Wednesday, September 26, 2018

How to Homeschool For Free: 50+ Free Resources

I realized a little bit ago that I may have neglected to share some important information with you. I'm so sorry about that.

You can homeschool for free, or almost free.

I mean, obviously someone in your home has to be able to support your family, and there may be some logistical challenges that I'm not qualified to adequately address. That's not what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about the folks who say, "Homeschooling is so expensive! How do you afford it?" or "I wish I could homeschool but it costs too much."

Okay, look. I don't have a lot of money. We're a one-income family, here. We do use Thinking Tree as a spine for our learning, which is fairly inexpensive when you compare to a boxed curriculum, and I do buy new things. But I don't HAVE to. By no means do I have to. I buy books and games and materials mainly for pure materialistic fun. Because we WANT them.

Because you know what? We could easily homeschool using just free resources. Most of what we do is free. We do pay for internet, and Netflix and Amazon Prime, but we would pay for those anyway because we want to surf the web and watch the shows. You'll obviously have to buy paper, pencils, notebooks, etc - but you have to do that and more with public school.

The following are resources that I have either personally interacted with, or (far more rarely) a close friend that I trust has personally interacted with and told me it was great.

Teachers Pay Teachers has an amazing collection of free or cheap printable worksheets.

YouTube. Yes, I know, it's user created content. But there is SO MUCH GOOD out there, especially when it comes to science. There are some really amazing educational YouTube channels that can help you dig deeper into a topic. Additionally, many of the same documentaries you can find on Netflix and Prime you can find on YouTube.

PBS Kids: They make every list for me. Tons of games, lots of good science, spelling, reading, etc. Videos if they want. And PBS is provided by viewers like you!

Arcademics is Arcade + Academics. Educational and fun games that result in learning of reading, math, spelling, and the logic and reasoning that accompanies any video game.

Curriculum:
Ambleside Online is an old, old, old Charlotte Mason homeschooling program that provides you with a list of books for each grade level that covers history, science, language arts, and geography. You can also get book lists from Sonlight and Bookshark, just click on your child's grade.
Easy Peasy All In One Homeschoolis a great curriculum, offers you a day by day plan and it's totally free. Lots of printing but I hear a lot of great things about it.

Reading:
Oh gosh. Let's see. We used Starfall, which the boys didn't really like. They loved Teach Your Monster To Read, which is a free offering from Usborne.

Spelling:
Spelling City is really great, you can input their spelling lists. The boys have enjoyed this more than any other spelling app or program we have attempted. Which is to say, they still hate it, but they hate it....less.

Math:
Khan Academy is a wonderful math program (and it frees the parent from having to actively teach math). It goes all the way up through calculus, differential equations, all that. A godsend, I know. And free!
Prodigy: This math game looks like a MMO almost pokemon game, but in order to advance, you have to get better at your math. You set the grade level, then you can assign topics, say, measurement, or 3 times tables. Whatever you need.
Calculation Nation is a math game community for upper elementary through middle school, lots of gaming, nice interface.

Geography:
Google Earth. We live in Texas, which is closer to Mexico than most other states, but that doesn't mean we can pick up and field trip there. Enter Google Earth. Recently, my boys took a tour of Mexico city, where they stumbled upon the Casa Azul (home of the renowned artist Frida Kahlo, whom we had just finished studying) and they were actually able to tour the inside. Hello?! We just did geography, history, and art, with a free mini Google Earth field trip.
Geography Games. I won't lie, they're pretty simple, but they get the job done. Everybody loves a good map game, right?

Foreign Language:
Duolingo and Memrise are great free apps for foreign language learning. You can also use the language pod websites: type in the languagepod101.com and it'll come up. Like, SpanishPod101.com, or HebrewPod101.com, or GermanPod101.com - ALL of their sites have a free version that is plenty of content that will last quite some time.

Science:
National Geographic is a wonderful website with many fantastic and valuable articles which you can view for free. Some things may not be appropriate for younger folks, may cause more questions than you have answers to, and for those kiddos, let me show you NatGeoKids. The website has videos, facts, articles, and games.
Love animals? Check out all the livecams on explore.org. We have watched baby bald eagles hatching, bears catching salmon, sea lions kind of laying there barking at each other. If you're not sure what to click, hit TRENDING to the left and it'll show you who's active right now. I highly recommend the bears if they are available to you. So entertaining.
My seven year old is really into endangered species, so recently he has been spending a lot of time on the US Fish and Wildlife website looking that up. He finds the animal, reads the blurb, tells me how beautiful it is, writes down the name, then we type it into YouTube and he watches a documentary about it.
He also loves All About Birds, which is....about.....birds. 585 different species of birds, actually. You can learn facts about them, hear their call, and videos are available too.
If astronomy is more your thing, check out Starchild, from the NASA website. This site is great for kids ages 5-13. If your astronomer is older (or just wiser in the topic of space) check out the sister site Imagine the Universe! You can also sometimes see live streamed interviews from the International Space Station. Considering the distance, it can be a little hit and miss, but when you get to see the videos, they are AWESOME.
I already mentioned the HHMI DVD offerings, all science, heavily medical, most will be best for older learners but some are appropriate for the younger. As of this post, 32 titles are available.
Save the Manatee will send you educational materials including coloring books and informational packets. You can send for this and then hang onto it for a day when nobody likes it, everybody hates it, and they guess they'll go eat worms. Just say, "Don't eat worms, let's learn about the manatee! New coloring books, guys!" That's my plan anyway.

Art:
The National Gallery of Art has a cool online presence. For kids, they explain kinds of art, teach about American folk art, Dutch art, and then let them create a little, both trying techniques, and creating a piece of jungle art in the style of Henri Rousseau
The Art History section by Khan Academy gets good reviews by two people I know who don't know each other, but I personally have not had occasion to use it yet.

History:
Mission US! This is so cool. You're put in a position from history and you have to play the mission to see if you'll make it. You can be a printer's apprentice in the pre-revolution, an escaping slave, a Native American dealing with an oft-ignored side of the Westward Expansion topic, an immigrant in the labor movement, or a teen who is set to lose the family farm to the Depression. Yes, these are heavy topics. If your child is sensitive, you may want to wait. But the point is to showcase the struggle, the work, and the everyday lives of real people at the time, not just the big names in the history books. Who was it that made America, anyway? The people.
If you are more of a textbook type of person, or would just like to refresh your memory before you teach, check out US History, which is basically a searchable collection of textbook pages. It's really very impressive - go there and type something in!
If you grew up in America, chances are when you were little you watched Liberty's Kids. I bought the DVD collection a few years back, because I didn't realize I didn't have to. You can watch all the episodes online. *facepalm*
Eyewitness to History provides a great jumping off point for lots of conversations. The homepage gives you short blurbs of what they think people are interested in right now. Click through for a ringside seat to historical events. Best if you read them aloud. With feeling.
At some point, your kids will read Percy Jackson, and then they are going to want more. I did. Check out Greek Mythology on MythWeb. Type in a name, click search, and then click Encyclopedia for more information.
Khan Academy also offers very thorough US History and World History curricula.

Animation:
I'm not sure if this goes under science or drama or what, but it's definitely educational. Probably computer? Anyway! Pixar in a Box! Does your kid want to be an Imagineer? Of course s/he does. Who wouldn't? Khan Academy has put together a whole course of how Pixar artists do their jobs, and then you get to learn to animate some things yourself. It's very cool.

Computers and Coding:
Blockly is a good one for teaching the very basics, though the child will have to be able to read. You can learn to code with code.org, or with Scratch at MIT, or with Python through Code Combat. Code Monster is good for learning Javascript.  Big kids can learn to create Android apps with AppInventor and I think that's pretty great. For bigger kids who want to learn HTML, CSS, and Javascript, Thimble will allow them to do lessons in how to create or modify those types of scripts.

Internet Safety:
Net Smartz Kids is a website that uses games and videos to teach kids about internet safety and cyberbullying. It's part of the CyberChip requirement of Cub Scouting, so you may already be familiar with it.

Financial Literacy: Visa has you hooked up here, guys. It might be because they want you to eventually open a card with them. But in the meantime, they offer tons of free materials. My kids have enjoyed the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy comic books, but there are also video games. Financial Football, Financial Soccer, Money Metropolis, and Peter Pig's Money Counter (for the little buddies). Isn't the lack of training in financial literacy one of the reasons we don't love the public education model? Get your kids some free materials to help with that.

AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST!!!

DRUMROLL PLEASE!!!

Your public library. It is free (Except for the fees - that is the REAL cost of homeschooling) and crammed with resources. You can look through Magic School Bus, Magic Tree House, all the classic literature, you have experts right there to help guide you, you get to leave the house, it's wonderful. They have computers there too, if you haven't got one at home. And many libraries also offer games, CDs, and DVDs. Depending on their connectedness, they may be able to get you specific books through an interlibrary loan.

Anything you can't get through your library, you could try Project Gutenberg. This website offers a ridiculous amount of classic books as ebooks for free. Readability wise, not great for a kid, but you can use it easily as a read aloud. And it isn't fancy, just runs on a browser, so you can pull it up on your phone - you know you're never without it.

And so, that is my big list of free resources that can be used in homeschooling. It's by no means exhaustive and as I find new stuff I plan to add it here as well. If a link is broken, or if you have something you want me to check out and add, please comment and let me know!

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