Sunday, August 22, 2010

Blog Cruise: SisterT's TALKING MONEY For Homeschooling

Question: How do you afford to homeschool?

What are some ways to save money on hsing supplies?

Let me say upfront that I try TRY to spend as little as possible on as many things as I can with the intention of our money going further than if I didn't practice this strategy.  The big idea: MORE for less!Many hsing families are single income, and we are no exception.

Over the years money has been an issue at times. We have experienced lean conditions because of employment changes and instability that have had me searching for the things we need.  But HOW we've afforded it is that essentially, we've made it a HUGE priority~a nonnegotiable! We needed supplies so I've found them or bought them at prices we could afford. It's not a fancy philosophy, but one of determination and MORE determination.  We have believed that our children, who GOD GAVE US to raise deserve the best we can give them.  Their educations include a solid knowledge of WHO God is and His Word, but also a good academics.  I'd like to say they are gaining a BETTER education, but my nagging fear and insecurity won't let me make such boasts. But I do believe FIRMLY that homeschooling is the VERY BEST educational option.  Even in light of Christian schooling or prep schooling or whatever other kinds there are, I believe that homeschooling really mirrors everyday life so much more solidly and will prepare a young person for life so much better than a manufactured peer driven world of schooling. Is homeschooling for everyone? NO. Some with impaired intellect or even solid inabilities should probably refrain, but for most of the population, this will not be the case.

There are solid costs to homeschooling, and this is fully the family's burden.  To weigh the costs, I venture to say that I dare not deprive my children of educational opportunity b/c I desire material things that are fluff. It's a balance of getting the needed supplies and living our lives in a way we can afford. To maintain this balance,  we've chosen to live life more simply with thrift and budgetary constraints rather than my working for pay (BELIEVE ME, we SAHCMs work!) and purchasing more such as eating out, and office/professional wear.  Our focus is our home, and frankly, if I worked outside of it, my focus would be more my job, or I'd be torn.  There have been things in our lives we have done without in order to get needed materials for homeschooling.  I've made-do, re-done, made-over, fixed up and down, created, traded, swapped, freecycled, loaned, borrowed, shopped and reviewed for curriculum to bring us into our tenth year. Let's face it, living on one income can be tough in and of itself, but in these economic times, it's more than tough for some, it seems impossible.  I believe it IS possible to thrive, though in this economic climate.

I began writing Thriving With No Green$ over a year ago to encourage myself and others to make Lincoln blink when he leaves my pocket so I could have more essentials and niceties in areas where I couldn't find as many savings.  I save EVERYWHERE I can in order to spend in areas where I need to spend.  But let me say that my methods of saving and spending hinge on some key strategies that have worked for us over the years.
Before buying: RESEARCH the product and compare them.  First by price which I discuss below and features.  Get to know the product you are considering fully before handing off that good hard-earned money.
COMPARE Prices:  I like to compare prices so I KNOW a good deal when I get one.  What good is saving  50% IF I don't know what it's fifty percent of what totally?

SHOP but don't BUY until it's the best price possible: Coupons, cents off, specials, deals, used markets and swap boards can really help cut the pricing. Seasonal sales offer savings too. Be sure and compare prices!

READ reviews and find someone to ask about a new product~especially if I have to pay what I call: FULL BOAT RETAIL~and since I hate to pay THAT much, I shop around. I will hunt for discounts of every variety.  Get to know and read multiple reviews from a reviewer so that you are comparing apples to apples.  IF a reviewer has preschoolers, can they really share with me about high schoolers? Maybe, and maybe not. I find that the more similar a reviewer is to me in their lifestyle the more useful their review is to me in my knowing if the product will work for us.  I read more than their reviews to get a sense of the home, lifestyle and general character... (we don't imagine such comes across in our blogging, do we? ;-))  Think of a reviewer like a trusted friend~someone recommending something for your precious child.  NO ONE would take medicine from the local corner hanging "jock"~so knowing the reviewer or in the case of multiple reviews like the CREW, read many of them if not all to get trends and additional perspectives.  This process will take time, but once it's done, we can be confident that we know just what we are getting for our money.  The TOS CREW is a diverse group of homeschooling parents, and reading to evaluate the products reviewed with some idea of who people are will help.  Oh I know, you won't be able to go straight to the kitchen table of some reviewers, but gaining a grasp of who they are, who their kids are and what their lifestyle is will help compare ourselves to them so we will know if the product is for us.  Listen to that voice inside and trust our gut on these things.  This is a process that takes effort and is well worth it if money is important in affording materials.  There are other groups who review homeschooling products such as the Andreolas from  I have created a book mark tab to keep up with review information so I can easily research some of them. ;-))  

WAIT: avoid impulse purchasing as much as possible.  If I know this is a deal, I will go for it ONLY if I have practiced the other saving measures KNOWing it's a good deal and JUST what I need.

AVOID: I avoid purchasing stuff I don't want or need just because it's cute or I MIGHT want to use it!  I am fighting a curriculum addiction, but over the years I realize that stocking for just in case isn't wise UNLESS you can get it virtually free. Doing curriculum or product reviews can provide solid hsing supplies with a great savings.  I have saved stuff I've reviewed for a later time when I knew it would better fit our schedule and needs.  I don't recommend pre-buying even if it's a great~once in a life time price! Before doing this, consider that the product MAY change before you are ready to go with it~thus coming out with a later edition or having enhanced features that won't go with what you have.  With this, any previous savings become  huge losses as you find you will want to go with the upgraded materials. OFTEN TIMES waiting and avoiding this trap works best.

When discussing things to avoid,  I also want to alert you to schemes of practices to take our money.  Beware of deals too good to be true! Research the overall price and compare the features.  Don't get caught into buying something in order to save without calculating the total cost, and it's more than money but our time and resources.  You know, the old saying IF it's too good to be true, it probably is, right? In hsing, it applies too~just saying ;-))  An example of this, is recently I joined a yahoo group to receive and share freebies to find that the list owner reserves the right to compile the info into a book she publishes. UH...I don't have to line other ppls' purses do I to get a freebie? I am rethinking this group in regard to my values. You might not be put off by this, and that's OK with me. I just think it's good to know these things up front.  Upfront, LIKE the disclosure statements on our blogs for those of us who review and are affiliates of products.  I wanna know, and when I do know then I decide how I want to proceed. My money is important, and so is yours!  KNOW if something is really and truly free!

And speaking of truly free~

I utilize FREE as much as possible. Hit that FREEbies/GiveAways button under my header in order to see the fast growing database of resources.  My right sidebar has many many uncategorized resources, but you can read them through pretty quick to see if something grabs you!

I review homeschool and other products on my blog. You can read about them on CREW and right here as I am given them from time to time.  Reviewing provides an opportunity to get things I might not otherwise be able to afford. We are so thankful to have gotten some very well loved curriculum this way for a great great price~A plug for the CREW: Consider joining up in coming years! It's fun!

Enter GiveAways and contests for a chance to win curriculum or books you can use. It's not a sure thing obviously, but it is wonderful when you win something you can really use or would like to try~what do you lose but a little time! I post loads of GiveAways on that FREEBIE/GiveAways tab under the header~I keep them updated, and there's a Giveaway Scout widget with current ones being hosted right now~what fun!!

Freecycle is a group you can join where you can offer or request items through your local chapter and possibly receive them. I've gotten boxes and boxes of good curriculum as well as practical items such as a garden trellis and raspberry canes.  NO KIDDING, this is awesome!  (I received a "pond" that I gave my son which has become somewhat of a hands on horticulture/fish education.)

Paperback Swap offers book/DVD and CD sharing without the cost of postage. HOW COOL is this? wowsy wow wow!

I do lots of practical learning as well as academic.  We planted a garden this year, and with its care, cultivation and harvest with food preservation which lends itself to home economic instructions, our practical education often is just incorporating LIFE as our classroom. We aren't unschoolers, but we do utilize the natural world around us.

We combine subjects between the two grades of my children.  We do combined science, history, literature, Bible, and drama club.  I teach basically one thing and it's applied to each on their own level.  The exception to this is math which we recycle the text from year to year, but not the student worktext, and foreign languages as they are studying different ones and music~again different instruments.

We use the library a lot.  The location of our local branch was instrumental in the purchase of our current home. We are literally 3 doors down and across a lane.  PERFECT kid hangout~

Co op classes:  Our homeschool co-ops have provided loads of not just friends, but learning. We've explored all kinds of stuff in these environments. We've lived AND HOMESCHOOLED in three states and each co-op came with not only different people but opportunities. This past year as well as our current year we are involved in a drama co-op.  HSLDA has a data base of groups from all over the nation. RESEARCH these as well~all groups have unique features and personalities! Find one or more that fit your family!

You can start one with some other homeschoolers in your area if one isn't available.  A few years ago a couple of friends with their kiddos joined us for an afternoon of fun once a week that was educational.  It was pretty informal but also structured.  The kids formed some close bonds and had good fun.  Just knowing others who homeschool can be the beginning if you desire a group learning experience.

Church programs such as AWANA and VBS.   My teenage children help in VBS and my daughter teaches in children's church.  On occasion on Sunday's my son will run the sound board.  They participated in missions outreach ministries this summer. All of this was virtually free if using gasoline to transport isn't counted and community resources such as local field trips and instructions that are minimal or no cost.

Community Resources:  We have visited state parks for the naturalist to give us a program with other hsing families.  We have participated in community events such as parades, walks, runs, bike meets, egg hunts and more.  We've done community theater as well as finding a hsing drama group when we moved from the community based one we left behind. . ALL of these things teach~no, they aren't academics, but can help built a sense of giving back and community within a child.

Ebay,, vegsource, and others~Comparing prices is so important!.  I like to KNOW my pricing!

I recycle as much as I can.  I use found items and all kinds of stuff over the years.  We are becoming a little more simplified now that we are in the upper grades, but I will purchase used binders of good condition for fractions of the cost or other items when available.

Yard Sales/Thrift Stores: I have found gobs of stuff this way.  Just about two weeks ago I ran into an education major who was selling off her binders and unused materials...I got *some* of it b/c obviously, to get it all would have been a waste as it wasn't appropriate for our grades.  But I paid a dime for a nice 3 ring binder when at the lowest price it would have been a dollar new.

I buy in bulk. The cheap school supplies like 15 cent notebooks I buy by the arm load.  Pencils and more are purchased this way too.  I look for breaks anyway I can find them.

USE what I have: OFTEN, I just don't or can't purchase an item just because we want it. Many times, I use something I ALREADY have or find it in the library or in the public domain online if possible.

OVERALL, I spend as little as possible so our money goes further. This year we bought everyone in our home laptops.  Prior to this the kiddos used older "rebuilt" desk top models.  Of course, we found the best prices possible.  

I know this was very lengthy, but in giving you a good solid answer I want to encourage that hsing is affordable IF it's a priority, even on less money than you've dreamed! BTW~Our internet is high speed at our house, but we don't do television, but rather watch free internet movies and have a $10 Netfilx account.

Be sure to head over to read the rest of the CREW's ideas about this timely topic and leave me a comment so I know you came by~thanks! ;-))

1 comment:

Michelle Smith said...

Lots of great tips, Sister Tipster! You have given a very in-depth response to this topic--I know it is one near and dear to your heart! :)