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Curriculum and Planning with No Money

Anne, do you know of any tips or curriculum ideas for those in these tough times? My husband has been out of work since February, and I’m wondering what curriculum to buy (especially for my 10th grader who needs to do Biology and Spanish) and still give my children a good education.

I may have to return to nursing and homeschool at the same time. Balancing everything else seems a bit much, so developing curriculum from scratch won’t work for me. I need curriculum that is flexible, inexpensive and still will give my children a rich education.

Times aren’t as tough for me right now, but I’ve certainly been there before. Let me give some suggestions, for many different ages, trying to keep this as simple on Mom as possible:


  • All you need is a Bible. You don’t even need my curriculum! 😉 The very best thing to do is simply open God’s Word each morning with your children, preferably starting in Genesis. No planning required, but I would recommend keeping track of what you do in a logbook, for the accountability and consistency if for no other reason.
  • Calvary Chapel is probably the most popular, free “curriculum” for younger children. Printing would require some money for ink.

Language Arts

  • For grammar, I would use KISS grammar, hands down. It’s available free, even with optional worksheets. Don’t worry about matching grades with levels. Find out what your kids know, then start there. Be sure they know about prepositions first, because this is key to KISS grammar. I started developing some tools to use with it, but I didn’t get it finished. However, you’re welcome to read my thoughts here, so that the KISS grammar website won’t be so overwhelming.
  • For writing, read my recommendations here. The only cost will be a spiral notebook, and they’re on sale this week at Wal-mart! For high-school students, I’d also recommend purchasing Writer’s Inc. for about $25 (or much less used). Use it as a textbook for one or two years. To lesson plan, just divide the number of pages by the number of days in your school year for a rough estimate. It’s really not meant to be a textbook, but it would be a great one! If you don’t have time to work with your student on his writing, ask if someone in your church would “proofread” and “edit” his writing once a week.
  • I have more free language arts suggestions at Anne’s School Place (scroll down the page to see them all), but remember to keep it as simple and real-to-life as possible.


  • For grades K-8, I would purchase Ruth Beechick’s You Can Teach Your Child Successfully for $11.20 (or less if used). However, you don’t have a lot of time, so I recommend that you get some flashcards for all the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division facts — and review these daily for about 15 minutes. Then drill them for free online at Aplusmath. I wouldn’t print worksheets from your printer, or your savings will go down with the ink. If your child knows and understands all the facts, he’ll do fine in math. Use Ruth Beechick’s suggestions to make math a part of your everyday life. Just keep a logbook, again to be sure you’re really doing it every day.
  • First Lessons in Numbers is an excellent, free, 19th-century arithmetic curriculum.
  • You’ll find many more free or very inexpensive ideas for both elementary and high-school math at



  • My favorite history curriculum, free or not, is written by Christine Miller at Classical Homeschooling. (In fact, she has many suggestions for ALL these subject areas, many of them free or low-cost.) We have used it by borrowing the books from our local library (using inter-library loan). Take your time going through the books, one at a time. Your older children could certainly read these books on their own, then either tell you what they learned or write about it or do projects or lapbooks.
  • There are many more resources on my website’s history page, at Anne’s School Place.

Foreign Language

  • This one seems tough to me, but I would recommend that you talk to your local librarian. Libraries often have language-learning books, tapes, CDs and videos, and if you explain that you’re a homeschooling family, you may be allowed to keep some resources for much longer than the normal borrowing period.
  • You might also investigate dual-enrollment at a local community college, for a much cheaper price than buying Rosetta Stone or one of the other popular programs.
  • Finally, you might be able to find a native-speaker living close to you. Could you trade services? Is there something you could teach that person in exchange for language lessons for your son?

Record-Keeping, Transcripts, Etc.

  • Keep it simple. First, know what subjects you must teach (your non-negotiables). Write these on a list. Second, make a simple logbook and keep track of what you do each day. Strive for consistency. Third, evaluate your progress every month or two, just to be sure you’re staying on track. This is all the lesson planning you need — really!
  • For high school, I highly recommend Blessed Is the Man (for boys) or Far Above Rubies (for girls). They are each on sale for $49.95 until July 31, 2009. I like that they come with ideas for four years of a full high-school curriculum, including ways to make a transcript that will be accepted by colleges. Honestly, this curriculum would cover many of the subjects listed above. It’s rigorous, biblical, and thorough. Plus, high-school students can work independently. I purchased the boys’ curriculum this spring, and I’m very pleased with it. A few days of intensive planning by mom and student together might be required at the beginning. You may also need to print some of it, so plan a little more for the cost of ink. (I don’t think you’d need to print all of it.)

Okay, everyone, now is the time to chime in with your comments! Let’s help this mom out!

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  1. Foreign Language: Your library might also offer unlimited access to online language programs. Mine used to offer Rosetta Stone but now offers Mango Languages, free for use from home.

  2. thank you for the links- i always glean so much from your posts!
    i am keeping you and baby in prayer 🙂

  3. Michele says:

    There are so many free online resources ….

    Bible and any study aids you have
    Dictionary – really!
    Homeschool Freebie of the Day
    ClickSchooling Diane Keith
    Read and listen to books online
    Homeschool Library Resource
    Can’t emphasize local libaries enough including interlibrary – includes audios
    Local homeschool group members (to borrow from)
    Rummage sales – flea markets – thrift shops
    Local or national organizations (Red Cross, etc etc)
    Friends of family or children

    By 10th grade, he shouldn’t need you continously for his studies, unless for accountability. Find a mentor or appropriate group, perhaps at local colleges.

  4. I have found Livemocha to be a good free online foreign language program.

  5. Thank you, Dawn! I had never heard of this resource, and I’ll be checking it out for sure!

  6. “Блог в ридер однозначно”

  7. You can also use Live Mocha for foreign language, resources/ ebooks from The Old Schoolhouse very inexpensively. Also, Mammoth Math is great and not expensive.

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