As the debate over educational control and choices continues to grow, there is also a constant conversation about How to Afford Homeschooling. Should the government give funds to homeschoolers? Should homeschoolers get tax breaks since their kids aren’t using public funds? Are there other financial benefits of homeschooling?
In this post, I’ll explain how some states use their public education dollars to give funding to homeschoolers. I’ll also give you some actionable tips how to afford homeschooling without any government funding or homeschool grants.
How to Afford Homeschooling
Just a little note: This conversation can be steeped in controversy, but I’d like to avoid that here. It’s true there’s really no such thing as a free lunch; and the same can be said for getting “free” money from the government for homeschooling. There will always be hoops to jump through. For some families, these hoops will be worth it, and for others they will not. Try to read through this information with an open mind and think creatively about how to make homeschooling more affordable for everyone.
How Much Does it Cost to Homeschool?
Before we get too far along in the the options of how to afford homeschooling, let’s talk about the cost of homeschooling in general. How much should you dedicate to educating your children? Can you homeschool for free or do you need to budget several thousand dollars?
Like many things in life, the answer to this is that it depends. You CAN homeschool for almost nothing. Books are readily available at the library. Experiences abound when you’re not tied to a school schedule. However, doing things on a shoestring budget usually means you are sacrificing a lot of time to look for materials or to try and pull resources together for a cohesive education plan.
This time/free trade-off is real and you will have to decide how much of one is worth the other for your own family. When I first started homeschooling money was tight with a capital T. I bought used curriculum, scoured the Internet for free homeschool curriculum, and did a whole lot of science via kitchen experiences and nature walks. It’s not always easy, though, to pull these materials together especially if you’re in a time crunch! I didn’t particularly enjoy this part of the process and always felt like something was left out. After that I decided I could homeschool for about $500 a year for my 4 kids. That was enough to get me some curriculum, art supplies, and science materials.
If you have the budget, then there are plenty of bells and whistles and fancy manipulatives to make your homeschool Instagram-ready. Neither way is right or wrong – it just depends on how much time and money is available to your family.
Government Funding For Homeschoolers
If you’re already a homeschooler or thinking of becoming one, you will have to get used to the answer “it depends”. 🙂 Is there government funding for homeschoolers? It depends on the state. Each state has different education requirements and resources for homeschoolers. In general, IF there are funds available in your state then they can only be used for secular resources (not faith-based as it is public taxpayer money).
In the homeschool community, secular or not, there is a robust debate about accepting money from the government for homeschoolers. The reason is that aforementioned tradeoff. If you take money from the government, then you open yourself up to more regulations – particularly testing requirements. It is easy to think of how this affects you as an individual family, but we also have a responsibility to think about the homeschooling community as a whole.
Personally, I’m okay with a little more regulation on the homeschooling community as I don’t want children to be falling through the cracks. Yet, I also want to maintain autonomy in my homeschool. So . . . it depends?
Charter Schools as a Way to Afford Homeschooling
One of the most common ways states use to distribute government funding for homeschool is through charter schools. Again, this will depend on your individual state and possibly even local school district as to whether or not this is a viable option for you.
Here in western Colorado, my family participated in a charter school for homeschoolers for a couple years. We had to chart our weekly progress and hours, meet with an academic advisor once a month, and follow the regular standardized testing schedule. In exchange for those “hoops”, we received $2,000 per year for each kid to help with homeschooling costs. For us, these hoops were worth it. There were of course i’s to be dotted and t’s to be crossed when justifying how I spent the $2,000 a year, but it enabled us to purchase some science kits I would have never purchased. Two of my girls got involved with competitive gymnastics. It was absolutely great to have that extra little bit of help.
California is pretty well known for its charter school options that help with funds for homeschoolers. You will need to check in your individual state to see what is available to you. My Tech High is another program that is primarily in the western states. It is a virtual option that also provides some funding for homeschool families.
Public School Resources
Another way some states and school districts have created to help homeschoolers with the costs of home education is by making public school resources available. For example, in South Dakota, if you homeschool you are able to request the textbooks and learning materials from the public school. I don’t personally know anyone who took advantage of that as we homeschoolers like to do our own thing! However, it’s a good option to get curriculum at an affordable price.
Most schools will also have stipulations for homeschoolers using their extracurricular activities such as sports, music or robotics. Some schools will require the homeschooled student to attend 1 or more classes a week at the public school. Others will have no such requirement. This can vary not only from state to state, but also district to district.
Taking advantage of public resources that your tax dollars are already going to can be a great way to help you afford homeschooling.
Tips How to Afford Homeschooling
Above we talked about how much homeschooling costs as well as some options for government funding for homeschool. These tips below will give you more ideas for how to afford homeschooling whether you have access to charter schools or other public school resources.
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- Free Homeschool Curriculum: Khan Academy is an invaluable secular education resource. Kids can work at their own pace and there are tons of lessons. I also like to find free electives. For secular homeschoolers, it’s easier to find free studies for electives rather than a complete secular curriculum package. Art Tango is one I recommend for art!
- Use What You Have: Cute and colorful math manipulatives are great, but dried beans or pasta also make excellent counters. Look around your house and see what you already have for your homeschool subjects.
- Invest in a Good Printer: A good printer can give you more options for printing. It will also save you a ton of money on the ink itself. My favorite is the Epson Eco Tank! Someday I’ll write an entire post just about how much money you can save with a good printer – I’m that nerdy and that much in love with mine. 🙂
- Get Creative at the Library: Books are an obvious choice, but ask about other services as well. I’ve heard of libraries offering board games, seed exchanges, and even craft supply exchanges. Most libraries will also have a way to access Ancestry for genealogy projects, Mango Languages or Rosetta Stone to learn foreign languages. Libraries also have community education classes and can be a great resource to learn local lore or from small business owners.
- Combine Subjects: If you are homeschooling multiple kids, combining them for subjects such as social studies, science and art will save you money as you won’t need to buy multiple levels of curricula or supplies.
- Take advantage of sales. Most package curricula have seasonal sales that are the same from year to year. Build Your Library, for example, has one in the spring, in August and usually on Black Friday.
- Use a Homeschool Library or start one of your own. In my community the home educators that were here before me started a homeschool library. Families bring in what they are finished with and is still in good condition and take what they need. It’s a wonderful resource!
- Avoid InstaHomeschool. If you are prone to being jealous of perfectly staged homeschool photos or self doubt about what kind of a homeschool parent you are – then it might be best to avoid social media or at least limit your time spent there. No one’s school area really looks like that and every mom has self-doubt about her schooling skills. You’re going to do awesome!
- Opt for Reusable curriculum rather than consumable. I decided to make this its own tip for how to afford homeschooling because it’s something I didn’t consider when I started. Choose curriculum that is not focused on consumables. Consumable homeschooling materials are workbooks, papercrafts, etc. – basically anything that will be used once and then thrown out. Instead, choose the curriculum packages and styles that can be reused from year to year as then you can sell them once you are finished.
Take Advantage of Everything In Your Community
It’s smart to consider the financial costs of homeschooling before you get started. If you’re already in the middle then you might want to set yourself a homeschool budget. Make sure to include money for curriculum, supplies, and extracurriculars. There are many free resources available, although these are harder to find for secular homeschoolers. In some locations there is even government funding for homeschool via charter schools or public resources. Consider the time vs. free stuff trade-off when you’re making your decision about making homeschool affordable for your family.
If you have more tips to add or questions just let me know. I love hearing from you!
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