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

The History Shelf – A New Part of Our Website!

The History Shelf

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have a new part of our website up: The History Shelf. Ever want to read a book or watch a movie set in a specific time period but don’t know where to start searching? With the History Shelf you can choose a time period via the timeline and browse books and videos for all ages in a visual, easy to browse manner. There are books listed for all ages with separate columns for adults and children to make browsing your choices easier.

If you are homeschooling, browse the timeline to find literature and video supplements for your favorite history program. Or, if you just want to find something for yourself to read or watch, it’s as easy as looking up the time period and clicking on the book or movie cover for more information on each book title and movie.

I LOVE history and will continue to add tons more books and videos to the History Shelf.

Feel free to post and share the graphic above if you want to spread the word!

Happy reading and watching!

Books for a Reluctant Reader

Otter is a reluctant reader. It’s not that he doesn’t like books. He loves books. He just has a difficult time retaining details in longer chapter books or anything he is unfamiliar with. He is very literal and so he often does better with non-fiction. It also helps to have books that contain pictures to help him “imagine” specific details. That’s made a challenge for me to find lots of books that capture his attention and hold his interest to keep him reading to the end. Even though he isn’t reading a lot of “typical” chapter books, he is reading a LOT of material – just in smaller chunks.

One series I found that Otter absolutely LOVES are books by Mike Venezia. Otter has a few things he has always been very interested in: presidents, space, science, coins, composers and history dates (specifically when people were born). When I choose books for him, I try to keep these interests in mind as a motivator. Recently he was the lucky recipient of every single one of the Venezia president books.

Books by Mike Venezia

He’s already devoured a bunch of them. Here are just a couple of the titles:

Kennedy

John F. Kennedy: Thirty-fifth President, 1961-1963

Reagan

Ronald Reagan (Getting to Know the Us Presidents)

The books are about 32 pages long with large, easy to read text. There is a mixture of photographs, art and humorous, memorable cartoons. Each books gives some information about the featured president’s childhood and talks about some major events in their lives and term(s) as president. Even though they are designed for elementary aged children, my high schoolers have enjoyed them as well when we were doing Tapestry of Grace’s 20th Century study.

Otter also has all of Venezia’s composer books. Venezia also has a series on artists and some new books about inventors and scientists.

SaddlebackAnother series that has recently captured Otter’s attention are the Saddleback American graphic history books. These books are like comic books with lots of visual interest and bite size chunks of history that are easy to retain. Your mind associates the bits of historical fact with pictures and so it’s easier to recall specific events. Otter said if there were only 5 stars to give this series, he would give it 6. I found him curled up on the couch this morning with one “just because” and so I think I have to agree with his rating. wink

You can preview one of the books, America Becomes a World Power: 1890-1930 online at Google books.

You can also look at quite a few free samples of different Saddleback series at the official website.

Here are some other books I’ve found that work very well for Otter:

24/7 Science
24 7 science
24 / 7 science behind the scenes

24/7: Science Behind the Scenes Series

This series of books has several different themes: spies, forensics, medical files and mystery files. We don’t own any of the mystery files books since they cover some issues that go against our personal beliefs like UFO’s, etc. The reading level is supposed to be grades 5-7 with the subject matter appealing to even high schoolers.

“Each title focuses on the science and technology used to solve real-life crimes and heart-stopping mysteries. From killer wallpaper to deadly pets, from parasites to mosquitoes, these high-interest books build vocabulary, foster scientific knowledge, and develop inquiry skills through the use of charts, timelines, briefing notes, case files, primary sources, and captivating storytelling. Watch your inquisitive students become scientific sleuths as they read actual cases, study clues, and take a shot at crime scene investigations – all while sharpening their critical thinking and analytical skills.”
quoted from the scholastic website

These books appeal to Otter on a number of different levels. They are colorful with lots of great photographs, pictures and sidebars and appeal to his love of science.

Another series that has been a hit the Usborne young reading series 3. These are beautiful hard bound books – each with a satin book mark and wonderfully illustrated. They are 64 pages long and broken up into manageable chapters.

Crusaders

See inside this book!

Yet another great series is DK Eyewitness Classics. These books take abridged versions of classic stories and help them come alive with a multitude of illustrations, explanations, background information in colorful sidebars and more to help add depth and understanding to what your student is reading.

Odyssey
Little Women

 

I’ll post some more titles that have worked for Otter in the future, including some more traditional chapter books.

Coral Reef Lapbook

Today Otter glued into a folder all of the lapbook elements he finished last week about coral reefs:

An ocean food pyramid

Ocean food pyramid

Lift-the-flap venn diagram

Coral venn diagram

A lift-the-flap matchbook style booklet about fish and shrimp “cleaners”. After completing this booklet we watched a great little movie online:
Cleaning stations in Hawaii.

booklet

“My skeleton” vs. hard coral skeletons shutterfold

skeletons

Inside of the skeletons shutterfold (He forgot to circle the inside/outside words!)

Clam shape book with sentences written inside

clam book

Coral reef creature cards and pocket

coral reef creatures

Fish defenses

fish defenses

Parrot fish “story”

parrot fish

Coral reef matchbook

coral reef matchbook

Some more booklets:

lapbook elements

Barrier Reef facts shape book

Great barrier reef

We also finished reading Pirate Diary: The Journal of Jake Carpenter.

Pirate Diary

Otter really enjoyed both the story and the illustrations. While we went through the book we used the free unit over at Homeschool Share for some vocabulary and discussion ideas.

He enjoyed the story so much that I put a couple of other books on hold at the library:

 

 

I’d also like to get the newest book in this series, but our library doesn’t have it in yet:

Roman diary

Roman Diary: The Journal of Iliona of Mytilini: Captured and Sold as a Slave in Rome – AD 107

This series of books has really great, detailed and action oriented pictures with fun story lines. In the back of each book there is an illustrated notes for the reader section that explains the real history behind each fictional story.

Today as an extra activity for science to go with Adventures in Sea & Sky, Otter made a pop-up barnacle:

Barnacles

You can get the free printout from Ellen J. McHenry’s website.

He also worked on a coral reef lapbook we got for free from Homeschool Share. Today he mapped out where coral reefs are in the world and learned why they are important.

The top part of the picture below is blurry but I was too lazy to take it again!

Coral reef lapbook

Otter is also doing science activities with The Young Scientist Series kits. The kits come with everything (just about) that you need for the various experiments. The experiment he’s working on this week is growing some wheat grass, measuring its growth daily and making a graph of the measurements.

wheat grass measurements

He loves the kits and so do I because I don’t have to hunt down all of the materials. The only downside is that the kits are expensive. On Amazon they run from about $15 to $24 or you can get all twelve kits from Steve Spangler’s Science for $299.95. Each box comes with 3 different themes with several experiments to do per theme. We started out with Set 1. It has the following kits inside:

Kit 1 covers recycling with activities for decomposition, making homemade paper and labeling recycling bags/boxes with homemade labels.

Kit 2 is all about scientific measurements. You grow wheat grass & beans, measure them and graph the results. Another activity is to measure towers of ice cubes as they melt and graph the results. The last activity is to measure and graph some foam capsules after they get wet (and slowly expand).

Kit 3 covers magnets and has activities where you do different things with magnets like make a compass.

Each kit comes with instructions for the teacher covering the purpose, materials, methods, results and conclusions. They also come with student pages. The student pages guide you through each step of the experiment with Celsius the Science Bug explaining concepts and asking questions as you go along. There are also areas to draw pictures, write down data and answers. Writing is kept to a minimum, but you end up with a nice record of each experiment to put into your student’s science notebook.

I got these kits as a sort of “science treat” for Otter. He loves science so much – it’s nice to be able to hand him a kit every now and then to “play” with.