Friday, 19 March 2010

Frugal Homeschool

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

Home educating on a budget may seem like a challenge at first, especially if you are attempting to gather as many resources as your average classroom. There is no need to rush out and buy a lot of equipment that you may not need. First, sit down and write a “wish list”, then highlight the items you feel are most necessary to begin.

There are many alternatives to expensive educational resources. Below are some ideas to help you save money in setting up your home learning space.

- Buy furniture which has multiple uses. Consider a large, second-hand dining table over individual desks, for example. Use open shelving rather than cupboards for storing supplies and books. This allows the children to see what is available for their use and is less expensive. I have used two bolt-together galvanised steel five-shelf units to hold the many games, puzzles, construction kits and so on that I have gathered over the years. The children can see everything on the shelves and they remain tidy and uncluttered compared to a cupboard. They cost $15 each from the hardware store. I also have a 2.5m high, 1.2m wide shelving unit in white melamine, that’s tougher than your average chipboard one as it was once display shelving in a shop. This one holds many files, folders, books and boxes and cost me $30 from a second-hand furniture store.

- Consider a $2 inflatable globe from a discount store before investing in an expensive atlas or globe. My children have learned more world geography from their “beach ball globe” than from any other maps or books we own. Atlases often come on sale at the start of the school year or in book club catalogues. Hold out until you get a quality, inexpensive one. Or suggest one as a gift idea from a grandparent or other family member.

- Look at alternatives before investing in sets of encyclopedias. In today’s technological age there is up-to-date information on many topics available on the Internet, which many families have access to at home or at their local library. Sites like wikipedia and those designs specifically for educators like askjeeves will most likely provide answers to most questions that young ones come up with. Encyclopedias on CD rom are also a cheaper version that the book sets. Libraries usually have at least one set of quality encyclopedias. Second-hand sets are readily available and even a ten-year old set won’t be too out of date if you can buy it at a reasonable price. Childcraft sets rarely date in their content and we have found many versions of these second-hand – at garage sales, library sales and op. shops.

- Art and craft supplies are especially important for littlies. I buy a lot of mine from an educational supplier in bulk. I buy 2 litre bottles of poster paint cheaper than I can buy 500ml at the local discount store. I also buy glue in bulk and refill glue applicators and pots with brushes or glue spatulas. I use powder paint and powder glue for big art projects as it works out to be much cheaper. We use recycled paper and quality pencils and crayons for day-to-day art play. I have found that it is more worthwhile buying one set of Stockmar crayons or Lyra pencils every few years (or more) than buying the cheaper pencils on sale at the supermarket. I buy coloured paper and other mediums for them to use for special projects and gifts. Our clay comes in 10kg packages from art suppliers or “recycled” clay from the local potters club, and we make our own playdough with simple kitchen ingredients. I’ve also bought playdough in bulk because it is only slightly more expensive than making it myself, and has a longer shelf life in our hot summers.

- Buy exercise books, writing pencils, computer paper, folders and more at the back-to-school sales and keep a supply handy for when the children need these. Cover books yourself rather than buying those with covers depicting favourite characters, they are too expensive.

- Buy the minimum number of books you can for your child’s learning. Wait until they have used the curriculum for awhile before deciding to invest in a whole series. Borrow reading books from the library rather than buying them all new. And take literature lists to second-hand book stores as often these titles are readily available in used condition having been prescribed school readers. While you are at the second hand book stores, check out the reference section and for any quality books that are not too out-dated.

- Make your own games. Learning games are fun and they work! There are many websites to get you started with making games. Learning games can be in the form of board games, card games or physical games. They can include music, sports equipment, flash cards or dice. You are limited only by your imagination. And the kids have plenty of that, so get them involved!

- Plan some low-cost excursions or consider annual passes to local museums or wildlife parks if you think you will get value for your dollar. Often you need only go twice to recoup your membership costs, and there are a lot of extra benefits. These annual tickets are a great gift idea for someone wanting to give to your whole family.

The golden rule in the beginning is WAIT. As time progresses you will know what your family’s needs are and you may hear from other homeschoolers where the bargains are. You don’t need to build a school in your home to start on your home based learning journey. If you are feeling inadequate, write a list of all the resources available in your community - include the library, council, tourist centre, parks, galleries, museums, natural resources (beach, forest, river etc), people, schools and so on. You will be surprised at the range of activities just waiting to be enjoyed as part of your home education journey.

Here are some online resources which might save you some money…

School Express US site - lots of free printables and more

Classics for Kids Free lesson plans for four classical composers, timelines, biographies and more - get your music from the local library or $2 shop CDs and enjoy!

SparkleBox - 1000s of printables!

Donna Young Want to be organised? Like free printables? You’ll love Donna Young.

An Old Fashioned Education
Christian and Classical Education Resources - so many subjects and all free resources!

Skwirk Free, interactive and Australian! Three points!

The Learning Page This has been around for years, and we’ve used the free printables many times. Lovely stuff!

The Magic of a Million Activity Book Download for free!

Worksheet Factory These are fantastic for creating your own worksheets to concentrate on a specific area of maths which may need revision, without having to handwrite the problems for your child! There are several programs available for free trial.

Pocket Basics The Pocket Basics books have been highly recommended. This page offers a variety of valuable downloads for…. Free!

Puzzlemaker Great fun for those who enjoy word puzzles. Create an activity book which suits their skill level perfectly.

Educational Press This is fantastic - so many options and levels and you can create your own board games etc. at home.

Enchanted Learning Over 20000 pages of printables.

The Well-Bred Sentence Studying grammar? Everything you need to know about sentence construction and punctuation.

Craft Creations Free Projects for card making enthusiasts.

International Children’s Digital Library Children’s literature to encourage a global community.

Please leave a comment with some of your frugal education ideas and links!