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Home education on a budget

Home education mother and child
Home education doesn't have to be an expensive commitment. Dawn Francis-Pester takes a look at the many money-saving opportunities for home educating families.

The decision to home educate your child is one that’s never taken lightly. There’s a lot to think about, and one thing to consider is how it’ll affect your finances. Balancing a job with your child’s education can be difficult, and many families accept that home educating means one parent needs to stay at home.

But while it can lead to a drop in income, home educating itself needn’t break the bank. These money-saving ideas will all help you educate your child on a shoestring.

Borrow books wisely

Libraries are a fantastic free resource for anyone with children, and especially for home educators. Most libraries allow extra loan entitlements for home-educated children, letting them borrow additional books or hang onto them for a longer period. Just make sure you return or renew them on time, as overdue fines can easily add up.

Get more from libraries

Look out for clubs and activities at your local library. As well as book clubs, they often run craft activities, local history talks, board games and puzzle clubs, and story time sessions for smaller children. You can also borrow more than just books: DVDs, audiobooks and e-books can be great resources for home educators, and many libraries allow you to access online reference sites for free from home through your library membership.

Reach out to extended family

It’s natural to wonder whether you’re up to home educating your child and providing them with a broad and balanced curriculum, but you don’t have to do it all by yourself – or pay for expensive courses, tutors or workshops. Ask your relatives about their areas of expertise, and whether they’d be willing to work with your child, on a one-off or regular basis. Whether it’s their maths graduate auntie, or Grandad who makes the perfect choux pastry, your child can reap the benefits of their skills and knowledge.

Online resources

Today’s home educators have the world at their fingertips, thanks to the internet, and teaching your child search skills will give them access to a huge range of free resources. If your six-year-old wants to know about insects, for example, try an internet search including the terms ‘insects + key stage 1  + resources.’ TheSchoolRun offers lots of free activities, worksheets and sample test papers, and taking out a subscription will enable you to download our entire catalogue of resources.

Join a home education group

There are hundreds of home education groups across the country, and it’s well worth joining at least one. These groups often arrange activities such as museum trips and theatre visits at discount prices, taking advantage of group booking or schools’ rates. As you get to know the members of the group, you may find you can trade skills: for example, you might find another parent who’s happy to give your child French lessons if you help theirs with their maths work.

Clubbing together with a group of home educators also means you can take advantage of discounted membership to TheSchoolRun.

Cut purchase costs

Educational equipment can be pricey, and you may be reluctant to shell out for kit that you’ll only use for a short period. Looking for bargains in charity shops, jumble sales and recycling networks will help you spend less, and with some wise networking, you can save even more. By joining a local home education group and getting to know its members, you may be able to share or swap items with other families, such as science equipment like circuit boards and chemistry sets.

Make the most of museums

Many museums are free to visit, and run brilliant workshops and activities – some of which are exclusively for home educators. Take advantage of being able to visit during termtime, and beat the queues to get in. Don’t be put off by museums that charge an entry fee; many will offer a reduced rate for home educating families. Look beyond the obvious, well-known museums, too. Some larger universities have collections available to the public for free, such as the fascinating and somewhat macabre Grant Museum of Zoology.

Get close to nature

As well as using parks, woodland and the coast as outdoor classrooms, look out for local community projects and charities, which often offer some brilliant environmental learning opportunities. You could take on an allotment, join a tree planting project or take part in a litter pick or beach clean as a way to learn about pollution and recycling.  

Make friends with religious groups

Most religious groups are very welcoming, whatever your beliefs, and are often more than happy to talk to children about their faith or let them visit their place of worship, either for free or for a small donation towards their ministry. As well as helping your child learn about world religions, it’s a great way to connect with local people and cultures.

Don’t be afraid to stay at home

Sometimes, home educating means just that: staying at home. Although educational days out are likely to be a big part of your child’s learning, there’s nothing wrong with interspersing busy days with quieter, cheaper days at home, learning through cooking or gardening, for instance. And don’t overlook the educational opportunities in the most mundane tasks: even a trip to the supermarket can be a good way to teach your child about nutrition, food chains and money maths.