Frugal Homeschooling – How to Homeschool for FREE or on the Cheap

Homeschool for free

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When I started homeschooling in the early 1990’s there weren’t many homeschool curriculum choices. I didn’t have access to stacks of catalogs or online resources. There was The Big Book of Home Learning by Mary Pride, my library, a drawer full of art supplies, and that was about it! In those early years I made a lot of my own “curriculum,” if you could call it that. It’s kind of funny because that’s what I resorted to in my later homeschooling years, as well, albeit with much more experience under my belt. ūüėČ

Homeschooling for free is something I’m well acquainted with. In the beginning it was something I needed to do because there wasn’t much out there to purchase. In later years it was something I did because of budget constraints, out of the necessity to custom-tailor things for my kids, and just because there are a lot of homeschool resources out there that are FREE and just as good as things you could pay hundreds of dollars for!

In this post I’m going to share tons of resources and ideas to get you started down the path of homeschooling for FREE or at least on the cheap. These resources can help preserve some of your homeschool budget for that expensive math curriculum you have your eye on, or it can help those of you who are struggling to make ends meet and just don’t know how you will be able to give your children a quality education without breaking the bank.

Before proceeding with any of the following, please make sure you check with your local authorities about the homeschool requirements in your state and that you research college admissions requirements. The following resources are things I’ve come across over the years, and they may or may not be a fit for your particular situation! It’s your responsibility to make sure you are in compliance with your local laws, etc. With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s jump into the FREEBIES! I’ve included some of my own personal thoughts/opinions about some of them. Feel free to ignore if they don’t match your own preferences! Make sure to scroll down past the complete homeschool curricula for MORE high-quality freebies and ideas.

I will add to this post when I come across new resources!


Free Complete Homeschool Curricula


ABC Jesus Loves Me Grades: Preschool from ages 1-5

If you are looking for a free preschool curriculum that is Christian, this site has free lesson plans for ages 1 through 5. The 5th year can also be used as Kindergarten.

AmbelsideOnline  Grades: K-12        MY TOP PICK for a complete curriculum

“AmblesideOnline is a free Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum with high literary standards. The curriculum is free and uses as many free online books as possible. Most of the other recommended books can be borrowed from a local library. I like the inclusion of art, music, poetry, nature study, and the academic rigor.

“The Charlotte Mason method uses living books with an emphasis on quality rather than quantity, narration instead of comprehension exercises or composition, copywork for handwriting, spelling and grammar modeling, nature observation as the primary means of early science, and literature, poetry, art and music to give children’s minds beautiful ideas to feed on.”

I love Charlotte Mason curricula and used some of Ambelside’s recommendations in my own homeschool.

The Classical Curriculum Grades: K-12

“The following is a high-brow, high-IQ classical curriculum, which has been adopted by homeschoolers and classical schools. The creators of this free online curriculum have sought to address the lack of any sound online classical curriculum. Based upon the 19th-century German-Latin method and following the¬†great-books model, this curriculum often attempts to be highbrow, emphasizing the best of occidental traditions while avoiding the¬†anti-Western political correctness¬†one finds in public schools.”

Each grade has a book and materials list to work from. Many of the books can be obtained for free or from your local library. Other subjects that cost (math, etc.) can be replaced with freebies. There is an emphasis on learning Latin, German, and reading many classics like Livy’s Rome and Plato (which I find dreadfully boring). I like some of the earlier grade’s book recommendations. If I were looking for a free curriculum, I wouldn’t love this one, but some of you may!

Discovery K12 Grades: K-12

We offer a Non-Common Core, traditional, secular curriculum using today’s cutting-edge technologies from pre-k through 12th grade.

There are over 16,000 lessons that include reading, literature, language arts, math, history & social studies, science, visual and performing arts, P.E.,Spanish, HTML coding, healthy living, and personal finance with a library of over 100 classic e-books like Tome Sawyer and Treasure Island. A student account is free. A parent account is currently $50 at the time of this writing and gives you access to detailed reports including attendance tracking, transcript creation, diplomas, and more. This curriculum is ONLINE, so you will need access to a computer and the internet.

This is NOT my favorite type of curriculum. I don’t like computer based curricula at all. I used the computer as a tool, but I preferred my kids to hold and read real books when possible. However, some of you are looking for something that’s more self-contained and hands-off parent-wise. Discovery K12 might fit the bill.

Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool Grades: K-12

Easy Peasy is one of the few free curricula in which every single subject is totally free, other than a few art and activity supplies. There are even complete PDF packets to download for math and language arts. All of the literature is free and everything is linked to. Easy Peasy is a good choice for those of you on a very strict budget. Every day is laid out and easy to follow. The curriculum is also designed for a child to work through independently.

“We exist to help families homeschool. We enable families to homeschool who thought they couldn‚Äôt because of a lack of finances, a lack of time, or a lack of know-how. Others join EP just because it‚Äôs easy and fun and they‚Äôre confident of the quality of education. EP seeks to free families from the burden of pursuing the ‚Äúperfect‚ÄĚ and encourages them to let it be ‚Äúenough.‚ÄĚ Each family and each child is different and we seek to provide the resources to enable your family to be who you were meant to be.”

Higher Up and Further In Curriculum Grades: Preschool – 6

Here’s another Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum. Some of the books scheduled in are free classics. You will need to purchase others. There is a forum for the curriculum users.

Homeschool Curriculum Free for Shipping  Grades: Varies

Receive curricula for the price of shipping, or donate things you’re no longer using to help other homeschoolers in need!

“Homeschool Curriculum Free for Shipping (est. July 1st, 2014), a pay-it-forward homeschool community, is a¬†501(c)(3) non-profit organization¬†that exists as a means of providing brand new and used curriculum for only the cost of shipping or even completely free to homeschool families in need. ¬†Recipients are encouraged to “pay-it-forward” after using the donations. ¬†The organization and Facebook group work together as a community with a twofold purpose. ¬†First, to serve as a resource for donors who are seeking to donate curriculum. ¬†Second, to support and encourage ALL homeschooling families, especially those who homeschool with financial constraints.”

Letter of the Week Grades: Preschool

Mater Amabilis Grades: K-8 (with suggestions for high school)

Mater Amabilis is a Charlotte Mason style curriculum for Catholics. Some of the books needed for this curriculum must be purchased or borrowed from the library. Other resources and books are available for free online. 36 week lesson plan charts are provided. Non-Catholics can still use this curriculum by leaving out the Catholic related studies.

Old-Fashioned Education Grades: K-12

This free Christian based homeschool curriculum makes use of FREE books and provides a 40-week schedule to keep you on track. Lots of classics in the public domain are integrated into the schedules.

PASS workbooks Grades: High School

PASS is no longer available on the original website, but you can access their materials thanks to the Internet Archive. PASS offers a variety of free workbooks for high school language arts, math, science, social studies, Spanish, and more. The workbooks are self-teaching, so a student can work through them on his own for the most part. Note that not ALL of the linked PDF’s are available via the Internet Archive, but many of them are. Try a different capture date via the top bar if one of the PDF’s you need is missing. Here’s another way to access the PASS workbooks and teacher’s guides: Click here.


Other Terrific Resources


In this section I’m sharing resources that are free, but not complete curriculums! These are the resources you want to check out for specific subjects or ideas on how to cut down your homeschooling costs.

The library

First and foremost, use your local library!! I can’t emphasize this enough. If your student can read, s/he can learn just about anything just by reading books. You should visit the library on a frequent basis. Reading should be something that is fun and stress-free. You can also find just about any subject your student needs to study at the library whether it’s history, grammar, math, science, or even a foreign language. I even checked out math textbooks. If your library doesn’t have a book, request it a year in advance of when you’ll need it. Get multiple cards (one for each member of the family) if your library has a book loan limit.

OpenLibrary. org 

If you don’t have access to a library, or you’d like easy, instant FREE access to millions of books, check out OpenLibrary. You can check out books in e-book, PDF, or online formats. I’ve found complete textbooks and workbooks, along with many of my children’s favorite titles.

Free books

If a book isn’t available, you can get on the waitlist and check it out when it’s “returned” by the current patron. You can also make and share lists. Check out my lists:¬†https://openlibrary.org/people/guesthollow/lists¬†where you can find not only educational books, but lots of terrific picture books and children’s literature. If you live in another country and need books in English, this is the perfect resource for you!

Public Domain Books for Homeschooling Group

Free books? YESSSSSSSS! If you are on Facebook, you’ll want to join this group for links to some terrific books.

“This is a non-discussion group. It is a repository for links to¬†public domain books that will prove useful to homeschoolers. Links to books or series of books are listed as comments in posts listing specific subjects.”

Khan Academy

I used Khan Academy for some high school math in our homeschool, as well as other subjects like computer science. You can learn just about anything at Khan Academy and there are resources for almost every age. A learner gets a dashboard and has the opportunity to earn badges. There are not only instructional videos, but some subjects have interactive exercises. This is a MUST-SEE website, especially if you have older students. Even younger students can progress at their own pace with a solid (in my opinion) math progression.

Khan Academy offers practice exercises, instructional videos, and a personalized learning dashboard that empower learners to study at their own pace in and outside of the classroom. We tackle math, science, computer programming, history, art history, economics, and more. Our math missions guide learners from kindergarten to calculus using state-of-the-art, adaptive technology that identifies strengths and learning gaps. We’ve also partnered with institutions like NASA, The Museum of Modern Art, The California Academy of Sciences, and MIT to offer specialized content.

MEP Math 

MEP is a treasure trove for those of you looking for a totally free math program for Kindergarten (Year 1) through high school. I used some of their resources over the years. You can download complete practice books (workbooks), teacher’s manuals, review material, and more.

MEP Math - Free homeschool math

CK-12

CK-12 offers a boat-load of free lessons and even full textbooks, along with interactive activities and videos. There is math for grades 1 through high school, science for all grades, and other topics like writing, spelling, engineering, technology, history, and more. Choose the teacher view if you want to see the textbooks that are available. Textbooks are editable, so Christian parents can edit out evolution in science books or you can add in materials and videos as desired. Textbooks can be viewed online (where they are interactive), or you can download them in a variety of formats for offline use.

ck-12

Guest Hollow

Yeah, I’m going to toot my own horn. I have lots of freebies and free curriculum schedules available. Most of my free programs were created when I was actively homeschooling my own children and before I turned Guest Hollow into a business, so some of them are not necessarily “polished.” Many of the free schedules also have older links that are not updated, but the schedules themselves are still usable. Right now my free curriculum schedules include:

I also have lots of free printables! Click here!

Homeschool Share

I can’t tell you how many times I used this website. Homeschool Share has free unit studies, printables, and lapbooks. If you are looking for a lapbook, look here first! You’ll find tons of free units with both lapbook and notebook printables.

DIY Homeschooler

There are lots of free goodies here, including some really great FREE books (some from the public domain) like Alpha-Phonics. Check out the free book studies and units, too!

The Good and the Beautiful

This site offers both free and paid curriculum. I’m including it for the free language arts and literature program (Levels 1-5) that is completely FREE.

LibriVox

Check out LibriVox for FREE audiobooks. You can listen to them with your computer or on a variety of devices. You can even burn them onto a CD. Browse the catalog, click on genre/subject, and then take a look at the children’s books.

Local Homeschool Co-ops and Support Groups

Many homeschool groups have co-ops and support groups. If you are in a pinch financially, your local fellow homeschoolers may be willing to loan you curricula or materials from their own homeschool libraries. I shared a ton of books and materials over the years with other homeschoolers. Most of us are a frugal and helpful bunch. ūüėČ

Google Is Your Friend

You would be surprised by what all is out there in internet-land. I’ve stumbled across all sorts of treasures, including free printable workbooks, posters, high-quality printables, free science kits via mail complete with supplies, detailed lists of freebies that cover every subject under the sun, and more. Here are a few things I’ve found over the years just to give a sampling of what’s out there if you have the time to search.

Don’t buy new – buy USED!

This is a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many forget this simple suggestion. You can save tons of money buying used books and supplies. Some suggestions:

Earn a little bit extra by doing stuff online!

Over the years I’ve earned free Amazon gift certificates and such to spend on books and school supplies. You can do so from some of the following sites:

Swagbucks – I think I’ve earned the most from Swagbucks over the years. You can earn points doing surveys, using the Swagbucks search (instead of Google), playing games, shopping, watching videos, etc. I spend my Swagbuck earnings on Amazon gift cards.

Pinecone Research

This is a legit site that both my mom and I have used. You get paid $3 per survey and also get to receive some fun stuff. One time I received some chocolates. I used some of the $$ I made to purchase some homeschool books.


I’ve only scratched the surface of what’s available to help you homeschool for free (or to cut your homeschool expenses). If you have a tight budget and wonder if that’s compatible with homeschooling, be assured -it CAN be done. Homeschooling for free does take a bit of extra work and planning, but there are a LOT of free resources out there – so many it would boggle your mind, lol…Make sure you are in compliance with your local laws with whatever you choose, and happy homeschooling!

Huge Giveaway!

It’s almost that time of year again! The Build Your Own Bundle sale starts on Monday, but starting today through Sunday, you can enter the giveaway to win ALL of the bundles being offered this year. That’s a $4,454 total value of homeschool curricula & helps from a variety of contributors (108 total), including ME! Here’s the link:

http://www.buildyourbundle.net/giveaway/ref/guesthollow

Also, if you refer a friend to the presale giveaway, and your friend wins, you win, too!

I’ve looked over all the bundles, and while I can’t share specific contents, yet, I can share that there are a lot of great contributors, including one of my favorites, Ellen McHenry. I used a lot of her things in my own homeschool and schedule some of her great books in my own curriculum schedules. There are also some other goodies from publishers / companies like Tapestry of Grace, TruthQuest History, Bright Ideas Press, and other well-known names. The lesser known contributors are also offering some really good products as well.

For those of you who don’t know, the Build Your Own Bundle sale allows you to bundle together curriculum, workbooks, online classes, etc. at a HUGE savings. There is even going to be a buy-two-get-one-free sale. These bundles are a great deal because you are getting savings of up to 96% off (I can’t share the prices of the bundles, yet). This is the kind of thing I loved when I was homeschooling, as I always needed my dollars to stretch, but I liked using a variety of things to meet the different needs and interests of my children!

You will also get the Bundle of Bonuses Book for free with any purchase. The bonus book has a ton of freebies, sales, and coupons (including one from me)!

I’ll share more info about the sale as soon as I am able to, but for now, you may want to click over and at least enter the pre-sale giveaway!

http://www.buildyourbundle.net/giveaway/ref/guesthollow

Happy homeschooling!

A giveaway!!

giveaway2It’s that time of year again, when everyone is planning for the new school year next fall (for those of you who don’t school year round, lol). This is the first year that I’m not participating in that process myself, but in honor of all those hours I spent pouring over curricula and thinking of our homeschool budget, here’s a giveaway to help make things a little easier on someone’s pocketbook!

I’ve always loved Compass Classroom’s products. I started using their Visual Latin program way back when they were just a new, baby company (lol), and have watched them grow over the years with lots of high¬†quality offerings. I love that you can stream a lot of their products, and you can also purchase a monthly subscription that allows you to stream a multitude of homeschool¬†curricula¬†without committing to a huge upfront purchase price. ¬†You can try a curriculum¬†out and cancel if it’s not a fit for your family, or just pay for it¬†a month at a time!

In this giveaway, you have your choice of any one of the streaming versions of the following:

All I ask for each entry is that you spread the word about Guest Hollow! Pin one of our graphics, post about us on¬†your blog, share the news or like us on Facebook, tell someone in your homeschool playgroup, etc. Just spread the Guest Hollow love. ūüôā Now that I’m no longer homeschooling, I need my little Guest Hollow home business to pick up, or it will have to be a hobby instead of a business. Please help our site thrive by spreading the word, so I can do this full-time and bring you LOTS of new curricula and printables!¬† I have tons of new ideas that are just waiting to be created!!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Free summer subscriptions for homeschoolers!

I love things that are FREE, lol…so, I had to pass on this info!¬†All of the links below are for free stuff you can sign up for through the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op. There is no cost to join the Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op. That’s free too!

If you were wondering what your kids will do over the summer, some of the subscriptions below are free through August! There’s plenty to keep your kiddos busy:

Discovery Education Streaming Plus – Try it FREE through August 31st

We’ve used Discovery Streaming before and it’s a great resource for TONS of videos. Not only does it have many Discovery Channel videos for free, it also has PBS shows, BBC videos, and lots more.

MathHelp.com – Try it FREE for the Summer

MathHelp.com has video tutorials, practice exercises, tests and lots more. There are a lot of good reviews for this site.

myON Literacy Program – Try it FREE for the Summer

Get access to 9,200 e-books for your kids to read tailored to their reading level, age, and interests! There is a large assortment of books, including graphic novels of Shakespeare stories, etc.

Mark Kistler’s Virtual Classroom – Try it FREE for the Summer

My kids LOVED Mark’s drawing lessons in book form. Now he has online lessons in a virtual classroom.

Uzinggo Math & Science Supplement – Try it FREE for the Summer

Uzinggo has interactive lessons and accompanying worksheets on a variety of math and science topics through high school levels.

eMedia Music Academy – Try it FREE through July 31st

This is for access to several software downloads to learn piano and other instruments.

Always Icecream and Clever Dragons – Try it FREE through August 15th

Practice a variety of subjects like math, language arts, geography, Latin, Greek, keyboarding skills, science, foreign language and more!

Don’t forget to also check out your local library. Many libraries have free summer reading programs with prizes you can win!

Get $10 worth of free Amazon coins

Amazon coin

Amazon has a great deal going on right now. Download 5 FREE apps and get 1,000 Amazon coins to spend in the app store. That’s the equivalent of $10! Click here to access the titles¬†listed¬†below.

They are all FREE:

Food Network in the Kitchen
iHeartRadio
Strawberry Shortcake Bake Shop
Don’t Step on the White Tile
Dr. Panda’s Restaurant

I got these freebies just to get the $10 worth of Amazon coins, lol. Don’t have an Android device? You can download the FREE Bluestacks program and let your kids play with apps on the computer.

English for the Thoughtful Child

English for the Thoughtful Child
Many homeschoolers are drawn to materials that employ a Charlotte Mason style of learning. One text that employs that type of instruction is¬†English for the Thoughtful Child, a gentle grammar and composition book that is simple to use with memorization assignments, oral and written compositions and practice exercises. Here’s my question though: why pay $14.95 when you can get the original for FREE?!

I’ve been on the hunt for free teaching materials and found the motherlode of freebies on Google Books. Many old texts that are coming “back into fashion” in the homeschool world are free for the taking (er, downloading). English for the Thoughtful Child is one of these, also known by its original title Lessons in the Use of English.

Lessons in the Use of English

I do understand why someone might want to purchase the updated version of the book. The “new” book is printed in a workbook style that you can directly write in. Some of the original text has been added to and revised (or so it appears) and the formatting has been changed to a more modern layout. You also don’t have to print any pages out and have the convenience of being able to hold a book in your hand. I commend the person who revised and edited the original in an effort to bring this quality text to homeschoolers who would otherwise never have known this book existed. If you want to hold this book in hand instead of fussing over a digital version, you can purchase it from Amazon.

However, I personally prefer the original book’s layout & look and if your child has access to a computer, tablet or e-reader there is really no need to purchase a physical book (that has to compete with your already overloaded bookshelves). Just buy an inexpensive composition book for any written exercises and you are good to go!

Take a look at a comparison of the new text and the old.

Click on this link and open up the Amazon preview in a new browser page so you can see a preview of the new text. Scroll through the table of contents until you see lesson 1.

Here is the same material from the original book:

englishlesson1

 

Now scroll down in the Amazon preview to page 2.

 

Here is the same material from the original (notice it’s missing the “exercise 2 in the new version and moves directly to lesson 2, which is on page 3 of the new version.

englishlesson2

 

I think the old version is more friendly looking and best of all, it’s FREE. If you are on a tight budget and just can’t afford to purchase the new version, you can still have access to this high-quality, lovely book!

I’ll feature another popular “modern” reproduction of an English text in a future post and share the links for the FREE version. Homeschooling doesn’t have to be expensive, especially in the early grades. There are a lot of things you can find with a search engine.¬†wink

Otter’s Christian High School Biology is Posted

I’ve finally finished posting the homeschool biology curriculum I put together for my son! I’m still working on a few things like:

  • Making more workbook pages for the later chapters
  • Creating some lab printables
  • Continuing to edit the textbook
  • Working on Greek & Latin root vocabulary

Even though I will be tweaking the program over the 2013-2014 school year while we use it as well as creating additional components, it’s completely usable “as is”.

I hope it helps some of you out there! Feel free to snag the graphic from this post if you want to spread the word.

A great coupon code for $10

I don’t normally post this kind of thing, but it’s such a great deal (and legit, since I used it) I thought I’d pass it along to you cost¬†conscious¬†moms out there!

JCP

JCPenney.com currently has a coupon for $10 off orders of $10 or more with code MORE2BUY and serial number 0102798250. There is a limit of one coupon per account.

If you go to the clearance section, you can find an item for $10 and end up only having to pay tax, if you choose to pick up your ordered item from your local JCP store, instead of having it sent directly to your house.

Get an item of clothing for a few cents?!! Yep! It’s the real deal. I’d hurry though. You never know how long this one will last.

Bible Lapbook and Notebook Pages

I have some new Bible lapbook and notebook printables posted to my site. Twenty-nine pages of activities cover a variety of subjects like purity, character traits, making right choices, etc. I’ve also uploaded some more Bible handwriting and copywork pages in several popular handwriting fonts such as Handwriting Without Tears, D’Nealian and more. Click on the image to go to the free downloadable printables. Feel free to pin the image below at Pinterest or share on your website!

Free Bible printablesP.S. I didn’t forget about posting part 2 to my “Sometimes Homeschoolers Worry Too Much About College” series of posts. I’ll hopefully get to that soon!

 

Otter’s Christian High School Biology – FREE!

Christian High School Biology

Coming August 2013: Otter’s Christian High School Biology!

UPDATE to this post for readers coming in via a link. The biology curriculum is now posted here:

http://www.guesthollow.com/homeschool/science/biology/biology_home.html

Enjoy!

*********Post before the update below***************

What is being developed:

  • Free full color 700+ page textbook edited from the original CK-12 Biology book (open source creative commons license)
  • Textbook will be available in a variety of formats like online, PDF, MOBI and EPUB
  • Textbook has some interactive features embedded for students using it online or via mobile devices such as the iPad
  • Free workbook correlated to the textbook to help your students remember key terms and concepts
  • Edited textbook is from a Christian, creationist, young-earth perspective, but secular families can just use the original unedited text and still get the benefit of all the scheduled goodies, labs, etc.

Free biology labs

  • Free rigorous biology lab book – from a neutral perspective (only one evolution related lab that I do not schedule, no Christian material)
  • Optional labs from a variety of sources – many of them free or low cost
  • Links to great supplementary materials and resources such as videos, printables, activities and more
  • A daily schedule with 3 different options (with or without human anatomy component, etc.)
  • Schedule can be edited in Microsoft Word to accommodate your family’s needs, schedule and access to resources
  • Free Bible study component that matches the year’s topics, specifically covering evolution vs. creationism, etc. with optional free study guide workbooks
  • Additional recommended books scheduled in (but optional)
  • Optional writing assignments to help you integrate language arts across the curriculum
  • Free lab packet of printables for microscope labs, etc.

I’m so excited about there being an alternative to the “regular” biology options out there with something for a variety of situations and budgets. Stay tuned to my blog for the release date of Otter’s Christian High School Biology!