Cost of Homeschooling

I am sometimes asked how much it costs to homeschool, usually with the expectation that it’s a lot.  Now the answer can really vary from family to family.  It can depend if both parents plan to continue working while homeschooling or if one parent will be giving up a high paying job to stay home with the kids.  In our case, any job that I would get outside the home would probably barely cover the cost of daycare/after school care, plus we’d have to spend extra money on a second vehicle, extra clothing for work, probably more convenience and fast food, too.  It’s more economical at this point for me not to work.

The other big factor is what method of homeschooling the family chooses.  Montessori can be extremely expensive to replicate at home because it requires lots of specific equipment usually of very high quality (which usually equals very high prices).  Some other methods which are heavily based on reading books might be rather inexpensive depending on the quality of the local library.  And some people will accept nothing less but the highest quality, most expensive materials available; the same people that refused to buy used text books in college.

State homeschooling laws can also effect what method a family chooses, and therefore the cost.  Illinois just basically requires that all basic school subjects be taught in English, but they don’t mandate exactly how this is to be done.  As a result, I am a very eclectic homeschooler, so I steal a little bit from various methods depending on our goals, what I think will work well for the kids, and how much I think it will cost.

Now let’s look at how much I have spent on homeschooling materials so far in 2009 from January until now.  I should note that everything my oldest daughter used in the Spring of 2009 was purchased the previous Fall, so that is not included in this year’s total.  Also, we used home-made reading worksheets for her reading, using probably half a ream of printer paper.  It’s hard to quantify how much things like printer paper and ink add to the cost, since they are often used for recreational purposes, too.  I also am not including the cost of activity classes, because the kids may have still been involved with sports and such even if they attended regular school.

From January to June 2009 the following items were purchased:

  • $6.95 Barnes & Noble:  Kumon’s First Book of Upper Case Letters
  • $39.67 Barnes & Noble:  Brain Quest Grade 1 Workbook, Kumon My Book of Easy Mazes, Kumon My Book of Pasting, Jancice Van Cleave’s 201 Awesome, Magical, Bizarre, & Incredible Experiments, Sight Words flash cards, Spanish Words flash cards

Total:  $46.62

About a month ago I did all of our shopping for the upcoming semester.  And here is everything that I bought:

  • $69.11 Singapore Math:  Math 1B Text book, Math 1B Workbook (x 4), Essential Math Kindergarten A, Word Study 1
  • $43.68 Rainbow Resource Center:  Mind Benders Beginning Book 1, Mind Benders Beginning Book 2, English from the Roots Up Cards
  • $66.37 Jody’s Hands On Learning:  All Things Catholic 3-Piece Cards Sets A and B, Catholic Prayer Sequencing Strips Set C
  • $21.32 Catholic Shopper:  Gospel Champions computer game
  • $20.47 Carmelite Gifts:  St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism v. 1, The New St. Joseph First Communion Catechism, The Mass for Children, prayer cards
  • $9.91 The Catholic Shoppe:  Prayer cards
  • $6.42 Kinko’s:  3 Transparency sheets

Total:  $237.28

And here are also some odds and ends I just recently picked up:

  • $4.00 Target:  Dinosaur Discovery workbook, Colors and Shapes workbook, Landmarks flash cards, U.S. Presidents flash cards
  • $2.99 Walgreens:  Preschool Basics workbook

Total:  $6.99

Grand Subtotal for 2009: $290.89

That is a less than our grocery budget for two weeks.

There are different ways that we keep our costs low.  We are blessed to have a very good library system, and there are some items that I request as Christmas/Birthday presents for the kids, mainly art supplies.  Not only does it keep our homeschooling expenses low, but it also limits the number of junky toys that are brought in to clutter up the house.  Plus there are tons of free worksheets available on the internet, and some stores like Barnes & Noble have educator discounts for which homeschoolers qualify.  However, will our costs continue to stay so low as the other children reach school-age?  Or will that be $300 x 3 kids every year?  (Not that $900 a year is an exorbitant amount considering the cost of private school.)  But did I really spend close to $300 to educate my one school-aged child in 2009?

Now let’s break this down and really look at how much it really cost (before discounts):

  • About $33 of my grand total went to buy five workbooks to keep my preschooler busy while her older sister has school time.  I am not planning to do any formal preschool with her, so I don’t know if it’s completely fair to include that money in homeschooling costs.  I could have spent that money to buy new toys or videos to keep her busy, but she sometimes she asks to do “school work”, too.
  • About $73 was spent on items that can be reused as the younger children hit school age including:  all of the flash cards, English from the Roots Up Cards, and the Mind Benders and Word Study workbooks as long as we don’t write in them (that’s what the transparency sheets are for).  I also plan to reuse the Singapore Math textbooks, and a large part of the cost from Singapore Math came from me ordering extra copies of the workbook for when the younger children need them.  I started doing this last year in case the editions were changed in the future I would have matching text and work books.  Obviously the long-term cost is less when these items will be used for multiple years by multiple children.
  • About $118 went to things specifically for religious education.  It would have cost an additional $100 to send DD#1  to RE class at our church this year.  Some of the items were actually pre-purchased for use in 2010.  All of the items are also reusable with my younger children, and some of the items, like the prayer cards, I may have possibly purchased anyway.  (Prayer cards can be hole-punched and put on a key ring to keep kids quiet during Mass.)  After all your faith isn’t something you should only learn about or live at church or in a class, and it is not required to be taught under state law.

The amount that I spent in 2009 on specific items for my one school-aged child to use regularly during the year 2009 for state-mandated Kindergarten/First Grade instruction*:  $78

Now do I expect these figures to be fairly consistent next year or the year after that, etc.?  Yes and No.  I already have certain thoughts ahead for 2010.  I know that I will have to purchase 2nd grade math and word study curriculum at some point next year.  I know that I will probably purchase more prayer cards, and I am planning a small project in the Spring to prepare DD#1 for her First Holy Communion.  I’ll probably end up buying more educational activities books for DD#2, too.  Right now I guestimate spending about $100 for materials in 2010, since most of the stuff that I just bought will continue to be used through the next year.  And my pre-planning now should keep costs low as the other children begin formal schooling as well.

Of course, no one knows exactly what the future may bring.  As our children get older and their educational needs or wants become more complex our costs may rise.  As long as I continue to be prudent and we continue to have so many free resources available, I hope to keep the cost fairly low.  And even if we sent our children to “free” public schools there would probably lots of hidden costs for things like yearly school supplies, extra wardrobe, fundraisers, and field trips that would probably come close to what we spend on homeschooling in a year.  Then there would also be the hidden costs that have absolutely nothing to do with money.

*Note:  I say “state-mandated instruction”, but in many states technically children are not required by law to attend school until age 8.  Any formal schooling that we do is completely voluntary.

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One Comment on “Cost of Homeschooling”


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