I just love writing about cost breakdowns! I’m not a “homeschool for free” parent, though you technically can if you are resourceful! Our expenses vary from year to year, but I love being held accountable for all the things I buy for our homeschool.
We are going on our 4th year of homeschooling with a 3rd grader, 2nd grader, and kindergartner. You can see our curriculum choices here. I typically end up buying more than we actually use, and overestimate how much we’ll cover. Can you relate?
I’ll break down all our curriculum expenses, ways to save money on curriculum, and what types of things can make your homeschool expenses skyrocket. Let’s dig in!
P.S., If you’re brand new, first read Homeschooling For The Total Beginner: Curriculum, Schedules, Socialization, and Legal as well as the Pros and Cons of Homeschooling.
Why homeschool expenses can vary from family to family and year to year
Money allows you convenience. It saves you time. Without money, you can still homeschool! But you have to more resourceful.
Our expenses for homeschooling when my oldest was in kindergarten were TINY. Just one kid to buy for, and we were living on one small income with 3 kids, so I didn’t buy anything “extra”.
We only purchased math and a reading program for him. No extracurriculars. Our nature co-op was around $200 for the year, mainly for the sitter for the babies. I didn’t buy books, as we lived 5 minutes from an incredible library.
Now with 3 kids at school age, we buy more curriculum. Every year is going to look different, as will every family’s budget!
Your cost for homeschool curriculum is going to depend on a few things:
- New curriculum cost top dollar. Used is often half to 3/4 the cost.
- Type of curriculum: Some are super affordable, others pricey!
- Number of kids you are buying for.
- If any of your kids are reusing a teacher’s manual.
- Digital books are sometimes cheaper than ordering print (though not always!)
- Will you be buying all your reading materials or borrowing from the library?
- Co-op expenses? Or are you in a free group? Or no group?
- Costs for extra curricular activities add up fast.
Can you really homeschool for free?
There are SO many free resources out there. This is huge list of free homeschool curriculum (with links) for pre-k through 12th grade.
Check with your library how many pages a day you’re allowed to print.
3 things that increase your homeschool budget FAST
I was in a group with 9 other incredible ladies who shared so much homeschool knowledge and encouragement over the past 2 years. We ALL had very different budgets, different curriculums, different levels of activities we paid for…and a few areas I saw were:
1. Expensive co-ops
While thank goodness my nature co-op was free, co-ops are probably the quickest way to start paying big money for homeschooling. Classical conversations can add up somewhere in the ballpark of $700/kid for tuition, fees, and books. That is a once a week, all morning co-op that includes quite a few subjects.
Most families I know doing that had 2 kids enrolled, with eventually more to join. Since we weren’t doing this, I know their homeschool budget was in the ballpark of $1400 more expensive than mine.
Other co-ops with a drop off option (where other parents are paid to teach your child a subject of set of subjects) will cost even more. A popular Christian co-op where we were at cost $400-$600 per kid per class, plus a $125 registration fee. Most people take at least two classes to make the drive time worth it.
2. Having more than one kid you are buying for
This goes without saying, but more kids means:
- different level curriculum to buy for
- more reading levels to cater to
- double, triple, quadruple, etc the cost of co-op or sport
3. Buying boxed curriculum
Buying boxed curriculum just means everything you need for all subjects (or in some cases just one subject) comes in a box ready to go. No searching for things at the library, no gathering other supplies…it’s there.
For obvious reasons, this is pricey. Everything is new. It’s convenient.
For example, Sonlight 3rd grade all subjects box (you get to customize the curriculum for each subject) cost $865. If you have the means, and need the convenience, this is awesome!
The one curriculum that is VERY affordable per child, where all subjects show up in a box, is Masterbooks. Here’s a look at their 3rd grade curriculum set, for $175. Four subjects (math, L.A/handwriting, history, science). Keep in mind their’s is cheaper too because they don’t include or add in any read alouds like Sonlight or others.
Here’s how much we spent to homeschool 3 kids
Math (Singapore Primary 2022 & Math With Confidence):
- Kindergarten Math With Confidence set: $52
- 2nd grade Math With Confidence set: $34 with tax (on sale at Rainbow Resource)
- Singapore Primary 2022 1 full year of 3rd grade: $110 with tax (includes 2 Teacher’s Guides, 2 Student Books, and 2 spiral review books called Mastery & Beyond)
- Place value mat with base 10 blocks used
Items I already owned:
- Plastic tangrams for kindergarten
- Printable clock for learning time (in my Etsy shop)
- Printable large traceable numbers 1-10 (in my Etsy shop)
Language arts products by Brave Writer:
- Partnership Writing (for creative writing): $60 (I print and bind at home)
- 6 Dart literature guides: $90 (I print and bind at home)
Handwriting Without Tears:
All About Spelling:
- Includes 1 student book, 1 teacher’s guide, and interactive kit required for all levels
History from Gather Round:
- includes all 6 digital units of US history with all levels teacher’s guide and all levels of student books
I could have avoided this and continued with a MUCH cheaper option we did already like, America’s Story by Masterbooks.
That would have cost $32 for America’s Story 1, $32 for America’s Story 2, and $32 for America’s Story 3 (without the teacher’s guides, just used as a read aloud). Plus, we already owned the 1st book.
Sometimes new curriculum reviews get the best of me, and I had to give Gather Round a try 🙂
Kindergartener reading book:
- Teach Your Child To Read In 100 Easy Lessons (our old one was haggard and very ripped!)
- One botany unit from Gather Round: $50
- Library books: free
- Supplemental book we already owned Exploring Nature With Children: free
Gather Round has 20 lessons, and we may stretch it out over the year for science/nature study or pause all our other subjects for a month and just do Gather Round plus math.
It’s advertised as a unit study to encompass all subjects except math, so that’s an option!
Games for school and for fun:
- Even Stevens Odd (math game)
- Quixx (math and strategy game)
- Gravity maze (strategy and building game for 1 person)
- Science Center: $120
- HSLDA homeschool membership (for legal representation should we need it): $125 for the family for 1 year
- Night Zookeeper 1 year membership half off: $50
- Wild & Free local homeschool nature group (country wide!): free
School related Extras:
- Printer paper
- Black rolling 3 tiered cart for our homeschool books and math pieces
- Binders X3
- Black 13inch 6 cube organizer from Target to hold all our homeschool books/library books
- Library fines for late fees: $20 (this is pretty dang good considering we’ve checked out 100’s of books this year!)
Grand total for the year for 3 kids:
Expenses I haven’t included…yet:
- Possible YMCA membership for colder months ($90/month)
- Possible ski lessons for homeschool ski day ($600 for 3 kids for 4 one week trips to the mountain including gear, lift tickets, and a lesson)
- Sport fees (I don’t know what we’ll commit to this year, probably 1 sport x3 kids)
- Gas: With gas nearing $5/gallon, I’m estimating this will be an extra $70 van fill up each month for nature hikes and trips to library, parks, science center, etc.
Cost of homeschooling vs public school
One thing I have learned from some friends who have kids in public school, is that it’s not totally free. Homeschooling is still more expensive per child because we have to buy curriculum, but my point is that there are additional costs for public school kids that homeschoolers don’t pay.
Possible public school expenses include:
- Fundraisers ($25-$75/year per kid for garbage, pressured by the school. I’m pretty anti fundraiser…)
- Teacher gifts (optional but this could be $75-$150 with 3 kids)
- Fees (most schools have a fees list.) Our local elementary school has $40 for this and that. Small, but noted.
- Classroom needs you can donate, which of course you’d want to help with.
- School lunches. Of course packing a lunch in cheaper (which still costs money and homeschoolers eat too). But I’ve known of folks paying $600-$800 for their kid’s school lunch bill if they eat at the school. Note many low income parents can receive free and reduced lunches to help with this burden.
This is a great post for more detailed breakdown from a mom who shares her public school fees for 3 kids.