By: Andrea Dillon
For many parents who are thinking about homeschooling, cost is one of the most significant issues they face. Every week, I get emails from homeschool families asking how to homeschool for free, or as close to it as possible. While 100% free is close to impossible, there are some ways to homeschool fairly inexpensively, and as a result, make it less of a burden on your family.
How to Budget for Homeschooling
As a new homeschooler, it can be difficult to know how much homeschooling is going to cost. Many of us start off thinking we need more things than we really do. The actual cost is going to depend on a number of things, and it’s important to consider several factors so you can create a budget that is right for your family’s individual needs.
What to Consider While Budgeting
- What type of homeschooler are you?
- How many children are you homeschooling?
Homeschooling one child can be pretty inexpensive across the board; however, when you start adding in more children, you begin to double, triple, and so on, the price.
- Do your children have any special needs?
Special needs can mean having to make adjustments to the way concepts are taught and even require the need for extra resources. This can be done for a low cost, however, it is vital to be aware of these modifications and keep them in mind as you start planning.
- How much time will you be spending outside the home?
While there are many free and low-cost ideas to educate outside of the house, like homeschool days at local museums and other attractions, you need to take into account the price of transportation to get to those locations. You should also consider any extra paid programs and extracurricular activities your child might want to try.
- What are the increased utilities going to be now that you’re homeschooling?
Chances are, you’re going to be at home more than ever before. You will use more energy, water, food, and maybe even internet, depending on the type of curriculum you decide on. These are often overlooked expenses that can stack up if you don’t plan accordingly. If you’ve been a stay-at-home parent for a while, you may have some of this worked out. However, if you worked outside the home or you are pulling your children from public school to homeschool, these costs might not be something you needed to consider in the past.
After you have these areas mapped out, you can start to get an idea of where you might need to budget more and where you can get by with less. It is also important to look at your income and set a realistic amount that you can spend on homeschooling. From there, you can start to make a plan on what you want to purchase and what free resources you can use to help offset the costs of other necessities.
Veteran homeschooler tip: The best thing to do is start with less and add more as you go along. This way, you can not only figure out how you want (and don’t want) to homeschool, but you won’t have as much buyer’s remorse in the end!
How to Homeschool My Child for Free
Now that you have an idea of what you want your homeschool to be like, you can start to look for free homeschool options to help you achieve that experience. There are many different free homeschool resources out there to help you.
Free Homeschool Curriculums and Programs
The first thing that many homeschoolers usually decide on is the curriculum they are going to use. Free options may not be perfect and you may have to make some adjustments to make it work for you and your children. However, there are several effective options available, so don’t write them off. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Khan Academy is a nonprofit that offers free educational resources for students of all ages. There are courses and resources on tons of topics and for all grade levels.
- Hippo Campus provides free educational materials for middle to high school grades. These materials need to be presented and expanded on by the parent.
- United States Census Bureau offers more than 100 activities that you can use in any year.
- Mensa For Kids contains free learning units that contain multiple lessons over the same topic that are designed to meet the needs of all children for extension beyond the standard curriculum.
- Easy Peasy is a complete and free online Christian homeschool curriculum for preschool to high school.
- PBS Learning Media provides curated FREE, standards-aligned videos, interactives, lesson plans, and more.
- Smithsonian Learning Lab allows you access to millions of digital resources from across the Smithsonian’s museums, research centers, libraries, archives, and more. You will also find pre-packaged collections that contain lessons, activities, and recommended resources made by Smithsonian museum educators as well as thousands of classroom teachers.
- Teach With Movies brings learning and film together. Get lesson plans for math, science, social studies and more.
- Zearn is an immersive and thorough math curriculum for children in kindergarten to fifth grade.
- MasterMath is a middle school math program with video lessons, worksheets, and quizzes.
- Prodigy is a game-based math program for first to eighth-graders. This is a perfect supplemental program for math practice and reinforcement of math topics.
- Mathcurious offers free printable math games for all ages.
Science and Social Studies
- Smithsonian Science Education Center provides free science resources to help your homeschooler start to think like a scientist.
- Crash Course is a YouTube-based video series that helps educate on various topics from astronomy to history and more. Great for students in upper elementary grades to high school.
- Wild Flower Bee Farm has free elementary school bee lesson plans for grades 1-8.
- Big History Project is a massive, online social studies curriculum that takes learning from the big bang to the present day.
- The Science Spot is a one-stop spot for middle school science resources.
- EDSITEment is a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Trust for the Humanities that offers free resources for teachers, students, and parents searching for high-quality K-12 humanities education materials in the subject areas of history and social studies, literature, and language arts, foreign languages, arts, and culture.
- Digital History helps bring the past alive through technology by providing news articles, music, art, and more for specific time periods and events in United States history.
- Learning For Justice provides robust, ready-to-use classroom lessons that offer breadth and depth, spanning essential social justice topics and reinforcing critical social-emotional learning skills.
- Science Bob helps you add some random acts of science into your day with free experiments and project ideas to get your kids thinking.
- The Free Reading Program is a basic language arts program that doesn’t have many bells and whistles but is a complete, free literacy program for grades kindergarten through sixth.
- KISS Grammar is designed to help students identify and discuss the function of almost every word in anything that they read or write.
- Teach your Monster to Read is a game-based, learn-to-read program that takes your children from letters to words to reading all while having fun for free.
- ReadWriteThink provides access to an ever-growing collection of free educational materials. This includes hundreds of lesson plans, calendar resources, prints, and interactive tools. The site has consistently been one of the most information-rich literacy resources on the internet
Free Homeschool Printables
Printables are another great item to help keep costs down. You need to have access to a printer and paper, so this isn’t a totally free resource, but it can help eliminate the need to purchase a more expensive curriculum. Many different sites provide free printables. Below are a few of my go-tos to get you started.
While a lot of the items on this site are for sale, there are many great freebies if you are willing to take some time and do the research.
This site has a lot of free printables to offer for preschool to fifth grade.
“Print out unlimited copies of your favorite projects including art, deals, and greeting cards. Always free, always available!”
“These learning tools are all FREE for you to print and use for personal or educational purposes.”
Check out our Online Educational Resources for more free or low-cost educational options:
Other Ways to Keep Costs Down
- Look for a curriculum that offers discounts for families enrolling multiple students. Time4Learning is an example of a homeschool curriculum that does just that.
- Use the library as much as you can. You might even consider an out-of-state membership to help expand your resources cheaply.
- Many states offer scholarships for children with special needs. If you live in Florida, for example, you can apply for the Gardiner Scholarship and “purchase” your curriculum and supplies from an approved list for free.
- Buy used curriculum. Check with your local homeschool groups to see if they do a swap or take a look at our Facebook Classifieds group.
- Give unit studies a try! We keep an updated list of our favorites right here.
I hope this information can help you homeschool and save a little money in the process! Have you come across some free resources you love that I didn’t mention? Let me know in the comments below!