Homeschooling with a Limited Budget

by Deborah Taylor-Hough

Over the years, I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve had newbie homeschooling moms cry on my shoulder about all the myriads of choices available for home education curriculum and supplies.

“We’re just a struggling single income family! We can’t afford all this awesome sounding stuff! But I want to give my children a rich and wonderful educational experience!  What do I do?”   :::sniff:::

Yep.  I’ve cried those same tears, myself, a long long time ago … especially when my kiddos were little and we were just starting down this lifestyle path.

When our children were first starting to be homeschooled, money was super tight in our family and I had to weigh very carefully every purchase I made for our homeschooling.  I learned a lot through those difficult financial times, one of the most important being that you don’t need to spend much money at all to have a quality home educational experience for your family.   Honestly, I think it’s not just a quality education — I believe it’s actually a superior education in many ways.  But I digress.  🙂

If I were at rock bottom financially and only had ten dollars to spend on curriculum for grades K-2, I would buy this book, The Three R’s by Ruth Beechick (it’s a combination of what used to be three individual booklets).

When my kids were little, this simple little resource truly functioned as our core curriculum.

We also did relaxed nature study.  And kept casual nature notebooks … a stack of printer paper and some staples isn’t as beautiful as an actual artist sketchbook, but hey, it’ll work in a pinch.  And we sometimes kept personal journals, too.

But basically we sat around for hours and hours and would read and read and read … and then we’d look at bugs and leaves and clouds … and we played in the sun for hours … and splashed in puddles … and built snowmen … and went to the free days at the art museums.  And got to know the squirrels at the local park.  And watched the leaves change through the seasons.  And saw kittens being born.  And made friends.  And brought meals to sick neighbors.  And lived our lives — which was our homeschool.  We never did “school at home” … our home was our school.  Does that make sense at all?

Life was simple … and inexpensive … and WONDERFUL!

So please don’t cry, overwhelmed mom!  You don’t have  to over schedule yourself … or over plan your curriculum … or make sure everything’s absolutely perfect … or spend hundreds of dollars on books, supplies, teacher’s manuals, etc.

If I were a new mom just starting out with little ones and just beginning this homeschooling journey on a limited budget, I’d buy Beechick’s book mentioned earlier, and I’d read For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay for some Charlotte Mason inspiration.  And also the older book, Homeschooling for Excellence by David and Micki Colfax as a reminder about how simple homeschooling can be and how educational real life actually is.

Other than that, I’d make sure the kiddos had pencils, crayons, pens, markers, lots of paper, maybe a little tape and glue, work on building some good habits (in you and the kids) … and I’d call it good.   Seriously, there’s plenty of time for hardcore academics and lesson plans and planned-out-curriculum and homeschool co-ops and all the other bells and whistles the well-meaning homeschool world will tell you that you need to do and buy and use to have a good educational experience in your home.

But you know what I think about all of that?  Poppycock.  (Yep, you read that right.  I said poppycock.)  LOL!

Here’s what you need:   One little book for curriculum.  One or two for inspiration.  Time, attention, fun, nature, and a library card.  And really — take it from this mama who knows — that’s all you really need for the Second Grade and younger set!  Seriously.

Don’t let anyone (including me!) guilt you into buying something you can’t afford and probably don’t even really need after all.

Seriously, you can get all of this from the library … I just recommend buying The Three R’s because you’ll be using it for several years … and I personally recommend buying a copy of For the Children’s Sake because I’ve reread that particular book nearly every year for probably 20+ years to keep my vision for our homeschool fresh and clear.  My original copy got so worn, I needed to buy a new one recently.  🙂


51BlGAcUHnL(Excerpted and adapted with permission from A Twaddle-Free Education: An Introduction to Charlotte Mason’s Timeless Educational Ideas.)

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3 responses to “Homeschooling with a Limited Budget

  1. Thank you for this! It was really helpful and inspiring. Do you have any advice or resources for someone coming in later in the game with a 3rd and 4th grader coming out of a great public school? Thanks!

  2. Thanks for this, it was very helpful (and inspiring!) Would you have any advice or resources for a mom coming in later in the game with a 3rd and 4th grader (coming out of a great public school) and a limited budget? Thanks!

  3. We are not really a Charlotte Mason homeschooling family, but I well remember those first days of homeschooling and how overwhelmed I felt about curriculum choices. I was so grateful for one veteran homescholing mom who told me to take it easy, enjoy the time, and specifically NOT go out and buy a huge curriculum until we figured out how my daughter learned. I appreciated her advice to keep things simple and chose an online curriculum until we got our homeschooling legs under us. (We used and still use Time4Learning as our core.) I have to very much second your advice to read, read, read, and let life be educating. Thanks for your reassuring words, someone who is thinking about homeschooling and feeling overwhelmed will be greatly helped by them!

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