Homeschooling with a Rock Bottom Budget

by Deborah Taylor-Hough

The following is excerpted and adapted with permission  from A Twaddle-Free Education: An Introduction to Charlotte Mason’s Timeless Educational Ideas.

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 … 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.)  🙂

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.  🙂

UPDATE:  If you still feel like you just HAVE to do school with your under-eight-year’s-old kiddos, PLEASE read the older book Better Late Than Early by Raymond and Dorothy Moore.  Do not pass go … do not spend any money on curriculum … but DO read this book as soon as possible!

It’s important to really get your mind around the fact that what we’ve been taught about when to start academics by the compulsory school systems is just plain wrong!  This book is based on research and not hearsay or somebody’s thoughts about what would be nice or fun for kids.  🙂


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Deborah Taylor-Hough is a long-time homeschooling mother of three (now adult) children, holds a Master of FIne Arts in Creative Writing and Poetics (University of Washington), as well as being a freelance writer and the author of a number of books including the bestselling Frozen Assets cookbook series and Frugal Living for Dummies.  Visit Debi on Facebook.

Come by and “Like” Charlotte Mason Home Education on Facebook! 🙂

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6 responses to “Homeschooling with a Rock Bottom Budget

  1. Help I have tried the free curriculum for Pre-K, Expensive structured Bible based for Kindergarten and 1st grade. Went back to free structured for 2nd grade. Have to start planning 3rd grade and just figured out my child is a kinetic learner. Explains why we struggle with remembering, and focusing. I also have very young children in the house and a special needs baby that makes going to the library or spending the day outside very difficult. Any ideas on an affordable schooling that will help a kinetic learner, and a house bound teacher be able enjoy AND learn.

  2. M. Rose Barnett

    Thanks for this post. I wish I read it last year! I am just now realizing this and yet I have this mental hang up saying we need to do more, buy something and keep some busywork in the picture. It’s a struggle and I’ve seen your book a few times and want to buy it too 🙂 Oddly I stumbled upon your site looking at CM links. I would love to take a step or 2 back for next year but there’s so much I feel I want to include or feel driven to include even though primarily I’ve been following AO curriculum. Thanks for letting me vent.

  3. do you have any suggestions if I’m just starting this journey with my 7th grader? I had to pull her from public schools because of the daily bullying she went through, and I’m just overwhelmed by the cost and just where to begin. I need to just get her through the next 3 months.

    • Are you planning on continuing with homeschooling after this year? I personally would recommend you give her some time to heal and relax after what sounds like a traumatic experience. Does she like to read? Why don’t you drop me an email and we can chat about this in more detail privately?

  4. I am thoroughly blessed and grateful for this post. Thank you thank you. Thanks a million. Yes, we are really not in the position to think about homeschool if we examine ourselves using the world standard for income. But, I am determined to prove many wrong and after reading this post you gave me “full power” to be sure of what I am doing.

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