Advocates for Home Education in Massachusetts, Inc.

Bespoke Homeschooling Without Breaking the Bank

You’ve made the leap, cut the cord, taken the plunge–however you put it—you’ve pulled your kid out of school, or made the decision not to send them at all. Often this decision means the family budget also takes a hit, as one or both parents adjust their schedules and/or work hours to spend more time with the children. It could even mean one parent leaving the workforce for a time.

Sitting down to make a plan, you check out some homeschooling Facebook groups or e-lists, and are flooded with a slew of classes, learning centers, and other such opportunities to sign your child up for. School has indoctrinated you well: Children need to be in groups of age mates, every day for a good part of the day and these school-like settings are where people learn, right? So you’d better set up a schedule. But it’s going to hurt the tighter budget.

Wait! When you made the choice to opt out of school, you didn’t do it just to recreate school in another form. You now have the option to create a lifestyle that will reap more rewards than you had imagined, for both your child and yourself. And it doesn’t have to further hurt the bottom line. Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Your local library. If you don’t already have a card, now’s the time to get one. Yes, libraries have lots of books, which you can borrow for free. But they have so much more, including programming, online databases, space, and knowledgeable librarians. Plus some libraries are adding Libraries of Things which loan out microscopes, sewing machines, telescopes, and more! Build a weekly library visit into your schedule and let serendipity take over.

2. The Internet. Another thing you can access for free at the library if you don’t have it at home. The American Library Association has a curated list of “Best Websites for Teaching and Learning” to get you started.

3. State and national parks. Massachusetts has a lot of beautiful ones with recreational and educational opportunities and fees are usually nominal or free. But just gotta say it—your own backyard or local playground can be a source of unbridled fascination for a kid let loose with time on their hands. Fort building anyone?

4. Museums. Many museums have free or reduced admission at odd hours, or offer reduced admission to homeschoolers and their “chaperones/teachers” (read: parent). Also, shout out back to public libraries, many of which loan out museum passes.

5. Volunteering. Find long or short term volunteering opportunities to do with your child. Great experience for both of you, and great modeling for your child. Places to check: the library, recycling center, nature sanctuaries, nursing homes or retirement communities, homeless shelters, food pantries. Teens can probably volunteer on their own.

6. Ushering. See shows for free by volunteering to usher. Check with your local theater.

7. AHEM. Yup, that’s us. We’re here with a lot of free info on how to homeschool in Massachusetts plus free one-on-one parent-to-parent counseling, and programs (usually free as well) where you can meet other real, live homeschoolers.

8. Other homeschooling parents. Meet regularly in real life with other homeschooling parents, with or without kids. Building bonds like these will result in some good parent-to-parent support. And you might also be able to swap curricula, books, art or lab supplies, skates, giving new life to items that one family has outgrown. You may also end up sharing or bartering interests and skills.

9. Daily life. Don’t underestimate what kids get out of being included in what you may have come to see as the daily slog: grocery shopping (how to choose a good fruit or vegetable, how to compare prices, reading and understanding ingredient labels); cooking and baking (reading a recipe, measuring, knife or other skills, science of cooking), laundry, house cleaning (vacuuming can be fun! So can sliding a wet rag around the floor and baseboards (aka mopping)), pet care, gardening, and so on. You don’t have to force any of it down their throats or turn everything you do into a learning experience. Just be open to their interest and include them as they are able.

10. Time together as a family. Last but far from least is time spent cuddling on the couch reading books, preparing a meal together, conversing or playing word games during a car ride, listening to the news or a podcast while doing hand or art work, practicing instruments or singing together, taking a walk or bike ride together and stopping to smell the roses or pat the pussy willows.

The best kept secret of homeschooling is the time parents and children spend together. It is natural and healthy for both to want that time together, and the rewards both of you will reap are lifelong. Priceless indeed.