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How Much Does It Cost to Homeschool Your Child?

There are three legal ways to put your child through primary and secondary education: public schooling, private schooling, and homeschooling. The National Household Education Surveys Program found that parents who homeschooled their kids in 2016 had one thing in common: distaste for some part of public or private education. Homeschooling has become a trending solution for many parents or guardians to help mitigate or close gaps in their kids’ educational journey.

The homeschool population size grew substantially from 2012 to 2016, and the number of homeschoolers has continued to increase by the millions in the U.S. There are many benefits and reasons for choosing to homeschool over public education.

While some people may think that parents largely use homeschooling to fuse education and religion with each other, there are many advantages and specific reasons for homeschooling that are important to understand, from budget reasons to personalized education. Homeschooling is a viable — and in some cases, more practical — option for many, and there’s a debate about whether it’s the smartest way to teach kids in the 21st century.

Reasons to Homeschool

Although some people choose to homeschool their kids for religious reasons, the conception that homeschooling is primarily religious is outdated. Families that decide to homeschool come from a variety of different backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, and regions that may influence the manner in which they choose to educate their youth. Some of the most common reasons that individuals validate homeschooling are:

  1. Children with special needs: Children with special needs often need individualized education programs (IEPs) — specialized and personalized education plans based on the student, their learning style, and their disability. Even with extra time and individual learning programs that are mandated by law to help public school students with disabilities, guardians sometimes feel they can provide better resources and time for their child’s learning environment. Whether parents desire to provide non-traditional learning techniques, or there’s a lack of disability transportation services in schools, the trend of homeschooling children with special needs is “experiencing a resurgence and gaining momentum.”
  2. Students who are gifted and talented learners: Although there are programs for educating individuals who are considerably further ahead than their peers, these programs are often not enough. Similar to families that choose to homeschool their children with special needs, guardians of gifted learners sometimes believe they can better educate their children in a way that challenges them to their full potential as opposed to the structure they get in public or private schooling.
  3. Families with logistical challenges: Geographical location, a parent/guardian’s line of work, military families, and a variety of other logistic challenges can make traditional public or private schooling less of a practical educational method.
  4. Cultural or religious reasoning: Since the Establishment Clause (separation of church and state) has so many nuances, with public schools being able to teach about religion in a secular manner but not able to teach religion, it is hard to keep religion and politics out of education. Some families choose to use homeschooling as a solution to avoiding opinions and beliefs that differ from theirs. This way, families can choose to put an emphasis on one aspect of their child’s education, or avoid spending time on aspects they deem invaluable, as long as they still hit educational standards. The same is true for cultural inclusion, practices, and overall beliefs.
  5. Alternative learning: There are many different types of learning styles and in some cases, the learning style or method that is being used isn’t as effective for a child as others may be. A teacher has an array of learning styles to account for, and it may not be possible to satisfy the curriculum by including IEPs for all different types of learners. While educators are trained to cater to individual needs, sometimes homeschooling offers a better educational space for students who learn alternatively.

Distaste with public or private schooling: Occasionally, a family (or student) will have had a bad experience within one or more of the educational realms, and would rather have complete control of things such as instruction, school environment, personal safety, or dealing with specific educational boundaries. These occurrences can stem from a range of factors, such as lack of structure in a certain scenario (i.e. their math-gifted child isn’t challenged enough), or simply disagreeing with protocol in a particular educational setting.

Misconceptions About Homeschooling

There is an assortment of misconceptions of homeschooling that may sway an individual to educate their child in one manner or another. Common misconceptions surrounding homeschooling include myths such as:

  1. State law restrictions: Some people think that navigating state laws is too complicated, and requires jumping through too many hoops. In reality, state homeschooling requirements involve:
    • Notifying the local school district that you intend to homeschool the child;
    • Subjects of study must cover the national or state curriculum standards for the respective area;
    • Assessments surrounding curriculum; most states require that you are testing your students on what is being taught (typically at least annually).
  2. You need to be qualified in order to teach: Just because you don’t possess a degree in education doesn’t mean you can’t homeschool your kids. In most states, all you need is a high school diploma or GED. If you feel you are still lacking in specific areas in education, there are national homeschooling organizations, and online homeschool programs available as well.
  3. Homeschooled students get insufficient socialization: One of the most common reasons guardians and parents have for not homeschooling kids is the stigma surrounding socialization. It is important to understand that one aspect of a child’s life (i.e. schooling) is not solely responsible for something as large as socialization. Socialization is a continuous process with a variety of contributing factors. Specialized projects, guest speakers, and field trips give homeschooled children the opportunity to learn and socialize across a variety of settings.
  4. Educators need to understand advanced subjects: Teaching your child from kindergarten to sixth grade may seem viable, but teaching past that may move you out of your comfort zone. Parents or guardians do not need to have extensive knowledge of all facets of education in order to provide a balanced education; there are solutions to all problems that arise from a lack of knowledge, including tutors, online curriculum libraries, and educational techniques/tips. If you are unable to dedicate more time to homeschooling and you feel overwhelmed, there are also fully online homeschool programs to pick up where you left off.
  5. Homeschooled children only learn via computer: Just because kids are homeschooled does not mean they are taught online. If you are homeschooling your child, you do not need to be tech-savvy, either. Kids can learn through lectures, textbooks, field trips, and experience, just like any other student. If a child learns best via computer, then utilize the computer more. Educational methods can change depending on the learning style of the student.
  6. Being homeschooled means missing out on extracurriculars: Children who are homeschooled are allowed to participate in all extracurriculars (i.e. field trips, organized sports, clubs) available at the school in their district. A student who is homeschooled can take advantage of everything that is offered to their public or private school counterparts.
  7. Homeschooled individuals are less likely to get into college: There is no statistical evidence for this claim. If your student knows the route they would like to take in college, their education can be set up in a more college-centered manner than that of a student in a public or private school. For instance, if the student wants to enter the medical field, you can include curricula surrounding the medical field (e.g. biology, chemistry, anatomy, medical terminology) that puts them ahead of other students applying to the same programs.
  8. Very few individuals are homeschooled: While many think that homeschoolers are in the minority, homeschooling has grown exponentially and is expected to continue in that direction. The first report released by the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics in 1999 reported that 850,000 students were currently homeschooled during that time. By 2007, that number had risen to 1.5 million students.

Homeschooling is all the same: One homeschooled student’s curriculum could look completely different than another’s. Effective education is specific to the learner. Even when a parent teaches multiple children, homeschooling does not always have to look the same.

Benefits of Homeschooling

For parents and guardians, there are numerous benefits of homeschooling a child. Whether you are weighing your educational options or contrasting one program versus another, it becomes important to understand the benefits of homeschooling:

  • Control over the learning environment;
  • Individualized curriculum;
  • Educational accommodations;
  • Academic efficiency;
  • Prioritization of individual needs;
  • School schedule;
  • Familial bonds;
  • Culture and religion can be explained as directly and specifically as possible;
  • Shelter from violence, drugs, and other behavioral issues.

Homeschooling not only poses benefits for the student, but there are also direct benefits for the parent/guardian, including:

  • Direct insight into educational struggles;
  • Saving money;
  • Shared hobbies and interests;
  • Flexible school schedules;
  • Continual education;

Cost of Homeschooling

If you are trying to validate homeschooling within your budget, it becomes important to know the costs. The cost of homeschooling depends on an array of variables so it is important to take all considerations into mind prior to taking the leap.

Types of Homeschool Curriculums

Similar to how there are different learning styles, there are also different types of teaching curriculums. Some parents appreciate an old-fashioned, traditional education, while some want a completely reformed curriculum. Some of the most common types of homeschool curriculums used are:

Classical Method: Educational practices that harken back to ancient Rome and Greece; utilizes the Great Books and other classic texts to improve worldview training;
Benefits: Well-proven teaching style, a surplus of ready-to-use curricula, large network;

Charlotte Mason Method: A very inexpensive method that is Christian-based and focuses more on living literature than spending a majority of the time dissecting textbooks;
– Benefits: Independent learning, used and revised over 100 years, low cost, collaborates well with unit-study and classical methods;
– Drawbacks: Elementary education centered, old-fashioned, lack of emphasis on math and science;
– Style: Traditional technique that ropes in unit-study and classical techniques;
– Resources:
Curriculum guide;
Teaching and subject guide;
Curriculum, textbook, and video store.

Unschooling: A free-form learning and educational approach that puts an emphasis on learning through experiential, activity-based, hands-on methods;
– Benefits: Loose structure/adaptable, diverse, multi-dimensional;
– Drawbacks: Lacks structure, redundancy, humanistic;
– Style: An individualistic, student-centered approach that is largely unconventional;
– Resources:
Choice books and subject guides;
Subject breakdown;
DIY Unschooling.

Unit Studies: A focus on a particular event or topic that is expanded on through the lens of every subject area;
– Benefits: Holistic, student-directed, collaborative, topic efficiency;
– Drawbacks: Dependent on curriculum, dependent on other curriculum types;
– Style: A combination of curriculum methods that focuses on learning at multiple levels;
– Resources:
Unit study plans;
Character trait unit studies;
Unit plan templates.

The cost of your curriculum depends entirely on what you choose to include, and what resources you decide to use. There are plenty of free, downloadable teaching tools, textbooks, and programs designed to educate on a budget.

External Classes

Even though you do not need teaching credentials to homeschool your child, there are some subjects or activities your student(s) may be interested in that stretch beyond your ability. Examples of these include:

  • Musical lessons: $30/hr;
  • Art classes: $30/hr;
  • Sports:
    – Private coach: $30-$100/hr
    – Public coach: $300/annual

The cost of external classes fluctuates from provider to provider based on the market in that area. While some music lessons may cost as little as $10 an hour in one state, it may cost as much as $75 an hour in another.

Homeschool Supplies

There are supplies that you’ll find almost impossible to avoid using in order to provide a well-rounded, resourceful education experience. As an educator, you will need to consider organizational materials as well. Programs that are completely online avoid a lot of traditional schooling supplies, but for other homeschooling techniques you will need the following homeschool supplies:

  • All-in-one printer: $50;
    • Ink: $20;
  • Paper:
    • Lined paper: $1;
    • Composition notebook: $1;
    • Printer paper: $10;
  • Post-its:  $5;
  • Planner: $20;
  • Pencils and pens: $10;
    • Pencil sharpener if not mechanical: $20;
  • Filing cabinet:  $50;
    • Folders with tabs: $10;
  • Binders: $15;
  • Whiteboard: $30;
    • Dry-erase markers: $10;
    • Erasers: $2;
  • Stapler: $15;
    • Staples: $2.

The materials that you deem necessary depend entirely on your instructional style. Your list may not include the same materials as this traditional list.

Testing and Evaluation Fees

Even when a child is homeschooled, they are still required to participate in standardized testing. Testing and evaluation is done through coordinators and proctors who are facilitated through homeschool testing services.

Standardized tests range from $25 to $100 per student and an extra $25 to $50 if the test needs to be administered by an outside source. In most cases, homeschooled students will avoid fees by being tested in the public school setting during their grade-level testing.

Professional Memberships

There are several organizations you should consider becoming a part of in order to effectively educate your children, such as local support groups and state organizations. Different groups require different monthly fees, annual fees, or one-time payments. The approximate costs are as follows:

  • Local support groups: Support groups are often free, but they can cost as much as $50 to $100 a year;
  • State organizations: State organizations vary by state, but range from $30 to $100.

Miscellaneous Costs

There are many miscellaneous costs that individuals should consider in order to correctly assess the costs surrounding homeschooling. The biggest cost to consider is the potential loss of income. Homeschooling kids can be taxing and time-consuming for guardians, and juggling a job outside of educating is difficult. Other costs to consider are:

  • Field trips;
  • Groceries;
  • Local homeschool group dues.

There are miscellaneous expenses that pop up in homeschooling just like fundraisers, class parties, and field trips in the public school sphere. Although some can be prepared for, homeschooling doesn’t eliminate miscellaneous costs.

Homeschool Cost Comparison

If cost is a big determiner in the type of education that you choose for your child, it becomes important to be aware of the cost surrounding the three main types of schooling:

The numbers are estimates, but they take tuition costs, supply costs, meal costs, extracurriculars, and any other specific costs within an educational realm into account (e.g. testing costs in homeschooling). Costs will change from state to state in each category of schooling based on the requirements in those respective states. The three main differences between the price of homeschooling and the other two types of schooling are:

  1. Parents who choose to homeschool their kids are not paid like teachers are;
  2. Homeschooling does not require a building rental or purchase;
  3. Supply lists given by a public or private school are meant to last for a whole year and there are often wasted supplies, whereas parents who homeschool are more likely to buy what is necessary.

How to Pay for Homeschooling

Although it is a full-time job, there is no paycheck for parents who choose to homeschool their children. There are things to consider if you’re not earning enough money in order to mitigate homeschooling costs with supplemental income.

Grants

There are curriculum-based grants for families that need financial help to provide for homeschooling. Talk with your local school district about where to seek out grants. You can find some online, but most of the time you will get access to them through your specific district or recommendations from a homeschool group.

Some of the most common grants available are income-based, but there are others, such as grants for homeschooled children with disabilities, and disaster-based grants. The best way to stay up to date with grants offered for homeschooling is to look into the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) page.

Create a Side Gig

The gig economy is a recent growing trend that helps workers mitigate financial distress through temporary employment in occupations such as independent contracting, driving, or odd jobs.

Since homeschooling is so time-consuming, it is important to consider that you can start a side hustle while keeping your job. Sometimes, it’s hard to understand where to find gig economy jobs, or what the best side hustles are, but since homeschooling doesn’t pay anything, it’s important to understand good options for a side gig, such as:

  • Photography;
  • Freelance writing/editing;
  • Etsy contributor;
  • Blogging;
  • Ride-hailing service;
  • Tutor.

Borrow or Rent Curriculum

One of the largest expenses is the curriculum you decide to use. There are free curricula available, and sometimes there are free-to-use supplies. Access your local library or resources used by other homeschool educators in support groups. You should also consider shadowing or collaboration with a teacher.

Schools have a budget for curriculum, so educators have access to curricula, textbooks, and resources they could be willing to lend you, or you can make copies. Renting textbooks poses a variety of benefits, from low cost to less commitment. As your student advances, you will need to get new curricula and resources every year (sometimes every semester), so it becomes even more critical to rent.

Homeschool Tax Credit

In some states, you are able to write off homeschooling on your taxes. Although these are not federal income tax credits, there are state tax benefits available. The amount of credit varies by state. The following 15 states provide income tax benefits for educational expenses:

  • Alabama;
  • Arizona;
  • Florida;
  • Georgia;
  • Indiana;
  • Iowa;
  • Kansas;
  • Louisiana;
  • Minnesota;
  • New Hampshire;
  • Oklahoma;
  • Pennsylvania;
  • Rhode Island;
  • South Carolina;
  • Virginia.

You can check to see if there are any tax breaks or loopholes for homeschooling in your state through your state’s Department of Revenue.

Homeschool Resources

Just because you are homeschooling does not mean you need to reinvent the wheel and create a new way to go about educating students. There are plenty of resources available to help with your homeschooling, including support groups, state programs, lesson plans, and curriculum help.

Some great resources for parents who choose to homeschool are:

  • Khan Academy: A non-profit site used to provide free educational resources for all levels of students;
  • Ambleside Online: A curriculum resource for all levels of students using a Charlotte Mason-approach;
  • CK12 Foundation: An online education site that offers free education surrounding science, math, social studies, and photography;
  • Education.com: An online library of comprehensive lesson plans;
  • Teachers Pay Teachers: Offers a variety of lessons and resources for all ages — both paid and free;
  • Duolingo: A free and fun online resource for learning a new language;
  • Local support groups: Local support groups use collaborative approaches to overcome boundaries or struggles within education. Contact your local school district to get pointed in the right direction;
  • State programs: There are programs put on by the state to offer a structure for students and educators. You will want to check your state resources page to get insight;
  • Libraries: Getting a library card is cheap, and there is an endless amount of literature and resources at your fingertips.
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