Homeschooling for Beans

by Ivory Soap on 02/01/2010

Thank you for visiting Little House in the Suburbs. If you like what you see, please SUBSCRIBE.

I get asked a lot if homeschooling costs much.  It depends on your style.

If you want to do the ‘school at home’ style or ‘buy the packaged curriculum style’ then YES.  It can be QUITE expensive if you’re not careful.

But I use a ‘living books’ method.  I would say a Charlotte Mason Method, but that term is reserved for her devotees.  I use book-books, not text-books.

Did you know that before 1960 there were lots of exciting, well-written non-fiction books for kids?  And that the writers even knew that kids have no more than a two page attention span?  And c0nveniently, many were written even earlier and are public domain?

So, here’s how to get the best books on earth for beans:

1.  Get to know your library SYSTEM.  Not just your library, but all the libraries they do inter-library loans with.  You can find almost anything that way.

2.  Used book stores.  The kind with parking, not the online kind with $4 shipping.  The ones with Thomas Burgess’s books for 25 cents. (I’m now reminded again of how often I wish the cents symbols was still on keyboards.)  Take all the books, CD’s, and DVD’s that you’d be willing to trade and leave them in your trunk.  Make sure the store has books you want before you hand them your stuff (cause you can trade it in other places and don’t want to get all your book credit stuck somewhere that doesn’t stock what you need!)

3.  PAPERBACKSWAP.COM:  Here’s where you list all the books that you didn’t hand over at the used book store.  I live on this site now.  I find all kinds of great stuff there and all it costs is media mail shipping for a book I already own.  I have SO MANY great books from that site.  And most are hardback!

4.  If you have access to a laser printer* (inkjet cartidges are SO pricey) you can print out the vast majority of the curriculum I use (or all of Maggie’s curriculum) and take it to Kinko’s for a cover and spiral binding.  Bind all your readers or social studies or what-have-you together and it’s super-cheap.  $5 for less than one-inch (about 150 pages front and back) and $6 for 1-2 inches (around 300 pages front and back).  That’s six hundred pages of text bound for $6!

*Note :  If you go BUY a printer for this purpose, I recommend a Brother that duplexes (prints on both sides for you).

5.  LAST RESORT!  Online used book outlets.  Remember, most everything can be printed and bound for five dollars (or less if you’re not a snob like me and like each book bound separately) so NEVER pay more than that online unless you’ve exhausted every other option.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Matt S February 1, 2010 at 9:22 am


I was homeschooled from 1st grade through high school, and I plan on homeschooling my kids (my wife and I don’t have any yet, but we’re working on adopting.)

Homeschooling taught me to see every aspect of life as an opportunity to learn (or teach). Whether grocery shopping, playing at the park, shopping at the mall, each one of these outings can provide several teaching moments. The practical aspect of these “field trips” help children to learn through life experience rather than through a textbook.

During the past year, I’ve started perusing book fair’s, garage sales, etc. for books for my future children to read as homeschoolers. (If they were born today, it would still be a good 10 years before the kids could read most of the books I’ve collected.)

While complete textbook avoidance is probably impossible (and probably unwise), I believe the biggest resource you can acquire is the ability to look at each experience, each book, each errand as a way to teach your children.

Debbie February 1, 2010 at 9:29 am

Since I’m in a gardening mode……… not planting yet but dreaming, scheming, and buying seeds, you can imagine my disappointment when I read your blog today LOL. Here I thought you were going to give us some new handy dandy info about beans, oh well sigh!

Kathy February 1, 2010 at 10:11 am

Thanks for posting about the book swaps. I also lament the disappearance of the cent sign. But DH has come to our rescue! When I mentioned today’s blog, he forwarded this link to me. It’s shortcuts for glyphs for mac and pc. Enjoy!

Nicki February 1, 2010 at 10:28 am

I have been homeschooling my 4 since 2001. With child #2, we were in a very tight money crunch, and could not shell out the money for a fancy reading program. So, using the only resource I had (Abeka Handbook for Reading) I started googling worksheets and readers. Like you, I found readers online and printed them. I also printed out all kinds of practice worksheets (this child LOVES worksheets!) for each phonics sound, blend, etc. I had an entire binder made up for her reading program. It was fun, easy, and now, 2 years later, she reads very well. She reads ‘for fun’, which is the goal, right?

All you have to do is google the magic phrase “free worksheets” and add math, reading, phonics, grade level, etc., and WHAM! You’ve got all you need.

I also did a post on my blog called “Think Outside the Textbook” which fits in nicely with this subject:

Toria February 1, 2010 at 1:28 pm

You just need to look up the ALT codes for any symbols that aren’t on the keyboard. I think the cent symbol is alt 0162. Here’s a good site for them:

Ursula Anderson February 1, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Excellent information. Also recommended: It’s a wonderful online bookstore that features classics for a buck and all sorts of instructional materials for not much money at all. I am not a homeschooler, but if I were, Dover would be one of my first stops. They also have some pretty amazing (and educational!) coloring books and paper dolls, believe it or not.

Teresa February 1, 2010 at 2:58 pm

The local school system has a teachers resource center where anyone in the community can go to get binding done for about $2. I have also found that the little folders with the clasps inside (I am sorry I cannot remember what they are called) are great for ‘binding’ small books that I print or if need be a three ring binder works great for larger printed books. I can usually pick these up cheap as Goodwill, freecycle, or end of season sales.

Is homeschooling going well for you? how are ya’ll liking the “Among the…. people” series? I have not delved into that but the books I choose instead are not going over well.

Mommaofmany February 1, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Ah…books are my downfall! I, too, use a living book approach, using the Ambleside Online program as a skeleton and with modifications of my choice. I’d like to add library books sales to your list of sources. Talk to your local librarian and find out when their sale is held. Our library has a sale every single month. Childrens books are 6/$1.00 most of the time. When the price goes up, it’s 4/$1.00. I spend about $30 a month. Yeah…I’m a book hound.

Heather Mac February 1, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Great post Ivory! Thanks for the suggestions and links. Maggie’s curriculum is a great resource and we love it. Thanks for your dedication to educating your own children and others.

Have a blessed week.
Heather Mac

Handcrafter February 2, 2010 at 6:41 am

Amazon has a PC based version of the Kindle (free software for your computer). Since most of the classic books are public domain, you can get the Kindle editions of many of them for free, while complete author collections run about $1. For example you could look up each of Charles Dicken’s books and download them individually for free, or for $1 get all 51 of his works in one indexed edition. I have downloaded hundreds of classic books for my kids this way. There are even some newer books for free, I’ve found a handful of contemporary fiction books for my husband as well.

Handcrafter February 2, 2010 at 6:46 am

By the way the Kindle editions download amazingly fast. I just downloaded all of the plays of Euripides in 4 seconds.

Ivory Soap February 2, 2010 at 8:00 am

Handcrafter!!!! Will you marry me? I just downloaded the kindle software. I can’t even breathe, I’m so excited. Classic book nerds UNITE!

And thanks to everyone for their great suggestions. Library book sales are a great place too. And I’m on my way to find out if we have a teacher resource thingy with $2 binding.

debra February 2, 2010 at 8:13 am

Library book sales are another great resource. I purchased many many books for very little money and supported my local library. And libraries will often put on programs for homeschoolers=—for free!
My husband used to say that mothers with children are the world’s largest cashless society. See if other parents will share resources—and swap them.
I have just finished my 17 yr homeschooling adventure. What an amazing journey!

Ivory Soap February 2, 2010 at 8:20 am

I love what your husband says, debra!

Handcrafter! Can I not print off of a kindle? I may have to cancel that engagement party.

Lawanda February 3, 2010 at 2:31 pm

Have you heard of Daily Lit?

I get my classic book fix through email 😉

Handcrafter February 4, 2010 at 5:40 am

Haven’t tried printing it. And my husband says he’s not sharing anyway; but maybe we could still be friends. Sorry.

Handcrafter February 4, 2010 at 5:41 am

Oh, if you have an iPod touch or iPhone, they have a Kindle for those too, would make it a little more portable if you can’t print.

Sumiyeh February 12, 2010 at 11:37 am

Thanks for sharing the things that work for you (always on the lookout for a fresh approach!). I home school my 10 y/o son with a group of friends that we put together into a cooperative. We use a ‘Waldorf flavored’ approach that encourages children to create their own texts by entering an illustrated, paraphrased summary of our own lesson presentation. There are 3 of us mommies/teachers and we rotate the subjects and lesson plans among ourselves while we tend to the three levels of classes in the co-op (K/ grades 1-3/ grades 4&5). The k group usually just illustrates with some minor word copying. The 1-3 group, our largest, will illustrate and copy a few simple sentences. The 4-5 group gets an advanced text, enhanced with vocabulary to look up. Sometimes they are required to develop their own text, instead of doing copy work. Each lesson, a mommy will create a blackboard drawing for them to use as the basis of their own illustration. It’s a very efficient method and the artfulness of it is very satisfying for the mommies as well as the kiddies. Although we can’t resist the temptation to purchase books to have to read at home, we don’t purchase curriculum. Hurray for the public library!!! where we get our sources almost all of the time.
We do the co-op 2 days per week and the times that we are in our individual homes, we cover the 3Rs individually. That’s the time when we might use worksheets. BTW, you can subscribe to for about $20/year and get all the worksheets that you could possibly need for every school level, and every subject!
However, I don’t know how you do it Ivory Soap! How can you get all this done, gardening, home schooling, sub-urban home steading, etc. PLUS running a BLOG?! My hat is off to you!

Ivory Soap February 16, 2010 at 9:01 am


Myrnie February 16, 2010 at 4:53 pm

“Ivory Soap”- I’m signing up for do you want me to use you as a “referrer”? Do you get points for that? E-mail if you can, if not I’ll just go ahead and sign up 🙂


Vicky June 25, 2010 at 4:14 pm

Get set I’m going to share your blog with our homeschool group. We always love checking out what other homeschoolers are doing.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: