by Katie Julius
Living in one of the most expensive states in the United States, a very real concern of new homeschooling parents is how they are going to afford to teach their kids at home. Sometimes, home educating one’s children can result in the loss of one parent’s income, making finances even tighter for families. However big or small your family’s budget may be, you CAN still homeschool!
With the explosion of homeschooling in recent years as well as Facebook and the Internet, there is an abundance of resources available to parents so that they can homeschool for very low or no cost. Websites like TeachersPayTeachers.com and Education.com offer some free resources, in addition to premium content that is usually low cost. There are also complete curriculums that are available online for free. Two popular ones I see referred to often are Easy Peasy Homeschool and Ambleside Online (Charlotte Mason).
Use the Library
While homeschoolers are known for walls of shelves filled with books, homeschooling on a budget can sometimes prevent families from purchasing books. Your local library is the answer. Many libraries participate in inter-library loan programs where you can request to borrow books that your library may not have on their shelves. Our family uses the LA County library system to check out about 75 books every few weeks about the topics we are studying.
If you do have your heart set on owning a particular resource, buying used is one way to do so on a small budget. While it’s important to be mindful of copyright laws, especially with regards to workbooks, there are a number of homeschool groups who host used curriculum sales or “swaps”, as well as groups on social media created entirely for that purpose. CHEA also hosts a Used Curriculum Sale throughout Convention every summer.
Borrow or Trade
There’s a good chance you know some homeschooling families who have kids the same or alternating ages. This is a great opportunity to borrow or swap materials with each other to save on the cost of purchasing new. Chances are, the other families you are in community with share similar teaching preferences and have similarly aged kids (it’s probably what brought you together in the first place). Sharing access to homeschool resources is a natural part of supporting each other as you seek to educate your children at home.
Parents who work outside the home CAN homeschool their children. It might take a bit of extra help from family or trusted friends, but it’s possible. Privately homeschooling families can determine when school will take place – evenings and weekends are just as good a time as more traditional school hours. Family or close friends may be able to watch your children while you work and can also help with assignments you give to them.
Change Your Mindset
Perhaps more important than the practical side of finances is learning to adjust our mindset and expectations of what home education looks like. We don’t need high-priced fancy curriculum, three-hour long classes multiple days a week, or a schedule filled with a variety of enrichment or extracurricular activities. Yes, these are all great ways for families to educate their children if it’s something they can afford and it fits your philosophy of education, but they’re not necessary, especially in the early years. Our children can receive a well-rounded, quality home education without them.
Attending Convention for Free
While CHEA makes every effort to keep Convention rates affordable for families, the cost of attending can still be prohibitive for some. However, there are several ways to attend CHEA’s Annual Convention for free! If you are the parent of preschool aged children (oldest child is 5 or younger), you are invited to attend one day of the Convention for free. It’s your choice whether you want to attend Friday or Saturday. We also welcome pastors and their families to attend Convention free of charge. Please contact the CHEA office at (562) 864-CHEA (2432) between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday for more information and to register using one of these options.
Volunteering is another way anyone can attend the convention for free. In addition to the volunteer support we need during the event, we also need help in the office preparing in the weeks leading up to Convention. If you are interested in volunteering, please email firstname.lastname@example.org for additional information.