Homeschooling can be expensive, no doubt about it. Watching online, there are constantly stories about how many hundreds of dollars per student it costs to homeschool. But really, homeschooling can be done for a lot less than many of the experts suggest. And that can still be a fabulous education.
What types of things you do will depend a lot on how old your kids are, and the resources you do have available. My basic advice is to get creative. That goes for any age. But it is so much easier to get creative with your elementary kids.
The million dollar question: How do you homeschool high schoolers, and still have money left to feed them?
I wish I had all of the answers. Believe me, I could use them. I don't. I have some ideas though.
- Prayer. Your high schooler should be doing this too. Pray about figuring out a plan, pray about the right resources or people showing up in your life.
- The library. Your library may be less than stellar. But if it has been awhile since you've checked it out, try it again. See if they have a teen program at all, and see if they do anything to help you and your teen learn what is available. We are using a free online Spanish program (Mango), there are free test prep materials available, and of course there are loads of books too. Maybe there are programs that are convenient for you. Or online research materials. Online homework help. Or a science lab.
- Other homeschoolers. Start bartering. High school materials tend to be really expensive. In my house right now, I have advanced chemistry materials I borrowed from a friend. I have some high school math that didn't work for two other friends, but is going to be perfect for my 8th grader over the next couple of years. I have been offered the use of some writing materials, an astronomy course, and more. But turnabout is fair play. My Teaching the Classics set resides at a friend's house at the moment, as are some writing DVDs, some math, more writing materials, and a book or two.
- Organizations you are already a part of. Boy Scouts, in our case, but also 4H or whatever. With a bit of extra work, I can turn a merit badge into a 1/2 credit high school course. There is always a requirement to research careers -- I turn that into an writing assignment. I require more documentation and research than they could get by with and still earn the badge. I find additional project opportunities, or have them find some real mentors, or read a couple books, or, or, or...
- Back to the library, look for audio or video courses from The Great Courses and The Modern Scholar. Especially if you add in the study guide material, some of these make excellent spines for a high school course. History, art, music, literature, science, math... you name it, one of these companies probably has it. Subscribe at The Great Courses website, and you'll get notifications of sales. Something is always on sale, everything goes on sale eventually, and sometimes those prices get pretty low. The Modern Scholar -- I have subscribed to Audible.com and used my credits to purchase some of the courses my library doesn't have.
- Khan Academy is amazing. And free. They are not just for math anymore, though the math is still great. Art history, computer science, psychology. Lots of subjects, and new ones pop up all the time.
- Check out the free courses at NROC. Specifically, I am impressed with the courses here... including courses like AP sciences, upper level math, history, and more...
- Even if you don't like a textbook approach, checking used homeschooling bookstores or sales and watching for a few textbooks there might be worth your while. You can have a basic outline of what makes up, say, high school government. You can still do unit studies or whatever, but use the text as a bit of a road map for you. Some of those books can be found for very little money.
- Log hours. I expect roughly 70 hours for a half credit. So if we take part in a free 'artists of the west' program at a local museum, and we watch a Great Courses set on the art of the Louvre, and we watch some art discussions on Khan Academy, plus some additional research of some sort... pretty soon we have a 1/2 credit in art history or art appreciation or something.
- Adapt. You can often take a program that targets middle school and add some research, a paper or two, or some additional reading, and turn that into something worthy of high school credit. Or you can take a college text, and by slowing it down and maybe requiring a bit less, that can be worth high school credit too.
- Don't be wowed by all the bells and whistles. There are some great, expensive programs out there. But there are plenty of just plain expensive programs too.
- If you have some money to spend, think about getting the most bang for your buck. What will it cost to use this program again with child #2, #3 or #7? What else do you need to use this program (books, supplies, reference materials, a microscope) and how readily can you acquire it? What kind of expertise do you need?
- Consider doing reviews. Reviewing for the Schoolhouse Crew can be a lot of work, but I am ending up with some amazing high school programs as a result. I've also spent time on programs we've really disliked. Of course, sometimes I get the chance to give those away and truly bless someone.
Do you have any other great suggestions? Or still need more ideas? You can read what my Crewmates had to say -- starting tomorrow -- at the Crew page!