So last spring my internet friend Saponaria at Worts & All was complaining (off the blog) about the activities that counted as “inexpensive” among her fellow local homeschoolers. She concluded, “If I am going to spend hundreds of dollars a month for fun homeschool things I might as well send them to school!”

I’ve been meaning, since that time, to post here my Saponaria-inspired list of truly inexpensive homeschooling activities:

Nature walks at the places that don’t charge admission. For us that’s one national park, a Nature Conservancy preserve, the downtown riverwalks, and assorted random patches of woods in the neigbhorhood. Our local state forest charges for parking but not pedestrian admission – if you live within walking distance it is free as well. Farther afield, some of our state park attractions are free (many are not), and there is a ton of hiking on state and federal lands that can be started from free parking areas along the sides of the roads.

Getting a membership to *one* local visiting-institution a year (zoo, art museum, historic foundation, aquarium, etc.), rather than having an annual pass to every attraction under the sun. Visit that particular attraction frequently during the Year of the Pass, and then focus on some other thing the next year. This is doubly inexpensive if you persuade a loving relative to give you the membership for Christmas. –> But, in my experience, even at member-rates the classes are expensive. So skip those. But, do go to the free special members-only after-hours events.

Going to the free local museums, and free-admission days at the places that usually charge. There are a lot of great little museums that are under-visited, and either charge nothing at all, or ask for the donation of your choice. When you’ve got children along, do you really need 320 hours of museum-visiting-pleasure under one roof?  Small places can be just the thing.

Going to free history events – such as battle re-enactments, SCA demonstrations, holiday-related special events at the local free museums, etc.

Going to the free library-sponsored programs. I don’t know how many story times, craft hours, astronomy nights and so forth we haven’t gone to because we just don’t have that much free time.

Attending free concerts. We tend to get them from the local churches — especially at the holidays, though a few churches run series throughout the year. Also they come as part of community-building events – things called ‘fun fest’ or ‘youth day’ or ‘<insert locally-made product here> celebration’.

Being in the right place at the right time, like when we got to watch the test-release of the dam’s spillway, or happened to be on the beach when the city was doing beach-renourishment. Company tours are a good one in this category, either the official ones (my favorite was Celestial Seasonings), the part-of-the-experience ones (my operations-management professor made us all go visit Krispy Kreme to see a production line in action), or the my-friend-is-showing-me-his-office ones.

Doing your own arts and crafts out of items taken from the recycle bin. Persuading grandparents to give duct and masking tape at birthdays and christmas makes it double-cheap.

Joining a children’s choir (a free one) for music training and performance practice. Likewise, being in the church Christmas pageant.  Lucky us, over the past couple years our churches have actually run free fine arts programs (one – theater, the other – instrumental music lessons). Another way to get inexpensive lessons is via barter. A friend trades carpooling for piano lessons.

Buy your own soccer ball, and invite your friends to come over and play.

Plant a garden from seeds and cuttings from your friends’ gardens, with homemade compost.

Learn a craft like knitting via library books, and one pair of knitting needles and a ball of clearance yarn. Give children a supply of thread (the little spools!) and needles and a rag bin, and let them sew whatever they want.

Give children one or two woodworking tools per birthday, and help them salvage scrap lumber.

Go to the playground.

Have a picnic someplace. Front yard is nice.

As I told S. after she inspired this list, the more I think about it, I wonder why we spend money at all.


Speaking of free . . . last week at Riparians I reviewed a handful of library books. Could have as easily gone here, except that I needed a history post for over there. Three good childrens’ books that would be helpful if you are studying the [American] revolutionary war. If you are looking for such a list, go take a look.

Sometime Friday, by the way, I’ll be putting up my review of The Fathers on that blog as well. Still have two more chapters to read between now and then, but here’s the preview: It’s good. Buy it.