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I’ve always been a big supporter of making homeschooling accessible to everyone who wants to do it. And as the financial manager of a one income family, I try to educate my kids as frugally as possible, but lately I’ve been really thinking about how we could do it EVEN CHEAPER. One day I sat down and asked myself, “is it possible to homeschool for FREE?” My initial thought was, “sure, if you never leave the house.” But never one to back down from a challenge, I decided to come up with all the awesome opportunities that are available to Indianapolis-area homeschoolers that are totally, completely free. The following may cost you internet access (which is available through local libraries for free) or transportation costs, but that’s it. I have written a post listing some free options for full curricula, and I may later write a post on other free resources for homeschooling options in general, but the purpose of this post is to highlight places you can go and things you can do specifically in and around Indy that will help you educate your children.
State parks require an entrance fee throughout most of the year, as does Eagle Creek Park. However, all other area parks are free. Parks are a great place for getting your physical education done and for a nice nature walk, but many parks also have great nature centers that will give you the opportunity to learn more about our local ecosystems and history. The best completely free nature centers I have visited are Cool Creek Nature Center in Hamilton County and Holliday Park.
- I don’t think I’ve been in a library in recent years that DOESN’T offer free internet access, which is a plus if you are unable to pay for that because homeschooling is MUCH easier with the internet! In addition to free wifi, you (obviously) have access to books and DVDs. While the Indianapolis libraries do not have much in the way of actual homeschool curriculum textbooks, they offer almost all the supporting texts needed for the big ones including Sonlight and Moving Beyond the Page. They also have more basic textbooks that you might find in a traditional classroom, like McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin.
- Indianapolis libraries (and many others in the area) offer access to digital content as well. E-books, digital music, and streaming video are all available with your library card now.
- Libraries are also a great place for free classes and group activities. Some libraries, including Greenwood, Fishers, and the Franklin Road Branch of the Indianapolis Public Library all offer homeschool-specific classes and hang-outs for free (you are not required to be a resident of that area or have a library card to participate in these programs). There are also a lot of great programs available on weekends and evenings for school age children. My kids are currently signed up for a “make your own kite” workshop and a “superhero architecture” program thanks to libraries.
- The Indiana War Memorial, the Civil War Museum in the Soldiers & Sailors Monument, and the Indiana State Police Museum are always free. Many county history museums are free as well.
- The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis offers Target Free Family night. This takes place the first Thursday of every month from 4:00 – 8:00 p.m.
- The Indianapolis Museum of Art also offers free admission on the first Thursday of every month from 4:00 – 9:00. They also offer free admission on special days throughout the year (the Equinox and Solstice celebrations, National Museum Day, and more)- be sure to keep an eye on Indy Homeschool, I’ll share them as they’re available.
- The Indiana History Center offers free admission regularly for special events throughout the year. Again, keep an eye on this site and follow our Facebook page, as I will post that information there when it’s available.
- MLK Day: Many museums, including those at White River State Park, offer free admission on MLK Day and other major holidays. Some require a canned food donation, so I guess that doesn’t make it COMPLETELY free, but it’s very close.
- The Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site always offers free admission and first floor tours on his birthday, August 20.
Crown Hill Cemetery
I’ll admit, hanging out at a cemetery sounds weird even for a homeschooler, but Crown Hill is different. There are many self-guided walking tours you can take any time, many famous graves to visit, and throughout the year Crown Hill offers community events for free.
Colleges offer many free community programs throughout the school year, and we are really lucky to live close to many of them. Listed are some examples, but not nearly a complete list.
- Butler University hosts the Visiting Writers Series every Spring, which has given Indianapolis readings from some of the most influential authors of modern time. Authors of critical acclaim, award winners, and best selling authors often make up the lineup. There are often at least two names that I know well enough to say, “ooooh, I want to go see them!” The Visiting Writers Series is free and open to the public. While this is Butler’s best known free community event, they also offer free concerts as well. Some events can take a little digging, but if you look around their events page, you can find some great free opportunities.
- University of Indianapolis also offers a writers’ series, the Kellogg Writers Series. I’ll be honest, I didn’t know about this one until I was doing research for this post, so all I know is that it is also free and open to the public. UIndy also offers an art gallery with free admission, free concerts, and the free Master Au Ho-nein Museum.
- At Marian University, the Nina Mason Pulliam EcoLab has bird walks and conservation days that are free and open to all ages. Keep an eye on their site for dates.
- Sometimes, the schools within the university will offer a free lecture or event to the public. There isn’t one specific page I can link to for that information. I try my best to share the information here as I find it, but the best way I have found to keep up with it is through the various universities’ Facebook pages.
Indy Homeschool works hard to find you the best, most affordable homeschooling options in the city. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Twitter and Facebook to keep up with all the fun (and often free!) activities going on!