Inexpensive is Not Inferior: How to Homeschool on the Cheap

It’s spring, and my first year of homeschooling is winding down. Being as I love to plan, I’m already thinking ahead to next year’s curriculum. Since I jumped into homeschooling rather abruptly last year, I chose an easy to implement curriculum and paid more for it. This year I feel like I know what I’m doing and what works for my kids, so I’m going to try to save some money. How am I going to save money? I’m glad you asked! Here are a few tips.

Use the Curriculum that Works for You

One curriculum, no matter how great it is, will not work for every child. Learning style, teaching style, and family dynamics all play a part in determining which curriculum is best.

One of the biggest mistakes I made this year was jumping into a Language Arts program that didn’t work well with my children. I spent money on a few different programs before settling on one that works, but we don’t love.

If there’s a curriculum that works for you, and it’s more expensive than other options, you may save yourself some money by springing for the one that works for you. If you buy an ineffective curriculum, you may find you spend more money trying to supplement or waste money by shelving the curriculum in frustration.

Know Your Prices

A few years ago a homeschooling friend and I were discussing eBay, and she mentioned that she saw some popular homeschool curriculum selling for more than you could buy it retail!

I wasn’t homeschooling at the time, but I remember the conversation. Don’t assume that buying on eBay will save you money. If you’re looking at used curriculum, know the typical retail costs, so you know if you’re getting a good deal or not.

Keep Your Eyes Open and Buy Used

I decided on my curriculum choices for next year and settled on an all inclusive, but somewhat spendy Language Arts program. Given that I find it challenging to teach language arts and my children are not strong in that area, I felt it was worth the money to buy an all inclusive program with a good reputation.

It’s worksheet based, which means it’s practically impossible to find secondhand. But this weekend I went to a local family’s curriculum sale and found the Language Arts program at my son’s level, complete with teacher manual and unused spelling notebook. Retail, it would have cost me $124. I bought it for $63. I knew the retail price and I knew exactly what I wanted. When I saw the product, I knew it was a great deal, and I bought it.

Other great places to find used curriculum are city and state-wide used curriculum sales, yard sales,, Amazon Marketplace, eBay, and Craigslist.

Buy in the Spring or at Curriculum Fairs

Many homeschoolers are planning ahead for the next year in the spring, so curriculum companies tend to hold sales in the spring. For instance, the makers of Character Quality Language Arts (the LA program I’m using next year) are having a sale this month, offering the program for $59 instead of $79. You can bet I’ll be ordering curriculum for my daughter before the month is over!

Curriculum fairs also offer great deals, especially if you need to buy a lot from many different suppliers. For one thing, you can save money on shipping by buying in person. The other thing I like about curriculum fairs is you can really look before you buy. This keeps you from wasting money on things that look great in the catalog, but dont meet your expectations when you receive them.

Use Free Resources

This is my favorite tip. It’s The Information Age, and there is a ton of free information available, if you know where to look. The library is an obvious first stop. I’m planning on using the library for most, if not all, of my readers and read alouds this year. Borrowing curriculum from friends is another good option. This year we’re using a math curriculum borrowed from a friend who didn’t need it this year. Just make sure you’re willing to loan as well as borrow.

Believe it or not, YouTube can be a great resource. My son and I were reading about tornadoes and hurricanes earlier this year. Living in the Pacific Northwest, we’ve never experienced either (thank goodness). But we watched a few videos on YouTube, so my son could see funnel clouds and extremely windy conditions.

Ambleside Online provides free curriculum. Based on the Charlotte Mason philosophy of homeschooling, it provides a reading list and schedule for nearly all subjects.

Homeschool Freebie of the Day also provides a lot of fun (and free) resources.

It’s easy to get taken in by all the different choices of homeschool curriculum. But if you know what you want and watch for deals, homeschooling doesn’t have to be expensive.

Photo: My kids’ Geography Fair display.


By , on Mar 24, 2010
Lynnae McCoy I'm Lynnae, wife of one and stay-at-home mom of two. I'm committed to getting out of debt by being frugal with my choices in life.


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  1. Lynnae:

    Thanks! I bookmarked the page. You have a lot of resources!

  2. Lauren:

    Surely you jest! Your blog indicates you have no business teaching language arts. Consider real education for your kids. While you love this adventure, the important factor is your children’s readiness to face the real word — with real language, real problems, and REAL SOCILIAZATION!

    • Lynnae:

      What’s not real about 4-H, AWANA, Sunday School, choir, band, soccer, p.e., and swimming? And that’s just what we do every week. That doesn’t include special homeschool events like geography fairs or field trips or field trips we take on our own.

      I’m not too worried about the language arts. That’s why we use good curriculum. If I can teach my kids to love learning, to respect others (even when they disagree), and to love the Lord, they’ll be way ahead of many young adults coming out of the public schools today. As long as they love to learn, there are no limits to their education.

      • Excellent reply, Lynnae.

        Lauren, surely YOU jest! Your post indicates you have no business critiquing someone else’s decision to educate their children. You should learn the facts before you try to insult someone.

        In every grade and in every subject, home schooled students outperform both public and private school students.

        Attending public school does not socialize a child. Getting out and meeting people of all ages and groups will socialize a child far better than being stuck with the same group of students for 12+ years.

        The fact of the matter is that every child learns different, and shoving them into a classroom with 20 of their peers and one teacher can not compare to the one on one attention they are going to get from their parent.

  3. Now I’m not familiar with home schooling, I’m not sure if that is even possible in my country. But I do wanted to tell you that I like your blog, it’s in my rss-feed for quite some time now. And now I like it even a little more, because of the Netherlands display. :-) (Since I’m Dutch :-)
    Keep up the good work!

    • Lynnae:

      I’m Dutch, too! Which is why we chose the Netherlands to study. But we didn’t research whether homeschooling was possible there.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. Lynnae, Sometimes I will also call or email the publisher or company that makes the curriculum I’m looking for, and ask them if they have any damaged copies that they are willing to sell. That way, I can often get the product 1/3 to 1/2 or even more off the retail price. I don’t mind something that isn’t pristine in condition, because even though we treat our books and curriculum with care, if they are well used, they will quickly go from pristine to worn condition, you know? Thanks for your good ideas!

    • Lynnae:

      Excellent idea! Thanks!

  5. Jason@Frugal Real Estate:

    Your point on buying used is excellent. My wife and I have considered home schooling, and though our kids are still in public school, we often look through yard sales, school sales, etc. for teaching guides to supplement our children’s learning at home.

    Funny you mentioned YouTube and tornadoes. For the longest time my son was addicted to watching videos from those storm chasers. Occasionally, I had to mute the volume because their language was a little rough. Then again, if a tornado was closing in on me, my language may get rough, too!

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