If you are on the fence about homeschooling, there is a good chance that cost is a really big concern for you.
When I first started looking into curriculum options, I was blown away by what it cost!
Did people really pay that much to homeschool their kids?
When you search questions like, “cost of homeschooling,” online, you will see a lot of articles appear that are not written by actual homeschoolers.
They speak in broad generalizations and often miss many of the hidden costs of homeschooling.
I wanted to ask around to friends, but unfortunately, our culture deems it rude to ask detailed questions about other people’s finances.
So even if you got up your nerve to ask a homeschool mom about cost, she may likely only say things like, “Oh, well we make it work,” or “We try to get used curriculum when we can.”
That might be a little reassuring, but man is it vague.
That’s why I’m ripping into this conversation and sharing with you:
- Why Homeschool Cost is Touchy to Talk About
- Main Costs of Homeschooling
- Hidden Costs of Homeschooling (they’re sneaky!)
- What I Actually Pay To Homeschool My Three Kids (you betcha!)
- How I Justify The Cost of Homeschooling
- Final Thoughts
Why Talking About Homeschooling Costs Is So Difficult
As I said above, most people consider it rude to ask financial questions.
I would feel awkward complimenting someone’s coffeepot and then asking how much it cost.
Even homeschoolers know it’s weird to ask questions like that.
But there are other reasons homeschoolers don’t want to talk about the cost.
The homeschoolers in your life may feel embarrassed to admit how much they spend. Will you think they are foolish? Extravagant?
Or maybe they are embarrassed that they spend so little. Will you think they are giving a subpar education because they only spend so much a year? Do they feel guilt about not spending more?
Some homeschoolers may not want to share their homeschool budget because they don’t want to scare you off from homeschooling.
And still other homeschoolers don’t want to get into the cost of homeschooling…because there are so many different factors that can hugely change how much you spend. They know this and don’t want to get into a long, confusing conversation.
Homeschooling is not like a traditional school – where everybody gets the same list of supplies to get at Walmart.
Main Costs of Homeschooling
So let’s get down to brass tacks.
Here are the major costs of homeschooling that you need to account for.
The cost of curriculum varies greatly depending on your homeschool style and budget. You can go from a completely free online curriculum to paying easily over a thousand dollars per child.
Some homeschool parents choose online academies during the middle and high school years and those can run anywhere from $3,000 and up for yearly tuition.
I also know of middle and high school students who attend live online classes for just one subject, such as math, and that can also cost hundreds of dollars per semester.
In order to save money, I encourage homeschool moms to shop for curriculum year-round, buy used when they can, and hit up homeschool conventions for amazing sales.
I also encourage them to read reviews extensively. Make sure you really understand what you’re getting.
2. Basic Supplies
Basic homeschool supplies will include pencils, rulers, paper, pencil sharpener, scissors, notebooks, folders, binders – this will all vary depending on what curriculum you use.
See this list for my ultimate homeschooling supply list shopping guide.
I encourage parents to wait to buy supplies until they have their curriculum in hand. Go through the teacher’s manual and skim for the supply list. You will find unexpected things like dice, cotton balls, brads, 3×5 cards, etc.
You may not need a lot of things you think you will need….and you may need things that you would never think of buying.
3. Art Supplies
Art can be a serious expense in your homeschool, especially if you have multiple kids.
Depending on your curriculum choice, you will need to have markers, colored pencils, paint, paintbrushes, crayons, glue, construction paper, etc.
You can, of course, buy things throughout the year, as opposed to all at once.
Keep in mind that you will also want to do fun holiday crafts and projects as they come around.
4. Field Trips
Field trips are a completely individual choice for your family, but keep in mind that you will probably want to take your kids out and about to zoos, museums, aquariums, historical landmarks, etc.
A great part of homeschooling is getting out of the house and *seeing* what they are learning about!
Hopefully, you can go with a co-op or large group to get a good rate, but if not, be sure to plan it into your overall homeschool budget.
****Tight budget? Check out these free field trip ideas!
The Hidden Costs of Homeschooling
Now I’m going to share all the *other* expenses that you are likely to run into on your homeschooling journey.
Several of them may not apply to you, so don’t stress it too much.
It is just good to have an eye on them for the future.
1. Teaching supplies
Everybody tends to focus on the cost of curriculum, but rarely do they think of the cost of teaching.
All kinds of things will come up that you will feel the need to buy.
Just a quick list off the top of my head:
- bookcases to hold curriculum and other supplies
- art and writing supply holders
- a whiteboard and plenty of dry erase markers
For a more complete list and Amazon links to all my favorite things, check out the must-have things I need in my classroom.
No, you do not need to buy these things all at once, but you will accumulate them over time.
2. Co-op Registration and Fees
Yep, I had no idea that co-ops can be on the expensive side.
You may have a co-op in your area that has a basic registration fee (includes background checks and things like that) and then you pay a participation fee that includes supplies for the year.
I vaguely remember that our first co-op like this cost $175 for the year.
I have also seen “teaching service” co-ops where parents volunteer to help out, but another mom is paid to actually prepare and teach the classes. Depending on your area, those classes will cost well over $100 per year, per class.
We did those classes for a few years, but after all three of my kids were school age, we couldn’t justify the expense anymore.
There are also social co-ops that meet at parks and field trip destinations and have little to no fees.
Definitely shop around and find the best deal that matches up with your budget and the classes your kids are interested in.
On more than one occasion, I have been lulled into trying a cheap curriculum…only to find that printing off the required materials is going to break the bank.
Just the other day I went to print off a PDF workbook and sighed when I saw that it was over 150 pages – yikes!
If you plan to use a curriculum that requires a lot of printing, definitely look into a smart ink printer (I love these!) or price compare with any printing shops in your area.
4. Mid-Year Curriculum Changes
I know you will do your very best to choose the *perfect* curriculum…but there is a huge chance that things will go sideways.
You will realize that the curriculum isn’t fitting your child’s learning style. They hate it. You hate it. And everyone is miserable.
I have personally lost count of the number of times I have switched out curriculum over the past 5 years.
It’s a lot.
Keep in mind that it’s usually not all of the curriculum, just one or two subjects. For us, it is usually spelling and math that need adjustments.
A variation on this expense is that you will try to hand curriculum down to your younger kids and quickly realize that your kids learn COMPLETELY differently. Each kid may need a different kind of curriculum.
It is helpful to know that you can make a little money back if you sell your curriculum when you’re done with it.
5. Legal Requirements
Depending on your state, you may have some costs that come up in order to keep up with the state requirements for homeschoolers.
For example, in my state of Pennsylvania, I have to pay for my yearly affidavit to be notarized.
I also have to put together portfolios for all three of my kids that include pictures, worksheets, tests, attendance records, and writing assignments.
I have to pay for an evaluator to review the portfolios (roughly $30 – $50 per child). As a last expense, I also have to standardize test my kids on certain years.
It’s not a huge amount, but with multiple kids, it is something to keep in mind.
6. Supplemental Material
Your curriculum may be a great fit…but your kid may still need some extra support.
Many homeschool moms find themselves purchasing math games, extra manipultives, online programs, extra workbooks, readers, chapter book series, and other supplemental materials to help their kids meet their potential.
7. Social Groups
There are those who will sharply disagree with me here, but I feel like I pay more for social activities – dance lessons, scouting groups, sports activities, driving to playdates – than I would if my kids were in public school.
I feel a burden to make sure that my kids have as much time with their friends as they want.
I actually love the scheduling freedom I have to sign up for all of these things – but it can be costly.
8. Extra Supplies
There will be things that pop up throughout the year.
You will need to run to the store for science experiment supplies, poster board for a co-op presentation, a tri-fold for a geography showcase…things will happen.
You will need to buy more of everything throughout the year too. More pencils, replacement markers, new pencil sharpeners because your kid stuck a crayon in yours, etc.
To be fair, there are a BUNCH of extra supplies that are needed in most traditional schools too.
What I Personally Pay For Homeschooling My Three Kids
Yep, I am going to open up my finances and share what I pay.
Hold on to your hat – Homeschool Mama – it’s about to get real!
I made a chart with all the curriculum I’ll be using next year for my rising 6th grader, 3rd grader, and 1st grader.
Curriculum (including tax and shipping) will cost me about $1,800 total. Remember this is highly variable and depends on the number of kids and your own curriculum choices. I splurge in some areas and not in others.
I predict that my basic supplies will cost about $60. It would be more for three kids, but I already have many things that you only need to buy once (rulers, pencil sharpener, etc.)
I usually buy all my art supplies at the beginning of the year, and I am forecasting that to be about $200. It would be less, but I had to throw a lot out when we recently moved.
The co-op we will attend will cost me a total of $60 this year.
My legal requirements are higher than most, and I predict that I will pay $150 to meet the state standards for three kids.
I am not sure yet about field trips, supplements, extra supplies, social events, etc., so I will be generous and say that will all cost $1,000 over the span of a year.
If you are keeping track, the total I will pay for homeschooling next year will be around $3,270.
How In the World Do You Afford Homeschooling?!
I know that is a little bit of a scary number. Especially when public school *appears* to be free.
And if you have multiple kids, more on the way, a tight budget, and a one-income household.
But you should know that we are nowhere near rich. We drive older cars, rarely go on vacation, and I know where all the thrift stores are near me.
We definitely did not have extra money lying around at the end of the month that we didn’t know what to do with.
But Let Me Share With You How The Cost of Homeschooling Shrinks In My Mind
First of all, I don’t have to cut a check for that amount every August. Many of the above expenses come up throughout the year and just get folded into our regular budget.
Second, sending my kids to private school would cost $5-10,000 per year where I live.
For just one kid.
It now costs about $10,000 for a family of 5 to go on a Disney vacation.
If I divide up the $3,270 over the span of 12 months, it would be less than $300 per month.
I know women who spend more than that a month on make-up, skincare, and supplements!
I also know serval mothers who pay about the same amount monthly for dance and gymnastics classes.
Suddenly $3,270 does not seem like that much money.
And do you know what I get for the low cost of less than $300/month?
I get a joyful home full of kids who are receiving a customized education to their every need.
It is my delight (seriously) to teach them and watch them learn to love learning.
They can sleep in when their bodies need more rest. They can go at their own pace.
I have plenty of time to make them a healthy breakfast and lunch.
They can run outside and play for hours.
We have homework-free nights…every night!
Our family values are being instilled in my kids every day…instead of by someone else I barely know.
Another kid on my daughter’s sports team asked her this week, “Why are you so nice?” What a testament to homeschooling and the time we spend together.
Cost of Homeschooling FAQ
1. Can you homeschool for free?
I now this won’t win me any friends…but free homeschooling is not a thing.
Even if you use free curriculum, you will still have many other expenses that will pop up.
As listed above, you will still need to pay for things like basic supplies, printing, legal requirements, science experiment supplies, art supplies, supplemental material, and more.
It’s not free. I’m not saying that be mean, but to help you move forward with accurate expectations.
2. Can I claim homeschooling on my taxes?
Wouldn’t that be nice!
Nope, your homeschooling costs are not tax deductible, and on top of that – you still have to pay school tax!
People have asked me if that annoys me, and I usually say that I don’t mind supporting education. Homeschooling isn’t for everyone.
3. Can I get paid to homeschool?
That would also be awesome!
Again, there is not any government program that will pay you to NOT put your child in a public school. It doesn’t work that way.
As an alternative though, you can look into this homeschool side hustle that essentially pays you for running a PE class for kids. Their motto is “Paid to Play!” and it’s pretty neat.
4. Can I work and homeschool?
It is possible, but I believe it would take a very unique job opportunity and flexible kids who enjoy working independently.
If this is your current situation, I strongly recommend you check out Practical By Design. Jenn Mackinnon can help you navigate this tricky situation.
Cost of Homeschooling: The Most Important Money I Spend. Period.
Please keep in mind that you will likely not spend as much as I do during your first year.
There are many, many variables to consider, and most people gather things over a span of time.
My first year of homeschooling I was able to store all my supplies in a kitchen cabinet!
Bookcases, maps, organizers, and all that came later.
I have gradually spent more money every year that I homeschool, but I do it joyfully because I see such a return on my investment!
Hopefully, this oversharing post doesn’t terrify you but helps you expect EVERYTHING that might come down the road as you homeschool – and keep those costs in perspective.
I promise you that any and all expenses will be worth it!