The Costs of Homeschooling

(The following is a lesson plan excerpted from our seventh Parent/Teacher/Tutor course, Homeschool Resources. The entire program is now available, at www.StepsEd.com. This is an advance look. This may well contain ideas and actions you are all-too familiar with, but it’s worth a look just in case.)

Like all things, homeschool has costs. In fact, homeschooling has a unique set of costs. Almost one for one, homeschool families pay taxes. Their taxes are used, in part, to pay for public schools which homeschoolers do not utilize, even though they help pay for them. Instead, a homeschooler, much like a private schooler, must pay again to school their children. Homeschooling is almost invariably much less expensive than sending a child to a private school, given the tuition fees are generally very high, and there are invariably other costs as well that the school tacks on during the year, including materials fees, field trip fees, transportation fees, and on and on. Even when a homeschool family hires a tutor, it can still be less expensive than private school.

That said, it does cost money, and a lot of time besides. In economics, there is a principle called “Opportunity Cost”. The basic idea is that if you spend money on “X”, then that money is spent, and you may not be able to do “Y” or “Z”. You chose to do “X”, and the cost of doing it was the opportunity to do “Y” or “Z”. Opportunity Cost can be applied to time, as well. You chose to homeschool your child, so now you have neither the time or money for that little vacation to Bermuda you had so dreamed of.

There’s no question about it – homeschool requires resources to do it well. Assuming you’ve done the earlier courses in this series, then you have a fair idea by now of what “doing it well” might mean. It would certainly include as many “hands-on” experiences as possible for your students. Many of these can be done for little or no expense, but some of them cost money. And it costs money just to set up a homeschooler correctly. Computer, quiet space, Internet connection, study materials…there’s going to be some financial outlay if you plan to homeschool. If you do not hire a tutor, that outlay can be kept to a dull roar, but there will nonetheless be some.

One of the great tricks to successfully homeschooling is to secure the needed resources for as low a price, and with as little work as possible. But let’s understand something. If you cannot invest some money into your child’s homeschool, then you will need to compensate with your time. You need some sort of tool or lever to get what is needed together. Money will make the job easier. Time will also get it done, if you have the time. If you have free help from a family member or friend, one who can dedicate time to the cause, that will compensate for the lack of your own time, or money. If you have none of the above, then homeschooling is going to be very difficult to do successfully.

What kind of resources are we talking about? Where can they be secured? Where should you search for them? What should the acceptable criteria be for each resource. We’ll get into all of these issues in this course. (In the last course we covered extensively the criteria for curricula. In this course, we will further discuss, as an example, where to look for it.)

Perhaps your very first step in collecting resources is to have a very good understanding of what you have available to work with in the way of money, space, time, and already available resources. This will provide a starting point. It will also make clear what is missing, what you do not have.

To do this course successfully, you’ll need a computer, and access to the Internet. And as we start, may I commend you for the choice you’ve made to homeschool? It’s a brave and responsible choice, and your children will thank you for it someday, if not today.

EXERCISE:
This may or may not be a comfortable starting exercise, but if you have not already done it on your own, I’m afraid it must be done.

Do an evaluation of your funds. Start by making a list of hard bills that must be paid every month. These should probably include at least:

-Personal business expenses (your business, or working for another).
-Rent or mortgage, or set asides each month for property taxes.
-Auto expenses, including insurance, gas, and set asides each month to cover repairs and registration.
-Essential bills (Phone, water and power, gas)
-Food expenses (including eating out) for the family. Be thorough!
-Household expenses, including such things as cleaning goods, disposable items such as kitchen paper, candles, light bulbs, and the like.
-Clothing costs, incl. repairs, dry cleaning, cleaning costs at home, new clothes.
-Entertainment items such as cable TV, book and magazine purchases, movies, baby-sitters, etc.
-CURRENT education costs. (Get them all.)
-Current child care costs.
-Credit Card payments, other loan payments.
-Any medical costs, incl. dental, etc.
-Taxes set asides.
-Any other routine or unusual expense that will occur in the next year or so.

You can guestimate on some of the items if you need to, but guestimate HIGH, not low.

Please make sure this list of money going out is as thorough as possible. You should have, at the end of this procedure, a clear idea of how much you spend each month. It will not be accurate to the dollar, but it should be sufficiently accurate to give you a good idea of how much money goes out each month.

EXERCISE:
This is really “part two” of the last exercise. Now, list all your income sources, and make an honest and accurate list of your monthly income. Do this for the last six months, to get a real reading and not one based on momentary influxes or downgrades.

This is family income, and can include annuities, dividends, gifts from rich relatives, interest from accounts, pay for work done, royalties, you name it. Get a clear and accurate dollar amount of what you make each month on average. (Do NOT include
money not made but spent, such as available credit. Credit cards and loans are a deep, dark, black pit that one has a very hard time climbing out of. Beyond that, many people have a tendency to think of credit as “money”. It’s not. It’s not your money. You are borrowing it from someone. And you will pay extra, often huge amount, for the great privilege.)

EXERCISE:
Now compare what you spend each month to what you make. Obviously, it would be best if you make more (far more) than you spend. That may or may not be the case.

Do this again, REMOVING CURRENT EDUCATION COSTS. This may swing the balance somewhat toward a greater leftover income each month, after costs. The differential in the two amounts – money spent subtracted from money made – will tell you how much discretionary money you have each month.

Discretionary money is money you can use as you wish. You may spend it at your “discretion”. If you have nothing left at the end of a month, or worse, less than nothing (a debt), you have no discretionary money. (No, credit is not discretionary
money. It isn’t money.) If this is the case, you will either need to make more money in order to homeschool, or compensate largely with your own time, or the time of a trusted volunteer.

This financial breakdown is going to provide you a true starting point, one for the “real world.” You now know what you can spend on your child’s homeschooling in way of money.
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As you probably know, I am an advocate for homeschooling. It’s my belief that homeschooling potentially provides a student with a vastly superior education than schooling in any form. This is backed up by a lot of numbers and research. I’ve taught for public and private schools, at the University level, as a private instructor in thousands of workshops, and as a homeschool dad running a homeschool group. Homeschooling by far works best for most students- and most families.

But I understand that many parents do not believe they can effectively homeschool. They’ve been told that they “don’t have degrees,” and that they “aren’t qualified.” This is all nonsense, of course. You’re legally not required to have any kind of a degree to homeschool your kids anywhere in the U.S. A lot of people who have degrees and who call themselves “professional teachers” are simply awful, and even destructive at what they do. A lot of parents…hundreds that I know of…have homeschooled their kids right into universities and careers.

In a serious effort to make homeschooling easier to do, and more commonly successful in terms of education received, I’ve authored my own curriculum. It took some 15,000 hours to write, over more than a decade of work, and is intended to replace the need for schooling a student from age 5-Adult Continuing Education. The curriculum is called Steps (or “CTT”). It has been used by over 20,000 students worldwide over the past 10 years. Hundreds of “success stories” attest to how well CTT works.

CTT courses are written in a way that gradually allows the student to take over his own education. Each course itself largely does the teaching, relieving mom and dad of that duty unless they wish to use our daily lesson plans in various subjects as springboards for family discussion and discovery – as many families do, every day. The parent has the job of making certain the student is working and has what they need to study. (And you’ll need to find a good math program for homeschooling as we don’t provide one. There are many.)

Below are links to our site discussing each level of curriculum, and every subject at that level that we offer. (You can start any level at any time. We don’t have “semesters” that start at a certain time, and each course stands alone well.) You’ll find free videos describing how every subject and each level works. You’ll discover free samples of every course we offer. Our site offers many other services and surprises, including numerous free courses you can download and try out.

Starter is for ages 5-6, and for preliterate students of any age. It focuses on starting to develop literacy skills, while teaching about various subjects. Starter includes full two-year programs in Reading, History, Science, Creative Writing, and Living Your Life, courses that develop life and study skills for the youngest students. Every lesson plan at the Starter level works to develop literacy.

Elementary is for ages 7-8, and for students who are developing literacy. It includes two-year programs in Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing (which also teaches the parts of language at this level), and Living Your Life courses which develop life and study skills in preparation for more advanced studies to come.

Lower School (ages 9-10) offers two-year programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, P.E. Electives, and in various arts such as Animation, Music Theory, and Acting. At this level, students must read fairly well, and studies are progressively turned over to the student.

Upper School (ages 11-High School, and Adult Continuing Education) provides programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, Current Events, Literature Guides, P.E. Electives, and in arts such as Animation, Acting, Music Theory, and Music History.

For parents who wish to teach at home, but are intimidated at the thought, and for parents who just wish to improve the homeschool experience, we offer a ten course homeschool program for homeschool teachers, as well as several books about education and homeschooling today.

We want you and your children to win with homeschooling!

4 comments for “The Costs of Homeschooling

  1. August 7, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Thanks for the step-by-step exercise on determining education costs and the explanation of Opportunity Cost. We’re sure our homeschool families will find this instructive. You mentioned how well homeschool students do in college and on the SATs and ACTs, which has been our experience, too, but families shouldn’t forget to factor in the costs of saving for college, along with SAT or ACT fees, test prep materials and the like. There are also low-priced options for private college prep guidance counselors, et al. You can can find out more about this at our webste http://www.collegeprepexper.com.
    Thanks, and good luck helping homeschool families budget their money and meet their goals!

  2. December 8, 2012 at 7:13 am

    This is true. The way we have found best for our family is to take a chunk of our tax returns each year and buy all of our curriculum and materials at once. It takes planning on my part to decide early what all we are going to use and what it wil all cost, but it is a good way to make certain our homeschool cost is covered in advance and it does not put a financial strain on our usual budget (we are a low-income family).

    • December 8, 2012 at 7:23 am

      I believe you are wise to approach homeschooling this way! Well done, and great success educating your children.

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