How Much Does Homeschooling Cost?
In part three of her series on primary education, Jessica Ozar explores the cost, benefits, and potential negatives of homeschooling children.
In my third installment on the price of educating children, I want to discuss homeschooling. Just like private and public school, home education comes at an often unexpected price. So how much does homeschooling cost? The National Home Education Research Institute claims that 2.3 million children are homeschooled today, and that families spend an average $600 a year to homeschool their kids.
Is homeschooling your children really that inexpensive, you ask? And why homeschool? Don’t you want your kid to be socialized? Are you ultra-religious? We’re accustomed to believing that homeschool kids don’t know how to socialize. We think that they must come from very religious families who reject the educational establishment.
In actuality, homeschooling families are not so simple. Some people want their children to have a more specialized curriculum, but can’t afford to send them to private school. They might not believe their children will succeed in a traditional learning environment. They may also want to protect their child from violence, racism, drugs, and other bad influences that may be prevalent in the public school system. Or they may want to teach their child a different set of values.
I never considered homeschooling until I began wondering if I wanted to send my future children to public or private school. With these advantages and more, could homeschool be an affordable option?
Just as in a traditional school, parents would need a curriculum to keep the kids on track with learning. Math, English, history, science — perhaps even a foreign language. Even if a parent has been trained as a teacher, they would still need resources to help the child learn.
Curriculum costs can vary from borrowing books from others or from the library to enrollment in an online school. For example, Bridgeway Academy, an online accredited homeschool, has tuition plans starting at $895 per child, per year that can go up to $2,125 for a customized learning support curriculum.
Some families may assemble a collection of resources, including science kits, Rosetta Stone for a foreign language, and textbooks from the Write Foundation that focuses on writing for homeschoolers. From what I’ve seen online, a family could easily spend anywhere from $250 to over $5,000 per year for each child. It just depends on what type of curriculum the family uses.
2. Homeschool Association Fees
Each state has different rules regarding homeschooling. Most states require that families notify the state that they will homeschool. Some states, such as New York, provide a breakdown of the specific topics that families should cover for each grade.
Some require that you register with a homeschool association, which provides group learning opportunities. The Atlanta Homeschool Cooperative charges $20 annually per family for membership, along with registration fees for classes. The cost for the first child is $60, the second and third are $45 each, and additional children are $15. Classes themselves are $10 each. If the family enrolls in membership, but not in classes, there is a $75 fee.
As with kids who attend public or private school, homeschooled kids will also want to participate in extracurricular activities. Local sports leagues, theater groups, and music lessons all come with costs, which can vary per city. The Atlanta YMCA charges $91 a month per family, and private music lessons can be quite pricey. At one music store in Atlanta, $140 a month will cover a half an hour lesson once a week, not including the cost of the instrument rental.
Some families will also become members at museums, zoos, and aquariums for hands-on learning. Zoo Atlanta membership is $129 annually for two adults and up to four children under 18 years old. The Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta costs $120 a year per family. The Georgia Aquarium membership is $279.99, plus tax for a family of four.
4. Lost Wages
One aspect of homeschooling that many people might not consider is the cost of lost wages. In families with two parents, one may work full-time while the other is a stay-at-home parent. If the stay-at-home parent works only part-time or not at all due to being the primary caregiver and teacher for the kids, one could argue that he or she should factor in the cost of lost wages.
These days, there is an increasing number of people with flexible jobs due to the gig economy (57.3 million people, to be exact, according to a study by Upwork). That may mean more flexibility, and freelancers may be earning more money per hour. But they also work fewer hours overall than a traditionally employed worker, as another study by global payment platform Payoneer found. Depending on how many children and what other responsibilities the parent has, they may not be able to earn a steady income.
I find homeschool to be fascinating. In many ways, it would be a great alternative to private school if I’m unhappy with my child’s public school options. And there are ways to make homeschooling more affordable for those who are interested. But I also know that many parents just don’t have the patience or desire to be their child’s teacher.