Homeschooling can be expensive, or it can be free. Free? Yes, free in the sense that you can homeschool without spending money on curriculum. However, you will likely spend more time gathering materials. As long as you have access to a library, preferably with inter-library loan, and the internet, you can find the tools you’ll need to educate your child.
First, you need to know what you want to teach. I always begin with our state’s curriculum standards. This gives me an idea of what my kids would be doing if they were in public school. If you visit the department of education website for your state, you will most likely find the standards there. Additionally, you can view World Book’s typical course of study for each grade or look at the scope and sequence charts on curriculum sites. After reviewing the standards, I make a list of the topics and skills that I want to focus on.
Once you know what you want to teach, then you need to figure out how you want to teach it. You can teach each subject and topic individually, or combine them in a unit study. I try to combine subjects whenever possible. I start with a topic and then seek out as many resources as possible that relate to the topic. I look for music, art, literature, history, science, math, and anything else I can find. Sometimes the connections between the subject and topic are loose, but that is OK. They are still trigger points that will help my kids to remember what they’re learning.
Next, you need to find your free resources. I love our library. I especially love that I can log into my library account online, research titles, and request items. I’m fortunate that our library is part of a network that allows me to access other libraries’ collections. I regularly request books, music CDs, videos, and educational computer games. They even have textbooks. Sometimes, I’m not sure how to begin my search. I have an idea of what I’m looking for, but nothing specific in mind. There are some great sites online that have book lists. I often begin my research with one of these lists. Most have descriptions of the books with suggested reading levels. Below are some sites with lists that I have found to be helpful.
Historical Fiction for Young People
There are several lists on this site. I especially like the United States by century lists. The descriptions contain the year of the setting, so I can easily figure out where to fit them in our history plan.
Outstanding Science Trade Books for Students K-12
This is a great resource for creating unit studies or just for finding interesting reading titles that contain some science. This site also has a page of Freebies for Science Teachers. It is basically a list of other sites with free material, but it is searchable by keyword and type.
Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People
The most recent list requires membership, but the previous lists are available free. This site also has a searchable Teacher’s Library.
Recommended Literature List
This California Department of Education site has a searchable database of books for children and teens. Searching by discipline (subject area) and grade level is useful.
Bookworm for Kids
This site has lists of books to encourage reading.
If you would rather have just one resource instead of several, you can seek out grade-specific books. The Core Knowledge Series, edited by E.D. Hirsch Jr., can be used as a reference or as the basis for your curriculum. Test preparation practice books, like the ones published by Spectrum, can also be used as a reference to determine what skills “should” be mastered at different grade levels. Although these books are not a curriculum, having your child take a test at the beginning of the year may help you with your planning. I am fortunate that our library has both of these series. After reading them, I purchased really inexpensive used copies so I could have them on hand.
Aside from the library, you can also obtain free curriculum online. I will offer some suggestions about that in a separate post. For our homeschool, the library has been the most useful source of free curriculum material. You may have to do some research and planning, but that is all part of the fun. I encourage you to check out your local library to see what it has to offer. I also encourage you to support your library in whatever way you can.