There are two ways to homeschool. The first involves pouring over loads of curriculum catalogs, late nights spent making lists, and a huge chunk of change dropped yearly on loads of books that may or may not get the job done. Your books and days may look a whole lot like those in the public schools.
The second approach is the one our family has taken. Their are book purchases and their are plans and their are lists. But what there is not is unnecessary material costs. And our days look very different from those in the public schools.
Let me say, though, that we are fairly new to the homeschooling scene. We have three children, all six and under. So we are not experts and I couldn’t tell you with utter confidence that what homeschooling looks like now is what it will look like in ten years.
We have adopted some of the Classical Education concepts in our family, but aren’t strict adherents to any one philosophy. Our family has made a few decisions when it comes to homeschooling that I think will stand the test of time and spare our pocketbooks from unnecessary expenditures.
1. Buy Books That Are Useful to Every Child.
I actually enjoy looking through all of the homeschooling materials and curricula. I also find it a bit overwhelming, both financially and emotionally. Does my child really need all of that for one year and does it really need to cost that much?
I think the answer is no. Since our children are fairly young we have decided to focus hard on reading, amongst other things. We figure that if we can teach them to read then a whole world of learning opportunities opens up to them. Our six year old now has the reading bug and sometimes it’s hard to pry him away from a book.
A couple of years ago when we started our eldest down the path to reading I did some research and decided that The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading was a good fit for us. Once I purchased it and started implementing it I found it was perfect for us. This book will be fundamental in teaching every one of our children to read.
So when we can we like to purchase materials that can be used over and over again. We do use some workbooks, but for the most part I like a lot of our books to be ones that can be used from child to child.
2. If You Can Do It With Pencil and Paper Then Do.
Going hand-in-hand with the above concept, we like to use good old pencil and paper when we can. Instead of buying loads of workbooks we encourage our children to practice their letters, numbers, and artistic expression on a stack of paper we have lying around.
Another way I save is in avoiding the purchase of handwriting tablets. I have given our son a book at the start of a school session and by the time he is ready to move on to the next subject I will have drawn in the lines for him to practice his handwriting. It really only takes a minute.
3. An Intentional Life is an Education
There is no replacement for a real life education. By this I mean that you are engaging in activities with your children that will teach them how to do something useful and in the process engages their minds on a variety of topics.
One example of this is when we head out to the garden to plant or harvest. Questions about soil, animals, sunshine, and biological processes come from children who may not see a textbook on the subject for years to come. And you are organically given the opportunity to answer their questions on the spot or with a “hey, let’s look that up when we get back inside.”
Every day doings such as cooking, cleaning, caring for animals, and daily chores fall under this category as well. I believe a life lived intentionally is possibly the best free homeschooling resource around.