{GHF Blog Hop} Budget-Friendly Homeschooling for the Gifted Family


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.

homeschool mess

And if I bring out the textbooks, it looks a little like this.

#ds368 - Rebel Yell
Image: flickr

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.**

This post is part of the GHF September Blog Hop. Read more great ideas about how to homeschool without spending an arm and a leg here!


Teen Suicide is a Serious Issue. You Can Help.

This week is National Suicide Prevention Week. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention estimates that Americans attempt suicide 1 MILLION times annually. Untreated depression is the number one cause of teen suicide. 


When I was a child, I knew I felt a little different. I had big ideas, but it was challenging to find everything I needed to carry them out. (Or my mom’s version: I got into EVERYTHING and it took both her and my grandma’s constant attention to keep track of me.) I enjoyed pleasing the adults who I felt understood me and was adept at hoodwinking those who did not. I was a handful.

When school began, I quickly assessed which teachers “got” me, and which didn’t. I remember my kindergarten, second and fourth grade teachers well – they saw me and it was easy to shine for them. As I found adults who understood me, my peers identified with me less. They spent recess making fun and teasing me with the familiar chant, “Teacher’s Pet, Teacher’s Pet”. I didn’t like it, but I had a safe place inside the school with teachers who challenged and supported me. I didn’t mind being my teacher’s pet one bit.

I moved several times during late elementary school. Some dynamics were constant. I was still an outlier. I was still teased at recess. The most dramatic change was the attitude of my new teachers. Instead of getting to know me better and providing a safe place for me to thrive, they would blatantly turn their back and ignore the playground bullying, adding to the fray with sarcastic or hurtful comments of their own. I knew how to deal with kid-size bullying. I was not prepared for the teachers to be on the bullying side.

The preteen years are an impressionable age and I began to feel worthless. By my teen years, I felt lonely, depressed and completely misunderstood. Some nights, suicide felt like it might be a good friend. I couldn’t tell my family – they didn’t even realize that anything was bothering me. I wanted to handle my life and my worries myself, and telling them I felt so bad that I wanted to die would be a failure of the worst degree.

This was many years ago, but the same scenario persists for many teens. Years of feeling misunderstood, bullied and alone in addition to hormone changes and our increasingly stressful school environments can lead teens to feel as if there is no hope and nowhere to turn.

Teens, especially gifted teens, often keep their feelings of failure, depression and stories of being bullied to themselves. They say they don’t want to worry their families, they feel like no one will take them seriously, or feel like no one cares. Perfectionists may hold themselves to impossibly high standards and may see reaching out for help as failure to succeed on their own. Sometimes teens don’t realize how stressed out they have become until it reaches a critical level. Adults may not realize that teens can have great relationships with their families and strong support systems, while simultaneously planning their suicide.

That’s where Crisis Text Line enters the picture.

Texting is the average teen’s primary method to communicate with family and friends. Nancy Lublin, founder of  CTL and then CEO of DoSomething.org, worked with many teens at DoSomething.org and discovered that they were shockingly honest while texting. This observation led to the idea of a crisis text line and eventually the birth of CTL. (Read more about CTL’s beginnings here.)

“Life doesn’t seem to have meaning anymore.”

“All of the sadness is too much to bear.”

“I’m exhausted. I have to be perfect all the time, and it’s killing me. I can’t go on like this.”

“I’m being bullied at school and now they’re bullying me online. I just want to end it all.”

“I just want to do something worthwhile and good with my life, but I feel like all I do is let everyone down.”

These are words I read on a regular basis. Volunteers like myself offer empathy, active listening and strengths-based supports to help teens (and now adults, too, as of a few months ago) work through these intense emotional moments and stay safe, find coping techniques or simply breathe through a panic attack.

As a parent, it’s frightening. I feel like I know my teenage daughter well, and that we have great communication. At the same time, I know this could be her at any given moment, and I am so thankful that she has a support like CTL available to her.

What can you do?

  1. Make sure your teen knows about CTL.


2. Notice changes in your teen’s behavior. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, or simply remind them that you are available to listen if they need to talk. Remember to actually listen and let them explore their feelings without judging them or trying to fix the problem. Teens often just need to think out loud and feel empowered by coming to their own solution.

3. Become a volunteer or donate. Volunteering requires just four hours of your time per week. My brief shift is one of the most meaningful parts of my week. You can help save lives too – just apply HERE.

4. Get your teen involved in something meaningful. Helping others and spreading kindness is a purposeful way to feel worthwhile. Do it together as a family or help facilitate a group of teens. DoSomething.org has many simple yet important campaigns that are easy to join.

This is a difficult subject but an extremely important one. Keep the lines of communication open with your child and seek professional help when needed.


Resources for Teens:


If You are Thinking of Suicide, Read This First

99 Coping Skills

Mindshift App for Handling Anxiety

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

81 Awesome Mental Health Resources When You Can’t Afford a Therapist

Resources for Parents/Adults:

Suicide Myths

Facts about Teen Suicide

Texting that Saves Lives

Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide

7 Essential Steps Parents Can Take to Prevent Teen Suicide