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Let’s Talk About: Finances

Hey Lindsey, what advice do you have for the new parents out there that want to start homeschooling but are worried about the financial aspect of it?

“A new homeschooler asked me this exact question the other day about the costs of homeschooling. This is one of those questions that can have a WIDE variety of answers… depending on your curriculum choices, and how many field trips and activities you choose to go on. So it’s a tricky one to answer and can vary widely, but I can tell you how it breaks down for us. I’m a planner and that goes for my home life as well as school so I track all our finances every year.

For the last 4 years, we have averaged $800/year for homeschool costs. This is for TWO children, so $400/year/child. These numbers include our curriculum, supplies, field trips, etc. Anything I wouldn’t have spent if I wasn’t homeschooling.

Now before you balk at spending that kind of money, let me give you a quick comparison… In 2016 when both my children were in public school I also tracked our spending. We spent $850 ($425 per child) on public school. Most people think of public school of being “free”, but think about that for a minute… From Back to School supplies to the teacher’s year end gifts, the public schools are constantly asking for money! And you have less choice in what you spend your money on and what you get for it. Back to School supplies, the “right” clothes for fitting in, indoor shoes, field trips, hot lunches, valentines for the class, milkshake day, pizza day, candy cane day, etc etc etc, the bbq, the fair, the auction, REPLACING THINGS THAT ARE STOLEN, teacher gifts at Christmas and year end, the fundraisers (oh so many fundraisers!) and the things your kids *need* to fit in (ever spent money on a fidget spinner???). It adds up!! I would say we were very middle of the road for participation in school events. We bought into enough special events that the kids didn’t feel left out, but didn’t do every single one, we didn’t get hot lunch every day but did get it on Fridays, we bought *something* from the fundraisers but we didn’t go crazy, etc. So again, you could spend more or you could spend less than we did, this is just an example. Homeschooling costs some money for sure, it can even easily cost more than public school, but you do get to decide for yourself what it gets spent on. 

Our Curriculum: I mostly build my own homeschool curriculum, but I do buy a few units/programs here and there. You could choose to purchase really expensive programs for every subject and easily spend $1000/child/year, but you can also get really good affordable premade curriculum as well. You could make all your own curriculum or unschool and spend a lot less, but I always say you’re going to spend either money, or time, one or the other. Which you would rather or can feasibly spend depends on your own situation and family. I would say we are middle of the road when it comes to curriculum purchasing, because we spend around $200/year.

Field Trips: We go on SO MANY FIELD TRIPS. In public school they usually take 2 field trips per year. We average 2 field trips per month. We are not middle of the roaders here- I take them on almost every field trip that gets offered, organize plenty of my own for our group, and just love getting the kids out in the world and away from the books. So we probably max out our spending on field trips! (And dang it, Covid, you’re going to ruin this for us this year!!)

Activities and Extra Curricular’s: Ok this is a hard one because does it count as homeschool if you do it during the daytime, instead of evenings and weekends? I ended up tracking our extra curricular spending separately from homeschooling because most of it we would have been doing anyway. In a lot of cases homeschooling has actually saved us money on these activities. For example, my daughter always wanted to do gymnastics, but at nearly $500/year we could never afford it. Now she does gymnastics through our homeschool group, at $180/year. Technically homeschooling cost us that extra $180 because we weren’t spending anything on gymnastics before, but now she gets to do an activity she wasn’t able to do before. A lot of places that cater to children are sitting empty during daytime hours, and will give homeschool groups a steep discount. (Don’t get me started on how much more relaxing and family oriented our lives have become now that our evenings and weekends are free of bustling about to extra curricular activities!!)

Supplies: You really don’t need a lot of supplies to homeschool, and most of what you might use you probably already have in your home (like craft supplies, legos, and writing utensils). We spend WAY less money on supplies, clothing, and shoes, than we did when the kids were in public school.

I hope that break down helps some of you out. There’s so much variety of spending options with homeschooling, especially curriculum, but sometimes it helps to hear (see) at least one person’s experience as a starting point, and I do feel that we’re very middle ground spenders in the homeschool world.”

As always, thank you Lindsey for helping us with the financial aspect of what homeschooling can look like. Homeschooling can be accomplished, even when living on a tight budget.

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Let’s Talk About: Finances

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