From the HSLDA E-lert Service:


5/17/2012 9:29:05 AM
Vicki Bentley--HSLDA
Toddlers to Tweens--Navigating the Used Curriculum Route

HSLDA's Homeschooling Toddlers to Tweens Newsletter
May 2012--Navigating the Used Curriculum Route

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Dear Friend,

I shared in recent newsletters how to homeschool on a shoestring
budget , focusing in each issue on a
different academic subject. This month, we'll look at how to
str-e-e-etch that budget by purchasing used materials.

Buying used curriculum is sort of like taking a shortcut when I drive:
if I am familiar with the area through which I'm being re-routed, I
can save some time; but if I get lost trying to take a shortcut, I may
end up woefully behind! By the same token, I can really stretch my
homeschool budget by finding great used-curriculum values. Yet I
haven't effectively saved money if a particular pre-owned purchase is
not the wisest choice for my family. Here are some ways to "know the
shortcuts" when navigating the used curriculum options, and save in
the long run.


Have a list of the goals
you have set for your children. Know what you are looking for and why,
whether new or used. Keeping those objectives in front of you as you
shop can help you select bargain items that will best meet your needs
for the year.


Shopping without a list can be just as disastrous on the swap boards
or in the resale shop as it can be in the grocery store! Make a list
of the items in which you are most interested, with several
alternative selections noted. Having a second or third choice
pre-selected helps me to think quickly at a yard sale or curriculum
swap. I make a list of all the topics we're covering this year in our
units or texts so I can stay focused on my more immediate needs, and I
can better resist the temptation to snatch up a bargain that won't
really be useful to me for another year or two.


Specific titles are very useful, if possible. One year I accidentally
purchased three "different" copies of the same well-known science book
because the publisher had changed the cover several times, and I
didn't recognize the title as a book I'd already purchased!


Consider your own teaching style and your children's
learning styles . Just
because something was recommended by a friend and is 50% off doesn't
mean you will be comfortable using it or your kids will "get it." On
the other hand, this may be a good time to try something new, when it
isn't a tremendous monetary investment.


Do some research to familiarize yourself with the retail prices so
you'll be better able to recognize a bargain. I go through my catalogs and mark prices on my wish
list so I'll know who sells which items for what prices. That way,
I'll know if a used item is enough of a reduction to warrant not
getting it new. Also, ask around to determine what sort of discount
would be considered fair in the used market for the particular items
you need. A reference book that might not often be found in the used
market can command a price closer to retail than can a book that
parents sell off regularly to buy the next grade level. Know what you
are willing to pay.


Some publishers make such minor changes in books from time to time
that an older edition may work fine for your purposes. Other times,
the books may have been revised enough that other materials with which
you have to coordinate them (workbook, teacher's manual, quizzes,
etc.) may no longer be compatible. When "new models" come out, call
the publisher and ask about both the extent of the revisions and how
compatible your other components will now be.


Check the copyright dates in the books. Determine if you are willing
to go with a little older book in some subjects (say, history or art
or language) to be able to splurge for the latest in science or
computer technology. Publishing dates can be important if you already
have three parts of your XYZ history program and just need another set
of tests and quizzes, while you may be more than willing to settle for
a five-year-old set of World Book encyclopedias for $5 at a library
sale instead of shelling out more money for the newest version.


We have picked up books and magazines free or "dirt cheap" and cut out
the pictures to illustrate stories, make posters, etc. I've heard of
others who have cut out timeline figures from damaged, discarded


While the photocopied version of that pricey teacher's manual or
student workbook may be inexpensive and tempting, check first to be
sure that the photocopying was not an infringement of someone's
copyright. Also, many software packages are authorized for use only by
the original license-holder, while others allow one transfer of
ownership if the original user no longer has the software installed on
her computer. For more information, see


A friend of mine recently purchased a public school math book because
it was a little less expensive than the Saxon she really wanted, then
found that she would have to pay $70 for a public school teacher's key
for the course. This comes back to knowing what you want and how much
it will cost you. By the way, the teacher's book may or may not be
necessary; some texts have answers in the backs, or you may be able to
determine the correct answers. Some teacher's editions have not only
answers, but super teaching ideas. If you aren't comfortable without
it, consider buying it.


While most dealers of new materials will allow a refund or exchange of
items still in good condition if you change your mind, the average
reseller is generally not able to offer that luxury because he is
already shaving his margin by selling at a discount. Or the homeschool
neighbor you bought the book from has probably already applied your
book money to the electric bill. Be pretty sure of what you want, buy
with confidence, and if it ends up not working out for you, list it on
the swap board or in your homeschool-newsletter classifieds!


If you aren't sure you are able to absorb a loss if it doesn't work
out, try to borrow a copy of the book or material from a friend to
look over for a few days, or to try for a week or two. Then you'll
know if you're comfortable enough with the purchase of a particular
used item to risk not being able to return it for a refund. If you are
previewing at your local convention, please see the sidebar note.


Ask your homeschool friends for recommendations of used book dealers
and good swap boards. (See sidebar for a few.) Check homeschool
magazine ads and yard
sales. Our weekly Trading Post paper sometimes has curricula listed,
as do some of the online auction houses and book sellers. Your state
organization may have a
listing of homeschool resale book shops or used curriculum sales in
your state.


Our local public school system regularly purges textbooks that were
replaced with newer ones. The older books go to an annex building
which is opened for the public to take what they would like, free of
charge. Use this source judiciously, as many public school textbooks
may not be suitable for your home use. But I have picked up
dictionaries, typing books for keyboard practice, books on local
history, etc., and a few moms have gotten desks, maps, and more. Check
with your local school district for more information.


Let local curriculum dealers and the moms in your support group know that you are on the
lookout for certain items. People often have things on their shelves
that they don't realize may be of value to others. Swap boards often
have "Wanted to Buy" sections as well as "For Sale" listings. Some
homeschoolers are even willing to lend out the material they are not
currently using, or work out a trade with you.


Especially (but not only) if you are a fairly new homeschooler, it can
be a big help to ask a veteran homeschooler (especially one familiar
with curricula) to accompany you on your excursion. She can help you
to focus on your list, explain whether or how some items may be able
to substitute for others, help you know what questions to ask of a
seller, and guide you on prices. There's comfort in a second set of
eyes to help navigate--it's like having someone to "ride shotgun"
while you're taking that "shortcut to savings"!

Frugally yours,

Vicki Bentley
HSLDA Toddlers to Tweens consultant

(c) 2003-2012. This article or the article from which it is adapted
first appeared in the 2003 edition of The Virginia Homeschool Manual:
A Comprehensive Guide to Home Education in Virginia, published by HEAV
( It also appeared in Practical Homeschooling magazine,
Volume 51, P.O Box 1190, Fenton, MO 63026-1190. Used with permission.


A few used curriculum resources:

Moore Expressions

HSLDA Curriculum Market

Used curriculum dealers list from HEAV

Homeschool Classifieds

Educators' Exchange

The Swap

"Used Homeschool Curriculum"
"Buying Used Homeschool Curriculum"
"Used Curriculum Sources"
For more ways to save, see "Homeschooling on a Shoestring Budget"


Convention Shopping

If you do much of your initial browsing at your state or regional
convention, I encourage you to consider saving in other areas so you
can support the vendors in the exhibit hall. To quote my good friends
at the Oregon convention,

"The exhibitors in the exhibit hall support the conference with their
fees. This helps your state organization bring great homeschool
speakers to your state for you to hear. Please thank the exhibitors
with your patronage. You will find many useful and interesting items
in the exhibit hall to help you homeschool. When shopping, we ask that
you consider some 'exhibit hall etiquette':

"Many of the homeschool vendors are experts in their field and can
explain various products for you in great depth. They have made a
sacrificial effort to be at our conference, and we encourage you to
take advantage of this timely opportunity to talk. When a vendor takes
the time and effort to explain a product or give you some sage advice
and you decide to purchase the product, buy it from the person who
took the time with you. It is unfair to take advantage of a small
vendor's knowledge and then purchase the product for a few cents less
from a competitor."

And Marilyn Rockett, Editor in Chief of Homeschooling Today magazine and author of
Homeschooling at the Speed of Life, < OR reminds us: "Homeschoolers
love to save money--I certainly do! But I know how hard it is for a
homeschool family to run a small, homeschool products business. They
are homeschoolers like you and welcome your business, but they can no
longer attend conferences in today's economy if attendees don't
purchase from them there.

Please give them your business and save your dollars somewhere else.
If you don't, they will no longer be able to offer their products and
the homeschooling community will be worse off for the gap in such
worthy materials. We need them!"
-> Will your friends stand by you in trouble?

They will if you're an HSLDA member and your homeschool is
threatened. HSLDA is ready to stand by your side along with
80,000 other homeschool families.

More reasons to join HSLDA...

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