Posted in Homeschooling

Curriculum shopping when broke…

…It CAN be done!

This is the 3rd year in a row that I’ve done it.

I am thrilled to report that I am DONE shopping for next year’s curriculum. I know that I say that I am done every year and then buy more later but at least I am done with my core shopping list and anything else is just gravy.

I always like to get this shopping done early in the year because everybody else’s birthday in my house is in July so things get expensive for me starting with Father’s Day and I wouldn’t be able to do any homeschool shopping then.

I still managed to save a good chunk of money but not as much as last year mostly because of some supplemental purchases and 2 of the books were harder to find used so their used price was higher than I usually pay but it was all worth it.

The final stats curriculum for 2 kids =
$137 spent with a savings of 63% over retail.

If we don’t count my supplemental purchase of 2 Reading Eggs (discounted of course) and some workbooks I impulse-bought at Aldi the total would have been $103 and the savings 73%.

To make it easy on the wallet the expenses were spread out between the months of January and May and the most I paid at once was $27.

It may be more time consuming that just going to an online catalog and clicking “Buy Now” but the savings when every penny counts are more than worth it.

Now all I have left 2 buy is 2 notebooks that I’ll pick up at Walmart when they are on sale for $0.18 during their Back to School Sale. I am swimming in pencils, crayons, glue and construction paper so we are good with the rest.

Coming soon, what I bought to use for next year.

Posted in Homeschooling

How to save money on homeschool curriculum

Last year I saved 70% over regular prices on curriculum and homeschooling materials.  I didn’t pay full price for a single item.  Over the past year I’ve found myself explaining my “secret” to others so often that I decided it’s time to write down my “strategy”.

 

There is no secret, I am just on a tight budget and can’t afford to spend the hundreds of dollar per child that I see some people spending.  So here is how I made it work.

 

The best way to save is to plan ahead and be ready to order the moment a good deal appears.  This is also helpful when on a tight budget because you are able to spread out your purchases over time instead of spending a lot of money at once.  We don’t get a big tax refund like some homeschoolers so we can’t buy everything at once and be done with it.

The plan:

I start my planning in February with the goal to finish shopping by the beginning of August.

 

Make a shopping list

This may seem obvious but if you don’t know what you are buying it’s easy to get carried away or buy more than you need.  In February of every year I analyze what we used, what we like that we want to buy again next year and research anything new that we want to use.  I create a list of everything that we have decided to purchase and then we move to the next step.

 

Learn the prices

This is important, you don’t know if you are getting a good deal if you don’t know what the prices are.  My shopping list includes regular price or MSRP for each product so that I can easily see if a posted deal is a good one.

 

Some stores overstate the regular price of the item to make it seem like you are saving more than you truly are, you won’t fall for this if you have the regular price listed on your shopping list.

 

Also part of this research is to be familiar with used price trends.  Some curriculum resells for cents on the dollar while others resell for prices near their new prices.  Based on these trends I evaluate what my “goal” price will be.  My goal is usually 50% savings on used books, 20% on new books and 25% on workbooks, this is the bare minimum savings that I want to achieve, I usually do better than that.

 

The website CamelCamelCamel provides pricing history on items from Amazon so that you can see how the New and Used pricing has fluctuated over time.

 

Become familiar with the market

There are many different options for shopping for online curriculum and your mileage will vary.  There are discount online sellers like the Homeschool Buyers Co-op and Educents that provide savings on new materials and there are used sellers like Homeschool Classifieds and Thriftbooks that offers great deals on used materials.  Amazon and Ebay can also sometimes yield some great deals.  There are also many Facebook B/S/T groups for used homeschool curriculum.

 

Look for local markets, check for a Facebook curriculum trade group in your area and you can save money on shipping.  Some Co ops and homeschool groups also host annual curriculum swaps which can be very convenient, specially if you want to look at the content of a book before deciding to buy.

 

Check prices regularly

Decide which methods you feel most comfortable buying from and check their prices regularly.  You can setup alerts to be notified when an item that you want is listed on Ebay.  Thriftbooks has a wishlist feature and you can request to be notified when an out of stock item becomes available.

 

I always setup price tracking for Amazon using CamelCamelCamel, I set my desired price for the item and they e-mail me when the Amazon price drops to that level.

 

I also set up a “Wanted” listing on Homeschool Classifieds.

 

There are so many Facebook curriculum trade groups that I don’t check them all, if there is an item that I am having trouble finding I will create an “ISO” (In Search Of) post, just be sure to be familiar with the group’s rules as some have specific ways that they want you to do this.

 

Even if you only want to buy new materials, it pays to shop around.  Also check for places that offer teacher discounts. I tend to buy workbooks new but never at full price.  If Amazon doesn’t give me at least a 20% savings, I will wait until Barnes and Noble has their Educator Appreciation Days and save 25% buying it from them with my Educator Card.

 

Be Ready to Buy

When you find the item that you want for the price that you want, don’t hesitate to order.  Unless this is a sale by a store on a new item, pricing and availability can change faster than the stock market.  This is specially important on Amazon, Ebay and Facebook groups.

 

Verify before you pay

Depending on the shopping site that you are using, information on used items may be very limited.  Don’t hesitate to ask questions and request pictures before paying to ensure that you are getting the item that you want.  On Homeschool Classifieds I have found it important to verify the ISBN number on books as some sellers try to sell a 20 year old edition of the book.  That may be ok depending on subject but you want to know what you are paying for.

 

Also look at shipping costs.  Sometimes a book is a good deal until you factor in shipping price and then it costs almost as much as buying new or it’s more expensive than buying it used elsewhere.

 

If buying from a person that you don’t know, I recommend paying with Paypal to protect your money if the person doesn’t ship or the item is not as described, do not use the “Personal” or “Friends and Family” option as that doesn’t provide you with the buyer protection.

 

Don’t forget about your purchase

Remember that shopping list?  Make sure you mark what you bought, when, from whom, and how much you paid.  This not only lets you know how much you saved, but it prevents duplicate purchases (I see it happening often) and it protects your money because if something goes wrong you have the data to research the status of the order and file a claim with your card or Paypal before it’s too late to submit it.

 

Some may think that this process is time consuming but a small time investment translates into hundreds of dollars in savings (last year I saved $290) so that makes it worth it for me.  You can do a lighter version of this and still save some money to stretch your homeschool dollar.
Posted in Homeschooling

Our Curriculum Choices for the Next School Year

Looking at this website’s statistics, my most popular home school related posts are those where I talk about how we do things and what we use so readers must be finding them useful.  For that reason I decided to share the results of my research and shopping for the next school year.

The 2015-2016 school year was a success for us and now I look forward to the 2016-2017 term with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. I admit that I am a little intimidated at the thought of homeschooling both kids next year (Zen will start Pre-K); because their personalities and learning styles are so vastly different that I know that the things that are working for Shammy now probably won’t work for Zen so in a sense it will feel like starting from scratch again.

Thankfully planning my curriculum purchases for next year has been as fun as ever.

For Zen I am planning a lot less “school time” than his brother got at that age, he doesn’t respond well to a school format of learning and learns more through play, games, and other “stealth” methods so I will only made one curriculum purchase for him.

Our home school style is pretty eclectic with a lot of unschooling elements so at a glance the list below may not seem comprehensive to some simply because I am only covering the core and the rest will be taught informally through life and supplemental resources as they come along.

Something that you’ll notice is that I am planning on using a lot of products from the Critical Thinking Company, I have been so pleased with the products that I have used so far from them that I have decided to expand and include more of their materials. I can see why they win so many awards.

My curriculum shopping list this year:

Pre-K

thinking skills beginningCritical Thinking Company’s Building Thinking Skills Beginning
I have been so pleased with the quality of the Primary level (K-1) book that we used last year that I decided if we were only going to use one book with Zen that this would be it.

Backup
star wars preschool workbooksStar Wars Pre-school workbooks
I’ve had these lying around and Shammy liked them so if Zen gets into workbooks we’ll use them, no obligation.

 

 

1st Grade:

Math:

 LoF Life of Fred Elementary Series and Mathematical Reasoning Level Bmath reasoning
We used Life of Fred with great success last year so we will be continuing that. I have also added the Mathematical Reasoning book as a supplement of sorts.


 

 

Language Arts:

language smartsLanguage Smarts Level B and Spelling Skills Grade 1spelling skills
These will be 2 new programs this year. We used Spelling you See last year and while it was ok, we didn’t love it enough to justify the high cost of buying the next level. Shammy has made great improvements on spelling on his own from reading so we decided to give this inexpensive workbook a try.

 

 

 

Science:

thinking skills through scienceDeveloping Critical Thinking Skills Through Science- Book 1 and Sassafras Adventures Volume 1: Zoologysassafras zoology
You may remember my post freaking out about what to use for science and these were 2 of the top choices. There is no reason why I couldn’t use both. We are not fans of notebooking so we will be skipping that part. Some people love Sassafras, others hate the writing style but since Shammy is such a fan of living books I decided to give them a try anyway. If Sassafras doesn’t work for us we’ll switch to Real Science Odyssey.

 

 

 

History/Geography:

Little Whovians and DK Geography 1st Gradegeography 1st
We are big Doctor Who fans and I already used episodes to teach history so next year we’ll try it more formally with the Little Whovians curriculum, I downloaded it when it was first released so I don’t loose anything by trying.

The Geography workbook is the next level on the one that we used last year. It’s not a stand alone curriculum but good at easily teaching the basic skills and terminology that can be a foundation for learning through unschooling.

 

With the exception of the Geography workbook I already have all of these materials ready to go.  Some are in ebook format that I may or may not print and the rest were purchased used at substantial savings.  This year I expect to spend for 2 kids less than half of what I paid on materials last year for just one child.