People often wonder what the best hints are for frugal home education/natural learning.
I could say an AWFUL lot on this subject ;o) , but my best advice is to be satisfied and content with what you have, and model/teach your children to be content and satisfied too.
BUT as a home educating parent it is still our responsibility to facilitate learning and provide resources. Teach yourself to open your eyes to exciting and wonderful ways to use what you have, and the things that come along cheaply or free.
For example - for small children if you find some little baskets, or lovely wooden bowls in the op-shop (or re-use shop) for say $1 each - that would be a sensible purchase.
Make sure they are not junky horrible bowls or baskets, and ensure that they are a pleasing shape and size.
Next time you are at the beach have the children collect shells or some lovely rounded stones etc. The children can wash them when they get home (make sure none of the shells have little creatures living in them!) then put them baskets to be played with carefully.
This idea can be used for seed pods, autumn leaves, acorns - all sorts of lovely natural (FREE!) goodies that are so much nicer to play with than over-priced expensive plastic faddish junk.
I have lists of "Things To Collect" in my Adventures In Natural Learning Handbook - one list for birth to approximately age 2, and another for children over 2 years old.
The best way to start a collection like this is to read through the list and mark the items you'd really love to have. Keep an eye out for them, or something like them when a bargain comes along. You can also request things from the lists when people ask about birthday presents.
These lists can give a family a good direction to go in to prevent clutter and rubbish and faddish toys that the children lose interest in, but have to be stored away annoyingly because a child has become attached to it!
I think many experienced home educators will have ideas on items they have purchased thinking they would be really good - but they have ended up being a waste of money/space and time. Hopefully my lists will give some direction to those who are starting out/want to clear the decks and start again.