How to Save Money When Using a Literature Based Curriculum

literature-based curriculum - How to save money?

Using a literature-based curriculum is one of the best ways (in my opinion) to engage students. It steers clear of boring textbooks, adds variety, and builds retention. While it may be one of the best ways to engage a student’s interest, it can also really engage your pocketbook!

I homeschooled my children for 20+ years, and during that time we used (and created) LOTS of literature-based programs. We were also always on a tight budget. In creating curricula for Guest Hollow I haven’t forgotten the struggle to balance what’s best for your kids with what’s best for your budget!

In this post, I’m going to share ways of obtaining the books for a literature-based curriculum without breaking the bank…

Use the Library

This may seem like the most obvious way of saving the money, but there are lots of specific tips for making the most out of this free resource!

  • Install the Library Extension for the Chrome browser.Library Extension for Chrome
    This free extension can check your library’s online catalog while you are browsing sites like Amazon and Goodreads, and it will display the availability of an item on the same page. Here is a screenshot of the extension in action on an Amazon page. If you click on it, you can see a larger version. The extension is featured on the right side of the page:
library-extension-screenshot

Click on the picture to see a larger size.

I am a member of several local libraries. The extension checks all of my libraries – both the physical copies and e-books. I can click on the “borrow” button to go straight to the library and check the book out. This is one of my FAVORITE money-saving resources!

The authors of the plugin are also really friendly and helpful. One of my library systems wasn’t in their database. I wrote an email requesting it, and it was added literally within 30 minutes. I can’t recommend this plugin enough! I highly recommend you look at the Library Extension’s support page. Even though it’s free, this extension is worth a little extra thank you!

  • Research the electronic resources your library has access to such as:Hoopla

Hoopla 

Hoopla Digital provides a wide range of digital content and allows library patrons to download or stream media content for free. Hoopla has videos, books, music, and graphic novels available!

Overdrive and Libby – Overdrive gives you access to tons of e-books and audiobooks. Use the free Libby app to sign into multiple libraries or use more than one card for each library.Libby appLibby can also send books to a Kindle and show you all of your loans and holds on a single shelf (even if you are using more than one library’s access to Overdrive).

FlipsterFlipster – You can check out digital versions of magazines from Flipster. What’s available will vary from library to library, but there are usually some really great offerings like Time, craft magazines, Consumer Reports, Babybug, Cricket, cooking magazines, health & nutrition magazines, and more!

RBdigital
– This library subscription gives you access to audiobooks, ebooks, videos (including videos from The Great Courses), magazines, and comics.

rbdigital

  • Use your library’s inter-library loan program. This will allow you to check out books that aren’t available in your local library system. Be careful, though! Sometimes this service costs a few dollars per book or, if it’s free, you can rack up nasty fines if you turn in these books late.
  • Make requests. If your library doesn’t have a book, there is usually a way to request it for purchase. Our library system purchased a bunch of books I wanted to read while creating the High School American History curriculum.
  • See if you qualify for an educator’s card. Some libraries have a card for educators that allows longer checkout times and lower fines.
  • Consider joining a library that isn’t local for access to their e-books and digital resources. Some libraries will allow someone who is not in their area to have a library card if they are willing to pay a yearly fee. You can then use the card to access digital items and subscriptions. Click here to check out an article about libraries with non-resident borrowing privileges. Do a Google search to find other libraries that allow this.

The Amazon Ecosystem

There are quite a few online resources that can help you save your pennies via the Amazon ecosystem!  Also, when you click on and then shop through our Amazon links, you help support Guest Hollow (we get a small commission)!


  • Kindle Unlimited
    has a 30-day free trial and sometimes has special deals where you can get a 3-month subscription for 99 cents! A subscription gives you access to the Kindle Unlimited Library of 1.4 million titles in eBook and audiobook format. Some of the books in our language arts program are free through this subscription like the books by Brian P. Cleary. I’ve found some really great books through K.U. for the upcoming high school geography curriculum!

  • Amazon’s Free Time Unlimited gives kids access to books, apps, and videos for an inexpensive subscription. Try one month for free to see if the books available are a match for the program you wish to use. Note: The iOS version of the app only gives you access to books and movies. You need the Android version to access apps/games and other features. Some of the books in our Guest Hollow programs are featured in Free Time Unlimited (at the time of this writing) like An Ambush of Tigers, What do Authors Do?, National Geographic Readers: Sea Turtles, Eye to Eye, The Trojan Horse, and Phineas Gage.
  • Use Audible for audiobooks. Try it out for free for 30 days and get TWO free books you can add to your homeschool library. Audible is great for reluctant readers or for listening to “on the go.” Quite a few of our customers purchase some audio books to use with our curricula, especially the high school courses like Chemistry in the Kitchen and American History.
  • Use a Kindle or other tablet and purchase Kindle books at discounted prices. Ebooks are often less expensive than physical books. Some classic books are also FREE. The Kindle also has a feature where you can tap any word to see an instant definition and save it in the Kindle Vocabulary Builder. Kindle books can also be less intimidating to reluctant readers and there is also a special font for Dyslexics. Some Kindles also have a text-to-speech feature that can read books to your student. Kindles and eReaders are a great resource when using a literature-based curriculum.
  • Try the free trial for the Amazon-owned ComiXology app. One of our customers shared that she was able to get two free comics for our American History Curriculum with her 30-day free trial!
  • Look for used versions of the books you need (see the screenshot highlighted in yellow):
    used-books
    You can save a LOT of money purchasing used books on Amazon.

Other Subscriptions and Online Freebies

scribdScribd allows you to subscribe and borrow tons of eBooks, magazines, audiobooks, and various documents (like sheet music). You can get a 30-day free trial. I’ve used Scribd several times to borrow books when creating Guest Hollow curricula. It’s saved me a bundle!scribd

 

Openlibrary.org lets you borrow hundreds of thousands of books in digital format. You can read the books online or download them in ePub, PDF, text, and sometimes Kindle format. A lot of the books in the Guest Hollow programs can be found at the Openlibrary website like A Patriot’s History of the United States, Colonial Living, The Cartoon Guide to Genetics, and many more.Open Library

Archive.org has lots of free books, magazines, movies, software, music, and more. You can search and see if it has the book or magazine you need in a digital format.Internet Archive

Used Book Websites

There are lots of websites besides Amazon where you can get used books. Two of our customer’s favorites are:

AbeBooks.com. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.

After researching them (and seeing how great they are) we became affiliates for both. Please bookmark this page and click through the links if you plan to use AbeBooks or Thriftbooks for your used book purchases! We’ll get a small commission. 🙂 <3

Other Online Resources

  • https://buynothingproject.org/ – No trades or swaps are allowed via Buy Nothing Groups – just gifts that are freely given. You may be able to find (and share!) some homeschooling books and resources.
  • Paperbackswap.com and other book swap sites – List books you would like to swap, mail it out, and then you can choose from the other books listed on the site. You pay for the postage on books you ship out. Books you receive come to you postage-paid!

Looking Locally

Don’t forget to look at local thrift stores, homeschool consignments stores, and yard sales! Try to keep a list on hand when you are out and about with the titles of the books you are looking for.

Planning Wisely

  • Every Guest Hollow curriculum comes with a printable book list to help you with your planning and shopping. Some of the book lists even rank the books in order of importance to help you potentially cull some titles out, if necessary, for time and/or budget constraints.

    Guest Hollow homeschool curriculum book list

    Screenshot from the Chemistry in the Kitchen book list. Notice the timeframe of the book’s use is marked (weeks 1-2). There are also boxes to check to help you decide whether each resource is something you need to buy or borrow, as well as the format (physical book, e-book, audio book, etc.).

  • Purchase books a “chunk” at a time. No one says you have to get every single book all at once. You can purchase or borrow books on an as-needed basis. Get “spine” books and books that are used multiple weeks at the beginning of the year. Separate your other purchases into more manageable bits and pieces in 4-week intervals or so, if possible.

If you are using a different curriculum, check out your curriculum’s boards, homeschool groups, and Facebook groups to see if buying and selling of books is allowed and encouraged.

Using a literature-based curriculum like Guest Hollow can take a bit more work when you are gathering materials (since we don’t offer book packages you can click on and buy in one swoop), but there is the potential to save SO much money! What homeschooler doesn’t like that? 😉 Using the tips I’ve shared above will hopefully help you do the best not only for your child’s education but also for your pocketbook!

Don’t forget to pin and share this post! Spread the Guest Hollow love! Let me know in the comments if you have any other money-saving ideas! I would love to read them!

Homeschooling with Guest Hollow

American History Year 2 has been released!

Homeschool American History Curriculum
Guest Hollow’s American History Year 2 Curriculum is finished! Check it out:
 

 
We are having a flash sale that will end tonight at midnight Pacific time. Use this coupon code to get $10 off your purchase of American History Year 2:
 
FlashSale!
 
We’ve received some great feedback about American History Year 1. We’re so excited to release Year 2!

Beowulf’s Grammar was reviewed by the Old Schoolhouse Magazine!

Beowulf's Grammar Review

Check out the terrific review of Beowulf’s Grammar at The Old Schoolhouse Magazine’s website!

https://www.theoldschoolhouse.com/product-reviews/?rid=7076

Our Post-Turkey-Sale ends tomorrow!

Guest Hollow Sale

There is only one more day left in our Post-Turkey-Sale! You can save 25% off of everything in our store! Just use the code:

blackfriday2018

Please feel free to share this terrific deal in your other groups! The last day of our sale is Tuesday the 27th!

Guest Hollow’s Post Turkey Sale!

Homeschool Black Friday Sale

Guest Hollow’s Post Turkey Sale starts on Thursday, November 22nd! Don’t miss this fantastic deal!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!

We wish you all a safe and happy holiday! 

Get the Kindle version of The Science of Seasons book for FREE

The Science of Seasons

The Science of Seasons is FREE until midnight this Friday (the 28th)!

https://amzn.to/2NxGk8s

Join Abigail, Henry, Grace, and their lively Fox Terrier, Beowulf, as they learn about the seasons in this lavishly illustrated, Christian friendly science book! Kids will learn about the seasons in different parts of the world, solstices, equinoxes, and a myriad of other topics brought together in a way to draw in both strong and reluctant readers!

There are fun comics to read, celebrations in other parts of the world to learn about, and even yummy recipes to commemorate each season.

Although The Science of Seasons teaches material that even many adults may not know, it presents this material in novel ways using situations that most children can easily identify with. Instead of presenting facts as coma-inducing abstractions, The Science of Seasons illustrates concepts in ways that are easily absorbed and readily understood by young minds. Concrete examples make science memorable and help

This is a limited-time offer, so grab your FREE book and please post about it on your blogs and social media. Spread the word and get this colorful and informative book in the hands of kiddos everywhere!!

Visit Amazon through this Friday (Sept. 28) to get your free copy that can be read via the free Kindle app on a computer, tablet, e-reader, phone, etc. The link to the book is:

https://amzn.to/2NxGk8s

P.S. Those of you with a Kindle Unlimited subscription can continue to read The Science of Seasons for free after Friday, as I’ve enrolled it in the Kindle Unlimited program. 🙂

A Last Minute Sale…

Guest Hollow Sale

A beautiful view of…nope.

smoke from fires

This isn’t fog, it’s smoke from the wildfires around us. Normally you can see a crystal clear mountain ridge line that is just 1200 feet away. Not today. Our prayers are with the families affected by the fires here in the northwest as well as all the firefighters and their support teams. I’m really hoping some rain will come and wash some of this smoke out of the sky. 🙁

My garden

It’s been awhile since I shared any garden related posts. I made a little picture collage of what we’ve been working on all spring and summer long:

My garden picture collage

The plant in the upper left is strawberry spinach! I’ve never grown it before, but it’s so pretty, and the little spinach berries are bright and sweet.

I didn’t have time to post earlier when I was working on the American History Curriculum, but here’s a glimpse of spring in Idaho (and yes, those boulders are natural – we have lots of rocks and granite on our property):

Tulips


I didn’t plan on doing much in the garden this year (as it’s the first year we’ve had a garden in our new home), but my husband did SOOOO much work on the infrastructure that I was able to plant a ton of veggies and flowers. We were also blessed with FREE seeds and plants from the local libraries and friends. <3

My husband built me a hugelkultur bed. This is what it looked like before it was covered with dirt this past fall:

hugelkultur bed

All those sticks and logs act as a sponge to hold water and provide nutrients for the bed. It was covered with dirt this spring and then planted with seeds & young veggie plants as well as a living mulch of dwarf New Zealand clover (to keep the weeds at bay and to help retain moisture).

Look at how beautiful and green my hugel became:

hugelkultur bed

I didn’t plant veggies in traditional blocks. They sprawl all over the hugel in a mish-mash with flowers tucked in here and there to add color and bring in beneficial insects for pollination. I think planting the vegetables like this also helped deter pests, because there isn’t a big swath of the same type of plant to attack all at once. It was also interesting to see the temperature differences on each side of the hugel. The south side was hot and is perfect for tomatoes. The north side really worked well for the cooler vegetables like kale, lettuce, and peas. The peas I planted on the south side were crispy and finished long before the ones on the cooler north side. I’ll keep that in mind for next year and my planning on what to put where.

Here’s a baby cabbage growing back where we cut the main head. It’s tucked in among the clover that helps to keep it cooler and moist:

The clover also helps to fix nitrogen which benefits the plants.

Bush beans and clover

I also have other beds in the garden along with a bean tower my husband built. Here’s a picture of the tower earlier this year:

bean tower

and here it is now:

bean tower 2

Our wildflower meadow over our septic field is also thriving. Here’s a picture of it earlier this year with a few shy Siberian wallflowers and daisies beginning to show:

And here’s what it looks like now with every inch taken over with golden goodness:

I feel so blessed to live in such a beautiful place and to have such a lovely garden! It brings me a lot of joy every time I go out to gather goodies for dinner or sit and enjoy the flowers and birds.  A huge thank you to my husband for all the hard work he put into putting everything together for me (and the billions of holes he dug for trees & plants) as well as my friends who provided me with many lovely flowers and plants and seeds. <3

Y.A. Book Review: The Light Between Worlds

Light Between Worlds Book ReviewI had a lot of great expectations for The Light Between Worlds and while some of the writing was beautiful and poetic, it just didn’t come together for me. Instead it felt like a recycled Narnia but dripping with sadness and lacking in the magical, wonderful quality of that series. The fantasy portion of the story is told via a series of flashbacks that feel like you are reading a newspaper instead of being immersed in a world. The real-life portion of the story is a constant parade of unhappiness, dark thoughts, self-harm, and the constant same longing and strained sister relationship that got tired after awhile. It’s like the same thing over and over and over.

The story starts out with 3 siblings running to their bomb shelter during an air raid in England during WW2. The youngest sister Evelyn wishes to be somewhere else and suddenly they are in a forest with a magical stag (Cervus). She is happy to be there, but her older sister Phillipa is a bit more reluctant. From there you get a little bit of a description of the children wandering around in the woods for two weeks. Besides some beautiful descriptions, there is really no meat and potatoes, and everything feels totally orchestrated and somehow sterile. The characters in the woodland are not developed and barely mentioned. They feel like they were recycled from a fairytale: barefoot woodlanders, tree and water spirits, etc. There was a lot of potential there, but besides barely mentioning these creatures, there was no more substance to them. The dialogue felt stilted and just jumped into events you totally don’t care about because there is no development of the world or situation.

The story jumps back-and-forth between past flashbacks about the Woodland to the present. I would have liked the author to spend some time in the past where things could have been magical, especially with her skill at writing descriptions. Most of the book is really centered on the present, though – with Evelyn longing to go back to the Woodland and feeling very out of place and unhappy in her life as a child again in England. She has what seems to me a weird and unhealthy relationship with her sister (who is away at an American college). She is always moping about wishing she was in the other world that she feels is her home – not the one she was born to. She is always moping about over her sister, as well. In the process of said moping she participates in self-harm. She also develops a relationship with a kind boy, Tom. I probably liked Tom’s character the most out of everyone in the book. He is sweet and accepting of Evelyn, even when it’s clear she is distressed/depressed, etc.

The flashbacks during this portion of the book felt worthless to me. I didn’t care about any character in the past as none of them were fleshed out. Cervus was a recycled Aslan. I didn’t care about the war in that world, either. There were no real details! Again, it felt like reading about everything in a newspaper. “Here are the bare details of what’s going on. Let’s throw in a sword or two and an evil guy that you don’t really know anything about because we are just briefly mentioning him. blah blah blah. The real-life world was where the book spent much more time on details and character building.

At one point in the book Evelyn disappears and the book switches over to Evelyn’s sister Phillipa’s viewpoint. This part of the book is a bit more interesting because you wonder…

SPOILER:

if Evelyn has killed herself or actually managed to somehow return to the Woodlands. You find out that Evelyn managed to go back to the Woodlands. Her sister appears there for a moment (somehow?) and talks to her and gets to go back to the real world. The way it all worked out didn’t feel creative, but rather contrived.

END SPOILER

There was a lot of potential for this book. It’s a shame more time wasn’t spent on developing the whole Woodlands portion. It was also a depressing read in general with many portions that felt contrived. There was no adventure (despite things going on in the Woodlands that could have contributed to that). It felt mostly like a Narnia rip-off that didn’t really work out well. I guess the contrast is that the focus was on the children’s lives after they returned and how miserable it was for the youngest sister as she grew older. I can see how some readers will find the story “heart wrenching” or haunting, etc. probably because of how much time is spent focusing on Evelyn’s inner feelings of despair. It’s very intimate in a way, but again, it just didn’t work for me.

I still would recommend it to someone who wanted a dark rendition of a struggle of not wanting to be somewhere. If you are looking for a magical fantasy, though, this book doesn’t deliver in that area (at least not for me).

Parent rating:
There are a few fairly chaste kisses in the story in the context of a romantic relationship. There are a couple incidences of cursing. The main character participates in self-harm. There is a LOT of dark/unhappy emotion in this story.

*I received an ARC copy of The Light Between Worlds in exchange for my review.