We’re having a “Back-to-Homeschool” sale! Enter in the coupon code: 1234abc and get 15% off your order.
If your kids don’t love their homeschool curriculum, make the switch to Guest Hollow. We receive rave reviews from parents and kids:
Some reviews and comments:
“My nine year old says Beowulf is his favorite subject!”
From a 9-year-old student: “I used to hate grammar and now I love it!”
Chemistry in the Kitchen
“This curriculum took my kids that both absolutely HATED anything science oriented and turned them into science geeks!!”
“The things my kids are learning with this program are being learned organically and the concepts are coming up in everyday situations. They know their stuff!!!”
High School Anatomy
“My 10th grader is loving the curriculum so far. I was worried about all the reading at first, because my daughter is not an avid reader, but she has loved all the novels so far. It’s good to see her enjoying reading, and learning so much! I highly recommend this course for any kids interested in going into the medical field in college.”
“I cannot even tell you how much Biology curricula I looked at before I finally (thankfully) found this one! It saved our year! It went along with my daughter’s learning style so much better than a boring textbook-only approach, heavy on the math with expensive, impossible labs. This one made biology do-able.”
“I hated biology before I found Guest Hollow! I am a visual learner, and Guest Hollow Biology gives tons of videos to watch, reading interesting books, and hands-on activities like dissecting and experiments. Now I love biology thanks to Guest Hollow!”
We hope you join the Guest Hollow family!
Visit https://guesthollow.com/ and don’t forget to use the 15% off coupon code in our store:
Happy homeschooling! <3
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.
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:
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!
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 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).
Flipster – 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.
- 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):
You can save a LOT of money purchasing used books on Amazon.
Other Subscriptions and Online Freebies
Scribd 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!
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.
Used Book Websites
There are lots of websites besides Amazon where you can get used books. Two of our customer’s favorites are:
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!
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Post in the Guest Hollow Facebook groups and see if anyone is ready to sell their books. There are often some great deals to be had! Check out the following groups:
Guest Hollow K-8 Curriculum User’s Group
Guest Hollow Language Arts & Beowulf’s Grammar User’s Group
Guest Hollow High School Curriculum User’s Group
Guest Hollow’s Anatomy Curriculum User’s Group
Guest Hollow’s Biology Curriculum User’s Group
Guest Hollow Chemistry in the Kitchen User’s Group
Guest Hollow’s History Curriculum User’s Group
Guest Hollow’s High School Physics User’s Group
Guest Hollow Geography Curriculum User’s Group
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!
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:
Please feel free to share this terrific deal in your other groups! The last day of our sale is Tuesday the 27th!
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:
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):
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:
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:
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.
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:
and here it is now:
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
Do you plan on having your children study a foreign language in your homeschool? I’m learning Japanese, and it’s made me look back over my years of homeschooling and our attempts at learning different languages. I think learning a different language is an important skill that is often given a back burner in homeschools but deserves a 2nd look. A foreign language can open all sorts of doors – from future employment opportunities, ministry (for those of you who are Christians), and just making friends in a variety of situations. It also helps a student become more aware of how our own language is constructed and opens doors to understanding other people and cultures.
When the kids were really small I intentionally exposed them to different languages via our local radio stations (we would listen to Asian broadcasts for hours sometimes, even though we didn’t understand a word), and I also checked out free resources from our local library like the Teach Me series. These softcover books come with a CD of songs (used to be cassettes at that time, lol) that mix English and another language via cheerful songs. We also used to check out Muzzy materials, which are now available online.
As my children got older, we took language study more seriously. All of my kids studied Latin at one time or another. I feel it gave them a better understanding of English grammar, and they were able to tackle difficult vocabulary more easily. My daughter studied German, my oldest son dabbled in Chinese (and studied German as well), and my youngest decided to learn a bit of Spanish. In college my daughter started learning Japanese on her own. Long story short…she is now married to a Japanese native, lives in Japan, and is quite fluent in that language! (Click here if you want to read her blog about living in Japan!) She’s the reason why I’m currently studying Japanese. I want to be able to talk to her mother-in-law (who is a wonderfully sweet woman) and to share in my future grandchildren’s Japanese heritage. They will be raised as little polyglots (or at least they will be bilingual)! I also just like learning something new. 😉 That’s the homeschooler in me that I hope never dies!
In recent years, the resources for learning a different language have exploded. I wish I had all of the current resources at my disposal when I was homeschooling. There are countless YouTube channels and videos, tons of interactive websites, games, lessons, and more that just didn’t exist even several years ago! If you want to learn a language, now is a GREAT time to do so.
When you are first starting out, unless you are already fluent in another language, the choices can be intimidating. I encourage you to take your time and look through the options. Every family is different, and what may work for one may not work for another. Many full language programs can be expensive, so you may want to explore free trials and check your local library before committing to one particular method or resource. Try out some free apps too and get a feel for what you will be studying! You may find a combination of resources works the best. It does for me!! I find it really helpful to use a many different things – many of them which are free or low cost (because that best matches my budget, lol). Make sure you check out workbooks and books on grammar available at your local library (or Amazon) to help you practice the nuances of the language you might not pick up otherwise or to supplement the program you choose. I’m using the Japanese from Zero workbooks!
You may wonder which language to commit to. Some families choose a language from their family history. That’s why my daughter learned German. I used to be fairly fluent in German as a child, since my family lived in Germany for awhile and my father’s family is German. Working with German was a no-brainer. I already had it somewhere in my brain, so I felt more confident in helping my daughter learn it. My son chose Chinese because he was interested in the military. My other son chose Spanish because he was interested in a law enforcement career, and the state we lived in encouraged officers to have at least a working understanding of that language. Your choice for a language may come from some other motivation, but I encourage you to allow your child to explore several different languages and choose one s/he is most motivated to learn. There is nothing like a natural interest to spark the drive that is necessary to successfully assimilate another tongue!
Back when we were starting out, Rosetta Stone was one of the only interactive resources for learning another language, but there are many more available today. Here is a list of resources for you to explore. Make sure to check out the apps that go along with many of these sites that will allow you (or your student) to learn on a tablet or phone in addition to the computer! My favorites have a heart next to them.
- Amazon – There are tons of books, workbooks, and other resources to help you learn languages (and don’t forget to check Audible)! When we were learning languages I liked to purchase young children’s books (especially familiar stories) to help us pick up easy vocabulary words and simple grammar.
- Babbel currently has 14 different languages to learn with audio and is interactive with speech technology.
- Bussu has free and premium lessons. The free lessons have audio and are interactive!
- Classical Academic Press – This publisher has resources for learning Latin, Greek, French, and Spanish. We used them for some of their Latin & Greek resources and the free language learning games they offer at Headventure Land.
- ❤ Duolingo – This website has all sorts of languages to learn, including Klingon, lol…The lessons are interactive with audio and activities designed to help build retention. I’m using it for Japanese!
- ❤ Drops – If you want an easy, addictive way to learn vocabulary (and a few travel phrases), Drops is a terrific app. It’s actually relaxing to play and you’ll pick up new words in very little time!
- edX has a variety of free courses supported by different universities. Many of the courses are self-paced and have videos. While the courses are free, you can pay to get a certificate of completion.
- ❤ The Learnables – My son and I used The Learnables to study Spanish. I wish I could afford their Japanese books because I retained their lessons easily. Sadly, it appears they are no longer keeping their Japanese program updated. The lessons come with consumable books and CD’s. Some of their lessons have been updated to use on the computer. The downside to The Learnables (in my opinion) is that their materials are expensive.
- ❤ Lingo Deer – Lingo Deer is one of my favorite apps for learning Japanese and brushing up on my German. Read my complete review by clicking here!
- Little Pim – Do you have a little learner who would like to learn a language? Little Pim is designed for the under 6 crowd with videos available for download or streaming!
- ❤ Mango Languages – Mango is an online, interactive program that features over 70 world languages! Many libraries have a subscription to the website, which means it could be a FREE resource! I’m currently using Mango to supplement my Japanese. I enjoy the lessons and find that they are pretty effective.
- Memrise has lots of free courses for languages and other subjects. I’m using it on a daily basis to practice reading Japanese. The flashcard format with memes to help you remember the content is easy to use and many courses have audio.
- MIT Open Courseware has free language courses featured at MIT. These courses aren’t the easiest to navigate or use and you will need to purchase textbooks from Amazon or another similar resource (for most of the courses). Still, this could be a good resource for a very motivated learner.
- Muzzy is also a language program designed for younger children through teens. I used it when the kids were little, and they really liked it.
- PBS Learning Media has lots of free video courses for various languages. Many of the programs also come with printable student and teacher checklists that accompany the videos. Here’s an example of one of their courses (which I have bookmarked for myself!): Irasshai – Welcome to Japanese
- ❤ Pimsleur is a listening and speaking only course with over 50 different languages to choose from. I’m using Pimsleur as part of my learning Japanese arsenal (thanks to my local library staff who purchased it per my request). Pimsleur is very effective (at least for me) and is designed around scientifically proven principles. You only have to spend 30 minutes a day to learn a new language! Click here to get up to 40% off your first purchase! You may want to explore the site as there is a free lesson in a language of your choice as well as information on the Pimsleur Method and why it works. They also have a money-back guarantee!
- Powerspeak (I believe they used to be called Power-Glide.) Some of my kids used the Power Glide program back when it used to be a book and audio lessons (which are still available from Rainbow Resource at the time of this writing). It wasn’t a hit for us, but the program appears to have changed and is offered online at this time with the option to have a certified teacher’s support.
- Rocket Languages has interactive audio lessons but not a lot of language choices. I took a look at the free trial and while I like the audio, I don’t like how it has you type in answers from the very first lesson. My own personal preference is to focus more on listening, speaking, and reading vs. writing.
- Rosetta Stone – Rosetta Stone has been around for a long time. They’ve updated their programs since we used them years ago. My kids enjoyed Rosetta Stone, but never progressed very far in the program(s). They have a free demo you can try. Some libraries also have a subscription. There are quite a few languages to choose from. Despite their popularity, they are not one of my favorite resources. They may be just right for you and yours, though! 😉
- YouTube – Do a search for the language your student is interested in. You will likely find multiple YouTube channels that feature free lessons, as well as songs and other helpful language learning videos. I like finding Japanese cartoons made for little kids that teach numbers and characters (Hiragana)! While you probably can’t rely on YouTube for an entire language program, you’ll probably be able to find all sorts of fun, supplementary material! Don’t forget to look for movies and video clips of TV shows and such in the language of your choice! You’ll be surprised at how much you can pick up from these types of resources.
Learning a foreign language is something that anyone can do with a bit of motivation. You may be surprised at what paths it opens up for your students in the future! I never would have imagined that all of the language exposure I naturally included in our lives and homeschool would be so important to my daughter’s future! I believe her early exposure helped develop her current gift for and interest in languages! I think it was also a great thing for both of my sons, even if they didn’t choose to pursue learning more as adults, because studying a language was good “brain food”! Learning a new language has been shown to help make a brain more efficient, integrated, and increases gray matter. There are lots of scientific studies showing how learning a language is good for any age…it can even potentially delay Alzheimer’s! The scientific reasons for studying a language are beyond the scope of this post, but if you are interested or need extra convincing, you can always google up some articles.
I hope this post help someone out there thinking about foreign language study. Share what languages you (or your students) are learning via the comments! I would also love to know about your favorite programs, apps, and websites, and will update this post when I discover new, great resources!
This week’s discussion: Would you allow your high schooler to play an M rated video game that is history based (like Assassins Creed III)? Click the link if you aren’t familiar with the game. It’s set during the American Revolution and is fairly well-researched history-wise.
Our family had policies that varied over the years with different children. We had games we would not allow in the house and others we didn’t mind (example: our daughter enjoyed playing Age of Empires). We never forbid games outright (unless one of our kids “needed” a break from technology *cough* or was grounded, lol). I enjoy gaming and sometimes would play with the kids (or would hog a game on my own PC, lol).
This conversation isn’t to judge anyone, but to get a discussion going. 😉 What is your family’s policy about video games? What exceptions do you make (if any)?
This post is also cross-posted on the Guest Hollow Facebook page, the Guest Hollow High School Curriculum group and the Guest Hollow High School History Group. 🙂 Feel free to comment here (via the comments) or one the above linked FB pages.