Homeschooling was something I have always wanted for my kids, even before I had any. Unfortunately, things don’t always work out as you hope – or on a timeline you prefer! In the end, my oldest (10) went to public school through grade three. We finished our first homeschool year a few weeks ago. Overall, things went even better than I anticipated! But as usual, there were also a few bumps in the road. I just wanted to share some things that have worked for us – as well as trying to homeschool on a budget!
Beginning the first homeschool year with your kiddos can be a bit overwhelming! I’m the type of person who likes to be *super* prepared – even overly prepared at times. I also LOVE school supplies! So when they started to appear in our local store, I picked up a few things here and there. Since it was our first attempt at this venture, I didn’t go too crazy & mostly bought stuff when it went on sale. We started with a few notebooks, a bunch of folders, some ring binders, looseleaf paper, pens, pencils, markers, colored pencils, watercolors, a couple rulers, pencil sharpeners, and most importantly – baskets to keep her stuff in! Her basket is pretty empty now in preparation for the upcoming year, but my preschooler(3) has one now too – and is pretty excited about it!
We are fortunate to have some great storage in our home, so part of the shelving in the large closet in our hallway become our “homeschool” closet. This previously had been full of art supplies, as we do a lot of crafting as well, so it was easy to integrate.
Curriculum choices can be overwhelming (and expensive!) as well. A couple of my close friends homeschool as well, and one of them clued me in on a free, online curriculum. So that is what we went with to start. It is called Easy Peasy, and is available here: www.allinonehomeschool.com. The layout can seem confusing at first, but the FAQ section is super helpful, & there are groups/help available on Facebook, too. This upcoming year, I have decided to branch off and kind of develop our own curriculum, work with my 10 and try to follow her lead on certain areas of learning. I ordered these books – Science, Math, Language Arts & History – and they are a great starting point to build off of. We are excited about them!
Since the curriculum last year was online (the list of work/activities, nothing was actually “turned in” anywhere online), we had very little “extra” stuff to have to put away/store. My 10 had her basket, which was big enough to hold everything she needed for the day. In the morning, she would grab her basket from the shelf in the closet, take it out to the dining room & work. Then pack it all up and put it away at the end of her day – for the most part, we struggled there sometimes! Midway through the year, I ended up buying a bookcase to put in the corner of the dining room, and all of our homeschool stuff lives there now. It can get messy/cluttered at times, which is the one downside. But having everything within arms reach from the table was a game changer!
This year, we are going “full homeschooler mode” – and have started decorating the dining room to reflect that, as well! We have even added an alphabet tree for my little one – she is very excited!
We’ve made a few other changes throughout the year, and have come up with a few other tips, tricks & reminders!
1. Don’t go crazy with school supplies.
It helps to have the basics covered – a notebook, folder, pencils – but sit tight a bit & see how things go before buying a ton of things or spending a bunch of money unnecessarily. As I said before, we got a bunch of notebooks, folders & ring binders – most of which ended up being somewhat unnecessary. My daughter would write randomly in different notebooks, not really paying attention to what went where. The majority of those pages ended up being removed & put in random folders which ended up all over. Recently, I got her an accordion style folder with 13 labeled pockets. I went through & labeled each section with a class, & now all of her papers are in one spot. It’s also handy to be able to save that one thing as her 4th grade work, versus a million other folders.
2. Don’t underestimate Pinterest.
I have a board dedicated to 4th grade/elementary activities for my oldest, and have started adding preschool ideas too: Homeschool Ideas. We mostly followed the pre-made curriculum, but when my girl struggled with certain areas (mostly math) at times, it was super helpful to get on Pinterest and find activities or worksheets to give her a little extra help. Another fantastic site is teacherspayteachers.com. They have some free stuff, and most of the paid things are relatively inexpensive – less than $5. Most of the ones we used were around $2-$3. Sometimes just looking through ideas can help you come up with an idea on your own, too!
3. Invest in a good printer.
This got us in trouble at the beginning of the year! We had a printer that did a decent job, but it blew through ink at an ABSURD rate. And it was one that wouldn’t print black & white only, if only the color cartridges were out. It was beyond maddening! You will have a lot of things you need to print out at times, so this is a big deal. In the end, we gave away our ink hog and after some research, went with a new HP Printer that works with the Instant Ink program – and it has been fantastic! This was probably our priciest investment throughout the year. This is the printer we ended up going with, and it has worked perfectly.
4. Utilize your local Library.
This may seem like an obvious one, but it must be mentioned! The library is great for many things – a bunch of books about a certain research topic, a novel for reading and doing a book report on, movies – it is such a helpful tool. And free, for the most part – unless you’re like my family, who for some reason has yet to be able to return books on time! Even so, those fees are minimal.
5. Don’t always buy new!
I struggled with this one a little bit, I’ll admit it. But when you need supplemental books, curriculum, even just a book for reading that you can’t find at the library – don’t just head to Amazon & buy a copy immediately. The same thrifty friend who introduced us to Easy Peasy, reminded me to check eBay for used books before purchasing at full price. I’ve even come to find sites such as Thrift Books that will sometimes have what we need. In addition to those websites, there’s plenty of “homeschool curriculum” buy/sell sites on Facebook to check out. In the end, there’s no shame in paying full price – you may need it quickly, or just just easier. But if you have the time to investigate a bit and are on a strict budget, it can totally be worth it!
6. Find a schedule that works for you.
In our house, my oldest will get up in the morning, eat breakfast, & get started on her day. Sometimes, if we having nothing else going on, she will sleep in a bit, laze around & start her day later than normal. I prefer that she get her work done sooner rather than later, but I create a daily schedule for her each week that she knows to follow & as long as it’s done before dinner time, it’s all good.
7. Find support.
It is so important to find your homeschool tribe. I was very lucky in that two of my good friends had decided to start homeschooling as well. Being able to bounce ideas off each other, sharing tips, websites, ideas, even just moral support at times is a huge benefit & I would definitely be lost without them. If you don’t know anyone personally, there’s always groups online that you can find support with. And always check your area for homeschool co-op options to look into, as well.
8. Be flexible!
This is probably THEEEE most important thing when it comes to homeschool! Some people just wing it by nature, & that is a helpful mindset to have from the start. Others – like myself – are very much of the “planner” mentality & can struggle a bit with this. Planning/scheduling is definitely a huge help, but flexibility when things don’t work out can make a world of difference. Don’t ever be afraid to change up something – even in the middle of a lesson! – if it isn’t working for you, your children & your family – find something that does. The most important thing I’m still trying to learn is let go of timelines & expectations you have developed if you were ever a part of the public school world. The beauty of homeschool is being able to work at your child’s own pace, and listen to their interests/learning styles. Try not to worry about your children needing to know all their multiplication facts & be able to do long division by the end of grade four, for example. If they buzz through it, move on to the next unit! If it takes them a little longer, that’s okay too – it is SO important to make sure your child is comfortable/mastered certain things before piling more on. Don’t worry about “getting behind”.
Now, I’ll be honest – occasionally I tend to side eye these sort of posts, because some may come across as OMG HOMESCHOOL EXPERT! and that is not even a thing. But I remember how overwhelmed I was at times, and posts like this would’ve helped a lot! I hope if nothing else, something contained in this post has inspired something in you to finally take the plunge into the wonderful, fun, exciting world of homeschool!
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