The writer of one of the blogs that I catch up on as I am able has posed this question: how do you spend your school money? In her post she asks for ideas to stretch the school budget. Here are a few of my thoughts. Feel free to share some of yours.
The harsh truth about stretching the school budget: IT IS TEACHER INTENSIVE. There you go. Can you home school on a dime? If you have access to a library, then the answer is yes. The world is full of free or nearly free resources. The difference between your inexpensive home school and your neighbor's costly home school is most likely preparation time. Having said that, here are a few things to get your brain turning about ways to save:
*use your state's Standard Course of Study for each subject to help guide you on topics to include for each grade level (you should be able to access this on-line) Take that information to create goals for your student.
*trade resources with another family - -Most of my friends aren't ready to part with their materials, but are willing to loan things out. This year I loaned my Saxon 2 materials to a friend who returned the favor by loaning me a grocery sack full of reading material for my oldest.
*for younger students buy one of the grade level Critical thinking books (Mathematical Reasoning). I have been using Saxon and Mathematical Reasoning. I have enjoyed the combination, but Mathematical Reasoning covers the same material. If you do this you will need to be sure that you include homemade flashcards, skip counting exercises, and additional work on calender information. Those are all things that you can do yourself for little to no money.
*nearly anything can be a math manipulative - - Don't be convinced that you have got to have the silly linking cubes. Surely you have 100 grains of rice. Ok, maybe something a bit larger, but you get my point.
*find out about your library's interlibrary loan policy. I live in a small town. Our library is nice, but small. That has not hindered my ability to borrow books. If the book I need is not available locally it can usually be borrowed from another library. I have to pay the return shipping. That amounts to significant financial savings. Again, the real issue here is time and effort.
*science - - (again, teacher intensive) plan the year based on your area; Plan one activity a week and select several library books to read, for each week create a supplies list and buy the supplies a week at a time. I bet that you can average $5 a week. Yes, you can buy a teacher notebook that has done this for you, but you are trying to save money. Use your state's Standard Course of Study as a guide line or better yet your student's interests.
Things that I would spend money on:
a reusable writing space (dry-erase board or chalkboard; I used lap boards until I was able to devote a wall to this; you will save money on paper by doing this)
a great map (in a perfect world: a world map, a U.S. map, and a map of your state)
resource books that would be used for many years (children's dictionary, student dictionary, thesaurus, atlas, children's Bible)
teacher training (podcasts, webinars, books, magizines, etc.)
a place to store things (even if you are not buying much you will need this; my students are little so I asked my husband to create a shelf about 16" from the ceiling. It is ugly. It is out of reach. We used a bunch of "L" brackets and two long unfinished boards. Hopefully you can come up with something better.)
an integrated Language Arts curriculum (this is just my opinion; History/Geography/Literature/Art/writing would be a huge thing for me to plan. At some point my time is worth something. I have chosen to use Tapestry of Grace. )
Crunching the numbers
In this scenario my expenses would look something like this:
Tapestry of Grace year plan $260
2 mathematical reasoning books $60
reusable writing space (including chalk/dry-erase markers) $30
long-term resource books $50-100 (I was able to get mine used for much less)
teacher training free-$100 (I have found the library and the internet to be great sources for free materials)
storage items (shelving/plastic containers with lids/cabinet) $100
Grand total: $500- $700
The things that are glaringly missing are basic supplies (paper, crayons, pencils, etc.),science lab supplies, group fees (do you join a local homeschool group, HSLD, or a state group?), field trips, a specific class your child might take (My girls take a P.E. class at the local college. We spend $50 a year for both girls to participate in this.) Most of these things do not come up all at once, so I find it easier to budget for them. I would guess that I average $10-$20 a month on these kinds of things.
One closing thought, balance is key in determining your school budget. Every decision will impact how your home runs. For example, I bought the reccomended math manipulatives. With four small children my house never seems clean. I decided that I would rather eat rice and count linking cubes. I figured that I would use the vaccum cleaner less. The trade off for me was an atlas. I wasn't able to find a used one last fall, so we check one out from the Library every few weeks and use a globe that I bought at Target for $1 the rest of the time. Think through every aspect of your home as you consider purchasing school material. How will an item benifit you and your students? Will the lack of an item offer an opportunity for creative use of other items or will it create another mess? Enjoy the number crunching and take pride in the extra effort that you are putting into your child's education.