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!

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!

I hate math…

I hate math!

I don’t really hate math, but that’s the title of my post because it’s going to be about someone who DID hate math and how that all played out. Feel free to apply the concept to any particular subject your child hates and your own struggles with that. ūüėČ

Back when I was paving the way with my oldest (Emily), I worried about my children’s futures in the context of my homeschooling choices. There is a lot of responsibility placed on a homeschooling parent’s shoulders. Like, if you don’t get the BEST, PERFECT, MOST WONDERFUL curriculum, you will destroy your child’s love for learning and all her future college scholarships and she will end up pushing a shopping cart only not at the store. Yeah. That. Nevermind if it costs $159,897,657. You can afford it. Your children are worth it. What kind of mom would not mortgage her house for her child’s future!? The catalogs beckon. The siren call of a better math, writing program, history core, grammar workbook and everything else lures you as you go about your never-ending search for THE ONE. The one curriculum/program/workbook/video/online program/something that will teach your child perfectly. And she will love it. LOVE IT. Come bounding out in the morning with a smile wanting to do it. And her future will unfurl with sugar coated bunnies and baby chicks dancing in a field of yellow flowers and dollars – growing on trees. Because it’s her FUTURE we are¬†talking¬†about. Her earning potential. Her happiness. My future great-grand babies¬†living situations! Generations could be affected by the wrong choice!

So, the point is that I worried about choosing the right thing. I wanted to find something that spoke to my daughter’s learning styles, was fun, something she loved, and would help her become everything that she had the potential to become. Oh, and it had to be something I could teach. That too. ūüėČ Every homeschooling parent’s¬†dilemma.

So, picture me, with my lovely 3 children sitting around the table with our books cracked open and me teaching that when you are doing long division you bring down the number and some other mumbo-jumbo algorithm and then I assigned some practice problems and we all smiled and had a terrific day. Not.

The whining started. It was Emily. Whining. Again. Oh wait…was that a teeny, tiny tear sparkling in the corner of her eye? Tears? A flood? My kitchen pipes burst? Emily was crying AGAIN over math. “I hate math!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” (That’s me quoting her.) “I can’t do it.” “I don’t get it!” Insert more tears and crying and at least whining. I just knew we were heading toward disaster. She had to learn math. If she didn’t learn math, well…how would she buy food at the grocery store and get good deals and pay her bills and and and….¬†succeed???!!! At anything??!!! You know, it all ends at the shopping cart. The one…not in the store. Little note: I’m not making fun of homeless people. I’m being sarcastic. Honest. I did worry though…I think we all do, to some extent.

I began the search for the perfect math curriculum. I researched. I studied. I looked up stuff online (when there wasn’t as much online as there is today). Then I started buying. Math stuff. Math workbooks. Math manipulatives. Math programs. Math curricula. Math. Math. And more math. Do you know I still have math workbooks from back then that have never been used?

And I worried (yes, I know I said that – but it must be emphasized!). What if I didn’t get it right? What if she never learned math the way she was supposed to? It would be my fault because I didn’t do a good enough job. Because I didn’t find the right thing. Because I didn’t spend enough, try hard enough, research enough. Etc.

And what if she kept on hating math?!! It would be a total¬†tragedy¬†because my job as a homeschooling parent was to light a fire in her heart for all learning. The last thing any homeschool parent wants to hear is, “I don’t like school.” The last thing a homeschool parent wants to think is that somehow future college math courses won’t be successful because math wasn’t learned well enough at home. The last thing a homeschool parent wants to see is a child not succeeding as an adult because of something that didn’t get taught properly in your homeschool setting. Well, that’s a lot of “last things” you wouldn’t want to think. I guess they can all crowd together at the last together.

Ok, so fast forward through the years (and plenty of tears – oh, and whining): Emily graduated from high school and guess what? She did not like math. She even had to REPEAT some really easy basics. Oh yes, I took her back to addition and subtraction. In the SIXTH GRADE. And she did algebra TWICE. There were glimmers of math-like, like when she tried Teaching Textbook’s Algebra II and Geometry and actually loved it (for a little while). But oh my goodness, Teaching Textbooks didn’t have a higher level math ready yet. And you’ve heard the stories on those super rigorous homeschooling boards about Teaching Textbooks, I’m sure. How non-rigorous it is. How….(let’s whisper here) it will damage your child’s ability to do math at a higher level in college and hence destroy her future chances. The math love petered out due to the unavailability of more Teaching Textbook levels… and horrors! Emily didn’t even take a math course during her 12th grade year.

Did I fail? Was Emily’s future destroyed?

No. Emily has been successful in her college math classes and has even tutored high school math through a charter school. Take that Teaching Textbooks haters! Take that worries that plagued me! Not only has Emily received¬†great grades in math, she actually teaches it to other homeschool students and gets paid to do so! Was it because I finally found Teaching Textbooks and helped her enjoy math for the first time? That might be a small part of it, but certainly is not the entire reason. I think it’s more about the fact that she was allowed to go at her own pace, repeat things when necessary and I taught her something more important than loving a school subject. I taught her to learn. I taught her to know how to figure something out herself, when she really needs to. I taught her to love God and depend on him when the going gets tough (or math needs to be learned, lol). That wasn’t in any curriculum or program or schedule. That was just in me, loving her, believing in her and encouraging her, even when she hated math.

So, next time you are¬†panicking¬†because your child hates a school subject, take a deep breath. No one has to love everything. And that’s ok. I promise.

Next time you are stressing over which perfect curriculum to buy, take a deep breath. You’ll teach it one way or another. If something doesn’t work out, you can try again. You can even start over. We did.

Next time you are tempted to spend money on something you probably don’t really need…put away your wallet and wait. Breathe. Decide if you really need to get something new or if that new curriculum love just wore off. ¬†It’s ok to switch and change gears because sometimes you really do need to. And sometimes you don’t. And you know it, but wish you didn’t. ūüėČ

Next time you’re worrying that your current homeschooling choices might forever damage your children’s futures, take another deep breath! It’s not as much about what you choose or don’t choose, it’s about the life lessons you teach. It’s about the kind of person your child becomes. Those lessons don’t come in a package and they don’t cost anything. They are grounded in right choices and a dependence on God. Pursue Him first, and the rest happens. Yes, there may be detours and you may not even end up where you thought you were or wanted to go…but you’ll get where you’re supposed to be. And your kids will too, if they do the same thing. THAT is the important thing to teach.

Emily is a good (and successful!) person who has sought God first in her life and everything else has fallen into place. Even math.

Proverbs 9:10 – “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…”

May God give you peace in your heart as you struggle to find “the right/best/most awesome curriculum”. ūüôā May He soothe the trouble in your spirit and wipe away your worries as you wonder how everything will turn out in the end.

Romans 8:28 – “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”