My child has not turned one yet, but my husband and I say it is never too early to start thinking about his education. This includes everything from his primary schooling to budgeting for a 529 college savings plan. One option that we have been considering is homeschooling. The main reason it appeals to us is because it puts us, and not the government, in control of our child’s education. However, one of our concerns is how much it costs to homeschool. Homeschool supplies and curriculum costs are just the beginning, and we have discovered hidden costs as well.
Here are 7 expenses you should keep in mind if you are considering homeschooling your child:
1. The Curriculum
This expense can be huge or negligible depending on how you go about it; I asked several homeschooling families how much they spend on curriculum, and they quoted me everything from $0 to thousands of dollars. The families that pay nothing for the curriculum do have to put in extra work, however. One of my friends said that her mother paid almost nothing to homeschool her three children by customizing units of study herself based on her children’s interests. For example, if they were interested in airplanes, the children would read about the science of airplanes, write a story about planes, read autobiographies of pilots, and draw pictures of planes. On the flip side, families who paid in the thousands bought expensive standardized homeschooling packages that required a lot less preparation by the parents, but also were not as customized.
Additionally, children can enroll in independent studies which can add several hundred dollars to the curriculum costs. However, if for example, you as the parent are weak in math and science, this could be a wise investment. There are also virtual schools that offer advanced courses online at a reasonable price, and even free online college courses. The Florida Virtual School, for example, is free to Florida residents. Some states even offer free Dual Enrollment, in which a high schooler can take classes at a local college for both high school and college credit.
2. Supplies and Equipment
I went to a public school, and I remember always coming home on the first day of school with a long list of supplies I was told I needed. Between my sister and me, my parents would easily spend up to a hundred dollars a year on school supplies. So really, saving money on back-to-school supplies shopping is a concern whether your child attends a traditional school or is homeschooled; the items that parents buy for their children for homeschooling, such as books, puzzles, and art supplies, would similarly be purchased for kids who attended traditional schools.
As for equipment, there are some things that are beneficial to have on hand for homeschooling. These items include a computer, scanner, and printer. Of course, these items are found in most homes already. But families will need some less common items as well, such as a globe, microscope, and science kits, but these can be bought used or shared in a homeschooling group to cut down on the cost. This is equipment that would normally be found in most public schools, so it is certainly an additional cost.
3. Homeschool Group Dues
If you’re part of a homeschooling group, depending on what type of group you belong to, dues can run anywhere from around $100 to over $1,000. It all depends on what is included in group membership. If the group is more of a co-op, meaning it is run by volunteers, the cost will be lower than if it is run by professionals. Being a part of a group will help give your child a great opportunity to socialize with other children and give your child a greater variety of teachers from which to learn.
4. Field Trips
No matter where your child goes to school, there will be field trips. I remember going on public school trips to places like Sea Camp, which cost hundreds of dollars. As with supplies, the costs of field trips (such as to a museum, zoo, or aquarium) are usually no different for homeschooled children.
5. Extracurricular Activities
Homeschooled children generally have more time for extracurricular activities, such as dance, sports, and music lessons, and they are important for socialization as well. Of course, classes and activities all cost money. While your child would probably be involved in these activities anyway, you may end up paying for more extracurriculars than you would if your child were in public or private school.
Since homeschooled kids need to be transported to their various activities and field trips, and you are that transportation, this is a cost to keep in mind. Gas and “wear and tear” on the car do add up, and it can especially be a challenge if you are trying to save money by being a one car family.
7. Lost Income
Another cost to consider is that of having a parent stay home with the kids instead of working. Depending on the family situation and income potential, this “cost” can be minimal or substantial. It is certainly something to plan out before going down the homeschool route, including developing a realistic single-income budget.
All things considered, the costs of homeschooling are pretty straightforward. While there are certain unavoidable expenses, it is also up to the parents how much or how little they are able and willing to spend. Also, many of the costs of homeschooling are no different than the costs that would arise had you opted for traditional schooling.
Do you homeschool your children or are you considering it? Have you encountered any hidden costs that I haven’t mentioned?
(photo credit: Amanda Munoz)