Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Summer Hunt: Buying Curriculum

summer. sublimely cool shade trees, a sundry goodies cooking away on the grill, fresh cut watermelon or peaches, freshly mowed grass. those smells. they make my nose hairs quiver with delight. but, not my favorite smell. nope. my favorite smell of summer.....used book fair. more specifically, my nose, buried deep in the crevices of the low low priced, gently used, coffee ringed stained curriculum teacher guide that i have just purchased. now THAT is the stuff summer is made of.

hey, i'm a homeschool mom. i get thrills from little things.....

locally, the used fairs here are gone. the big one that is left is the new book fair. the place to go where you want to see new editions in hand, hear lectures from different facets of knowledge, buy science kits and experiment materials, and get your registration form from your umbrella school of choice...among a million other things. but, before i break out the benjamins on curriculum in this place, i make sure to have covered all my other bases.

some parents have unlimited amounts to spend on homeschooling books, and God bless'em. but not me, nor many other moms of single income families i know.

here is my simple run down of ways to save money, before buying new books straight from publishers.

1. do research: the hardest and most time consuming of all the steps. get this done early.

  • ask friends or your local homeschool group for suggestions. find and join local homeschool yahoo groups. most of these will let you post any curriculum question you have and you will be really surprised at the responses you can get.

  • request catalogs. i much prefer having a catalog to hold in my hands than view page after page online, plus i can highlight, sticker, or dog ear any page that i want to remember. take advantage of the free ones. Rainbow Resource is still my favorite catalog for doing my bulk research. and the catalog is H-U-G-E and is free. others i have used are CBD and Homeschooling Books (CBD sends out a discounted books homeschool catalog once a year). also, most publishers will have catalogs, but will also obviously make their curriculum out to the best thing ever created. i always prefer a non-biased distributor.

  • book review websites. my favorite website to finalize my curriculum choice is Homeschool Reviews. it is free from publisher bias and does not just list links to reviews. it has had almost everything i have ever tried to research. or, just try to Google your book, and add the keyword "review" after. but, scrolling through links is a beast.....

  • libraries. you will be pleasantly surprised at how much you can get from your local library. if they don't have what you want, they can sometimes do an inter-library loan from another branch. and even more rare, you can ask them to buy a book to keep in their stock, IF it is new and they think it will generate a lot of check outs. also, try college libraries. most have elementary teacher editions of curriculum for education majors. (become a friend to your librarian....make them cookies or sweet breads and you will be amazed at how quickly they will "have" a book for you faster than anyone else)

2. price it out.

  • get the full from publisher price. this gives you the cap. you know that you will not spend any more than that amount (plus shipping).

  • distributor prices (like the catalogs listed above). they will have new books, but will cut prices by 5-50% at times.

  • find used book sellers online. my ultimate go to place is still and always will be Amazon. i get almost everything from there. more to try are Homeschool Classifieds (thanks Sally and Sarah), and VegSource (thanks karin and kindra). Ebay and (owned by Ebay--thanks Julie and Justin) are also good places to search.

3. the purchasing. IN ORDER....

  • check local groups, websites, friends, and newspapers for used curriculum fairs in your area. this is my first stop among purchasing. i make a list of all the ones in the area (usually always held in the summer or late spring) and map them out on my calendar. i try to go to as many as possible. check back later this week for my ultimate guide to curriculum fair shopping. it's an art unto itself.

  • used book stores. this will save you shipping and you can usually find some good deals on teachers books, CD roms, books on tape, and paperbacks. locally, i live and breathe at McKays Used Books and CD's.

  • purchase from distributor websites or distributor catalogs.

  • school supply stores. especially the ones that have winter sales going.

  • buy from new curriculum fairs. this is my second to last resort. it will save in shipping...unless you spend a whole tank in gas money to get there.....

  • buy straight from the publisher online or through catalog. last resort, but sometimes necessary if it is a hard to find item, a brand new edition, or sold out anywhere else.

if your brow creases as mine does, when you think of all the trails you have to hike to get your books, you are NOT alone. homeschooling is not marketed as easy, and it never should be. i hope this blog can help you to ease some of the time wasted that i did over the past 4 years. happy hunting!!!

and always, comment with your tips to be published in later posts!


  1. I love it! McKays and Amazon and The Book Gallery sidewalk sales and all remain my favs. I get the Veritas catalog and go to town looking for those sublime moments with my coffee and the classic that I only paid $1.99 for, and my kids will read it over and over. :D As I get stronger, I am totally thinking the college library is going to be my friend. I'm hopeful of finding the Shakespeare dvds there since, God love 'em, I am not one of those moms with endless benjies in my pocket either. I Love you!

  2. Not sure if The Book Gallery is the place at Northgate Mall, btu they have terrific prices on children's books, and have an assortment of educational books as well. I've talked to the owner (I think) and he didn't realize there were so many homeschoolers in the area. He said if there was a specific book I was looking for, he may be able to order it and have it on the shelf. My kids absoutely love the kid's section there. They'll sit and read several books while I'm looking through them.

  3. brian and sarah. i DO need to utilize the book store in northgate (i believe you are both talking about the same thing). thanks for bringing it up!!!



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