prioritized shopping list; how to use library

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  • morgrace

    Please forgive me if this question has been answered elsewhere – I can’t seem to find it! And I really need some help please!

    I need to start my planning for next year (grade 1 boy, with preschooler who will be 4 and one baby) now and ultimately up with at the very least a Year overview and shopping list. The shopping list needs to be prioritized and ready by March when the garage sales and library book sales start up.

    I will not have the money to buy books new. My cheapest source are garage sales and library books sales, followed by the used book stores. I won’t have the time to plan this spring as it starts the busy season of my husband’s work (which I help with a bit) and I will have had a new baby this winter and my baby “brain fog” generally doesn’t lift until the baby is 4 months, so planning with clarity this spring is out. I will need to make the money I do have stretch and am blessed with a good library system and lovely librarian.)

    Here are my specific questions:

    1) I do know that that for me, I will need to buy a math currriculum. Based on my son’s learning style, the best fit would be Right Start or possibly Math-U-See. This will be the first thing I’ll put aside money for. But, after that…. what do the rest of you find most helpful to OWN instead of BORROW? Advice on separating needs from wants? I’ve never homeschooled before, so the true needs I don’t have a clear picture of yet.

    2) How can I BEST use my library without driving myself nuts with hold requests and getting books when I need them? I have already spoken with our librarian and she calls homeschoolers the “power users” and when I asked how other families use the library she told me that it really depends on each individual family and the number of children. So, any library usage tips?

    3) I could probably do SCM Module 1 without the guide for a little bit until I had the money for the guide book, but at what point in “history” should I try to have it? I hope that made sense.

    Thanks so very much! 


    Ok, here is my 2 cents.    I have very little homeschooling money, so this is what we did.

    For Math – we use MEP.  It is totally free except for your paper and ink, and is a fantastic program.  You may want to check it out to see if you think it will work out for you.  There is a yahoo group for MEP homeschoolers that is helpful.  Another good free math option, done on the computer, is Khan Academy.  It has videos on how to do things, and then it has an exercise path of problems you follow.  When you get 10 right in a row, it suggests another lesson.   We use it for a change now and then

    I got a Kindle for my birthday, and it is wonderful for an inexpensive homeschool!  We are doing Ambleside Online… modified… and so many of the books are available for free as an ebook!  It is definitely worth the money for the Kindle.  

    For Library use, our library has an Online website to do things like set holds and renew books.  I have a list of the books that I haven’t been able to get elsewhere, and I request them shortly before each term starts (for the term).  I can kind of tell ahead of time if there is likely to be a wait or not by the number of copies of the book and whether they are all checked out or not.  Occasionally a book hasn’t gotten in before I need it – I just hold off on it until we get it.  I can renew up to 5 times, for 3 weeks each – so that gives us about 18 weeks with a resource…. unless someone requests it on me.  Last year, someone kept requesting one of our books, so we would have it for 3 weeks, they would have it for 3 weeks… after a couple of times, I bought a copy of the book. LOL.    I have occasionally, once all my renews were gone, had to take the book back, and re-request it.  

    So for me – here is my list.

    Math – use MEP and/or Khan Academy – if you think it will fit your family.  Otherwise buy something

    Handwriting – I bought Peterson Directed Handwriting (the new pdf files – and we did the cursive first option.)  Best handwriting course I’ve ever seen, and inexpensive.   Has a totally different method from the “trace this letter” approach, which I am seeing good results with.

    Kindle – if a lot of the books you want are available in ebook… buy it!  Honest!

    Drawing – I really like the “Draw Write Now” series.   “Drawing with Children” is another great resource

    For Books in general – History “Spine Books” that are used over a long period of time are better to own than borrow.  For instance, if I personally saw “Great Canadian Lives” for sale cheap, I would buy it in an instance, as I plan to use it for about 4 years.  I do have a digital version, but it is a book with a lot of colour pictures, so it is one that is nice to have an actual book.  (Fortunately our library system has about 10 copies!)   And that brings me to the other recommendation – when books have nice colour illustrations (because the Kindle is B&W).  For instance, the copy of Pinnochio had beautiful full-page colour illustrations on every other page.

    I hope that helps!




    We buy all our books used, if we can. The only thing that’s new is MathUSee and any others I just can’t find online or at used book stores.

    I have loved Paperback Swap for finding many of our school books.

    I also check and for other resources. 

    We use the library so much, and I love it. I simply e-mail my librarian our books needs by term, and she always has then ready to go for me on the dates I need them. Sometimes we have to wait a few days if an inter-library loan book hasn’t arrived, but it never puts us behind. We just do something else until the book arrives, and no time is lost or wasted. 

    Because your dc are so little, you’re curriculum is going to be light and easy anyway. I had a Year 1 child and a PreK child last year, so I’ll tell you what we bought, what I got on Paperback Swap, and what I checked out from the library; and maybe that will be helpful to you as well.


    • Child’s Story Bible by Vos (new, Amazon)
    • Charlotte’s Web (used, garage sale)
    • 2 Pathway readers: Days Go By & More Days Go By (new, Rainbow Resource)
    • Storytime with the Millers (new, Rainbow Resource)
    • 1 CD of Beethoven and 1 CD of Gershwin (new, Amazon)
    • Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers: Mozart & Tchaikovsky (used, Amazon)
    • Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists: Monet & Degas (used, Amazon)
    • 2 Little Bear beginner readers (used, used book store)
    • Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (new, Best $22 ever spent, IMO)
    • Math U See Primer & Alpha (new)
    • Me on the Map (new)
    • Aliki (new)
    • 106 Days of Creation Studies (new, e-book)
    • Uncle Josh’s Outline Map Book (used, Amazon)
    • English for the Thoughtful Child, Vol. 1 (used,
    • Aesop’s Fables for Children (new, Amazon)
    • Handbook of Nature Study (new, Amazon; however, this book can be downloaded for free online)
    • A Child’s Garden of Verses (used, Once Upon a Child)

    Paperback Swap (which I did not start using until the end of our last school year/I found MANY of our books for this year at PBS, however.)

    • How Science Works
    • 1 Little Bear reader
    • Thy Friend, Obadiah
    • Leo, the Late Bloomer
    • Pagoo


    • Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Artists/Composers (for the artists/composers our library had)
    • CDs of Stravinsky, Chopin, Mozart
    • 12 Dick and Jane beginner readers
    • Trumpet of the Swan
    • Mr. Popper’s Penguins
    • Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
    • The World of Pooh
    • all books for the 6 artists we studied (Linnea in Monet’s Garden, Degas and the Dancers, etc.)
    • A Child’s Book of Character Building, Vol. 1
    • countless picture books, Eric Carle, Biscuit, etc.

    Anyway, I know that’s a lot, but it is possible to get what you need from many sources. Hope that helps!



    After I read over your questions again, I realized I didn’t answer them completely. Sorry about that. Innocent

    Your first question was regarding owning vs. borrowing. Ideally, I would LOVE to own all our school books. Unfortunately, this isn’t feasible because of budget and space. I do not live in a high-density homeschooling area, so borrowing books from friends is pretty much a no-go as well. The way I decide which books to buy and which ones to borrow from the library is based upon how long we will use the resource, how expensive it is on the market, the availability at the library, and if I believe it is a resource my children might want to read again at some point. For example, I tried to borrow Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study from the library. My library didn’t have it, and it was impossible for them to obtain through inter-library loan (ILL). I knew it was a resource we would use from K-12, so I bought it new on Amazon for $18. Not a bad investment at all. 

    There are other books that I know we will need longer than the six-week checkout time allowed by my library. I must buy those as well, because once you pay late fees, you’re practically buying part of a book anyway. Tongue out For books that I know the children will want to read over and over, I try to purchase as many as I can. Books that aren’t read repeatedly, like The World’s Greatest Artists/Composers, are borrowed. I learned those books were easier borrowed than bought. 

    Currently, we are reading as many of Arthur Scott Bailey’s The Tale of … books. Those are pretty expensive to buy, first because they are rare books and second because we trying to read 10 or more this school year. My library is obtaining whichever ones they can through ILL. Even my library is having trouble finding them!

    Your second question about using your library without driving yourself nuts… I’ve said it on this forum before, and I’ll say it again: Make friends with your librarian and the library will never drive you nuts. Our librarians know our entire family by first name. When I walk in, one of them immediately goes to the back for whatever stack of books is already on hold for me. They keep up with our term dates so that we have the resources we need as on time as possible. Become friends with your librarians! Ask them how willing they are to help homeschool families. Ask them if you can e-mail them a list of resources for them to pull and hold for you so you don’t waste time searching for the books you need, only to find your library doesn’t have them. I e-mail my librarian at least weekly, sometimes more. Take your library cookies or muffins. Spoil them and let them know how much you appreciate them, and they’ll spoil you. Kiss

    Pertaining to your third question about the history modules… We are in Module 1 right now. You can download a sample of Module 1 from this site, but I’m not sure to what lesson it goes. For the first few lessons, all you need is a Bible. We are only on Lesson 27, but so far, I have used Then & Now Bible Maps (I purchased the pamphlet, not the book), Child’s Story Bible, and Oxford First Ancient History. I ordered Boy of the Pyramids through PBS, purchased the Exodus and Numbers Commentaries for Children from Amazon, checked out Pyramid by David Macaulay from the library, and somehow, my hubby miraculously obtained a copy of OFAH as it was going out of print.

    There. Now I hope I have helped a little more than my first response. I guess I need to start reading the entire question and not just the bullet point!




    I usually buy books if our library does not carry them, and at the risk of sounding like a broken record…I have had great luck purchasing used books from I bought most of our history and science books from them – most were under $4, including shipping. (I purchase 1 term at a time) You can also check for text books. Our oldest daughter is taking Spanish at a high school co-op, and we found both of her Abeka texts for less than 1/2 of what just one book would have been new.

    I second the idea of getting to know and being friendly to your librarians!! 🙂  Good luck!


    Our librarian knows me by name as well (and actually both of my kids since birth, and she’ll know the new one too). I love books and have always used the library a lot for myself. We took her a small Christmas gift as a thank you last year – funny to be on the right track and not realize it! I’ll work at maintaining the relationship. Grouping the library books needed by term and emailing the list are an excellent ideas, exactly the sort of tips I was looking for. I can check out books for 3 weeks and I think with renewals I can have them out for around 8-9 weeks total, so I may have to plan my library list a bit more carefully. I thought requests and renewals might be make me nutty since seasonal and holiday picture books seem to be a hard to get when we’d like them. This may not end up being the case with science and history huh?

    I have a paperbackswap account (great fun – although I’m trying to save my credits for homeschool and not use them at the moment) I will check out abebooks and the Kindle. I’ve never thought about a Kindle to save money. I’ll download the SCM module 1 sample and maybe I can get a feel for when I’d really need it by looking more carefully at the table of contents and how it would fit our terms.

    Thank you suzukimom and Lindsey for lists of which books you bought, borrowed, or substituted. Lindsey, you answered my question on owing books vs. borrowing books completely. THANK YOU! Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions so throughly. Whew! I am off to do some planning and feeling much better about next year being easier than I thought, even with a tighter budget than I wanted.


    Mrs C, thanks for the link to abebooks.  I had heard of them, but I don’t recall visiting the site before.  Wow, they have a whole lot of good deals on books for our curriculum.  Terrific!



    You might want to ask grandparents to give some of the school books as gifts. My mom likes it when I give her a book list for the kids – and I always remind her that I prefer second-hand books. The used books are easier on the budget and are also a good way to re-use/recycle items.

    Even if your library is used heavily by homeschoolers, that doesn’t mean they will be checking out the same books that you want. I find that the “living books” aren’t necessarily the most popular books in the library. Many homeschoolers are checking out the “Captain Underpants” type of books. 🙂

    My local library has a very generous renewal system and I can often keep books for months on end. I use the online system to research and reserve the books from home. The trick is, imo, to keep track of what you have checked out and return the books on time. Fines add up quickly if you use the library a lot (don’t ask me how I know this!).

    I find the library a great source of non-fiction books for the early years. There are many, many books available about science, history, etc. The nice thing about the library is that you can go in person and browse the books to make sure they are appropriate – sometimes it’s hard to do that with online purchases. And, in the early years, you’ll want to focus on nature studies in your local area, and that is very easy on the budget – just get outside. You can also visit local parks, nature centers, historical sites, etc. that are usually free or low-cost.

    I give you encouragement – it’s entirely possible to homeschool on a tight budget (I’ve done it myself!). Best wishes to you as you plan the upcoming year. (I’m impressed that you are so organized!)

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