By Ann Zeise
Is it possible to homeschool for free? Is it possible to homeschool without money for educational experiences? Is it possible to home school without interference or regulation by others?
Well, you can come pretty close! There will be trade-offs, as we all know, but there is no reason homeschooling K-12 can’t be a very free and freeing experience.
What is “Free?”
There are nearly 50 meanings to “Free” and we’ll talk about some in this article. I’m concentrating on the meanings of free being “at no cost” and “to enjoy personal liberty.”
Every summer we go to our cabin in Maine and live almost totally “off the grid” for two weeks. That is about as much as this city woman can take. We draw water from a well. We use an outhouse. We use a solar cell, PV system, to generate power to charge some 12-volt batteries to run the refrigerator, some lights, and to spark the propane stove. It often seems my husband and his brothers spend a lot of money in order to live here for free. Homeschooling for “free” is a lot like this.
So how do you home educate “off the grid?” I assume, since you are reading this that you already own a computer and pay for internet access. That isn’t free, but is one of those prices you pay to have access to all the free educational resources on A to Z Home’s Cool.
Can you homeschool without a computer and internet access? Sure! Families homeschooled for generations without computers or the internet up until about 10 years ago! You can home educate with what you have on hand or can borrow from friends and relatives. You can use the public library. (Though I don’t know any homeschool family who does not rack up late charge fines!)
Some families join public charter schools because the charters offer to reimburse them for educational supplies and activities. Sounds pretty cool … at first. But like every thing free, there is a price in personal freedom to pay. More on that later.
But since you are here, I’m going to continue on, assuming you do have access to the internet.
Can I Homeschool for Free?
There’s got to be a catch. Isn’t there always?
And often the catch is some loss of personal freedom and privacy. Many “free” sites require registration, and even if they don’t sell their mailing list to others, they still may annoy you with all sorts of “infomercials” via email long after you’ve lost interest in their products.
Some say they are “teacher-led.” This means that some stranger, entirely unfamiliar with your homeschool lifestyle, will be approving or disapproving or directing what goes on in your home. Many just don’t “get it” that we need flexibility and custom resources. We don’t need our kids to be sorted and graded.
I’m at a loss why families who have had problems with the public schools will then turn to public charters and “virtual academies,” such as homeschooling with K12, to run their lives. Some say it is because they want their tax money back. Some truly need financial support, or think they do. But what they don’t understand is that the information that they provide to the governing agencies that run the academies is priceless. The government is not paying for the books, they are paying for the information about what goes on inside the privacy of your own home, that you wish to provide in order for your children to get some dubious “credit” for accomplishing.
Free educational support, like you can get on this site, does have its price. You are going to have to issue your own transcripts to your children and maintain your own records. You are going to have to decide what you are going to do each day. I’m not going to insist that this is the week that your child simply must learn Roman Numerals because they will never be mentioned again, and then your children will be “behind.” Nope. You’ll have to set your own pace for what is comfortable for your family members.
Isn’t this risky?
I am not advocating that you don’t follow your state laws. If your state demands an intolerable amount of homeschool regulation, you may want to consider moving to a less regulated state or helping to change the laws for homeschooling. Depends on your priorities. Experienced homeschoolers in every state and country can tell you just how flexible you can be there.
Some homeschool families who, for Libertarian reasons, do not file in states that require some paperwork. They might get away with this, and never have child services take away their children, if they are lucky. They also risk that their teen may have no proof of legally homeschooling for college admission and financial aid when the time comes and this is needed.
So, if you use a lot of free online resources, and get books and games at the public library or at places where you can buy inexpensive “recycled” materials, and use free or shareware software programs, can your teen still go to college?
Sure! The “catch” is that you’ll just have to document carefully, right? Maybe not! I spent a lot of time working on this site and told Scott to track his reading and projects. Did he? Nope. He just had a shoebox full of lists of books checked out from the library, not all of which he had read. To get around this, he went and took some tuition-free classes at the local community college, and earned a transcript that proved to a university that he could thrive in college-level classes. No SAT scores. No high school transcript, and he was off to a university.
Is there such a thing as free homeschooling without a computer? Sure! Homeschooling before about the year 2000 was without a computer. Families used what they had and what they could borrow, say, from the public library for homeschooling. Some signed up for “independent study” through their local public school.
More Free Homeschool Resources
Homeschool support groups have popped up all around the country and the world. Most are loosely organized, grassroots organizations with no dues and maybe only asking you to sign up to a Yahoo Group so that you can stay informed about group events. Support group members also are often willing to loan homeschool materials or give or sell their no longer needed materials to their support group friends. They may also barter some lessons: “I’ll teach your kid art if you’ll teach mine how to ride a horse,” or something like that. Bartering is common in homeschool support communities.
Free field trips can be found at many manufacturing and service businesses. Just ask! We once watched a new mall being built in our town. (What is it about construction sites and boys?) We asked, and soon had an appointment to get a personal tour by one of the managing architects of Devcon, a huge construction firm in our area. If a child is interested in their occupation, I have found most adults are willing to take the time to tell them more about it. Some may be willing to mentor your child for a long time.
Free lesson plans. Free lesson plans and worksheets, printable and online, for students pre-K through 12th grades, homeschooling complete courses for free.
Free tutoring can often be offered by senior citizens, who are willing to talk with a youngster willing to just give them some company each week.
Free curriculum can be had from many resources. It is a trade-off as you have to give these businesses your address in order to get the free sample, and then they have you to send offers for their more expensive products.
Free software can be downloaded from the internet. Just be careful that you are getting it from the original source, and not some copy that has been making the rounds of possibly infected computers.
So, Ann, how can you afford to give us free homeschooling?
I make a living from the advertising on this site. The advertisers pay to have a presence here, to tell you what they have to offer. I wish I could have kept the site ad-free, but Silicon Valley employment for my husband became unsteady. He supported us in the early days of our homeschooling, and now it is my turn while he has fun with his start-ups and inventions.
I offer you free resources here to do it all yourself, from homeschooling toddlers through getting a teenager off to college. If I don’t have it, no homeschool family has ever asked to have me make it available. I have been told by some expatriate homeschoolers, who have no access to English materials, that they have homeschooled for years just off the links on my site, so I know it is possible.
I don’t “grade” material in Explorations4Kids. Why? Because I think when a child is ready to learn a topic he doesn’t need to be told that he is too young or too old to learn such stuff. Often pages are broken down into Basics for the very young, Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. Start where it makes sense for each child.
I have been offered money to develop custom curriculums for families. I prefer to teach you HOW to brainstorm within your family and support system so you can create the best curriculum possible: one designed around each child’s interests and capabilities, and within your budget. That is the “best” homeschool curriculum. It is all here. You just have to keep clicking! What is offered on A to Z Home’s Cool is priceless…. and that is what makes it free.
While you really can take advantage of many free resources, as soon as you are financially able, do try to financially support the wonderful homeschool organizations, businesses and authors who are also struggling to homeschool and meet their financial obligations. In other words, don’t be so frugal that you become stingy.
Spend wisely when you do decide to buy. There is nothing quite as inspiring as a beautifully published book for a child. Make sure your child has “bought into” reading or using materials you buy. What we all hate is wasting money on items that just don’t give a valuable learning experience. Just because some other homeschooled child loved the item doesn’t mean your child will. Be sure that the companies you buy from have a liberal return policy, or where you can pay month-to-month and can easily withdraw.
Don’t sell your privacy to the first bidder. No outsider has any right to demand to know what you or your children read in the privacy of your own home, or even borrow from the library. If you must report by law, you can always say that your child has been reading “selective materials on the subject” and not be specific. If we do not protect such personal rights, we can lose them for all time.
Protect your freedom from restraints, even it means you may have to not get “free” homeschool materials. I tell people that I may not agree with how even most parents homeschool their children, and, in hindsight, would do things differently myself could I homeschool over again, but I will protect each family’s right to be able to homeschool in whatever way they decide is best for their family and children. Some entities would place restrictions on that freedom, and so need to be watched and thwarted.
Give A to Z Home’s Cool a chance first to help you with your homeschooling. Again, it is totally tuition-free homeschooling, requires no registration, and is acceptable to both those who homeschool for academic and personal reasons as well as for a wide assortment of religious reasons.
Free homeschooling is a totally freeing experience. It may cost as much or as little as you want it to. The only price that is too much to pay is the cost of too much intrusion into your day-to-day family life.
More Discussions About Free Homeschooling
When I first began homeschooling, one of my first questions was “So where do I get my school books?” When I realized that we were in fact responsible for same, I then asked, “OK, so who’s gonna pay for the books?” After I got the answer to that one I stopped asking questions – I feared the “3 strikes” rule might apply… by Pat Fenner.