There are a lot of good homeschooling materials out there. But as families quickly find, stocking up on textbooks, buying a pre-packaged curriculum, or enrolling in an online program can be an expensive way of homeschooling. That's especially true if you have more than one child who needs materials.
Luckily, you don't really need to use a curriculum to homeschool. In fact, even homeschoolers who have the money to spend often prefer to pull together their own education resources. That's because it offers them maximum flexibility.
Using an eclectic approach and custom-designing your kids' education can take more time and effort than buying something off the shelf. But in the end, it can provide the most enriching learning experience for your family.
So before you spend a fortune on a curriculum, check out these suggestions for finding your own teaching materials:
Start with what you have. You probably have a lot of learning tools stowed away in cabinets, toy chests, and bookshelves already. Take inventory and think about how to get extra use out of what you've got on hand before running out to buy something new.
Look for standard household supplies that can fill in for more specialized materials. You can buy a chemistry kit from an educational supplier, or make up your own homeschool chemistry kit with things you use everyday. You can find decent substitutes for many teaching products at your local supermarket, hardware store, or arts and crafts shop.
Do it yourself. If you can't afford to buy it, maybe you can make your own. A quick search can find you directions or kits for making almost anything, from finger paint to a telescope. And you can learn a lot just from the process of putting your own learning tool together.
Get to know your library system. Your local library probably has resources you never dreamed of. And if it's part of a lending system, you have access to even more materials. Best of all, it costs you nothing to use!
Find the gems on the Internet. The amount of information online is endless, once you learn how to sort out the good stuff. And the free learning materials you can find, some of it specifically for homeschoolers, can keep you busy all year round.
Take advantage of learning opportunities available through local schools, colleges, museums, youth organizations, and business. Special homeschool programs at museums, nature centers and historical sites, as well as enrichment classes, workshops and camps for the public can fill in many gaps and give your kids access to tools and materials the average home simply can't provide.
Collect books, craft materials, educational toys and games used or at a discount. You can stock up your supply shelves through local curriculum swaps, garage sales, thrift shops, used book sellers, dollar stores, end of season sales and online retailers. You can also check the About.com Homeschooling Trading Zone Forum for good deals on used curriculum.
Do your homework before investing in a textbook, an online school, or a packaged curriculum. Before you open your wallet, talk to other homeschoolers, read reviews, look for samples and references, and ask about cancellation or return policies. That's the best way to make sure the money you do pay for materials is well spent.