One of the biggest concerns for new homeschool parents—or those who find themselves unexpectedly homeschooling due to school closures—is the cost. There are many ways to save money on a homeschool curriculum, as well as many resources to help your kids learn every subject, from math and science to art and physical education. There are even virtual field trips and space exploration tours available. The best part? Many of these tools are available online for no cost.
Homeschooling doesn’t have to be expensive. High-quality homeschooling resources are available at no cost to anyone with access to the internet.
Khan Academy has a long-standing reputation as a quality resource in the homeschooling community. It is a non-profit educational site started by American educator Salman Khan to provide free, quality educational resources for all students.
Organized by topic, the site includes math (K-12), science, technology, economics, art, history, and test prep. Each topic includes lectures delivered via YouTube videos.
Students can use the site independently, or parents can create a parent account, then set up student accounts from which they can track their child’s progress.
Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool is a free online resource created by homeschooling parents for homeschooling parents. It contains full homeschool curriculum from a Christian worldview for grades K-12.
First, parents choose their child’s grade level. The grade level material covers the basics, such as reading, writing, and math. Then, the parent selects a program year. All of the children in a family will work together on history and science covering the same topics based on the program year chosen.
Easy Peasy is all online and free. It’s all planned out day by day, so children can go to their level, scroll down to the day they are on, and follow the directions. Inexpensive workbooks are available to order, or parents can print the worksheets from the site at no cost (other than ink and paper).
Ambleside Online is a free, Charlotte Mason-style, Christian-based homeschool curriculum for children in grades K-12. Like Khan Academy, Ambleside has a long-standing reputation in the homeschooling community as a quality resource.
The program provides a list of books that families will need for each level. The books cover history, science, literature, and geography. Parents will need to choose their own resources for math and foreign language.
Ambleside also includes picture and composer studies. Children will do copywork or dictation on their own for their level, but no additional resources are needed since the passages can be taken from the books they’re reading.
Ambleside Online even offers an emergency-plan curriculum for families homeschooling in the midst of crisis or natural disaster.
Newsela is an educational website that promotes literacy using news stories. Each article is adjusted to five different reading and maturity levels, so students of all ages can practice literacy skills while becoming informed citizens. A suite of tools allows educators and parents to evaluate reading comprehension and vocabulary, monitor progress, and personalize lessons.
All of Newsela’s articles and most of its tools can be accessed free of charge, and a Pro version is available at an additional cost. In March 2020, following school closures related to the COVID-19 outbreak, Newsela announced that its entire service will be available free for the remainder of the school year.
You don’t have to leave the house to see the world. Explore the halls of the White House, wander through the Sistine Chapel, and take a tour of the International Space Station with virtual field trips and virtual world tours (courtesy of TripSavvy). These lists include landmarks that you can easily explore from your computer as well as opportunities for enhanced learning experiences, including livestream events and interactive tools. For more educational virtual tours, try TripSavvy’s list of children’s museums you can explore online.
Scholastic, one of the best known names in the educational materials industry, has created a Learn at Home site for students in grades Pre-K through 9th. The site features two-week’s worth of daily activities and projects on a variety of subjects, including science, math, ELA, and social studies. The curriculum includes stories, articles, videos, and activities designed to stimulate kids’ curiosity. Some of the material is also available in Spanish.
Take advantage of the Smithsonian’s 19 museums, galleries, and research centers and their wealth of material to expand your kids’ horizons. Through the Smithsonian Learning Lab, the institution offers images, texts, videos, audio recordings, and learning activities featuring its collection of more than 1 million artifacts. The site offers a flexible design and is easy to use. You can curate your own collection and share with your students to match your educational goals.
Recently, the Smithsonian also released more than 2.8 million high resolution images into the public domain, so now it is easy to explore and share the museums from the comfort of your home.
Funbrain provides free educational games, comics, books, and videos for children in grades Pre-K through 8th. Their fun-filled activities focus on developing skills in math, reading, problem-solving, and literacy. Content is organized by grade level and the site does not require you to enter logins, passwords or personal information.
Storyline is an award-winning children’s literacy website that features famous people reading beloved children’s books. Think James Earl Jones reading “To Be a Drum,” by Evelyn Coleman; or Audrey Penn’s “The Kissing Hand,” read by Barbara Bain. Children can listen to the story, follow the words, and enjoy the colorful animations.
Created for students in middle school and high school, the Big History Project is a social studies curriculum aligned with Common Core ELA standards. The program includes a course guide and it allows educators to manage classrooms, assign tasks, track progress, and personalize instruction. Though designed with teachers in mind, the website offers different versions to suit the needs of parents and history buffs alike. This resource is totally free, but an account is required.
Chrome Music Lab enables students to explore music and its connections to math, science, and art. This highly visual tool is organized in experiments and it is quite engaging and easy to use. Students can explore on their own, as instructions consist only of iconography and intuitive prompts. Some guidance might be required when establishing connections to other disciplines.
ClubSciKidz is actually a science summer camp, but since the announcement of school closures related to the COVID-19 outbreak in March 2020, its SciKidz blog has begun offering daily science activities and experiments that you can easily do at home with your kids.
GoNoodle is a free app and website with tons of active games and videos designed to manage kids’ energy levels. GoNoodle was initially created for classrooms, but kids love it so much they also want to do it at home. One of its main advantages is the wide variety of activities available, from Zumba exercise videos to Wii-like sports games and mindfulness videos. These features are available free of charge. An upgraded version called GoNoodle Plus enables teachers to create interactive games aligned with Common Core Standards in a variety of disciplines.
Bedtime Math is not only for bedtime. Its goal is to help kids learn to use math naturally in their everyday lives. Created by an astrophysicist mom, the daily activities and games usually take around 5 minutes to complete and can be adjusted to four different skill levels.
Parents can use the site at no charge, receive emails with daily challenges, or use the free app. Another big plus: the app is also available in Spanish.
Code.org offers a structured computer science curriculum for kids at all levels, from pre-readers to AP-level students. Lessons teach coding, of course, but they also touch on important topics such as online privacy and digital citizenship. Engaging videos and fun games and activities enable students to learn at their own pace and stay challenged. Kids can even learn to build and design their own apps and games! Most work can be done independently, though younger students might need supervision to stay on course.
YouTube isn’t without its pitfalls, especially for young viewers, but with parental oversight, it can be a wealth of information and a fantastic supplement to homeschooling.
There are educational videos for nearly any topic imaginable on YouTube, including music lessons, foreign language, writing courses, preschool themes, and more.
Crash Course is a top-rated channel for older kids. The video series covers topics such as science, history, economics, and literature. There is now a version for younger students called Crash Course Kids. Other valuable YouTube channels include TED Education, Minute Physics, and Big Think.
826 Digital is an excellent resource to supplement your ELA curriculum and encourage creative writing. The site offers mini lessons—called Sparks—, larger lesson plans, and writing projects featuring topics that are creative, relatable, and age-appropriate. Writing prompts also offer the opportunity to incorporate STEM concepts to help students understand and write about science and math. Another interesting feature is that many of the examples used on the site are written by kids, which may help students gain confidence in their abilities.
Unlike other resources on this list, 826 Digital is not an interactive site, meaning that students don’t create their own accounts to work on, but you can save or download the material to print or assign via other platforms, such as google classroom. 826 Digital is designed for students in grades 1 through 12.
Starfall is a free educational resource for Pre-K through 3rd grade. Launched in 2002, Starfall offers an extensive library of interactive online reading and math activities, plus a Parent-Teacher Center with printable lesson plans and worksheets. Starfall is also available as an app for smartphone and tablet users.
With the popularity of tablets and smartphones, don’t overlook the usefulness of free educational apps. For foreign languages, try the free apps Duolingo and Memrise. Reading Eggs and ABC Mouse (subscription required after a trial period) are perfect for engaging young learners. For math practice, try the free apps provided by the Math Learning Center.
Many online education sites such as The CK12 Foundation and Discovery K12 offer free courses for students in grades K-12. Both were started to provide access to a quality education to students everywhere.
CNN Student News is an excellent free resource for current events. It’s available during the traditional public school year, from mid-August to late-May. Students will enjoy using Google Earth to study geography or learning computer coding through Khan Academy or Code.org.
For nature study, the best free resource is the great outdoors itself. Couple that with sites such as:
- National Geographic
- NatGeo Kids
- The Handbook of Nature Study
- U.S. Forest Service
Try these sites for high-quality free printables:
- Enchanted Learning
- Teacher Pay Teachers (Offers free and paid printables)
- Free Homeschool Deals
Never take for granted the gift of a well-stocked library – or a moderately stocked one with a reliable intra-library loan system. The most obvious use for the library when homeschooling is borrowing books and DVDs. Students can choose fiction and non-fiction books related to the topics they’re studying – or those about which they’re curious. Some libraries even stock homeschool curriculum.
Consider the following series resources:
- The American Girl, Dear America, or My Name is America series for history
- The Magic School Bus series for science
- The Magic Treehouse series for history or science
- Discover America State by State for geography
- Life of Fred for math
Visit your library’s website to see what’s currently available, and remember that you can also check out ebooks and audiobooks online, without traveling to the library.
If you aren’t able to visit a local library in person, you can still access educational resources using your library card. Many libraries provide free access to subscription-based education programs, including standardized test prep, foreign language learning programs (such as Rosetta Stone and Mango), academic research databases, local history databases, and even live online tutoring. Check your local library’s website for more information about what’s available and how to access it.
Most libraries also offer free wi-fi and make computers available to patrons. So, even families who don’t have internet access at home can take advantage of free online resources at their local library.
In addition to the library, keep other local resources in mind. Many homeschooling families like to suggest museum and zoo memberships as holiday gifts from grandparents. Even if parents purchase the memberships themselves, they can still prove to be inexpensive homeschooling resources long-term.
Many zoos, museums, and aquariums offer reciprocal memberships, allowing members to visit participating locations at a free or discounted rate. So, a local zoo membership may also provide access to other zoos throughout the country.
Sometimes there are also free nights for similar venues within a city. For example, years ago when my family had a membership at our local children’s museum, there was a free night which allowed us to visit the other museums (art, history, etc.) and the aquarium using our children’s museum membership pass.
Consider scouting programs such as Boy or Girl Scouts, AWANAS, and American Heritage Girls. While these programs aren’t free, the handbooks for each usually contain very educational material that can be incorporated into the lessons you’re teaching at home.
The idea of homeschooling for free may sound like a proposition with no downsides, but there are some pitfalls to watch out for.
Homeschooling mom Cindy West, who blogs at Our Journey Westward, says parents should have “a plan in place to make sure homeschooling is thorough, sequential and appropriate.”
Many subjects, such as math, require that new concepts are built on previously learned and mastered concepts. Printing off random free math printables is likely not going to ensure a strong foundation. However, if parents have a plan in mind for the concepts a child needs to learn and the order in which he needs to learn them, they may be able to successfully pull together the right series of free resources.
Homeschooling parents should avoid using printables or other free resources as busy work. Instead, they should make sure that the resources have a purpose in teaching a concept that their child needs to learn. Using a typical course of study guide can help parents make the best choices at each stage of their student’s educational development.
Sometimes homeschool vendors, bloggers, or educational websites offer sample pages of their material. Often these samples are copyrighted materials that are meant to be shared with a specific audience, such as subscribers.
Some vendors may also make their products (or product samples) available for purchase as a pdf download. Usually, these downloads are intended only for the purchaser. They are not meant to be shared with friends, homeschool support groups, co-ops, or on online forums.
There are many free and inexpensive homeschool resources available. With some research and planning, it’s not difficult for parents to make the most of them and provide a quality home education for free – or almost free.