One of the most common questions I get from people who are thinking about homeshooling or from people who are just curious about homeschooling is, "How expensive is it to homeschool?" That is a hard question to answer since the cost of homeschooling greatly differs from family to family and depends on a lot of different things. You can spend next to nothing by using your library and free online resources. You can spend thousands of dollars a year on Internet schools that your child takes from home and a teacher grades and keeps track of all of their progress. You can also spend anywhere in between these two amounts. Boy, that really answers the question doesn't it?
I actually wrote a blog post last year showing how much I spent to homeschool my children compared to what it would cost to send them to public school. You can find that post here. How do you figure out how much to budget for homeschooling each year?
"Only the best for my little girl! Spare no expense for education!" Sounds good, doesn't it? You want your child to have the best education possible, but the reality is you still have to eat, clothe your children, and pay your bills. Also, just because it is more expensive doesn't mean it will better educate your child. Each individual family will have different educational goals and ideas about how much they should/can spend on their homeschooling supplies. I cannot justify spending $500 on my favorite curriculum for one child when I still have 4 other children this year to buy books for (sorry guys, nothing but mac and cheese to eat for the next 3 months.) Here is how I figure out what to spend on books and homeschooling supplies.
I start out going through catalogs and reading reviews in February to get an idea of what I would like to use for the next year. I look for things that will work for multiple ages and that I can teach the children all at the same time. I don't mind spending a little extra for non consumable items because it will save me money in the long run. Then, I go through what I already have to decide what I want to keep and what I won't use again. I sell what I will not use again to help finance books for the next year, or give away some items if someone has a need or it won't sell well. I add up how much I think I will need and add it extras like art supplies, school supplies, science experiment supplies, ink (don't forget about ink for your printer a must have for homeschoolers!) and divide it by 12 to get an idea of what I will need to set aside for the next year. I also try to set aside money every month for homeschooling needs that come up during the year like field trips. I will not charge any curriculum purchases. If I don't have the money, I don't buy it (or I find something to sell so I can buy it :).
When I start buying my curriculum, I don't do it all at once. I try to break it up and buy when the vendor has the items on sale or is offering some kind of deal. For example, I bought my Apologia science stuff when http://www.christianbook.com/ was having a 33% sale. If you sign up for newsletters on your favorite vendor's websites you will get emails when they are having sales. Or, if you attend a convention many vendor's will offer a discount plus free shipping if you order right then. I also only buy school supplies when they go on sale over the summer and I buy enough to last the whole year. For printer ink I participate in a program from http://www.lexmark.com/ where you send in your used ink cartridges and for every 5 you send in, you get one free. Also for every 5 you buy on their website (free shipping) you can get one free. They also put out 20% off coupons every once in a while. Only buying these things when they go on sale can be a huge cost savings.
Sharing books with other homeschooling friends, using your local library as much as possible, searching out free online resources, and getting a group together for field trips are more ways you can ease the homeschooling budget. Giving your child the best education possible doesn't have to be expensive, you just have to plan and be prepared.