Used curriculum sales: 7 ways to homeschool on a budget

Homeschool families tend to have a reputation for being frugal, and for good reason: many of us make financial sacrifices of some sort or another to educate our children at home.

As a result, used…

Homeschool families tend to have a reputation for being frugal, and for good reason: many of us make financial sacrifices of some sort or another to educate our children at home.

As a result, used curriculum sales can provide an excellent way for parents to stretch their educational dollars, support other homeschoolers and build community – all at the same time!

One such sale is the Midwest Parent Educators (MPE) Used Curriculum Sale scheduled for June 2 at Journey Bible Church in Olathe, Kansas. 

Whether you attend this sale or another, here are seven ways to get the most out of the experience:

1) Do some pricing research beforehand.

Both buyers and sellers can benefit by checking out the market rate for used curriculum ahead of time, then setting their prices accordingly.

If you’re planning to sell curriculum, setting your rates ahead of time can help you bargain more effectively with your buyers. You also may want to consider adding a half-price discount as the sale begins to wind down.

If you’re planning to buy a curriculum, make sure that you’re really getting a deal instead of buying items piecemeal and then fitting them all together in a not-so-frugal bundle later.

2) Keep some extra margin for unexpected purchases.

First-time attendees to the sale often express surprise at the range of items available. Sellers bring not only books, but also school and office supplies, teacher resources, math manipulatives and educational games or crafts.

Think of it as your trial run for “back-to-school shopping” at extra-low prices.

(Bonus tip: For those new to homeschooling in the KC area, come to MPE’s free “How to Homeschool” workshop an hour before the sale. You’ll receive first-hand advice about how to choose curricula, organize your homeschool day and meet all legal requirements.)

3) Know the ins and outs of copyright law.

Expect to see a lot of books, not workbooks, at the sale. Many homeschoolers can save money and still respect copyright law by buying non-consumable textbooks secondhand, but then purchasing consumable worksheets separately for each child.

(This excellent Homeschool World article provides an in-depth exploration of copyright issues that homeschool families should know.)

4) If your children are old enough, consider bringing them with you.

Many sale veterans have great stories of bringing their older children along and having them help choose next year’s curriculum. By giving children more ownership over homeschool purchases, parents can help their children understand important concepts like budgeting, market research and price comparisons.

Younger children also can receive a small portion of discretionary money to pick out toys, educational games, board books or any other items that catch their eye.

5) Pack appropriately.

Depending on how much you purchase, you may want to plan for something big enough to cart everything around easily. Some buyers make do with backpacks, but other parents recommend rolling suitcases and other luggage options to make it easier on your back and shoulders.

As always, bring comfortable shoes since you may be adding a lot of steps and exercise into your evening.

6) Reserve some time for the “freebies table.”

Some used curriculum sales, like MPE’s, include a table or space where sellers can place free items for anyone to take.

These may include items that their children have outgrown but still have many hours of educational enjoyment left for another family, such as magnetic letter tiles, flash cards and other educational items.

7) Throw in a boxed-meal dinner option and save on meal planning!

All right, maybe this benefit isn’t technically related to curriculum. However, this year MPE is introducing something different – a meal while you shop!

The church’s Kindness Kitchen received local media publicity after it started providing hot meals for families who struggled financially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chefs Greg and Mary Reynolds, who are retired homeschool parents, will use their culinary talents to provide attendees with a discounted boxed-meal dinner option at $4.50 per person.

Each meal will be made from scratch and will have two flour beef enchiladas, rice and beans. MPE requests that those interested order meals in advance on its website.