Looking for easy ways to reduce your home school curriculum costs and daily involvement? As a home schooling mother for over 6 years, I’ve used several types of “boxed” curriculum like most of the homeschool community. I could list them all, but I will spare you those details for now. My message today is how free or affordable resources online can meet all of your needs to home school! There’s no need to be nervous about whether it’s enough, I will show you why.
Let’s begin with how we started like most educators and where we ended up. Along the way, I will reveal how you can significantly reduce your educational expenses through technology for a simple, better life. This will lead you on the right path giving you more time with family and additional money for other expenses or activities.
Here’s my story. During the first two elementary years, we were satisfied with the boxed curricula Sonlight. It accomplished all of our goals. Sonlight’s rich, living books were pivotal to our enjoyment of learning. Sonlight included a biblical study guide and detailed schedule necessary for a successful year. There was very minimal planning on my part. It was exactly what I needed as a fairly new educator to build up my confidence and teaching skills.
However, as a one income family the high cost of the instructor’s guide and a huge list of “living” books put a drain on our budget. Attempting to reduce our expenses, it was time-consuming. It took hours to research the necessary books required for the program. Yes, we could have ordered them from the library for “free”. However, even with my best efforts of avoiding late fees, there was no guarantee of a wait list or out of circulation issue.
These reasons raised enough red flags to begin our quest in finding a better alternative to Sonlight without abandoning our love for the King James Version BIBLE and the CHARLOTTE MASON Methods. I prayed and researched for hours online trying to find the perfect solution. We were quite relieved and excited to find Ambleside Online!
After establishing Ambleside Online (AO) fit our criteria, integrating technology was a top priority. We already had Kindle Fires for each member of our family, so having tablets made it easier to find the older, classical book selections at either free or at minimal cost! Thankfully, the only cost for the first year using AO (Year 2) “living” books was Trial and Triumph for $12 via Kindle. This was delightful news for a frugal mom like me!
Now we can move onto how technology made a huge impact on simplifying our homeschooling methods. Since my daughter at 9 did not enjoy reading, we took turns reading each chapter assigned. We all sat down and took turns reading a section and then each child was responsible for (as Charlotte Mason calls it) “narrating” each book. This was the beauty of having several Kindles at our disposal. We didn’t have to purchase several copies of books or take turns handing the book over to the next person. Easy Peasy!
I also required our children to follow along visually when reading to help improve their reading skills. Overall, it made learning and teaching simple, yet exciting for them. For example, reading the book Pilgrims Progress was a favorite for our children. Our FREE Kindle version of the book noted the character’s part and each child was assigned a different character part. My son would typically be “Christian” and my daughter would be “Hope” or “Faith”. I would always be the narrator as most scenes typically contained 2 characters dialoguing between each other. My kids always were thrilled to read this book together and made it interactive and fun.
At the beginning of Year 2, I took on most of the reading for Little Duke (a difficult book to read and understand for a 9 and 7-year-old). I would pick one book from the list to listen to in the car. I would download the FREE audio version from the computer and burn the chapters onto CDs. We used this method as our vehicle lacked the new technology most vehicles have today such as Bluetooth. We spend a lot of time in the car going back and forth from various activities. Listening to audio CDs not only helped my children academically they also surprisingly cut down on sibling fighting and boredom.
There are many options today regarding free audio books. Click here for a list of websites that share free audio books. One option we’ve used is the LibriVox app you can download on your android or iPhone. You can also transmit sound from your smartphones using Bluetooth capability through your vehicle’s radio system like this one. I highly recommend using audio books as an alternative to reading out loud to your children. It gives them a chance to use their auditory processing skills plus their vivid imaginations as well!
Hymns, Composers, and Folk Songs are an important part of our weekly program. Youtube is our go-to app for reinforcement in these areas. Every month I create a Youtube playlist to include the assigned monthly composer’s song, hymn and folk song listed on Ambleside Online. First, you search on your subject, review several videos, and then select the right-hand dots to add it to your playlist.
Youtube has a plethora of options for any song, biography or subject your child is interested in. Please always keep this in mind when creating your playlist. You can also throw in any biographies or documentaries to help cement the subjects your child is learning. For example, we’ve been learning about the British History of Kings in Our Island Story. So, I may add a few short documentaries and songs of the British Kings like this one here.
On Fridays, this is our day for screen time and the kids always look forward to it. Since we have a Roku and an Amazon Stick, we watch videos through the YouTube app on our big screen TV for a better visual experience.
Lastly, my kids get plenty of down time from the screen. We walk to the park, play with Legos, visit a friend or play a game. We do allow them to play games like Minecraft but limited to an hour a day during the weekdays.
I hope to have convinced you to integrate more technology into your home school day. Again, it’s a great asset that allows you to reduce our expenses and simplify your busy schedule. If you have gleaned any ideas from this post or have additional suggestions please comment below. I am constantly learning about the new possibilities in this technologically driven world. Let’s embrace Technology as a wonderful tool to make a huge impact in our children’s education!