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How to Afford Homeschooling

Low-Cost Lower Elementary Suggestions

By Mary Leggewie

Mandatory needs: Prayer, motivation, a library card, and a desire to teach your child. Maximize your library use by finding out how to access your library from your home computer.

HIGHLY recommended: On-line access. There is just too much available on-line for free to disregard this incredible source that costs you $10-$20 per month. You can do research in store catalogs (like Barnes & Noble, ChristianBook, etc., and then check them out from the library.

Helpful: Subscription to local newspaper, or read the Sunday paper at the library to find out what's going on in your neighborhood in the way of free concerts, art displays, and events.

Helpful: Netflix --a library of DVDs to rent by mail with no deadlines, no late charges. If you currently rent DVDs occasionally, this subscription will pay for itself and give you the benefit of an enormous library of educational DVDs.

The plan: I love thinking "school in disguise," with as little "seat time" as possible at this age! Children are not created to sit at a desk for hours at this age! Get out, use a variety of materials and approaches, use short lessons!

Sneak in learning time at bedtime with your read-alouds. Besides reading classic picture books aloud, read historical fiction for younger readers, read Childhood of Famous Americans books, etc. Read the Bible at night. When I had a range of children from baby to older elementary, I would start with the picture books that the youngest would enjoy (actually, before that, I would nurse the baby to sleep while I read aloud to the older ones), then move to the Bible, then to the harder read aloud. As the reading got more difficult, the younger ones would fall asleep, but they would not have missed the reading that was tailored to their age, or the Bible.

If you make learning FUN, your child will learn faster and have a higher rate of retention. Try to do at least one field trip per week at this age. Field trips do not have to be expensive! Find out what the free admission days are for your local museums. If you're a one-car family, learn about public transportation, or WALK! Field trips might mean going for a walk, and checking out all the bugs and plants along the way.

Do yourself and your children a favor--dump the TV viewing, except for well-chosen videos. Do not use it as a babysitter. If a child doesn't have the TV to depend on for entertainment, they will explore, play, and learn a LOT more than if they know they can just "veg" out. Try it! It took my kids 3 weeks to withdraw, and it was amazing to watch the new activities they started on their own. Don't think you have to be the entertainment director! They will find things to do if they get bored enough with no TV!

Scope and Sequence

If you just starting out and you're paranoid you're going to ruin your child by "winging it," you can refer to several on-line "scope and sequence" plans:

A Beka Book Scope and Sequence
World Book Scope and Sequence

Please don't think that you have to do everything it says, or do everything when it says you should! Just use this as a general guide! And don't get trapped thinking that the public school up the street actually covers all this material (or in a manner that the children will retain the information!).

Recommended Books: Most are available from the library. If you can afford them, and prefer to buy them, I've linked to our "Support" links.

Successful Homeschool Family Handbook by Raymond and Dorothy Moore.

What your First Grader Needs to Know (see warning about Scope and Sequence above--it applies to this book too). This series of books is available for K-6, and should be available in every library.

Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum by Laura Berquist. Book that helps you design your own homeschooling plan. Written from a Catholic perspective, but easily adapted by non-Catholics.

Teaching the Trivium: Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn. Many useful tips and much encouragement!

Discover Your Child's Learning Style by Mariaemma Willis and Victoria Kindle-Hodson.

Art ($0-$20)

Field trips to museums. (Check for free admission days)

Videos and books from the library ($0)

Use's art page. There are lots of craft sites on the Internet that have craft recipes and ideas for inexpensive crafts and art projects. Many can be used from recycled products you have at home. Check out author Lucy Micklethwait for art appreciation and crafts. (Example: I Spy) ($0)

Many artists will tell you the best thing you can do for your child for art is to make sure he has everything he needs to be creative. That might mean investing in $20 worth of supplies (crayons, colored pencils, glue, etc.). Check your local printer for paper scraps they would normally throw away.

Bible ($0-$20)

The Bible ($0)

Golden Children's Bible (through 6th grade)
Child's Story Bible by Catherine Vos (through 6th grade)'s Religion page

Geography ($0-$12)

World Map, U.S. Maps ($0-12 total). If you have a roadside membership, these maps are often free.'s Geography page

History ($0)

Library books for history, using reading lists from's reading lists page. A child who enjoys history through real books will retain a lot more than one who is fed facts through a textbook. Use biographies and historical fiction, along with other library books like DK books and Usborne Books. Look for the 1951 Hillyer's Child's History of the World. ($0)

Field trips to museums. Call your local museums to find out which day of the month is their free admission day. ($0)

Videos from the library. Non fiction, educational videos from the library are often free to check out.'s History page

Language Arts ($0-$20)

Handwriting: Copy Bible verses. ($0)

Composition: Write letters, thank you notes, business letters asking for information from companies your child is interested in (you'll often get back coupons for free or discounted products). ($0)

Reading/Phonics ($0-16): This is an area you can spend a little or a LOT in. Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (new/used from Amazon or easy to find on's used curriculum message boards) has been used with great success for a long while to teach children to read. Or, you can find phonics lists for free on the Internet and make up your own flashcards and program. ($0) Paper for flashcards can be obtained from local print shops for free--scraps of cardstock.

Readers: use the library for easy readers. You should be able to find phonics-based readers .($0)

Literature: there are too many GOOD, quality books out there to waste your time with "twaddle" (worthless books). Use some of the many quality reading lists available on-line, such as those on's reading lists page. Christine Miller's Classical Christian Education "1000 Good Books" list is one of my absolute favorites. ($0)

Books on tape/CD from the library! You may be amazed to discover the selection your local library has. Ask your librarian to show you how to access books on tape/CD from other branches. In my area, the San Bernardino County Library system has a contract with Recorded Books International, and I can use RBI's printed catalog or web site to make my wish list and order in nearly any of the books on tape/CD that RBI has taped from other branches at no cost. I rarely wait more than a week for a book on tape to arrive. The advantage of using books on tape while in the car is that children strapped in seat belts will listent to books way over their reading level. Books on tape will increase the listening ability of your child. ($0)'s Language Arts page

Math ($0-$20)

In the early years, your emphasis for math is learning math facts. This doesn't even have to be written down in the beginning! Teach your child to count forwards and backwards, by 2s, 4s, 6s, etc. You can do mental math. There are books at the library for mental math ($0).

Play with manipulatives -- M&Ms, beans, paper clips, buttons. Use these to sort, break into equal groups, add and subtract.

Play math games, invent math games.

Used math curricula are easy to find on's used curriculum message boards.

Math facts set to music. My personal favorite is Math-U-See's math facts song tape. The tape drove me crazy, but once I learned the songs, I didn't use the tape. After we memorized the songs, then we would cut out most of the song, and only sing the part with the facts. We could do facts 2-9 in just 3 minutes. ($6)'s Math page

Music ($0-$30)

Free local concerts. They're out there! ($0)

Check out CDs and cassettes from your local library ($0)

Buy a recorder with Easy Recorder Tunes and teach yourself and your child to play!

If you already know an instrument and can teach your child, you'll be amazed at the low prices for used instruments on eBay!'s Music page

Physical Education ($0)

Walk, run, bike, skate, sled, swim! Don't think your child is being deprived by not having organized sports! If you want your child to be healthy for LIFE, help them enjoy individual sports that can be continued on through their senior years. Basketball teams are not as easy to come by when you're 80, but if you've developed a love of walking or swimming, that is something you can continue throughout life.

If you REALLY love organized sports, in addition to doing individual activities, then find a local homeschool group that has park days, and organize some sports with them if they don't already have them going. There are homeschooling leagues being created all over the country right now.

If you've got a local parent who loves a sport such as baseball, get the kids together to play for FUN sometime! They won't have the cost of a league or uniform. Just find a field that you can use for free!

Science ($0)

Make a nature journal.

Nature walks, park days.

Videos and books from the library. Let's Read and Find Out series is one you might want to look at.

On-line coloring pages of animals and other science topics's Science page

Complete Curriculum ($0)

Ambleside Curriculum On-line This is a free complete curriculum based on Charlotte Mason's style. At the time of this update, Grades 1-9 are available for free on-line.

Five in a Row by Jane Lambert is very popular among homeschoolers who want to use library books for this age group.

Ruth Beechick's The Three R's is very popular. It offers five simple steps for teaching your children to read, a proven four-step method for teaching writing, and a method to facilitate learning by focusing on the "four attitudes" of math education. Includes a phonics/arithmetic chart.


Find a local support group or form one. Many local newspapers will give you a free advertisement for this sort of thing.

Family support: Make your Christmas wish list reflect your priority for education when your family asks for ideas! Ask for educational games, videos, and subscriptions to magazines you can't borrow from the local library. Suggest gift certificates so you can do the choosing. (Think of the thank-you notes that will count for writing!)

Have Grandma or Grandpa read aloud, or be read to by your budding reader! Have them correct math sheets with your child if you use worksheets. Resources Related to Early Education

Articles to support your homeschooing efforts's Preschool and Early Education section