When you have no money for homeschool curriculum

no money for homeschool curriculum

Written by contributor Jamerrill Stewart of Free Homeschool Deals.

I have shared the journey of my family living on one small income to accomplish our homeschooling dreams. It’s what many families do, and they do it willingly for the joy and vision of being together as a family.

It was during these same years of growing our family on a super-tight budget that it became normal to find myself at the beginning of a homeschool year with no money for homeschool curriculum.

I was greatly encouraged during that time by reading amazing homeschool books such as Educating the WholeHearted Child and The Three R’s by Dr. Ruth Beechick. Those books helped me realize that I was not going to be successful as a homeschooling mom based on what curriculum-in-a-box I bought.

I would be successful just by learning alongside my children, going on nature walks to fill baskets full of pinecones for craft projects, and loading up a laundry basket full of enriching books at our local library.

My children could have a powerful education even if I didn’t have the funding to make big homeschool purchases, and the same goes for your children.

During the lean homeschooling years (lean in funding, not lean in learning), I cultivated the ability to listen to my children. I heard their hearts on topics they were interested in and we explored those fields of study.

When a love of steam engines was heavy on the heart of one of my sons, we checked out every book on trains we could get our hands on. We played trains. We watched trains. We went to a transportation museum. I downloaded free lapbooks on trains. We learned about steam power and then our studies branched off into the transcontinental railroad.

We lived trains.

The same thing with bats. Another son became near obsessed with bats. We made bat masks, watched bat documentaries, read bat books (which also lead to a study of all nocturnal animals), observed bats in our field in the evenings, and even went and toured a bat cave.

We lived bats.

And as a resourceful mom, I self-educated on all the marvelous and vast online freebies for homeschoolers and local resources in my community.

If there was a free event at our local library such as a science or Lego club, we were there. If a local dairy farmer was offering tours of the milk facility, we were there. When it was time to go apple picking with our homeschool group and receive a heavy discount, we didn’t miss an opportunity.

A few more tips for when you have no money for homeschool curriculum:


That’s right, when you have no money for homeschool curriculum, or if you want a good exercise in stretching your dollars no matter your budget — wait. I share in 8 Things I Want New Homeschooling Moms to Know that it’s a great idea to make your dream list. Then, make your list of what you feel is the bare minimum to get by, and still wait.

One year when I didn’t have a homeschool budget at the beginning of the year, I had read this same advice in The Three R’s. Ruth suggested waiting and encouraged that many times, if we wait, our needs and desires will change.

On that wisdom we began our homeschool year using the materials we already had, the internet, local library, free field trips and local homeschool group support.

My plan was to make homeschool purchases for fresh items after two or three months into that homeschool year. Instead, my husband came home one crisp day in November with a pink slip, and 5 months of unemployment followed.

You know what happened next?

We had an amazing homeschool year. We dove deep into literature and even started creating our own literature unit studies and homemade lapbooks (you can see our long ago Where the Red Fern Grows Unit Study and Lapbook here). And we learned more about the wonderful free resources for homeschoolers at our local library.

We got creative. We learned. We grew. And we were together.

Take inventory of what you do have

Many of us will find that if we look around our homes, we already have a lot of educational material. If you’ve homeschooled just a few years you can quickly find yourself with overflowing shelves. A good workout while you wait is to use what you already have.

Ask for what you need

Do you have a local homeschool group? Usually at our group meetings we have a table set up with curriculum items that moms are done with. You just take what you need. You can return the favor by bringing something to share at the next meeting.

You can also ask other homeschool moms if you can borrow a curriculum to “try before you buy.” I’ve even asked on Facebook, “Hey, does anyone have an old microscope that’s gathering dust?” or “Do you have a globe in your attic that we could take over?” and surprisingly I’ve found many items for free through social media.

The nitty-gritty

I go into more details in my free eBook, Homeschooling for Free and Frugal.

If you put some time and effort into pulling resources together online, like from the BIGGEST List of Freebies for Homeschoolers, listen to what your children are interested in learning about, work your library for every free resource, and network with local homeschoolers, you can pull together a rich year of learning — even with no money for homeschool curriculum.

What additional tips would you add for families who have no major funds available for homeschool curriculum?


About Jamerrill Stewart

Jamerrill Stewart is a Christian homeschooling mom of 6 (soon to be 7) and wife to her husband Travis of over 16-years. They enjoy their country days catching frogs at their pond, getting lost in great read alouds, and spinning on the tire swing.  Jamerrill created FreeHomeschoolDeals.com in 2012 to help all families in affording the homeschool life. You'll also find her sharing about Jesus, Motherhood, Homeschooling, and other stuff at JamerrillStewart.com and JamerrillStewart.TV.


  1. Our budget is very tight this year. I was so pleased with what I found on the shelves. I already had almost everything!!
    Blessings, Dawn

  2. Sherri Davis says:

    The schools are suppose to provide you with a copy of all books your child needs for that grade level. Our parish also has a resource center the teachers use to check out microscopes and lab equipment and you can go check out stuff to use for your children. There is no need for you to sit and do without. We have a great public library and our home school group has built up a resource room of donated items you can have or borrow. Network to find what you need.

  3. Many years we have “scraped by” on books from the library and thrift store, crayons, and our imaginations. Love this post!
    Aadel’s latest post: Our First Field Trip In Oklahoma: Wichita Mountains!

  4. Have you ever heard of Easy Peasy All-in-One homeschool? I don’t use it but I thought it was interesting, it is a complete, free curriculum online. http://allinonehomeschool.com/
    A big one for us is that we really, really use interlibrary loan. It amazes me how many people do not realize that this is free, and you can get all kinds of books, not just adult books. I regularly get picture books and other books, including many on homeschooling I didn’t think would be available. The odd time they can’t find a book for me, but its only happened twice. I have about 5 or 6 at once on order, since they take 4-6 weeks to come in.

  5. I agree with Nola about the interlibrary loan – great resource. I put together an 8th grade curriculum for my (much younger) sister a while back that was basically free: I used many free online sources and library books. It’s amazing what you can find if you want or need to be resourceful.
    Steph’s latest post: Some Thoughts on Preschool

  6. I used easy peasy website with my oldest 2 children last year (8 and 10 y.o.). We loved it. You can use the whole curriculum or pick and choose the subject. I don’t buy curriculum in a box either. 1) I like being flexible and we change how we do things often. 2) Don’t want to spend the money on it ($200 or more in one sitting). So I use my library for books. Scavenge hunt thrift stores. My friends know they can “dump” their books/ materials/ toys/clothes they don’t want anymore at my house. Many of them don’t want to bother with selling their stuff, so I go through what I receive and sell the stuff I don’t want – making a little extra money on the side. I borrow and lend books, DVDs, curriculum. It’s a great way to try a curriculum before buying and then I buy USED… on Ebay, craiglist … You really don’t have to spend much at all homeschooling. I loved how the author of this post showed how creative one can be when you have to be resourceful. 🙂
    tereza crump aka mytreasuredcreations’s latest post: Learning Log of June 2014

  7. This is so timely. Not only are we a homeschooling family living on an extremely tight budget, we also live overseas which adds shipping costs, etc. We do have a library and even though it is less than ideal it is something and I’m grateful. I plan to download your ebook. I know I will get some inspiration!
    Johanna’s latest post: On a change of perspective {life as a pedestrian family}

  8. Ann Riffle says:

    I love this article. I’m in that place right now with no money to begin our year. We have been blessed to find a wealth of good books at local thrift stores this summer. I do also want to share that I recently joined a group called Homeschool Curriculum Free for Shipping on Facebook. There is a blog as well. It’s a wonderful place to find needed curriculum. http://www.homeschoolcurriculumffs.blogspot.com

  9. Ana Guerrero says:

    We are so broke this year. And of course it would happen when I decide to homeschool for the first time. I’m homeschooling my daughter who’s going into 1st grade. I feel very overwhelmed and clueless. Specially when financially, I don’t have a lot to work with. We are a family of one income only in the military.

    Thank you for sharing your story and for giving me the encouragement and hope I needed! =)

    • Rebecca says:

      I to am in a similar situation. My daughter will be srarting 2nd grade in the fall. Over the summer we will be relocating to a place that doesn’t have a strong healthy public school. I will try to be worth full time and my husband will likely be attending VoTech school. This feels scary but necessary.

  10. What a great encouragement this article is!
    Besides all the great ideas listed, I wanted to mention Teachers Pay Teachers (http://www.teacherspayteachers.com/). It’s a fantastic website with resources created by teachers, for teachers (homeschoolers included!) There are thousands of high-quality freebies, as well as plenty of low-priced items that have really helped me in my homeschooling journey.
    Pam’s latest post: All About Wolves

  11. Chastity Shook says:

    Wow,this was God sent to me.I broke down yesterday after being on fb,and seeing all my homeschool moms excited about having just gotten all their stuff in the mail,working on lesson plans,etc.This has totally made my day and has giving me such a peace.Thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing this.We will be in our second year of homeschooling.My daughter is 6.I will be praying for each of you,and please keep us in your prayers as well.God bless you all! 🙂

  12. I like these ideas even if you do have money to buy a curriculum. You can put together a curriculum of sorts on your own based on interests and learning styles. I’m not homeschooling yet (next year for Kindergarten!) and can’t wait to explore!
    Mel’s latest post: Minimalist Baby

  13. Melissa Yepez says:

    I also love and use the public library, Teachers Pay Teachers, pinterest, and a recent addition to our lives has been the National Parks Jr Ranger program. I’ve been Home schooling for 10yrs my oldest has a deep love for the library, but my middle child wanted more awards, badges, shiny objects… so we stumbled upon the National Parks about 3 years ago. The Jr Ranger program has been a wonderful addition to our home schooling year. We’ve learned so much about history and science and NPS serves as a great crossover with writing and reading. Last year we even visited a National Park about Augustus St. Gaudens, who was a sculptor (The Shaw) and created many American coin designs. I mainly print out the Jr Ranger program and we use the web site and you tube videos to complete booklet. They also provide an awesome on-line web-ranger program and its also FREE! My son loves the games they provide for FREE his favorite last year was Powder Monkey and the cool patch he earned from Fort McHenry for the bicentennial of the War of 1812. I’ve already planned this year’s history period all for FREE 🙂 Hope this inspires others to use the National Parks Jr Ranger program!

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  15. I have a question: do you need to ‘register’ your child through the state system, or rather, how do authorities know I am teaching my child? I was going to go through a public charter school locally, but I just learned that I cannot also have her enrolled for a couple days/week at another school (i was doing this so she could have some time away from me and her little brother could spend more alone time with me). I’m pretty creative and resourceful, so I was thinking of just creating my own curriculum with what I have, and also having her go to the private school 2 days/week- but don’t I have to be accountable to somebody? Any answers are welcome!

  16. Mary Brooks says:

    Your article is amazing and just so on tome.

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