Homeschooling on a budget can be a reality for your family with the help of prayer, prioritizing and planning ahead.
by Erin Broestl
Stacks of bills are piling up in the corner of your desk, the school year is about to commence (or maybe you started early!), and you have no idea how you are going to make ends meet with your homeschooling purchases for the year.
It may sound too simple to say, “Relax! Trust in God, he’s got your back.” But the Bible has some wise words for us when it comes to reining in a homeschooling budget that is out of control.
“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7).
Prayer is always the first line of defense in any situation. Pray about your budget, your needs, your desires for your children, their activities, their friends, and anything else at the beginning of your school year. God has ways of making things happen that can, indeed, “surpass all understanding.” You may be surprised what can be put in motion when you just take that one extra minute to give all your anxiety to him.
It is even better if you can take another minute to pray with your children, for he promised to always be there when two or three are gathered together in his name.
One year, a friend from my husband’s office brought him three big bags full of clothes for our children – so much less for us to buy! Another year, a lady from church was cleaning out her sewing cupboard and gave us tons of supplies for a myriad of crafts. We were blessed in both instances with these unexpected graces from prayer.
After prayer, the next thing to do is prioritize. This has saved my sanity on many occasions, as I had to figure out what was the most important action to take.
Do I really need to buy that extra workbook on ancient Egypt that looks fun, but my student will never get around to coloring? Should I organize the felt board stuff, or clean my desk off so I can find my student planner and my dry-erase markers? (Maybe I need to find my desk, it is so buried in last year’s book catalogues and the stack of first Communion pictures I promised to send to my cousins!)
The Bible reminds us to prioritize actions that are from the heart and for God. When you can prioritize what is the most important thing to do, you will also streamline the process of figuring out what you absolutely must buy for your schoolyear to work.
Chances are, you already have a lot of art project material or science-related stuff buried in boxes somewhere. Give your students a project: Make them unearth and sort what you need for a certain subject. You will both be working heartily for the Lord and calming your budget stress at the same time.
“Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others” (Col 3:23).
Plan Ahead: Use Coupons and Your Local Library
Next, seek out all the homeschooling discounts and freebies that you can find. Many stores will give you a 10 to 15 percent discount if you present your proof-of-homeschooling document, like the district excusal letter. Each store may have different requirements to qualify for discounts, so check with them. Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts, Michaels, Barnes and Noble, Staples, Office Depot, and The Container Store all help homeschoolers in this way. There are more online stores and groups that are helping us, and more new places start helping homeschoolers every day.
Check your local museums and tourist attractions for discounts, too. The Newport Aquarium, The National Museum of the USAF at Wright-Patterson AFB, and the Ohio Renaissance Festival all offer homeschool days for much less money than usual.
Lastly, the local library can be a wealth of help, without the “wealth” part. You can, in fact, homeschool for free using whatever curricula and media the library offers. Some libraries are part of a vast network where you can exchange books from far away with the library nearest to you.
Your library also might have its own unique resources. One year, I discovered that my library (or as I like to call it, my favorite place on earth) had an extensive collection of die cuts to rent for free. I just had to turn in my library ID, bring paper and we could cut out future projects for the entire school year. We had a whole pile of things for my children to color, glue and get all over the house!
If you feel called to homeschool, know that it can be done on a budget. You don’t have to buy the latest and greatest curricula box set for it to be enjoyable, educational and thrifty. And if you are wringing your hands over how much stuff you bought last year, relax. Pray, prioritize and seek out all the help that is available to you. Ask, and ye shall receive. We are all here to help each other, prayerfully discerning what we need, and what we can give away.
Dear Lord, please help me remember that there is a difference between want and need. I want the absolute best for my children, but sometimes You must lead me by the hand to other options. Teach me a spirit of poverty and thankfulness for what my homeschool possesses, and help me let go of any unnecessary desires and materials that could benefit someone else. Lord, bless our work, and our play, and all of us this homeschool day. Amen.
Erin Broestl is a wife, mom to eight children and author. She is working on a children’s book, and does children’s book reviews and homeschooling anecdotes over on eighthobbits.com.