Frugal Ways to Help Your Child Get the Best Education


Making sure your kids get the best education possible isn't always an easy task. Public schools are often overcrowded, and private schools can be extremely expensive. The alternative, then, is to either supplement your child's current curriculum or take complete control of their education and homeschool.

The plus side to these alternatives is that you're never out of the loop. Instead of waiting on report cards and progress reports to keep you updated, you have first-hand knowledge of which areas your child excels in and which areas still need work. Homeschooling and supplementation also offer you the ability to add additional elements to your child's curriculum (such as religious beliefs) that might not be taught in your child's current setting.

The problem, however, (besides the obvious issue of time) is creating your own lesson plans. Where do you start? What should you teach? How can you ensure your child is learning what they need to learn? And how much is this going to cost?

Fortunately, there are some wonderful resources that can help you develop a challenging and effective curriculum for your child without breaking the bank. Some are cheap while others are free, but all can be tailored to meet your child's individual needs, regardless of whether you're choosing to homeschool full-time or just looking for an additional afterschool educational boost. (See also: Home Education Curriculum on the Cheap)


Time4Learning is an online educational program that can be used both as a full-time homeschooling curriculum as well as an afterschool boost. The system features an interactive interface that covers all the basics — math, science, reading, and social studies — for Pre-K through 8th grade students.

The lessons are self-paced, and if your child isn't "getting it," the system will reword the question or present the problem in a different way to help your child learn. Students and parents have separate logins, so you can monitor your child's progress. There are also plenty of printable worksheets, lesson plans, and teaching guides to help parents ensure their children are mastering the material.

The cost is $19.95 per month for the first child and $14.95 for any additional children.

School Express

School Express offers thousands of free worksheets for a variety of subjects and age groups, as well as a "do-it-yourself" worksheet and quiz maker, educational games, and more.

If you subscribe to their mailing list, you'll also receive a free Thematic Unit each week that acts as an in-depth study program on a particular topic or concept. You can download a free sample thematic unit on bees.


I like simply because it gives you a good feel for how to get started managing your child's education. There are free planners for you to use as well other printables — flash cards, worksheets, lab sheets, etc. — and plenty of tips and ideas for making learning fun for your kids.

This site doesn't contain a full-service curriculum, but it will point you in the right direction and give you enough information to help you start making some decisions about what you want to teach and how.

Homeschooling A to Z

Homeschooling A to Z is another must-have resource. It includes actual lesson plans as well as a ton of other information you probably haven't yet considered but you'll definitely need. How to shop for materials on a budget, where to find support, and how to teach children with special needs are just a few of the topics you'll find here. You'll also find plenty of information on homeschooling laws and how to get started, should you decide to go that route. The best part is that it's all free.

I Love That Teaching Idea

I Love That Teaching Idea was originally designed for teachers. However, the content is free, and the ideas are amazing. Topics covered include everything from reading, writing, and math to art, field trip ideas, bulletin board decorations, and character-building skills.

And remember, these are ideas and tips from teachers...teachers who have mastered handled a classroom of twenty without breaking a sweat, so you can imagine the quality of content you're getting.


Crayola has some excellent free resources, including lessons plans, art techniques, and a certificate maker to help build your child's confidence.

But what I like best about this site is the creative approach used in all the lessons. There's the Book Report Bracelet project, for example, that teaches your child reading comprehension while making a paper charm bracelet that highlights the main points of the book. Help your children set goals and identify priorities with colorful dream clouds they make themselves.

And there's plenty for older kids too. The Aboriginal Art Decoding project allows your teens to dive into an ancient culture and use their sleuthing skills to figure out the meanings of the symbolism in their artwork, while Diversity Tiles teach them about the different cultural traditions and the importance of recognizing and embracing our diversity.

Visit Crayola, and click on "Educators" for the free lesson plans.

Of course, don't be afraid to get creative and venture out on your own. Sometimes, the best way to learn math, for example, is to pull out a bag of apples or a box of pencils so that your child can "see" the math taking place. Likewise, reading a comic book might hold your child's interest a little longer than a story out of the textbook, and you might discover that a nature walk is just as educational as studying pictures of leaves on the computer. The point is to think outside the box — supplementing your child's education doesn't have to be expensive to be effective, and now that you're in control, the world is your classroom.

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Meg Favreau's picture

If you do want to go the full-on homeschool route, one neat thing I've heard about is charter homeschools. My friend enrolled her daughter in one -- they provided the curriculum and materials (including a computer), and my friend did the actually teaching.

Guest's picture

Homeschooling my teenage sons is the smartest & saneist thing i am doing. The freedom to expand their educational foundation is wonderful. My kids are actually learning, not just memorizing to pass a test like they did in public school. The 1st half year was bumpy as i was trying to imitate the teaching styles of schools. I joined a homeschool group and learned a few tricks of the trade! Check with local schoolboards as they have TONS of free books & learning materal to give away from companys giveing them samples that they will not use. Also some larger churches have a homeschool library to check out materials. Some states even have grants for computers.

Guest's picture

I am on my 3rd child being home-schooled. It is the only way to go. I have to pay the taxes that everyone else does, but I don't care. My children all have much better educations. I don't say that egotistically. One-on-one just plain works better.

Guest's picture

Great idea. Here's a few to add to them.

1. Get them a library card from your local library AND your local college and university. The love of reading and learning with get them to go far.

2. Get them to think about finding WORK, never a JOB. How does it sound when I come to you and say "I'm looking for a job" versus "i'm looking for work." Big difference in how you think about making money.

3. Teach them to learn entrepreneurship. Nothing better than having your own destiny in your own hands.


Kate Luther's picture

I love those ideas Kevin and agree totally - we're regulars at our local library and I've got my oldest thinking in terms of creating his own future versus just finding a job somewhere. I definitely think that mindset is crucial in today's world and ultimately, that's the whole point of a good education, isn't it - to prepare them for the real world.

Great comment - thanks!


Guest's picture

I like using games and real life experiences to teach because it involves the body and mind in the learning process. Much of what I do is free because it is provided by life itself.

Guest's picture

If you have itty bitty kids, there's loads of handwriting and fine motor skill worksheets for the cost of paper and ink.

I live in a medium-sized town, and there's a lot of educational things to do if you look. Our library has free events throughout the week for all ages. We also have an environmental advocacy organization that has events for free or low cost for kids. Museums are also worth a look, too.

Don't forget physical activity! Both the area community college and the public school systems have physical activity classes for cheap. Considering physical education and recess have been slashed in most schools, it's definitely important to tack this on.