Monday, 21 September 2015

Frugal Apartment 2e Homeschooling



There are many ways we have changed our lifestyle in order to be able to homeschool our children. Adjusting to the reality of a one-income family involved rethinking many of our assumptions about what we needed and what we could do without. It's an ongoing process as our needs have changed over time. Some of our decisions have been lifestyle based, and some have been more focused on how we create an environment that is conductive to learning. So today I'd like to step through some of the things we do to try and keep us on the correct side of the ledger.

Saving is King


Frugal thinking and living is something I learned from an early age. But when we started homeschooling, we had to decide what we could do without. Some of these things include:

  • A Car. We live on the edge of the inner city, and Melbourne has excellent public transport. For us, a car was an unnecessary extra expense. Of course, we picked our location based on access to public transport and as a result, we live in an apartment rather than the more usual family home. 
  • Eating Out. Though Melbourne is renowned for it's restaurant scene, using this at all is an expense we can rarely afford. So when we go on excursions, I pack snacks, lunch and water. We also cook all our dinners at home. We do occasionally prepare dinner and then take it out to parks on a nice summer evening, and we've even set up our dinner table to make it look restaurant-like when the kids wanted to play 'restaurant'. 
  • Pre-Prepared Meals. We only buy an extremely small amount of pre-prepared food (i.e. fish-fingers and bread is about it!). Everything else we cook from scratch. My DH and I have got our dinner prep down to between 20-40 mins depending on the dinner. And we have found that all the short-cuts that cost a bit more really don't cut down the amount of time needed for preparation as much as we had initially assumed.
  • Sticking to One Supermarket. Looking out for the sales, and never sticking to one supermarket or shop is one way we save money. If we're looking for spices, we know to go to the Indian grocer, and for Japanese, Thai or Chinese food prep, we go to one of the many specialty Asian grocers. They will be many orders of magnitude cheaper than the supermarket stock - and they're usually in bulk amounts too.
  • Buying New Things. When we want or need big-ticket items, or indeed anything, we usually ask ourselves, 'do we need it?', 'can we repair it?', or 'can we make it ourselves'? We did this with our washing machine (to comic effect), and when our lounge finally died, we pulled it apart and remade it. The best thing about making our own things? It becomes a learning experience for the kids - making things ourselves is a great way to learn new skills and discover how things work.
  • Having Lots of Space. One of the compromises of living close to everything is having less space. But we have found innovative ways of doubling the uses of various spaces around the house - many of them simple, such as fold-away furniture, some of them DIY, like adding hooks, but much of what helps is just having less of everything - a hard thing for this hoarder. We have no dedicated space for homeschooling, instead we range all over the house, and even out into our outdoor common space, where we are creating an edible garden. This site is a great place to find simple ideas for living in small spaces (and yes, there are many pretty pictures - it's a time vortex).


Using Free Resources

When looking for homeschooling resources, we usually first check to see if there is something suitable for free. A few of our finds include:

  • Kahn Academy. For K-12 maths, Kahn Academy is a great resource. My boy, C, is a visual-spatial learner and prefers videos to workbooks, so Kahn's setup is perfect. That there are prepared exercises for maths and computing is a welcome bonus.
  • Coursera / Udacity / MOOCs. There are many great free lectures and lecture-course out there, many by top universities. We have used these mainly for science lessons, and though the levels may occasionally be above what even C is capable of at the moment, the right lecture can be a lot of fun.
  • Eventbrite. Many universities, and other organisations such as maths and engineering societies have free lectures on a regular basis. Eventbrite brings all those lectures into one website and makes it easy to search and find talks that interest the kids. 
  • Galleries. Living near the CBD means being able to go to lots of places that are usually thought of as rare excursions. Our local gallery, the NGV, has a great garden and kids space, the staff are kid friendly and it's free.  
  • Libraries. At this point in time, we have membership to three different council library systems(!) 
  • Free Streaming. SBS on Demand is one of our favourite resources for great STEM and history documentaries. And ABC iView is one of our go-to resources. Their education page and ABC Splash are both great starting places for finding out the basics in a kid-friendly format.  
  • Youtube. There are many great channels out there - Veritasium is one of our favourites. Other Great ones include: VSauce, minute physics, and ViHart.
  • TedEd. This is a great kid-friendly animated version of Ted talks that the kids really love. 
  • Nottingham University. They have such great video series in such a cool format. Their Periodic Videos gets a lot of air-play here. And their 60 Symbols site is a great resource for physics.
  • Maker Websites. There are some great websites out there for inspiring and helping with making. Instructables is one we have used often. Another which we love is Tested (which recently did some great science-based posts on systems on the ISS). Another one that is occasionally silly but fun is Geek and Sundry, particularly Craft Lab


Picking Where We Spend

One of the advantages of saving money is that we are able to then use those savings in other areas. Some of these include:

  • Medical Expenses. With two 2e children, there are a lot of ongoing medical expenses. Over time, we have had to limit therapy to once a week for each child. This involves juggling what therapy will be our current focus, and doing our best with home-based therapy for the other conditions because honestly, there is never going to be enough time or money to do ALL the therapy our many specialists recommend. One way we have been able to help with these expenses is to make therapy devices whenever possible. Our most recent? A weighted lap-blanket
    Weighted lap blanket made with left-over cotton fabric, poly-fill and poly-pellets.
  • Museum Membership. This means we never have to do a 'whole day at once', but can do a few hours on a regular basis, which is often a lot better for my two who can get sensory overloaded with long excursions. It also allows us time to really concentrate on one area so the kids can really explore it without pressure to 'see everything now'.
  • Homeschool Discounts. Local homeschool organisations often negotiate bulk discounts for curriculum resources. Our local one, HEN, offers quite a few and we signed up for Rosetta Stone at a considerably large discount.
  • Humble Bundle. It's a great way to get educational materials, e-books and games at a considerable discount.
  • Maths Extension. C loves maths, and having someone to talk to about maths things that isn't Mum or Dad has been great. We have used a number of different resources for this - Mr Gelston is worth every penny. And we're also involved in using resources from the Australian Mathematics Trust, which though pricey, are worth it for their focus on non K-12 maths and problem solving.

For us, homeschooling within constraints have created opportunities that we would never have considered if we had been able to easily purchase what we needed. 

What are some of your strategies or resources that have helped?





This post is part of the GHF Blog hop, "Parenting Gifted/2e Kids on a Shoestring". There are some great resources and strategies here for homeschooling on a budget - check them out!

4 comments:

  1. Your DIY approach to family life, education, and therapy inspires me. Thanks for sharing; it's helpful to have a list of so many areas to make more economical choices.

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  2. Kathleen. This post is full of great suggestions and practical ideas. Thanks!

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  3. I don't know if my last one went through... but wanted to say I love making food from scratch. Healthier too! Thanks for the links. Will peruse them now.

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  4. What a great post Kathleen - so many great resources and wise, environmentally responsible, healthy and economical ways of living!

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