We have been homeschooling our 9 children since the very beginning with a very limited budget. However, we have still been able to provide a rich broad and classically based education for them. That is why I am so happy to be sharing with you today how we homeschool our large family on a budget. You don’t need to “unschool” to be able to homeschool your children with limited funds, nor do you need to buy every top of the line recommended curriculum in every subject. It is totally possible to create a curriculum that is reusable and repeatable yet customizable in order to best serve your family AND your budget! Today I’m sharing practical steps as well as tons of sources!
Is homeschooling a large family expensive?
Homeschooling a large family can get very expensive depending on how much time you have to give. Usually the more time you can give to planning, the less money expenditure is needed. For example the costs go up when the prep time is done for you. Full enrollment in online classes per child, for example, will cost the most. An open and go curriculum is also going to be a larger expense. The more you are able to plan and schedule yourself, the more money you will save per child. The good news is, if you put a little time in now, you will actually begin to save more every year and your costs will continue to go down and not up. This will happen by creating the ability to reuse books and repeat plans, plus you will get better at knowing what works! Read below to see how I plan and my free resources to help you!
Here is a cost comparison for homeschooling options:
Online tuition and co-op classes comparisons per student:
(Cost of books NOT included)
- Classical online full enrollment: $2,500- $5,000 a year (Courses usually range from $500-$700 each with the average being 4-6 courses enrolled a year NOT including the cost of books)
- Classical online partial enrollment: $1,500- $2,500
- Bi-weekly (with paid teaching) co-op enrollment: $350- $1,400
- Weekly co-op enrollment (volunteers or parents teach): $300- $500
As you can see from the above list, for us to afford 7 full time students in full enrollment I would need to put a full time job’s salary towards it. Remember these prices do not include the books and curriculum itself.
Curriculum price comparisons per student:
- Full open and go curriculum packages: $450-$1,200
- What we pay by planning and sourcing our own curriculum: $50-$250
The open and go packages are a great option, but it is totally possible to create a solid curriculum plan that is reusable and repeatable so you don’t need to purchase individually for each student every year.
Can you homeschool on a budget even through high school?
You can absolutely homeschool on even the tightest budget! I homeschooled the early years, for almost nothing! I borrowed books, printed off math and copywork sheets, got lots of books from the library, and still kept to a scheduled curriculum plan. Teacher’s manuels are usually very comprehensive. You only need to be one lesson ahead of your students in prep. It’s not as hard as it seems! As our children moved up in grades, some more investment was needed for them to study at a deep level. We invested in curriculum that could be reused with other students. Once we have purchased a book each consecutive student costs less.
We have also been blessed to be a part of a local private co-op that meets weekly. Our high school students took their science classes through that co-op which was a very affordable option at less than $50 a month per family. Parents and students alike volunteer their time to teach the classes, so it is a collaborative model. There is also a local program that offers middle school and high school classes for homeschoolers to prepare for college. Former teachers or homeschooling parents volunteer their time to teach at a very affordable rate.
What are the best affordable curricula- within our philosophy framework?
How we homeschool our large family on a budget primarily is by using a literature-based education. A feast of stories and first person accounts is rich as well as affordable, because many of these quality books are in the public domain or easy and inexpensive to source. Our children absorb and connect with the subject through the eyes of someone else’s experience. Tales of heroes, bravery, courage, and noble character also enhances their desires to live their lives in this way.
From what I have researched and found to fit our standards and goals for our children’s educations the following curricula are our top choices. Although there are many homeschool curriculum out there, these are practically free and provide a rich base to customize to your needs. Keep in mind, the more you source things yourself the more customizable you can keep it to your own preferences, and your children’s needs. You are also able to remain flexible when you aren’t buying an entire package and spending quite a bit per student.
We have found that the most affordable and comprehensive curriculum is Ambleside online. They have freely provided so many rich online resources that are free as well as schedules, plans and book suggestions. Ambleside Online will give your children a rich and deep education. It is also a heavy load for some, but you can tailor it to your specific needs. That is the beauty of it! I use Ambleside alongside A Gentle Feast to customize our subjects to each child and year as needed.
Price: Free!! + cost of books
A Gentle Feast
A Gentle Feast has a literature based scheduled plan that includes all grades and forms, as well as just a booklist option, so the prices range from very low upwards. The books are not included so you will have to source the books yourself, but she offers links that are discounted as well as free. As a result, her curriculum can be very affordable, especially as you acquire a library of books to be reused. Because of the affordability and ease of use of this program we have used it for the last 5 years. I already have purchased all 4 cycles. Consequently, each year, homeschooling costs us less! 🙂
Price: $5- $85 for entire family package including all grades and schedules (minus cost of books)
How we homeschool our large family on a budget – the breakdown
Keep it simple
It is very easy to feel like we aren’t doing enough for our children’s education. We can easily begin to feel that more would be better. More subjects, more projects, more books! However, in my experience usually when things don’t feel right, pulling back is the best answer. Simplifying and really focusing in on what works and what brings us joy will lead to more success in our homeschool. Leaning into our primary goals for our children’s education results in better retention and more joy in our work. Instead of heaping on more and more until we are both frazzled!
Establishing our core values has been crucial for determining which subjects are the most important. We desire our children to have a biblical worldview with a purpose of serving God by serving and loving His people. This means we desire them to be students of His Word and world, good communicators, and have tools and skills they can serve and share with others. Somedays these goals help me keep perspective even when trying to get through a tough math lesson. This also helps me remember buying a new book isn’t always the answer. 🙂
Doing our own planning & scheduling
As I mentioned above, paying for an open and go curriculum is what will save you time but not money. But, it doesn’t have to take a ton of time to schedule out and plan on your own. You can check out my post here on how I plan our homeschool. l also have an entire video series on it over here, which is basically a free course. Planning and scheduling doesn’t need to take you all summer. I explain the way I streamline and combine where I can, so I don’t have to plan and individualize every subject for every child. Get my templates below to start planning your year to save time and money!
Combining subjects and grades
In my planning post I also explained how I combine grades and subjects with some of our children in detail. This saves time as well as money, as I don’t have to purchase separate curriculum for each subject per child. About 75% of our subjects are combinable. The rest are individualized and require more one on one time with me. This helps our schedule to be more manageable and also our budget.
Printing our own schedules and charts
Most curriculum schedules out lessons to be completed in a 32-36 week school year. Decide how many weeks you want to be actively schooling and divide the lessons by that number of weeks. Then reassess each quarter or week if the pace needs adjusting. I then fill in a weekly assignment page for my children that work independently (grade 4-5 and up).
Using non-consumable books for our core curriculum
Our core subjects are reusable so we can sell them if they aren’t working for us, or lend to a friend to try. This ensures I’m not locked in to continuing something that isn’t working for us.
Here are our favorites:
Math: Life of Fred
This math curriculum we have used all the way through now, and loved it. The students use a notebook to work the problems and the answer key is included in the book, as well.
We love this science series because it works well to teach to multiple ages and grades. The kids seem to grasp the concepts well and relate with the information. There is also an audiobook version available! We don’t usually purchase the separate student notebooks until middle school. Hoping they come out with a pdf version soon, as we never use every page anyway. It would be a more affordable option if they did.
History: The Story of the World
This history has resonated with my boys the most, and also has a printable pdf activity book you can purchase through their website. This makes it a much more affordable option as you can print how many you need without repurchasing.
Grammar: IEW Fix it!
We discovered this last year, and wish we had sooner. A comprehensive and fun program my boys loved. The teacher’s manual comes with a printable student notebook option. The link is inside the book you can see after you purchase it, so you don’t need to buy the student text. Plus, this makes it easy and affordable to print as needed for multiple students at once.
Humanities/ Philosophy: Omnibus
Our highs schoolers have really enjoyed studying with these texts. They are pricey, but I only need to purchase it once and we have the set for the rest of the children, which saves more over the long run
Of course the countless literature books also qualify, but I won’t list all of those here. 😉
Borrow books and sourcing used
Another way we homeschool our family on a budget is borrowing books or finding them free or inexpensively. After I have done my planning, I begin sourcing our books needed that year that we don’t already have. I rarely have to pay full price for a book unless it is one of the reusable core books I listed above. Even then, I usually can find them used or discounted. I keep a list on my computer of each book’s source as I find it, so I know which ones I’ve purchased and which I’ll need to check out at the library when the term we’re going to use it in comes up.
Here is the list I go down from free to most expensive.
- Local library- my library lets me keep a saved list, and I group books by grades on there.
- Borrow from friends – it’s fun to swap with each other!
- Librivox for free audio versions
- Amazon Kindle books have a lot of classics in the public domain or for very little
- Check Facebook groups for used options for sale
- Amazon’s discounted and used books
- Abe books
- Christianbook usually runs sales
Printing most of our own consumables
We have been printing our own worksheets from the very beginning. It really doesn’t take much time at all. We bought a cheap black and white laser printer that we use and buy refurbished toner for, so it is a more affordable option for us.
Some sources for free online printables we use often:
- Seterra: great printable geography maps & drills
- Dads Worksheets: tons of math drills, plus handwriting paper.
- Super Coloring: great realistic coloring pages for history, art, architecture etc. Easy to navigate!
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I hope this post has given you excitement for how you can homeschool on a budget! There are lots of great resources out there, and I hope my lists here helped narrow things down for you, so you aren’t as overwhelmed. Stick to your values and search for what you love! Homeschooling can be such a joy to experience learning alongside your children!
In His service,