Do you get what you pay for when it comes to homeschooling programs? There’s such a huge difference in costs between different programs that lots of families want to know if money equals quality in a homeschool curriculum.
There aren’t easy answers to this question. Great programs can be completely free or very cheap. However, there are also a lot of scams. Some types of classes and materials are expensive to provide and there’s no way around that. Below is some of our guidelines for thinking about whether or not a resource is too good to be true.
Free can be great.
Free resources abound and you shouldn’t dismiss them. Nonprofits and universities often help fund great educational products because their mission is to further education. Corporations sometimes sponsor such efforts as well to help themselves look good. That’s how large scale projects like the Crash Course videos or Khan Academy can provide such quality content. Some great free curricula is provided by universities. The CK-12 foundation, which makes textbooks, or the MEP Math program are both sponsored in part by academics. Other times, individuals provide materials because they simply feel driven to help the world with great, free stuff.
But be careful about “vintage” content.
On the other hand, programs based entirely around free, out of copyright works don’t tend to be everything they’re cracked up to be. There are a few amazing vintage textbooks out there. However, many of the homeschool materials that only use the oldest books are stuck in the past, and not in a good way. Many of these free texts or novels have incorrect information or biases against minorities or women. Also, for every amazing resource created by a dedicated homeschooler, there are several that aren’t that great. Lots of free and cheap resources require you to do the legwork by creating the questions and schedule.
If it sounds too good to be true…
There’s now a huge proliferation of online-based cheap homeschool curricula. Many of these programs promise a full curriculum, with support, for as little as a few dollars a month or even just $30 a year. Some of these programs have good resources, but none of them are all they claim to be. Most of them are a bunch of videos and assignments thrown up onto a website. Some of them have responsive software. This is software that automatically corrects students’ answers on quizzes or assignments. It can be great for some subjects, like math, or for test prep. However, it’s not a very dynamic approach. It’s bare bones. If you decide to use one of these programs, go into it with open eyes. You won’t be getting the quality instruction you get with a more expensive program. If you want a dynamic, learning rich homeschool, then you will need to do a lot of supplementing.
Some things just cost money.
Physical books cost money. Quality lab supplies cost money. Products that include lots of questions, schedules, example assignments, and more take authors time and effort to put together. First and foremost, actual instruction and feedback takes time. Students need feedback and actual interaction for some subjects, like foreign language or writing. If you see a writing class for very little money, chances are there won’t be much interaction or the feedback will be nothing but a grade. It takes time to go through a student’s essay and show them what they’re doing well and what needs improvement.
You can spend time or money.
Have you heard the adage that you can spend time or money? It’s often true. Getting quality feedback for your student’s writing or finding a program that’s rich in content and laid out for you to use can cost a lot sometimes. On the other hand, if you are willing to dive in and do it yourself, then you can save money that way. It’s also true that the more you put into your children’s education, the more they’ll get out of it. The cheapest experiences can be the best, if you’re involved.