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Question: We have been homeschooling for a long time using [a structured, prepackaged curriculum], mainly by default, even though I would have liked to try to change the program. This year our finances are very bad and I cannot pay the tuition for my children ages 14 (grade 8) on down that we had in the past. It seems that this program was almost the only way of teaching I know (even though it became tedious). Our situation is so tight that I can barely afford to order any new workbooks even without enrolling in a program. This may be a blessing in disguise in that I will be "forced" to change my program and rely on my own know-how but I am not confident in this. Do you have any ideas on how I can homeschool the children without spending much money at all - specifically in the areas of Composition, Phonics, Spelling, Vocabulary, and English Grammar? Like how I can incorporate spelling and vocabulary into their program without having specific workbooks? Any information would be greatly appreciated as I am concerned as to how the year will go.

Dear Mom,

Before we begin let us take just a moment to pray. I understand how deeply financial concerns can figure into the choices we are forced to make when it comes to homeschooling. The truth of it is that nearly all families who homeschool are more than likely to be one income families. This presents a burden and a challenge that many times can be overwhelming to the point that we are unable to see beyond the burden to solutions.

Dear Lord, we ask that You surround this family with Your protection as they move through the challenge that is presented through financial concerns. Lord, please give them the peace that passes all human understanding as they work to provide not only the essentials for their dear children but purchase materials for homeschooling as well. Lord, guard and protect the father of this dear family as he carries a particular burden at this time. Allow that he be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit as he works to provide for his family. Please fill their lives with true joy and a sense that in the holiness of poverty there is strength. Give them opportunities to go forward. Bless them, Lord, with the gift of money sufficient to pay bills and meet expenses. St. Joseph, pray for us. Amen.

It is certainly possible to homeschool on a limited budget. One of your best resources is probably one that is already in your home. I have found that when we are in 'tight times' just clearing away clutter, sifting through books and homeschool materials, and organizing what I already have provides me with resources and materials that I may have overlooked. That would be my first suggestion. Look over everything you have squirreled away in the past years of homeschooling. You may be surprised to find that you have plenty. The next resource is the library. Here you are able to check out books, research websites from suggestions given in homeschool or school resources and gather information that is invaluable. At the library you can have access to recommended reading lists and requirements for grade levels that will help you look through your materials and put together a curriculum that will be workable. I have found a wealth of information on my state's Dept. of Education website that has helped me determine what is absolutely necessary for each grade level. Do not feel badly using your local discount store or teacher store for economical workbooks and materials. Remember that Jesus knows full well the challenges that you are facing. In the spirit of good stewardship (I am thinking of the Proverbs woman) pray to be led to opportunities and resources that will help you and your husband stay within the budget that is agreed upon.

I do not mind using secular resources in subjects such as spelling, math, and language arts however I insist that what little monies I may have for materials be spent upon truly Catholic Religion materials. That is my first priority and from there I add as I can afford. For example if you have determined that you can only buy religion books then that is where you are and to go beyond that limit is to ignore what the Lord has provided. However suppose after careful consideration and diligent money managing you find that you are able to buy a few spellers or language arts materials, then see if your budget would allow materials purchased from a truly Catholic curriculum provider. As we show the Lord that we able and ready to live within the limits He alone provides then we find that we are more resourceful (than we imagined) and that new opportunities open up. Make a wish list and work from this list to provide materials. Purchase only when you are financially able and when the purchase is necessary.

I see by your information that you have teens in your house. I know how difficult it is to be on a tight budget when teens are in the family. Their needs many times are more pressing than a small child's needs. Only those persons who have teens can understand what I am talking about. I can recall a time when one of the girls wanted a special haircut. We did not have the money for the beautician and I wasn't about to cut her hair. :) I explained that the haircut would have to wait until 2 paydays. She was disappointed but not visibly mad or disrespectful. She just really wanted her hair cut. I felt badly that I could not give her the money for the special haircut. I did not mention the haircut to my husband, because he is such a soft touch that he would have okayed it despite good prudence. For me it is far easier to tell a 4 year old that they can not have a toy that they see in Wal-Mart than it is to tell a teen that they can not have something such as this special haircut. My teens are lovely people (but normal teens) and sometimes their wants are very adult in that a haircut is more about how she wanted to look, her self esteem. That week we spent time together working through the deeper issues of her self esteem and the feelings of angst that teens sometimes suffer. It seems that some of the girls at our homeschool co-op were all getting this particular haircut and she just wanted to fit in. Big issues. $40 would have solved one issue but left the other wanting. God is good and He is always opening doors and clearing pathways for us to travel.

Remember that the best homeschool resource is you and your loving attention to the needs of your children. You are the Keeper of the Keys (a title of my favorite talk that I have given) and in that role it is your anointing from the Lord to uplift and guide. This is not to say that you are to feel like an overlooked and ill treated servant by your family. But your strength and your ability to go forward is the rudder for your family. Your husband looks to you and you in turn look to your husband. In that sacramental relationship the two of you are to go to the well spring of graces present from marriage and seek comfort and guidance. Once when we had a very unexpected car repair bill to pay we were at a loss to come up with the $378 that was necessary. I prayed and it came to me to have a yard sale. I wrote the amount that we needed on a slip of paper and placed it on our family altar. The yard sale was a success in that we made $400. God is good. It doesn't always work out that way but what is always constant is the truth that the Lord knows our challenges because they are allowed by Him alone. He will not leave us alone in a challenge and in fact works with us to overcome the difficulties. Our work in this is prayer. Pray, pray, pray. In prayer I have found a wealth (the Lord's peace in the face of trials) that is beyond the beyond. We are still in 'tight times' and probably always will be but Jesus is there with us and He will provide.

Keep your eyes open for opportunities, keep your heart open for inspirations, and keep your hands open to receive what the Lord sends. I admire you very much and believe you to be a real prayer warrior for your family. You are the Proverbs women and your docility of spirit is holy and powerful. The Lord is working in your life. Bring your dear family together and pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament after Mass. Pray each evening in front of your family altar. Pray for your husband. Ask for St. Joseph's help in this matter. Please pray for me and for my family. Your prayers are a precious gift.

Sending out a prayer,

Rita Munn

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