An eye-opening look at the finances of homeschooling

People always talk about how much it costs to homeschool.  To be honest, it costs about as much as you want it to and/or can afford for it to.  What you don’t pay in dollars you might pay in effort.  The internet and library make for an extraordinarily rich education for the parents willing to exert a few ounces of effort.

BUT…

… consider that if your kids were in public or private school, you would probably still pay for extra-curricular activities.  If my kids were in school, I would still bear the burden of paying for swim lessons, Scouts, soccer, and choir for my two.  As long as we could afford it, I would still be paying for the Saturday enrichment program BigGuy has often attended (with mostly public-schooled kids) and summer camps that my two attend (as money permits).

Honest to goodness, 99% of the money we spend on the kids has gone to stuff we’d be paying for even if they were in public school.

So add all of that up.  How much is it?  It’s probably significantly less than you would spend on the rest of the days of your educational year.  Heck, even if you bought a readymade homeschool curriculum in a box, it might cost you a total of $1,000 (likely MUCH less) for a year.  I’m not even kidding.  And if you’re piecing together something more eclectic, it could be even less than box curriculum.  If you go the Charlotte Mason route, you can even find free curriculum online and borrow most of the books you need from the library.  If you add up the “extras” you pay for and that amount is $0.00, then really, that’s not a big deal.

Currently, BigGuy is a rising 7th grader and he has some big dreams about what he wants to do with his life.  So in addition to the Saturday program and camps and whatnot that he usually attends, Mama and Papa added some additional stuff to give him his best odds at getting into the math and science academy that he is still pretty devoted to attending.  I have to admit that it’s been a rough year for Mama (who suffers from Complex-PTSD) and while I might have been able to do some of these things, I was nervous about overloading myself.  If we COULD afford to farm it out, I did.

But that doesn’t mean that we HAVE to or that it CAN’T be done by a parent.  It’s a luxury, not a necessity.  Would he NOT get into his math/science academy that he dreams about without the extras?  Doubtful.  Will it help?  Probably.  Will it remove a lot of stress from Mama when Mama is dealing with a bit too much?  Yup.  And that counts.   Lessons are learned even by the adults and year before last–after a year of intensive therapies and lightening the schedule–was perfectly fine. I wasn’t going to take that for granted.  I lightening the load again for our best odds at another peaceful autumn and I got it (for the most).

Even so… the things I am farming out are not the majority of what needed to be funded.  The Saturday program, camp, choir, etc… the things I mentioned above are still the majority of where the money goes.  Could I have taught him Algebra I this year?  Absofrigginlutely… and inexpensively at that.  I marvel at how many people have access to free text books through their school district or local public libraries.  I just found an incredible resource in the western Chicago suburbs (SCARCE if you’re interested) that has a homeschool program where a family pays $20/year to access textbooks they can purchase for $5/book. Even without any of that, a book can almost always be bought second-hand or bartered with another homeschooling family during a year they don’t need it, but they need something you don’t need this year.  Still, the cost of buying brand new textbooks isn’t what people imagine when they sit down and truly price it all out.

Algebra I for a rising 6th grader was advanced.  Above and beyond  wanting to be sure my condition doesn’t interrupt his learning, I like the security of having his learning validated by an outside source when he goes off to apply to the math/science school.

My situation is not everyone’s situation.  And farming out math to an accredited online school will cost us $400 for the year if he takes the entire year to get through it.

Even my situation–even if my condition flared last fall–doesn’t actually require that these things be farmed out for my son.  It is the cost we are incurring for optimizing his outcomes and validating them by providing a very specialized education.  The school district is happy to test him into Algebra I and provide that course for him at no expense to my household.  But I have a child with immune deficiency that will be wading through a sea of FluMist and measles shots with doctors that largely don’t warn families to take a few days away from the immune compromised.  Even so, the logistics of this in a school setting are insane.  They were willing to put together an IEP or 504 that would keep him from being penalized for extended medical absences, but I’d rather avoid the illnesses, tyvm.

Our family has some rather serious special health needs.

Even home instruction would have meant that he had to go to the school each day for the first and last marking periods (when the doctors would allow him to attend). Talk about a schedule annoyance.

I just want to be sure that when people see the things that we do, they don’t believe that these are required or that they need to be done the way we’re doing them.  Going forward, I’m going to try better to go into some detail about why we choose to spend money on something and how it could’ve been done differently.  If I don’t think to do this, PLEASE ASK in the comments section.  I’m really happy to answer you about it.

Funding shouldn’t be the reason someone doesn’t homeschool.

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