The cost of homeschooling is a common issue, and one I completely understand. Sometimes it’s just not possible to purchase all the wonderful curriculum out there. But never fear: I’ve got a solution! There is an easy way to do frugal (and FREE) homeschooling with great books.
The first thing you must understand is that when a person can read, they can learn anything. Reading instruction is foundational to all education. This is why I make this top priority with my students. It’s the first and only thing I teach them at the beginning of their education. Once they can read independently, there is no limit to what they can learn!
Read my post: Free Phonics Resources
One of the most common requests I get (and see all over social media) is for free homeschool programs. Well, look no further than your local library. Sometimes (not always), free homeschooling means a sacrifice in quality. But with a stack of great books, it is quite the opposite. So let’s get started!
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Using books as your curriculum
What do I mean by “using books?” Basically, this means that you will draw all sorts of use from the books you have at home, or books from the library. They can be used for the information in them, the language, vocabulary, spelling, grammar, and more. The only other thing you would need is paper and pencils.
Start with a Bible, a dictionary, and perhaps an atlas and thesaurus. The internet is great, but not at all necessary. Next, peruse what you have at home. Children’s stories, picture books, novels, non-fiction…all of it works! Short on your own home library? Go to your public library.
As you may already know, I’m a big fan of in-depth history instruction, and I don’t believe it comes from just textbooks. In fact, I’d say that’s the last place to look. The history of the world is in thousands of books just waiting to be read, and the older the book is, the better. So choose your time period or your topic of study, and just read a stack of books about it. Learn about events, places, people, and customs. Follow rabbit trails with an interest your child has. Look up the places in the atlas or on a globe. Find cookbooks that feature cultural and historic recipes. Attempt a handicraft from another country or century. The possibilities are endless!
A simple way to document what your kids learn with this method is by making a timeline. Whether you put it in a spiral notebook or on posters on the wall, create a page for each century of world history, and add people and events wherever they happened. Even if you don’t study history chronologically, your child will begin to see it chronologically.
Here are some of my book lists for starters:
This is so simple! Every time you read a book (fiction or non-fiction) look up the places mentioned on the globe or in an atlas. Identify the country, its rivers and mountains, and its famous landmarks. Teach your child to pronounce and spell the locations properly.
If you have a world map hanging on the wall, consider putting a pin in each location you read about. In Five in a Row (a wonderful curriculum that is similar to the method in this blog post), the author suggests making tiny flags attached to push pins with the name of the book you read, and pinning them to the map.
Constant use of maps and globes familiarizes children with geography in a way that just memorizing lists of names and places never can. It gives meaning to the locations, unlike the disconnect in a seperate geography curriculum.
Read my blog post: 10 Ways to Learn Geography Naturally and check out Geography is Fun with Around the World in 80 Days.
My two favorite, non-curriculum ways to learn about science are with field guides and biographies. Field guides are a great way to introduce children to the wonders of God’s creation, and they teach them how to look up what they want to know. Biographies of famous scientists give children the full story of what led these men and women to discover and invent things that are normal in our everyday lives. (And biographies are historic – – bonus!)
With these two categories of books, you can follow more rabbit trails by exploring just one of thousands of avenues: trees, animals, insects, astronomy, chemistry, physics, water, human anatomy, medicine, flying, and so much more.
Read the books, explore the illustrations, and definitely spend a lot of time outdoors. Use Charlotte Mason’s nature journal ideas. Collect specimens. Plant seeds. Learn the constellations. Fly a kite. You get the idea. Let every book give you a list of further ideas for study.
While you’re perusing the library, check out books with science experiments. There are a wide range of options available, from easy elementary experiments to high-school worthy labs. We used to use a simple library book and do one experiment per day. My kids loved it, they asked lots of questions, and it led to further reading and research!
When your kids read a biography of a famous scientist, add the scientist’s name to your history timeline, and put a pin on the map where they lived and worked.
I have a few blog posts to share:
My favorite way to utilize great books for language arts is with copywork. Copywork is just like it sounds: copying something down on paper, and it’s an old-school method of education! By copying a sentence or a paragraph from books, your child is exposed to (and practices) spelling, sentence structure, vocabulary, whole language, and handwriting.
I recommend using all sorts of books for this purpose. Copy hymns, poetry, scripture, dialogue, stories, science, and more. Not only do they get the mechanics of language as outlined above, but your children will read and copy a variety of writing styles. As they copy, point out the proper use of capitalization, punctuation, and creative uses of words.
Teach the use of dictionary and thesaurus by looking up new and strange words. Have your child keep a notebook of these words with their meanings. Consider adding synonyms from the thesaurus to this notebook.
Have them rewrite a sentence or a paragraph in their own words from time to time. Practice narration and dictation (see Charlotte Mason again).
Read Why I Don’t Use a Spelling Curriculum
The Bible itself is the best Bible study, and is an easy, free homeschooling program. If you have a study Bible at home, explore all of its features. It will probably have an introduction, some timelines, explanations of each book, maps, and a concordance. Get to know your study Bible and use it with your children. Read the Bible, verse by verse, as a family. Memorize verses and chapters together.
Read my blog post: How to Teach the Bible to Your Children
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Read for Fun
Finally, don’t forget to read great books for fun. Read aloud as a family, and keep your children reading. Listen to audiobooks. Join your library’s summer reading program for prizes, or create one at your house! Encourage reading, and your children will never stop learning!
Check out my reading lists:
With access to a variety of books, some writing paper, and pencils, free homeschooling with excellence is within everyone’s grasp.
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