Confessions of a Homeschool Freebie Hoarder

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.

Scooping up all those homeschool freebies seems like a good way to cut expenses while home educating, but does that make them a good fit for your homeschool? Eh, probably not.

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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.

Confessions of a Homeschool Freebie Hoarder

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.

Confessions of a Homeschool Freebie Hoarder

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.

Confessions of a Homeschool Freebie Hoarder

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:

  1. Invest in quality curriculum.  You can do that without compromising your homeschool budget if you’re willing to shop around.
  2. 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.
  3. Take advantage of group buys through Homeschool Buyers Co-op.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Scooping up all those homeschool freebies seems like a good way to cut expenses while home educating, but does that make them a good fit for your homeschool? Eh, probably not.

How about you? Have you been guilty of hoarding freebies? What tips do you have for keeping them under control?

16 thoughts on “Confessions of a Homeschool Freebie Hoarder”

  1. I realized it had become a problem a few months ago. When we started out we had zero budget so I was grabbing every free thing we could, and even after I was able to start buying things here and there I still had this fear of the future: what if something happens and I can’t buy any materials for next year? What if we had a fire and I lost all my hardcopy curriculum? OMG yall what would we do?!?

    So, I organized my cloud storage into grade levels, and each grade into subjects and organized all my freebies and digital purchases (my favorite way to shop!) that way. Now if I see something really tempting like “Free middle school biology!” or “Free 8th grade grammar!” I can look and see that I already have that totally covered and skip downloading the new one.

    1. Annie, you’re so right! Having a good system for organizing the freebies makes a huge difference. I’m glad you were able to figure something out to make it easier to sort through!

  2. As a new homeschooler I feel this way about freebies, but even more so, about all the podcasts, blogs, methods, different curriculums. Ive gotten so so distracted by every new article that I see on a FB group, or folow a rabbit trail on a homeschooling blog, that Im constantly changing my focus. I have unrealistic expectations and my plans keep changing. I see all these great ideas but seem unable to determine which to try now which to put aside till later..
    Do i just unsubscribe from homeschooling blogs, and FB groups and focus on what Ive got for awhile??
    Im easily distracted and find myself spending too much time researching and planning, getting frustrated when this new idea doesnt work..

    1. I totally understand where you’re coming from, Aubrey! It takes some time to settle into a homeschool groove, but it will take even longer if you keep adding more and changing to new things as you discover them (at least from my experience!). If you’re new to homeschooling, give yourself and your kids time to settle in and see what works for you. If you’re happy with the path you’ve chosen (curriculum choices, homeschooling style, schedule, etc.), do your best to keep your eyes on what you’re doing and don’t worry about the rest.

      On the other hand, if you find that you need to make adjustments after a few months, then I’d turn to all of the fantastic resources that are out there. I’ve found that the key to not being overwhelmed by all of these articles, lists, and groups is to only make changes when you know they’re needed. Until then, slap them on a Pinterest board and save them for a rainy day; if you never use them, so be it. ;)

      Remember that everything doesn’t work for all homeschoolers across the board. Just because something is good, doesn’t mean it’s good for you or your kids. Stay on your path and only make those changes as needed. It’s the best way to prevent yourself from burnout and information overload!

      Lastly, feel free to get in touch if you have questions. I’d be happy to help! Until then, because you really need one more thing to read and I’m feeling ironic, take a look at my 10 Tips for New Homeschoolers if you haven’t seen them already. :)

  3. I feel your pain! I just went through my downloads folder the other night to organize for this upcoming homeschool year and OMG! I had NO idea I had downloaded so many freebies over the past few months! I’m super frugal and every time I see something free that “might” be useful in our homeschool I’ll download and forget about it in the downloads folder. I think psychologically if we see the word FREE we automatically think it’s something that can’t be passed up for fear of missing out on something valuable. As much as I love getting something for free it really isn’t free because you’re trading your email for the worksheets. I subscribe to sites that I feel have relevant content and I can’t even count how many newsletters I get each week announcing more freebies. I don’t read too many of them anymore, they just go straight to the trash folder. As a fellow freebie hoarder in recovery as well I say that it’s good to get a few good worksheets that you know will come in handy, but as for the overflowing downloads folder that takes almost an entire day to sort.. No more! It’s so funny how you wrote this the same week I decided to rethink my worksheet obsession :) Talk about good timing!

    1. Admitting it is the first step, right? ;)

      You totally nailed it, Courtney! FREE triggers a sense of urgency and, even if we don’t need the printables, we respond just because we don’t want to miss it.

  4. I have a personal/ business email, my spam/freebies/junk email, and my electronics email. I dont have to look at 2/3 of the mails if i dont want to, and i can swipe clean if i need to. This helps keep things more manageable for me. I am learning to read my pins before i pin, and to go back and read and delete. My computer has crashed at least twice because of corrupted freebies I have saved on my computer. Ugh! I relate to this post so much. And you know what my kids think of those sweet notebooking pages? Theu hate them. They just want a plain coil bound five subject notebook and glue, scissor, crayolas. The freebies? My kids hate them. They want our story of the world history-we may try moh next, but i dont know yet. We like our bible curriculum, our math, and our science. And we LOVE or library and inter-library loaning. That’s what we use. I have-no-i am learning- to not keep and save printables. They are distracting and more wasteful and expensive than we realize when we print them but dont use them-or they crash the dagnabbed computer!

    1. The freebies crashed your computer? Yikes! I suspect I got a virus from one a couple of years ago, but I can’t say for sure. Either way, I know that frustration!

      I also understand about the notebooking pages. I love the idea of them, but my ten year-old would rather draw out a scene from our history lesson. And lapbooks? He LOATHES lapbooks! I’ve wasted too much paper printing free lapbooks I found! :/

      But that’s all in the past, right? ;)

  5. I’ve been putting together our preschool curriculum, and this is so helpful! This is a mindset I’ve been trying to adopt for things in our house- free stuff is still STUFF I have to deal with! I guess I’ll need to be cautious so that I don’t get carried away with free resources!

    1. Leah, I love this: “Free stuff is still stuff I have to deal with!” <<< Something about getting it for free makes us forget that we still need to have a place for it physically and on the schedule in order to justify it. That's such a great point!

  6. This post made me laugh because I am a freebie hoarder too!! My children are young (under 6) so I’m relatively new to homeschooling but I feel that FOMO (fear of missing out) when there are freebies & bundles. I’m kinda anti curriculum, more on the interest based learning side so far, so if my boys are showing interest in something (like toads & frogs) I’ll search my freebie folder with those key words (and maybe amphibian or pond) & see what options I have on their level. That has been working out so far but butt stash isn’t outrageous…yet! But I AM feeling the burden of selling out your email address & too many emails. So I created a filter folder in my gmail so that they bypass my inbox & I don’t have to read those unless I want to & go to the folder. And there’s always the idea of having a separate junk email account for giveaways & freebies. I do that for Facebook. This post was very encouraging to not waste my time with all the sign ups unless it’s truly something we will use, is quality, & the right timing. I can’t tell you how many hours of sleep I’ve lost staying up late after the kids are in bed downloading & printing freebies! Not anymore! Thanks!

    1. It’s always good to know that you’re not alone, right? ;)

      I love that tip for creating a separate Gmail tab for those newsletters. That’s a fantastic idea, Kaye!

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