I was out at the soccer field one day with all of the children and struck up a conversation with another "soccer mom." She wanted to know where the children went to school so I told her we homeschooled. She started talking about homeschooling and that she really liked the idea of it but she knew they would never be able to afford it. She said, "I would homeschool if I were independently wealthy."
I have to admit I really had to stop myself from laughing at this comment. I don't know why think that you have to have a lot of money in order to homeschool your children. But, I have heard similar comments through the years from many other people. So I thought I would talk about it a little bit today.
We (and every other homeschool family I know) are no where near independently wealthy. In fact, many homeschool families (like ours) are single income families living on modest incomes. Going from a 2 income family to a one income family was a big adjustment for us (and there were only 4 of us then!) But by making some changes like buying a less expensive house, not having a car payment, working to pay down our debt, doing without some extras and keeping a budget it was doable. That is not to say that you have to be a one income family to homeschool. I know several homeschool families that both parents work and they are still able to homeschool.
But homeschooling costs a lot of money right? How much you spend on homeschooling really depends on a lot of different circumstances. While the public school system spends between $8,000 and $10,000 dollars per child per year, in a homeschool you will spend a faction of that cost (unless of course you are taking field trips to Europe or outfitting your homeschool with expensive lab equipment and computers.) In 9 years of homeschooling I have not even approached the amount of money that schools spend for one child for one year.
Cost depends on so many different things. You can homeschool to fit your budget. You can homeschool for free or close to free by using free internet resources, your local library, and free field trips. This approach takes a bit of work and planning, but it is completely doable especially in the younger ages. It may get more challenging as your child gets older, but if you are determined enough to do something, there are lots of ways it can be worked out.
The opposite of homeschooling for free would be using an online school, online classes, or what I call "curriculum in a box." "Curriculum in a box" is when you buy a prepackaged currciculum that contains everything you need (except for basic supplies like pens, paper, crayons) for the whole year. These are the most expensive ways to homeschool. But even if you chose this route, you wouldn't need to be independently wealthy. Curriculum in a box will cost you around $1000 from a company like Sonlight for one year, and if you are using with multiple students you do not have to purchase everything twice, just the consumables. Online classes will vary depending on the course, but a well known example like Abeka Academy will cost around $750 per child per year.
Most people will fall between the two extremes. I have a monthly homeschool budget to cover things like field trips, art classes, supplies, and the rest goes towards curriculum. If after making my wish list for the next year (which I start in Jan/Feb) if I do not have money for things that I need, I will start selling things that I have that we do not use. My biggest expense is Math. I think it is important to have a really good Math curriculum and we love using Math U See. The teacher's materials can be reused every year, but I have to purchase new student books each year. So far I only have to buy for 5 of my 7 children, but it does add up, especially when you start getting into the higher levels. But I know it is money well spent. I try to purchase curriculum that can be used for more than one child. A few years ago, I thought $30 was a lot to spend on a spelling curriculum that would only last for one year, but that book can be used with multiple children, so really it only cost me $6 per child for one level. E materials that allow for copying within families is another way I save on materials. I can print out as many copies of something as I need for our family. I buy used when I can (I have found some great deals on homeschoolclassifieds.) I spent around $500 this year on curriculum for 5 children.
I am greatly blessed to part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew and other companies that provide homeschool materials. It helps out the homeschool budget quite a bit. There will always be some things that we review that end up not being a good fit or we just prefer something else, but a huge chunk of our homeschool materials are something that we reviewed, or a continuation of something we reviewed.
I have also been in a position when I had next to no money to spend on homeschool materials. We had several extra expenses that we were not expecting including an ER visit and a surgery. I was first pregnant with Lily and we had those medical expenses as well. Things broke that were not supposed to. I wasn't sure what I was going to do, but I knew something would work out. I had enough money to buy an inexpensive Math curriculum for the children and nothing else. A friend called me and offered to loan me an entire curriculum that was perfect for Chelsea (and she had no idea I had no money to buy curriculum) and also offered me something for the boys. She had gone into a thrift store and picked up two sets of a full curriculum for $5 each and only needed one set so I could have the other for $5. A few weeks later, another lady called me because she was no longer homeschooling and had to get rid of her supplies and I could have them for free if I came that day to pick them up. I had everything I needed and more for $5!
I have told that story before on my blog, but it bears mentioning here because my whole point to this post is that money should not be what determines your decision to homeschool or not. If you think it is something that would benefit your children and family, if you feel like God is calling you to homeschool, the financial aspect shouldn't be something you worry about. It will work out. God promises that what he calls you to, he will equip you for and that includes providing for your homeschool. It may not always be what you thought you wanted or needed, but He will provide. You do not have to be independently wealthy in order to homeschool! You can do it and do it well whatever your budget may be.