Homeschool Education Resources - Free & Budget Options!
*This is a long post with a lot of info. I will also return to update it throughout the year as necessary.
If you are someone who likes to return to a resource regularly, like I am, bookmark this post for easy return navigation!*
Every year, I spend a couple weeks searching for new secular websites & resources for our school year that are FREE. I have noticed that no one path really pans out for us any year, so having a carousel of options tends to be worthwhile. When one avenue no longer works, I pivot my sights to another & pick up about where we left off. I homeschool kinda like a "choose your own adventure" quest. It seems silly to me, to limit myself, when there are so many resources out there! I will include mention of a few paid options that we have experience with as well; many have free trials &/or are on the less expensive side as far as curriculum & resources go. As far as I have been able to tell, the resources listed here are secular unless otherwise noted. Buckle up, let's get eclectic!
FULL DISCLAIMER- we are currently embarking on 3rd grade, Kindergarten, & pre-K (year 1). I can't speak to the entirety of any given resource since our experiences fit within the scope of our use to date; I can just explain how we have used them & how I note that they work for us. I also am not a trained educator. I did not go to school to learn how to teach my kids or anyone else's; my degree is an AA in Arts & Humanities. I don't think that makes me any less valuable in navigating my own children's educational journey, but I am not holding any of these resources to a known or understood standard in the overall field of education.
ALSO NOTE: I prefer secular educational resources so that is the focus here. I am also a feminist, a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, I believe Black lives matter, & I embrace the anti-racist movement, so those ideologies will be reflected here as well. Comments that are intolerant of queer community, are racist in nature, or grossly sexist, will be removed at my discretion. If a resource does not appeal to you, ignore it.
First & foremost, I recommend checking your LOCAL LIBRARY SYSTEM. And not just for the books & databases available on site (although definitely utilize them, too)... check out what online affiliates give you access through your library card! Ours gives me access to Hoopla, Libby by OverDrive, LinkedIn Learning (previously Lynda), Library of Congress, Creativebug, Brainfuse, several tiers of Gale Courses, the Children's Literature Comprehensive Database, Mango Languages, & more. Above our local library tier, the umbrella of the Maryland State Library Resource Center offers more opportunities, too; including access to Scholastic Teachables (formerly Scholastic Printables), specialized streaming services centered on social studies, history, or science, virtual classes & tours of local Baltimore & DC museums, & even courses from state colleges... all free with my library card.
Our library also offers homeschool classes for free, currently via Zoom, but previously in-person. See if your library has a homeschool program for great group-learning classroom opportunities! Some libraries also host homeschool clubs & meet & greet programs to facilitate socialization between homeschool families & give homeschool students the opportunity to experience academic club environments.
PSA: our library systems are the backbone of self-guided learning, community enrichment, & the concept of equal opportunity. We should all be supportive patrons- & donate if you can! We regularly donate a couple bucks to our system, even when we don't have fines. And we always try to buy books from the library when they sell off items removed from the circulating collection, which is a great deal for us & a wonderful way to put more cash into your local system. Show up for the things you are most grateful for! Anyway, back to the thesis of this post...
FREE ONLINE LIBRARY- If you don't have a permanent address or cannot access your local library for whatever reason, Internet Archive has an Open Library with a Student Library curated for grades K-12. You can create an account (you just need a valid email address) & check out digital titles there, too! The archive seems to include a ton of resources across a broad spectrum including television archives, 78 RPMs & cyllinder recordings, university databases, technological databases... all sorts of awesome goodies! I don't have anything specifc to say about this since I just found it, but it looks amazing & I am stoked to deep dive these resources in the next few months!
ZEARN - this is my go-to resource for maths. It's a common core (what some call "new math") method taught with engaging teacher videos, printable worksheets, optional additional printables, & interactive problems online. Each grade is broken down into "missions", & digital badges are awarded at the completion of each lesson within the mission. If the learner grasps the concept well enough to move through the exercises quickly & correctly, subsequent follow-up lesson(s) on the same concept will be skipped, so the learner doesn't feel bored with the content. Periodic "sprints" will go over previously covered content in a timed sort of quiz. The window pans with the problems, so the learner isn't overwhelmed by the number of potential problems to solve in the time range. There aren't grades, so this is just to help the learner to fire those synapse pathways faster & to give an overall idea of how proficient they are in a given concept. Main lessons are taught in a "math chat" or "math lab" (which sometimes requires printable notes worksheets) & are reviewed in the "tower of power", where the learner begins at the foundation of a problem & builds step by step to solve (while completing an abstract tower graphic for each step of the process).
I love that I do not have to prep anything for maths lessons & there are several easy-to-read tools from my teacher dash (I have set myself up as a "teacher"- not "parent"- & named Folkhaus School for the school name) to gauge how my learners are doing, including their pace, progress, & alerts for any difficulties detected in sprints or learning towers (where my learner might have hit the help button or had to redo a problem to find the correct answer). I can click on these to link back directly to where the alerts occurred so I know where to focus on more study, either by my own initiative or printing out additional materials relevant to that lesson or mission. I can also print out completion certificates for each mission, which offer dated proof of continuing study for our local portfolio requirements. The assignments tab keeps it simple for me to see what comes next for each kid & yes; I can have students in various grade levels (although I have to claim one grade as the teacher, I just always choose the grade level of my eldest & enroll the kids into their proper level courses in their own profiles) & all of their stats are on my dash! Each child has their own login, so I recommend keeping a record of all passwords & logins.
DUOLINGO - probably already on your radar is Duolingo, a free language learning website & app. We use it primarily for German studies, but I also learned a little Russian, brushed up on my Spanish, tried my hand at Irish, French, & Norwegian, & hilariously dabbled in High Valyrian (you know, from Game of Thrones). I have neglected it over the summer (&, uh, maybe a little longer than that now), but we're definitely going to get back to it this year! I use Duolingo mostly for myself, & make easy vocab flashcards for the kids. When they are older, I will definitely have them create their own accounts to build on their German studies!
A paid option that is worth the money is obviously Rosetta Stone, which we also use. It has a free trial period, but the paid tiers are not cheap. It is, however, useful for basically forever. And don't forget to check your library system to see if you have access to some other language learning platform online!
MYSTERY SCIENCE- science for elementary through middle school, has a free trial period. This one is new to me, but I am excited to use it this year! It is a full curriculum with units in a suggested sequence. Some lessons have printables, some have experiments, etc. The site includes both lessons & mini-lessons to fit your time constraints, & lessons are geared for ages 5-12, as noted by lesson. The site IS a paid one after the trial period, but my current trial period is a year, so they give you plenty of time to test the materials before determining if their content is a good fit for your homeschool flow.
CORE KNOWLEDGE- if you're concerned about keeping your learners in line with the public school system, or even if you just want to pick & choose from some content across subjects, this site can be helpful. There is free curriculum to download & work from. The site is geared towards teachers & helping give students access to additional materials in the umbrella of the Common Core curriculum, but I have found it useful as a sort of goalpost & pace marker for our school explorations.
EDUCATION.COM - from worksheets to lesson plans, online games to guided lessons, this site offers a lot. Another Common Core specialized site, you can work with a lot here for students K-8.
KHAN ACADEMY (they also have a partnered class with Pixar which we are so stoked to try!) includes courses from K through college-level, completely free. Courses run the gamut from English to mathematics, sciences, history, arts & humanities... they have something for every subject. They depend on donations, though, so if you love the content & can spare some financial support, they appreciate it!
TEACHERS PAY TEACHERS- another well-known option is the website, Teachers Pay Teachers. The materials here are generally created by teachers, for teachers. While there is also a lot of paid content on the website, I linked directly to the free content.
EARTHSCHOOLING- for those interested in Waldorf education, we loved using Earthschooling. The link will take you to the free curriculum samples. The full curriculum is paid. I really liked the idea of Waldorf education, but I personally struggled with meshing the more relaxed academic timeline with my internal expectations. I am also not entirely sure that the curriculum would be considered secular; Waldorf education as a whole seems to have some ties to Christian & Euro-centric stories, if not beliefs. I keep applying part of the Earthschool curriculum to our regular curriculum, though, because the kids love it & look forward to it. Especially anything that has us baking bread in the kitchen or mixing watercolor wet on wet to explore how the colors mix. Or building games. Which brings me to...
GAMESCHOOL ACADEMY- learning through games! We do a lot of relaxed learning through games. I also made a review game using one of the free templates so we can play a game every Friday & go over whatever we learned the previous week, month, & year(s). It's a fun way to keep building on information & helps the kids retain more. Aside from review, games are also a great way to introduce more information & gain new skills. Bonus; the kids rarely realize that game time counts as school time. We just pull out a game to play & they have a blast, not realizing that every time they earn a higher score or are faster on the draw is because they learned their sight words better or memorized math facts. This site offers some free resources, but it also reviews games for purchase in the application of a learning staple following the gameschool philosophy.
MARIO TEACHES TYPING- yes, the classic we grew up with (assuming you are an elder Millennial such as myself) is online for free. My kids were stoked to see this & doggedly kept at their lessons, because after all, it's a Mario game!
THE GOOD & THE BEAUTIFUL - a nonsecular resource that offers
some excellent free curriculum, with the occasional Christian ideology &
Bible mentions sprinkled throughout. If that doesn't bother you, many
people love the curriculum they offer for free, which is academically
very good. I have used it before, & just skipped over or redacted
whatever content I didn't want to go over. I have heard that the
references are heavier for curriculum in higher grades & can be more prevalent based on subject as well, so bear that in
Other FREE things that come in handy:
PRINTABLE HANDWRITING PAPER (check before you print; I find I have to magnify some files up to 165% to fill the page properly- also, files may take longer than usual to print)
GRID GENERATOR & OTHER PAPER PRINTABLES (this site has pop-up ads; they can be confusing as they want you to download other content than you are looking at, so be aware!)
KHAN ACADEMY KIDS (a fantastic app for younger kids on par with ABC Mouse, but FREE!)
FREE VIRTUAL MATH MANIPULATIVES- no need to store all those ones, tens, & hundreds blocks as long as you have a browser window open & a good internet connection!
CORNELL UNIVERSITY K-12 GRANT-SPONSORED LEARNING CONTENT - mostly regarding ornithology; this is a great resource for learning about birds!
ZOO TOURS- a YouTube channel that tours zoos all over so you can explore beyond your backyard without needing to travel!
CIRCLE TIME- Monica J Sutton is our go-to on days I need to give more morning focus to my eldest but want to give the boys their usual circle time. She also has companion worksheets & plans on her website that go along with her free Circle Time episodes on her YouTube channel; the extra materials come at a small cost, but those funds help support her content.
ANTI-RACISM LEARNING PLANS- put together by a group of caring homeschooling families who refuse to look away from the hard truths & uncomfortable realities of America's history & present. This document is tiered by age group (6-17) & is customizable by the teacher for the learner.
ANTI-RACISM RESOURCES FOR WHITE PEOPLE- a list of links to resources about being & raising anti-racists specifically curated for white people who have never experienced racism themselves.
Some very useful investments to make for a homeschooling family...
A megatank or ecotank printer. We purchased this one a couple of years ago, & are still using the first ink fill. I print a LOT, too. I print our family photos to hang on the walls, I print my art, I print zines, I print papers for school on a daily basis. We've gone through a few packs of printer paper & just dipped below the half mark on our ink tanks. Plus, ours is wireless, so the kids can print worksheets from the tablet or the desktop with ease & independence. Super worthwhile investment!
A laminator. I've made lots of reusable resources by printing once, laminating, & storing for the next kiddo when they grow into that resource. I use this laminator.
Quality books. You can't go wrong with great books. Some favorites we return to year after year can be browsed HERE. This list will be updated as we find new favorites or determine old favorites to be problematic or otherwise.
Enrichment Items. From toys to tools, there are lots of things that can help drive home concepts. We have... a lot. You don't NEED to have a lot, but I find it is helpful to keep little hands moving in pace with their minds. You can see some of our most used tools (or comparable versions of the ones we use) HERE. I'll also keep updating this list, too. Hot tips: keep some things in your cart & pounce on flash sales. I get a lot of things that way. Target also has awesome school stuff in the See Spot Save area near the front of the store every year around early August! I stock up on things like paper trays, plastic bins, supplemental workbooks, flashcards, etc & have really loved planning that little shopping spree every year!
Subscription boxes & educational magazines. If subscribing to something is outside of your family budget, these are also great options to add to a wishlist for any gift-giving holidays or birthdays, etc, which is what we did. We are fortunate to have generous family & friends who gift our kiddos subscriptions to great services & magazines, including Kiwi Crates, Little Passports, & Ranger Rick. When they arrive, the kids are always so excited & want to embark on a project or begin reading right away. Eventually, you might end up with some backlog, but I like having an easy out-of-the-box option on rain days or to fill a gap between units (since I tend to build our lesson units as we go).
Spend time searching on Freecycle, Facebook Marketplace, & poking through library book sales to save money on curriculum, books, & tools. You'll be investing your time, but it can save you a ton of cash. Also, utilize second-hand stores like Thriftbooks, & don't discount your local thrift store! Especially for things like Montessori-inspired shelves & baskets, or Waldorf play silks & open-ended toys.... you can find a lot of comparable items for pennies on the dollar at the thrift store. I've seen lightboxes, science sets, & fantastic print materials at our local thrift stores, too. Definitely tap that resource. Also, teachers who retire sometimes offer up materials for free or for sale, as do preschools that go out of business. Keep an eye out for those opportunities when they appear to build your home resources at smaller price points!
In conclusion, there is no one way to homeschool. You can use all of the things, or very little at all, in your journey. The goal, to me, is to foster a love of lifelong learning, & to help my kiddos understand how to find & critically analyze information to then form their own opinions & effectively use the information that they gather.
There are a million resources out there, as you can tell from this established compiled list from The Homeschool Mom. Keep looking for what you need, & it's likely you will find a resource to fill any gaps!
I hope this list helped or inspired you in some way. Know of a fantastic free or inexpensive resource I missed? Drop it in the comments! Please note if the resource is secular or not for at-a-glance reference. ☺