This is a question I get asked fairly often, so I thought I’d address it on the site. We’ve been homeschooling our kids for twelve years now, since the beginning of our oldest daughter’s education. We currently have an 11th grader, an 8th grader, a 6th grader and a 5th grader. The answer to the question “How much does it cost to homeschool? can have a wide variety of answers.
The Cost to Homeschool Varies
Some curricula is expensive, others are not. Some families are involved in homeschooling co-ops (tutoring centers that offer classes for children), others are not. Some families participate in extracurricular sports and activities, some do not. There are many variables that will determine how much a family spends on homeschooling.
Being that we’re the frugal family we are, you can guess that we likely spend less than many families. We also spend more than many families.
As in real life, the homeschooling world has families that pull out all of the stops and spend thousands a year on each kid, and other families that are more frugal – whether out of necessity or out of preference – and spend very little on homeschooling.
Most homeschooling families are one income families since homeschooling takes up the majority of the day. In other words, they choose to sacrifice and live on one income so that they can have more control over their children’s education.This means that, depending on their spouse’s line of work, money could be plentiful or it could be tight. However, with a proper frugal budget and ruthless prioritization of expenses, most homeschooling families do just fine with money.
They may not go out to eat often, or wear designer clothes, or vacation to expensive destinations, but they’ll all tell you it’s well worth the sacrifice to be able to be with their kids and teach them all that they need to know.
Why Do People Homeschool?
This is another question I get asked often. One reason people choose homeschooling is so that they can spend more time with their children. Another is so they can have control over what their children are taught. Interestingly, the homeschooling world tends to have a lot of gifted kids and a lot of kids with learning disabilities; those types of kids who sometimes fall through the cracks as good teachers in traditional schools work to reach as many of their students as possible in often over-sized classes. Which reminds me, a family’s choice to homeschool does not mean that they necessarily hate the public school system. We have several loved ones that are teachers and do a phenomenal job educating the children under their care.
It’s all about choice, and each family has the the freedom to do what they think is best for their children in terms of education.
For us, we find that homeschooling allows for a fantastically low student-to-teacher ratio, which means our kids get lots of time, attention and help with their school work. It also allows us to tailor their education to their talents and career focus.
Others homeschool because they want a more organic lifestyle for their children, a lifestyle that focuses on teaching them real-life skills and abilities that will help them be more self-sufficient in life.
If you want to read a controversial book that will challenge the way you think about public education (written by a national teacher of the year), read this. Go ahead, I dare ya: Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling, 10th Anniversary Edition
Still others homeschool for religious reasons. They may prefer a private education but simply can’t afford it. According to a website called Private School Review, the private elementary school average tuition is $8,908 per year and the private high school average tuition is $13,538 per year as of 2016.
This is unaffordable for many families and homeschooling can be accomplished for much less. Which leads me to the numbers.
What Our Family Spends on Homeschooling
As I mentioned, we spend more on homeschooling than many families and less on homeschooling than many families. We have four children, age 11 and up. Here is what we’ve spent on homeschooling during the last four years (as long as I’ve been tracking) for all four children combined.
- 2013 – $1042.22 ( I don’t have individual numbers for this year)
- 2014 – $1265.87 ($824.07, $107.61, $104.77 and $229.42 respectively)
- 2015 – $3095.32 ($1308.59, $548.09, $625.63, and $613.01 respectively)
- 2016 – $3233.08 ($1498.41, $690.27, $595.27 and $449.13 respectively)
As you can see, our numbers for the last two years are much higher than they were for 2013 and 2014. This is because we’ve ramped up sports participation and co-op class attendance the last two years. And our oldest daughter tends to have higher expenses for two reasons: first, we often use her as a guinea pig when trying new things to see if they are a fit for our family, and second, as a budding artist and animator she has pretty expensive tastes in art supplies, such as a $1000 graphics tablet.
However, even if we spent our historical max – just under $1500 – for all four kids, we’d still come in at a total of $6,000 – much lower than the cost of the average private school tuition per kid.
As I talk with other families in my area, it seems our homeschooling costs are about in the average range. When it comes to homeschooling curriculum, you can go the expensive route or the inexpensive route. Let me give you an example.
For the elementary years, I teach the kids math myself. The books we use, from Singapore Math, are available at www.christianbook.com, and it runs $50 for the year for the two student workbooks and the instructor manual. Once our kids hit middle school, I switch them over to a self-directed math program called Teaching Textbooks. This program has a built-in instructor that gives a lecture and helps the students when they get stuck. The Pre-Algebra course runs $155 for the CD-Rom version, which is generally what we buy.
The spelling curriculum we use costs $10.49 for the book and for the answer key. The grammar curriculum we use costs $23.49 per book, and the answers are included.
A popular homeschooling read: The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (Fourth Edition)
The point is that as a homeschooler you have a choice on how much you spend on schooling. Both Singapore Math and Teaching Textbooks are phenomenal curriculum choices. In my situation, I love teaching the kids directly, but my math memory skills start to wane a bit in the middle school years so we spend more on their curriculum in order to make sure they have an instructor who knows what they’re doing. 🙂
There are very reasonably priced curriculum options available that can minimize homeschooling costs for children. You just need to do your research. Luckily, most of those curricula options are made to be instructor-friendly, so that parents of all education levels can teach their kids at home.
Another way homeschooling families save money is to buy used curriculum from other families. Many times families buy books that they never use. Or, in the case of Teaching Textbooks, the curriculum can be used for four children. If a family only has two kids, they can sell the curriculum to another family with two kids at a discount.
Still other families take advantage of free curricula online and teach their children that way. I know families who homeschool their children for next to nothing. Me personally, I’m too lazy to look up and plan out using the free online stuff, so we buy textbooks. But both options can provide a stellar education of the parents do their research.
There are also co-op classes available for kids that allow them to have the traditional classroom experience and make homeschooling easier. In our case, I’m not a science person, so for under $200 per year including curriculum, our kids take science at a local co-op, where a tutor who loves science performs lab tests, dissections and all kinds of other non-Laurie tasks for my kids. However, many families teach science right at home, labs and all.
You have to remember too that our numbers include sports and extracurricular activities, all of which are non-necessities and that traditional parents often pay for anyways. Many school districts also allow homeschooled kids in their district to participate on public school sports teams, and still other homeschooling co-ops form their own sports teams for various sports.
The point is that homeschooling is extremely cost effective for families who choose to make it so.
What About Socialization?
I know this question has nothing to do with the cost of homeschooling, but since so many people ask, I thought I’d address it anyway.
Contrary to popular belief, most homeschooling families don’t lock themselves away, refusing their children the opportunity to interact with others. There are some families that choose that lifestyle, and those are the ones you’ll hear about in the media, but the majority of homeschooling families are very social.
There are co-ops that offer classes, field trips and a variety of social clubs such as chess club or archery club. There are even many homeschooling groups that put together proms for high school juniors and seniors.
The great thing about homeschooling is that kids interact on a regular basis with kids of all ages, and aren’t confined to their own age group, as is often the case in the traditional school system.
If you peek inside the lunchroom of a homeschooling co-op, you’ll find 10th graders hanging out with 7th graders, and 6th graders playing with 1st graders. The kids learn to play with kids of all ages because they’re with kids of all ages on a daily or weekly basis.
Since homeschooled kids also spend quite a bit of time interacting with adults, they’re very adept at communicating with adults. Most of the homeschooling kids I know can talk just as easily with an adult or with a younger child as they can with kids in their own peer group age.
Also, since many homeschool families make service a weekly part of their curricula, their kids get many opportunities to socialize and chat with people of all ages and situations. Personally, we’ve done stints where we’ve visited retirement homes regularly, helped at food shelves on a regular basis, and attended political events.
Most of the homeschooled kids I know are well-rounded, well-educated and socially adept. The “socialization” concern is largely unfounded, unless a parent chooses to hide their kid from civilization. Some families do that, but the majority do not.
I hope this answers some of your questions about the costs of homeschooling. For us, homeschooling has allowed us to tailor our children’s education plan to their specific gifts talents and chosen career paths, helping them to be more than adequately prepared for life as an adult. And the bond homeschooling has created within our family is priceless.
Did these numbers surprise you? Does homeschooling cost more or less than you imagined it would?
Hey Laurie. Have always wondered this as I have family members who homeschool. I have really never met a homeschooled kid who didn’t excel in most of their life. They are exposed to so much that regular schooled kids are not. Plus they get to explore and see what it is they like to do rather than being forced to do what others expect of them.
I think homeschooling sets them up to be independent thinkers rather than herd thinkers (like many of us). Kudos to you! (Bro loves Gatto.. he definitely has some counter-culture ideas).
Thanks so much, Aaron! Appreciate your kind words. Love that book. You should read it. Fascinating!
Great ideas! I’ve seen that homeschooling becomes more affordable if you use the materials to educate multiple kids, since you can reuse many items. I think we’ll still opt for public school, but I’ve dabbled with the idea of private and homeschooling.
Glad you’re at least thinking about it. It’s not right for everyone, but we’ve found it to be a wonderful benefit in many ways.
It seems that homeschooled kids end up quite accelerated ahead of their peers in pubic school, or woefully uneducated, and it obviously depends on the commitment of the parents to make the experience a success. I’m sure it also depends on the curriculum chosen. I’ve seen some homeschooled children on some television shows (supposed reality) whose grammar is so pathetic I have t wonder if it is even included in the curriculum. On the other hand, so many homeschooled kids win the national competitions such as spelling and geography bees. My son went to a highly regarded small town public school and he excelled. However, in today’s environment I would probably do whatever it took to send him to a private school as I don’t consider myself smart enough to have been his teacher.
Oops, I meant public school. Freudian slip.
Media tends to vilify homeschooling – which totally ticks me off. Most of the homeschooled kids I’ve met over the last 12 years have indeed been accelerated in their learning. I’m so glad your son had a great experience with traditional schooling. Kath, I think you are underestimating your smarts. Neither Rick nor I went to college, and our kids are all doing great. There is such a support system these days. 30 years ago that wasn’t the case, but in the last 20 years the support system and availability of curriculum have really taken off.
Another great overview Laurie. I like the idea of homeschooling co-ops, having kids being exposes to other in many grade/age levels. I’ve always like the idea of mentoring. I’m a bit surprised at the overall cost, but have to imagine the experience is priceless for your kids. Is there any school-tax breaks if you home-school?
Thanks, Brian!Yep, all qualified expenses (up to a certain amount – it’s $1500 per year for elementary aged kids and higher for secondary aged/high schoolers) are tax deductible, which is nice. At least that is the case in MN.
That’s great. What about on property taxes? We pay a big bulk of schools cost within them.
Yeah, we still have to pay our portion of the taxes that pay for education within our property taxes, but it is what it is, I guess.
I honestly have/had no idea how much it cost to home school. I’ve heard that the Khan Academy does a nice job online but like I said I had no idea the costs involved with that either. So that’s really interesting to see for four kids that it costs about $3k. That doesn’t seem too bad all things considered especially with the experiences that they are gaining. Thanks for sharing!!!
Thanks, Rob! Khan Academy is actually free, and I know many homeschooling families that use it, although we haven’t as of yet. Yes, we find it’s well worth the money. And I think the kids would testify to the same. 🙂
Thanks for these great data points. The missus and I are considering home school when we pull the plug on early retirement. I would get to put my teaching credential to use again, and she’d get to use her PhD, too. I have no doubt our children would progress beyond the limited curriculum in a public school setting, but everything has tradeoffs and I’m sure homeschooling is no different.
Still, it’s not prohibitively expensive — I really appreciate you sharing the cost breakdowns!
Yeah, definitely more affordable than most public schools. We’ve found our children have really thrived in the homeschooling world. There are a number of reasons for that, but one of the main ones is that we’ve been able to tailor each one’s education to their learning style, interests and talents. I’d say it’s one of the best decisions we’ve made as parents.
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