Inquiring homeschoolers often ask, ‘How much does homeschooling cost?’. This is not an easy question to answer. Not only do families vary in size but also in income, children’s ages, educational approaches, and individual gifts, talents and interests of the parents and children. So, do we give up and say, ‘It’s impossible to know the cost!’ No! We can still give an educated guess of the average costs of homeschooling and then individually tweak our budgets to reflect our own situations.
Using the figures below, and a little research, I have put together a average annual budget based on three common homeschooling styles (see Graph 1-Blue column 1st child; Red column 2nd child).
These figures will give you a rough idea about the costs.
For all homeschoolers there is the initial set up cost. These include; a computer, multifunction printer, internet access, dictionary, atlas and a work-space. Some would also say encyclopedias (I never use them now that I have the internet). I won’t put a price tag on these as in most cases these items are already owned or factored into the family budget. For stationary and art supplies I allocate about $75 per child per year.
Sports, art, drama, music, tuition and excursions are all included in the cost of extra curricular activities. If you budget for a sport or music class of $25 per week for each school term, plus excursion costs of $50 per term your yearly budget would be $1200 per child. This category is extremely variable. And in many cases children would have done these activities regardless of homeschooling. Your options are unlimited here.
Pre packaged distance education refers to curriculum such as Accelerated Christian Education (ACE). For the workbooks, membership and residential days you can expect to pay $1200 for your first child and $630 for each subsequent child. You may incur some extra accommodation and transport expenses for residential days.
A custom designed curriculum encompasses various approaches such as; classical, Charlotte Mason, textbook and eclectic. With a budget of $725 per year you could include; a math program and a Mathletics subscription ($80); an English program ($175) plus reading books ($200); a science program, such as Apologia ($120); a history and geography resource ($150). Reusable resources can greatly reduce costs for the second child to around $300.
With natural learning or unschooling everything is curriculum. Unschoolers spend more money on extra curricular activities, excursions, hobbies and interests of the child, so I have added an extra $500 per year for extra curricular activities for each child. This may be too conservative.
In Graph 1 the cost of homeschooling using different styles only varies by $900 dollars, the range being from $1500-$2400. The new Australian Federal Government education refund (ETR) means that 50% of many of our homeschool curriculum costs can be claimed back, making things even cheaper. Keep those receipts!
School fees for the first child can cost, $0 to $300 in a public school and $12000 to $22000 in a private school. You also need to add extra for special events, excursions and uniforms. If we compare homeschooling with private or public school fees we can see that homeschooling is significantly cheaper than a private school education and not much more than a public school education, especially when you consider the ETR which is not available for school fees.
Homeschool expenditure can oscillate enormously and, in truth, it is impossible to give a concrete answer to the question, ‘How much does homeschooling cost?’. Homeschooling can cost as much or as little as you like. You can make things a little cheaper (see my money saving tips) and you can easily blow these estimates but you do need to spend money to homeschool and it is possible to work out the approximate cost.
Choosing to homeschool, for many parents, is not about the cost anyway. Often one parent has given up a career or full-time wage in order to homeschool. It is about what is best for the children and somehow no matter what the cost we would find a way!