Families new to the homeschooling world often want to know, how much does homeschooling cost?
If you have ever been to a homeschool bookfair (or researched homeschool curriculum online), then you know that the cost of homeschooling varies greatly between curriculum.
My parents always tried to keep the cost of homeschooling low when I was a child, so when I started researching curriculum I was shocked to find that some curriculum was priced in the thousands of dollars per year.
However, you don’t have to spend that much to get a good education at home. If you want to know how much homeschooling costs, you first have to realize that there are a lot of considerations in play.
To really answer the question “how much does homeschooling cost,” you have to consider all of the following factors:
Age of Child
Homeschooling an older child costs a lot more than homeschooling a Kindergartner. While you can homeschool a preschooler and lower-grade child for practically free (or even entirely free), you can’t really do the same thing for a child in high school. Expect to pay at least $100 more per year every time your child jumps a school bracket (preschool to elementary, elementary to middle school, middle school to high school). Older children have more subjects, more supplies, more textbooks, and more extra-curricular activities. If you plan for this as you go along, it won’t be a huge burden as your child ages.
Type of Schooling
Your homeschooling style will play a huge role in how much it costs to homeschool. For example, unschooling families may find that they only need to purchase a few books a year and get by on library finds for the rest. On the other hand, an unschooling family who wants to learn everything about a subject may end up paying a lot more for an internship, a hands-on class, or a trip across the country to study something in person.
However, in general, your traditional classroom/textbook-based homeschooling will tend to be more expensive because there are more books, which are bigger. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to save money when purchasing curriculum, so you don’t always have to pay full price.
Amount of Work and Time
This is a huge factor that many families forget to consider. Is it possible to find homeschooling curriculum for free? Absolutely! You can find and create your own curriculum using just resources online for free for nearly any subject and grade level.
However, when you do that, it will take a LOT of time. Every curriculum decision has a trade-off value. You may find that even though a complete box curriculum is $1,000, it may be a better value for you because you don’t have to invest time in tracking down materials.
In general, the less amount of time you want to spend on lesson planning, tracking down free curriculum, and piecing curriculum together, the more you will have to spend in money. Luckily, the time/money balance tends to level off in the middle.
But sometimes, these “free” things come with hidden costs. Some incidental expenses that you have to consider include:
- Printer ink
- The purchase price of obscure materials
- Craft supplies
- Computer costs
- Co-op classes
- Extra books
So, even if you find a core curriculum for free, there will still be some expense.
Benefits of Spending a Lot
Spending a lot on a curriculum has its benefits. If you live in a high-regulation state, there may be restrictions on what kind of curriculum you can use. Often, the more expensive curriculum are going to be on the approved curriculum list over inexpensive or free options.
You also don’t have to worry if your child is learning everything they need to for that grade level. Almost all expensive curriculum covers the grade requirements for every state. This is useful if you take standardized tests every year or have strict state guidelines. Even just for basic peace of mind it is helpful to know that your children are learning what they need to know before going off to college.
Expensive curriculum may also provide more in-depth coverage and a wider range of subjects. One of my favorite expensive curriculums, Calvert, has incredibly depth and encourages both academic progress and creativity.
Benefits of Spending a Little
Spending only a little on curriculum also has its benefits. If you have a lot of children, there may be no room in the budget for each child to get $1000 a year. Even if you have fewer children, sometimes you just might want to spend less.
We spend less on curriculum, not because we want to cut corners, but because we want to have room in the budget for extra-curricular activities, like co-op classes, music lessons, or sports. When you spend less on curriculum, you have more money for other things.
How to Save Money on Homeschooling at Any Age
We spend about $300 per child per year on core curriculum. This isn’t a huge amount, but it isn’t tiny either. I like to splurge on the “important” subjects, like language arts, science, and math. For other subjects, I try to spend as little as possible. This works well with our eclectic homeschooling style.
Use the following tips to save money on homeschooling:
Shop used book sales. A lot of homeschooling families will re-sell new or partially-used curriculum starting in March. These are great places to score an amazing deal.
Search online for the best price. Curriculum prices vary wildly online. I try to purchase most of my new curriculum from discount homeschooling stores (Rainbow Resource is usually a good place to look).
Shop at a book fair. Often, vendors will offer book fair discounts.
Identify your star pieces. Before making any purchase for the year, think about where you want to go and what will offer you the most value. For us, we usually pick math, science, and language arts, as I said before, but you may want to focus on something else. Spend the most on these subjects, then fill in with lower-priced items for the other subjects.
Use your own judgment. It’s easy to fall into the hype of certain expensive curriculum (especially if it is a vendor salesperson doing the talking), but I’ve found that just because a curriculum is high priced, doesn’t mean it is good. One of my favorite math supplements, Verbal Math, was just $30 for enough material to supplement through grades K-5.
Know your balance.Before shopping, think about how much time and energy you are willing to exchange for extreme discounts. As a busy homeschooling mom with a side job, I don’t have the time to create my curriculum from scratch, so I pay a bit more so I don’t have to do that. If you love creating your own curriculum and saving every penny, then you will be able to save more on your total homeschooling costs.
So, how much does homeschooling cost? Just like every homeschooling family, there is never one answer. But when you consider the above factors, you will have a better idea of how much you will have to spend.
How do you homeschool well on a budget? Share your tips with us!
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