In my homeschool curriculum shopping daydreams, I peruse aisles of beautifully designed and packaged materials, filling my shopping cart with abandon.

At checkout, I plop down my Black Card, order my chauffeur to load the packages in my stretch Expedition, and say “Home, Jeeves!”

Yay to those of us who can do this!

But for the rest of us, back to the reality of budgets . . .

If you’re not ready to just shop at the full-price retailers, here’s some budget friendly ways to source your curriculum needs.

Look for opportunities to borrow or rent curriculum

  • Do you know a friend or someone from your support group who is using the same curriculum and has a child who is a grade ahead of yours? Maybe you could go in together and pay for the teacher’s guide so she can use it this year, and you can use it the next. (Pro Tip: Stretch your dollars even more—when you’re both done with it, sell it in a used curriculum sale and split the profits.)

Discover the library

  • Every librarian knows her most faithful patrons are homeschoolers! Taking the time to plan ahead allows you to put holds on books or order them through interlibrary loan, so you have them ready when it’s time to teach that subject or topic.
  • Subjects like history, literature, art, and science lend themselves well to short-term needs for books.
  • As you plan your school year, always look to see if you can find the books at your library. Do your budget—and maybe your marriage—a favor: Check out what the library has before you hit the homeschool convention or curriculum sale or shop online!
  • Libraries often have used book sales. Take advantage of these to enrich your family’s home library. 
  • Using curriculum that is driven by literature allows you to simply purchase the teacher's guide, and then gather the rest of the books from the library. Learning Language Arts Through Literature is a good example of this approach.

Watch for used book sales

  • Many communities have a wonderful mom with the superpower of facilitating used book/curriculum sales.
  • These can be a great way for you to buy (and sell) curriculum.
  • And you might meet moms who’ve used the curriculum and who can explain the approach and its effectiveness.
  • Many state organizations will also have huge used book sales at their homeschool conferences, so look for those!

Don’t forget about online used book sources

Consider reusable or multi-level curriculum

  • Dollars also stretch when you can teach more than one child at a time with the same curriculum.
  • Some curricula group subjects into what can be taught to multiple ages at the same time versus age-or-grade-specific subjects.
  • For example, Sonlight cleverly categorizes subjects as “Couch” or “Table.”
    • Couch subjects (like history, literature, art) are those subjects you can do with multiple kiddos at a time
    • Table subjects (like math, spelling, grammar, etc.) need to be done separately according to the ability of each child.
  • Other multi-level programs include Tapestry of Grace , KONOS, Mystery of History, Waldorf, Montessori, etc.
  • The multi-level approach also works great for art, nature/science, history, Bible, and read alouds, etc. Any topic you can do together as a family eliminates the need buy specific curriculum on those topics for each child.

Check out free curriculum

No, that’s not a typo. You really can get free curriculum and helps online!    

Here are some favorite sites for finding free curriculum:

This is a just small sample of what’s available—click here for more free and inexpensive homeschool curriculum options

We are homeschoolers. When there’s a will, we find a way!

Estimating your budget

Here’s some ballpark budget targets you can use as you start writing your shopping list. Sometimes it’s helpful to decide what subjects need to be “best” and which ones can be “fine.” (Unless you have a bodacious budget, you’ll probably have to make some tough choices.)

Cheapest Approach: $50–100 per student

  • This approach would utilize all the tips above, but would not include extras like paid co-ops, tutors, online courses, or extracurricular classes like art or music.
  • However, if you’re resourceful and motivated, perhaps you can find these services for free or can exchange your services with someone else! Maybe you can teach science while your friend teaches art?

Moderate Approach: $300–500 per student

  • This approach would utilize all the tips above and would include few paid extras like co-ops, tutors, online courses, or extracurricular classes like art or music.

Most Expensive Approach: $500 on up

  • This approach includes paying for tutors, online classes, video courses, correspondence schools, or all-inclusive curriculum packages.
  • This may be the most expensive homeschooling approach, but it’s still a lot less than a private school!

Need more help evaluating different programs and curriculum? Cathy Duffy Reviews is a wonderful one-stop-shop to learn about and compare a myriad of homeschool curriculum and resources.

So there ya go!

You can do this, and this process truly can be a blast as you explore the wonderful and beautiful curriculum, books, and ideas out there!

If you’ve got a handle on your child’s learning preference, your teaching style, and your educational approach . . . and know your budget, then, wow—you’ve got a great year ahead to enjoy!

Of course, these days curriculum means a lot more than just textbooks! Learn more in Part 3!