We’ve nearly reached the end of the school year! Many of us will be (or already are) taking some sort of a summer break (including this Mama!). And it’s early on (sometimes even before our break begins) that I start searching for and purchasing next year’s curriculum. In this two-part series I’m compiling a list of tips and resources for purchasing, borrowing, or even finding free curriculum/books/resources!
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Ahhh, books. Anyone else relate? And for me, having children has only made the “bug” worse. Fortunately there are a vast amount of both free and affordable resources out there. (In this first post I’m focusing on purchasing curriculum/books; the second post will give links to a vast amount of completely free resources.) So whether you’re looking for a new novel or trying to find a specific, elementary academic textbook, here are some ideas, tips, and sites for finding great deals. 🙂
When to Order
It probably goes without saying, but if you know what you want before you start shopping, you can save yourself a lot of money. I often do my research on the specific curriculum I want months before I actually start shopping. I make my list, then familiarize myself on what the typical “going price” is for each book/item so that I can objectively compare prices and know whether I’m really getting a good deal. I note this price next to each item.
Then I start looking early, searching for one item at a time. This way I have time to find things, compare prices, make bids (on ebay for instance), etc. (If I visit my favorite sites and can’t find what I’m looking for, I have to time to wait a month or two and come back to look again.)
What to Order
Should you buy the item new or used? Sometimes you’ll be better off buying the item new, and other times it really doesn’t matter if it’s used. As a general rule of thumb, I would categorize it this way:
Best things to buy used:
Living books, classics, other novels and miscellaneous books
Best things to buy new:
Games (educational board games, logic puzzles, etc.)
If you purchase used consumable workbooks, they may be partially used. This isn’t always the case and I have been able to buy “used” consumable workbooks that had never been written in, or perhaps only had a handful of lessons completed. Check descriptions carefully and when in doubt ask the seller, if possible. When purchasing used media (DVDs, etc.) it’s hard to tell what shape it may be in. Even slight scratches on the discs may cause problems. I ordered a used set of history CDs last year, and while most of them played well, several lessons had to be skipped because the discs were scratched.
A tip for using consumable workbooks: tear the pages out and slip them into plastic sheet protectors; keep these in a 3-ring binder. Now they can be used repeatedly with an unlimited number of children by using dry erase markers and an erasor. Alternatively, take a sheet protector, cut a slit down the side and slip it over a new page each day. If you feel you need documentation that your child completed the workbook, simply snap a photo of each page before it is erased and keep these pictures in a file on your phone or computer. Now you will never need to buy more than one workbook, regardless of the number of children who will use it! Even if you only have one child, you will be able to resell the book in “like new” condition when you are finished with it (provided you use the second option of slipping a protector over the page each day rather than tearing the pages out).
Before you finalize your list, see if any of the books you need could be borrowed or found for free online (I’ll list resources that can be checked for this in Part 2).
Where to Order
When you have your list, you know what each item costs new, and you’ve decided what things you can buy used and what you want to purchase new, it’s time to start comparing prices! If you’re looking for…
…New and/or used:
Amazon and Ebay. I’ve been able to find some really good deals on both these sites. (And of course another reason I like to start shopping early is because I may or may not win bids I place on items on ebay. I don’t want to shop two weeks before I need the curriculum, lose the bid, and then not have the book or resource when it’s time to start school. This way if I lose I still have time to find it later or somewhere else.)
Homeschool conferences. The conference I attended in Wichita last year included a number of vendors selling used curriculum as well as new. I was able to find some unusually good deals.
While there may be a few new items here and there, most of the items purchased from these sources will be used.
Local homeschool swap n’ sales. Many local homeschool groups will hold these once a year. Many of these used items are greatly marked down; some are often even free.
Library book sales. Two weeks ago I purchased almost $300 worth of health and medical textbooks in like new condition (original prices still marked on them)…for $3.50. A few days later I visited another library’s book sale and came away with a whole box of books for $3.30. It pays to stop and take a look.
Facebook groups. There are a number of pages on which to buy or sell used curriculum and books. Homeschool Curriculum Sale or Trade is my favorite. With over 6,600 members, there’s plenty of good pickin’s here. I’ve found some awesome deals and been able to save a lot of money. Homeschool Curriculum Marketplace is another site with over 11,000 members.
Used Curriculum Websites. Homeschool Classifieds: this site won’t win the prize for clearest design and friendliest user experience, but they’re still worth checking out as they have a lot of good deals. Homeschool Trader: this site doesn’t have the same number of offerings as Homeschool Classifieds, but it has a much friendlier user interface. Homeschool Books for Less: to shop on this site, choose a grade, then a subject, then a publisher; what is available will then be shown to you.
Used book sites (these will not necessarily carry many textbooks—though they’ll have some; but for filling in with classics, novels, living books, etc., these are great places to shop). Thriftbooks is probably one of my favorites. The prices are amazing (many books are under $4!), plus a purchase of $10 or more will snag you free shipping. AbeBooks and Goodwill Books are two more good sites. Better World Books carries an array of new and used books–with free shipping!
Book Finder. This site simply helps you find the book you want at the best price—new or used—by searching a number of different sites for you. Save yourself some time!
What if you don’t have extra cash on hand but do happen to have some old paperbacks you don’t want? You can trade them for books you do want on Paperback Swap! Swap your book out for your choice of over 1,600,000 books.
Finally, when I have crossed everything off my list that I can possibly buy used (or new at a bargain price), I shop for my remaining educational “ingredients” at Christian Book Distributors and/or Rainbow Resource. The latter usually offers the most competitive prices, free shipping with orders over $49, and the largest collection of curriculum to be found anywhere (over 40,000 homeschooling and educational products!). For (new) purchases they have been my go-to over the past few years.
…And if you can’t make up your mind:
So what if you’re not sure you actually want to invest in a certain curriculum or textbook because you don’t know if you’ll like it or if it will be a good fit for your kids?
Have no fear, Yellow House Book Rental is here! Yes, this actually gives you the option of renting the curriculum for a semester or a year, for perhaps half the cost of purchasing it new.
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I have used many—though not all—of these sites in my own shopping. Over time they have saved me hundreds of dollars on books and various curricula (each year I add up the cost of the books new, and then compare it to the total I actually paid for them).
So if you’re planning out next year’s curriculum, or just have an abibliophobia and happen to be on a budget 😉 , you might check some of these websites out. Have fun!