Is it possible? A friend asked on Facebook and I thought my answer would take up way (Way!) too much room for a comment. Here is my rambling answer.
If you prefer workbooks it might be a little difficult to go totally free but it could be possible to do at a low cost. I have used Walmart workbooks (when our local Walmart used to carry them) for kindergarten and first grade. We picked some that were of interest to us and then added in books of interest from the library. Rainbow Resources and Amazon are good sources for low cost workbooks and I have found some used on Bookfinder.com.
I use Ambleside Online curriculum which is free. Ambleside is based on the education philosophy of Charlotte Mason. The curriculum, book lists and schedules, are free but you have to buy, borrow or steal your own books. Many of the books used are older so they can be found used at a low cost. Even if a person didn’t want to follow the curriculum exactly the book lists can be used as a guideline. Also, Simply Charlotte Mason has book lists (you can buythe books through them but you can just find your own.)
If I didn’t follow Ambleside then I would pick a history spine or overview history book and then add in biographies or historical fiction of the era being read for history.
For Math I’d use Kahn Academy (if your child is responsible enough to stay on track when they are on the computer). Here is a great resource for generating free math worksheets. I have used Math Mammoth’s math workbooks and found them reasonable in price for the down load. You have to print the pages but if you have multiple children who will use the books then it works out really well. When I purchased a workbook set I was also able to generate more worksheets as needed. Another free resource that I have heard about but not tried is MEP- Mathamatics Enhancement Program. It’s out of England and you have to print the worksheets (which are not cause and effect even though they are in the same sentence.)
As always, your library is a great resource. Now, if your library is…lacking… most places have an extended network that allows you to borrow books from other libraries in that network. Our library is also involved with Library2go where you can borrow audio and ebooks via the internet. I have looked around there but haven’t actually borrowed a book yet. I found it a bit frustrating to just browse for a book there but it’s easy when you know a title or author.
I have mentioned Bookfinder above but thought I’d expand a bit on what it does. It is a search tool that searches many used book sellers- used ones like Abe books, Alibris, Powels, Amazon, Half.com and many more. It will list according to price including shipping. I have found it very useful. I recently purchased books using Bookfinder and spent, on average, just over $4 per book including shipping.
Another free resource for books would be Project Gutenberg which has 42,000 free e-books. They have digitized many older books that are in the public domain. The books can be downloaded in different formats or read on your computer from the site. Ambleside has linked books in their book lists to Project Gutenberg when the book is available there. Another free resource that I haven’t tried yet but have often heard about is Librivox which provides free audio books. The readers are all volunteer but they have reviews so you can try and find readers you like. Google books is a good resource as well as free ebooks from Amazon. Sometimes a book will be free with Prime when normally it has a price or make use of their lending program.
Several resources for learning a foreign language for free are Livemocha and Byki. I have not used them extensively but have poked around the sites. I have a bit of a problem letting my kids loose on Livemocha because the free part requires you to record yourself speaking and having a Random Stranger (is that redundant? As opposed to a precise stranger?) evaluate you and then you are supposed to do the same for some other Random Stranger. It just doesn’t sit right with me. But our local library also has a way to access Livemocha’s pay side which I haven’t tried yet but keep thinking I should ask for the password. Has anyone tried that? I downloaded Byki’s free downloadable part and tried it, although briefly, and found it fine. I am sure there are a ton of other resources if you searched for them.
I don’t know of a writing resource but making a list of subject ideas that you throw out to the student as a writing start would work. A file could be made of pictures, beginning or concluding sentences, and general subjects where you could draw from when your brain seizes up. A free grammar resource is KISS grammar. I haven’t used it but I pointed the kids’ Latin teacher to it and she used many of his ideas. She had been having them diagram sentences with the lines that stick out all over and slant all different ways but she changed to underlining the noun, double underlining the verb, etc. and I think the students caught on faster. I think they didn’t have to remember which way the line was supposed to slant as it branched off from which word and could concentrate on naming the part of speech.
Other things to use are Amazon and Netflix streaming videos. Things like Magic School Bus and documentaries are wonderful resources for history and science. Many people read a book and then watch a movie based on the book and discuss the differences.
There are a ton of free or almost free resources out there. It’s a matter of looking and determining what is best for you and your family. One piece of advice I would give based on homeschooling for awhile now is try to get things lined up for the whole year before you start. I often get the first term done or half the year figured out and then get tired, think it’s enough and stop. But then I never get back to it and the end of the year ends up not being as… rich. If Mama ain’t prepared than no one is prepared. My kids are not going to go out and look up musical selections for a composer study for example. They may be wonderful kids but they do have a few failings. If I have to search all over the internet (and possibly get distracted by other things- look! a knitting project!) every time I need something later in the year then probably it’s not going to happen. My thoughts are “have a plan but be flexible”.
In conclusion, I think it’s possible to put together a good, free or almost free curriculum all it takes is a bit of planning and trial and error. In this age of the internet, there are truly amazing things out there that are available to us that never were before.