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The Cost of Homeschooling

Last updated: March 2008

Netflix, Inc.

How much do homeschoolers spend educating their children each year? The amount varies greatly! Some homeschool on a shoestring, using the library as their primary source for curricula. Others enroll their children in local classes and distance learning courses for a substantial investment. Some buy science experiment kits (See the Support page for great science kits!) while others use household items and nature to teach science. Many families use programs from the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and other educational TV, but others do not have cable/satellite connections and may rent educational DVD's through Netflix. Field trips can range from a walk in the park to a trip to Europe. There is no such thing as the "right" amount to spend. Do what is best for your family!

Below, some of our message board participants comment on what they spend.

Jan in IN: Since my kids are getting older (I've already graduated 2) you would think my costs would be going down. But then when you realize that what worked for one doesn't necessarily work for another, then you understand why this is not necessarily true. I'm hoping to spend around $500 on curricula for next year (I'll be homeschooling a senior and an 8th grader). As for other things, like field trips, outings, etc., that all depends on how much we decide to do. Since my older one will be a senior, I don't want to "deprive" her of her "senior experience" with her friends. In the past we have budgeted around $1,000 per year (but I know I went over it) for 3 kids.

Gina in GA: I usually cannot afford brand new books. I buy off eBay, here, and other used sites. [Editor:] Doing that, for both of my girls, grades 2 and 4, I think I spent about $150 - $200 last year. This year we have a tad bit of extra money so I will spend about $300 for both. I buy all year long so I can get good prices and not have to stress at the last minute spending money we can't afford.

DebMcTexas: Not counting sports, between $500 and $600 a year for books and classes and field trips, etc. I tend to be a curriculum junkie and end up buying things I never use. I tend to buy new because I choose not to take time to look for used.

We add sports to that mix to the tune of $450 - $600 by the time we pay for fees, uniforms, extra coaching and such. So per kid (currently only one at home) we spend well under $1500 for a year.....a couple of the local private schools cost upwards of $8000-10,000 per year. What a bargain homeschooling is!

FLDonna: When I had all three, it was easily $250 - $300 a year - mostly because of buying new (to her) for the oldest. This year with just one home - about $50 because I went to a used book sale that had great bargains and we changed things quite a bit for his last year.

Carli: For curriculum, about $350 this year for one child, plus math for the second child. Supplies add up to about $100 per year. Field Trips range anywhere from $200-$400 per year. The supplies include things like pencils, paper, staples, glue, crayons, markers, dry-erase markers, copies..... Supplies this year were more because we added a 72x48 in. white board and a 6ft. table.

StacyinTN: This coming next year, the kids (two of them) are going to take science through a homeschool "business place", so my dd will cost around $550 for tuition, plus another $50 for books. My ds will cost around $315 plus his book. That is just science. I'm also looking at that Latin, dvd series, which will cost me around $120? I'm already set for English and math, so that is no worry. Social Studies for my dd, I'm leaning towards getting her the BJU Government DVD to learn about the constitution and the election process, so that will cost me around $340? I'm going to do my best in incorporating art and music (studying the greats) so that will probably run me around $50 grand total. For Bible, we go to Precept Ministries run and taught by Kay Arthur (the kids have Janna Arndt, who is the kids' book author), so their books will cost around $10 or $11 each.

As far as activities...well, my dd just joined Sea Cadets, and we'll pay $160 to get her started, and I have no idea what future expenses will occur. Both my kids (dd and ds) take dance lessons, so that equates to about $1,000 plus costumes and such. During the spring, my dd plays soccer so that is $85 for two months (fortunately that includes her uniform, but not shoes). My kids also dance in the Nutcracker every fall season, and the most we pay is shoes or leotard (dd) so that is very minimal. THis past fall, we joined the hs bowling league, which is $5.46 per person every other Thursday. So twice a month, we are bowling. A local gymnastics studio just opened and charges $5 a child (5 - 14) for one hour of running around and actual "minor" instruction. We do this when bowling has ended.

Field trips...we try to do as much free stuff as possible as we have plenty of parks, public water fountains, we have a small, above-ground pool, a theater that has $2.50 tickets, and on Wednesdays, tickets are $1.00. During the summer, the mall theater has free movies, some are "decent" and some are really old repeats. Again, though, they are free. There are also "education" days where the local plays are $2.50 a ticket, which is a real bargain. Most places around here have great group rates for us hs'ers, so if we can get enough interest going, we can get each child in for $4 each. For small families, this is wonderful, but the larger families tend to shy away from these activties.

How do we afford all this? Starting last year, I started working for a local consignment sale, three times a year. I make a very good paycheck doing that for a week and a half. Although we just found out from "Uncle Sam" that b/c taxes were not taken out, and I'm considered "self-employed", 40% of my check went directly to the IRS. OUCH! I also shop, alot. THe stores around here, especially at this time of year, are having sales, sales, sales. I can buy brand new clothes for $2, $3, or $4. It just depends on what it is. Right now, I'm buying for next year, and storing it. We don't go out to eat alot, but on occassion, we do. It really just depends on what is happening. In order to maintain my beauty (LOL!), I barter with my hairdresser. I come in every so often (just depends) and work for her part time for several days. When she feels that I have "paid" my haircut and color, she goes ahead and does it. She also goes to my church and is the makeup artist at the nutcracker, so this past year, I was her makeup assistant. We bartered on that, too. I worked all 8 shows, showed up early and stayed later to clean up, and made sure everything was laid out and ready for her when she arrived. After the nutcracker was done, she handed me a very nice gift certificate. The director the ballet also chipped in and paid my hairdresser for me working. So my hairdresser and the director paid half and half, and I got a full gift certificate.

Last year, we didn't go on vacation at all, and just stuck around here while we paid off some major bills. Now that those are paid off, we are planning a vacation of some sorts, this year. Our cars have been paid for for about 4 years now, so we don't have any car payments. Lastly, since we have cable and internet, we watch a lot of shows together as a family and play games here. It also helps since we can invite our friends and our kids' friends over, too.

Charity: We spend about $1000 a year for books. I have 4 kids I am schooling, and we have been using more of a Charlotte Mason approach. I actually went through and compared how much it would be if I were using all textbooks, and it would be less. But for this upcoming year, our library has a ton of the books we need. My older kids are getting into high school age so I am transitioning them to some more textbooks. So I will spend around $600. It will keep going down from there as I plan to use the same curricula for the youngest ones. I am buying used books but it still all adds up!

We pay $50 a year for our co-op and the kids take some extra-curric classes that add up to about $40 a month. The kids are in Awanas too, which is like $80 a year for all 4 kids. That covers their Bible, and PE, fun stuff. So all that with books is about $1,500 a year max. Oh, and we only go on free field trips.

We did go to private school for a couple years and have to say we were paying nearly $50,000 a year for just three of them in there. So even though I spend alot, I always remember how much we paid before and how this is a drop in the bucket! Not to mention the expensive school lunches, field trip fees and so many other expenses. We were going into debt trying to get a good Christian education for them, while I stayed home with a baby having my college degree stowed away in a closet thinking all along, "Why don't I just homeschool?" So I did, and I am and wouldnt change a thing!

NCAlyce: Over the last several years we've spent about $400-500 per child and I have 2 children. I tend to buy new and more than I need plus since we're in highschool I've had to add foreign language curricula which is usually pretty expensive. I try to buy used when I can but most of the curricula is popular so it's hard to get ahold of. For literature, we've bought all the books called for. I tried using the library one year but it was too hard. Our library has several branches so I'd have to order some of the books in advance and it was just easier for me to buy them and then resell them. I do resell most of my curriculum so a lot of the money we spend we had earned through selling used.

Betty in Vegas: When I first started it was more. I homeschool 3 boys. I would say I spent about $1500-2000 that first year--I bought a microscope and a lot of things that you use throughout the years. Now, I have one going into 12th, so I will have the curriculum I need for the rest. Two do share, and I like them to have their own books, so I'll get a grammar book here or there, but as of next year, I expect to spend under $300 for all three of them. PROBABLY under $200.

SoCalPam: Over $2,000 a year. Our ISP/co-op is $160/year for the family + $45/per class per child each semester. #2 is taking two classes this year, so that's an additional $180.

#1 took two classes through two different co-ops the first semester which ended up being about $250 +/- including books. We've dropped both classes for this semester so no additional fees. Both boys are using Teaching Textbooks at $169/each. Next year #2 moves into 7th grade math, which we already have. Both boys are using Beautiful Feet histories this year -- I got them one on eBay for about $45, but the other was full price from the site. We're using Rainbow Science for both which will amortize out over two years. Both boys took PE classes last semester which were $40/class. Brain Pop is $75/year. Language Arts/Spelling workbooks are about $12-20/each and each boy has two. According to my estimation we're at about $1,400/year with these costs.

Field trips are in a class by themselves. We went to the Huntington Library and Gardens today: $31 for the three of us to enter, + lunch at the cafeteria there which was another $30 or so (no picnic'ing allowed). We take at least one field trip that costs money each month. Let's say $100/month for a total of $1,200. The beach parking pass is $125/year. Now we're at $2,725.

Now, let's play "Deal or No Deal". For people who homeschool using nothing but library books and the bible, we are way over in price. For us, our alternative is the school attached to our church (that my son went to before we began homeschooling). The cost to attend is $520/month for 11 months out of the year. For two boys that would be $11,440/year less any discount we'd get for being church members and the "sibling rate". Now our yearly homeschool rate is looking pretty good!

Marla: About 1,000 per year per child, I have two. We have a co-op, 6 classes at 3 locations, and various curriculum. This does not include dd's dance lessons or my ds's tutoring. You don't want the figures for those!

CindyLouWho: We've been homeschooling for over 12 years, oldest is graduated...Have TONS of leftovers from the oldest child that I recycled with #2 child. We use mostly living books, MUS mixed with other manipulatives for #2 child as sometimes, she doesn't get the MUS explanations, so I supplement using Scott Bryce's math website that I won last year on the HSC raffle. I will be renewing that when it expires as I use it a TON for printed pages, charts, etc.

Homeschool Co-Op $25 per year
Valentine Ice Skating trip, $20
Field Trips, very infrequently, but approximately $200 for the year
Camping and fishing trips, hikes and bike rides throughout the entire year at state parks and the local horse campground $300-400 for gas and park fees
Tiger Cubs for son, $4 month
Horseback lessons for middle dd, bartered for stall cleaning and foaling watch for breeding mares
$793 for the year for memberships, classes, extra curricular activites, PE and curriculum

Sis: When I first started homeschooling, I didn't know any better and bought my kids (3) all the paces they would need for the year. That was fine and dandy and worked well for our first year. Later, we went thru an unemployment stage and I found that the local college had TEXTBOOKS for EVERYTHING for EVERY grade in their education library!!! FREE! They were so awesome in allowing me to check books out for the semester period with the stipulation that if a student in the college needed them I would bring them back. (That never happened.) That year was virtually free, but the materials weren't Christian. You can homeschool on a shoestring or you can spend thousands of dollars. It's about teaching the LOVE of learning!

Jenileigh: With three children all 5 1/2 years apart, I have to purchase separately for them. It differs most years but on average $2500 (if we do Bob Jones University DVD's.) For the upcoming year my oldest will be in college and I'll spend around $1500 for both other girls using BJU dvds for math grade 7. My Father's World and Sonlight books.

AZTeri: DH has budgeted $1500 for this year (Jan-Dec). It it all inclusive - any activities that are school related, lessons, classes (Christian Youth Theater and Youth in Government both are kind of pricey) in addition to all books. Any field trips that we take that could be considered educational are included.

LauraD in IL: $1500 for 3 dc for workshops
$1500 for 2 dc for piano
$350 for 2 dc for sports
WOW!!! I guess we are spending about $4025/yr for 3 dc. Appoximately $1350/child.

Michelle in PA: Around $2500 total. We spend $120 a month on music lessons, so that's $1400 there alone. Around $500 for basic curriculum (My Father's World, Math, Language Arts). Then $600-700 for everything else throughout the year: field trips, books, dvds, etc. I have three that are officially homeschooling age (9, 7 and 6) but I also include my 3 younger ones in these costs - their preschool books, fees I pay for them since they accompany us on field trips and activities, educational dvds I buy them, etc.