1. Don’t reinvent the wheel-
Use what you have, buy what you need. Homeschooling families need to be resourceful, especially if you’re in it for the long haul. What everyday items can be used for learning? Take inventory of what you already have and THEN buy what you need. Re-purpose whatever you think you can office supplies, kids toys(sensory bins, counting or sorting), collections (sort, count, make patterns, or graph) etc. to your homeschool supply shelf. Accept second hand educational toys or school materials from other homeschoolers or save what you have for your little ones. Hit up garage sales, thrift stores & mom’s groups looking to buy or sell clothing and wooden toys in good condition.
Child-led learning is the best use of your efforts to plan and prepare for your child’s education. For Child-led focus on natural interests & abilities and provide choices. For Early education (preschool – grade 2) I recommend setting up a routine (the same style activities like sensory bins, painting, crafts, science activity, library, etc. & rotating the activities throughout the week) or a Morning Basket. You make time once to prepare them once & use the whole week or even a month depending on how it’s going. Make adjustments as needed to keep kids engaged and learning. Kids benefit from repetition & extended practice (as long as it’s on their level & of interest to them).
Example Focus or Theme:
If your child is into dinosaurs (or princesses) right now do a dinosaur theme (read Dinosaur books, make a dino sensory bin, play dino counting games & projects (STEM or Maker) learn about what the dinosaurs looked like, ate and how they lived).
2. Research local programs-
Many cities have free or low-cost programs already set up as part of your communities early education initiatives.
Local Libraries are often a great resource and have many free programs that you can enjoy throughout the year.
Local Museums offer a free or low-cost day & sometimes even special deals for just homeschoolers. If you don’t mind the crowds or going a few times to establish better parking and less crowded hours this is a great way to get out and explore. Low-cost weekdays are the best value for me.
California National Parks are beautiful to visit year-round, weather permitting, no matter where you live! If you plan visiting in the summer take advantage of their a free Jr. Ranger Program (with park entrance fee or membership). Most parks only offer this program in the summer, call the participating park or check their website for parks to double check availability.
3. Get Organized-
Children are unpredictable so prepare and organize as best as you can & be as flexible the rest of the time. What supplies will you need? How will you store them? Where will you spend most of your time learning? What about when the weather is unfavorable? We go to indoor play places unless there are big storms or triple digit heat waves then we use our “rainy day” play box (special games, puzzles, books & coloring, etc. only for rainy days).
4. Homeschooling Sick Days-
Do you have a plan ready to go when you or the kids get sick? I always prepare more activities than we need & use the extras when I get sick.
Storyline online is a website created by the Screen Actor’s Guild of famous actors that read popular children’s picture books with suggested grade levels, lesson plans & activities. I used to use this as a teacher when I lost my voice & couldn’t do read alouds.
GoNoodle is a collection of guided dance & silly song videos. It helps kids take a brain break & get some wiggles out. Some of the videos really get your blood flowing!
If you are firm on NO screen time then create a rainy day/ sick play box. (Where all of the games, etc. are for rainy or sick days.)
5. Homeschool Networking
Look for local homeschooling groups or create your own. This provides many opportunities to make some new friends & share resources & the adventures of learning at home. If nothing is available in your area try Online communities like Facebook or Instagram. You can trade tips & tricks with other families.
6. Embrace Nature-
The most cost-effective natural homeschooling resources is (literally) in your backyard! Starting a nature collection (rocks, fall items, sticks, leaves, acorns, pinecones, spring flowers to press, etc.) with a weekly or daily nature walk is some of the best medicine around and it doesn’t cost a thing. You can later use collected items for counting, sorting, & making patterns or art with later.
Take full advantage of back to school & post-Christmas sales. These are the best times to buy out overstock items (& store them for when you need them). I buy my supplies for the year during these amazing sale opportunities.
8. Reduce, Reuse, & Recycle-
Save your cardboard boxes and plastic containers to upcycle into free flowing crafts & projects. You can teach kids (5 & up) how to use a low temperature hot glue gun (with supervision) or just use school glue or tape. Cardboard cutters are also handy for these projects. For ideas on how to upcycle carboard check out Cains Arcade.
9. Integrate Complimentary Subjects-
Learning is not a finite thing. It never has been (even though subjects are separated out for “ease” of teaching or in the public school model so you can meet your required minutes) & never will be. I think unschoolers best understand this concept on the abstract level although other homeschooling styles have found creative ways to integrate learning. Look for ways to integrate Math, Science & Language Arts (vocabulary & writing are can be integrated into any subject). When concepts are presented this way is far easier for them to learn (& retain) more in less time. Send me your questions on this topic at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternating learning activities and rotating out toys help kids NOT get overstimulated by too many choices. It saves you money because something that has been stored for a few months easily becomes a new favorite when it is reintroduced (without having to purchase new) and it saves you time because you can set this out for weeks or months at a time. ( I suggest a 3 month or seasonal toy & activity rotation).