Answering this question is about as easy as answering “how much water does a glass hold?” Well, it all depends on the glass. I can, however, give you a general answer:You will spend as much as you want.
NOTE: I know some of the links in this post are wonky. I’ve gone over the coding a million times and I can’t figure it out. Sorry, I’ll keep working on it but in the meantime Google is our friend!
Currently my family spends about $1000/year to educate our 5 children still at home (4 of compulsory age) with the bulk being spent on advanced math, science equipment, and dual enrollment college texts for our teens. A lot of what we buy we will be able to use again with our younger kids or can be used by multiple kids at the same time. We used to spend much, much more on boxed curriculum but after a few years we realized that we were spending money on things that just didn’t work for us. In leaner years we’ve spentwell under $300 a year and have even homeschooled for free!
Nothing looks quite as educational as shiny new textbooks and fancy teacher’s guides, packaged and shipped (often at your cost) to your home each fall. It’s new, it’s the latest edition, it’s what you are persuaded to believe will make you successful and earn your child admission into Harvard. It is, however, very expensive and out-of-reach for many families.
A pre-packaged curriculum is a want, not a necessity. It is a luxury many cannot afford or choose not to purchase, yet most children not afforded this luxury are every bit as educated and some even continue on to Harvard. How do you do it without the aid of a boxed curriculum?
Chances are you are already buying writing utensils, paper, and art supplies. You probably already have a computer and printer, which I consider necessary given the abundance of free and low cost curriculum available on the Internet. Since you are obviously concerned about your child’s education you most likely have a decently stocked home library as well as a library card. In all honesty, these are the only things you need to provide a well-rounded education, with a little creativity thrown in for good measure.
The back bone of any good program is literature, and lots of it! When it comes to good literature age-appropriateness and interest level trump reading ability. Children learn more about the workings of the world, past and present, from so-called “living books” than from any level-graded reader. Consider E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. There is no finer way to learn about the intricacies of being a spider and farm life than through this magnificent novel.
When it comes to picking good literature, interest trumps reading ability! Your six year old may not be able to read the book independently but there is no reason they cannot enjoy the experiences as a read aloud or book-on-tape. Literature also has the distinction of being very inexpensive and easy to find second-hand.The Read Aloud Handbook written by Jim Trelease is a must-have for the family serious about literature.
It is important to mention that an abundance of free and low cost resources can be found on the Internet. For the cost of ink and paper you can create a customized education that sits squarely on the shoulders of fine literature. Click here to learn how to read digital books for free!
Now, there is nothing wrong with buying boxed curriculum, in fact it works great for a lot of kids. If you want to buy pre-designed curriculum you can buy most programs in pieces rather than as a whole, which may or may not save you money. You can buy most programs used as well, though shipping costs may negate any real savings. In general, expect to pay anywhere from $400-1200 per student for an entire year’s worth of new prepackaged materials from a publisher or supplier. When purchasing subjects a la carte you can expect to pay between $60 and $200 per subject, with extra fees for readers, labs, manipulatives, and supplies. It is always important to research your options first because going overboard can mean spending $300 or more per subject, which would be a shame if two months down the road you realize the program just isn’t working for you.
Just because you CAN (or maybe can’t) spend that much money, it doesn’t mean you MUST. There are homeschooling methods that tend to be less expensive and these days you can homeschool FOR FREE. So, like I said earlier, homeschooling costs as much as you want it to.
Here are some more great resources for FREE (or cheap!) homeschooling:
Free online curriculum
Discovery K12 (NOT affiliated with K12 Education)
Alison (free online classes for high school)Coursera (free online classes for high school)
Open Culture (free online classes, ebooks, and curriculum for K-12)
Teach Your Monster to Read (Free phonics and reading program)
Khan Academy (free video courses in EVERYTHING!)
Big History Project (free history for high school)
eBay (search for “book lot” or “homeschool lot” for the best prices)
Paperback Swap (low cost book trading)
Hip Homechool Moms Classifieds (post items wanted and for sale!)
VegSource Homeschool (homeschool classified ads)
The Book Samaritan (the last I heard this website was on hold for the organization to catch up with orders but I left it here in the event it comes back online)
Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op (big site with lots of discounts!)
Homeschool Group Buys (combine buying power with other homeschoolers)
Rainbow Resource Center
eBook Curriculum Suppliers
CurrClick (secular & religious materials to download affordably)
Amazon Kindle (free and low cost ebooks, no e-reader needed!)
Overdrive (a book-borrowing service that’s run through your library)
Hoopla Digital (a free eBook, audiobook, and streaming media service run through your library)
Project Gutenberg (45,000 free eBooks!)
Meg Grooms (she/her) is a decades-long secular homeschooler, mother of many, writer, Florida ex-pat, and all-around swell gal. Meg & her partner have raised their kids all over the USA, finally settling on Southern California. For now, anyhow.
Meg blogs about secular homeschooling and gameschooling at Homeschool Gameschool. Meg is available for speaking engagements, workshops, and gameschooling classes, please see the About Us/Contact Meg page for more information.