Thursday, July 18, 2013

Buying Curriculum--A veteran homeschooler's perspective

I saw a discussion on this topic today and thought I'd share some of my thoughts on the subject.

We have been homeschooling for most of the last 17 years.  Here's where I'm at on buying curriculum:

1.  I'd rather buy new every time, because I want a complete program that will work without any hitches or surprises.  I'll be using it for maybe 4 more kids before I'm done, so whatever it costs will be well worth it.  And when I'm finished with it, I'll sell it.  Price doesn't dictate my purchasing decisions.  Not because it's easy to afford, but because when I know what I want, I know it is worth it to me to get it for my kids.  

2.  I sell used curriculum online without much effort or difficulty.  Facebook has a bunch of popular used curriculum groups.  I sold almost everything I had in my For Sale pile this summer in a few weeks.  Here are some of the spots where I have sold used curriculum recently:

3.  I have learned that I almost never utilize ebooks.  Ever.  My brain is one that has to see my stuff to remember that I have it.  So, every single cookbook, science experiments, life skills, or anything else in ebook format that I ever bought has gone unused, unless I immediately printed it out.  (which I have, for a very few things recently)   Now I no longer consider buying much of anything in ebook format, because I know I probably won't remember to use it.  (sidenote--this is precisely why I designed our Classical Composers and Artist resources to include regular reminders to the purchaser that they have materials available to them.  I want to help them remember what they bought, and help them get back to access it in their member's area.  I hate buying stuff and then not remembering how to get at it again.  Too much trouble.  If you have an ipad or kindle or nook that allows you to use these items consistently and conveniently, that's GREAT!

4.  Despite our many years of homeschooling, I do not have heaps of unused physical curriculum.  I purge every summer. (and throughout the year as well. I have a container where all the For Sale items get placed.)  I get rid of anything I didn't like.  I part with stuff as the youngest outgrows it.  I try to keep what is on our shelves to be the stuff we are using or definitely plan to use in the future.  I have also chosen to get rid of some things that we "might" use in the future but it would be many years away.  Benefits to this:
  • I feel like I'd rather let some things go and loosen up the funds and shelf space for things we need now
  • I'd rather get the resale value of the item now, rather than bearing the burden of keeping the thing safe for the next umpteen years til I *might* use it again.  If it gets spilled on or something, will I be glad I kept it?  I'd rather sell it in nice condition and rebuy later on.  The margin between buying new and reselling is small enough that I'm comfortable taking that chance.
  • Sometimes parting with an item that you won't use for *years* lets you get rid of it before that curriculum gets an update.  For instance, we had the original Teaching Textbooks Geometry set and used it for our oldest child.  It was going to be at least 6 years before it would be used again, so I decided to sell.  Now Teaching Textbooks has a newer version of Geometry, and I think we'll be happier to have the newer version than the older version when the time comes.  No regrets, even though we'll re-buy that program.  Remember--it'll get re-bought, used for four kids, and then sold. It'll be a bargain, how little we'll have paid per kid to use it!

5.  In the early years of homeschooling I didn't overbuy because we couldn't afford to. I was extremely careful and gave the materials we did buy a good, solid try to make them work for us.  In the more experienced years of homeschooling I didn't overbuy because I had a better idea of what we want, what we will use, and what is valuable to us.  Also, frankly, I no longer look at anything I'm not specifically in the market for.  If we already know what math we like, I never, ever look at any new math thing, no matter how many people are singing it's praises.  It's a time suck and I don't need it.  IF we have a specific need for a subject or curriculum, I do some research and then choose and go back to my cave.  ;)

6.  I don't borrow curriculum from friends (except for possibly a quick look-through to see if we would be interested in buying the item) and I do not loan out curriculum either.  These are my tools and I need them here for my family.  Their items are their tools and they probably need them for their family.  (I also do not want to be responsible for keeping someone else's tools safe.  Accidents can happen, and I do not want them to happen to someone else's stuff.)  Good curriculum that meets the needs of my homeschool is well worth purchasing and owning my very own copy.  It ensures that we have the tools we need in order to do a good job educating our children, and it honors the good people that developed the curriculum.  I want to reward those that help me educate my children!  Very often these are other home educators who have shared their time and gifts to develop something valuable and wonderful.  I don't have any desire to use any illegal copyright-avoiding schemes to avoid paying them their due.  Please be aware that most file "sharing" sites are offering curriculum that is not free, and in a way that is violating copyright law.  Please do not copy CDs or send out electronic versions of your purchases to others.  

What about you?  What's your current philosophy on buying/selling/keeping/using curriculum?

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