Monday, August 23, 2010

A quality education doesn't have to be expensive!

This week's Blog Cruise topic is about the financial cost of homeschooling.

How do you afford to homeschool? What are some ways to save money on hsing supplies?

People really get hung up on numbers sometimes, don't they?  In fact, just this past week I was asked about how much homeschooling costs. The nice thing about homeschooling is that it is possible to homeschool on even the smallest of budgets if necessary.

Before I give some money-saving tips, let me give you some points to ponder about the cost of education.
  • A more expensive resource doesn't necessarily mean a better quality resource. I've seen some high-priced resources out there that simply don't deliver.
  • Homeschooling saves in unexpected areas, therefore balancing out some of the necessary expenses. For example, kids don't have to wear costly name-brand clothes to fit in and expensive convenience food items or the purchase of a school lunch that lacks nutrition is not necessary.
  • Compared to private schools, even a generous budget for homeschooling is much cheaper. Your dollars, directed specifically to your child, will go much farther.

Now, on to specifics on how I personally cut costs in our homeschool while still delivering a quality education.

1. If possible, buy curriculum used.

There are some great swap boards out there. Vegsource and  Homeschool Classifieds are two that I frequent.  Yahoogroups has swap lists as well, some specific to certain programs, such as the IEW Items for Sale list.

Buying used takes some planning, especially for items in high demand, so there is a time investment. I feel the savings are definitely worth it.  For example, let's say I spend an hour of my time scouring lists looking for a particular item. If I save $25 as a result of my efforts, it would be like "working" for a pay of $25.  As a single-income family, I wouldn't hesitate to pick up an odd job here or there with the pay of $25/hour, would you?

2. Sell your curriculum when you are done with it.

I've known some to not want to be bothered with listing items and either let them sit on their shelves or just give them away.  The latter is a wonderful gesture to a homeschool family in need and I don't want to discourage anyone from doing so.  However, if  you are having trouble paying for next year's materials, take the time to sell your used items.  You'll not only bless another family by saving them money, you'll have some cash to make new curriculum purchases.

3. Buy items you know for sure you'll use in the future when you see them at a good priced used or on sale.

You need to be careful with this one, as you don't want to get stuck with items that you end up not using.  However, I keep an eye open for higher levels of programs that I am currently successfully using and know I'll be using into the future.  Sometimes some real bargains can be found and it's worth the savings to have the item sitting on my shelf for awhile.  I also tend to pick up items that I perhaps want to try and are priced such that I know I can turn around and resell at the same price I purchased it for if it doesn't work out. This way I get to try the product without actually losing money on a bad purchase.

4. Barter or borrow materials.

Bartering used to be a common way to obtain what you needed.  I have a friend that offers my daughter writing and literature lessons in exchange for phonics and spelling work with one of her kids. This would work with curriculum too.  For example, you could teach someone's child how to knit in exchange for a program or text the other family is done using. Or, perhaps a friend has some desired curriculum on their shelf waiting for younger sibling to reach that level who might be willing to loan it to you for a year.

5. Seek out inexpensive or free opportunities. Be creative!

I've been able to find many inexpensive opportunities in our area that are higher quality than more expensive programs. 4-H has been a wonderful find.  It only costs $10/student to join a club and there are so many opportunities outside of individual clubs.  Last year, our family received $40 in scholarships to attend already reasonable priced programs, simply by applying. Also, 4-H isn't all about cows and pigs. Check out your local area 4-H to see what they have available.  Starting your own club is very easy and might be consideration if you can't find something of interest.

Don't pass up community programs.  Look at what is being offered with an open mind. My daughter joined a creative writing group in our community recently.  It was intended more for adults, but they were very welcoming to her. It is completely free and she always receives positive feedback on her writing.  Also, I'm not shy about approaching someone offering a class or program in the community about teaching or speaking to a group of homeschoolers.  They are often very willing and will do so at an affordable price.

6. Teach your kids to be frugally minded.

I've been blessed with kids that aren't caught up on having certain items.  For example, my daughter likes to shop at Salvation Army for cheap and unique finds, which saves on the clothing budget.  Both my son and daughter do odd jobs for neighbors and save money for items that they really want.  Teaching good stewardship is a lesson in itself, but the practice will also save dollars in the long-run.

7. Utilize the library and parks!

You might as well take advantage of the resources your tax dollars support!

I feel a bit silly mentioning the library, because it seems so obvious. If your local library doesn't have an item that you need, ask about interloaning it.  Also request your librarian purchase items.  If it is in the budget, they are often happy to try to acquire items for their patrons.

We have several Metroparks in our area that are more than willing to provide low-cost educational programming for homeschoolers.  One such park is even offering a biology class based on a homeschooling curriculum in their lab classroom.  Just because there isn't an already established class doesn't mean they aren't will.  Ask and you may be surprised!

8. Don't feel like you have to do everything to provide a good education. Choose wisely!

In the past, I tended to overbuy and over schedule.  All of those materials and opportunities cost money! I've learned that while there are amazing resources out there, we can only use so many.  My kids don't learn if the materials on the shelves aren't actually used. And if we are running around every day going from activity to activity, the kids will be too scattered to actually get the most out of every activity. Over the years I've needed to learn to say no to activities or materials, as wonderful as they sound.

Homeschooling does not need to cost a fortune to be successful. All it take is a bit of creativity and determination, not a difficult task for a community that already is willing to look outside of the (public school) box.


Debra said...

Love it, Heidi! Especially about not taking every opportunity that presents itself. Too easy to do.

Michelle Smith said...

Really good insights. You touched on some points I didn't think about when I wrote on this subject. Thanks for writing this article; I will jot some of these ideas down. :)