Anyone who is looking to homeschool is wondering about the money. Especially if your home will be reduced to one income. Here is my personal experience with homeschool expenses.
Is homeschool expensive? Homeschool is estimated to cost $300 and up per year. Many sources estimate the cost at $300-$600 per child; however, there are ways to make this expense a per-family cost. The real expense in homeschool is the curriculum and learning opportunities. There are a lot of free curriculum and free learning opportunities that help families absorb the cost of homeschooling. Homeschool can be expensive as you desire or as cheap as you need it to be.
Let’s dived deeper into the specific cost of homeschooling, how to scale up or down, and how to overcome living on one income. There are a lot of preparation families can do to prepare financially before deciding to homeschool. I know I learned a lot of ways to cut corners and save cost with homeschooling. Here is what I have learned.
Cost of Homeschooling
Here are some academic costs of homeschooling :
- Supplies (pencils, crayons, markers, paper, notebooks, binders, folders, and etc)
- Project and Experiment supplies
- Field Trips
- Outsourced classes (sewing, art, music, science labs, co-op classes or groups)
- Initial “school room” setup (bookshelves, chairs, workstations, and etc)
- Fuel (traveling to learning experiences)
- Initial equipment (laptops, tablets, projectors or TV, printer, laminator, etc)
- Testing and assessment fees
- Professional homeschool membership fees
- Homeschool and educational conventions
Some of the items listed are not required but this does contain most of the expenses you will face when homeschooling. Professional memberships and conventions are not requirements but they can be helpful to your homeschool especially if your school aligns with their platform. Expos and conventions can cost anywhere from free to $100 and up.
Not all states require specific testing, my state does not require testing; but we do it for our records. This enables us to keep specific records of our kids’ growth in relation to the standards of the test. Testing can cost anywhere from $0-$50 depending upon the type of test you take. Many homeschool support groups offer free to low cost testing. This is generally done once a year.
Outsourced classes, field trips, project supplies, school room set-up, fuel, and equipment are relative to your income. You can scale up or down based on your finances. The same is true of the curriculum you select. You can scale up or down based on your needs. There is actually some quality free full curriculum. Especially for parents who just need a road map and who don’t mind veering off the road to customized projects every now and then for deeper focus.
For outsourced classes such as sewing, we find classes specifically for homeschool kids. These tend to be affordable and during the day. Take sewing for example, we paid $185/semester for a class once a week. The field trips with groups tend to be less than $10/kid and our city offers free museum days weekly. Major attractions like aquariums and themed parks tend to have homeschool days at a discount.
During back to school time, I purchase school supplies because they are the most affordable. I stock up for the year. For two kids, $30- $50 is more than enough for the year. Dollar Tree has sketch pads for $1 which we use for drawing and painting.
The most I’ve paid for a curriculum is about $300 per student. Now, this was for one subject: Language Arts. I made sure I purchased a product that fully encompassed what I wanted to teach my kids in that subject area. The program is also usable throughout elementary from preK- 5th grade. Which made it a one time purchase.
There are free and complete curriculums out there. We actually use a free math curriculum and love it. I am super creative and don’t follow it completely, but I’ll go into that in another post.
Many conventions are great because curriculum vendors are selling their products at a discount. In addition, you can see the product firsthand to see if it will work with your child’s learning style. I personally would NEVER recommend a new homeschool parent to spend hundreds of dollars on curriculum at first. I’ll do another post on this as well, but essentially you have to know your learner and your teaching style before you should invest in a curriculum. If at all 🙂 .
Preparing Financially to Homeschool
Wow, this is the topic I wished I had before I started to homeschool. Here is exactly how I would prepare financially to homeschool if I had to do it all over again. You know, before I just quit my job and dived right in.
- Stocked up. Buy common supplies before you start homeschooling. This includes common household items.
- Learn to coupon and how to save buying in bulk. Maybe consider starting a home garden. It’s also a great learning experience for the kids and a perfect way to deschool while learning about the world around us.
- Declutter and use proceeds as extra savings for emergencies.
- Get life insurance outside of your job.
- Create a habit of eating less outside of the home.
- Shop around for lower utility companies.
- Look at every reoccurring bill and search for ways to reduce and/or eliminate it. Example: Do you really need 3 different streaming accounts? Is there a more affordable phone company. We saved hundreds of dollars per month when I changed our electricity company.
- Put money aside for homeschooling outings. Create a budget with monthly income to go towards homeschool expenses.
- Pay household expenses up by a month.
Now noticed I didn’t say purchase curriculum. I don’t think anyone should purchase a curriculum when they first start homeschooling. I just want to say that you should give yourself a headstart in having extra even at first when you don’t need it.
Consider finding a part-time work from home job. Or start a business with the kids. Generating income while retaining learning time can only help your homeschool experience. It is very possible to work from home and even work full-time while homeschooling. The latter isn’t as desirable or easy but very possible.
Creating a budget for a homeschooling family should account for these things:
- It’s called homeschooling but it’s not very fun when you don’t get out of the house. Account for getting out. This may include museums, homeschool days, field trips, and more.
- If you are living on one income, account for sick, vacation, and downtime for the working partner.
- Co-op fees and activities
- Lab fees if your kids will be involved with labs
- Extracurricular activities
- Babysitter money, incase the non-working parents needs private time for doctor visits or just a breather every now and then
- Gas money for homeschool activities
- Lunch boxes and backpacks for learning on the go
- Learning packets or unit studies
Ways to Save Money Homeschooling
Here is the section where I get excited to share many ways you can save money while homeschooling:
- Use the library for books and to build your own unit studies. You would be amazed at the project books you can find at the library.
- Use book sites like Thriftbooks. I love this site. I actually purchase a science book set piece by piece for a total of $55 when it was sold new for over $250. The condition was really nice and then I got free books after building points.
- Always look at Amazon, Thriftbooks, and Barnes and Noble to determine pricing for books. Never pay full price they always drop prices. Plan far in advance so you have time to wait.
- Before buying anything (apps, games, curriculum) for learning, see if there is a free trial. Let your child try it out first. I have saved so much money by realizing a product wasn’t for us by trying it first.
- Before you purchase a curriculum, check out its user’s pages on Facebook. A good curriculum has a user’s page which you can see feedback about the product but also find deals on used items. You can also ask: When is the best time to buy? Do they ever run discounts? Do you need (XYZ ) component of the curriculum (maybe you don’t have to buy all the components to be successful)?
- List museums, zoos, aquariums, garden centers and other local attractions. Research if they offer: free or discounted days and homeschool days. Schedule your field trips around these days
- Check Microsoft stores, they offer a host of free coding and technology courses. If they don’t have what you are looking for you can contact them and they will “reasonably” create a class for you (especially if you have a group).
- Only buy supplies on sale and stock up at that time.
- Get fuel rewards so you earn free gas.
- Look for co-ops to share cost of activities and projects.
- Research different parks. For instance, we have really nice local parks so we don’t get burned out of going to one location over-and-over.
- Ask extracurricular activities if they have homeschool pricing.
- Half Price Books is one store that offers discounts to homeschool teachers.
- Check your local libraries for free monthly activities. We’ve found everything from storytime arts and craft to guitar lessons for free at the library.
- The city or county will often have free to low-cost youth sports. We’ve participated in weekly tennis lessons at no cost. The amazing thing was it was a homeschool class so it was during the school day.
- Purchase a printer that has a high printing output. We use a high yield ink cartridge.
- Purchase curriculum that can be passed down to younger siblings, offers PDF format or has a good resale value.
- Depending on your state and local public school, homeschool students are eligible to receive many services at no cost. These can include testing, sports, therapy service (speech), and other public school services. Not all schools are homeschool friendly, so know your rights by doing your research. Don’t just blindly call and ask.
Is public school cheaper than homeschool? Public school is free to attend. Homeschool at a minimum will cost printing – even for free materials. Public school generally has fewer field trips than a homeschool family which will then cost fuel for homeschool families. Although field trips are optional they will cost more to a homeschool family. Overall, public school is cheaper than homeschool because the curriculum and daily attendance are not charged to the student.
Can I get paid to homeschool my child? This will depend on your State’s Laws for Homeschooling. Parents who teach their kids are not paid; however, several states do offer tax breaks and stipends to homeschooling families.