Homeschooling on a Shoestring


Purchasing homeschooling curriculum for your children can be similar to buying a car for your family. Where I live you can spend about $50,000 for a 2014 luxury Lexus SUV, $30,000 for a new Grand Jeep Cherokee, or if you’re like my family with several children, you can buy a well used but reliable seven-passenger van for about $10,000. If you have limited finances, however, coming up with even $4,000 for a much older, higher miles vehicle may be more expensive than you can muster.

“We are overjoyed with the news of our grant! I have complete faith that God directed this blessing through your organization. With all four children schooling now, this year has already been the most expensive to date. Your gift will not be wasted! A thousand thanks from our family!”

— Tommy and Gena C., Military Fund recipients

Fortunately, when it comes to homeschooling with severely limited resources, there’s good news. The Home School Foundation,, (HSF) a nonprofit serving the homeschooling community in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, helps qualified families with the cost of homeschooling curriculum and supplies. They invest in widows, single parents, and families homeschooling children with special needs, and military families, to name a few.

Even if you don’t qualify for assistance from HSF but have limited resources to invest in your homeschooling curriculum, there is still good news. In homeschooling vernacular, expensive is a relative term. While the average cost is about $500 a year per child, this goes down a bit in families with more children, since resources can be shared, membership costs are not multiplied, etc. No matter your income, it’s prudent to count the cost and be prepared. Investing in your core curriculum materials first, then adding other items as your budget allows is a sound strategy for any homeschooler.

While it is possible to homeschool with just a library card, most of us will add a bit. Even still, one year, I homeschooled all seven of my children for less than $400 total, by using the library, and a few non-consumable resources and free downloadable worksheets.

Here are a few ideas to homeschool on a shoestring budget:

Save on Textbooks

  • Borrow or rent books — check with your local support group.
  • Purchase used books.
  • Look for public school give-aways. (You may want to use with extreme caution because of worldview content, but items easily found are atlases, encyclopedias, typing practice books, maps, and more.)
  • Watch for library sales; I have found some of our favorite living books* at these.
  • Provide educational “wish lists” to family members for gift-giving times.
  • Use “What Your Child Needs to Know When” or “The Checklist” (or Teaching Children by Diane Lopez) as a guide to what to teach, then use library books or living books.
  • Utilize free Internet curriculum resources (such as “Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool” or “Ambleside Online.”
  • Utilize an all-in-one program such as “What Your 3rd Grader Needs to Know.”
  • Laminate your books and answer keys with clear Contact™ paper for durability.

Use Multi-Level Curriculum

Use grade-specific materials for each child for skills subjects such as math and language arts, then use multi-level materials for content-area subjects such as science, social studies, character/Bible, art, health, etc, working with all of your children together, to economize on time and money! Here are a few suggestions:

  • Konos curriculum
  • Diana Waring’s history guides
  • Bible Study Guide for All Ages
  • Greenleaf Press
  • Five in a Row
  • Janice Van Cleave’s science books
  • Beautiful Feet guides
  • Valerie Bendt’s Unit Studies Made Easy
  • Heart of Wisdom
  • Tapestry of Grace
  • Science in the Creation Week
  • Considering God’s Creation

Re-Use Your Material for a Younger Student Later

Invest in reusable, non-consumable texts rather than workbooks. This works especially well for:

  • Math textbooks
  • Language arts texts
  • Most unit study guides
  • Games
  • Living books (including both fictional and non-fiction literature)

Don’t Make It Complicated

Finally, while it’s tempting to think you need all the bells and whistles in order to teach your children at home, what you really need are just the basics. Math, language arts, well-rounded reading/hands-on discovery in other subject areas equals a common sense basic curriculum for little money. Combining the academic basics with your enthusiasm, investment of time, and a few creative and fun learning opportunities for your children add up to an excellent education, even on a shoestring!

*Living (or “whole”) books refers to books of excellent literary value that both inform and inspire a child’s mind. Traditional textbooks, which while more comprehensive in scope, are often written only to inform, and are generally less interesting to read and not as memorable. Living books, on the other hand, are usually written by someone who has both a passion for and experience in their subject, such as Corrie Ten Boom’s “The Hiding Place,” “The Swiss Family Robinson” by John David Wyss, or “Kim” by Rudyard Kipling.

For more information about homeschooling on a shoestring budget, check out HSLDA’s website,, and search “homeschooling on a budget”.

To get or give help to the Home School Foundation, visit:


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