The Honest Homeschooler–Homeschooling for (Almost) Free, Part 2–by Janet Berry

We’re going to jump right into part two of Janet Berry’s awesome post, full of tips for saving on homeschooling. I know that lots of you checked out the post last week. Please comment with your own tips this week! I love getting new ideas for homeschooling!

For Jan’s bio, please check last week’s post. Here’s the link for her amazing blog, full of gluten-free recipes, herbal remedies, and more:

Homeschooling for (Almost) Free, Part Two
By: Janet Berry

Learning Life Skills
The third, and what I feel is the most often overlooked resource available, is real life experience. Don’t underestimate what your children are learning and being exposed to just by being included in your daily routines. I’ve always found it slightly humorous that kids in traditional school go on special field trips to the library, grocery store, post office, apple orchard and other such places that my children and I visit on a regular basis. My kids know how to pay for an item at a checkout, pick out the best fruits at an orchard or farmer’s market, use a pocket knife, gather wood and kindling then start a fire, give the dogs a bath, cook basic foods, shoot a bow, wash their own laundry and then hang it outside to dry and many other things that quite a few boys and girls their age aren’t allowed or expected to do. My goal is to have two highly independent, free thinking, fully functional members of society by the time they’re ready to leave home.
I’m not a fan of having homeschool students complete a mind-numbing amount of worksheets just because some curriculum intended for a classroom of twenty students says they have to. However, as they get older, it’s important to me that mine know how to fill out forms and take tests. Friends and relatives, especially those who are teachers or have school age children, can be a great source here. Don’t discount the value of a free half-used math or language workbook. You can go through it, pull out the sheets your kid might need practice on and discard/recycle the rest.
Loves to Read!
We are conditioned to think that everything must be brand-spanking-shiny-new to be of any worth. That is so far from the truth! Some of my greatest finds come from Goodwill, flea markets and used book sales. 
Occasionally though, you will discover a resource that you just really want but there’s no way to have it other than buying it outright. An example of this, for me, is the Time Travelers series that Home School in the Woods puts out: I’ve used several of their products before and am completely in love with everything they produce. Right now, I am practically salivating over their recently released Middle Ages study. However, when balanced against the fact that I’d have to use half of this week’s grocery money to buy it, I can’t rationalize pulling that much from my bank account. For instances such as this, I utilize Swagbucks:
If you’ve never heard of Swagbucks, you might want to check it out! Basically, you use their search engine just as you would Google and every so often, you’ll get rewarded with swag bucks. Swag bucks can be traded in for gift cards or other prizes. There’s plenty more ways to earn swag bucks, but searching is the least time-consuming way, and something I do a lot of anyway, so that’s the method I prefer. You can’t get rich doing this, but you can earn enough to get at least ten dollars in gift cards each month (some dedicated souls make far more.) The two most valuable rewards to me are cards and Paypal cards. These are what I use to get extra homeschool items and a few Christmas gifts. Anyone age 13 and older can have an account, so it’s also a fun way for your teens to earn a little bit of pocket money!
Search engines rule for finding exactly what you want, when you want it. However, here are a few favorite sites of mine that some of you may want to investigate further.
Joybilee Farm (daily listing of free Kindle books for homesteaders and homeschoolers):
Besides these places, check out your local library’s web site (ours has a free online language program) and your state’s Department of Education (I skim over the Virginia Standards of Learning for our grade levels a few times each year for more topic ideas.)

I know I’ve barely touched the tip of the iceberg with this post, but I hope reading this gives you some reassurance that you don’t have to have the latest, greatest and fanciest curriculum around in order to provide your children with a well-rounded quality education at home.

****Once again, just blown away with your resourcefulness, Janet! I see so many things I want to integrate here…especially the kids doing/hanging laundry! And I’d never heard of Swagbucks. Thanks so much for this comprehensive post. What about you? Have you discovered any ways to save on homeschooling? Have you gotten some ideas from Janet?****


7 thoughts on “The Honest Homeschooler–Homeschooling for (Almost) Free, Part 2–by Janet Berry

  1. Heather and Janet,Wow. And wow. I so get this. Even in the K12 program, we have field trips to the local pumpkin patch, apple orchards, etc., and my poor 10-year-old gives me the "whatever" eye because she could TEACH the "From Seed to Pumpkin" lecture with her own advanced lessons on composting the dead plants, processing the pumpkin, and roasting the seeds. Hee! (As Heather would say!) I need to let her do the food budgeting/grocery shopping/check-out thing. I hadn't thought of that! And she would LOVE that! Math lesson in the making, ay?Checking out your resources now!You two have me ALL fired up again – sometimes (as you've heard me admit before, Ms. Gilbert) I get overwhelmed and bogged down….Thanks,Becky

  2. I know, Becky–Janet's posts are like the Sonlight catalogue for me–a jolt of excitement in a long teaching tunnel! I have to get serious about letting my kids do more things like cooking, shopping, etc. Which means I have to plan our days more, so I know what we're making for supper! Ah, well, all bets are off while mommy's writing her next book…

  3. I am in my second year of homeschooling and it is going a lot better this year than last, however it is starting to take a turn for the worse. I wish I could wrap my Type-A personality around "unschooling" and letting learning happen without forcing at least some it (math, language). My daughter hates "learning", she says. If only she would live up to her gifted potential and take pride in what she knows and can do.

  4. Lisa, I'd just say that EVERYONE's homeschooling takes turns for the worse and the better–kinda like a pendulum (often based on when vacation time is coming!). Don't embrace "unschooling" if you don't feel comfortable with it. There are many ways to get all the education you need, while working in fun activities like the things Janet mentioned (or Becky, in the post a couple of weeks ago). I feel like there are basics that can't be compromised for my children to succeed in college or in life. Math, History, Grammar, Science…those kind of things. But I'd just say to bend on the things you CAN bend on. You don't have to do typing every day, for instance. I have a friend who incorporates a "PJ reading day," in which the kids read but get to wear pjs all day. I've started doing that occasionally, just to give my SELF a break, too! Type-A personalities might not find it as easy to relax and have fun (I know it's hard for me–I tend to be a cerebral-type teacher, focusing on facts, etc). But God made YOU the way you are, too. Stick with it, try different curricula if need be. You will uncover new ways to motivate your daughter.Have you looked into a homeschool co-op? I find that's a great way for moms to have a "break from their kids" day, and it also exposes your child to different kinds of teachers.Thanks for commenting, Lisa–all the best to you!

  5. Awesome resources. So excited to check out swagbucks!Thanks. Oh, and I completely agree with teaching kids basic things they need to know in order to function outside their parents homes…like balancing a checkbook, doing laundry and more.

  6. Thanks for the comments everyone! I don't really consider us unschoolers just…. opportunist-schoolers. Sorta. 🙂 Math is a MUST every day, no questions or complaints tolerated. Other things, I'm more relaxed on. We have to take yearly standardized tests per our state laws and they both score in the 90th percentile, so I'm satisfied they are getting a great education with our "poor-folk's anti-curriculum method." This is not the only way though! As Heather noted, "There are many ways to get all the education you need…" I know some kids and parents really need more structure and that is more than okay. One of the great things about homeschool is that you DON'T have to follow a cookie cutter approach. Writing this actually fired me up too! It's easy to get a little stuck-in-a-rut feeling so it's always encouraging to interact with other parents in the trenches! Thanks again, Heather – I really enjoyed this!

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