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Homeschooling on a Shoestring—Spotlight On: Social Studies

Additional Resources

More on homeschooling on the cheap:

“Homeschooling on a Shoestring Budget” HSLDA Homeschooling Toddlers thru Tweens

“What Does It Cost to Homeschool?”

“Navigating the Used Curriculum Route” by Vicki Bentley, Practical Homeschooling magazine

“What Should I Be Teaching?”

• Search for free homeschool + subject

Ask an Elder

“Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned, for we were born only yesterday and know nothing, and our days on earth are but a shadow. Will they not instruct you and tell you? Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?”—Job 8:8–10 NIV

Social studies resources:

All-American History

“Civics for Preschool and Middle School”

History for Patriots (resources/living books from The Learning Parent)

• Learning History through Living Books series is just one of the Charlotte-Mason-style materials available from Queen Homeschool.

• Trail Guide to Learning unit studies (includes all but math)—Paths of Exploration and the new Paths of Settlement units for various ages; includes study of primary source documents, biographies, and more. From Geography Matters

Galloping the Globe (ages K-4th) and Cantering the Country (1st–6th) Geography resources from Geography Matters

• Travel 15 states (plus Washington, D.C. and the I-95 corridor) with Kids Love! Publications travel guides.

“Holidays as Homeschool Curriculum” includes patriotic or historical holidays.

Student News Daily—This free website focuses on current events from a conservative viewpoint, geared to middle school and up. Sign up to have a different feature emailed to you each day; Wednesday’s feature highlights an example of media bias, while Friday’s feature is a quick quiz.

God Has Big Plans for You, Esther! By Kay Arthur and Janna Arndt (Discover 4 Yourself inductive Bible study series; ages 9–12). Readers ages 9 to 12 join young investigators Max, Molly, and Sam for a great adventure in Washington D.C. While they explore the exciting dynamics of the Capitol, they uncover an amazing Bible story of a young girl named Esther who God used to change the course of her nation.

By Vicki Bentley
HSLDA Early Years Coordinator

When it comes to homeschooling, expensive is a relative term. While the average cost is roughly $500 a year per child, this goes down a bit in families with more children, since resources can be shared, membership costs are not multiplied, etc. If your children have been in private school for $4,000–10,000 a year per child, you’re probably planning a vacation with your homeschooling savings and are only reading this article to kill some time! But if they’ve been in a conventional school setting or are just beginning school, it’s prudent of you to count the cost, to be prepared. You’ll want to invest in your core curriculum materials first, then add other items as your budget allows. (See sidebar for more ideas.)

It is possible to homeschool with just a Bible and a library card, but most of us will add a bit. I was able to homeschool seven children at a time for less than $100 in a year, once I had accumulated a few non-consumable resources. (Our family was without a full-time income for four years during that time, with eight children at home.)

In the next few newsletters, we’ll highlight some activities for the basic subject areas on a shoestring budget. Since election season is coming up, let’s begin with social studies!

How to Save on Textbooks and Other Curricular Materials

  • Borrow or rent books—check with your local support group.
  • Purchase used books. Some sources include used curriculum shops, exhibit halls, library sales, support group sales, online swap boards (and of course, the HSLDA Curriculum Market!)
  • Provide educational “wish lists” to family members for gift-giving occasions.
  • Use your state’s standards of learning as a guide to check out appropriate library books. (Search for Standards of Learning + [Your State]. You are not required to use these standards, but it can give you a starting point.)
  • Use World Book’s standards of learning with library books.
  • Use a major textbook publisher’s social studies scope and sequence with library books.
  • Use What Your Child Needs to Know When or The Checklist (or Teaching Children by Diane Lopez) as a guide to what to teach, then use library books or living books. (Are you sensing a pattern here that includes library and card?)
  • Search online for free homeschool ____ (history, geography, civics...).
  • Laminate your books and answer keys with clear ContactTM paper for durability.

Use Multi-Level Curriculum

Use grade-specific materials for each child for skills subjects such as math and language arts, then use multi-level materials for content-area subjects such as science, social studies, character/Bible, art, health, etc, working with all of your children together, to economize on time and money! Here are a few suggestions for materials that are designed for or easily adapted for multi-level use:

And many others.

Everyday Activities

The most effective learning often takes place in the context of everyday living or family activities, and many are free or very inexpensive:

  • Display a large world or U.S. map on the dining table, protected by a clear vinyl layer/tablecloth (available by the yard at fabric departments; generally under $5).
  • Have students label blank maps of countries, continents, states, etc.
  • Visit ethnic restaurants.
  • Research your family's history, using the library and/or genealogy software.
  • Let your children look up the day they were born (library research, also falls under Language Arts!).
  • Visit local museums or historical societies.
  • Attend history or battle re-enactments.
  • Visit historic landmarks—you can even make a scavenger hunt using those roadside markers!
  • Travel as a family—even local day trips can be rich in history and geography lessons.
  • Study the history and/or geography of various regions you have visited (or would like to visit!)—foods, people, government, customs, topography, history, and more.
  • Tour your town and state government buildings.
  • Take your children with you to vote or to work on a campaign.
  • Attend homeschool day at your capitol.
  • Read historical fiction or biographies in your read-aloud time.
  • Let the children demonstrate what they have learned using drama, music, art, Legos, or other medium.
  • Create a history timeline.
  • Discuss current events. (You may wish to be selective, depending on ages.)
  • Attend a local town hall meeting to see the political process in action.
  • Follow the progress of a bill through your state’s legislature.
  • Look up the symbolism of all the parts of a dollar bill.
  • Visit a nursing home and interview those who have been part of recent history.
  • Ask your parents or older relatives to talk to your children about what the world was like just a few decades ago. My mom found the American Girls Molly’s World and Kit’s World books to be helpful conversation starters—as she flipped through the books with her grandchildren, she was prompted to remember things from her own childhood to share.

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