Is homeschooling too expensive?
If you homeschool, this thought has likely crossed your mind. Maybe you’ve had trouble figuring out how you’re going to make this new school year fit into your family’s budget. Perhaps you’ve heard someone say something like, “I thought about homeschooling, but I can’t afford it.” Did it make you wonder if your lifestyle was too much for your wallet?
Here are some of the reasons many people think that homeschooling is too expensive.
- With homeschooling, you have to pay for all the coursework, for all subjects, for all children. This is not cheap.
- Many (not all) homeschooling parents have one parent who stays home, meaning that many homeschool families are single income.
- You’re already paying for public school with your taxes. Paying extra to homeschool when you have a “free option” may be considered a waste of money/resources.
The Cost of Homeschooling
It’s true that homeschooling has unique expenses, and it can be costly.
While the exact cost can vary immensely, the average homeschooling family will spend about $500 on curriculum and supplies (per year/ per child) to homeschool. Many homeschooling families also spend more than this average on extracurricular activities, such as: art classes, sporting groups, and social clubs.
The time that parents spend with children is also part of the expense. After all, a qualified adult’s time is worth money, and no one is paying you to homeschool.
Therefore, on the surface, it may seem that these things make homeschooling a pricier option.
So I did some digging into the cost of homeschooling versus the cost of public/private schooling, and I want to break down some numbers for you.
The Cost of Private and Public School
For instance, those who choose private school (which arguably has some of the same benefits as homeschooling) will pay, on average, between $10,0000 – 15,000 a year per child, just for tuition. This doesn’t even include uniforms, supplies, or special events/school activities!
And while everyone knows that private school isn’t cheap, public school actually has many hidden costs, as well.
Parents with children in public school are expected to help stock the classroom with necessities and purchase school supplies for each student. Unlike in homeschooling, children from the same family aren’t able to share supplies, so parents are required to purchase all items for each child’s list.
Additionally, kids who are in public school often feel more pressure to keep up with the latest fashion trends (or are required to purchase uniforms) and tech. This all costs more than you might think. This year’s survey found that the average American family planned to spend almost $700 to get their child everything deemed necessary for a new schoolyear. That’s for public school —“the free option.” Yikes!
Time is Money
One of the main reasons that people assume that homeschooling is more expensive is because one parent in a homeschooling family often stays home during the day.
However, according to recent data, 1 in 5 parents stay home anyway, whether or they are homeschooling or not. If you take this percentage and apply it to ten households (each with two involved parents), it would indicate that 40% of such households have one stay at home parent. One reason for this is that public and private school lets out between 2 and 3:30 p.m. in most places. Parents with young children often choose to stay home (or work part time) because a conventional 8-5 job wouldn’t allow them to be home when their children are.
(This would look different for single parents, but this is just to give you an idea).
It’s also unfair (and inaccurate) to assume that homeschooling parents can’t or don’t bring in any income. Homeschooling parents are not confined to teaching a typical 8-3 school day. Often, homeschooling takes less time than that because it is more personalized. Therefore, if a homeschooling parent needs (or wants) to maintain a remote, part-time or full-time job, they can often make a way to do so.
There are Many Ways to Save Money in Your Homeschool
Ultimately, the conclusion that I reached when comparing costs and factoring in the above data was this: education your children can be pretty expensive, no matter how you do it.
Furthermore, while homeschooling can be expensive, it’s not necessarily more so than the other popular forms of schooling. Homeschooling also has the advantage of being incredibly flexible in many ways, including the amount of money you spend. If you need to save some money in your approach to homeschooling, there are a ton of ways you can do so!
8 Ways to Save Money in Your Homeschool
1. Use the Buddy System
There are many, many ways that having homeschooling friends can be helpful in your homeschool life. One of them comes in the form of cutting costs. When you are looking for ways to save money in your homeschool, talk to your homeschooling friends (who are probably also looking for ways to save money.) There may be a way you can help each other by using a “buddy system.”
For example, is there a particular subject that you are knowledgeable in, that your fellow homeschooling parent is not (and vice versa?) Consider utilizing your personal skill sets and teaching each other’s kids for certain subjects. If both of you only pay for curriculum for the subjects you teach, then neither of you has to pay for everything.
If you can’t come to a good teaching arrangement with a fellow homeschooling parent, you can simplify this idea by seeing if you have any homeschooling friends who would split the cost of a more expensive curriculum or supplies with you, and share them (either dividing it up certain days of the week or by semesters). Though not all curriculum is costly, some of it is. It’s up to you to decide which curriculum is worth spending the extra money on. Luckily, there are ways to share even this cost with your homeschooling buddies.
2. Buy Used/ Sell/ Trade
One way you can definitely save money while homeschooling is by not buying brand new books. You may also consider trading or selling your gently used ones. Check with homeschooling friends, groups or your local co-ops to see if there are people who are interested in buying/selling or trading course material. If you live in a larger city, you may even want to check with your used bookstore (or see if you happen to have a homeschool bookstore in your area).
Don’t forget that online booksellers can be a wonderful option for buying used books or selling yours. Amazon is, of course, a good option. The Homeschool Bookstore is another resource for buying and selling homeschool curriculum.
3. Protect and Conserve
If the idea of being able to resell, or just re-use, curriculum appeals to you, then it’s a good idea to figure out a system for protecting your workbooks. By protecting and conserving your resources, you can save money (and save paper, too!)
Reusing educational games, toys and novels is a good idea. Another tip is to teach or practice with a dry erase board and dry erase markers, when possible (dry erase markers are often more fun for kids to use, anyway!)
To this end, one of my favorite tips comes from this article, which demonstrates how you can use sheet protectors and fine-point dry erase markers to make your curriculum less destructible and more reusable. Essentially, this involves:
- Removing pages from the original book.
- Putting each page in a plastic page protector.
- Putting your page protectors into a three-ring binder (with sheets in the original order).
- Letting children use fine-point dry erase marker to complete the work.
I know it seems like a lot of work (at least to this non-organized mama). However, it’s truly a smart and useful practical trick for saving money, especially for big homeschooling families. If a parent knows that multiple children in the family will be able to benefit from the same curriculum/workbook, it makes sense to be a little extra organized and put in the preptime to make them re-useable.
Similarly, this would also be a smart method to use if you plan to share curriculum with another family as part of a “buddy system.”
If you are concerned about not having documentation of your child’s progression through the curriculum, plan to make scans or copies of pages that represent learning milestones in the curriculum (tests, essay questions, etc.) It’s definitely better than having to copy every worksheet!
4. Online Learning
There are so many great online resources available to homeschoolers, and many of them can save you money (and time, too). Though not every online option will be a perfect fit for every homeschooling family, there is a lot to be found with a little research: from completely free resources, to cost-saving online options. Here are a few very homeschool-friendly Websites to get you started.
For Free Activities, Supplementary Assignments and Printables:
Several homeschooling sites actually offer FREE ideas and printables. Though the freebies don’t usually equate to a full curriculum, they can definitely be helpful and fun resources. I’ve personally used several of these sites.
- Hip Homeschool Moms– this community for homeschool moms has several free printables, craft ideas and homeschooling tips!
- Only Passionate Curiosity – regularly publishes printable content that is often available for free. Sign up for their newsletter to get updates about new freebies.
- Rock Your Homeschool– this homeschool site has a ton of freebies available (as well as some that are for purchase). You will have to “checkout” when you download something free, but all that does it put your e-mail address on the site’s newsletter.
- Pinterest– Pinterest is a great way to quickly browse free homeschool ideas and activities. Think of it as a hub where many of the top homeschool bloggers put their free offerings out there.
- Easy Peasy All in One– This Website is beloved by homeschooling families everywhere, as it is a free collection of low cost/free online resources to teach every subject/every age. If you really want to do homeschooling as cheaply as possible, you could rely heavily on this site and avoid purchasing much at all.
Professional Online Courses
Yes, you do have to pay for quality online courses. However, often what you pay for these courses online is much, much less than you would have to pay for your child to receive the same quality of instruction in person. As such, online courses can save you money when you need to get your child extra support in a particular area.
This is especially true when that academic/extracurricular area is one in which parents don’t feel knowledgeable (for me this would be chemistry or physics). Professionally done online courses are much less expensive than paying for classes or tutoring.
Another instance where this might be helpful is if your child has an interest in something extracurricular that usually costs a lot of money to learn from a private lessons. For example, if you have a child who is interested in art, you could invest in high-quality online art courses, This would allow him/her to hone their art skills through high-quality video instruction for a much lower cost than in-person classes.
If online courses seem like they might be a good option for you, here are some Websites to consider:
- Sparketh for fine arts (any level)
- Abeka Video Homeschooling any academic course (including those pesky upper level courses)
- Duolingo to gain foreign language skills
5. Emphasize the “Real Life” Aspects of Learning.
Homeschooling offers a wonderful advantage to other forms of education because it allows you to integrate real-life skills and education. While life-skills don’t replace curriculum, they do offer meaningful supplementation and activities that can go along with what kids are learning. You could even integrate real-life activities like budgeting, saving, and cooking into your daily lessons. These activities won’t cost you anything extra. In fact, they can actually save save you money, and help teach kids to do so, too. Here are a few ideas you can teach your kids practical life skills while also saving money in your homeschool.
If you’re on a grocery budget, consider asking your kids to help! My husband was homeschooled. When he was growing up, his family was on a tight grocery budget. His mother (AKA Mama G AKA one of my homeschool mentors), came up with the idea of giving each of the kids a turn with the weekly meal plan and grocery budget.
This task involved math, critical thinking skills, and practical skills like following the directions of a recipe. Bonus: all of those kids learned how to cook! Using everyday tasks like creating a meal plan can enhance your kids’ practical and academic learning, all while saving money.
Another simple, cost-saving way to supplement your math practice is to teach your kids how to shop sales. Making lists of necessary items, finding coupons, doing mental math to figure out exactly what “40% off” means, are all valuable life skills that offer great math practice.
Encouraging a Part-time Job
Homeschooling teens have an advantage on the part-time job front because they have more flexible hours for entry-level positions. Getting into the job scene earlier than other kids can be a great way to learn about responsibility and gain valuable work experience. I had a homeschooled friend growing up who started out as a fast-food at sixteen and worked his way up to nicer restaurants before he’d graduated high school (at which point he went to culinary school and became a professional chef!)
Money-saving bonus: as your teen starts earning money, you can teach them some smart ways to manage/invest it. Their job will also save you some money, too (because if they have a job, they can save up and buy their own stuff.)
6. Become Friends with Your Local Library
With their free books and movies, community events, and enthusiasm for learning, libraries are naturally homeschool-friendly.
If you are looking for ways to save money in your homeschool, you need to utilize the library. Whenever we go to our library, my receipt tells me how much I’ve saved by borrowing books instead of buying them. Let me tell you: it’s a lot of money.
If you have young kids who are looking for a variety of starter books, the library has you covered. Do you have older kids who are conducting their first research paper? The library has you covered. And the library isn’t just for books (although we all love the books). Libraries also usually have educational games and computer programs for kids. Your library card also comes with a free subscription to Hoopla. Hoopla is an app that you can use to borrow audiobooks or ebooks.
7. Don’t Be Scared of Movies, Games, and Apps
Speaking of apps and movies…do you have Netflix at home? How about Hulu? Amazon prime? Do you have an Xbox? Oculus Rift?
No, I’m not telling you to go out and get these things if you don’t have them already.
However, the fact is that many of us do have some of these things already. If this is true for you, then you have a lot of supplemental educational resources at your fingertips! There are many awesome documentaries streaming, and there are numerous video (and virtual reality games) that offer immersive scientific or historical experiences.
“Old-fashioned” games like chess, checkers, and Scrabble are great educational resources, too. Many any of the entertainment resources that we already have in our homes can be excellent teaching tools!
8. Plan it Out
The fact is that “saving money in your homeschool” is going to look different for every family. The simplest way to save money is to figure out how much money you’ve been spending versus how much money you should spend.
With that taken into account, consider some of the above tips. Where are the places in your homeschool budget to make some these changes? Here are just a few of the questions you may want to think about:
- Do you have homeschooling friends that you’d be able to/ want to co-teach with or share curriculum with? ( Tip #1)
- Do you have an expensive curriculum that you love and may be able to re-use in the future (Tip #3)
- Are there gamers in your home (Tip # 7)?
- Have you ever involved your kids with cost-saving activities like shopping sales or meal planning?
- Are you willing/able to commit to regular library visits?
- Are there any special subjects your child could learn through an online format (Tip #4)?
Wishing you all the best as you find ways to save money on your homeschooling journey! Do you plan to try any of these tips out?
Be sure to let us know if you have money-saving homeschool tips that you swear by!