When the average person thinks about homeschooling, I feel like they imagine children sitting around a kitchen table, books stacked beside them, diligently writing in their notebooks.
It does look like that for some families, and that’s okay.
At our house, homeschooling looks a little more like this.
And if I bring out the textbooks, it looks a little like this.
There are a million terms out there for what we do…homeschool, life school, unschool, child-led learning, child-directed learning, self directed learning…
Our days are rarely the same.
I am often asked about what curriculum I use, how we structure our days, how I keep track of what we do.
The answer is…<<gasp>>…we don’t. How do I facilitate any learning around here without curriculum? Let me share some of our favorite low-cost resources with you.
History and Science
Most of B’s learning is gleaned from books. She knows more about history than I may ever know, unless I read the Magic Tree House series like she did. She has learned all about animals, artists, ancient cultures, weather, etc. from the Magic Tree House Research books. She has learned to cross-reference with other books to check the facts. We recently discovered Horrible Histories and they’ve replaced her stuffed animals in bed.
Much of her science knowledge comes from the Basher books. We own Physics, The Periodic Table, Biology, and The Human Body. These books break big subjects down into understandable pieces and make us laugh as well.
I recently purchased the Biology book, which sat on the table untouched for a few days. B finally, reluctantly picked it up, and hasn’t put it down since.
“When we first get Basher books, I’m like, ugh – not those. Then a few days later, I’m like ‘Woo-hoo! I love those!”
Horrible Science and the Monster Science series are our most recent finds, and they are fantastic!
“All of these books sound really expensive! How do you budget for that?”
We use the library for the majority of our reading. If our library doesn’t have a book on our list, we utilize the wonderful interlibrary loan system and find it somewhere else. When I notice the girls checking out the same book multiple times or we find a title we just can’t live without, I begin watching for it in a variety of low-cost places. We frequent the used bookstore a lot. We trade in books the kids read less for new books they’ll enjoy more. We find $1 and $2 deals. Thrift stores have many hidden treasures when we have the time to search. Ebay and Amazon Marketplace often have books for $0.01 + shipping. For the amount of books we own, we spend remarkably little.
We have memberships to most of our local museums and our local observatory. Quite a few offer an educator’s discount to homeschoolers – just ask! Many science centers and observatories are affiliated with the Association of Science-Technology Centers, which means membership to one center offers free admission to all of the centers on the list. For $60/year, we gain free admission for the whole family to Lowell Observatory (Flagstaff), Arizona Science Center (Phoenix), the International Wildlife Museum (Tucson), Flandrau Science Center, Planetarium and Mineral Museum (Tucson) and Kitt Peak Observatory (Tucson). These are all within a four hour drive in Arizona, and there are members of ASTC in each state if we decide to travel.
Math is another subject that usually involves expensive curriculum and high cost materials. How do we do it?
The girls and I have many math conversations, play lots of math card games (deck of cards – $1) and read many living math books. We are able to find most of these books at the library and have found some great titles at thrift stores for $0.25 each. Math placemats have been a huge hit in our house. C studies her addition/subtraction and B studies multiplication/division while they eat. They have made up countless games to find and remember facts using these. They learn and play without my intervention. I’ve been able to find these for $1.99 at our local Target, and similar sets are often available at the Dollar Store.
For the families who are more comfortable with following a curriculum, NY Engage has their entire math curriculum available at their website for downloading and printing – for free. If you do a quick Google search, many other companies offer this as well.
Every other subject
Most of the learning that the kids and I do occurs naturally, as part of our daily lives. B recently told the dentist when he asked about school, “Well, we are homeschooled, so we mostly just play.”
It’s true! We do what we love, and we learn all day. We go outside a lot, bring along our $0.50 notebooks and clearance rack markers and notice the world around us.
More Free/Low Cost Online Resources:
www.Starfall.com – (For $36/year, you can upgrade to more.starfall.com, which offers reading and math games and stories up through the second grade level. We’ve subscribed to More Starfall for years and still love it.)
**Links for books direct you to the GHF Amazon Store. I do not personally receive any benefit if you purchase books from the GHF AStore, but GHF receives a small commission at no additional cost to you.**