Lean in close, friend. I’ve got a confession to make and it’s almost shameful to talk about. I’m a recovering homeschool freebie hoarder.
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Over the years, I’ve accumulated flash drive after flash drive of free digital curriculum. I’ve got cloud storage that’s full of free printable packs and worksheets. I’ve signed up for free bundles time and time again because, you know, if I didn’t act then, I might have to pay for it one day. Gasp.
Through it all, I learned that most of my homeschool hunting and gathering resulted in distraction. I also learned that it’s okay to spend money on homeschooling, even when the budget is tight. Lastly, I learned to treat homeschool freebies the same way I treat paid materials: taking only what I need and no more.
Why I started hoarding homeschool freebies
Having a huge assortment of digital resources seemed like a good idea when I began my hoarding habit. After coming out of some rocky homeschool years where I made some of bad purchases, digital homeschool freebies seemed like a godsend. My reasons for hoarding made sense then and, in some respects, they make sense now.
1. I needed to spend less on curriculum. – If you’ve read my chapter in Homeschooling: What to Do When You Want to Quit, you know that my family has homeschooled through some major financial storms. When the homeschool budget is slashed, free curriculum, unit studies, worksheets, and writing prompts seem like an obvious solution.
2. We might need it. – My personality type lends itself to obsessive planning. In my overplanning, I trained my brain to constantly watch for resources that could be helpful in the upcoming year. Since I couldn’t guarantee we’d use them, I wasn’t willing to pay. And since they were free, I ended up grabbing anything and everything that might work.
3. The more, the merrier. – As homeschool family, we have the freedom to make adjustments to our lesson plans as needed. Having a huge assortment of resources to choose from makes that possible.
Why I stopped hoarding
These reasons seem logical, but as it turns out, good reasons don’t necessarily lead to good a place. Here’s why I’ve given up life as a homeschool freebie hoarder:
1. The freebies led to homeschool ADD. On the TV screen, it would look something like this: “We interrupt your perfectly peaceful homeschool day for a Thanksgiving copywork page, just because it’s November and it’s available.” Did I consider whether it would add value to our homeschool? Nope.
2. Having many resources made it difficult to find what I needed when I needed it. Friend, it takes time to sift through fifteen digital files about ancient Egypt and choose what will work best.
3. I had to sell my soul to get them. Okay, maybe it was just my email address, but it made for an overflowing, unmanageable inbox. When you consider how many times my address was sold after my initial signup, this consequence is a never-ending pain in the tail.
4. That “you get what you pay for expression” is true more often than not. Quality freebies can be tough to find.
5. I’ve learned the value of choosing quality resources that meet my needs.
6. I’ve learned to stick to the plan. There’s no more veering off schedule just because something exists. Instead, if we’re veering off schedule, it’s because we’re taking a delight-directed approach.
What I’m doing instead of
hoarding homeschool freebies
I still take advantage of a homeschool freebie from time to time, but gone are the days of downloading a freebie just because it’s free and it’s there. I stick with freebies that I know I will use. I’m happy to promote quality freebies when I come across them, but I no longer feel compelled to collect them.
Instead of hoarding, I’ve learned to focus on quality homeschool resources that have proven to be a good match for our family. When shopping for those resources, my goals are smarter spending and avoiding curriculum budget busters like consumable resources, as opposed to zero spending.
For example, when I focus on working with The Mystery of History resources, I save us time and money because there’s no need to track down a variety of additional resources. Everything I could ever need — and then some — is already there.
When I let my curriculum do its job, my kids stay focused and have the opportunity to get to know the resources they’ve been given. They’re given a chance to grow and become familiar with the authors and material. That’s simply not the case when I hop around from freebie to freebie.
When I let my curriculum do its job, there’s no reason to give the freebies a passing glance. There’s no need to download every freebie that shows up in my Pinterest feed or be pressured into registering for a ginormous, yet free curriculum bundle that I’ll probably never use. There’s no need to purchase copy paper or printer cartridges over and over again since I won’t be printing tons of things we don’t need.
Keeping the budget under control
while ignoring freebies
If you’re going to give up the freebie hoarding, you need give yourself permission to let go of survival mode and think of your homeschool as an investment. Focus on the investment and keep these tips in mind:
- Invest in quality curriculum. You can do that without compromising your homeschool budget if you’re willing to shop around.
- Let the curriculum do its work. Be willing to give it time if you’re trying something new. It’s easy to mistake a learning curve with a need to supplement with freebies.
- Take advantage of group buys through Homeschool Buyers Co-op.
- Borrow curriculum from a friend or from your library before purchasing. That gives you an opportunity to test the material for yourself instead of risking a bad purchase that devours your budget.
- Buy used when possible. From Facebook Groups to 3rd Party Amazon sellers to eBay, there are plenty of places to purchase used homeschool materials.
In the end, there’s nothing wrong with homeschool freebies if they’re actually helping your homeschool. For us, they weren’t helpful. Instead, they were a distraction to me, my kids, and our goals.
For sure, saying goodbye to my homeschool freebie stash has been freeing. It’s allowed me to simplify our homeschool days and better stay on track.
How about you? Have you been guilty of hoarding freebies? What tips do you have for keeping them under control?