convenience of getting school in a box.

The least expensive homeschooling option would be to use free online resources. The Charlotte Mason approach is very easy on the budget. An Old Fashioned Education and Ambleside Online offer free Charlotte Mason curriculum guides with links to free texts and literature in public domain. In addition to Charlotte Mason resources, there are many sites offering free worksheets, printables, educational games and mini-courses. A Google search for “free worksheets” will turn up many of them. For high school curricula try “free high school curriculum”. I got quite a few hits with these search words.

Some free curriculum sites:

Highland Heritage Forms

Enchanted Learning(Elementary School)

DLTK’s Site(Elementary School)

Kidzone Fun Facts for Children(Elementary School)

ABC Teach

Online High School Courses & Curriculum Materials

Free Online Text Materials(high school)

Unit Studies and lap books are also inexpensive ways to educate. It is a good idea to search homeschool blogs. There are many helpful unit studies that homeschoolers have graciously shared. One example is this unit study on Seasons which Sprittibee has shared. In Beauty and in Grace recently shared this unit study on Ann of Green Gables.

Some free or inexpensive unit studies and lapbook resources online:

How to Plan a Unit Study

Easy Fun School

Lapbooking Basics

Homeschooling with Frugal Unit Studies

How a Textbook Mom Does Unit Studies

Unit Studies(link list)

Homeschooling on a Shoestring

A bit more expensive, but still frugal is homeschooling with the Classical method. Like Charlotte Mason, this method draws from books other than the standard textbook, and is somewhat amenable to free online resources and library books. Classical Homeschooling:Classical Education at Home offers a free curriculum guide. I have linked to the grades 1-6 for quick reference; however, they also offer a guide for middle and high school as well. The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Bauer is another Classical homeschooling curriculum guide book which is often available at the public libraries.

Mater Amabilis offers a free Catholic Charlotte Mason homeschool curriculum guide. Some of the books can be found at the library, but many need to be purchased. We use a few of these resources, and I have been able to find them inexpensively at and at Cathswap.

Finally, the best bargain for textbook based full curriculum that I have found has been Rod & Staff(Mennonite) and Christian Liberty Press(Presbyterian and Reformed). Rod & Staff, a non-profit Mennonite publisher offers excellent quality back-to-basics learning. We have enjoyed using their textbooks for the past four years, and Rod & Staff gets excellent reviews ; it is solid, plain and no frills. Christian Liberty Press offers a full curriculum at a very low price. Their science and history readers are a particularly good bargain. Given the time, I have been able to use the online curriculum book lists for Rod & Staff and Christian Liberty Press, and purchased many of the books used. If you buy ahead as you find the used textbooks, you can build a full or almost full curriculum very inexpensively.

I have seen plenty of secular textbooks for sale at local library books sales, and at the library in the reference section. Ebay has a plentiful selection of texts. If you buy used, you’ll save quite a bit. Two handy secular guides are What Your Child Needs to Know(insert grade) by E. D. Hirsch Jr and Home Learning Year by Year: How to Design a Homeschool Curriculum from Preschool Through High School by Rebecca Rupp. And there is always Unschooling which allows quite a bit of financial flexibility with no curriculum.

Sources for free or inexpensive used books:

Public domain books and other free texts(long list)
Thrift stores
Library sales
Amazon(used books)
Online homeschool book sale sites
Local homeschool group book sales

Suggestions for inexpensive printers and other printing tips here and here. Also, we store our free printables in a large three ring binder divided by subject, and use an inexpensive three ring hole puncher to secure them.

I often use Google Alert when searching for curricula. Google Alert notifies me via email when my search gets a hit. This is a very easy way to search for particular books or curricula.

There are plenty of other frugal homeschooling methods and curricula, this is just a sampling. If you steer clear of a prepackaged curricula, especially those that are heavily advertised as having all the bells and whistles, you can homeschool on a small budget.

I have been homeschooling my son since Kindergarten; he will be starting fourth grade in the fall. I blog about our frugal journey at Happy Hearts At Home.

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