Saturday, January 28, 2012

How Much Does Homeschooling Cost?

It seems like a lot of families who are considering homeschooling worry about the costs. A lot of them think they need to have an exorbitant sum of money to homeschool.

By far, the largest expense of homeschooling is often giving up one income. Most homeschooling families have a stay at home parent that takes care of most of the schooling. This isn't always the case. As they say, where there's a will, there's a way. There are certainly families that have both parents working from home, or one parent working full-time while the other works part-time, or have one parent working days and the other working nights. It can take a little more sacrifice to make these situations work for the family though, and they don't seem to be quite as common as the more typical "stay at home mom" situation.

Once you get past the income question, you get to the "outgo" question.

For our family, we budget $50 per month for homeschool expenses. I do my best to make this cover books, supplies and school related activities. Sometimes that doesn't work out and a trip to the museum might come out of the travel budget, but for the most part, we can stay within the budget.

Extracurricular activities like theater class or sports are a separate budget category.

I make this budget work for us primarily by planning ahead and spending wisely. I stock up on things like pencils, glue, notebook paper, folders, pens and erasers right after school starts each year. The week after the public schools open, I start stalking the Target aisles and waiting for the sales. Some years are better than others, but I can almost always get this stuff 30-75% off and I try to buy for the whole year. Markers are often a better deal at Christmas time when Toys'R'Us starts putting things on sale. Usually there is a buy 2, get 1 deal on crayola that I use to stock up because I have a hard time finding marker sales besides that. Craft supplies such as construction paper, craft glue, and random things like pipe cleaners, googly eyes, beads and popsicle sticks can be found on sale at Michael's and often there is a coupon you can use as well.

Some of our curriculum resources come up in "scratch and dent" sales. This year I was able to snag some math supplies we needed and next year's math book in Right Start's Black Friday sale, which featured used supplies. I recently purchased some history resources from Knowledge Quest that aren't in pristine condition, but are like new and were offered at a pretty steep discount. Which ever curriculum you're going to use, sign up for the company's emails and follow their facebook page so you're aware of the sales and can pick up things you might need for next year.

A lot of our books also come from Amazon. I use Swag Bucks* to help me out there. On average, I earn about one $5 Amazon gift card per month by using swag bucks to search for websites and sometimes participating in their swag code hunts and playing games. That certainly doesn't cover my entire Amazon bill, but it's definitely worth my time and can easily pay for our spelling, geography and grammar books each year.

Of course, we also utilize the library a lot. Any homeschooler should get well acquainted with their local library. If you are working on a tight budget but determined to homeschool, you can certainly create your own curriculum centered almost entirely on the resources available to you for free at the library. We have an absolutely wonderful children's librarian here that, in addition to being great with the kids, is very supportive of homeschooling. She, along with parents who came long before me, has built up a rather extensive collection of curriculum books along with the regular library fare. Things like Story of the World*? Yep, we have that in our library. Kits that contain a book, a learning objective, and a hands on activity to help with early literacy? We've got those too. If your library doesn't have a book you're looking for, talk to the librarian about inter-library loans. You can get just about any book if you're willing to ask and to wait a little while for them to get their hands on it. Our library also has a pretty extensive collection of movies. This is great for free entertainment, but we've also found wonderful non-fiction DVDs relevant to what we're studying or movies that go along with books we're reading. Find out if your library holds a yearly sale or gives away older materials. They may also be a source of activities such as a summer reading club, preschool literacy programs, chess clubs and computer classes. What if you're stuck with a rather crummy library? Check out the next town over and see how theirs is. It could easily be well worth your time and gas money to plan out a bi-weekly trip to pick up the supplies you need for the next 2 weeks of school.

I think there is inherently a little bit of wastage in the first couple of years. You can meet up with other homeschoolers and look through their books or buy used books at a curriculum sale all you want. At the end of the day though, you just don't know if a certain book will work for your child until you try it with them. You are going to make mistakes and buy things you don't use. To a certain extent, you just have to accept this as a fact of homeschooling. You can sell the books to other homeschoolers and recoup some of your loss. Just because something didn't work for you doesn't mean it's a bad curriculum, chances are someone else out there would love it. As time goes on, you get a better handle on what will meet your requirements and will also work for your kid and it gets easier to get the right thing the first time (and save some money).

How do you make homeschooling fit into your budget?

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1 comment:

Rachel said...

The biggest way I have saved is by purchasing curriculum second hand (when I can). Our local homeschooling "for sale" email listserve is a treasure trove of used curriculum posted throughout the year, but summer is the best. I got two volumes of Story of the World along with the activity books for only $10! I just bought my second grade math curriculum (new for $33) for only $3 last week. Granted, I still have to buy his workbooks new, but the teachers' manual was a steal.


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