How to get a Cheap, Efficient, QUALITY Home Education

March 30, 2013

My first post on homeschooling was mainly about WHY. This post is all about HOW.

Every family is different. Some can put homeschooling in the budget. Some cannot. We are the family that cannot. This does not mean we do not homeschool, however. I think you would be surprised how CHEAP quality home education can be! I hope this post will give some mothers the encouragement to seriously look into homeschooling.

*Without saying this too much throughout the post, I buy EVERYTHING second-hand – Ebay,, or Well-Trained Mind Forum ‘Sale’ board (Craigslist, even though I have not found anything yet). Look here before you buy new, PLEASE.

When people ask me how to get started homeschooling their children, I always send them to The Well-Trained Mind. Chances are, most of the books you need for home education will be found at your local library, including this one! If you live in the country, as we do, and do not have a good library, go to the nearest large city and they will likely allow you to purchase a yearly library card very cheaply.

The Well-Trained Mind takes you from baby to high school education. It was written by a lady who homeschooled her two children by taking them to the library where they picked out a book from each subject and then as many others as they wanted. She was known as the lady with the laundry basket, because this is how she would haul all of their books out each week. She co-authored the book with her daughter, who graduated hs and went to college at the age of 16 and who is an English professor at a university in Virginia.

How do you start…?

When my children are 2 or 3, I break out a simple Melissa and Doug ABC and numbers puzzle. We do the puzzle together, all the while, I will say, “A says a, like a,a,apple”. In no time, they will be able to tell me the letters and their sounds. Once they know their letters and sounds, we play with bean bags (very simply made from scrap fabric and rice) to learn lower case letters. We also play Starfall as a reward. For math, we keep working on the number puzzle and play with colored bears to learn colors and count some. Nothing was bought for this – I just used what I already had. Look around and see what you have already. Also, bday and Christmas are great times to ask for educational toys for your kids 🙂


Once upper and lowercase letters and sounds are mastered, I see no reason to stop there and wait until they are the “appropriate age” to start learning to read so we go ahead and start Ordinary Parents’ Guide to Teaching Reading (written by one of the authors of The Well-Trained Mind). This book is AWESOME.

  1. It is not consumable = you can use it for every one of your children = SO much $$ saved
  2. It takes the child from Lesson 1: ‘A says a’ to Lesson 231: ‘Reading really long words’ like supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (this is literally the last lesson.  So, it is THOROUGH
  3. Because it takes the child from preschool reading through 4th grade reading, not only is the child moving at his own pace (not worried about grade levels) but you also are only buying ONE book for SIX grade levels of reading! awesome $$ saver!
  4. There is NO writing with this book – only reading. Which is great because most children are able to read before they are able to write well and yet, many reading curricula teach reading and writing at the same time.

Note: it is not colorful and the writing is small for littles so when we are just starting out, I use magnet letters and when they get a bit older and are reading sentences, I will write what they need to read on a magnadoodle so they are not as intimidated (others use dry erase boards).


Once your child knows how to recognize numbers and count, you could continue to do math-type activities at your home or, if you are like me and do not feel confident in your ability to make sure you will cover everything on your own, you can get a curriculum for Kindergarten. At first, we tried Abeka but it was too much writing for Kindergarten for us. Saxon K is all about working with manipulatives and there is no writing (assessments are done orally) so this is the math curriculum we went with. The manipulative box is costly but it is something you use for K-3rd grade and something you can use for all of your children.


We do not do writing right away but when we do, we use Handwriting without Tears. WTM (Well-Trained Mind) explains why it is better than other writing curricula (simplicity, repetition, etc).

That’s it! When you are starting out, all you need is reading, math, and maybe a bit of writing. Foreign Language, Art, Science, History…these are not bad. But…

  1. If you start off with too many subjects, it is easy to get overwhelmed and feel like a failure, give up, or both.
  2. If your child knows how to read well, he/she can learn ANYTHING. If your child does not know how to read, eventually, it does not matter how many hours you have put into other subjects when he/she is young, he/she will struggle.

One other thing: Saxon is a very good curriculum. However, some children do not find it challenging enough. I hear Singapore is good for those gifted in this area. However, what we do is MEP. It is a wonderful supplemental math curriculum out of the UK. It is free! and challenging! (we do not use it until after first or second grade so I will go into it in the next post)

We homeschool year round for many reasons.

  1. Children forget so much when they take large breaks. We do not have to review as much and when we do (as it is built into all curricula), it goes pretty quickly.
  2. We can be more flexible (We can take off a month when a new baby is born, take off a week in the middle of the traditional school year to go on vacation, do only part of school when morning sickness hits, etc.)
  3. Helps me from feeling pressured. If I knew I had to get ‘x’ done by June, I would be stressed if we were not on track. As it is, we just keep at it all year long and there is a lot less pressure!
  4. Learning is an everyday/lifelong process! It is easier to teach this when you school year round, imo.
  5. I am not homeschooling to model public schooling at home. Why would I model my days off after them? There is no reason to, as far as I can tell

That should get you started…

Because this is running long, I will do one more post about homeschooling. The years after Kindergarten look a bit different. I will show how, even though you start to do more subjects, it does not have to become more costly.

Speaking of cost…Here is what all of this costs (new and possibly used):

  • Well-Trained Mind and all other reading books (including Bob books and other early readers): Library (FREE)
  • Bean bags (made with scrap fabric & rice)
  • magnadoodles (already had them – use what you have!)
  • puzzles (already had them but ask for them for bday or Christmas presents!)

The rest of the items, I will list basic Amazon prices but I encourage you to look on the WTM sale board or Craigslist because you will likely be able to get even cheaper prices! Also, most of this was free for me because I used birthday money and bought a little each year…think outside of the box, people!

  • Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading: $19.77
  • Magnet Letters $11
  • Saxon K $55 (I paid $20 from another homeschooler)
  • Saxon Manipulative Box $72.54 (I went on Ebay and won it for $66)
  • Handwriting Without Tears (teacher’s guide $5; workbook $11.34; chalkboard $6.90)

With a little searching these prices could be changed quite a bit but without searching, your first year of homeschooling your Kindergartener could be done for less than $200. Even though your typical boxed Kindergarten curriculum will run you around the same, here’s the difference…

The typical boxed curriculum comes with all consumable workbooks, which you will be spending close to $400 on 1st grade curriculum. Not to mention if you are schooling a second child, you will have to spend another $200 on that child’s Kindergarten curriculum.

However, if you school this way, using non-consumable books, you will only be spending about $100 on your first grade curriculum (compared to $400 boxed curriculum) and…wait for it…$11.34 for child #2’s Kindergarten year!!! (Handwriting without Tears book) Now THAT is a BIG difference.

So year one of homeschooling child #1, you spend anywhere from $100-200, depending on how many deals you can find. Year two, homeschooling child #1 and child #2, you will spend $11.34 on child #2 and only about $100 for child #1’s first grade year. How? you say? I will delve into that next…

I hope I have piqued your interest into homeschooling and how doable it is, financially.  Please let me know if you have any questions!

For those of you who are saying $100? $200? how are these cheap numbers?!?! I hear you.

However, these numbers are on the high end. Take some time to search and you could cut these numbers in half. Use bday money, sell some things on craigslist, save some change, and it could cost you almost nothing. I promise.

Besides, have you seen the Kindergarten list of things you MUST buy for public school?!?! Help me out, those of you who have had to buy all of these materials but just by looking at the list, it is easily $50! Craziness! I digress. More to come in the next post 🙂


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