You’ve made the big decision, but how much does homeschooling cost? Read on for tips and advice from veteran homeschoolers and a free printable homeschool expense tracker to keep track of your homeschool expenses.
How much does homeschooling cost? Really?
Homeschooling costs will be different from family to family, child to child, and year to year. Even if you stick to your budget, there will be times when you need to spend more than expected. And it’s certainly not free.
The real, honest answer is that the cost of keeping your children home, supervised, and with appropriate learning materials can actually be hundreds of dollars or more every month.
I understand the desire to homeschool, but if you are considering homeschooling and already struggling to pay your rent or get food on the table, it might not be for you. There are costs associated with homeschool that are often overlooked by families living comfortably:
- Two extra meals a day for kids who regularly receive free lunch
- Electricity and water used during the day when kids would normally be in school
- Basic school and art supplies that could be provided by a school
- High speed internet, computer, printer/paper to access online curricula (even free ones)
- Potential loss of income for the homeschooling parent
If I am stressing you out already, you may want to consider your reasons for homeschooling and take a hard look at if it’s worth the sacrifice.
However, if having to slap together an extra couple PBJs never crossed your mind, read on for a few thoughts on what homeschooling might really cost your family.
Your Homeschool Family is Unique
The amount you spend on homeschool for your unique family is going to depend on your priorities and budget – in that order.
Let me give you an example of how priorities trump income level:
If your main reason for homeschooling is that your child is on the path to the Olympics, your expenses will be very different than someone who homeschools because they desire a relaxed, simple life with their child – even if you have similar income.
However, how much you can spend is also a factor in how much you do spend. Families with a very limited budget can expect to spend less money and more time – sourcing materials, preparing lessons, and planning around free activities.
Since we are just internet friends, I can’t really give you a concrete answer to what homeschool is going to cost your family. But I can give you an idea of what to expect in the years to come.
Homeschooling Costs Vary from Family to Family…
and from Child to Child
It’s no secret that budgets are going to vary from family to family depending on your income. But your budget might also vary from child to child. You might end up spending a great deal more on one kiddo than another.
That’s totally okay. In the case of homeschool budgeting, fair does not always mean equal.
Equal means budgeting the same amount for each child and spending accordingly. If one takes a co-op class, the other gets a co-op class. If one takes a dance class, the other takes a gymnastics class. They use the same curricula. They share the same memberships.
But I think you’ll find that dividing everything equally will not meet everyone’s needs. It’s less important to make sure things are equal and more important to make sure things are fair.
Fair is making sure each child’s needs are met. One child might thrive in a co-op situation while another wants to learn from you at home. One child might need therapies, tutors, or extra help while another thrives with a museum membership and a library card. One might excel at an expensive sport while another has no interest in group classes.
So when you’re budgeting, don’t expect (or force yourself) to spend the same on one child as you do on another. Let go of the guilt you feel that you’re not giving one child enough and focus on making sure each child is getting what they need.
Expect Homeschooling Costs to Change from Year to Year
If you’re on a shoestring budget, you can expect that shoestring to stretch as your child gets older. You won’t spend nearly as much on your kindergartner as you will on your high school freshman.
Rising expenses are the nature of the beast. School in the upper grades simply costs more. The price of books, courses, equipment, and materials will all go up as your kiddos age. Especially if your child is preparing for college or a career in the arts or sciences.
On the same note: if you do have more than one child at home, you probably won’t be spending the same amount on, say, kindergarten materials for your youngest as you did for your oldest. If you invest in books and materials that last, you might spend far less for your younger children.
Also by the time you get to your youngest, you might not need the same support from expensive curricula. You might find that you’re a more confident teacher that can work with less or make due with what you already have.
Walking Away from Curricula that isn’t Working – Even When it is a Financial Loss
At some point every homeschooler buys the wrong curriculum. It’s going to happen. Occasionally, financial loss is part of what homeschooling costs.
You bought an expensive program. Or a year’s worth of text books. Signed up for a fantastic class. Or subscribed to an online program that was so good during the trial run… But now it’s a flop.
You’ve tried to rearrange the schedule. You’ve tried to take a break and come back. You’ve even tried to skip around to find something, anything that doesn’t cause resistance, yelling, or tears. You know, deep down, it’s not going to work.
Put it down and walk away.
It might be a hit to your wallet and your ego, but you’ve got to do what’s best for your child. Forcing the wrong curriculum or dragging your child kicking and screaming to a class just. isn’t. worth. it.
You can’t completely prevent this from happening, but there are a few things you can do to increase your odds of loving what you choose:
• Involve your child in the class and curricula decision making
• Try before you buy – classes, online programs, curriculum samples – try everything!
• Read reviews or talk to someone who has experience with the class or program
It’s time to cut your losses. Sometimes that is simply unsubscribing to an online class and paying out your 2 weeks or 30 days. Other times you have to do a little more leg work:
- Return materials you haven’t used. If you bought a year-long program that you are not happy with just two months in, there’s a chance that you can return unused workbooks, manuals, or materials.
- Resell what you can’t return. If you can’t return items, look for buy/sell groups online where you can resell them instead. People are always looking for used teacher’s manuals and books that are still in great condition.
- Cancel your subscription. If you went ahead and purchased a subscription for the full year and are unhappy in the first couple months, call the company. Depending on their policy, you may get a portion of your money back.
There are things that you won’t be able to return or resell, like digital curricula or workbooks. But even if you can’t recoup any of your expenses, I’d urge you to let go of what’s not working. It’s just part of what homeschooling costs. Really.
So How Much Does Homeschooling Cost?
Perhaps the question you should be asking is: Is homeschooling worth the cost?
Yes, you will spend hundreds of dollars per child, per year. You may have to make sacrifices, large or small. But as they say, nothing in life is free.
Is homeschooling worth your time? Is it worth your effort? Is it worth it for your children?
The cost of homeschooling is different from year to year and child to child. You will have surprises and losses. It’s not free, but you can make it work. If it’s worth it to you.
How much does homeschooling cost? Advice from the experts
- Homeschool Budget Help!!! Lessons from an Expert!
Homeschooler and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ Dawn Sparks from Simple Money Pro shares lessons learned and pro advice for setting your priorities and mastering your homeschool budget.
- School Supplies List Too Long? 5 Ways to SAVE!
A few simple tips to help you save on your school supplies – today AND long term.
- Yes! You CAN Afford to Homeschool! Here’s How!
Thirteen year veteran homeschooler and working mom, Krista from We’re Far From Normal, shows you how you can afford to homeschool – even if you think you can’t.
- How to Homeschool on One Income
Homeschool mom of three, Tiffany from Homeschool Hideout, shares how she uses a budget to keep her one-income family on track.
- How to Rock Your Homeschooling with Only 100 Bucks
Sheila from Brain Power Boy shares her somewhat unorthodox approach to homeschool. You’ll be amazed at what you can do with just $100.
- 7 Ways to Homeschool for Free (or Almost Free)
Emily from Table Life Blog shares seven options that you might not have considered that will considerably cut your homeschooling expenses.
- 10 Ways to Save Money on your Homeschool Resource Budget
Waldorf homeschooler, Kirstee from This Whole Home, shares ten great pieces of advice for how and where to save on homeschooling.
- How Much Does Homeschooling Cost?
Take a look at what you might need for your homeschool and a few cost-saving tips from a mom who keeps it under $400/year on curriculum for her children.
- I Can’t Afford to Homeschool… Yes You Can!
Misty, a homeschool mentor and writer at Joy in the Journey, shares her great advice on how to transition to homeschooling – no matter what your budget.
- 5 Tips for Choosing Homeschool Curriculum when Money is Tight
Kristina, from Blossom and Root, shares her best tips for picking the right curriculum and materials for your homeschool year – even when you can’t spend a lot.
Printable Homeschool Expense Tracker
One surefire way to save is to use free printable homeschool planning pages! Here’s one to help you tame your homeschool budget.
This free printable includes one 6 page PDF to help you keep track of your homeschool expenses. Printable includes 1 Family Expenses and Memberships page, plus 4 color pages and one ink-saver page that can be used for tracking:
- Expenses for each individual child
- Money spent on supplies or books
- Co-pays or co-insurance payments for therapies
- Recurring subscription payments
- General homeschool expenses
What’s your best homeschool budgeting advice? Leave a comment below. Then, Check out all the Homeschool on a Budget Posts from the Resource Room.