{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!


When Your Unschooler Wants to go to School


I began homeschooling when B was two years old. We started out with a lot of structure and over time evolved into unschoolers. Unschooling has many definitions. For our family, I define it as respect-based learning. We respect each other’s time, needs and interests.

B has never been a child who liked to stay inside of the lines. She is quirky and confident. Her own person, she loves the story of Stephanie’s Ponytail, by Robert Munsch and is known to make every day crazy hair day.

2015-04-23 15.22.29

At age 5, she attended her first sleepover, a slumber party at her gymnastics center. It was Harry Potter themed, so she packed Book Four along with her pajamas and other necessities. I questioned her choices. I mentioned that people don’t usually bring 700+ page books to sleepovers. She had made her decision, though, and off she went, huge book and all. As it turned out, the theme of the night was based on the tri-wizard tournament, and her extensive HP knowledge led her team to victory. She wasn’t a weirdo; she was the hero!

In February of this year, B said she’d like to try public school. This was difficult for me to hear. It felt like a failure on my part – what was I doing wrong that caused her to want to go elsewhere? Then the worry began. How would the school keep up with her learning needs? Will I be able to effectively advocate for her if they don’t? Will her creative spirit get shushed in the classroom?

Once I finished having my fear/pity party, I looked at her desire through the lens of her needs. She wants to try something that is novel for her, something the majority of kids get to do all the time. She feels the need for deeper relationships. She’s hoping to make friends, connect with someone. She’s looking for a new challenge. Her expectations are high. She is extremely self-aware and has analyzed the pros and cons of the public school setting as well as benefits and disadvantages to her personal lifestyle. This is what she has decided she needs right now.

I’m not certain that public school will fill these needs, but with a respect-based learning philosophy, I have to respect all of her learning choices, not simply the choices that I like. I will be sensitive to her interests and give her the space and trust she’s asking for, especially when it’s difficult. No matter what happens, she will know for certain that the next time she wants to take a leap and try something new, her family will support her every step of the way.

She picked out her clothes for her first day. This child, who wears her best dress to be properly attired for a friend’s barbecue, picked out running shorts and a t-shirt covered with hearts. Comfy for play, but unusual for the first day of a new adventure. I chose my words carefully. “B, sometimes kids dress up for their first day of school. Wear whatever is comfortable for you. I’m just letting you know since you haven’t been to school before.”

She wore her comfy clothes and didn’t bat an eye at what anyone else wore. She’s strong, brave and independent, and she makes me proud.

Listening to our kids’ needs is complex sometimes, especially when they don’t coincide with our ideas. What situations have you dealt with in which your desires and your child’s didn’t fit together? How did you find a middle ground?

When You Aren’t Smart Enough for Your Six Year Old

Image: Lotus Carroll
Image: Lotus Carroll
B informed me the other night that she “gets all of her brilliance from Dad.*”

It’s rough when your own kids perpetuate your imposter syndrome.

I politely disagreed, but she explained to me that he knows far more than me. I rebutted, stating that he knows far more than me on a variety of subjects, but there are some in which I am the proficient one of the family.

(Like handling your messy emotions, Kid. Let me leave you with Daddy during a meltdown and we’ll see who you think has done more research.)

She persisted with her opinion. Again, I countered.

“You know, brilliance isn’t all about how much you know. It’s also about how much you want to learn and how much you are willing to work for it, especially when you are frustrated.”

The next morning, B got stuck on a Trivia Crack question**, and ran into the office to ask her dad for help. I told her the answer, but she disregarded my words and waited for him. He was in the middle of finishing some work, and answered her (with the same answer) just as she ran out of time.

“Dad! You didn’t answer fast enough! I am out of time!”


She shrugged. “Well, I asked him. Not you.”

I swear I’m going to start telling her to go look it up next time she has a question that involves a detailed, time-consuming reply. Because, you know, I am probably just not bright enough to answer her anyway. 😉

*     *     *     *     *

*Dad does not support or reinforce this opinion!

**We all went through a few weeks of Trivia Crack addiction in our house. It unwittingly became a learning tool. B played with her dad and me and picked up an astounding amount of knowledge from it over the course of a few weeks. Do your kids play?