Homeschool Planning and Saving

Summer is winding down here.  Last year we were glad to start school because it was something to do in an air-conditioned building after a hellish summer of triple-digit heat (85 days total, 21 of them in a row).  You wouldn’t believe you could notice such a difference between 106 degrees and 97 degrees, but it is noticeably cooler.  This year, our summer has been milder, at least by our standards with fewer than 10 days above 100 degrees and a breeze blowing many days.  Regardless of how nice the weather is, we have to start school.  No use putting it off, though my kids would beg to disagree.

Since we homeschool, we could start whenever we want, and we certainly take privileges to work around personal preferences.  But I know of several upcoming events that will necessitate a break in school, so I want to get an early start now to avoid running late next summer.  I like to break the school year into nine week segments with a week break between each (three weeks at Christmas).  We will probably be moving in February, so the spring semester may not work quite like that.

I am a planner at heart, but with five kids I know the importance of building in time for the unknown.  You know those mornings when everyone has the grumbles at the same time.  Or the scramble to find a ride when the van has a flat tire.  Please tell me I’m not the only one who has these challenges.

I use Homeschool Tracker Basic, a software package that allows me to enter assignments for all my students and their various subjects, print assignment sheets, and record grades.  I use the free version, but there is also an online package and a pro version.  I highly recommend it for ease of use, assignment tracking, and simple reporting.  Personally, I prefer entering things like this on a computer, rather than writing them in a notebook.  I simply don’t have that kind of patience or time.

It’s so sweet when they’re excited about getting school books.

Right now, I’m ordering the last of our curriculum.  Last year I got stuck up a tree when one of my suppliers was backordered.  We were four weeks late starting math, which accelerated my oldest daughter’s already slow pace.  This year I started early and ordered with some friends to save on shipping.  I went to a used book fair, but didn’t end up with much.  It’s hit or miss with those, but sometimes I hit the jackpot.

I reuse much of our curriculum.  Our math curriculum, for instance, has a teacher’s manual and DVD.  I only order one teacher package each year for my oldest daughter and a workbook for each of the others since I reuse the teacher material.  Our history and science books are not consummable, which means we do projects and tests separately from the book.  I shop the back-to-school sales for supplies.  It’s unbelievable the difference in prices during the sale vs. mid-year.  So, when I check our school expenses, I spend the most on my curriculum for my oldest and much less for the others.  With a little planning, you can always shave a little here and a little there to save.

Of course, it’s important to remember what you already have.  I’ve heard of people who bought two, three, or even four copies of the same book or subject because they didn’t remember already buying it.  Seriously?  You can’t remember buying the same thing four times?  I can’t imagine how irritated their husbands must have been.  I’m glad I’m not that scatterbrained.  Cough.  Cough.  Pardon me while I go get this beam out of my eye.

What time or curriculum saving tip do you have?

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