Before deciding to homeschool their child, every parent must consider the financial aspect of a homeschool education and prepare accordingly. “How much does it cost to homeschool?” and “Can you homeschool on a budget?” are the two most frequently asked questions.
While a lot of people think that homeschooling is more expensive than sending a child to a public school, you’ll see this is not always the case. There’s no simple answer to this question, but if you stay with us until the end of this article, you’ll get familiar with all the factors that positively or negatively affect your budget while homeschooling. You’ll learn what are the costs when homeschooling; some “hidden” costs worth taking into consideration; how to save money on homeschooling; and you’ll read a direct comparison of the economical advantages and disadvantages of public schools and homeschooling.
Finally, you’ll be able to calculate your yearly expenses if you homeschool your child, which will help you make the right decision. Let’s begin.
Some people spent hundreds and thousands of dollars on full-packaged curriculums, expensive teaching resources, and fancy learning equipment. This is great, but it doesn’t and shouldn’t define homeschooling in general. On the other hand, according to some homeschooling parents, you don’t have to spend a dime. The reality is somewhere in the middle.
According to HSLDA, the cheapest approach costs around $100 per student (with a lot of improvisation), while the most expensive approach costs more than $500 per student.
Here’s everything you’ll need to homeschool your child and rough estimates of the costs related to the different aspects of homeschooling.
The curriculum is the most fundamental and basic component that every homeschool parent needs to invest in (unless you’re unschooling). However, unlike public or private schools that have fixed prices, the biggest advantage of homeschooling is that you have full control over how much you’ll spend on the curriculum. For example, if you’re a stay-at-home parent, you can even afford to spend time researching and create your own curriculum, which is totally free. If you want to try designing your own curriculum, check out Ultimate Guide to Curriculum Design”
But, most parents don’t have the time nor feel confident enough for this task, so the alternative is to purchase a curriculum online or offline. Buying a curriculum will likely be the biggest expense when you homeschool your child and can range from $100 to thousands of dollars.
According to estimates from the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) the average parent spends from $300 to $600 per child yearly on curricula, books, and other learning supplies.
You can even find high-quality curriculums online for free, but most of them are limited to one subject, like the resources from Khan Academy – a non-profit organization that aims to provide free education for every child.
Another cost of homeschooling comes from the teaching resources that you’ll need to be able to play the role of a teacher or tutor. These resources include lesson plans, guides, graphic organizers, book lists, discussion guides, and whiteboard activities. Do you really need all these resources and how much do they cost?
This mainly depends on the homeschooling style you choose and your personal style as a teacher or tutor. On average, you’ll probably spend $100 to $250 on teaching resources in one year for one student.
However, we’ll argue that you can successfully educate your kids without spending hundreds of dollars. You can achieve this if you approach this issue from the do-it-yourself perspective and spend a solid amount of time looking for free advice, guides, and tutorials online. Alternatively, you can skip the hard work and opt for free or low-cost teaching resources like the worksheet samples and curriculum guides on our website. We have a free plan and a $5 a month plan that can cover all your needs throughout the whole year.
Another possibility is to hire a professional tutor, which is a lot more expensive, but for working parents, it might be the only option. Tutors typically charge from $30 to $80 per hour but depending on your needs, you might find professionals that have a monthly rate.
Supply & Equipment
Did you know that teachers spend $300 to $1000 each year from their own money on classroom supplies, according to NPR? Fortunately, you don’t have to buy equipment for a full classroom, only for your own children. So, what will you need and how much will it cost you?
If we broadly define the “Supply & Equipment” category, then this is where you should add the expenses of buying notebooks, pens, pencils, markers, crayons, scissors, calculators, and other standard school supplies. While most public and private schools send out shopping lists with required items that might reach up to $1,017 (according to the Huntington Bank 13th Annual Backpack Index), homeschooling costs are completely under your control.
On the other hand, while the classroom might be more or less equipped, for certain subjects like biology or science, you’ll need to pay an extra buck or two. It really helps that, today, you can find high-quality educational equipment like digital microscopes for less than $30 on sites like Amazon.
We calculate that for supplies and equipment, you’ll need anywhere from $100 to $350 and more.
Field trips are an important part of homeschooling as spending so much time at home can quickly become mundane for kids. Plus, seeing the things they read in books will make education so much more fun and exciting. But beyond that, field trips have immense educational value.
Cultural institutions including arts, science, and history museums, historical sites, theaters, and zoos are common spots for an educational field trip for kids.
In addition to travel expenses, you’ll need to calculate the tickets for these institutions and make a yearly plan that will comply with your lesson topics. We determined that parents will spend around $100 to $350 taking their children to field trips as part of their homeschool education.
Extracurricular activities are just as important as regular education as they allow kids to be creative, get the physical activity they need, spend extra energy, acquire new interests and hobbies, meet other kids, and build friendships.
The best extracurricular activities for kids include music classes, dance, sports, martial arts, swimming, art classes, crafts like pottery and sculpting, book clubs, and more. Don’t be afraid to let your child try a lot of different things, but be flexible and don’t pressure them, as they can easily get overwhelmed. The sweet spot would be around two different activities, like music and sports, or sports and book club. The idea is to combine a more cognitive activity with a physical activity.
Depending on where you live, you should expect to pay around $150 to $500 per child, per season for popular group activities for kids.
Finally, the last consideration is to account for the things that you might overlook in the beginning, or things that might come up unexpectedly over the course of one homeschool year. A good example of these expenses includes membership fees for homeschooling associations and groups, assessment fees (if your state requires it), tutoring expenses (for certain subjects or topics you might struggle with), and more.
To be on the safe side, we recommend adding an additional $50 to $250 on top of your final assessment of the costs as miscellaneous.
In conclusion, here are the rough estimated costs for homeschooling one student.
Curriculum: $0 (self-designed) or $300 – $700 (purchased).
Teaching Resources: $100 – $250
Supply & Equipment: $100 – $350
Field Trips: $100-$250
Extracurricular Activities: $150 – $500
Miscellaneous: $50 – $250
The cheapest approach means that you’ll likely spend around $400 per year, per student for homeschooling if you create your own curriculum, or around $700 if you decide to buy a curriculum. But, keep in mind that there are ways to cut these costs, which we’ll discuss below.
On the other hand, a relatively expensive approach to homeschooling means you’ll have to invest at least $2,350 and more.
How to Save Money on Homeschooling
Now that you’re familiar with the costs of homeschooling, here are some smart ways to save money and develop a homeschooling curriculum that won’t exceed your budget.
The first step in this task is choosing the right homeschooling style in regards to the financial aspect.
Costs of Different Homeschooling Styles
One of the things that affect the cost of homeschooling your kid is the style of the homeschool education you plan to follow.
The major homeschooling styles are school-at-home, classical homeschooling, unit studies, Charlotte Mason, eclectic, and unschooling. These schools follow different methodologies and techniques, which can lead to spending more or less money on teaching resources and supplies.
To give a good example of how homeschooling styles can affect your budget, we can compare the two most different approaches – classical homeschooling and unschooling. Classical homeschooling is based on a lot of reading and analyzing classical literature, which can be expensive to buy and you’ll probably need additional teachers’ guides and textbooks. Also, in classical homeschooling, children learn Latin or even Greek, for which you’ll need to hire tutors or send the child to a language course.
On the other hand, unschooling is the most flexible and relaxed approach to education. You don’t have to follow any traditional curriculum and you can use unique, personalized resources that are free of cost.
You can read more about both school styles in the links above.
Tips for Saving Money on Regular Homeschooling Costs
Many times throughout the article we mentioned that some parents claim you don’t have to spend a dime while homeschooling. Is that achievable in practice? Here are some ways in which you can cut homeschooling costs significantly.
- Buy Used
- Use Free Resources
- Rent Resources
- Split the Costs With Other Homeschoolers in Your Area
- Use City Libraries
The Hidden Costs of Homeschooling
While we’ve already covered the direct costs for a homeschool education, there are also costs that result as a consequence of homeschooling.
To homeschool your child without spending a fortune on professional tutors, you’ll need to be a
stay-at-home parent (you or your partner). The consequence of this is lost income, which can be a major obstacle for some families. Make sure you think this through from this aspect as well, before making a decision.
Increased Utility Bills
Staying at home means using more electricity (computers and other technological and educational gadgets) and spending more when grocery shopping. Instead of a sandwich in a lunch box, your child will eat a highly nutritious home-cooked meal.
While this won’t disturb your budget significantly, it’s still something to keep in mind.
You can’t calculate everything in advance because there will always be things we can’t predict. Depending on the homeschool style, the resources you have, or the resources you’re going to use for teaching, you might end up spending a lot of money on printer paper and toners, for example.
Before You Leave
Every year, more and more parents choose to homeschool their kids. In the USA alone, around 3,5% of children aged 5 through 17 are homeschooled, as opposed to less than 1% in 1999. There are many reasons behind this steady increase, and we believe there are many more parents who would like to become part of that statistic, but are too confused or have a lot of unanswered questions. “How Much Does It Cost to Homeschool” is one of them.
Hopefully, this article will guide you in making a calculated evaluation of the financial aspect of homeschooling, so you can make a smart decision. And, if the numbers are looking good, our blog is here to guide you through the whole process from start to finish. We can also support you by providing high-quality interactive worksheets and lesson plans free of charge, or on a premium membership plan for a small monthly fee.
The education of your child is important and they deserve the best. Take your time before making a decision that will greatly affect their future.
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