About 1.5 million children, 3% of American students, are homeschooled, according to the 2012 Statistical Abstract released by the U.S. Census Bureau. And since then, higher numbers of Americans have chosen to teach their children outside of public or more traditional educational institutions. But opting to homeschool a child can come with a unique set of challenges, both economic and practical.
The cost of homeschooling can place an additional financial strain on families. Such costs can reflect everything from homeschooling curriculums, materials, books, and extracurricular activities, to the monetary effects associated with transitioning from a two-income household to a one-income household, if necessary.
Additionally, inexperience can bring on further costs; parents often report that it is easy to overspend during the first year of homeschooling due to a potential lack of knowledge. For example, parents or guardians may end up spending too much money on a curriculum that does not work for a child, get too many supplies, or spend more than necessary on field trips. While homeschooling can come with upfront costs that most who opt for public schools would not typically encounter, there are ways it can be less finically straining. Outlined below is information regarding home education, the pros and cons of making the switch to homeschooling, as well as some tips on how to do it on a budget.
How Does Homeschooling Work?
Within conventional schooling, children go to establishments (public or private) where professional teachers are responsible for their learning. Homeschooling, on the other hand, is when parents choose to educate outside of the traditional school system; typically, a child is homeschooled by a parent or a private tutor inside the home.
Each state has its own homeschool regulations that educators have to follow. It is best to check your state’s requirements so that you’re able to view the programs in the right light. There are several different types of homeschooling programs available, including:
- Traditional homeschooling: Within this type of program, parents follow a structure similar to a school setting; they keep a classroom-like setting where the child or children follow a set schedule. This structure allows educators to use a lecture-like teaching style and provide kids with tests and quizzes. Homeschool teachers are able to buy an “all-in-one” curriculum package where they are provided a grade-level appropriate curriculum, lesson plans, textbooks, workbooks, and educational supplies. This kind of program takes the guesswork out of homeschooling your child.
- Roadschooling: This can be more appropriately called homeschooling on the road. Instead of a classroom setting, parents incorporate travel and experiences in their lessons. It can help children connect their lessons to the world around them. This type of homeschooling can be viable for families who like to travel and enjoy impromptu learning experiences.
- Worldschooling: Parents who believe that the world is a classroom may prefer this type of homeschooling. Similar to “roadschooling,” parents incorporate travel into their children’s learning experiences, which can solidify a child’s knowledge through their interactions with the wider world. This type of homeschooling may require a certain level of financial commitment.
- Unschooling: This style of home education, also known as natural learning, utilizes the interests of the child to drive his or her educational path. Instead of following a set or defined curriculum, children can learn organically as they pursue knowledge. Parents who prefer this type of homeschooling will need to create a learning-rich atmosphere that encourages curiosity and nurtures a love of learning.
- Eclectic Homeschooling: This style of homeschooling is highly individualized. Parents mix and match different classic forms of homeschooling to create a personalized approach that takes into account the child’s learning style, interests, strengths, and weaknesses. This type of homeschooling can often rely heavily on how well you understand your child. Experts often recommend that parents pursue this style only after a year or two of homeschooling experience.
Potential homeschool educators should read up as much as they can on the different styles of instruction before embarking on a homeschooling journey.
Benefits of Homeschooling
Families across the country decide to homeschool their children for many reasons, from cost-driven needs to personal beliefs. Some benefits of choosing to educate a child in this way can include the following:
Homeschooling Can Save You Money
The average cost of homeschooling is $500 per child per year. And if resources are shared, these costs can be significantly lower.
While homeschooling can come with unexpected costs, in the long-run, costs can be cheaper than sending a child to a public school. Families can save money on expenses associated with conventional schooling; you may not have to spend money on back-to-school clothes, medical expenses can become much lower because you lessen your child’s exposure to sick classmates, food costs cheaper at home than in a school’s cafeteria.
Homeschooling Can Allow Academic Flexibility
Homeschooling can allow you to tailor your child’s education based on preferred learning style, interests, strengths, and weaknesses. Such tailored instruction does not take into account if a child is ahead or behind peers, creative, gifted, active, or quiet, but rather promotes efficient, effective learning because you and your child are in charge of choosing what works and what doesn’t.
Homeschooling Establishes and Strengthens Close Family Bonds
Within conventional institutions, children often spend most of their time in school. With homeschooling, children can have more time to spend with family members and loved ones. Parents may find that they have more time to celebrate milestones with their kids.
Homeschooling Can Provide Children With a Safe Learning Environment
Children may be constantly exposed to bullying, negative peer pressure, and bad influences in public and private schools. When you homeschool a child, it may help them develop confidence, self-assurance, and a more understanding outlook.
Disadvantages of Homeschooling
Homeschooling Your Child Can Require a Lot of Sacrifices
Embarking on a homeschooling journey can often require you to make sacrifices, such as giving up your job or limiting your family’s income, for example. You may need to invest time and effort in learning about your child’s learning style and what homeschooling style suits him or her well, as well as develop a certain level of patience when teaching your child.
Homeschooling Requires a Major Lifestyle Change
Instructing your child from home means that you will need to take over the duties and responsibilities of your child’s teacher. You will be the one creating lessons, organizing field trips, and checking with state regulations regarding compliance. This can become quite overwhelming.
Homeschooling Can Cause Anxiety
Taking your child’s education into your own hands can cause you to doubt yourself and start asking questions like, “Am I doing enough?”, “Are they really learning anything?”, or “Am I harming my child’s future by doing this?” Of course, these concerns are all valid and may lessen over time as you gain more experience.
How to Homeschool on a Budget
Choose Your Homeschooling Curriculum Carefully
One of the best ways for you to avoid spending a lot of money on homeschooling is to make sure you choose the right curriculum for your child. This means taking the time to learn your educational goals, determine your child’s learning style, and sample lessons from various homeschool curriculums. You will also need to check a curriculum’s content, approach, and delivery, and may need to consider whether it would be better for your child (and you) to not use a formal homeschool curriculum after all. Some parents build their own curriculum around library resources. This helps them create a more personalized approach and may often save them money.
Look for Free, Cheap, or Discounted Curriculum
There are several ways you can do this: you can check out sites such as HootBookRevival.com, Homeschool Classifieds, and Second Harvest Curriculum where used and discounted curricula are sold. As an added bonus, you can sell your used curricula for other homeschooling families to use. In short, you get to save money while earning money to buy books in the future.
If you don’t find what you need on these sites, you can choose to split the cost of the curriculum with other homeschooling parents. Families can look for a share group through sites such as Homeschool Buyers Co-Op. The Homeschool Buyers Co-op also offers free resources as well as discounted curricula.
Another option for instructors is to trade curricula with other parents. There are Facebook groups comprised of homeschooling parents looking for trades. Platforms such as eBay can prove to be a valuable resource for purchasing or selling curricula as well.
Use the Internet
The internet at large can be useful for homeschooling programs. Instructors can find free plans to use to build their curricula, such as KhanAcademy, Starfall, and Clickschooling. You can find hundreds of sites that offer free printables, ideas for projects, and games. EnchantedLearning, for example, is loaded with thousands of learning materials, ranging from pre-K to grade 12. For only $20 a year, you can use this website to teach a wide range of subjects such as Astronomy, Biology, Language, Math, and Geography.
For older children, parents can utilize the OpenCourseWare (OCW) programs of certain colleges and universities. Instructors can also access free online classes from Stanford using Coursera.
Buy School Supplies in Bulk or During “Off-Season”
It is typically cheaper to buy goods in bulk, in order to cut down on long-term expenses. Instructors can split materials costs with other homeschooling parents or chose to buy supplies “off-season.” After the official school start date, most stores will sell their school supplies at lower prices to clear out their stock in preparation for the next season.
Use the Library
Libraries may be useful because they can provide traditional books as well as audiobooks and DVDs. Some libraries also offer after-school programs, which can be a great opportunity for children to socialize with their peers. Some libraries also have educational kits, games, and software that can be borrowed.
Take Advantage of Educational Television
Families that have streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime can use these services to access educational documentaries, films, and shows. Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) offers programs and documentaries that may be of interest to parents. The company also has a website, PBS Learning Media, that offers free videos, interactives, lesson plans, study guides, and the like, for teachers.