I see this question pop up time and again in homeschooling Facebook groups. The answers have a wide range and average out around “it depends”. Basically, no one on the InterWebs will make exactly the same decisions to make that you make for your family. So, let me break down the things you want to consider that may factor into the cost of your family deciding whether to homeschool.
Will one parent quit their job?
If both parents have been working and now one will be starting home, that is your single biggest cost. However, you may be losing less than the total paycheck. When I worked, a large chunk of my income paid for daycare. Even after my son started school, we had to put him in before- and after-school care. Also consider other costs of working like commuting, wardrobe, etc.
The stay-at-home parent may be able to bring in some money to mitigate the cost of homeschooling. I have done various side gigs in the education world from tutoring to writing content for education websites. Lately, Upwork is my source of occasional paid projects.
How old are your kids?
Many homeschoolers subscribe to the “just let them play” philosophy in the younger years which costs nothing. Older kids may want lessons in instruments and sports. They may also have academic interests beyond their parents’ capabilities, so some subjects may need to be outsourced to online providers or a community college. Whatever the parents can’t or don’t want to teach and the child isn’t capable of self-teaching, someone else will have to be paid to teach.
If you have more than one kid, you could reuse curriculum. If kids are close in age, you might be able to teach them the same thing at the same time which would save on curriculum cost. If you buy PDF versions of materials, you can print as many copies as you need for the kids in your house.
Are you joining any co-ops, tutorials, etc.?
Again, if someone else is teaching your child something, you will need to pay for it. The prices of homeschool groups vary widely and usually proportional to parent involvement; the more time you are required to cooperate, the cheaper it will be. Co-ops can run you less than $50 a year. If you are looking for a tutorial to drop off your kids for several hours on multiple days a week, the cost is going to sky-rocket to many hundreds of dollars.
What style is your homeschool?
If you intend to do all of the planning and gathering of materials yourself, consider the time you invest as money in your pocket. Anytime you buy pre-packaged materials, that is not going to come cheap because it takes a lot of work. If you are hoping to buy a box or an online subscription that covers all of your bases for you, make sure you really like the curriculum before you commit. Look for used curriculum in at local homeschool swaps or in online sales groups.
How is your library?
I am a big fan of literature-based curriculum. When I made my own, I relied heavily on the library to provide oodles of books on a specific topic. Good free internet resources tend to be difficult to find and often disappear between my research time and when my kid gets to that topic. I have now drifted into the world of Torchlight and Build Your Library for my younger child, and if I had to buy all of those books, I’d have to sell a few organs. You might want to talk to a librarian to understand what resources are available that you do not see on the shelves.
So, where does this Secular Home Eductor invest her educational funds?
In my case, my older child is really into music and I am pretty sure I have a learning disability in that area. My younger kid is into dance, which falls into that same category of musical things. So, my money goes to piano and ballet lessons.
I started out it first couple of years with very low-budget curriculum choices, using whatever I got free or used at swaps plus free internet resources. But l realized like having a plan to follow, so I buy well-researched curriculum. I still feel free to skip, modify, and supplement, but I like having a strong base to work from.
I also don’t have a lot of luck getting labs to work out and don’t want a formaldehyde smell in my house. So, I’ll happily sign my kids up to do experiments somewhere else.
My mad skills lie in math and foreign languages, so I will never have to pay for those even through high school. However, I still do not like to wing it. I need to have a textbook of some sort to follow and then I can free-wheel supplementation from there.