Homeschooling is a growing trend in the United States as more and more families decide to take control of their children's educations themselves. The freedoms that come with homeschooling are well-documented, as are the accomplishments of many homeschooled kids.
But what about the cost of homeschooling? How much does homeschooling cost? Is it affordable for the average family?
There's No Such Thing as a Free Education
Some people feel that they will save money by homeschooling. Homeschooling does not have tuition fees like private schools, and even though public schools are "free" (if you disregard the taxes you pay for them), they still require various fees for books, field trips, choir shirts, you name it.
However, homeschooling is not free. The average amount public schools spend per child, per year is around $8000. A recent study by economics professor Clive Belfield estimates the annual cost of homeschooling at $2500 for one child, and slightly less for each subsequent child.
Costs to Consider
Homeschooling families spend money on
- curriculum, including textbooks, software, and videos
- memberships to various homeschool associations and/or groups
- homeschooling newsletters and journals
- classes (dance, sports, music, art, etc)
- field trips, including memberships to local museums, zoos, etc.
It should be noted that not all homeschooling families purchase all of those items, and that many families with children in public and/or private schools buy many of the above items as well. Additionally, homeschoolers can save by buying supplies used, and then by selling materials when they finish using them.
Despite the cost finally paid, these are items to consider when you are deciding whether you can afford to homeschool.
A Parent at Home
Probably the major financial consideration for homeschooling is the required teacher at home - a parent. Belfield's study found that the average homeschooling parent was a college-educated woman with an income of $38000 annually while in the workforce. That is the "opportunity cost," or the amount your family might be giving up to have a parent at home.
If your family is considering homeschooling and wondering if you could make it on one income, try living on just one income for several months while both parents are still working. Can your family handle the lifestyle changes necessary to provide a parent at home full-time?
Higher Costs for Higher Ed
Many homeschooling families find the monetary costs are highest for high school students. This is because many parents hire tutors who specialize in the more intense high school courses needed by teens: a native Chinese speaker for language instruction, a College Board-certified instructor for AP test class preparation, etc.
No Help from Uncle Sam
Currently, there are no federal tax breaks for homeschoolers; homeschooling is considered a personal expense by the IRS. There are lobbyists working for more favorable tax treatment, but as yet, there is no federal legislation to help homeschoolers.
Despite the costs, most homeschooling families don't regret their decision not to send their children to private or public schools. The freedom to educate their kids according to their own beliefs trump any costs involved.
Susan Braun is a freelance writer living with her husband, three daughters, 2 rabbits, 2 gerbils and hedgehog in Indiana. She writes at girlsinwhitedresses.wordpress.com and Associated Content.