How Much Does Homeschooling Cost?

Maybe you’ve been considering homeschooling but finances are tight and the big question on your mind is: “Can I afford to give my child a quality education?” Well, I have good news! A quality education is tied more to a parent’s dedication than it is to money or materials. Good materials are a help for sure, but the love and guidance of a parent make a far bigger difference than the chosen curriculum. However, to answer your question on how much it cost to homeschool, the answer is, “It depends.” 

Option 1—Library and Internet Based

Yes, in a pinch, you can absolutely homeschool for free! For older students, this might be a little trickier, but for elementary children it’s quite doable. In fact, for preschool-kindergarten, this is exactly what I did. Online there are free educational videos, crafts, and worksheets that you can easily compile into a curriculum for your child. Take a field trip to your local library and add books and you’re ready to go!

Here is a list of free resources:

This is not an exhaustive list by any means.

Cost: Free! (Of course, you may need little things like pencils, crayons, & binders.)

Option 2—Library and Internet based Plus Journaling

This option is similar to the one above, except in place of worksheets scattered over the internet, you use journaling pages. I discovered Fun-Schooling a couple of years ago, and these beautiful journals make homeschooling easy and fun. If money is tight, you only need ONE Multi-subject Core Journal per child. The paperbacks run from about $17-34, and the PDFs are usually $32-50 (however with PDF, you can print for more than one child). Then you add library books and online documentaries or articles. If you can’t afford a separate math curriculum, you can use Khan Academy math for free. Option 2 is my favorite option for low cost homeschooling.

The great thing about Fun-Schooling is that your child can follow their interests and hone their abilities. Also keep in mind these are research journals. They don’t give you answers, but instead your child develops the important skills of researching, writing, and learning how to teach themselves. Of course, they will need your guidance, but older children can easily work independently. They are adaptable to fit most families.

If you join this Fun-Schooling group on Facebook or follow this page, Sarah Janisse Brown, the creator of these great books (and homeschool mom of 15!), graciously gives out frequent coupons.

Cost: $17-$100 per child (depending on which journal you choose and if you purchase a math book)

Option 3—Home Library and Journaling (Along with Public Library and Internet)

This is really just an expansion of option 2. If you have the finances and space, I recommend building a home library. Not only are books readily available to your children, but you can add many great books that are unavailable at the libraries. This is especially true for many faith based books. Books I want to have in my home library include:

  • Fiction, from picture books to adult in a variety of genres
  • Non-fiction books from child to adult in history, science, literature, bible, etc.
  • Science experiment books
  • Living history books
  • Art and craft books, and more!

I’ve been blessed because many of my books were passed down to me from my parents, but rarely do I ever purchase books new. Most of my books are bought used from a local bookstore or online. New books are nice, but not necessary.

Books do not need to be new for a quality education. Many of the books and textbooks I purchase are second hand.

If you’re wondering which option I use, it is primarily option 3! I use very little in the way of textbooks and books intended as curriculum. I prefer to build my own curriculum using predominately real books (that is books not really intended for school). Living history books also make their way into my library because unlike a textbook, they tell history in story form, which makes it more palatable for children. For teens, history includes non-fiction books, biographies, and books written on historical topics.

Prior to discovering Fun-Schooling journals, we used various note booking pages. Fun-schooling journals replaced most of those. Besides the multi-subject core journals, there are also many Fun-Schooling journals available on specific topics.

*For math, you can continue with the free option of Khan Academy or purchase a textbook.

Cost: $100-$300 per child but…
My 1st Grader: $125 (4 Fun-Schooling Journals in PDF—alphabet journal, history, comic book math, & core journal)
My 4th Grader: $170 (2 Fun-Schooling journals—core journal, history journal, MathCraft Funschooling + math book)
My 7th Grader: $303 (7 Fun-Schooling journals—baker’s, artist’s, grammar, U.S. history, world history timeline, bible, life skills, Math Craft Fun-Schooling + calligraphy kit and math book)

Total cost: $228… wait, what? Yes, because I’m only counting PDF journals and books being used by multiple children once. (For example, I’m using the Fun-Schooling American History Timeline journal for all four of my kids. It’s a PDF I purchased once.) I’m also subtracting the cost of journals purchased for last year that they are reusing and discounts from coupons! (For example, my daughter did the Artist’s Fun-Schooling journal last year and wants to do it again this year.)

*This, however, does not include the costs of building a home library. That of course is much harder to calculate. Books I added to my home library this past year include: The Mystery of History Volume 1, Christopher Columbus: His Story and His Journals, Able and Mighty Men: A Biography of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, She Fought, Too: Stories of Revolutionary War Heroines by Tara Ross, The Space Trilogy (“Out of the Silent Planet,” “Perelandra,” “That Hideous Strength”) by C.S. Lewis, and The Complete Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis.

This is not an extensive list but I spent around $150 on books this last year, which isn’t all that much because I already have so many books. The great thing about building a home library is that you do it little by little. Occasionally, I do need to replace copies, for instance, I felt it was time to replace my set of The Chronicles of Narnia that I’ve had since I was ten!

For Math Craft Multiplication, which is a PDF download of math games, I also purchased an abacus and some dice needed for the games. It totaled $13. It will be used this year for my two middle children, and in the future for my youngest.

Option 4—Pick and Choose Curriculum

This is the option I used for my son in high school who likes his school work planned, scheduled, and clearly laid out. You can select your favorites (or child’s favorites) out of a variety of curriculum. For example, you really like the literature program of Veritas Press, but you prefer Susan Wise Bauer’s grammar program, but you want America’s Story living history books by Angela O’Dell, etc. (This year my son wanted a chemistry kit.) The total cost all depends on the books you choose, whether you buy new or used, if the books you buy are reusable for younger children, and whether or not you buy the teacher’s manuals, or purchase supplemental worksheets or tests.

For example, before I discovered The Mystery of History, I was using The Story of the World (both are great living history books, by the way, but I switched to The Mystery of History because it has a more biblical worldview). Anyway, I only used the four volumes and student pages, and I did not purchase the audio books or the tests.

For math, my money saving secret is to only purchase a math textbook for every other year. Many math programs include so much review that it is unnecessary to buy a book for every year of elementary mathematics. For example, you can go from Saxon 5/4 to Saxon 7/6. You do not need Saxon 6/5 because the first half of 6/5 is covered in the last half of 5/4 and the last half of 6/5 is covered in the first half of 7/6.

Money Saving Secret:
Purchase a math textbook for every other year, and then have child work through each book for two years.

My eldest son went from Rod and Staff’s 1st Grade math book, to Bob Jones 3rd Grade math book, to Saxon 5/4, to Saxon, 7/6, and then Saxon’s Algebra 1. He did each book for two years instead of one. There are exceptions to this, however. For example, Life of Fred contains minimal review and builds each book on the other, so skipping books isn’t a good idea.

Another way to save is to avoid purchasing teacher’s manuals unless you absolutely need them. Most parents don’t need to buy teacher’s manuals for early math. I think most of us can solve 2nd grade math!

Cost: $200-$300+ per child (more or less, and highly dependent on what you purchase. Textbooks get costly in a hurry!)
My 9th Grader: $206 (3 Fun-Schooling Journals—Bible journal and U.S. history, and world timeline, Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind (Purple Book), Discovering Design with Chemistry Textbook + science kit, and Saxon Algebra 1

He is also using several of the history books I bought for my home library. I did not include those costs since I included it above in my home library costs. The majority of his expenses were the chemistry textbook and kit. His Algebra book is second hand. Everything else is PDF.

For all my children I use Spell to Write and Read and its companion book Wise Guide for Spelling. This is a one-time purchase that is used 1st Grade-high school. I bought them used nearly three years ago, so I did not include it.

Of all the questions I could be asked about homeschooling, the most difficult for me to answer is “What curriculum do you use?” My answer: “How much time do you have?”

Option 5—Boxed Curriculum Set

This is where it can get costly in a hurry. For example, Abeka’s 1st Grade student homeschool kit is $400 and that’s not including the teacher’s materials, which is an additional $500. That’s just for one child, and some of the materials are non-reusable workbooks. For their full year video instruction it’s $900. BJU and Veritas Press 1st Grade packages also run around $900. And while I love some of the items Veritas Press offers, these prices are just not realistic for most homeschool families, and in all honesty, I don’t believe the extra expense creates a better experience.

However if you’re really wanting an all-in-one curriculum that’s simple and ready to go, there other options. Rod and Staff’s Basic 1st Grade Program including teacher materials is $251. They make quality products, just a lot less flashy. I actually like their early math books because of the simple non-busy format. They also have the cheapest workbooks I’ve seen for preschool and kindergarten age children, and they’re cute. I’ve found the full preschool set is far too much for one child, so either buy them individually or split them between two children.

My Father’s World also has a full 1st Grade package for $435, and it includes the teacher materials. I’m sure there are other programs out there for a similar price. It just requires searching around.

Cost: $250-$900 per child
The downside is that these packages are intended for one child. I find it much more cost effective and simpler to choose material that spans a broad range of ages, so I am not teaching 4 different individual lessons, but rather one lesson to four children with different age appropriate activities for each. As my children get older and can work more independently, then their lessons become more individualized and geared toward their interests and talents. And that is another downside to curriculum sets, the lack of customization to a child’s specific needs and interests. 

Things you DON’T need:

  • A dedicated homeschool room (although I’ve always dreamed of one)
  • Desks (they just become places to stack junk, seriously)
  • Bulletin boards or whiteboards (although they do come in handy)
  • A laminator (though some homeschoolers may say otherwise)
  • A farm (although I’ve always wanted to have chickens and a goat)
  • A jean jumper dress (just say no)

So, how much does it cost to homeschool?

As you can see, it all depends. Let’s add in a few extras and get a rough estimate of what I spent for this year.

I usually spend around $100 or so at Walmart for new binders, colored pencils, glue, and a few other basic items that need restocking. I don’t remember exactly what I spent for this year, but let’s assume it’s on the higher end and I spent as much as $200. (This is unlikely unless I had to completely restock everything.)

My expenses:
$228 (for 2 elementary age children and 1 middle schooler)
  206 (1 high school student)
  200 (restocking supplies)
  150 (additional books for library)
 + 13 (abacus and dice for math games)
 $797 Total cost for one year

Total cost for this coming year of homeschool for my four children (ages 6, 9, 12, 14) is $797. Divided evenly, that’s $199 per child. (In reality it’s not an even split as it’s typical to spend more on older children because younger children can reuse a lot of the books and PDFs.)

One final note: How can I afford to print so many PDFs?
A few years back we invested in an Epson EcoTank printer—ET-4750. I’ve printed 6,064 B&W pages and 9,732 Colored pages for a total of 15,796 pages. I’ve only refilled the ink twice! (I also buy the cheapo printer paper. That’s included in my restocking fees.)

In conclusion:

Homeschooling is truly an affordable option for most families. Even if finances are tight, it is possible to go a year without buy anything, especially if you’ve been homeschooling awhile. And if you’re just starting out, remember that younger children typically need fewer books (far fewer than what most box sets include). Buying PDFs and books that can be reused and curriculum that spans multiple ages will greatly reduce your expenses.

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