Homeschooling can be “done on the cheap” if you take your time and shop around for the things you need. In a previous post, I shared ways we save money by homeschooling. Now, I’d like to identify five ways where homeschooling probably costs us more than if our daughter Rowan was in a traditional public or private school.
Curricula. When we began homeschooling, I spent more than necessary on curricula for the various subjects. This was and continues to be a learning curve for me, understanding how my child learns and finding the type of materials that work best for us. Now we are in a groove, and I do a much better job of not blowing the budget on schoolbooks and materials. I have favorite vendors, and I carefully watch their perennial deep discounts at certain times of the year. Still, we will occasionally invest in what is, in fact, a “dud.” Money wasted.
Science equipment. Holy moly, science equipment is costly. But oh, so cool. If you are a science geek like me, you want real equipment for science. Plastic “little kid” facsimile tools are okay for the very young years, but we want our kid to love science. Having real tools makes teaching science more fun, too. Science equipment is the largest expense we have for school materials and supplies, but fortunately bigger equipment items only need to be purchased once (if at all – there are also cheaper ways to do science). My husband Greg once came across a laboratory-grade microscope at a pawn shop for about $200, a $1300 value. We love that microscope with a mad passion.
Travel. We travel. A bunch. We spend a good amount of time every year in our RV, because we love it and because we can as homeschoolers. It’s also a great way for ALL of us to learn things. Even though we are effectively “camping,” travel still costs money. If Rowan was in school, we’d likely save by traveling less. That said, we wouldn’t trade this perk for anything.
Books. Also, because we travel, we buy a lot of books. We are also very avid library users. But our library use has been comprised of school-related books we need for science and history, for the most part. I can’t get novels finished in the prescribed time, and most of the non-fiction books I enjoy are likely books I want to keep or share with others. Back in our penny-pinching days, I coped with what the library had to offer. But now, buying books is my biggest splurge expense. It’s not a bad vice to have, and I seldom regret purchasing a book I need or want.
Lessons and activities. Not having our child in school means we put effort into ensuring she has opportunities to interact with other kids. Having extra free time in the week when Rowan isn’t in school means we can be prone to fill that time with paid activities and lessons if we aren’t careful. The costs for her various activities varies each year and we try to find a good balance between the cost of the activity and the time it requires each week. Of course, if she were in a traditional school, we would have extra-curricular activities to pay for. So, it is hard to say if homeschooling costs us more in lessons and activities versus our costs at a traditional school.
I’ve attempted to provide a balanced look at some of the basic savings and costs of homeschooling. Clearly, every family should make the decision that makes sense for them. For us, our choice is homeschooling. Regardless of your method of schooling your children, just remember there are lots of ways to be thrifty if you choose.
What are some of your school costs? How do you save on education expenses?