- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 28, 2000

Ever wish money was not an issue when it came to your home education program?
Many home-school families have given up living on two incomes so mom or dad can stay home with the children. Living on one income can be challenging when you are trying to pay the bills and save for the future. Add purchasing books and resources for your home-school, and your financial life can become very interesting.
Somehow our society has come to embrace the belief that it takes lots of money to achieve success. I have good news. Pinching pennies does not mean you cannot provide an excellent academic program for your child.
According to an independent study conducted in 1998 by Lawrence M. Rudner, director of the ERIC Clearinghouse on Assessment and Evaluation, the amount spent on educational materials has had no significant bearing on the scholastic achievement of most home-school students.
For example, the study showed that, on average, fourth-grade home-schooled students whose parents spent $199 or less on educational materials scored just 5 percentage points lower on their achievement tests than did students whose parents spent $600 or more on educational resources. When eighth-grade home-schooled students were compared using the same expense table, the gap narrowed to 3 percentage points.
So, how can you save money and still provide an excellent home-school program? Here are several tips and ideas that can help you give your child an outstanding education and at the same time keep money in your pocket.
A computer may be a large expense initially, but it can pay huge dividends. Parents can use it to prepare lesson plans, worksheets and tests and also locate worthwhile educational sites on the Internet.
The World Wide Web can provide everything from math, spelling and foreign-language practice to quizzes on history and geography. Many sites are in a game format, which can make learning a bit less painful.
New Web sites tailored specifically to home-schoolers are springing up all the time. These sites feature curriculum plans, new and used home-school materials and teaching aids.
I receive several weekly and monthly e-mail letters from home-school sites that provide teaching tips and tricks and also suggest educational Web sites that can be incorporated into our home education program.
If you don't have a computer, ask a friend or relative if he would be willing to let you and your child use his. Also, most larger libraries have Internet access that is available to patrons free of charge.
Speaking of the library, the public library is probably the best place a home-schooling family can save money. Books, videos, audiotapes, etc., all can be borrowed from your local library. If the library does not have a title you are seeking, that item often can be reserved through the interlibrary loan system.
If you plan to request books through interlibrary loan, keep two thoughts in mind. First, there may be a charge to borrow the book. Make sure to tell the librarian if you are willing to pay a fee before the book is requested. Second, finding a specific book may take time. I have received books as long as three months after I have requested them. If you are planning to use a particular book within a week or so, you may want to choose an alternative title or purchase the one you want from a bookstore or home-school supply store.
Keeping a pocket-size notebook of the books and materials you are interested in acquiring is also a good idea. When shopping at thrift stores, yard sales and book sales put on by libraries or home-school support groups, you will know exactly what you are looking for and avoid making an impulse or duplicate purchase.
I hate to admit it, but I have often purchased the same book twice because I didn't remember that we already owned a copy.
Let family members and friends know what you are seeking. That special something may be collecting dust in someone's attic and could be given to your child as a birthday or holiday gift.
The newspaper also is a wonderful place to find home-school resources. Watch for announcements for free or inexpensive lectures, classes or programs. Incorporate current-events articles and stories on science and technology into your child's daily reading schedule. Many of these articles can become a springboard to a more in-depth study in the future.
You also can construct spelling word lists from the articles your children read or practice math skills using the advertising supplement for the local grocery store.
I have lots more ideas I would love to share with you, but they will have to wait until another time. As always, if you have any questions or comments on what I write or on home-schooling in general, I am available through my e-mail address, listed below. I truly enjoy receiving your letters and look forward to hearing from you.
Kim Huber, a mother of four children, has been home-schooling for 16 years. She and her husband serve on the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania's board of directors. She can be reached by e-mail (CHAPKimH@aol.com).

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