The Benefit of Using Free Materials (with FREEBIES, of course!)

freestuffObviously, the crowning benefit of using free stuff is…it’s FREE! Right? No rocket science there.  But let’s think further.

How much money have you wasted because you read/heard recommendations about some fabulous (and perhaps spendy) product, bought it, tried it, shelved it? Me too. Something we need to remember is that each of our kids is pretty intricately designed. Buying what Ursula Unschooler or Becky Abeka did because it worked so fabulously for them might not be the best use of your precious homeschooling funds.  One HUGE benefit of using free materials is that if you don’t like it, there is no guilt in kicking it to the curb.

Another benefit of utilizing free resources is that (unless you are unusually blessed) your kids will probably each need a different approach to their schooling. You may have one child who is not academically wired at all and requires quite a bit of coaxing along. The next child may be bright, but struggling with a learning disability which requires you to rethink e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Yet another child may thrive on using workbooks, and functions exceptionally well independently. Another may be a move-and-touch learner…NO WAY workbooks will work. Have you felt this dilemma? In a perfect world, we could buy one box curriculum, and it would be seamlessly one-size-fits-all. But this is not a perfect world, and our kids are wired with amazing and wonderful diversity. Using free materials can help us adapt from one child to the next. It may enable us to tweak an existing curriculum so that it is usable between child #1 and child #3, by adding more audio appeal, more visual appeal, more touch appeal, more interest-led appeal.

Quite frankly, using free materials may make our break our ability to homeschool in the first place! These days, and with our current economy situation, it can be harder and harder to homeschool. The paycheck doesn’t stretch as far as it used to, and you may need one parent to be stay-at-home in order to make everything work. (If you have both parents in the home working while homeschooling, check out this blog post for some good coping strategies.)

In our home, I stay home with the kids. But that means we do a lot of penny pinching. We shop sales. We visit Dollar Tree routinely. Lots of our clothes come from second hand and consignment shops. We don’t do a whole lot of eating out or activities which require financing.

When I really launched our homeschool journey, I was stuck between a rock and a hard spot. I knew we had to quit what we were doing (public school virtual academy, where everything was provided free), but I did not have the funding to buy curriculum, and I needed something NOW. We withdrew our kids from the academy mid-Spring semester, Not ideal from a planning standpoint. How did we survive? Free curricula and internet.  And the library became a very regular stop for us each week.

In previous years, we had various curricula given to us or purchased for us. We did Bob Jones dvds, Abeka dvds, and Rod and Staff because of gracious gifts and provisions. They were not only pricey–they were also not “us”. I had not found our niche yet. So, I scrambled. I gave our kids a couple weeks to “deschoolify” (we did reading and basic math I scraped together in a flurry) and used that time to pour hours and hours into scouring the internet for quality, free resources. That was back in 2007.

Things have really stepped up since then. As homeschooling becomes more widely accepted, the internet has exploded with great stuff to use! Amazing, worthwhile stuff.  Back in 2007, things were not so plentiful. It’s amazing the difference only a few years can make!

The lifesaving freebies for me in our transition time were:

  • This was by far my biggest salvation. It is Christian (which is my preference), and structured, with lots of printables and live links included. It is now available through high school. This website alone gave me the format I needed to move forward even while I kept searching for ideal stuff that would be tailored to our family. It covers the core subjects and also electives. Flexible and free, you can do it at your own pace.
  • I used this site as additional Bible material. It is free and gives some practical application for basic Bible truths through stories kids can relate to.
  • When I needed more material to beef up what we were doing, I started looking into the Charlotte Mason method to see if it would jive with my kids and their learning styles. In the end, it was a bit suicidal for me because it required a lot of hunting down of resources, scouring the web again, and finding out of print books. My health was not good at the time, so this was all pretty overwhelming for me. God was so gracious, and when I went to the used bookstore in our little western town, I found several old volumes that I needed. The likelihood of that happening is pretty slim. I’m grateful He was looking out for me!
  • At this link you’ll find the Schoolin’ Swag Pinterest board for complete curricula (and there’s a LOT more there, too). Not all of the pins are for free stuff, but many of them are!
  • I highly recommend following this site and this one as well, for lots of high quality freebies!

As a result of my scrambling, Schoolin’ Swag was born. It has now become a favorite resource to nearly 4,500 homeschoolers and continues to grow on a daily basis. Daily, we have dozens of freebies, discounts and deals posted. Of course, I highly recommend joining there as well!

For the Love of Learning,

What do you DO all day??

multitaskerIt is not the norm to be a SAHM (stay at home mom) anymore.  June Cleaver is a thing of the past. The economy is such that many ladies feel the need to work to make ends meet. If you are one of those ladies, who has to work and then come home to juggle the rest, I congratulate you!  We have more single moms than ever before.  Just in those times I’ve had my husband out of town, I have felt the challenges…know that I’m in the stands rooting for you, too!!  I am grateful I can do what I do.  We do without a lot of stuff to make it happen, but I suspect when it’s all said and done, years from now none of us will care much.

Because what I do is uncommon, it is often misunderstood. SAHM’s are viewed as unambitious sometimes. Lazy, maybe. Living a luxurious  lifestyle as we eat bonbons and watch soaps.  That is not what my life looks like.  Here is what my day looks like:

  • About 7am: Make bed. Do meds. Do exercises. Put tea on to brew. Grab my daily cup of “go juice”  and try to scoot through my Bible study time (typically daily reading sent to me via email from ESV, also Valley of Vision, and The Quiet Place, before the youngest gets up (she’s an early riser). Maybe…hopefully… get dressed? No, I don’t wear my pearls to wash dishes or my Sunday shoes to stock the linen closet.  I’m not June Cleaver. lol
  • 8-9am: Grab some muffins and tea. Check if anyone needs help on my Facebook homeschooling group (I pop on throughout the day to keep my sanity–I am online for most of our main school stuff anyway– since that is usually the only adult conversation I have most days, my husband being gone working most of the time), and post the freebies and deals for the day.  Open Cozi calendar and check what each child has scheduled for school.  Open Time 4 Learning and check that yesterday’s progress was accomplished for the oldest two, and see if any papers need to be printed for today’s lessons. Open Easy Peasy and see if anything needs to be printed for the youngest, and/or gather supplies that are needed. Get Katie’s desk set up and papers laid out for the day.
  • 9-10am: Get kids through chores (collectively, they take care of making their beds and keeping their rooms picked up, trash, cat box, bathroom,  dishwasher and the oldest does her own laundry), fed, ready for school day. Do devotions with Katie and review her ABC memory verses thus far. Older kids get started on their school day.
  • 10-12 noon: (not necessarily in this order): Guide Katie through all of her subjects, plus handwriting her signature in cursive and memory verse in printing. Throw laundry in. Clean up kitchen from breakfast. Help Michael along with any subjects in which he needs help. Discipleship (see Deut. 6:6,7). Throw laundry in dryer. Referee (our situation allows our kids to know each other pretty well…which is a blessing, and a curse. 😉 ).  Answer the phone (my husband is a pastor, so the phone is very busy). Plan supper. Read with Katie and do review of phonics and sight word cards.  Referee again. Throw more laundry in. Check on our oldest to see if she needs help (she keeps her own schedule, and must turn in things by 10pm). Sweep kitchen. Tidy, pick up, tidy some more (having everyone home 24/7 means your home is never officially “tidy”…lol).
  • Noon-3pm-ish: Lunch, PE (which can mean anything from going to the park, walking, biking, Wii Fit, trampoline, or even this), check spelling words, have the oldest demonstrate her weekly ASL skills, assign engineering project for middle kiddo, finish up any remaining school work. More discipleship. Check records in Time 4 Learning to be sure lessons are completed and check grades. Experiments and art projects. Try to remember the rest of the laundry! Select elective activities for each day’s lesson plans for next week (Basic Cooking, Biblical Counseling, American Sign Language, Engineering). Tidy some more. Make shopping list for Friday. Answer the phone some more. Referee some more. Sweep the floor again. lol
  • 3-5pm: Check the homeschool group for needs. Fix supper. Plan and gather resources for tomorrow’s school day. Begin to plan the lesson for Jr. Church, decide the snack, print any necessary resources. Make mental notes for Sunday’s bulletin. Tidy…again. 😉
  • 6-7pm: Supper
  • 7-9ish: Relax with the family. Work on personal writing projects.
  • 9-10: Bed time.  Mentally go through the day, realize that although you felt busier than a one-armed paper hanger, you still didn’t get everything done…and once more there are crayons, shoes, toys, socks, scattered hither and yon. Tuck everyone in. This is when we have some of our most meaningful conversations.
  • 10pm: Fall into bed, fairly used up, but grateful.

Lather, rinse, repeat.  What does your day look like, SAHM? 🙂