From Part One:
"The key to frugal homeschooling used to be use-what-you-have. Now it's use-what-you-choose. Like shopping at one of those monster supermarkets with fifty kinds of beef jerky, you can suffer classic middle-of-the-aisle paralysis. You might end up with too much, too little, the wrong thing, You, or your students, might have no idea what to do with it. The lady you talked to at church might even be right when she wonders how homeschoolers can know what they're supposed to teach without someone standing guard over them. Oh, for the good old low-tech days..."
So what do the food shopping experts tell you to do before you get to the monster supermarket? Make a plan, of course. Examine the wad of flyers weighing down the newspaper; look through your shelf of cookbooks for recipes using "pork shoulder," and if that fails, start a search of the mega-recipes websites. Don't forget to list all your coupons and price-matches, just to hold things up longer at the checkout. Do we see a pattern here? There are still too many options, and you're still going to end up serving frozen fries and chicken fingers, or whatever your default meal is.
Homeschooling applications? "The more catalogues (or websites) the better" isn't necessarily true, if you're not sure what you want in the first place. And this is the big one, if you're broke or just frugal: not even if the resources are very cheap or free. Because planning and teaching time isn't free. Neither is bookshelf space, or printer paper and toner, or (for some of us) downloading costs. As Uncle Eric repeats often, TANSTAAFL.
Okay then. What's the next obvious thing to do, if you can't narrow down your own dinner plan? Follow somebody else's, right? and the more specific, the better. Buy one of those 30-day menu cookbooks that includes grocery lists and prep timetables. Follow the online menu plans of a kindred spirit, or rip them out of Woman's Day or Vegetarian Times. You know what? It can't hurt. You probably wouldn't want to follow somebody else's choices forever, but it can get you jumpstarted.
Homeschooling applications? As I've already said, it's a big, big world of curriculum, and if you have the money, you can order up anything from a virtual school or correspondence course (the most extreme forms of using somebody else's plan); to a box full of every last thing you need*, including pencils (Calvert School is the classic example, but in Canada we also have a family-run business called Tree of Life School); to one book with suggestions for each grade, each subject (The Well-Trained Mind). Of course there are also the free options, like reading other homeschoolers' blogs, or borrowing a book like Rebecca Rupp's year-by-year guide from the library, or even (if you're desperate) looking at government expectations for public schools. If you're stuck in indecision, go ahead and do what they do. You might have to improvise here and there (can't do this, don't have that book), but you can at least get an idea of how homeschooling seems to work for somebody out there. Who knows?--you might find you like whatever plan it is so much that you stay forever.
That's one way to do it.
However, the trouble with following a premade plan, even a good plan, is that you can get caught up in the plan itself, and miss the bigger picture. "I just want to get dinner on the stove" is a practical approach, but we miss out on something important if we never wonder what we're eating, where it came from.
More in Part Three.
*Just as a point of interest, did you know that the creators of Ambleside Online referred to it early on as "Charlotte Mason in a box?"