Today’s post is from a college friend of mine who also happens to be one of my lovely coaching students, for this round! Her name is Kristi. She has a baby boy just a month older than the Beans, and is awesome at cooking, organizing, writing, being frugal, etc.
I think you’ll love her. Enjoy!
Our daughter just turned four years old in October. In most families, that means sending your little one off to preschool with their first backpack full of crayons, glue, sanitizer, and tissues. Up until our family had to relocate for my husband’s job this past summer, my intentions were to send our daughter to either the local YMCA preschool or apply for a scholarship to the local Catholic school.
Moving to a small town in the country abruptly changed our schooling plans. Living on a single income, yet above poverty level, we found ourselves in a preschool limbo where we don’t qualify for most income based programs. We also cannot afford private school tuition. There is no public preschool and our YMCA does not offer a preschool. For these reasons, homeschooling is the best, and quite frankly, the only option for our daughter for preschool at this time.
Having earned my Bachelor of Arts degree from an excellent school, I wasn’t worried at all about being able to teach my daughter. I was concerned, however, with figuring out which curriculum to use. Should I use a curriculum at all? Should I unschool? Join a co-op?
Diving headfirst into the world of homeschooling options can be a bit overwhelming. I felt as though I would forever mar my daughter’s future academic career if I didn’t pick the right curriculum and give her a solid start to her education.
Another major concern was cost. Not only did I need to figure out how to educate our daughter, but I needed to do it on a budget. Rest assured, if you find yourself in the same position as our family, there are inexpensive homeschool options, especially for preschool. You don’t even need to purchase a curriculum at all.
Utilize the Local Library
Take weekly trips to the library, and let your child pick out a great big stack of any and all books that interest them. Talk to your librarian and ask what programs your branch may be involved in for preschoolers. Most libraries have story time and craft time that goes along with a book each week. These events are a great way to meet some other homeschoolers in your area. Our library also has a “1000 Books before Kindergarten” program. After each 100 books, our daughter turns in her book list and she gets to pick a brand new book out of a prize box to take home and keep. So far, by reading 2-5 books a night, we have read 500 books with her.
This is a picture of our preschool “curriculum.” We bought a few preschool work books off of Amazon.com for about $5.00 each. Also, I was delighted to realize that our local dollar store carries Sesame Street brand work books for preschoolers. I have also had great luck finding beginner reader books at thrift stores, garage sales, and friends of the library book sales. The red Big Preschool Workbook has been the most expensive book so far. We picked it up at Walmart for $9.97.
Use Subscriptions to Online Preschool Programs
For Christmas, a family member gifted us a subscriptions to ABCmouse and Starfall. I love these programs as supplementary learning programs to go along with physical workbooks and worksheets. Our daughter will independently play on these programs for hours and hours if we let her. We were blessed to be gifted these great learning tools, but the cost is not exorbitant if you need to purchase them yourself. They are well worth the money, in my opinion.
Netflix and Amazon Prime
If you have subscription to these streaming services, you can find all kids of kids’ learning programs. Our daughter loves to watch the Leap Frog brand movies on Netflix. Phonics Farm and Number Land are her two favorites. On Amazon Prime she loves watching Curious George and Blue’s Clues. You can turn any cartoon into a lesson by incorporating a craft or story afterwards.
Create a Homeschool Corner with Free or Cheap Furniture
This is one wall of our den, where we typically work on preschool. The white cabinet on the left holds all of our homeschooling and crafting supplies. We got it for free off of Craigslist. The book shelf on the right holds every single children’s book we own. I got the book shelf for $3.00. There is nothing wrong with either piece of furniture. Both previous owners just wanted to be rid of them, and I lucked out by being in the right place at the right time. Most of those books were also picked up at various thrift stores and yard sales. A good estimate would be that 80% of our kid books cost between $0.25 and $1.00. Keep a keen eye out on the free section of craigslist, and drive around on a Saturday in the summertime. You’ll be amazed at what you can find.
Free Pinterest Printouts
If you feel like your workbooks are lacking a particular subject matter, or you just want to give your child extra practice, Pinterest is a gold mine for free homeschooling worksheets, activities, and printouts. I use Pinterest for printing out free letter and number tracing worksheets, craft ideas, and science experiment directions. Simply type preschool, homeschool, printables, and letter and number tracing into the search bar. You will be inundated with free resources you can use for homeschooling. Here are just a few of my favorite websites I have found off of Pinterest that are so useful in homeschooling.
All in all we have probably spent a grand total of $50 on supplies to homeschool our four year old. The most expensive thing I have purchased to date was a set of 100 plastic manipulatives for math practice, which dented the bank account about $15.
At first I felt daunted by the prospect of overseeing my daughter’s education. Now though, I love getting to work with her. I feel so much pride in her as she learns something new. I love that we get to bond while reading books while snuggled on the couch under a blanket. I love that I don’t have to send her off to someone else for seven hours a day. I get to savor every moment with her.
I love most that I can turn daily life and the things that she loves the most into school projects. I learned very quickly that preschool can be as simple as going for a walk having my daughter count how many flowers she can find. Or I can ask her, “What letters are on that sign? Let’s sound it out together.” If you engage in the world around them and make every moment a teaching opportunity, you will never have to worry about not purchasing that fancy expensive curriculum.
Kristi Muse is a freelance writer, blogger, police officer’s wife, and mom to two beautiful children. She loves homeschooling, organic gardening, sustainable living, and cooking from scratch. For more information on how to hire Kristi to write for your blog, please visit her hire me page.