10 Ways to Customize Curriculum and Cut Costs–Part 1

I shared much of this information below during my presentations at conferences during the month of April.   It occurred to me that people are always looking to save money; why not post some thoughts here?   Also, though I find myself jaded with two teens in the house, I forget how many homeschoolers are just beginning with little angels, and looking for simple options that don’t overwhelm them with textbooks.

 To cover my entire presentation content would make this post rival a Hemingway novel, so for this portion, I will cover only those ideas that might be feasible for younger children.


Notebooking is a staple in our home.   The beauty of creating these hand-written pages is that they help children to own their own learning.   Notebooking pages are an excellent way to help a child retain his learning; when children “translate” reading materials into their own “language,” they have to process information and then think about what to write.    And, notebooking can be as inexpensive as the paper that you choose to purchase.   Over the years, we’ve used everything from that “old school” computer paper with the perforations, to purchased notebook paper, to college-ruled notebook paper that eventually lands in a 3-ring binder.   The children have had different preferences as they grow older, and as long as the work is quality, I follow their interests.   Personally, I prefer purchased pages.   With boxes for diagrams and special quotes pages/ bio pages, etc., the kids are forced to think more creatively about how they capture their work.   Here are some of my favoerite sites for purchased pages, and more elaborate “how-tos” on notebooking:



Lapbooks are excellent, especially for hands that learn even more when the kinesthetic (hands-on) component is involved.   Like notebooks, a lapbook can create a lasting keepsake of a child’s work on any subject.    Also like notebooks, a lapbook can be used for just about any subject.   My only caution, based upon my experiences, is that lapbooks take significant preparation time.   The scrapbooker in me loves developing the books and putting them together, but I enter into the prep work knowing that I need to carve out a block of time.    If you choose to indulge, however, here are a couple of sites that I enjoy:
There is also a Lapbooking Yahoo loop (try lapbookinglessons@yahoo.com).   Jimmie Lanley, the Notebooking Fairy, is a tremendous resource within the homeschooling community, and her Squidoo lens on lapbooking does not disappoint.  Lynn over at Eclectic Education is also very skilled in this area.     Finally, Dinah Zike’s Big Book of Books (costs about $20 at Amazon, new) is an excellent resource for creative ways to use various book folds.
One question people often ask is, what is the difference between lapbooking and notebooking, and what is the best suggestion for when to do either?    Jimmie does a good job addressing this in her post on lapbooking versus notebooking.
I will confess that I have not made good use of games; my husband tends to lead the kids in that effort.   However, I get the point.    Uno teaches number recognition and colors.   Twister also teaches colors.   You have to spell to play Scrabble; Monopoly helps kids learn the value of a dollar.   Mastering Clue requires analytical skills and critical thinking.   How much of a teacher could Milton Bradley be in your home?   Also, games can be repurposed to teach even more skill sets.
There isn’t much to say here; what is a homeschool without a field trip?    All I can suggest is that field trips don’t have to be to a designated attraction in order to be fun and educational.   Opportunities that are off the beaten path offer a dual benefit.   Because they are not the main attraction, they often are accessible for far less money, and as a rare tourist, the attention is more personalized.
How do you use the Internet in your homeschool?   Do you find it overwhelming?    Do you spend more time than you need on the wrong searches, or on “bunny trails” that take you everywhere but the place you need to go?    Two toolbars exist that take on much of the work of educational searches for you.   Karen and Tiany , respectfully, have done their homework and they’ve covered you, too.    The toolbars feature drop-down menus that contain links to educational video sites, the best of homeschool tools–you can even listen to the radio from the drop-down box!
Homeschool Resource Toolbar
Homeschool Lounge Toolbar
Before this post becomes horrendously long, I’ll stop and begin on the next post with thoughts for customizing curriculum for older students.   I’d love to hear from you, though: in what ways do you customize curriculum and cut your costs?
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

8 thoughts on “10 Ways to Customize Curriculum and Cut Costs–Part 1

  1. I hope all is going well with you as you make the conference tour. All of your advice is wonderful, as always. We do use games often around here. It is amazing how much the kid pick up from games. Now, if I could just motivate my boy to write. Ugg! Writing in his journal is his least favorite time of the day.
    Blessings, Dawn

    1. I know you’ll get there, Dawn. You have many great ideas–so much so until I’m flattered that you blessed me with a compliment. Thanks for stopping by–I’ll visit soon!

  2. Great ideas! We are really trying to cut down the cost of homeschooling. Lapbooking and notebooking have been lifesavers. We’ve been able to reuse textbooks and use free printables online to replace workbooks.

    1. I’m just starting to enter the world of free printables, and finding that SO MUCH is available! These were, as you said, a lifesaver when our son was struggling with a particular concept in math and needed more reinforcement. I also was able to print off title-size letters for a recent science board that the oldest had to put together. And the youngest has had some great times with printables and unit studies. I am a re-user of textbooks (the few that we have), too.

      1. I had no idea how much free stuff is available online until finances got tight. It has been a real blessing to learn to be more frugal. I love seeing other homeschool moms’ ideas for cutting costs too 🙂

        1. I “feel” you. I look back and kick myself when I think of the number of teacher’s manuals, as one example, that I spent $$ on pre-recession. Of course, I was also newer to homeschooling then, but man, if I could have those ducats, back, you know? We are now at the point where I don’t have to purchase much each year unless the kids want to study something new (like our son’s Swahili lessons to come), or the oldest progresses into new books. I might spend a mint on one new book (like Teaching Textbooks Math–~$200 per book), but I amortize that cost out over three kids.

          1. I try not to think back on all the $$$ shouldn’t have spent. Drives me nuts! OR I think of the things I should have purchased while we had the money! HA.

I'd love to hear your two cents!!