I try not so spend a whole lot on curriculum and materials. With 4 children, that gets expensive. I want to provide really high materials though, so here are a few things I do:
1. We use a lot of books in our schooling. I have rule though- I almost never buy something unless I check it out first and if I love it so much that I would continue to check it out over and over again from the library I will buy it. This helps me cut down on clutter and makes sure we only bring high quality in. Yes, stuff that doesn't make my quality cut does come in, but I try to send it packing as soon as possible. I think for me the most important free resource is the library. We belong to an amazing library system and because the town I live in straddles the county line, I have access to another library system too. Mostly I use the larger system as many of the books I want are available.
2. When we go on road trips, I am vehemently opposed to screens in the car. I have found that 1 movie in the car leads to antsy crabby children whereas audiobooks, workbooks, and a few small puzzle type toys leads to harmony and mostly happy children, even when I drive 1000 by myself with all four. I need lots of audiobooks though. For the last car trip I took, I purchased several inexpensive Sansa Clip mp3 players and loaded audiobooks for each child as well as loaded my ipod with books I thought everyone might like. I use the Overdrive downloads from my library as well as Librivox and Story Nory. Librivox has public domain books on audio. Story Nory has some classics and some proprietary stories. Both resources are free.
3. I recently bought a Kindle and have discovered the joys of Project Gutenberg. I have loaded my own books to read, but also some for the children. Various fairy tales have been quite intriguing for my children. The best part, is that the kindle packs easily so I can read to my children or myself in many places.You don't have to have a kindle to enjoy Project Gutenberg though. You can use it for many different ereaders as well as on the computer. Some Charlotte Mason homeschoolers I know will print the reading assignments for their children off of Project Gutenberg and just give the required pages each day.
4. I don't allow much computer time for my children because I believe that computers are adult tools and shouldn't be used as toys. I do allow occasional educational games though during free time on a very limited basis and love some of the games I have found for math fact drilling. I found Timez Attack to be a fun game. At the time when we used it, they only had the multiplication version but apparently there is a division and addition/subtraction one now too. There is a free version available. I also really like Multiplication.com as well as a similar site that use other operations called Fun 4 the Brain.
For other ideas of inexpensive or free resources, check out the blog cruise from The TOS Homeschool Crew. Please note that the link below won't go live until Tuesday 21st.