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. 😉

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’t because of a lack of finances, a lack of time, or a lack of know-how. Others join EP just because it’s easy and fun and they’re confident of the quality of education. EP seeks to free families from the burden of pursuing the “perfect” and encourages them to let it be “enough.” 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. 😉

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!

The printable biology textbook is ready!

I’ve posted the printable PDF copy of Guest Hollow’s Biology textbook!

Guest Hollow’s Biology textbook was designed to be used / read online and is formatted for online use. I recommend using the online textbook, but realize that some families would like a paper copy of the book. That’s why I adapted the online pages into a PDF – because I love my customers and listen to your requests!

This adapted PDF version doesn’t provide the best viewing / formatting experience. It also contains some minor formatting errors. But, hey, it’s free! 😉

You can take the PDF file (all 596 pages!) to your local print shop and have it printed and comb bound or hole punched, to place in a binder.

Visit this page to access the PDF textbook link:

http://guesthollow.com/biology/textbook-table-of-contents/

Happy homeschooling!

 

History Timeline Schedule Update

Homeschool History Curriculum

It was recently brought to my attention that some visitors to my site couldn’t access the entire right-hand side of the online Awesome History Timeline Schedule pages. I’ve fixed the html and now you should be able to see ALL of the assignments, even if you have a smaller monitor screen. Just scroll back and forth horizontally using the bottom of your browser bar.

For those of you unfamiliar with this FREE homeschool history curriculum, it’s completely based on WHEN things happened and covers both American and world history at the same time. It’s set up so that you can study American history by itself, world history by itself or both together (my preference). It’s totally flexible and can work as a stand-alone curriculum or can be used to supplement any other history program.

I designed it because I got sick and tired of history curriculums jumping from one event to the next going back and forth in time. How confusing!  It was always difficult to keep track of what was happening in the context of time. It was also nearly impossible to see how so many events in history are interrelated! With the History Timeline Schedule, a student can immediately see in a VISUAL context things like how the French Revolution followed the American Revolution, what was happening in the Americas during Henry the VIII’s reign, and that Victoria became Queen of England right after Texans lost the Battle of the Alamo.

As with all my other homeschool programs, I’ve scheduled in lots of goodies like “living books”, colorful non-fiction, hands-on activities, video suggestions, map assignments, art & music studies. It’s probably best used as-is for 6th graders and up, but you can easily adapt it for 1st grade to adult learners.

The History Timeline Schedule is totally flexible! Don’t like a book I scheduled in or can’t access it at your local library for free? Replace it with ANY other suitable book. Just plug your book (or activity or video) into the correct time slot. It’s that easy! Want even more book and video suggestions? Visit my free History Shelf that follows the same timeline format but has hundreds and hundreds more book and video suggestions for an even greater variety of ages.

Happy homeschooling!

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.

Otter’s Christian Biology Update

I’m making a quick post to keep you updated on my progress with the Otter’s Christian High School Biology  program. I pretty much finished the schedule and have researched and scheduled lots of extras like “living books”, a huge variety of labs for different budgets and interest levels, videos, activities and more. Now I’m putting most of my efforts into the textbook itself. I’ve already edited and changed some of it. I’m continuing to work through the chapters slowly but surely. One of the things I’ve added are custom graphics. One thing I really like about this textbook is how graphics intensive it is. I’m a very visual person and appreciate lots of pretty stuff in books, lol. I also think pictures and illustrations really help students connect to the material being taught.

Here are a few examples of some of the graphics I’ve made for Otter’s Biology:

I’ve added in graphics that explain vocabulary words by breaking them down into Greek and Latin roots:

homeostasis

I’ve also added in custom graphics to explain specific concepts.

By the way, Mr. Carrot is sort of a personal joke between Otter and me. I first introduced Mr. Carrot on one of the notebook pages I made for Otter on nutrition. Mr. Carrot then appeared on a math worksheet (hand-drawn), wondering how he ended up there and thinking he was in perhaps the wrong place. He’s since decorated many of Otter’s worksheets and other creations I’ve made for him. He’s like a recurring character that ends up all over the place. 😉

I replaced the very “unfriendly” illustration about diffusion that was in the text with this (Hello Mr. Carrot!):

Diffusion

 

This graphic helps illustrate what an enzyme does and introduces a simple experiment:

 

enzyme experiment

 

This one below helps make ATP more memorable. The caption in the textbook explains how the character below is actually ADP and why. 😉

ATP

 

Besides all of the work in the textbook, I’ve also started working on editing (actually redoing) the CK-12 biology workbook to better reflect the new textbook content (as well as to only feature creationist beliefs) and to also be more visually engaging. I will be adding some interactive notebooking activities to the workbook pages as well, but haven’t gotten around to that yet.

Here are a few screenshots of some of the workbook pages. They are pretty basic adaptations of the current CK-12 workbook although I’ll be adding my own stuff after I’ve adapted the rest of CK-12’s work (gotta love that open source creative commons license!!). When I’m done with it, it won’t be all this true/false, multiple choice, blah blah blah. LOL. That kind of thing has its place, but I don’t want it to be the only sort of activity to help retention.

There is also an answer key being developed at the same time.

6 1

You’ll notice in the screenshot below that there is a Bible verse for students to fill in some of the blanks. That verse is featured in the textbook and so I took the opportunity to reinforce it.

2

I like to add a little humor to some of the sheets. The deer in the picture below is commenting on one of the true/false questions…

3

A graphic of a hummingbird and flower help students think about question number 5…

4

Otter enjoys jokes, so I’ll be putting a few on some of the worksheets to liven them up a little.

5

 

So, that’s it for now!

Everything is coming along and I’m devoting a HUGE amount of time to this project. If you’d like to get involved and help out, I would love to hear from you. I need help “dumbing down” and/or sprucing up some portions of the text to make them more accessible/interesting, researching vocabulary roots, adding Christian material and/or Bible verses that are tied to some of the concepts, etc.

Stay tuned to my blog for more updates!

Get the first book in the Redwall series free!

Redwall (Book 1, Redwall)

I’m not sure how long this will be free, so you might want to grab it now. Redwall (Book 1, Redwall) is the first in a series of well-known and loved books for children by Brian Jacques. I was excited to see it listed for free today on Amazon (for the Kindle and/or Kindle reading apps) because I have a comprehension guide on hand that I plan to use with Otter this semester! Now I don’t have to check it out from the library. 😉

Happy downloading!

Printable Timeline

I recently received a request for “extra” timeline pages for the free printable timeline I feature on my website. Instead of creating a bunch of new pages, which I don’t have time for right now, I went ahead and made an editable PDF. Now you can add in your own dates and customize the timeline dates without having to write them in by hand. Just open the PDF, type in the custom dates and print!

Using a timeline is a terrific way to help kids visualize when things happened. With a timeline, different people and events can be put into context. We’ve used our timeline for years and often paste in the covers of books we’ve read. The end result is a beautiful scrapbook of not only the things we’ve learned but many of the books we’ve read as well!

In an upcoming post I’ll show you pictures of Otter’s timeline so you can see one in action. For now, here are the free timeline downloads:

Timeline cover

 

 

Boy’s Timeline Cover

Girl’s Timeline Cover

Timeline Spine

 

 

B.C. Timeline Pages
30 pages:
(4100 B.C. – 0 B.C.)
The Ancient World
The Classical World

A.D. Timeline Pages
70 pages
:
(0 A.D. – 2010 A.D.)
The Classical World
Early Middle Ages
Middle Ages
Renaissance
Trade & Empire
Revolution and Independence
Unification and Colonization
The World at War
The Modern World

Blank Timeline Page (Use this page to print out extras or to make smaller timeline portions. This is the new editable PDF so you can add in your own custom dates!!)

Finally, here is a timeline figures template (scroll to below the image for the links). Add in images from online & type in your own dates, names, etc. to customize.

timeline figures template

Timeline figure template in .doc format

Timeline figure template in .docx format

If you aren’t using a timeline in your homeschool, give it a try! You might be surprised at how it helps your children better retain their history lessons.

 

Free $125 Art Curriculum (Adventures in Art)

I just downloaded this myself, so I know it’s legit.

You can get a free download of Adventures in Art eCurriculum from Cornerstone Curriculum that retails for $125! Here’s what you need to do:

  • Click here to go Cornerstone Curriculum and add the Adventures in Art eCurriculum to your cart (I clicked on the order button underneath where it says Sale price $75).
  • Go through the check out process and choose PICK UP as your shipping option.
  • Enter in the promotion code Blessings2013 at checkout.
  • You don’t need to enter in any payment or credit card info.
  • Once you get to the confirmation page, select DOWNLOAD on the right hand side and download it to your computer!
  • The file saved in a weird format on my computer but I was able to open it with Adobe Acrobat like a PDF.

There are 105 pages with clickable links to see the art online. Grab this great value while you can as I don’t know how long it will last!

Here are a few screenshots (click to see them larger – apologies to those of you who get the RSS feed or email subscription where the pictures are full size and giant).

 

Otter’s Physical Science

Otter studied physical science last year in 7th grade. We used a combination of Apologia’s Physical Science and Exploration Education’s Physical Science Advanced. I added in a bunch of extras like living books, websites, printables and more.

Click here to see the schedule I created and the books we used!

Free Foundations 3 Year Bible Curriculum

Foundations 3 Year Bible Curriculum is free right now at Currclick. Each book retails for 14.95, so grab these for FREE while you can!

Book 1

Book 2

Book 3