It will cost as little or as much as you decide.
Most of the time, families do not decide to homeschool because they can afford to. Technically, on paper, most of us cannot afford to. We do it anyway.
I look at it similarly to having a baby... if we waited until we could afford to... well, you've heard that saying before. Homeschooling is similar. Sure, finances are a practical point of consideration, but for most families that have taken the leap it's more about what they are willing to sacrifice than it is about finding a pot of gold to accommodate this dream.
We have always felt the cost of education with Emily attending private school through her elementary years. So in some ways, this is easier for us. In other ways, there are new and different challenges. Mainly, my time being mostly devoted to our little homeschool. Gone are the weekdays where I could sew, draw, or write endlessly... all the while bringing in a few hundred extra dollars weekIy to our household.
Many families homeschool on one income.
Tightening our belts is essential, but it builds character, right? Sure.
I won't lie to you, it's hard sometimes. Like on our third day of homeschooling when my husband's car broke down on his way home from work to the tune of a $4,000 plus repair (that would be a head gasket and transmission at once). This is a car that still has a car payment! And guess what? It turns out it isn't worth giving $4,000 worth of repairs to. Of course! Needless to say, we've been a single car family for about six weeks. I've learned that rolling with the punches is crucial at this point in my life. Yes, I feel frustrated and trapped when I just want to get out of town and head to the apple orchard at 2:00 on a Wednesday... but... we deal with it. In the grand scheme of things, having only one car just isn't that big of a deal. It's new and different, but soldier on we will certainly do. Besides, we really do have 8/10ths of the things we need (or would like to do) within a 5-10 minute walk. We are not hard pressed.
Recognizing that homeschooling could cost as little or as much as we choose, we needed to hash out a plan to have somewhat of an idea of our output for the year. I'd say we are somewhere in the middle. We are not ultra frugal, borrowing everything for free from the library (which you can certainly do!), and we are not hiring private tutors or studying the Far East by moving to Japan for six months either (phooey). Given the style of learner Emily is, and the hopes she expressed for the year, we came up with a somewhat loose plan, it is not etched in stone. We are fine with a little give and take.
Some things cost money (for us).
- $650 - curriculum - we've chosen to use a formal curriculum for each main subject.
- $60 - basic school supply set-up - this includes jazzy new backpack, notebooks, gel pens, folders, planner, etc...
- $40 - homeschool co-op, per semester - quite a bargain!
- $35 - team sports, 3-4 times per year
- $150 monthly discretionary budget - outings, museums, theater, special classes, etc. (if this money is not all used, it can roll into the next month and maybe an interesting weekend away or camping trip can be planned)
- $80 new(ish) computer for Emily (we purchased a rebuilt desktop from the local computer shop, already had an extra monitor, keyboard and speakers)
All said, the initial start up for us was less than one month's tuition at her previous school, and the additional monthly expenses will be a fraction of that amount. Still, my lack of paying work time each day does ultimately leave us with less income and is something we need to pay careful attention to.
Many activities and resources are free (or very close to).
- weekly poetry group at the library
- hanging out with friends - potluck gatherings
- many free events, lectures and performances at local college(s)
- Uconn sporting events (soccer and hockey tix are just $2-$5 each)
- hiking followed by picnics
- library book sales
- library events (explore the roots of latin dance!)
- library museum passes
- hanging out at the library
- where would we be without the library?
- family movie night (an institution around here for 10 years running)
- walking to the cafe for a cup of tea
- the internet
This list could go on and on... homeschoolers, if you have experience in this area, please share in the comments!
Where do you spend money, where do you conserve?
So there you have it, a snapshot of how we are making it work. I love that we all have choices. Sometimes in life we choose to take a leap of faith, not because we can afford to, but because we can't afford not to.
Education, time together, and quality of life are priorities for our family. We tend to go without things like extensive travel, new cars, better real estate (for now!), new clothes, frequent dining out... you name it. For us, an exciting weekend afternoon is spent hiking as a family or with friends, hanging out at the library, and ending the day with a simple latte or ice cream. The crazy thing is, we often feel we're living large because there is a contentedness that comes with this deliberate and conscious way of living. It's a slow and gentle life, but it is rich and full of possibility each and everyday.