Cost of Homeschooling - Part 1
A young mom recently asked for insights on a topic I've considered exploring- the costs involved in homeschooling. I mentioned the subject to Rich and his initial response was exactly my own - financial costs or real life costs? Hmmmm.... much to unpack. I'm going to pause here a bit - perhaps write a few posts on the subject. Hopefully, those wrestling with the decision to homeschool will find something to consider.
My mind immediately went to the beginning, nineteen years ago, when I first looked at preschool curriculum to use at home. I remember comparing those costs to other educational options. Two friends were sending their daughters to preschool. I called both half day programs and inquired. I don't remember the schools' figures anymore, but I do remember feeling I could buy A TON of supplies for the monthly tuition. We were a single income family paying child support on Rich's two boys, with our own preschooler, toddler, and baby on the way. Money was tight. No, money was tighter than tight. Sometimes there simply wasn't any left at the end of the month. And the economic woes of a construction workers' life meant no job security. It seemed risky to enroll our daughter in preschool not confident there would be enough work next month to pay tuition after all the other bills. With our decision I would be home full time - the homeschool option was not only less financial cost out of pocket, but also an environment we anticipated we could offer consistently. And besides - I liked spending my days with that adorable little blonde four-year-old. We took the plunge.
But our first curriculum purchase, I think it was about $390, seemed like a large chunk of money to find all at once.
One practice we established for the second year, and have continued, is designating our annual tax refund towards homeschooling costs. Rich has always set up his personal withholdings to insure a refund. For almost two decades now, we've deposited that spring check in a special savings account earmarked for school costs. Some years we haven't needed all of it, some years we have. (More on actual costs in part 2 - coming soon!) In reflection, I marvel at God's faithfulness in allowing this habit. Many years, the doldrums of winter were chased away by browsing curriculum catalogs, comparing programs, making wish lists, dreaming of next year's fun, and waiting for the IRS check in the mail.
More important than how we designated a savings plan to cover the cost of doing school or even how much we actually spent, this early habit taught us an important truth: It costs to homeschool.
Homeschool moms starting out today have a great advantage over my generation: the internet. There were no free downloadable PDF curriculums available twenty years ago. The library catalog wasn't even available on-line. Without a doubt, homeschooling today, especially the younger grades, can be accomplished pretty economically by utilizing the internet, public libraries, church co-ops, and used book sales. I am amazed how technology alone has changed homeschooling and made some excellent resources available instantly without leaving our homes. But there is still a cost. The real life cost - time. Time to comb through blogs and teacher resource sites. Time to request books from the library. Time to print. Time to search used curriculum forums. Every cash dollar saved by utilizing "free" resources in churches, communities, and cyber-space costs in mom's labor and energy.
My advice is not to avoid these money savers. As they became available, I used them to stretch that IRS check. Providing a quality education at home without a lot of cash resources can be done, but reality can't be avoided. Keeping financial costs down is going to increase the parental work load. It costs to do anything well. Homeschooling included.