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Tips on beginning or continuing to homeschool when there’s NO money

By DaLynn McCoy

Homeschooling children is entirely possible even with a budget of zero. Not only is it possible, it’s sustainable, and it’s effective. Buying “all the things” can be nice, but it’s completely optional. It’s most convenient to homeschool on a zero budget if one has time to put into the efforts of planning and tweaking the resources available, but - believe it or not - homeschooling can be done on a budget of zero with almost no time invested. Interested? Keep reading!

I bet there are many people who’d like to know how to homeschool with no money invested and no time spent. Well, here’s the backpedal - no more money or time spent than if the kids had gone to public school. Most kids will need supplies periodically, field trip money sometimes, and no telling what else. It might average out to $10 each month as a "guesstimate". Time-wise, there are morning and afternoon routines to consider plus checking of homework and study time. A good guess towards an average might be an hour a day.

So what money MUST be spent to homeschool?

Needed Expenditures

  • Basic supplies such as pens, pencils, and paper. Other supplies will vary by child age: calculator, crayons or colored pencils, glue, construction paper, 3 ring binders, folders with rings and pockets, etc.
  • Art supplies depending on student interest and learning style.
  • Internet access - this can be had at the library.
  • Computer with a word processor - possibly to be had at the library.
  • Access to books - can be through a good library system.

And how about TIME? What is a realistic consideration, assuming the kids can work independently?

Time Required

  • Minimal planning - an hour weekly making a “list of instructions” (or a lesson plan)
  • Instructional time - a few minutes for each subject, depending on the subject; possibly daily, weekly, or occasionally
  • Occasional homework help - depending on the student, an hour weekly
  • Grading, etc - an hour weekly
  • Accountability checks - seconds at a time, several times daily, doubtfully interruptive

There are times in life when families simply don’t have the funds to spend on homeschooling, yet those same families know that homeschooling is the right thing even in the dry seasons. Remember resources such as Freecycle and other sharing groups in your local area. Just putting it out there that help is needed with the grade levels of the students in need will likely receive at least some response. This is one of those situations where people enjoy paying it forward, as people most likely at some point have also needed the help, and it’s also a situation where some people expect it to be paid forward by the recipient again in the future. Get help when it’s needed, and help others when it’s possible to do so.

Sometimes, the situations which have prevented the money from being available may also prevent parents from having the time to spend as they should. A disclaimer here - students should be able to work independently and curriculum and resources will need to be chosen to allow the parent to spend less time hovering over the kids.

If the children can follow a list of instructions and be trusted to follow them, then the time invested by the parent needn’t be but minimal. If the children in the family cannot read, or cannot be trusted to follow instructions with minimal supervision, other steps may need to be taken and more time invested. (One of those steps can be a babysitter, even someone who is related and may do so for free or nearly free; this babysitter can hold the children accountable to a list created by the parent.)

Working under the assumption that the kids are capable of working independently, a medical emergency, a need for both parents to work outside the home, or any other number of situations might call for a need of investing little to no time in homeschooling. When families find themselves facing these types of situations, panic doesn’t need to be part of the equation. It can be done!

The ideal curricula for this type of situation would include either a prescribed schedule, or it would be a curriculum where the student can just “do the next thing” each day. Using textbook-like curricula is one option for these situations, as the child can just do the next lesson and the parent can look at the work once a week or once a unit. It’s a good idea to check the homework before giving the child a test, to make sure that the material has been understood and practiced correctly.  However, instilling independence is even more important and you can learn more about that in our free online conferences at HECOA.

Older students may do well with a list of objectives, such as is available through various free curricula. A reader would do well with these programs, and the creative student has much more leniency than with textbook methods. If the child can read, the child can learn, and many kids thrive with this approach.

No money and no time aren’t excuses to not begin or continue homeschooling. There are always options! It’s all in how the situation is viewed. Don’t panic, don’t give up, and never say never!


Life Lesson A-83: You can still homeschool without time or money to do so!

I learned this lesson when we first started homeschooling. The cost of it was my husband’s main concern. I asked on Freecycle and received almost three years’ worth of materials, and a retired public school teacher blessed with me with many of her resources that we’ve continued to use in my homeschool to this very day. -  DaLynn

When did you learn this lesson and how did you deal with it?

More Life Lessons Learned by DaLynn:

This special series is presented by DaLynn McCoy - life's lessons learned as a homeschooler!

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