I was homeschooled from 4th grade on and our whole family learned a lot about curricula, portfolios, etc from the experience. Homeschooling is generally more expensive than public school, since you have to buy the materials, but it’s a lot less expensive than private school.
There are a lot of ways to save money while homeschooling. Today I’m going to look at textbooks and the various methods we used.
1. Reuse textbooks.
In most cases, one textbook will work for all your children (see the corollary to this below). Depending on your children’s age range, math and English (grammar and most literature) won’t change. Science and history might, but if it’s less than a 5-year difference your kids may not be behind underfunded public schools who also aren’t able to get new books. Consider supplementing slightly out-of-date texts with materials from the library, magazine articles, etc.
You can even reuse workbooks by doing all the exercises on notebook paper, instead of in the blanks. You can also photocopy some of the more complicated workbook pages, like crossword puzzles. My parents often bought us new workbooks, but it’s not necessary.
Corollary to #1: Don’t write in the textbook.
This increases its reusability and swap or resale value. If you do write, use pencil and erase between terms.
2. Share the textbook with another family.
I wouldn’t advise doing this if you have children in the same grade. Trying to use the same textbook at the same time in different houses just doesn’t work.
But it can work quite neatly. For example, my best friend was 1 year and grade younger. Then my little sister was a year/grade younger than her and her little sister was a year/grade younger. So you had 9, 8, 7, 6. It’s not always that perfect, but this is a good option for many families.
If both families are using the same curriculum, there are several ways to go about such a split.
– Split upfront. You each pay half with the understanding that you’ll use the book in a certain order.
– Half (or token amount) upon first use. The second family pays half (or some token amount like $20) when their first child starts using the book, but with the understanding that both families will share it from now on.
– Free sharing without keeping score. Each family willingly shares books with the other. Neither keeps track of how many books they’ve lent, they just ask for the books back and in good condition at the end of the semester.
Of course, this can cause problems if either family destroys it, loses it, moves, or refuses to share. My favorite is the using without keeping score. Hopefully each family will have something to offer and they can peacefully coexist.
3. Find or arrange book swaps and sales.
I was part of a vibrant homeschooling network (in many ways fostered by Micah’s mother), so it was more a matter of finding these swaps and sales. People would announce them in the newsletter or you’d go to some monthly function and a few families might have brought some books they were trying to get rid of.
But if you don’t have that, try arranging your own on Craigslist. Post a list of the books you’re looking for or selling/giving away. Perhaps even look for a group of other homeschoolers to swap with.
4. Your library is your friend.
The library where I’m currently working has all the Saxon math books, for instance. You can only have them for 3 weeks at a time and up to 2 renewals, which means 9 weeks tops. Still, that gives you a chance to try them out before purchasing or while looking for a good deal.
Check your library’s 700s (adult and kids) for art history and projects. You probably don’t need an art history textbook. There are often plenty of health and body books in the early 600s. Language materials are in the 400s.
If you’re dedicated enough, you might be able to develop your own whole or partial curriculum based on what’s in your library system.
Just be nice to your librarian, homeschooling families can be overwhelming if they come in with huge lists at once instead of getting a few things every week.
Homeschooling? Do you have other tips to share for how you’ve saved money on textbooks without jeopardizing your child’s education?