Inquiring homeschoolers often ask, ‘How much does homeschooling cost?’. This is not an easy question to answer. Not only do families vary in size but also in income, children’s ages, educational approaches, and individual gifts, talents and interests of the parents and children. So, do we give up and say, ‘It’s impossible to know the cost!’ No! We can still give an educated guess of the average costs of homeschooling and then individually tweak our budgets to reflect our own situations.
Using the figures below, and a little research, I have put together a rough annual budget based on three common homeschooling styles.
What Will You Spend Your Money On
Initial Homeschool Costs Setup
For all there is the initial set up homeschooling cost. These include; a computer, multifunction printer, internet access, dictionary, atlas and a work-space. Some would also say encyclopedias (I never use them now that I have the internet). I won’t put a price tag on these as in most cases these items are already owned or factored into the family budget. For stationary and art supplies I allocate about $75 per child per year.
Sports, art, drama, music, tuition and excursions are all included in the cost of extra curricular activities. If you budget for a sport or music class of $25 per week for each school term, plus excursion costs of $50 per term your yearly budget would be $1200 per child. This category is extremely variable. And in many cases children would have done these activities regardless of homeschooling. Your options are unlimited here.
Curriculum Homeschool Costs
Pre packaged distance education refers to curriculum such as Accelerated Christian Education (ACE). For the workbooks, membership and residential days you can expect to pay $1200 for your first child and $630 for each subsequent child. You may incur some extra accommodation and transport expenses for residential days.
A custom designed curriculum encompasses various homeschool methods such as; classical, Charlotte Mason, textbook and eclectic. With a budget of $725 per year you could include; a math program and a Math Online subscription ($80); an English program ($175) plus reading books ($200); a science program, such as Apologia ($120); a history and geography resource ($150). Reusable resources can greatly reduce costs for the second child to around $300.
With natural learning or unschooling everything is curriculum. Unschoolers spend more money on extra curricular activities, excursions, hobbies and interests of the child, so I have added an extra $500 per year for extra curricular activities for each child. This may be too conservative.
In the above graph the homeschool costs using different styles only varies by $900 dollars, the range being from $1500-$2400.
But You Will Save On School Fees
School fees for the first child can cost, $0 to $300 in a public school and $12000 to $22000 in a private school. You also need to add extra for special events, excursions and uniforms. If we compare homeschooling with private or public school fees we can see that homeschooling is significantly cheaper than a private school education and not much more than a public school education.
Homeschooling Costs Change From Year To Year – As much or as little
Homeschooling costs can oscillate enormously and, in truth, it is impossible to give a concrete answer to the question, ‘How much does homeschooling cost?’. Homeschooling can cost as much or as little as you like. You can make things a little cheaper (see my money saving tips) and you can easily blow these estimates but you do need to spend money to homeschool and it is possible to work out the approximate cost.
Is It About The Money!
Choosing to homeschool, for many parents, is not about the cost anyway. Often one parent has given up a career or full-time wage in order to homeschool. It is about what is best for the children and somehow no matter what the homeschool costs many parents find a way!
Tips To Control The Homeschool Costs
Make a budget based on your income. Don’t be too miserly with yourself. Buying a few good resources will make homeschooling a lot easier. When you first start it is almost your right of passage to waste some money on things you ‘must have’ and never use. Don’t punish yourself (and your children) by persisting with something that is not working, just because you spent money on it. Put it down to experience and find something else. As the years go by you will get better at discerning what you need and you can direct your funds to cater for the growing interests of your children.
Research your curriculum before you buy. Do you really need a curriculum to teach that topic? Could they just read a book instead? If you can download free samples or borrow a friend’s copy of a resource you are considering you can often save yourself from making purchases that may not work for your family. Ask for reviews on products from other Australian homeschoolers. Join a good homeschool forum to find homeschooling parents who are more than willing to give their opinion on certain resources.
Plan ahead but don’t buy too much in advance. Planning is good but as we homeschool our needs change. A resource that worked for one year may become stale the following. What worked for one child may not work for another.
Make the most of your librarian and your library card. I have requested the library purchase certain books and they often have.
Buy and sell curriculum second hand if possible. Try ebay, facebook or a good homeschool forum.
Use ebooks. They are usually cheaper or even free, you can save on postage, and they are reusable. I take mine off to the local printing place and have them spiral bound.
Use the internet. This is a great place for getting loads of information.
Organise a group for extra curricular activities and ask for school prices.