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The Cost of Homeschooling

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Posted 1/23/15
Dr. Heather Allen

The Cost of Homeschooling

By Dr. Heather Allen

I have been researching the cost of homeschooling, and my findings are interesting but not surprising. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, cost is defined as follows: (1) the amount or equivalent paid or charged for something, and (2) the outlay or expenditure (as of effort or sacrifice) made to achieve an object.1 Considering these definitions, the thing that strikes me is that we have an “internal” budget that is available to us to expend in effort or sacrifice for our children and our family, and we have an “external” budget that is our monetary outlay.

As I searched for data concerning the cost of homeschooling, what I found was that the amount spent was as varied as the number of families interviewed. How do you really put a price on homeschooling? There are so many variables to consider when attempting to calculate the amount of money a family spends on homeschooling, and each family seems to calculate the total cost differently.

Let us first consider the external cost of homeschooling, that is, our monetary outlay. Some families report that they spend $140 per child. Others spend $500 per child, and still others spend $1,000 to $2,000 per child. In response to the same question, some families will say they spend $360 per year for their family, without specifying the number of children. Others will report that they spend $2,000 to educate two children. The numbers are all over the board, and there is no defensible way for me to arrive at a range, let alone the mean, median, and mode. Suffice it to say that if you truly want to successfully homeschool your children, you can succeed, whether you have a meager budget or a generous one. Anyone can homeschool, regardless of cost.

Are these dollar amounts the actual cost of homeschooling? Probably not. What about the cost of membership in a local or state homeschooling organization? What about the cost of joining Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA)? Are field trips factored into the cost? How about incidental costs such as paper, pens and pencils, and other supplies? How about mandated testing? Music lessons? Sports teams? If a spouse left a job to homeschool, has the cost of the lost wages been factored into the cost of homeschooling? Curious, I checked to see how many homeschooling families have one spouse who does not have outside employment. According to an article published by Utah State University, “the traditional roles of the husband as the main breadwinner and the wife as the homemaker are no longer a reality.”2 Supposedly, “less than 1/3 of U.S. families are ‘traditional’ in the sense that they have a working father and a stay-at-home mother.”3 More than 70% of married couples report that both the husband and wife have full-time jobs outside of the home.4

A family first makes a decision to homeschool, which is a monumental, life-changing decision. They then have to consider their resources and develop a plan. Some families spend very little; others spend significantly more. Does their specific monetary decision affect the quality of the education of their children? I have found no evidence that it does.

Some families use the library for their educational resources. Others purchase their resources. Some purchase new materials; others buy used materials. Does this decision affect the quality of the education of their children? I have found no evidence that it does.

Some families purchase accredited curriculum. Others purchase structured, unaccredited curriculum. Still others opt to use online instructional material. Does this decision affect the quality of the education of their children? I have found no evidence that it does.

As far as I can tell, the external cost of homeschooling, that is, the monetary outlay, whether it is a little or a lot, does not significantly affect the quality of the homeschool education.

The internal cost or the effort or sacrifice made to homeschool must also be considered. Effort can be thought of as “the total work done to achieve a particular end,” “a serious attempt,” a “hard work.”5 Sacrifice is “something given up or lost.”6 Yes, significant sacrifice and effort are required when choosing to homeschool our children, but then again, if that is what we are called to do, do we really think of it as an effort or . . . a sacrifice? Most of the families I know, even during times when the primary educator in the home is tired and just worn out, consider the time spent with their children and the educational path they have taken to be a blessing. I do not remember a time when I have heard a discouraged parent lament the decision to homeschool.

When considering the external and internal costs of homeschooling, weighing those against the alternatives, that is, public or private schools, homeschooling is doable. You can do this. You do not need significant monetary resources to accomplish the goals you have set for your children and your family. You can homeschool on a very limited budget. You can homeschool on a generous budget.

Be creative. Share resources with others. Use the public library. You know your children better than anyone else, and you know what they need in terms of an education. Please, do not ever let the perceived “cost of homeschooling” derail your plans.

Heather and her husband, Steve, live in Edgewood, New Mexico, where they have homeschooled their five children: Edward (19), Joseph (16), Emily (14), Hana (8), and Ezekiel (8), for the last fifteen years. When not homeschooling, doing things with her family, or writing for TOS, Heather works as a human factors engineer in her homebased consulting business. For more information about the Allen family, please visit their website at www.hippityhooves.com .

Endnotes:

1. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (September 4, 2012). Version 2.0, itunes.apple.com/us/app/Merriam-webster-dictionary/id399452287?mt=8.

2. The Busy-ness of Work & Marriage. (2008). Husband’s vs. Wife’s Employment, Utah State University. Found in: ocw.usu.edu/family__consumer____human_development/marriage___family_relationships/The_Busy-ness_of_Work___Marriage_3.html (September 1, 2012).

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (September 4, 2012). Version 2.0. itunes.apple.com/us/app/Merriam-wesbter-dictionary/id399452287?mt=8.

6. Ibid.

Copyright 2013, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the January 2013 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices