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Aug 182012
 August 18, 2012  Posted by  Back to school, Family, Kids
homeschool fun

Homeschooling is the most rapidly growing educational segment in the United States. An estimated 2 million students were homeschooled in 2010, and their numbers continue to rise. With such a large number of families homeschooling, it’s no surprise that homeschool resources is a growing industry. Online courses, group classes and boxed curricula are readily available.

However, costs quickly add up and can be out of reach for many families. Read on to learn how some homeschooling families have found inexpensive ways to meet their children’s educational needs. Even if you don’t homeschool, read on, because some of these tips apply to all families with children.

Discounted books and software: Many software companies, including Microsoft and Adobe, offer substantial discounts to students. These discounts are available to kids in school as well as homeschool students. Journey Ed collects these deals into one place, making it possible to buy very expensive software at a low price. For example, Photoshop CS6 Extended Student and Teacher Edition, retailing for $999, is sold for $228.95, and Acrobat X Pro Student and Teacher Edition, retailing for $449, is sold for $98.95.

Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op negotiates volume discounts with suppliers of books, software and curricula for homeschooling families.

Library: Your public library may offer more than you think. Mara Winders from Levelland, Texas, says, “We use all of the resources our library offers: books, books on CD, inter-library loans, educational and recreational DVDs, and digital downloads of books and audiobooks.” Also some libraries host story times, performances, workshops and cultural activities.

Community field trips: Think beyond the typical field trips. What is your child interested in? If he’s into art, ask a local artist if you can visit the studio. The possibilities are limitless: Mechanics, woodworkers, researchers and musicians all might be willing to spend some time with an interested child, and the “field trip” probably won’t cost a dime. Government services like water treatment plants, fire stations and recycling centers often offer tours.

Educators’ discounts: Whenever a business offers an educators’ discount, make sure to ask if it applies to homeschoolers. Living on the Cheap recently included an article that featured a number of teachers’ discounts. You might also find educators’ discounts at museums and zoos.

Used book stores: Used bookstores are a panacea for homeschooling families. Many have textbook and curriculum sections, but think beyond those. The best resources are often found in the fiction and nonfiction sections. Also, trade in your old books for store credit. You might find that you can get a steady stream of reading material without spending much, if any, money.

Online courses: The number of free online resources is growing quickly. The most well-known is Khan Academy, which offers video lessons and exercises in math, science, economics, computer science and many other topics. Colleges and universities are starting to provide free online classes that can be audited. Harvard University, MIT and University of California Berkeley have joined forces to create edX, which will provide free online classes. Students will have tests and projects and will receive a certificate of completion if they demonstrate mastery of the subject. For kids not quite ready for Harvard, check out websites like Superkids, which you can use to create math worksheets, and Starfall, which offers games and activities for kids learning to read.

Concurrent Enrollment: Homeschooled high school students have more resources than ever, as many community colleges offer concurrent, or dual, enrollment. High school students can take classes at the community college, often free, and may even earn an associate’s degree by the time they graduate high school. Ask at your own community college about this option.

Museum memberships: Museums are often part of associations that provide reciprocal memberships. That means you can join one museum and visit hundreds of others free. See if your local museum (or even a non-local one) is a member of Association of Science – Technology Centers, North American Reciprocal Museum Program or Association of Children’s Museums. Pat Robinson, a homeschooling mom from North Carolina, is traveling to 48 states with her son, and her museum memberships are allowing them to visit countless museums along the way.

Life: One of the best things about homeschooling is that you don’t have to strictly follow any education curriculum. (But make sure you know the laws in your state.) Learning doesn’t have to be broken down into subjects like math, English and science. You’ll find learning opportunities all around you: adult mentors, friends, conversations in the car, TV documentaries, observing the weather and grocery shopping. The world is your classroom.

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Jody Mace

Jody Mace is a freelance writer who has written for publications like O Magazine, Washington Post, and Parents. She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband and two teenaged kids. Her colleagues are dogs named Harlow and Shaggy. She publishes Charlotte on the Cheap and takes the “cheap” seriously. For fun she plays mandolin and browses at her local Goodwill Store, where she is “Foursquare Mayor,” as long as that Russell G. doesn’t steal it from her again. You can see her celebration of thrift store finds at Thrift Wrecks.

  2 Responses to “Free and low-cost resources for homeschooling”

  1. In addition to the ASTC and ACM reciprocal memberships, don’t forget about the AZA – Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Go here for reciprocity info:

    Libraries are generally open to purchasing items for their collections they don’t currently have. I’ve requested my libraries purchase at least 100 items over the 10 years I’ve homeschooled in three cities. Some have restrictions such as no coil-bound or perfect binding, however. Many local homeschooling associations and groups also have lending libraries.

    There are a few great places to purchase used curricula online. My favorite is There’s also the Well Trained Mind boards and several groups on Yahoo Groups. Check for when your local HS’ing groups have book swaps/sales, too. Don’t forgot to attend HS’ing conventions where you can get special deals like free shipping from vendors.

    Always, always, ask for educator materials and discounts when doing field trips and such. One of my best hauls was at the state fair where the state parks department gave out special “under the table” sets of posters and educational materials when teachers asked for them. We had loads of great posters, workbooks, and more.

    The National Parks site has lots of educator materials also. You can usually download them from parks’ sites, or ask for them when visiting. When combined with the Junior Ranger programs (online or IRL), they are excellent free, or very low cost, learning opportunities.

    Volunteering is also a great way to learn for free! Families can volunteer together, or kids as young as 13 can volunteer alone at the zoo, library, hospitals, etc.

  2. Thanks for those great suggestions, Julie!

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