Homeschool for Little or Nothing
Written by Pamm Clark

During our homeschool experience we haven't had much money for school books. I do enjoy using different curriculums, but the truth is, I've had to make due with one or two "formal" curriculum and then develop the rest on my own. To my surprise, the things I've improvised have been more fun and educational than some of the published curriculum.

The first thing I did was to ask myself what my goal in homeschooling really was. Is it to finish a curriculm in a year or is it to produce productive members of society? With the goal of raising productive members of society in mind, here are some free and inexpensive educational ideas:

Language Arts Math
Social Science
Foreign Language Health & PE Home Economics
& Art
Unit Studies Great Tips Preschool
Teach with Games Need A Break?


I have always felt that this should be more of a lifestyle than a curriculum. I consider going to chruch and Sunday school, youth group, daily devotions, adults modeling a Christian lifestyle, and life's teachable moments all a part of the Bible curriculum. Your children may attend AWANAs or other Bible clubs that would certainly count as your Bible program.

You can read to younger children out of a Children's Bible or they can read it on their own if they are able. There are Children's Bibles in our public library and I know I could borrow one from a friend if I needed to.

Home Life Ministries are the producers of The Character Journal.

Around the middle grades the chidren can read out of their own Bible daily. We read one chapter a day, we use the New Living Translation so it's easy to understand. Your church can possibly provide a Bible if you need one and there is one at your public library. Here's an online version: New Living Translation.

High School children can read through the Bible following a reading plan. Here's 23 Reading Plans: Bible In A Year

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Language Arts

In my opnion, after Bible, Language Arts and Math are a must! I feel it is important for the children to keep up on these skills every day. Just because it is important, doesn't mean it has to be expensive.

Reading--Make use of your library! We have a public library and a homeschooling group library. Something that I've noticed with my children is when I let them choose what to read, they WILL read. Yes, it's lots of junk reading, but I do make suggestions here and there and they enjoy reading the classics once in a while, too. You can get ideas from published lists like 100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know. Don't forget your Bible reading counts for the day, too.

If your child is ready to learn to read, consider the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. It's available in our public library and may be in yours, too.

Check out the book, Games for Reading, by Peggy Kaye, at your library.

To build speed, put on a PBS show or other show your child likes on TV or a DVD, turn on the captions and turn off the sound. You may want to leave the sound on the first few times until your child gets the idea.

Watch the videos of classic literature to spark interest. Check your library for videos and also check the TV listings.

Spark Notes (Study Guides for Literature and other subjects) are available online, free to download and print.

Writng--There are lots of things you can do here that don't cost a thing. Writing letters to Grandma, Emails to friends, making a list, making a birthday card, etc. all fall into writing. Have your child journal every day.

Check out the book, Games for Writing: Playful Ways to Help Your Child Learn to Write, by Peggy Kaye, from your library.

I found The First Anti-Coloring Book: Creative Activities for Ages 6 and Up (Anti-Coloring Book). The pages can be used to finish the drawings for pre-readers or as journal or creativie writing prompts for older children.

For children who don't write yet (or even those who do) you can have your child dictate a story, email, letter, or whatever to you and you can type or write it down. Again, you can have your child use a prompt, or just whatever your child wants to write at the time.

Spelling--Here you can personalize the curriculum to the child. From the child's own writing, have your child keep a separate notebook for the mispelled words. You can give weekly practice (such as writing the words several times or writing definitions) and/or tests if you think you need them. I have found it valuable to have the child work with the words in a very hands on way like typing, spelling with Scrabble tiles, or tracing it with his/her finger on sandpaper.

Here's a cool Puzzlemaker. You can make word search and other puzzles from your child's spelling list.

Here are Bible Based Spelling Lessons with print-outs. "They are appropriate for lower elementary, but could be modified for use with other groups."

For Vocabulary Building, sign up for Word-of-the-Day at or

Sharpening Skills--I have always played games with our children. They learn more during the games than with the formal curriculums I've used. When they were little we played very simple versions of the games and really didn't keep score. As they got older we would play the games following the rules. Good games for building spelling and word skills are Scrabble, Boggle, UpWords, Scattergories, etc.

Another important thing to mention is that the children need to see the adults reading and writing in everyday situations and for pleasure.

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It's easy to get out of math practice and that's why I think it is important to work on math daily. That can be through a computer program, actual workseets, or even in everyday situations.

Younger children can get started by helping parents sort laundry, silverware, etc. Parents can talk about the colors of the clothes, shapes around the house, counting everything, etc.

Check out the book, Games for Math, by Peggy Kaye, at your library.

Math Worksheets World has 12,000 printable K�12 math worksheets, lessons, and resources with dozens of math worksheet makers.

Elementary children will need practice on basic math facts every day or every other day. Here's a site that has worksheets for all levels: Worksheet Factory. I had our children make addition and multiplication charts for their use.

We play lots of games with our children. When the children were younger we played very simple versions of the games, not keeping score, and gradually worked up to the 'correct' way to play the games. Good games for math skills are Monolopy, Yatzee, dominos, etc. and homemade games. We played store with the children with play money.

At Money Instructor teach and learn basic money skills, personal finance, business, careers, and life skills...

Skip counting helped our children learn multiplication. Here's our favorite set of songs: Bible Heroes, Skip Count Kid.

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Science is around us everyday and we just need to point it out to our children and take advantage of their intrests and build on them.

We take advantage of teachable moments. For example, when our children ask a question such as, "How do airplanes fly?" we make a point of finding that out. It could be by a discussion, a PBS show coming on that explains it, a library video or book, or have the child research on the internet or in an encyclopedia. A report could be assigned, but most of the time I just have them find out and tell me what they found out. If you make it too schoolish, they will stop asking questions. Sometimes they email the answer to me and they enjoy that.

We combined science with art when we kept a Nature Notebook. Once a week I would take the children to the park or free zoo with their sketchbooks, pencils, and sharpeners. I would assign something to sketch such as a tree, an animal, or whatever. They would say they couldn't draw, but I would tell them to at least try and I tried myself. It wasn't easy, but we made attempts to draw different things and it gets you noticing details you haven't before. You could assign the children to look up some facts on whatever they drew for the day, but the drawings seemed like enough for us. We don't do this anymore and I miss it.

You can do science experiments one day a week. For a while we were checking out a "Easy to do Science Experiemnt" book at the library. I would choose one or two to do for the day. The kids LOVED it.

Cooking is chemistry! 'Nuff said.

Garden. I have a black thumb and have never gardened, but have thought if I could garden that would be science.

Don't forget to use your resources. At the library there are science books, reference books, historical books on inventions, etc. Check out the video section of the library, too. Use your PBS station. I often record shows, then assign them later.

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History is everywhere. We treat this subject much like we do science, taking advantage of their intrests and build on them.

Timelines are wonderful tools. You can have one going down your hallway, or put one in a binder. Here's a Bible World History Timeline.

As a daily "Journal Writing" or "Fact Find" you could use this: Unobserved, Untraditional, Silly, Crazy, sometimes Bizarre,Goofy, Crazy, Dumb, Weird Holidays or Observances only in the United States.

One of my favorite PBS shows is History Detectives. I am recording each episode and going to assign them begining next year.

Don't forget other videos from the library or PBS shows such as Frontier House.

Again, don't forget to use your resources. At the library there are historical fiction and nonfiction books, reference books, etc. Check out the video section of the library, too. Use your PBS station. I often record shows, then assign them later.

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Social Science

This is what's too broad to be history or science.

When you go on a field trip, have your children write a report or fill out this Field Trip Report from ABC Teach.

Research community helpers. Have another parent come and speak on what they do for a living. If you know someone of a different culture, invite them over to show how to make a typical meal of their culture.

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Foreign Language

After researching this section, I've found there are a lot of free online lessons. Just type in "free online (your language here) lessons" in your search engine and look for something to suit you.

Our children are learning Spanish. To supplement their curriculum I assign 30-60 minutes of watching or listening to the local Spanish TV channel or radio station, watching a PBS show in the SAP mode of the TV or a DVD in Spanish. This helps them hear the rythm and correct pronounciation of the language.

Free online languae lessons listed at Word 2 Word.

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Health and P.E.

A lot of health and PE for us is using and modeling good habbits. Until they were pre-teens, we really didn't do anything formal.

For ages 10-12 I highly reccomend Preparing for Adolescence: How to Survive the Coming Years of Change. It might be available at your public or church libraries.

For ages 12-16 I reccomend I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Again check the libraries available to you.

For P.E. when the kids were younger I would make sure they got outside to play every day. Now that their older, I have to be more creative and make sure they walk the dog or play with the daycare children daily. This site might give you some ideas: PE Central.

If your child is on a sports team, into Judo, or whatever, that is your P.E. program. Our homeschool group has P.E. classes at the park every Friday in which the children work on the Presidential Fitness Test components then play a group game. Also, take advantage of Park Days offered by your homeschool group and organize a Dodge Ball game or something. Keep the kids moving!

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Home Economics & Art

If you have your children help you with household chores, it's very easy to teach Home Ec. How important is this subject? Ask yourself what would happen if you broke your leg and couldn't do anything for six weeks? What would happen to your house? Could your family survive? This is where I started to really consider what I needed to teach my children.

I began by giving our seven-year-old son the job of taking out the trash. It took me a year to get him to take it out without complaining his legs hurt, LOL! I also had him washing his own sheets and making his own bed (with a little coaching from me).

After the above was asigned and mastered, I began adding other chores and building other skills such as cooking, dishes, dusting, etc. Both our children can almost run the household on their own if they had to.

I recently saw an interview with Arnold Schwarzenegger where he said that his children do their own laundry and their own dishes. I remind my children of this when they want to complain!

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Unit Studies

Unit studies are taking a topic and covering all (or most) the subjects with in the topic. For example, the topic is "Skateboarding", and we would study the history of skateboarding, figure math problems and science pertaining to distance and speed, read and write about famous skateboarders, etc. You see, we can cover history, math, science, reading, writing, and P.E. (you have to DO skateboarding, too!) through the one topic. Assuming your child chose the subject, the interest level should be high and therefore your child should learn a lot. Unit studies can easily be designed by you, but just in case you need ideas:

Here are some sites to check out for free unit studies: Free Unit Studies and State Unit Studies.

Core Knowledge: Lesson Plans, which cover specific topics from the Core Knowledge Preschool & K-8 Sequence, are available for download at no charge.

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Great Tips

Order homeschooling catalogs. They often have great tips and ideas in them that will help you get some great ideas.

Definately order a Sonlight catalog and/or browse their website for using library books to cover history and other topics: Sonlight

Ask others in your homeschooling support group if you can borrow or share what they have.

Offer to trade either books you are finnished with or your time with another homeschool family for school books they might have that you can use.

Check out the book, Games for Learning: Ten Minutes a Day to Help Your Child Do Well in School-From Kindergarten to Third Grade at your library.

Ask public schools if they have book discards. I once needed a Saxon book, I asked a school that was using Saxon for a loan and they gave me the book. What a blessing!

Make use of Worksheet Library.

Make use of videos by using Teach With Movies.

Take advantage of your TV and use these guides: The History Channel, NOVA Teacher's Guide, and PBS Academic Resources.

Type in "homeschooling for free" in your search engine--lots of ideas here!

Homeschooling in the car?? Check out: Carschooling

Want a free full curriculum? Try Ambleside Online. AmblesideOnline is a free homeschool curriculum that uses Charlotte Mason's classically-based principles to prepare children for a life of rich relationships with everything around them: God, humanity, and the natural world.

Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool is a complete, free Christian homeschool curriculum for your family.

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Please refer to my Preschool Resource Room for my ideas on preschoolers. Thanks.

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Teach with Games

I highly reccommend these books. They should be available from your library.

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Do You Need A Break?

One year we moved and started up a daycare. That year I was VERY RELAXED with school. I gave them each language and math workbooks. I told them to do school now and then. I didn't worry about what was not getting done. I kind of took a "mental" year off. I'm so glad I did. After homeschooling for 9 years, I needed a break. They learned stuff on their own by continuing their devotions, attending church, watching PBS programs, looking stuff up on the internet, doing lots of reading of library books, helping in the daycare, etc. They enjoyed their 'break' too. I learned that we don't have to do "school" as others think of it--LIFE IS SCHOOL! The kids matured in many ways, not just accedemically.

Consider giving yourself a year or a semester off and having the kids complete maybe a book and bookreport a month and some math from the computer or something.

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