I am going to layout a "curriculum" plan for your minimalist homeschool no matter what your budget is. I realize that some of us can feel overwhelmed in this area. Especially if you're on a tight budget but still want to deliver a quality education to your children.
While I do believe in purchasing quality supplies for your kids, I do not push it as the only way. And I hate for anyone to feel badly for not being financially able to afford certain things.
So, let's leave the mom guilt for something like eating all the yummy junk food in a locked closet, while the kids destroy the house. Actually, no, I don't feel guilty about that either...
Mom guilt has no place in our lives. Let that mess go and take a deep breath. You don't need to have ALL THE THINGS to do an amazing job homeschooling your babies. You don't need more STUFF to give a quality education.
On the flip-side, There is also no shame in purchasing things that you believe would be fun or enhance anything you are learning with your kids.
That guilt thing goes both ways. Don't feel bad no matter your budget. I'm going to break things down by typical studies, and then add in a few things for fun. Kind of like electives.
The real honest truth here is that beyond math facts, reading & writing and Bible... there's not much you need. Add in going outdoors everyday and you have a well rounded education for your children for FREE.
- Khan Academy. All Ages. It has videos, it has practice problems, and if your kiddo gets stuck, they show how to work the problem. We use this when we are in between finding the right math program, when they need to brush up on something or they need further explanation for a new concept. This can be used as a stand alone math curriculum.
- Cooking. All Ages. Just cooking with your kids gives them practice with fractions, measuring, addition, and dividing. Not to mention a valuable life skill and yummy things to eat!
- Manipulatives. All Ages. Just use anything you have: buttons, cheerios, erasers, beads, blocks, shells, rocks, sticks, feathers... whatever you have to teach the basic math facts. You don't have to have a curriculum to teach this. Also, it's totally okay to let your kids use their fingers [and toes!] to count! God gave us these awesome things to help us math. I still use mine even after calculus!
- Teach Your Monster How to Read! Pre-K - Any Age Struggling Reader. We use this free tool for our 5 year old because he enjoys it so much. We also successfully use this for our 10 year old who has dyslexia. She loves completing the levels and being part of the Champion Readers level! This improved her confidence.
- Reading Aloud. All Ages. Whether your babies are 3 or 17, read out loud to them. It's soothing and enjoyable for all aged children to be read to. My mom hated reading. I had no idea that she did because she read to my sister and I. Her reading The Boxcar Children to us at night is what fueled me to complete the series on my own when I was 9. Even if it's only a chapter every day or every other day, or once per week, it has VALUE for your children. It exposes them to language, proper grammar, different writing styles and adventures! Just in case, let's assume you don't own any books : Use the library. Let's also assume that you don't own any books and you live in the middle of nowhere : You're reading this blog, so use the public domain for free books.
- Brave Writer Lifestyle. All Ages. I know this is a curriculum, but let's stick with the free homeschooling side of things. She has videos for you to watch on her YouTube channel and they are incredibly inspiring and motivating. This is basically a lifestyle which will foster an environment conducive to creating writers. Try this sample schedule : Monday, copywork [choose from any book you're reading aloud]. Tuesday, Poetry and Teatime. Wednesday, Nature Study & Art. Thursday, Literature Reading & Copywork. Friday, Free Writing. The creator of Brave Writer, Julie, also offers FREE Writing lessons.
- The Bible App. All Ages. This app is free and it has daily devotional reading plans on it. Under plans, click on the Youth Category and/or the Kids Category.
- Easy Peasy All-in-one-Homeschool. 1st Grade and Up. They have it scheduled out for New Testament, Old Testament, Poetry and Prophets. It's broken up into daily lessons divided into lower grades and upper grades and then followed up with a few questions to spark discussion. Super easy to use! Here are the links for the High School level. Navigation for the daily Bible lessons are on the right column if you're on a laptop or other computer.
- Right Now Media. All Ages. We have free access to this amazing resource because of our old church before we moved. ASK your church pastors or youth leaders if they have an account to Right Now Media. They can send you an invite and you get your own free account. We do several of our Bible studies and faith building from this. We have had many deep conversations springing from this resource.
- Bible. All Ages. Just read it.
Science + History
- Nature Study. All Ages. Go explore your surrounds! Hike, walk, bike, stroll, meander around your habitat and get to know the seasons, plants, birds and other animals of your area.
- Books. Pick a topic! Ask your kids what they want to know about! Physics, Chemistry, Sharks, Herbal Study, Rocks, Hurricanes, Bugs...there is no limit to what your kids can absorb from books that you read to them or they read themselves. Surround them with good books! You don't have to purchase them, see above in English topic! Free books, borrow, ask your friends!
- Introductions to Herbs for Kids. All Ages. I love this free resource for teaching our kids about herbs!
- YouTube. All Ages. Whatever topic you cover above, you can add in a video for your visual learner. I know that we prefer our kids to not have a lot of technology overrunning their lives, but for some children, they learn very well this way. Don't be scared to add in a bit to give them another avenue of information. Also it's a great way to show your kids how to find credible sources. Extra learning bonus!
- Everything you want to do for history, just follow the same method listed for science. It's pretty much the same. Books, field trips to historical places near you [there are free ones!], videos, borrowing DVDs from the library.
- E-Learning for Kids. K-6th [maybe older, just for fun]. They have topics in environmental studies, computer skills, health, science and math. My kids love the surf/beach inspired math ones. We will likely use some of the Environmental ones for April.
- Pluralsight. All Ages. My kids are really into coding and design. This one lights up their passion for that! Free classes in Photography, Coding, Apps and Game Development.
- Hoffman Academy. All Ages. If you already have a piano or keyboard you can take free online video piano lessons. If you don't have a keyboard, see if you can borrow one. Ask a neighbor or your local facebook friends. At Hoffman Academy, you get access to all of the instruction videos for free. There are benefits to paying a membership, but it is NOT required.
- Knitting, Crocheting, Woodworking, Candle Making, Soap Making, etc. All Ages. Ask a neighbor, friend, kind church member, a mom of a friend, a scout leader... anyone that has a skill that you or your kid would like to learn! They already have the tools and the knowledge. You can always add in some books from the library or videos on youtube to enhance or grow the skill.
- Wild + Free Group. All Ages. See if one is already in your area, if not, start one!
Minimalist Homeschooling with a Low Budget
For this category it's going to build on the free tools. You use the free stuff and then add this stuff on as needed or as budget allows. I'm trying to bridge the gap for the range of budgets for homeschooling families.
- CLE Math. All Ages. If you want a low cost math that is as strong as Saxon and gets the job done, look no further than the Mennonite owned company of Christian Light Publications. The math that we started out with and my kids actually enjoyed. I don't know why they enjoyed it. It's not colorful, it's no frills, it isn't fancy, but it was to the point and simple. It didn't take terribly long to finish. It is set up in units divided up into 10 booklets. The whole year curriculum is under $35. Yeah. And if you're super strapped for cash, you can buy the booklets one at a time for under $4 each. For the first couple of grades I don't think the teacher manual is a must have. It has extra activities and ideas, but you don't HAVE to have it.
- Graph Paper or Graph Notebooks. All Ages. We use this instead of regular notebook paper for keeping numbers aligned for math problems. It helps my visual kiddos, to not forget steps when working out order of operations problems. There is 1/2" for older kids and 1" for younger kiddos. Use graph paper along with the free math choices listed above or with any curriculum. We used this method even with Teaching Textbooks so that we saved money by not purchasing the workbook.
- Math Lessons for a Living Education. K through 6th. These used to be free on the writer's blog, and we enjoyed them! They have been completely revamped and re-released in a fancy new package! These are also very affordable like CLE except that they are colorful. They are under $28 for each grade level.
- Brave Writer : The Writer's Jungle. All Ages. This is where you take the Brave Writer Lifestyle mentioned above to the next level. It's non consumable and for all ages. For me it isn't cost effective to print it myself from the digital version. There is a printed version in a binder. I wish it was spiral bound, but since this way is the best option for us, it's fine.
- Writing Portfolio. All Ages. Put together a binder for their writing! My kids love to go through all of their old writings and I love seeing how they've grown as writers. I love these kraft binders with paper or my favorite composition books. As stated, kids can learn all the mechanics, spelling, grammar through literature reading, read alouds and copywork.
- Child Training Bible. All Ages. This is a great way to teach values and morals straight from the main source : The Bible. These guides map it all out for you making it an invaluable resource for training your children.
- Bible Art Painting. All Ages. You can paint directly in your bible or purchase a drawing book to use with watercolor pencils or watercolor paints.
Science + History
- Story of the World. All Ages. Just reading aloud the history text is enough. You don't have to do ALL the things. We do the art notebooking pages with all subjects. My kids enjoy it, it's simple to implement, and fun to look back through.
- Prayers That Changed History. All Ages. A wonderful book to add to something like Story of the World that lacks a bit on the Church History aspect. A great way to cost effectively add this in. Also, the Right Now Media has the Torchlighters Series which are animated true story movies about several missionaries of the faith. We have seen them all and LOVE them!
- PureFlix. All Ages. You can get a free month and then it's only about $8/month for access to Drive Thru History [America & The Gospels], science programs, and other educational shows and movies.
- Nature Anatomy. All Ages. We use this book A LOT. It's not pricey and it's an excellent resource for science studies.
- Music. All Ages. Ukulele, Harmonica, Keyboard, Pan Flute. Any of those instruments are awesome. My kids really enjoy the ukulele and it's not a hard instrument to learn to play either. We use a lot of YouTube to learn how to play various instruments.
- Handicrafts. All Ages. Any of the handicrafts listed above, whichever your kid is learning and they enjoy, purchase a few supplies to keep that skill building.
- Basic Supplies. Check out this blog post for our simple homeschool supplies. That post has the paper, paints, and any other tools we use.
For those of you with a higher spending budget, I plan on doing a separate post on that within the next week. So keep a lookout for that! I'll show you what we are using for this new school year [we school year round] and how to keep it simple even when you have room in your budget to allow for more. It always comes back to the "just because you can, doesn't mean you should."