Home educating on a budget may seem like a challenge at first, especially if you are attempting to gather as many resources as your average classroom. There is no need to rush out and buy a lot of equipment that you may not need. First, sit down and write a “wish list”, then highlight the items you feel are most necessary to begin.
There are many alternatives to expensive educational resources. Here are some ideas to help you save money in setting up your home learning space.
- Buy furniture which has multiple uses. Consider a large, second-hand dining table over individual desks, for example - or just use your dining table! Use open shelving rather than cupboards for storing supplies and books. This allows the children to see what is available for their use and is less expensive. We've used bolt-together galvanised steel five-shelf units to hold games, puzzles, and construction kits. The children can see everything on the shelves and they remain tidy and uncluttered compared to a cupboard. They cost very little from the hardware store and can be repurposed in the garage once homeschooling is over. I once had a 2.5m high, 1.2m wide shelving unit in white melamine, that was tougher than your average chipboard one as it was once display shelving in a shop. This one held many files, folders, books and boxes and cost me $30 from a second-hand furniture store.
- Consider a $2 inflatable globe from a discount store before investing in an expensive atlas or globe. My children learned more world geography from their “beach ball globe” than from any other maps or books we own, or the pretty globe that sat on a high shelf. Atlases often come on sale at the start of the school year or in book club catalogues. Hold out until you get a quality, inexpensive one. Or suggest one as a gift idea from a grandparent or other family member. Alternatively, look at maps online!
- Look at alternatives before investing in other reference books. In today’s technological age there is up-to-date information on many topics available on the internet, which many families have access to at home or at their local library. The internet will most likely provide answers to most questions that young ones come up with. Libraries usually have a selection of reference books, even if they aren't always for loan. Second-hand books can also be found at garage sales, library sales and op. shops, as well as the many homeschool buy, swap, sell pages on Facebook.
- Join a home education group or association to access discounts on subscriptions to educational magazines, apps and software. Often with just one purchase, you'll easy save more than the annual group membership fee (if any). There are groups on Facebook to connect with other families for bulk buy deals.
- Art and craft supplies are especially important for littlies. I buy a lot of mine from educational suppliers in bulk. We use recycled paper, sturdy coloured pencils and lovely beeswax crayons for day-to-day art play. I buy coloured paper, rolls of easel paper and other mediums for them to use for special projects and gifts. Our clay has come in 10kg packages from art suppliers or “recycled” clay from local potters, and we make our own playdough with simple kitchen ingredients.
- We buy exercise books, writing pencils, printer paper, folders and more at the back-to-school sales and keep a supply handy for when the children need these.
- Buy the minimum number of books you can for your child’s learning. Wait until they have used the curriculum for awhile before deciding to invest in a whole series. Borrow reading books from the library rather than buying them all new, if you can, or pick them up second hand from families whose children have passed the early reading stage. Check out op shops and second-hand book stores often, because many classic books are readily available in used condition having been prescribed school readers. While you are at the second hand book stores, check out the reference section and for any quality books that are not too out-dated. There is also an abundance of books available on the various homeschool buy, swap, sell sites on Facebook.
- You can make your own games. Learning games are fun and they work! There are many websites to get you started with making games. Learning games can be in the form of board games, card games or physical games. They can include music, sports equipment, flash cards or dice. You are limited only by your imagination. And the kids have plenty of that, so get them involved! Instead of paying $10-$50 per learning game to teach different concepts, you can often create your own in very little time for the price of some very basic materials.
- Plan some low-cost excursions or consider annual passes to local museums or wildlife parks if you think you will get value for your dollar. Often you need only go twice to recoup your membership costs, and there are a lot of extra benefits. These annual tickets are a great gift idea for someone wanting to give a gift to your whole family.
The golden rule in the beginning is WAIT. As time progresses you will know what your family’s needs are and you may hear from other homeschoolers where to find the bargains. You don’t need to build a school in your home to start on your home based learning journey. If you are feeling inadequate, write a list of all the resources available in your community - include the library, council, tourist centre, parks, galleries, museums, natural resources (beach, forest, river etc), people, schools and so on. You will be surprised at the range of activities just waiting to be enjoyed as part of your home education journey.
Keep an eye on our Friday Freebie posts for some fantastic FREE resources that might be useful in your homeschool.
If you'd like a good quality PDF version of the Budget Worksheet above, click here to download it!