Logo Homeschool World ® Official Web Site of Practical Homeschooling Magazine Practical Homeschooling Magazine
Practical Homeschooling® :

$0.99 Feather Duster or $90 Warbonnet?

By Jessica Hulcy
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #28, 1999.

Pin It

Jessica Hulcy


Years ago when I was doing the KONOS Attentiveness Unit with my sons who are now in college, I was co-oping with my friend Margaret. The unit focused on Indians, who were attentive to every overturned twig and leaf for their survival. As we studied the Indians, we practiced being attentive to the many distinctive elements of each tribe. Margaret and I wanted the children to make Indian headresses for one of their crafts. Being an artist, Margaret and her son dove into the headress project, creating an authentic warbonnet for $90. My budget was somewhat limited, so my son, Jordan, fashioned an Indian gustoweah from a plastic milk carton and a 99¢ feather duster! This incident underscores the incredible financial flexibility of homeschooling. Families can choose according to their means, either a 99¢ feather duster or a $90 warbonnet.

Shoestring Teaching

I am often asked the question of how to homeschool on a shoestring, and at the risk of sounding like a commercial, my answer is always the same. Buy a KONOS volume (or your choice of any other unit-study program) to use with all your elementary children as well as individual math programs for each child and then... sign up all your children for library cards, so you can check out piles of books on literature, science, history, art, music, etc. The library provides free textbooks for all your children... if you return the books on time. My librarians have even accused me of having another child just to gain another library card! My company has a saying, "KONOS uses the whole library for our textbooks, and the whole world for our curriculum." This is more than an advertisement slogan. It is the way we who use unit studies feel about homeschooling. Using the library is not only a fiscally sound proposition, but the bonus is that it trains children to be resourceful researchers and readers of many sources. These bonuses are missed when textbooks are simply handed to students.

If You Have a Computer, Join the Internet

Today the Internet provides endless dimention and access to resources that far exceed textbooks and even libraries. For high-schoolers, it is an excellent, extremely cost-effective tool for research for older students if a family already has a computer. Yet I caution its exclusive use over books for young children in particular. Books off the Internet do not provide the cozy, intimate relationship that hardback books provide. No parent's voice reading the story, no cuddling on the couch, no turning the pages, no illustrations, no dialoguing between parent and child about what is going to happen next... in short, no intimate, personal relationship being developed as a bonus to reading real books.

Free Field Trips

Field trips are a terrific way to build family relationships and take advantage of free or inexpensive education. In my poorer years, I scoured the newspaper weekly to learn of free museum exhibits, concerts, or other special events in the metroplex. Next to the Lord as a resource, the local newspaper and Yellow Pages are invaluable for locating related excursions. How incredible God has been to provide the hot air balloon festival as well as a pilot friend to take our children up in his private plane just when we were studying flight and flying in our Trust Unit. Or a once-in-a-lifetime China exhibit featuring Chinese craftsmen doing their crafts in our own city at the very time we were studying China. From the free summer Shakespeare Festival to the Benehana restaurant promotion which featured Japanese warriors fighting, to the Farmers Market, to a nature trail walk, to the Monet exhibit, to a zoo visit... free field trips have enriched my children's education. The bonus to free field trips is that our children learn wherever they are and truly do use the whole world as their curriculum!

Deluxe Homeschooling

If money is no object, the first thing I do is buy real books for my personal library. I actually started my own library long before I had extra money. Many years ago I was doing an all-day seminar. Six o'clock found me collapsed in an easy chair at a friend's home listening to the sounds of dinner preparations. Beside my chair I noticed a box full of print books I referenced in KONOS. When I asked my friend where she got the books, she replied with a teasing tone, "So you like those, do you? Follow me to the garage." There, to my astonishment, were box after box of used books... 5,000 books, to be exact. Beverly had been collecting free used books from public schools that had closed. As she gathered classics, Newbery Award winners, books from our KONOS list as well as other lists, Beverly began to collect not only for herself, but for others; however, since the Oklahoma economy was so depressed, the only buyer she could find was Half-Priced Books, willing to pay only a penny a pound! That night I began my personal library by buying 5,000 children's books. Though I sold the bulk of them to homeschoolers in Dallas, I pulled several hundred books before offering them to anyone else. So began the acquisition of my treasures, which now fill a floor-to-ceiling library.

Hire Tutors and Specialty Teachers

I have hired tutors from the local public schools, seminaries, and colleges for subjects that I lacked expertise in, such as Spanish, calculus, chemistry, and physics as well as specialty teachers for subjects such as piano, violin, ballet, and advanced art. Tutors are more expensive than classes, yet they come to your home instead of you driving to their home. Further, even though I do not feel competent teaching a particular subject, I still have firm ideas about how I want the class taught to my children. Tutors allow for this tailoring. Specialty teachers bring gifting to my children that I do not have.

Deluxe or shoestring teaching - which is best? Each has its benefits and there is a season for each according to the Lord's provision. The one thing we have learned from public education is that more money does not always equal better education. The difference in good, better, and best education lies in the hands, head, and heart of the teacher and her desire to impart knowledge and wisdom to her charges for the Lord. On that count, homeschoolers excel no matter what size their pocketbook.


Was this article helpful to you?
Subscribe to Practical Homeschooling today, and you'll get this quality of information and encouragement five times per year, delivered to your door. To start, click on the link below that describes you:

USA Individual
USA Librarian (purchasing for a library)
Outside USA Individual
Outside USA Library

Time4Learning University of Nebraska High School

Articles by Jessica Hulcy

How to Avoid Mindless Unit Studies

Make Drama Part of Your Unit Studies

Do Your Units End with a Bang or a Whimper

Costumes Add Color to Your Unit Studies

Safety First

Columnists Face Off - Unit Studies

Politics the Homeschool Way

What Are Unit Studies All About?

Multi-Culturalism Replaces History

High School Unit Studies Prepare Students for Adulthood Interaction

Picking Curriculum Carefully

How to Give Your Child a Theistic Worldview

To College or Not to College

Brotherhood Begins in the Heart

Education vs. Regurgitation

The Importance of Mentoring

One Word of Advice: Balance!

Teaching the Basics with Unit Studies

Study Units or Unit Studies?

Thanks for the Memories

99¢ Feather Duster or $90 Warbonnet?

Co-oping: The Very Best of Both Worlds

The Key to Exceptional Co-Op Days

Meeting True Heroes Face to Face

From Living Room to Front Lawn: Performances

Co-oping Younger and Older Students Together

Co-op Field Trips: True Three-Dimensional Learning

The Ultimate Field Trip... Europe

The Making of a Master Teacher

Laughter and Movement: Fertilizer for the Brain

Popular Articles

Critical Thinking and Logic

I Was an Accelerated Child

Start a Nature Notebook

The History of Public Education

University Model Schools

Bears in the House

The Equal Sign - Symbol, Name, Meaning

Shakespeare Camp

Phonics the Montessori Way

AP Courses At Home

Top Jobs for the College Graduate

How to Win the Geography Bee

Columbus and the Flat Earth...

Classical Education

Can Homeschoolers Participate In Public School Programs?

Whole-Language Boondoggle

The Charlotte Mason Method

Character Matters for Kids

Why the Internet will Never Replace Books

Advanced Math: Trig, PreCalc, and more!

Who Needs the Prom?

Joyce Swann's Homeschool Tips

The Benefits of Debate

Teaching Blends

Getting Started in Homeschooling: The First Ten Steps

A Homeschooler Wins the Heisman

Give Yourself a "CLEP Scholarship"

The Benefits of Cursive Writing

What We Can Learn from the Homeschooled 2002 National Geography Bee Winners

Art Appreciation the Charlotte Mason Way

How to "Bee" a Spelling Success

A Reason for Reading

Montessori Math

Interview with John Taylor Gatto

Montessori Language Arts at Home, Part 1

The Gift of a Mentor

Don't Give Up on Your Late Bloomers

The Charlote Mason Approach to Poetry

Laptop Homeschool

Narration Beats Tests

Teach Your Children to Work

Getting Organized Part 3

Myth of the Teenager

Getting Organized Part 1 - Tips & Tricks

Top Tips for Teaching Toddlers

Saxon Math: Facts vs. Rumors

What Does My Preschooler Need to Know?

Patriarchy, Meet Matriarchy

Combining Work and Homeschool

Discover Your Child's Learning Style