Re: hands on curriculum for K/1st
Finding a secular, boxed, hands-on curriculum has been very difficult, if not impossible. I really liked what I saw on Timberdoodle, but it was too much money and it seemed like they had too much unnecessary stuff thrown in. So using them as my starting point, I've pieced together my own curriculum and I'm quite happy with it!
Look at Progressive Phonics as well- it's online & free. We have Happy Phonics, HWT and The Reading Lesson which has been going well. I agree with practicing letters in sand, shaving cream, with play-doh or pudding. Try squeezing some hair gel into a sealed plastic bag- then you can take it with you for when you're waiting somewhere and have a few minutes to practice.
We have Right Start math- very hands on with lots of manipulative and fun learning. MEP Math is a free online program that looks quite good, but might require a little bit of work- I wanted something more open-and-go.
We'll be doing Galloping the Globe and The Magic School Bus science club. I'm looking at Simply Charlottle Mason & Sonlight to find books off their reading list to read each week. Then I get them from my library.
I've been surprised at what my son can hear/understand/learn when it appears that he is not paying attention. We stay away from workbooks, keep things brief and fun and as hands-on as possible. Sometimes I'll let him play with moon-foam or putty when I need him to listen to something that doesn't fit his learning style (because sometimes there is no way around it!)
As far as saving more money, I looked on Homeschool Classifieds, Amazon used and Rainbow Resources.