So, how much does it cost to homeschool?
That's a difficult question to answer.
In fact, it's an impossible question to answer - because the answer varies so widely. Each family will have different homeschool costs based on many different factors.
Ask yourself these questions:
- How big is my family?
- How crafty am I? (More craft supplies = more expense)
- Do I use a lot of non-reusable workbooks?
- How dedicated am I to searching out used curriculum? Or do I prefer to buy new?
- Do I use boxed curriculum or pay for a correspondence school? ($$$)
- Do I have family members contributing to expenses? (i.e. Grandma pays for piano lessons)
- Do I outsource a lot of my classes?
- Do I participate in a lot of extracurriculars?
- Do I go on pricey field trips?
Since every family answers those questions differently, every family will have different home education costs. In all honesty, home education can range from nearly-free to thousands of dollars per year. (Both extremes are rather rare.)
Homeschool Costs - The Basics!
The costs involved in home education can be generally categorized as follows:
- Class and Co-op Fees
- School Supplies
- Field Trip Fees
- Extracurricular Fees
- Books and Games
* Some of these fees might not be considered "homeschool" fees, as they would also apply to non-homeschooled children - for example, fees for extracurricular activities. Thus, cost will also vary by your definition of what falls under the umbrella of home education.
* There is considerable overlap between several of these categories.
Homeschool Costs - The Scoop!
Here is what is included in each cost category, along with a summary of what our family spends. You'll soon see why each family will have such radically different costs for a home education program.
(At the current time, we have one student in third grade, and three children who are still too young for school.)
- Textbooks (reusable)
- Workbooks (usually not reusable)
- Computer CDs (for computerized courses such as Switched On Schoolhouse)
- Teacher's manuals (sometimes needed, sometimes not)
- Extras - Math manipulatives, educational games, teaching tools, flashcards, wall charts, etc.
This year, my curriculum purchases were as follows:
- Third grade math and language arts (workbooks and teachers' manuals) = $105
- Four geography books, purchased used (for use in coming years) = $16
- "The Well-Trained Mind" = $28 (I paid $16 for this and used a $12 gift card)
- A curriculum book which we won't use but I simply *had* to have at the time = $12
I also am anticipating the following purchases at our homeschool convention:
- Maps Book C = $11
- Rod and Staff History Curriculum = $15
- Piano theory book = $10
If you buy boxed curriculum or lots of new textbooks, prices will rise steeply. I love to search homeschoolclassifieds.com for used curriculum, as well as local used-curriculum sales (here in the Phoenix valley, the used-sale season is May-June).
When buying used, it pays to know your prices. Sometimes a used item will be offered at a price that is nearly as much as one would pay for new materials - or even more!
Additionally, when buying used it is (usually) extremely easy to find teacher's guides - but much more difficult to find workbooks. If you use a lot of workbooks, don't plan on necessarily being able to find used versions.
|Our favorite - Christian Light Education.|
Of course, when looking for used curriculum, problems often arise over trying to find the correct editions. That is why with some things (like our math and English, above), I prefer to buy new and save the hassle.
Class and Co-op Fees
- Classes are usually taught by one person and are more expensive, since you are paying that person for his or her time and expertise.
- Co-ops (short for "cooperatives") are led by each participating parent in turn. They tend to be much less expensive, since everyone shares the load. At most there is a small fee for supplies.
- Also under this category would be tutoring fees, fees for online classes, and community college fees (for teens).
We currently do not participate in any classes or co-ops. Maybe sometime! I get schedule-overload extremely easily, so I am very protective of our free time.
Some moms absolutely thrive on running about from class to class. If you're one of those moms, your fees in this area will be higher.
- Pencils, pens, paper, crayons, markers, etc. - the usual.
- Computer ink - This is a big one.
- Craft supplies
- More expensive school supplies, like microscopes and chem lab materials.
We buy computer ink throughout the year. We also buy a small amount of craft supplies throughout the year, at a minimal cost - I'm not a huge crafter! Costs = I have no idea, since I haven't kept track. (Sorry!)
This year my annual trip to buy school supplies totaled $21. I intentionally kept it around $20, since I had that much to spend in teacher's reward points at OfficeMax. I was not able to get everything I wanted, and I plan to spend about another $10 in the next few weeks. As I earn reward points through the year (through turning in ink cartridges), I anticipate adding a few things to our stock that we could use (like extra kitchen timers, a pencil sharpener, etc.).
The more expensive purchases (microscopes, etc.) do not yet apply to us, as we do not have teens.
|Some of this year's supplies (piled on top of our camping stove, of course).|
- Field trip fees will be as much or as little as you like - they can be anything from free (yay!) to incredibly expensive.
We participate in free and low-cost field trips. We do not participate in the pricey ones right now. There are many opportunities for field trips, and we manage a minimum of two per month (usually two to five per month). I would guess that we spend a maximum of $20 per month, but often much less.
I usually set aside some of the children's gift money to use in fun field trips for them. For example, this year our 3yo received birthday money from both his aunt and his grandparents. I set aside some money from auntie's gift money to take the boys to a local open gym (twice), and I set aside money from the grandparents' gift to take the boys to our local aquarium. This is a great way to use money in a way that the children adore - without cluttering up the house with yet more toys (which the children will then proceed to fight over).
(Here is a clip from the children's field trip to the open gym. They had so much fun!)
In the Phoenix area, many field trip destinations hold homeschool days with reduced prices for homeschoolers, and we always wait until those times.
Additionally, many field trips are completely free. Examples: our local airport open house, the jazz festival, our Christmas parade, free days at local museums, etc. It's just a matter of finding them and then remembering them! (Learning the local event schedule is much easier when one is involved in an active homeschool group. I'm constantly getting reminders of free events from my homeschool group members!)
- Music lessons
- Choir, band, theatre
- Speech and debate
- Church youth clubs (AWANA, etc.)
- Boys' and girls' clubs (American Heritage Girls, Trail Life, Royal Rangers, etc.)
We participate in a church kids' club that has a small annual fee, plus badge fees. I'm guessing that this costs something like $40 per child annually.
We also will be doing piano lessons, which will be free (since I'm teaching).
We hope to get involved in more extracurriculars over time, but we don't yet know when that time will be or what extracurriculars we will select. Right now we are very protective of our family time, because we've seen (by experience!) how easy it is to overstress our family by overcommitting to extracurriculars.
Books and Games
Most homeschool families desire to build a solid home reference library for their home education program, and small book purchases are a constant given. This is not a big fee (especially if you shop used), but it is something to take into consideration. Several friends of mine utilize paperbackswap.com, which allows one to collect books for only mailing fees (and now a small membership fee).
"Just give up now and buy more bookcases."
Many homeschoolers also collect large amounts of board games, educational computer games, musical CDs, documentary videos, historical movies, etc. We're not really into any of those right now (and we use the library for some of those), but the cost can mount up if your family leans in that direction.
- Homeschool group membership fees
- Homeschool convention attendance fees
- HSLDA membership fees
- Everything else!
This year we paid $60 for our combined convention fee and state homeschool association (Arizona Families for Home Education, AFHE) membership fee. We paid $15 for our membership fee with one homeschool group, and $20 for membership in another homeschool group. We also belong to a third group which has no fees.
We also pay a yearly membership fee to HSLDA ($120 per year, less for renewals and less if multiple years are purchased at once).
As for *everything else* - well, the possibilities are endless! And at the end of the day, it all depends on your unique family and your unique situation. All in all, home education is a significant budget component - but it doesn't need to be exorbitantly pricey. And as the parent-in-charge, you get to set the pace with how much you want to spend for your family's program.
Enjoy the ride!
There you have it, dear readers! I can't actually answer the question "How much does home education cost?" - but I hope you've gotten some ideas.
Experienced homeschoolers, what would you add to the above? Please share!