I just checked out a book from the library called "Homeschool your child for free". Is that really possible? I spend money on books like it was going out of style (I guess I'm an addict!) so I could never get away with calling it "free. Luckily for me, my homeschooling sister, who gets loads of $$ from a California charter homeschool, offloads all her extra goodies onto me.
I think its possible! I have that book, it was one of the first ones I bought, before I even started HS'ing, because I knew we couldn't afford any expensive curriculum and now I'm very glad I didn't buy anything expensive because it wouldn't have gone along with our style. We are quite eclectic. I buy whatever is cheap, looks fun, and will work for us. There is a LOT of free stuff online. Plus books can do the trick pretty easily too I buy all our books online discounted or 2nd hand at the thrift stores, when they have half off sales.
[face=Arial]I've been trying to homeschool as cheaply as possible.....used books, online materials. I've really found a tremendous data base under ERIC. This year has probably turned out to be the most expensive year yet. The books I'm really looking for as far as value and content always seem to be pricey and if a couple aren't they soon add up. I had a neighbor who acted as a classroom helper for her child's class. She would give me scholastic book orders, etc. and let me place orders. Those were pretty good values.
Learning is Fun, Hastings....all of these places get pretty outrageous when you've added up a stack of materials. I try to save those for special books like those really great book pop up books that have all these neat little parts (the kind they will destroy in a minute unless you put it up so high they can't reach) =).
For my younger kids, I look at places like TJ Maxx, Marshall's and Ross for wooden puzzles, clearance software, books and toys that would be very expensive elsewhere like Felt Land, etc. I have found terrifc deals on those and the layaway helps.
Sometimes, I really just window shop at places like Learning is Fun (though, you can sign up and get monthly coupons....helps a little). Anyway, then I go to Hobby Lobby, Michael's and JoAnn's for craft stuff. Sometimes, I hit Walmart, but I don't always find the best deals there either. JoAnn's lets you sign up for their sales flyers and each month you can get 1-2 40% off coupons and usually another 50% off coupon. Then, I apply that to more expensive items or kits....really helps. Plus, they have these clearance sales several times a year where clearance prices are an extra 50-75% off, not to mention when patterns are $1 ea. There are patterns requiring little or no sewing and these are great for kids.
For videos, DVD, software, music...whatever...I look at Half.com. I've found some great Standard Deviants math videos that help when I'm trying to teach my 7yr. old something like multiplcation. I used to go to Big Lots for basic supplies like crayons, paper, etc. But, the dollar stores carry most of the same stuff for an even cheaper price. Sam's Club can be great for chapter books and software.
It really is almost an artform to find the best deals on educational materials. Lately, I haven't been able to spend as much time. I've noticed my costs have gone up when I can't find what I'm looking for and have to go to a more expensive teacher's store. There I just try to pick the best values...sometimes I save money buying individual learning charts.
There are so many online resources. I just bookmark them all by subject for my kids. I saw on the exploratorium website, you can buy a family membership and basically get free admission for you and your kids throughout the year. Sometimes places like Learningplanet.com will have good links and worksheets. Often, I find I have to create my own. I just save copies to use as templates. Anyway...sorry to go on. This is pretty much what I've been doing. If anyone has any other ideas let me know! Oh, I went to cuisinaire.com and signed up as a teacher, homeschooling and they sent me some offer where I ended up getting an entire box of sample reading rods for free. Seriously.
I have a couple things to add to your very informative post: First, Learning is Fun occasionally sends out 25% off coupons if you register to get on their mailing list. Second, I place monthly scholastic book orders (I don't make $ from it, and we give bonus books earned to charity) and generally make the catalogs available at craft group mtgs. And third, I've found a few great discount online books stores: Alldirect.com which has very good discounts (38%) and low shipping, BookCloseouts.com has very low prices on closeout books and low shipping, and rainbowresourse.com, which was recommended by my sister, has tremendous deals on all sorts of homeschooling material -- ask for their huge printed catalog, as it's easier to browse than online.
The first year I looked through all the curriculums I could think of and I found that the cheapest curriculum I could find as a set was from Christian Liberty Press. I bought that for kindergarten, but this year we are using books we got at homeschool book sells and at second hand stores. At my local libraby there is also an exchange box that homeschoolers will drop off materials they don't use anymore and can take what they will use. I also have over 50 websites in my favorites that have FREE worksheets you can print out for school. If anyone is interested in those, let me know and I can try to list them here.
I like the various online used bookstores, and I also have two favorite bookstores that I spend quite a bit of money at whenever I go to Texas.
I treat homeschooling by comparing it to private schooling or a good preschool--monetarily, I mean. I don't spend THAT much , but I do set a pretty big budget aside for in-home childcare (mommy works), curricula, and activities.