Monday, May 28, 2012

Homeschooling with Google (and online resource list)

Back when my mom first began homeschooling me over 20 years ago, the choices for curriculum were much different. You either bought the same materials used in the schools (public or private), or you made your own from what you could find at the library and at garage sales.

Today, there is the internet—and oh, how that has changed the homeschool scenery! High speed information just a click away. With all of the resources of the internet, it really is doable to homeschool for free or nearly free if you choose to. However, what you save in cash you spend in time. Pioneering through the wilderness of cyber space is no easy task. You've got to know what you're looking for and where to look. So, here are a few tips that will have you well on your way to constructing your own Google curriculum.

Know What You Need

You'll never find what you need if you have no idea what that is. Google is close to miraculous, but the computer does not read your mind.

What I have found helpful is a unit study planner. Even if you are not necessarily taking the "unit study" approach, these planners are helpful for defining objectives and listing resources as you find them. You will need to know what you hope to study and some basic objectives. Brainstorm what you'd like to find: information, worksheets, maps, notebooking pages, library books, lesson plans, etc. Then, begin brainstorming some search phrases.

Know Where to Look

It may help, when you first begin to search, to go to particular websites rather that search the entire internet. Knowing specifically where to look can save you a lot of time, particularly if someone else has already done the searching for you. Squidoo, for instance, has a number of lenses (long posts) where the author has numerous links and valuable information on particular topics already gathered for you. (NOTE: You do not have to create an account to search the site.) Search Squidoo for your Ancient Egypt study, rather than the world-wide-web, and save yourself some time. Pinterest is another great place for searching other people's collections.

If you are in need of research information on a particular topic, begin with reputable sources. Not everything you find on the internet is reliable information, even if it comes from Wikipedia. The best information comes from either government websites, university websites, or "name brand" websites like National Geographic,, etc. In fact, many of these websites may have lesson plans to download and use on particular topics—another tremendous time-saver.

When you do get around to using a search engine, a good search phrase is the key. For instance, when I'm searching for graphics, "free clip art" brings up images that are royalty-free but still require a charge to download them. Instead, "public domain clip art" has been a much better search term. Though there are tips for creating a good search phrase, most often a good search just requires several tries. To help with this, brainstorm different ways of phrasing what you are looking for, at least until you get the hang of crafting the perfect phrase.

Know Where the Freebies Are

Sometimes, it just helps to be in the right place at the right time. Attend Facebook and Twitter parties for free giveaways; visit the sites that find the freebies for you (my most recent favorite is; sign up for notification emails for the products or subjects that you are interested in; join forums where other moms share about their latest finds.

This strategy is especially effective if you plan way ahead. For instance, I know that next summer I want to study plants and gardening with the kids. As I run across those free resources, I snatch them up and file them away for next spring/summer's study. I'm not spending hours at a time searching; I'm just keeping my eyes open.

Homeschooling does not have to break the bank. Before you decide you can't afford to educate your children at home, spend a little time on the web. I think you'll be surprised at how far your budget can go.

Need a little more inspiration, visit 10 Days of Homeschooling for Free and Frugal and read tips from a homeschool mom who has educated her kids for less than $100 a year for the last four years!

To get you started on your search, I've compiled a list of some helpful online resources. Feel free to add your own favorites in the comments section. Happy searching!

Tracy is a pastor's wife and homeschool mom of three. She herself was homeschooled from 1st grade to graduation and, after college, had the opportunity to write and edit for the Christian textbook publisher A Beka Book. Tracy loves a rainy day, a cup of coffee (lots of cream and sugar), and Rachmaninoff. She blogs at Growing In Grace.

Online Resource List

Worksheets and Worksheet Generators

Printable and Create-your-own Worksheets (all subjects/grade levels) 
More Printable Worksheets (all subjects/grade levels)

Lapbooking/Notebooking Resources

Homeschool Share
Notebooking Fairy
Practical Pages 
Notebooking Pages
Notebooking Nook


Free Animal Unit Study (scroll to bottom of page)
Free Unit Studies (history/social studies/science) (tons of free resources for every subject/grade, plus lesson planners and more) (free homeschool planner forms) (regular freebies on a variety of products)
Homeschool Buyers Co-op (deep discounts on tons of curriculum)

Look What We Did (link-up with lots of ideas from other homeschoolers)

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