The Cost of Homeschooling: Understanding the Financial Implications

Homeschool has become increasingly popular in recent years, and exponentially so in 2020 with the COVID-19 Pandemic. If you are considering homeschool, you might be wondering “how much does homeschooling cost?”

Homeschooling can actually be quite affordable. The inherent flexibility homeschool offers opens up a world of possibilities. There is truly something for everyone and every budget.

Let’s take a look at the different costs involved with homeschooling, and what you can do to save money along the way.

Average Cost of Homeschooling

Okay, so how much does homeschooling cost? The cost of homeschooling varies from family to family depending on several factors. For example, the number of school-aged children in the family, the family’s budget, and how resourceful they are.

According to the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), it is totally possible to homeschool your child for $300 to $500 per year. 

However, others say the average cost could be anywhere from $700 to $1800 per child. This number factors in more cost for curriculum packages, supplies, and possibly an extracurricular activity or two.

Ultimately, your personal homeschool philosophy (and your state’s homeschool requirements) will play a big role in determining your homeschool budget.

Typical Homeschool Expenses

1. Curriculum

When it comes to homeschool curriculum, the sky’s the limit! There are literally thousands of choices to pick from. This includes comprehensive curriculum packages, supplemental learning kits, and free online courses. 

But, with so many options out there, deciding on a curriculum can be one of the hardest choices in homeschooling. While some parents love having the flexibility to mix and match resources, others prefer the instant structure that popular (but more expensive) curriculum like Abeka or The Good and The Beautiful offer. 

It probably goes without saying that curriculum tops the list of homeschool expenses. Some parents end up spending an average of $300 to $600 per child per year for curriculum alone. 

Others, especially in the elementary years, develop their own curriculum, using state testing standards as a guide in their own lesson planning. Learning about fractions? Reserve a book at the local library, plan an afternoon of baking, or peruse Pinterest for a dizzying amount of free resources and activities. It really can be that simple!

Keep in mind that homeschooling regulations vary by state, and some states require a more structured learning system than others. Be sure to check out the Homeschool Legal Defense Association’s website for more information on what is required in your area. 

2. Supplies, Books and Equipment

Back to school shopping has become known as the second highest shopping season of the year, runner up only to the frenzy of the holiday season.

This is in part due to the ever-growing supply list required by public schools, and the social pressure to have the latest and greatest clothing, shoes, and accessories.

In contrast, homeschooling families typically find their supply list to be much, much smaller. It essentially just consists of paper, pencils, glue sticks, scissors, and a learning game or two. And, since homeschoolers tend to spend a good majority of the day in pajamas (shh, don’t tell), there’s not a huge need for all of those trendy clothing options!

That said, the first year of homeschooling can bring some upfront costs. This is true especially if you want to set up a designated learning space with desks and a whiteboard. You’ll also want to consider buying an extra computer or tablet, as well as a cabinet or organizer for textbooks and materials.

As with most things, you really don’t need as much as you think you do. Try to avoid buying every learning gadget you come across. Having too much stuff can make it harder to find direction in your day and ultimately can contribute to burn out.

3. Field Trips

Field trips are not a requirement of homeschooling, but they are so beneficial to your child’s learning it would be a disservice not to plan a few throughout the school year. 

While it is certainly possible to spend a couple hundred dollars every year on homeschool field trips, learning opportunities are everywhere and don’t have to be extravagant or expensive!

 A simple field trip to the grocery store can be very educational. Make a day of it and teach life skills like meal prepping, budgeting, the food pyramid, and last but not least – impulse control! Practice handwriting by having your child write out the grocery list, and give them a calculator to track estimated costs as you go aisle by aisle. When you get home, make a game of putting away the dry goods in alphabetic order, seeing who can find the next item fastest.

Other great low-cost field trip ideas include local museums, fire stations, zoos, nature centers, and libraries. Some of these places even offer special classes for homeschool students. And don’t forget to utilize Groupon for inspiration (and discounts!) on kid-friendly activities to do in your area.

Finally, I highly recommend joining a homeschool group in your area for field trip opportunities, added socialization, and special events.

4. Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities are a great way to build confidence, teach teamwork, and get your child around other kids their age. A major perk of homeschooling is that it really only takes a few hours a day, so kids have more free time to explore extracurriculars and pursue things they are interested in. 

Depending on what your child wants to do, the cost of extracurriculars can vary. You can find all sorts of inexpensive classes and activities at your local library, community center, or YMCA. I have even seen churches that offer piano and guitar lessons!

But getting your kids involved doesn’t end there. Get them involved in the community by looking for volunteer opportunities you can do together!

Hidden Costs and Benefits of Homeschooling

Lost Income

Homeschooling does not automatically translate to lost income, but it certainly can if your job requires you to work outside of the home.

That said, it is totally possible to homeschool while working from home part time, especially after you get comfortable with the curriculum and establish structure in your day.

Or, if you are part of a co-op, check to see if there are any paid opportunities. Parents often sign up to teach classes they have a particular interest or expertise in.

Saving on Child Care Costs

Homeschooling means one parent will have to be home during the day, so you can ditch daycare costs for the younger children in the house. 

The average family spends a little less than $7,000 on child care each year, so if you have little ones at home, homeschooling is a great way to save money in this area. Just keep in mind, it will take a little more patience and dedication to get the school day started with a baby crying or a toddler tugging at your pant leg.

How to Save Money on Homeschooling

Buying or renting used textbooks and curriculum

One of the easiest ways to save on homeschooling costs is to look for deals on curriculum. Buying or renting gently used curriculum not only saves money, it allows you to try out a curriculum with a little less commitment. 

This is also a great strategy for those with children in different grades, whose cost would otherwise be considerably higher by purchasing new materials each year.

Finally, some co-ops allow parents to join together and split the cost of curriculum, so be sure to check out that option as well. 

Taking advantage of free resources

While purchasing a ready-made curriculum can help you feel like you’ve “checked” all of the homeschool boxes, it is totally feasible to build all or part of your own curriculum using free resources available through the library and online.

Perhaps the most well known free online curriculum is Khan Academy. Khan Academy can be used as your child’s main curriculum, or as a supplement when they need a little more help in a particular subject.

Another free online homeschooling resource is Easy Peasy All-In-One Homeschool, with lessons designed for all ages, from early elementary to high school.

Teaming Up with Other Parents

As I mentioned above, a popular way to save money while homeschooling is to join a homeschool co-op in your area. Many co-ops split the cost of materials, making this a very attractive option for some parents.

Co-ops are essentially groups of parents who are using the same curriculum and form a community to help each other homeschool effectively. 

Most co-ops meet once a week for structured learning and socialization. Many parents act as tutors within the group, offering classes in their specific area of expertise.

Is Public School Cheaper Than Homeschool?

So, how much does homeschooling cost compared to public school? Again, the answer will depend on a number of variables. 

Overall, public school might be slightly cheaper than homeschool, but not by much. And of course, homeschool is much cheaper than private school options. 

While the main expense of homeschooling is purchasing the curriculum, there are a number of public school expenses you will save on along the way, including: 

  • Back to school clothing
  • School supplies
  • School donations and fundraisers
  • The cost of gas if not using the bus
  • Holiday and teacher appreciation gifts

Is Homeschooling Really Worth It?

With so much to consider, you might be wondering, is homeschooling really worth it? While it may not be for everyone, homeschooling definitely offers some great benefits.

Socialization

One of the most common objections I hear to homeschooling has to do with socialization. But rest assured, homeschooling will not make your child a hermit! 

Well, at least not if you are intentional. Homeschooled kids only struggle with socialization if parents fail to take the appropriate steps to make sure those needs are met. 

In fact, homeschooling offers some distinct social advantages. Since you will be around your child for the better part of the day, you will be more adept to your child’s influences. While you certainly can’t (and wouldn’t want to) shield your child from every social hardship they might encounter, homeschoolers are less likely to be affected by bullies and bad influences, in turn lessening their exposure to drugs, alcohol, and smoking. 

More Choice in Your Child’s Education

Many parents who choose to homeschool do so because of the freedom it gives them in shaping their child’s education. 

This can make homeschooling an attractive option for parents who find that certain topics taught in public schools don’t align with their personal or religious beliefs.

Homeschooling is also a great opportunity to understand your child’s unique learning style, and choose a curriculum that helps them thrive, whether they are kinesthetic, auditory, or visual learners.

More Time With Your Kids

And my personal favorite: Homeschooling gives you the opportunity to spend more quality time with your kids.

For us, specifically, we enjoy the freedom that homeschooling gives us to explore the world as a family, through roadschooling adventures across the country. 

Instead of trying to play catch up at the end of a long, exhausting school day, we are able to learn alongside our children and build a stronger family bond with each memory we make in our homeschooling journey.

Final Thoughts on How Much Does Homeschooling Cost?

Ultimately, the answer to “how much does homeschooling cost” will depend on a number of variables, including your budget, available resources, and how many kids you intend to homeschool. 

But overall, homeschooling does not have to be expensive, and in many cases can actually be cheaper than public school if you take advantage of all the free resources and tools out there to help your kids succeed. 

While not for everyone, homeschooling is a viable option to consider if you are looking for a way to spend more time with your kids and have more choice in your child’s education.

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