What Does Homeschooling Cost

One of the questions the foremost in the minds of parents considering homeschooling is concerning finances. Can I afford to stay home and homeschool? What does homeschooling cost? How can I save money?

The answer to the question of the cost of homeschooling is neither easy nor constant for each family. There are many factors to consider when determining how much money you have available to spend on homeschooling. Whether your family is on a single income, or the parents are working full and/or part time, incomes, expenses and write offs will vary based on location, lifestyle choices and type of career.

If you feel called to homeschool and are concerned about finances, consider this – while there is much wisdom involved in budgeting and organizing our finances, to be wise and good stewards with what the Lord has given to us – if it is he that is calling you to this journey of homeschooling, he will provide!

That’s the easy part. The hard part is determining what you have to work with and how best to use it. Honestly, with the beauty of our online and connected world, you could very easily homeschool your entire way through high school for virtually (yes, pun intended :D) little to no cost. However, there are some sacrifices that are to be made for the “free” homeschool route.

Homeschooling for Free – Pros and Cons

The pros of homeschooling for free are, well, it’s free!

Book lists by grade, topic and ability level are available ALL over the internet, from a classical teaching approach, to Charlotte Mason reading lists, to using suggestions “boxed” curriculum like Sonlight to guide your book choices for the year. There are many free comprehension guides available online or to borrow (simply by searching for the title of the book along with “comprehension questions”). The books can most likely be borrowed or requested through your library, or found in free format online from Project Gutenberg or Public Domain. 

Science can be taught for free through online courses and sites such as Khan Academy and Popular Science for Kids,  the Handbook of Nature Study and just plain reading good books. Other free science sites include ones listed here and here,  Science Kids and Top Science.

Math is much the same – look up the requirements from your local school board for what is to be learned at each grade level. From there you can use library math computer programs, Khan Academy, online games like Jumpstart, YouTube videos and worksheets to guide your lessons.

Grammar and writing are a little trickier, but a lot of the mastery is in learning the rules and putting them into practice. Grammar-land is a book in the public domain (IE FREE!) that takes kids through a hilarious story learning the parts of speech.  Guide to Grammar and Writing and Daily Grammar are online programs that have lessons and quizzes.

For writing, check out TLS Books creative writing section, and writing prompts and ideas from the WriteShop blog. For more on homeschooling for free, the site How to Homeschool For Free is a WEALTH of resources and ideas! Also, make sure you add Affording the Homeschool Life to your pinterest boards to follow. Follow Jamerrill Stewart {FreeHomeschoolDeals.com}’s board Affording the Homeschool Life on Pinterest.

What are the cons of homeschooling for free?

“Free” is relative. You will still have to pay for supplies, printing, ink, workbooks, trips to the library, fines if you forget to return your books on time, etc.

Another cost of homeschooling for free is your time. Essentially when you homeschool for free, YOU take the place of the curriculum. YOU become the researcher, planner, gatherer, teacher – YOU do EVERYTHING.

Time spent researching sites, making lesson plans, gathering books and materials, planning the next step. It is quite a time commitment to homeschool for free, but again, if money is tight and time is not an issue, then this option could be great for you. We homeschooled for “free” for a couple of years at the beginning, and it worked out fairly well. Until we had 3 kids needing to be homeschooled and another on the way! I began to realize my time was better spent outside of “doing it all” as I was becoming too stretched, stressed and strained trying to get everything together. Our budget allowed for us to buy our curriculum, and while I’m glad we did it on the cheap for as long as we did, I’m very happy with the way our homeschool currently runs.

If homeschooling for free isn’t your thing, you can most definitely homeschool on a good budget.

How to Homeschool on a Budget

Again, how much homeschooling costs is affected by many factors. If your budget is tight, you can certainly get away with homeschooling some subjects for free or very cheap.

For example, we’ve done all our reading up to 4th grade using Ambleside Online’s reading plans, buying only some books I knew we’d be reading over and over, and borrowing others from the library. I coupled that with selections from Sonlight, Honey for a Child’s Heart, Drawn into the Heart of Reading and Read for the Heart: Whole Books for Wholehearted Families.

Our comprehension came through questions and guides I found online or writing up book reports. However, this method only works well for the first few years – once you get into 3rd or 4th grade, you’re going to want to up your game on the reading and understanding side of things.

This year I have finally decided to go with a full reading curriculum. We chose Drawn Into the Heart of Reading for it’s wonderful living book selections and indepth approach to helping kids understand and connect with what they’re reading. This curriculum works out much better for me as I will have more time to spend with our kindergartener and toddler.

We still use reading lists to fill out our selections, you can check out my Reading Pinterest board for lots of suggestions!

Follow Serving From Home’s board Reading on Pinterest.

For the younger grades, again, you can use a lot of resources online. MANY bloggers put out fantastic printables for cheap and free.

There are many more, but these ones are some of the ones I keep going back to.

Simply google or check Pinterest for what you’re looking for and you’re bound to find many options available to you. Be careful though, there is seriously an endless supply out there and it’s easy to become overwhelmed!

For more printable resources, check out this post from Great Peace Academy and my Serving From Home Pinterest boards.

Math and science are two of the subjects for which we have decided it is worthwhile to invest in good programs. Math is not my strength, so I was very nervous teaching it from a non-curriculum approach. We have gone with RightStart Math which is a big investment, but one that is well worth the cost in time saved on my trying to understand the lessons and how well it is working out for our family.

Science we really want to be taught from a Christian, Biblical perspective (while still touching on the major theories and teachings of the current scientific world) and so opted for curriculum from Apologia and the God’s Design series from Answers in Genesis.

Some of the cost of purchasing “boxed” curriculum can most definitely be off-set by purchasing used. There are a few Facebook groups out there for buy and sell used curriculum, book swaps, etc., as well as online sites for buying and selling used books, such as Ebay and Homeschool Classifieds. You can also share curriculum with friends and family who are using the same books but may be on different schedules. Or split the cost of a program with another family who also wants to use it and alternate.

So…..What Does Homeschooling Cost?

I cannot give you a number. An estimate, perhaps, but with a disclaimer – for the first few years of homeschooling we did NOT have a budget. And that’s been a big mistake. The reason being that if you don’t have a budget, you have nothing and no one to keep you accountable to keeping that budget.

So things like library fines, extra supplies, more books and field trips come up and take you by surprise, leaving you stretched. In 2013, we spent over $400 JUST in books and curriculum (including books for years to come) and supplies. For 3 kids, that’s not too bad. However, that doesn’t include things like field trips and library fines (which we did not factor in, oops!), piano lessons, swimming lessons, plus curriculum and supplies we had already purchased from previous years and were reusing or still using.

If you are trying to determine what homeschooling will cost your family, start off with figuring out how much money you have available to you. We use an awesome budgeting tool called YNAB which helps us get super specific and very accountable in our finances in general, but also is helping keep me on track for our homeschool spending (you can check out my full YNAB review).

Once you know how much you have to work with, look into the curriculum you want to purchase. Determine what you can borrow, share or buy used, and go from there! Do what you can for free, especially at the beginning, and save those precious dollars for possible leaner years or years where you may need to splurge for specific items.

If you homeschool, how do you make your budget go further?

If you aren’t yet homeschooling, but are considering it, what is your biggest fear pertaining to the potential cost of homeschooling?

Check out more great posts from iHomeschool Network bloggers on determining the cost of homeschooling.

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