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Are you curious about homeschooling but unsure of the costs involved? We’ve been there.
We stumbled into the decision of homeschooling without knowing much about how it worked or how much of our resources it would take. Wading into educating our kids at home was scary and exciting. And figuring out the costs was eye-opening.
So, whether you have an infant and plan to homeschool, or have a child that is just struggling in a traditional educational environment, just know you are not alone. You don’t have to walk into the unknown.
After five years of homeschooling our children ages 4-11, I’ve learned a few tips and tricks. Here’s how much it really costs to homeschool a child.
The Cost of Your Time
Homeschooling is a huge sacrifice of time for the adult that could be working, volunteering or having more personal time now that the child is school-aged.
Sacrificing a Career to Educate Your Children
There are many ways to still bring in an income while homeschooling your kids. But that doesn’t mean it won’t require sacrifice and potentially a major lifestyle change.
Instead of a full-time job out of the house, especially when children are young, you’ll have to evaluate work-from-home, part-time, or night work opportunities. Some families even have grandparents helping out during the days the parents work.
Homeschooling your kids often means giving up a traditional career. And if you’ve built a career you enjoy and are proud of, the cost can be more than the lost salary.
Many parents start to view the role of a home educator as a career in and of itself over time. But it’s still an unpaid role.
Sacrificing Me Time
If we are honest, some of us don’t want others dependent on us all day long. I’ll be honest, this one was rough for me.
This is where making a routine, with built-in breaks, was essential. If I know a break is coming, then usually I can push through anything.
For our family, I have the parent instruction time in the morning. Then in the afternoons a “quiet time” (a.k.a., don’t talk to mom unless your bleeding).
Believe it or not, this ability to have breaks and unstructured time is a huge homeschool perk for the children as well! Their creativity and independence shine during this 2-hour block. My children finish all their independent work with time to spare. And with their spare time they create, read, play legos, or listen to podcasts.
I sit in silence, sometimes with yet another cup of coffee. And it is glorious.
Sacrificing Time With Others
There’s not a lot of hanging out at the water cooler with colleagues when you’re a homeschooling parent. And you can’t pop out to lunch with a friend while the kids are at school, either.
If you crave adult time, then you must seek out some sort of co-op or create one yourself as a homeschooling parent.
I am an extrovert, as are some of my children, so our co-op is vital to the survival of our school week. A co-op can take on a couple of different forms, but in general, I like to look at it as “community school”.
For most co-ops, you are expected to be present and share in the teaching process in some way, shape or form. If you really love teaching science, but other moms do not, or vice versa, this is a great way to share one another’s talents while benefitting all the students.
The cost for this is usually pretty minimal, just a supply fee and a building fee that’s shared among the participating families.
Another way to gain some adult interaction is to find a local homeschooling group on social media. This is an endless place to find social gatherings, resources, and a place to bounce around ideas. So much of homeschooling is finding your way in your local community and social media is great for this. It really does take a village.
The Cost of Socialization
While homeschool is more and more mainstream, there is still a stigma surrounding it. People think you are weird and that your kids will be weird.
But is this true?
To be honest, at first, I was fearful about telling others about our decision. Feeling misunderstood was really hard. I spent much of my first year giving long explanations that no one even asked for. I was afraid of feeling isolated.
Looking back I would have explained less.
Those that don’t understand may need time to see your family thrive. But if you don’t make it weird, then it won’t appear weird.
Choosing Social Activities
For your children, it’s important to break down what socialization is. The dictionary says it’s “a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.”
In short, it doesn’t require them to be stuck in a room with 20 other kids their exact age every day.
As parents, one of our jobs is to prepare them to be adults. One way to do that is to give them diversity. Because they won’t be surrounded by people just like them all the time in the real world.
Same-aged peers are important. But, so are opportunities for them to “socialize” outside of a classroom setting. When you homeschool, you can help your kids experience different socioeconomic levels, races, and ages more often than a traditional classroom when homeschooling. This, coupled with sharing your values and expected behaviors, can make socialization a non-issue.
Since many homeschool kids don’t have access to the many free sports and clubs available to public school students, we look for city-run sports and clubs. Most cities have a recreational guide available to pick and choose from. And these activities are typically low in cost.
Another idea is to ask your local YMCA, LifeTime Fitness, library or religious center. Check out free events at the library or homeschool events at local children’s museums.
Also, don’t forget about that local social media group you already joined. It’s a goldmine for finding just the right activity or club for your child. And parents are often setting up group field trips there.
Adding extracurriculars can obviously get expensive. In our family, we have each child pick 1 sport and club per school year. This is more than enough for our kids and keeps the cost, and scheduling, under control.
The Cost of Education Materials
For some this is the biggest roadblock. Why would you educate your children from home if there is free education available?
The answer to this question is mostly rooted in your homeschooling “why”. But, luckily, homeschooling doesn’t have to be expensive.
When we were first deciding, people advised us to go to a homeschool convention. The most well-known convention, The Great Homeschool Convention, travels to different US cities each year. You may have access to more dependent on where you live. While I had my hesitations, I walked in and was instantly encouraged to see so many people I could relate to. These were our people!
But before you run off to your first homeschool convention, I have to give you a warning.
Remember when you first became a parent? Before creating your registry you had no idea there were 500 bottles to choose from. Why did there need to be more than one? How am I going to pick the best one?
It’s the same thing with homeschool curriculums and extracurricular activities. There are so many options that it can get overwhelming – and expensive! So, I’ve broken down what you should consider when starting homeschooling.
1 – Find Out What Your State Requires
All states are different on what they need from parents that choose to home educate.
Our state, Oklahoma, doesn’t need any additional work and we enjoy that freedom. But I do try to look at the scope and sequence of the curriculum posted on my local districts site to make sure we are somewhat in line. These are available on your local district’s website.
Other states, like Vermont, require meetings with teacher-mentors and submissions of curriculum and completed work. You can find out the homeschooling rules for your state at HSLDA.
2 – Choose a Curriculum
As a former public educator, I felt double the pressure to choose the right curriculum. And at the convention, I was introduced to so many enticing options. Of course, it wasn’t practical to bring them all home. So, I had to make a choice.
But how do you decide?
I would first come up with a budget and methodology you prefer. Is there a certain type of learning that works well for your child? Do you want a religious or secular curriculum? Get clear on what you’re looking for, then only look at those curriculums within that framework.
There is truly no point looking outside of your budget because there are so many GREAT options at all price points.
Here are some great ones that we’ve found along the way (from least expensive to most)
- Peaceful Press – $49 (digital download), plus the cost of supplies and books (but most I’ve found at the library or on YouTube)
- Sonlight – $300 on average, but this includes absolutely everything you would need. This is what we used when we first started out, and still use for some of my children, because I wanted everything pre-planned and written out for me after a night of minimal sleep with a newborn.
- Timberdoodle – $500 If you are looking for something non-faith based, but that includes everything, this curriculum is amazing. We turn to it often for “extras” and for gift ideas!
Most homeschool curriculums are fairly reasonable. But on the other end of the spectrum, there are online private schools like Stanford, where your child attends a private school from the comfort of home. These programs more approach the costs of private school but require much less hands-on work from parents.
Free Curriculum Options
If you’re looking for a completely free option, you can check out an online publicly-funded curriculum. It is basically public school done at home and is available in every state in some way, shape or form.
First, see if your state offers some sort of charter school for the home. This is usually a bit more personalized and you can meet with someone local.
But if your state doesn’t have a charter from home program you can access the federally funded K12 program. If you want to home educate, but are not interested in picking the curriculum this is a great option. While there isn’t as much freedom, I know many that choose to do this and it’s a great fit for them and their children.
There are so many excellent options, which is why it’s crucial to begin with a budget in mind!
3 – Find Booklists and Your Closest Libraries
You may find the perfect curriculum like one of the many listed above. Or you may just want to create your own and let your child’s interests lead the way. But whichever method you choose, libraries will be your new best friend and resource.
Be friendly with the librarians and ask for a personal tour of their resources.
Then, find booklists (Pinterest, Google searches, recommendations from friends) and get to work. Many libraries even allow you to hold books online and then pick them up at a certain location. This saves so much time and can be done from the comfort of your home.
4 – Make the Most of YouTube
Believe it or not, I find tons of books, experiments, and windows into other cultures on YouTube. It’s a free school for anything you want to learn!
We’ve learned about ancients worlds, how to make a rain barrel, and why volcanoes erupt all from YouTube. Our favorite channel right now is Mystery Doug. He answers kids’ most common questions, which we all know can be endless.
Find a few YouTube channels to incorporate into your lessons, especially on topics where you feel less confident. It can break up your child’s day and expose them to so many new things!
5 – Have a Budget for Field Trips
One of the many benefits of homeschooling is getting out while everyone else is in. The zoo is much more fun when there aren’t crowds of people blocking your view of the gorilla.
Take the opportunity to get to know your city (or surrounding cities for day trips)! Every city has low-cost options: parks, museums, zoos, etc. Many libraries even have free passes to local attractions that you can check out. For more expensive experiences, watch for Groupon offers to keep costs reasonable.
Consider grabbing a family membership as an investment for places your kids would like to visit often. Or request a membership as a gift from a family member that wants to know what to get your kids for a holiday or birthday.
Field trips can enhance your child’s learning experience, get everyone out of the house, and let you customize your schedule to your child’s interests. It’s one of the greatest perks of homeschooling!
Preparing for the Cost of Homeschooling
The choice to homeschool does cost time, has a social impact, and can add up to hundreds of dollars (we personally budget around $500 a child). Much more if you include the opportunity cost of career development.
But the out-of-pocket cost is still considerably lower than the cost of a private education, and yet is highly customizable.
Homeschooling isn’t free, but nothing of value is.
For our family homeschooling is just another word for living life. We incorporate it into our everyday from preparing breakfast (“measure 1 cup of oats”), reading interesting books (“you’re interested in MineCraft? Let’s grab a coding book”), completing household tasks, (“you are in charge of the kitchen, let me show you how to sweep”) and heading to Target (“which is the better price?”).
I consider the benefits of homeschooling so valuable that the costs barely register. For us, we couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
Are you interested in homeschooling? What is holding you back? Share in the comments!