Homeschool Tidbits: Is Homeschooling Expensive?

March 8, 2024

Welcome to Build Your Library’s Homeschool Tidbits: Episode 68 – Is Homeschooling Expensive? In this weekly video series, I will delve briefly into a topic related to homeschooling and will share some of my knowledge and expertise as a long-time homeschooling mother of 4 children. Three of whom have graduated high school, and one who is a college graduate!

If there is one thing I see discussed more than anything else, it’s the cost of homeschooling. Everyone wants to know how expensive it will be or if they can do it for free. So I thought we should chat about it today.

So How Expensive is It?

This is going to be a “Your Mileage May Vary” situation. Every family is different, and everyone has different priorities. It will cost you some money, but your lifestyle, budget, and learning styles will affect how much you need to spend.

If you are just starting homeschooling, it will be significantly more expensive than having been at it for several years. In the early years, you are figuring out what works and need first-time supplies. You will likely buy many different curricula as you try to find your style and what works best for your children. Luckily, any curriculum that comes in a physical book format can easily be resold, so you will get some of that money back.

Your number of children may increase the cost of homeschooling, but it doesn’t have to be wildly more expensive than if you were only teaching one child. I’m a big believer in family schooling content subjects – everyone studies the same history, science, geography, art, etc. Then they have individual lessons in things like language arts and math. This will not only streamline your day but it will save you a ton of money as you won’t need to purchase separate subjects for each of your children.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive Though!

I’ve seen some wildly different homeschooling budgets. Some people buy all the fancy boxed curriculum, plus they spend money on outside classes, extra curriculars, and museum passes. All of those things are great, but they aren’t necessarily essential to giving your child a great education.

My best advice is to set a budget. What are you willing and able to spend on your children’s education? Can you afford brand new materials, or do you need to spend some time hunting online for used?

Don’t give into the temptation to try every new thing that crosses your path. This will only end up costing you more money and more headaches. Curriculum hopping becomes tempting when we see other families raving about new products. Remember – what works for them might not work for you! Focus on what does work best for your children and try to avoid the FOMO.

There are so many great classes and extracurriculars out there that it can make your head spin. So focus on just one or two things each year. My kids always had one outside activity, plus one or two online classes a year. It helped us stay within our means, but it also helped us to be able to stick to our routine and not run around ragged. Too many outside activities, no matter how great, will make it difficult to get all of your schoolwork done each day. So choose wisely!

Books can be expensive, especially if you are trying to give your children a literature-based education. But there are a ton of ways to save money on books! First things first, know what you need. If you just shop around with no plan in mind, you are going to end up buying way more books than you need. Ask me how I know! So have a plan and know what you are looking for. Having a premade booklist, like what is included in Build Your Library, can help list out the books needed, along with the timeframe you need to purchase them.

The best way to get cheap books is through library sales and thrift stores, but there is no way to know what they have in advance so it’s luck of the draw. You might find everything you need and you might find nothing. But they are always worth checking out. I’ve walked away with tote bags full of books that cost me $20 in total.

The next best way to stock your library inexpensively is through websites like  BookOutlet and Thriftbooks and of course, our Used Bookstore. They have great deals, but they won’t have everything all the time. It will require some book hunting.

And of course, the library is free!  Not only can you get all the books you can possibly read for free, but they also have museum passes, activities, classes, and more. Try to get library cards at multiple libraries if possible to give you the most options. But be careful here, because there may be fees for those out-of-town cards. I was able to get a library card at the bigger city library nearby, but it costs $60 a year. If I want to get one at the next town over, it’s $50 a year. So that can add up. But if you have a voracious reader, that could still be a money saver, especially if you are on a tight budget!

But Can You Homeschool for Free?

I know some people will say that you can, but I’m not sure it’s worth it to try. And here’s why. Let’s assume you can find a few free materials that you like. It’s going to require so much of your time to piece together a full curriculum this way that curriculum hunting is now your full-time job. After spending all that time scouring the internet for resources, you discover that some of them won’t work for your child. Or the materials only go up to a certain grade level. Or they are religious and you are a secular homeschooler (and vice versa). I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I am saying it’s extremely difficult. When we were first starting out, I tried to find as much for free as possible because we were on a tight budget.  I don’t recommend it. Looking back, this type of scenario is exactly what triggered Build Your Library to be created.

Instead of always trying to find free things, I think it is easier to focus on low-cost and expand from there as necessity and budget dictates. Look for things that you can use as a family, or that will work for multiple years. I think a literature-based style of homeschooling lends itself well to being low-cost because you can access so much from your local library.

The homeschooling world can be overwhelming, but if you set a budget and focus on your children’s needs, homeschooling doesn’t have to be expensive. But it will be money well spent!

Coming up next…

I hope you found this Tidbit helpful! Come back next week for more homeschooling inspiration!

Until then, happy reading!

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Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-12 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full-year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 21 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves sharing her love of literature. She and her family also make incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books, and more on YouTube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.

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Have you been looking for a literature based homeschool curriculum that is secular? How about a way to incorporate narration, copywork, dictation and memory work into your child’s education? Or art study that ties into history?

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