Making the Most of Used Curriculum Sales, Book Fairs, and Conference Vendor Halls

Thursday, May 23, 2019





Just recently, our local homeschool group organized a big Used Book and Curriculum Sale.  This is when a whole bunch of homeschool Moms (and Dads!) get together and buy and sell with each other.  

It is seriously a whole room full of awesomeness, especially for us crazy book lovers.  It is like a Homeschool Conference Curriculum Fair multiplied by 100 times the bliss.  There are not only used books but also used curriculum, homeschool resources, and hard to find stuff that only other weird homeschoolers would ever have.  And at a fraction of the cost.  Seriously!?

It's pretty much one of my favorite places to be.  Yep...  put me in the middle of a Used Book and Curriculum Sale and I'm in (earthly) geek heaven.

So, for the recent sale, I was a vendor (ie: I sold books at a table).  I enjoyed 'selling' quite a bit because I got to chat with so many wonderful homeschoolers and offer thoughts and advice about various books and resources we have used and enjoyed.  I kept my prices super low because, in all honesty, I'm there to support the homeschool group and be an encouragement to other homeschoolers - not to make a fortune.

But as I chatted with the many different homeschoolers...

I was reminded again how much new homeschoolers struggle to find the right resources for their families.  


I've been there.  

I remember the first ever Curriculum Sale that I went to about 7 years ago.  I think I left almost in tears, I was SO overwhelmed.   I had no idea what I was looking for.  I had no idea what a good deal was.  I had no idea which programs were good or which curriculum would suit our child.  I was lost.   I spent way too much money and walked away with a weird pile of mish-mashed resources, most of which I never used.  (The one shining light of that year was how God led me to pick up a $5 beat-up, used copy of Five in a Row Volume 1, which was the BEST purchase I've ever made for our homeschool!!!)

Anyways, over the years, I have learned (often the hard way) how to not get so overwhelmed and also how to make intentional, wise purchases at book and curriculum sales.  So, well, dear friends - I thought I'd share my experience and ideas.

So, here goes...



Thoughts to help you avoid regret, find great deals, and invest wisely at Used Book and Curriculum Sales:




Arrive Early.


Just today I had a chat with a homeschooling friend who shared her complete frustration with a local Used Book and Curriculum Sale.  "I waited nearly TWO HOURS in line and was so exasperated by the time I got in...."   Yep, that would be super frustrating.  She arrived about an hour after the doors opened and, well, the sale was packed, and she not only had a negative experience, but struggled to find what she was looking for.  Go early. Homeschool Moms are crazy.  Be one of the crazies.  Embrace it.  It's for the sake of the children.  And the books.  *wink*


Bring Cash.


This seems super basic, but in a world where most people rarely carry cash, it can be EASY to forget to take actual money. People (especially at a used sale) will ONLY take cash, so bring as much as your budget can allow and try also to bring small bills and coins.  This is helpful in getting better deals (helps you bargain) and also a lot easier for the vendors!



Bring something that allows you to comfortably carry your purchases/books.


Alright, I'll admit it - I totally LAUGHED at the ladies with wheeling suit-cases at the Used Curriculum Sale a few years ago.  Completely snorted.  Now?  Oh, you better believe I've got a rolling suitcase with me, sister!  BEST. THING. EVER.  Honestly, if you are purchasing piles of books, you will not want to carry them around in bags all night/day.  Your arms and back will be killing you.  Bring a wheeling something if you have one.  Yep, you'll look crazy and the newbies who don't know the secret of the wheelies will laugh at you - but it's totally worth it.



Know your homeschool goals, philosophy, and style and try to stick to what you know will work for your family.


This is not easy.  This is actually HUGE.  It can take a while to really know what your goals are and what philosophy (or philosophies) you believe in and want to establish in your homeschool.  (If you need help in this area, consider checking out PLAN YOUR YEAR!).  

I spent a lot of money going back and forth with big boxed curriculums in my early years because I didn't really understand my own personal style and what our family philosophy of learning was or should be. Now that I have a much clearer picture of who we are and where we are going - it is so much easier to say 'no' to a mountain of resources.

Do some research and start to shape your own philosophy of learning. If you are leaning towards Classical or Charlotte Mason, that will alter what you purchase (and what you don't!).  Same for if you are unit study based, school-at-home, or more of an unschooler, etc.  The key is to know what you believe and what you need to achieve the educational philosophy you are striving to embrace.



Resist the temptation to make expensive, spontaneous curriculum purchases just because they're a great deal.


Um, yeah... ask me how I know.  I am the girl who drops $300 on the shiny phonics program that doesn't get used... oh, and $200 on the boxed curriculum that didn't get used...  I've made very spontaneous purchases at curriculum fairs and EVERY SINGLE TIME I have regretted it.

Every. Single. Time.  I've lost money and I've been frustrated and I still didn't learn because I did it every year for like, oh, 5 years.  (sigh)

There may be the odd time that this works out.  Honestly though, big purchases and big decisions (like a whole year's worth of boxed curriculum) are not best made on the fly.  Take time to research and be certain that if you want a program, which one would work for you.  If you already know what you want and what would work and THEN you find it - that is a different story.  Spontaneous, "OH!  LOOK!  A big curriculum that I had no intention buying!  BUT it is normally $600 and she's selling for $200!!!"... don't do it, Mama.  

Just my humble 2 cents based on experience!



Look for tables where you can easily and clearly see your philosophy of education displayed.


So, for example - if I see a table heaped with Bob Jones University curriculum, I'm not going to stop.  If I see a table full of various fill-in-the-blank workbooks - I'm not going to stop.  It's not that I have anything against these things, I just know that they do not work with my philosophy of education.

If you never use workbooks and don't ever plan to use a boxed curriculum like BJU, then don't waste your time at those tables.  Move on and find a table that DOES offer what you're looking for... for example...

If I see a table full of living books, historical fiction novels, resources for greek, latin, nature study, dictation, or narration - I'm going to stop.  These are clear signs that this Mom (or vendor) is selling materials that would appeal to my more Classical, Charlotte Mason philosophy of education.  




Look for classic books and don't be afraid to snatch them up.


I really don't have to expand too much.  Classic literature is ALWAYS worth the investment.  Seek out and don't be afraid to purchase classic picture books and novels.  I've never regretted those investments and the majority of these types of books will never leave our family library.  When you can get a classic for $1 - it is always worth the purchase! (Even if you won't use it for a while or your kids have outgrown it!)



Get familiar with titles in the booklists that support your philosophy of education.  When you see the titles from the lists - grab them.


So, this is kind of related to the whole idea of buying classics.

After several years of homeschooling with a Charlotte Mason inspired philosophy, I've grown very familiar with the types of books to look for.  Think: Sonlight catalog, Heart of Dakota books, Ambleside, Simply Charlotte Mason, classics, living books lists, biographies, poetry anthologies, etc.
So, if I see books that I know are frequently listed as great living books, I quickly grab them up.  Even if my kids won't be ready to read them for another couple of years!   I am actually quite liberal with my purchases of these types of books because they rarely disappoint.



If something is under $5 and you are really torn as to whether or not to buy it... just get it.


Don't leave the sale regretting not buying that novel for two bucks.  If something inside of you is nudging you to grab it, listen.  Better to grab it at a cheap price than regret not getting it later.



Come with a list and don't be afraid to actually ASK people what they have.


Honestly?  It know it seems a bit 'over-kill' to walk  up to table vendors and start rhyming off a list of books you are looking for - but, it's not a bad idea.

At the sale last week, I casually mentioned that I was looking for the Nature Liberty Readers and the Mom promptly dug in a box and placed two (the two I needed!) in my hands.

Trust me, you might feel silly, but it will save you time and frustration to just ask.  Plus, if you ask first - well, you know, the early bird gets that worm!

Recognize and grab everyday, useful homeschool books at a great price.


I'm talking Atlases, Dictionaries, Thesauruses, high quality Encyclopedias (like Usborne's World History ones), Nature Guides, and handbooks for Math and Science concepts.  

There are countless Atlases in our home and we use them all.  Explorer's Atlas, World Atlas, Canadian Atlas, Animal Atlas, these are all incredibly useful and will stay in your 'library' forever.  

We also have the Usborne Junior Encyclopdias, several World History Encyclopedias, and books like, The Last 500 Years and The Encyclopedia of Planet Earth.

Bird guides, plant guides, animal guides, and local nature books are also really helpful to have on hand.

These types of resources are very  good investments no matter what content or curriculum you cover year to year.  You will always have a great selection of books to access when you need information about a wide range of topics.  These may never be read-alouds or core books, but they will be used often and in many ways.



Stick around to the end of the sale and grab the best deals (and even the freebies!).


Yep, I totally do this.  On purpose.  Because no doubt, every time, when the sale is coming to a close - people get crazy and start either dropping their prices crazy low or actually giving stuff away. (I did!)  Most Moms who come to a used book sale with piles of books have already emotionally detached from the books they are selling.  They really don't want to bring heaps of stuff back home with them.  Come the end of the sale - they may very well give you some GREAT deals.  It's worth sticking around to the end.




Alright, now, let's see if I actually put my own tips into practice...  to give you an idea, I spent about $100 cash on everything you see in the photos below.


A look at what I purchased at a recent Used Book and Curriculum Fair:


A Child's History of the World $10 (this is such a classic living book for world history and my copy was falling apart... so a no brainer purchase in my opinion!), Pocketful of Pinecones is a classic Charlotte Mason Nature Study book, the three HEROES books from Dave and Neta Jackson were a GREAT find (if you ever see these, buy them, they are amazing!), Christian Liberty Nature Readers are classic Charlotte Mason readers for narration, Among the Night/Farmyard people are also classic Charlotte books, Plutarch's Lives is a classic, and Story Starters is a Writing Resource that I have seen in various Charlotte Mason inspired lists and catalogs, so I grabbed it when I saw it.  LOVE this pile.  Super happy with these purchases!

The Children's Book of Home and Family goes along with William J. Bennet's various other virtues based literature (The Children's Treasury of Virtues, etc.).  Any time I see books like this, I buy them because they are great for character study, read-alouds, and narration.  I grabbed the Apologia Science because it was $10 and we do not have a good resource for creation-based human anatomy.  The White Stallion of Lipizza is in many living book lists and is hard to find.  The others caught my eye and fit our philosophy, so I grabbed them.

Living Literature!  Many of these are titles I recognized from lists, or were written by authors we are familiar with and enjoy.

More Living Books!  Here I was excited to find tons of biographies.  Biographies are a wonderful way to learn history and study character and Hero Admiration.

I've actually always really loved the books from Christian Light Publications, so I don't hesitate to purchase them when they look good!  ($2 for this, I think!)


This is a beautiful resource for bible study!


Inside Story Starters.











Ideas for a Christ-centered Passover

Monday, April 10, 2017




Passover is one of three biblical holidays we celebrate to remember Christ's death and resurrection. This week, we celebrate the days coming up to Passover, which we will celebrate on Saturday evening.  That is followed immediately by the Feast of Unleavened Bread, then First Fruits.  Unleavened Bread lasts 7 days.

Yes, Christ is the lamb who was sacrificed on Passover!  Praise His name.  Because Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits are actually separate Feasts from Passover, I hope to include a second part to this post, offering ideas for embracing those celebrations.  For this one though, I'm focusing on Passover.



We are embracing feasts that were established in the Old Testament, honoured by Christ Jesus, and prophesied of the wonderful, amazing truth of Christ, our Saviour.


One thing I had to wrap my mind around when we started embracing the biblical feasts is that the Hebrew Calendar is not the same as our calendar so Passover (along with all the other feasts) will almost never fall on the same day or day of the week in our 'Roman' calendar.  This year Passover and "Easter" are very close in timing, however, many years they are up to a month apart.




So... here are some of the ways we are embracing a Christ-centered Passover this year.


Studying a Biblical Passover-

My sweet friend Robin at Heart of Wisdom was so kind to give me a copy of Adam to Messiah for review.  I was in the midst of reading through the volumes to post a detailed review (coming soon!) when I was prompted to check for a lesson related to Passover.  I flipped to the Ancient Egypt Book and voila!  So, we'll be using this lesson for this week.  Maybe this is a mini 'plug' for the Adam to Messiah curriculum, because WOW do I love this!  I am so excited about implementing this into our homeschool!!!

We will be doing the following from the lesson:


-Make a list of the plagues, from memory if possible.  Then read Psalm 78.  Which plagues are mentioned?

-Once the plagues are listed (on chalk board), I will hand the children their own little pictures of the plagues, which they will attempt to put in order (by memory).

-Copying scripture for copywork.

-Reading through the account of the exodus found in the Old Testament.

-We will also discuss the prophetic and deeper meanings to the plagues.  For example, the Nile was the Egyptians' idol which God defeated by turning the Nile to blood.  The blood is also a symbol of how blood thirsty and sinful the Egyptians were to slaughter the Hebrews' children.  The frogs represented the fertility goddess, Isis.  Once the plague came, the dead frogs, which we supposed to symbolize life, were left in heaping piles as a reminded of God's supreme power and glory over the false gods of Egypt.



Can you think of the 10 plagues from memory?


Can we put the plagues in order?



Easy copywork for lapbooks.



 Reading through the Passover Story in one of our Children's Bibles:



I got this bible on discount years ago, and it has been one of our favourites!




The Story of Christ (object lessons from our Pesach Box):

I love all these little symbolic pieces, each one representing a part of the story of Christ's death and resurrection.  They are so tactile and the children are filled with memories upon taking them out of the box.  I salvaged these from our old 'Resurrection Eggs'... I wasn't comfortable with the eggs but still felt the symbols were very fitting for Passover so I saved them, and I'm glad I did.

You can easily find many of these things around the house or make them out of crafting items.  I encourage you to be creative!

I believe this year, I'll implement this into our Lapbooks as well.  (I'll share this year's lapbooks at the end of Unleavened Bread, Lord willing.)


Symbolic Meanings and Readings:


The Donkey reminds us of Christ's entry into Jerusalem. 
Matthew 21:1-9, Mark 11:8

The Coins reminds us of the thirty pieces if silver Judas received for the betraying of Jesus into the hands of the Jewish leaders. 
Matthew 26: 14-16

The cup reminds us of Jesus last supper with his disciples before His crucifixion. It was what was used for the wine, which is drunk in memory of Christ's blood that He shed for us and our sins. 
Matthew 26:17-19, Exodus 12:23

The praying hands reminds us of Jesus visiting the garden of Gethsemane to pray. 
Mark 14:32-42

The leather reminds us the whip used to give Jesus 39 lashes after His trial by Pilate. 
John 19:1-15, Matthew 27:26-31

The crown of thorns reminds us of the crown that the soldiers placed on Jesus' head while mocking Him.
Matthew 27:29 

The nails remind us of the nails that were driven into Jesus' hands and feet to nail Him to the cross. 
John 19: 16-22 

The dice reminds us of the Roman soldiers gambling for Jesus' robe. 
 John 19: 23-25 

The spear reminds us what the Roman soldiers used to pierce Jesus' side when He was on the cross. 
John:19 31-37 

The gauze reminds us of the linen cloth used by Joseph of Arimathea to wrap Jesus' body after He died on the cross. 
Matthew 20: 57-61 

The stone reminds us of the tomb were the stone rolled away. 
Matthew: 28:1-2

The basin and towel reminds us of how Jesus washed the feet of His disciples on the night before He died.
John 13:1-7

The lamb reminds us that Jesus is the Lamb of God, the One True Passover Lamb who died once and for all so we may be cleansed of our sins and draw close to the Him.
John 1:29

The two candles are the Sabbath Candles that remind us that Jesus is the Light of the World.
John 8:12



I found all the symbols in clip-art form and printed them off for the children to put in order as we work through all the symbols in our Pesach box.  




Passover Supper

For our celebration of the Last Supper (Passover dinner), we plan to enjoy a special meal together. 

We don't do a traditional Sedar.  There are many parts of the Sedar that I don't necessarily feel prompted to embrace at this time.  For us, we focus on the Bread and the Cup as Christ said these two things were symbolic of His body and His blood.  

We will eat Unleavened Bread together and read through many scriptures together to remind us of what  Christ Jesus (Y'eshua) has done for us through His sacrifice.

We will also embrace and discuss the four cups.  Each cup has deep significance and are referred to in Exodus 6.  We will have 4 separate wine glasses with grape juice and will read through the assigned readings together.  

This is also when we will search for Leaven in our home and prayerfully do our best to rid our home of leaven for our embracing of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.






The 10 Plagues Symbolic Activity

We have been following (loosely, mind you) the ideas shared here for the 10 Plagues Adventure.  We are only on Day 5, but it has been really neat to see the kids make the connections.






Other Readings and Activities:

  • reading through all of the account of the Exodus and the Passover as well as scriptures referring to Christ's death and resurrection as well as references to Christ as the Lamb, and as the Shepherd.
  • making our flags for Passover, Unleavened Bread and Firstfruits.
  • reading through corresponding sections of the Victor Journey Through the Bible.
  • Reading several picture books corresponding to Passover
  • Copywork with scriptures and art.  We will start with John 10:11 and a picture of a lamb from Draw Write Now.
  • Sketching a Lamb
  • Reading about Sheep in the Bible with our Big Bible Guide (we love this book)
  • Poetry study - "God Speaks" by Lucy Martin from All Day Long from Christian Light Publications (Love this poetry book!)
  • Hymn study - Oh, the Blood of Jesus
  • Hebrew - learning the words to Oh, the Blood of Jesus in Hebrew
  • Poetry for Copywork - Passover by Myra Cohn Livingston




Picture study, a painting by Robert Bateman.


We love this Poetry book from Christian Light Publications, highly recommend it!



The Big Bible Guide (Creation and Animals)
We will work at learning the words in Hebrew to "Oh, the Blood".  We love Joshua Aaron and use his cds to not only worship the Lord, but learn Hebrew!




We will also be doing a neat activity, matching the truths about how Christ Jesus is displayed in every part of Passover.  We will be using this chart from A Family Guide to the Biblical Holidays.  I highly (HIGHLY) recommend this book if you are looking to embrace the feasts, it has been a huge blessing to us.




I created this for our lapbooks.

Other Lapbook Elements from this year:








Some Ideas for Passover Lapbooks {these are the ones we created last year}:










Some Links:

A fun Matzah cover handicraft
These 10 Plagues story prompts
A Sedar learning plate, similar to this one
Activity Ideas for Passover from Heart of Wisdom
Ann Voskamp's family Passover celebration and thoughts
Free Christian Passover Sedar printable
Really neat Passover Sedar from Passion for Truth Ministries
From the Passover Lamb to the Lamb of God from Focus on the Family



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