View Full Version : Homeschool Budgets

Pennie Elwood
01-27-2014, 03:10 PM
How do you all determine where you are going to spend your dollars when it comes to curriculum? I'm finding, as time goes on, that although I want to pick and choose my resources; it's not all going to come from free sites online or just hodge podged together. It's not working for me. So I'm figuring that I really am going to have to come up with a "loose, concrete" number for what I can purchase. What matters to you? Whether you have a small budget or a big budget (my budget will be on the MAYBE up to $400 line), what gets your dollars? In terms of subjects? Do you spend more money on weak areas, more money on manipulatives? Do I want to spend more money on online resources (we are very heavy internet users, but I find that online programs don't have quite the draw I thought they would. We use t4l, and it doesn't seem to be as WOW as I thought it would be for them). Where do you think your dollars are well spent?

01-27-2014, 03:55 PM
I spend far more than most homeschoolers, but it 's something husband and I worked out before we made the decision to homeschool. So I have a separate homeschool budget which is $5,000/ year for four children, but this includes extra curricular activities. And I am also pretty frugal with my household expense budget so I use some of that money too.

The biggest expense we have is my daughter's one day a week nature school. I don't regret spending that money and it is a fabulous program. I hope to find something similar for my son next year. Our son is now in aerial yoga which is a hybrid therapy and extra curricular activity. And our oldest daughter is in ballet. The younger two aren't quite ready for an extra curricular and they have several therapy appts a week so there isn't really the time right now.

Then curriculum has been another big budget expense. MBTB, All About Reading and Spelling, and Math on the Level, Time for Learning. All I think have been worth the money. I could have saved money by shopping used, though. I hope I can reuse some of the curriculum with my younger children so that will save me some money, but I anticipate that my twins will need a very different curriculum than the older two because they learn differently.

And I probably buy more books than I should but I am a sucker for books, but we do use the library a lot too.

The best free resource is our homeschool group's weekly park playdate.

01-27-2014, 05:26 PM
I don't really have a budget but I do. (I like to buy food sometimes for my family) I have researched, read reviews and asked for options on things and if it seems like it will work I will buy it. I don't buy anything with out thinking long and hard about it to avoid making spontaneous purchases, I can be overly excited about it and not thing with a clear head (OH look something shiny!)

I guess if you have to have a budget. Than make a list of what you need. Ask yourself what you would benefit the most with and than just work it in. :)

01-27-2014, 05:29 PM
For us, a good microscope (~$200) purchased when they were 7 and 8 has been used a lot through the years.

When the kids were young, money was very tight around here. Most of our "education funds" were spent on a few workbooks, some Saxon math texts, paper, pencils, and general art supplies.

As they approached middle school, I spent more on science supplies (Home Science Tools).

Now in high school, they take dual credit courses; here we still pay 50% of tuition (around $400/class when books and fees are added). So this takes the bulk of our funds now. At least we can pay for it out of money saved in 529 plans!

01-27-2014, 05:38 PM
I'm another that doesn't keep a firm budget. Depending on how you count, I spend a lot or a little. It's so complex to work up a number because there's a lot of things that fall into the category of "we would do this anyway, but not as much..." like museum trips, extracurriculars, sports, plays, reading and puzzle books, art supplies, educational games, etc. And that stuff is, by far, the largest part of the money we spend.

They say you can either spend money or time and I've found it to be true on homeschool resources. There's a lot of great free programs out there. But not every one will fit you. And many of the "free" or really cheap programs have less to them.

If we're talking straight up curriculum, I think it's reasonable to spend a couple hundred dollars a year per child for elementary and middle. That's probably about where we fall. More than about $500 per kid starts to feel like a lot to me. But high school resources can be a lot more expensive depending on what you're doing.

01-27-2014, 05:58 PM
Yeah, it depends on your approach. i dont do any paid video classes (like teaching textbooks or thinkwell, for example). I buy books used as much as possible. I use books as a core. I spend where I think it matters the most.

01-27-2014, 06:35 PM
There are a lot of book series I'm buying. I could have tried to get these from a library, but our library doesn't have a lot of them, and the library a town over is being used for something else. I try to buy used books in lots on Ebay. I'm also buying some art supplies in bulk, so that's more upfront.

01-27-2014, 06:35 PM
For us, a good microscope (~$200) purchased when they were 7 and 8 has been used a lot through the years.

See, this is a good point too. If you know you're in it for the long haul, investing in things like a microscope or other resources that you'll use for many years is a good thing to do. Or to convince grandparents to give as gifts. ;)

Pennie Elwood
01-27-2014, 07:11 PM
I read somewhere (maybe on here) that if you know math is a weak area, that that is where you should make sure to spend what you need to get something that will work. I'm having a hard time balancing costs for actual curriculum with costs due to activities or field trips too. I think it's mostly because we have to travel over an hour away for any real experiences, so I don't think about it as much since it requires actual planning. Right now I'm just kind of slapping what catches my eye together and haven't yet landed on something that is really speaking to me. But we're kind of all over the map when it comes to what our resources are. We have a couple of Life of Fred books. I have MEP. I have Story of the World and Roadtrip USA from Confessions of a Homeschooler. I have Explode the Code. I will admit that math is also MY weak area and I don't like MEP. It's too dry and I don't like that it's not in the measurements or currency we use. It confuses me and I lose my focus when I'm helping. I'm beginning to see that I am going to have to fork up the cash for a better curriculum that fits us in some areas, even if we are still picking and choosing from different places.

01-27-2014, 08:04 PM
See, I spent what felt like a lot on History of Us and the full set of Chester Comix, but since it took us 2.5 years, it wasnt really a lot. History was my worst subject. Ok, art is even worse than history, but I've given up - my boys arent that interested anyways. I'm feeling like its a cop-out, but oh well.

01-27-2014, 08:18 PM
We budget about $1,000 per child, but it doesn't always get spent. We're really careful with our money on other things to make that possible. I don't know many people who spend that amount, though.

01-27-2014, 08:29 PM
Without reading any of the other posts (short on time...will have to peek later), most of our limited $ is spent on books. Workbooks, books for spine and reading pleasure, books for the future (I cleaned up when we went to MO this xmas and visited the local library...got several middle school science and math textbooks for .25 each), and impulse-buy books. The rest of the money goes to extracurricular, consumables, arts, and Tylenol for mom. :p

Forgot to add library late fees to the expense list. :-/

01-27-2014, 08:44 PM
Pennie, if you don't like MEP, do spend money to get something else if you can. MEP is excellent, but it's not for everyone. You say math is your weak area, then I think that's good advice to spend money on it to remedy and make you feel more confident teaching.

We spend a good bit on math every year because the curriculum expires every year and we have to buy new things. For other subjects, we've often spent a lot ahead of time (science supplies that have lasted, history books that last for many years, The Writer's Jungle that covers writing throughout school, etc.).

01-27-2014, 08:58 PM
I don't have a firm overall budget, I have had amounts I didn't want to go over when purchasing certain subjects. Mostly I just search for the best deal. If I find something I like I try to see if I can find it used or at least order from the place with the best price.

01-27-2014, 09:05 PM
I probably spend about $1200-$1500 on curriculum/supplies for one upper elem kid, each year. That being said, he is a very vociferous learner, and I purchase a few online classes (including a foreign language) and in that price range are science kits/supplies, art supplies (brushes, paints, watercolors, oil pastels, clay, craft supplies, etc) as well as a selection notebook sized art prints, a music program (which includes the music), books, workbooks, maps, handwriting, LA, Math, - everything. What I'm not including are co-op/group classes and activities or field trips (which we probably do one every month or two).

When we decided to homeschool, it was instead of private school, and that tuition was $25,000 per year, which we could not afford. So though it seems like a lot, it is for one kid, and compared to private school - a bargain!

If I had to choose where to put my money, I would start with math and language arts, then history and science. I would spend money first on math and language arts, and find a good basic "spine" book to use each for history and science, because those can be easily supplemented online for free and with library books. Or, I'd find used materials or even whatever I could online for free. I feel the best money we spend is on classes/activities with other homeschool kids out in the world at parks or galleries or museums, and field trips - because those inspire interest and a love of learning and give education significance and are the real benefit of homeschooling - using the world at large.

01-27-2014, 09:29 PM
Yes, I have a similar philosophy as ejsmom that we are saving money compared to full time private school. It's not even an option with four kids unless we become fabulously wealthy which isn't happening anytime soon. ;)

01-27-2014, 10:18 PM
Yeah, I try to keep it below $500 total for both kids ... not counting extra-curriculars which are capped at 2 and we usually only have 1 per kid. but again, i dont do art, the only math manipulatives I used were legos I already had, i have a great library, and I'm pretty independent - i dont need a lot of hand-holding.

01-27-2014, 11:47 PM
For curriculum spending I put the priorities in this order:

math (Singapore and Jump for my youngers so not so expensive) and I bought high school textbooks used in local schools for my eldest. about $20-40 per kid per year depending on what I can find used, how fast they move through it, and what can get passed down. I want a good math curriculum that works for my kids and we have been lucky that relatively inexpensive options have fit the bill for us. If they didn't we would spend more in this category.

language/spelling (All about Spelling) for my 2 kids who struggle. $25/per kid/year for 2 kids. I've been buying ahead as I see this used as I love this program for my kids. I would pay double if I had to and save elsewhere.

science (pandia press Biology 2 for my youngers bought on sale) and the quarks and quarks high school program - bought all the texts used. Including science materials for biology experiments and the curriculum/texts I think I will spend about $225-250 on science this year, not including the microscope we purchased. I would rather spend money on science than history at this level, as I think it's something that's harder to find good, comprehensive and cohesive materials on the fly than it is for history. I think history can be covered more organically through reading, watching videos etc so I would rather pay for science than history.

history - pandia press ancients 2 bought on sale and supplemented with library materials and online resources. Maybe $75 a year.

literature/creative writing/grammar: Bravewriter bought years ago plus some additional bravewriter resources as needed, grammar workbooks bought years ago at a teacher's store and copied, word roots. We have book clubs/writing clubs that the kids belong to and I will sometimes buy some materials from sites like Teachers Pay Teachers when it is my turn to run the book club. I probably spend maybe $100-$150 total on curriculum and books per year to cover this category - almost all used. This is a category I could probably fairly easily cut back to almost nothing, given how many resources are available online. We have a somewhat crappy library though and I buy used novels etc as I see them for future history/literature assignments and so we have family sets for book clubs.

French - art de lire (bought used) plus Rosetta Stone (downloaded free from our library years ago) and duolingo. supplemented with worksheets I can find online for free or through enchanted learning ($20 a year), and resources from our library or online. This category is about $40 a year. Only 1 of my kids is interested/able to do French so I keep the expenditures to a bare minimum. The Art de Lire I got used for $2. But I could easily do french using duolingo and using the enchanted learning worksheets and resources from a couple of old french texts I found.

So I spend about $150-200 per kid per year and that's probably about as low I would feel comfortable going. But we have a fabulous, huge used curriculum sale near me every year and I score a tonne of stuff there. And I amortize the spending across 4 kids. If I was buying new curriculum each year for each kid it would cost me a lot more.

We do spend a lot on extra curriculars, field trips, co-ops and sports though. We are probably at the $1000 per kid/yr mark, maybe more. That fee wouldn't include memberships for local museums, nature centres, galleries etc which would run us another $200-300 ish per year. We try to get grandparents and aunts and uncles to give these as gifts.

We are well stocked for manipulatives, educational games and toys, reference books etc as that was where I spent my money when my kids were younger.

01-28-2014, 02:06 AM
Like Farrar, it's hard to know what to count, because the kids are in more extra-curriculars than they would have time for if they were in school, but we would still do some of them.

We get $800 per year in government funding per child per year, so I definitely spend all of that, but I can claim virtually ANYTHING - piano lessons, day camps, books, swimming lessons, curriculum, homeschool classes, computers, software, etc....

If we're talking straight curriculum and books, I would say that roughly $200-$300 per kid per year is adequate (depends on if your kids are close enough to share). If you throw in all the activities, it's more like $2500 per kid per year.

I have bought a Sonlight package every couple of years, which is around $500, but that works for both kids and I spread it out over a couple of years. I buy them each their own math workbooks, so roughly $50 per kid per year on math. I've purchased Bravewriter, Real Science Odyssey, History Odyssey, and various other programs over the years. A lot of them can be used for more than one kid, can be acquired second-hand, or can be sold/passed along after I'm done with them, which reduces the overall cost.

01-28-2014, 02:20 AM
I think we spend about $300 a year specifically on curriculum and books, not counting one-time larger purchases like Rosetta Stone. We spend pretty freely on "extracurricular activities" because they are important to us as a family and that's a big way we meet dd's needs for social time. I don't like to add those particular costs up. ;)

01-28-2014, 02:32 AM
Not counting extra-curricular activities, we've spent about $750 for this year's homeschooling (to name a few: Teaching Textbooks, Moving Beyond the Page units, Critical Thinking/logic workbooks, Growing with Grammar, high quality art supplies, books we wish to own instead of borrow from the library, supplies for science, outings and field trips,. The extra curricular activities (youth theater, acting lessons, dance, voice lessons, music theory lessons, etc) we would be paying for regardless of the school setting so we don't factor that into our homeschool budget. We spent about the same last year. I do wish to purchase a microscope and am looking into my options for that.

01-28-2014, 06:28 AM
Like ejsmom, I compare our spending to what we'd be paying if we had her in the private school I'd chosen. That tuition is $6400/year (and creeps up every couple grade levels). Horse riding lessons (DD's passion) and art classes total about $3000 a year, because we typically do those year-round. I feel certain I spend less than the difference ($3400) on materials/books/supplies each year. In the past couple of years, I bought a few curriculum items ahead, which I'm now using, so it is not consistent year to year how I spend our schooling budget.

Now, the fly in the ointment of my rationalization on costs is that if we had DD in the school, we would have far less need for childcare (we pay a relative to keep her two days per week). So I'm thinking there would be about $3000 savings if that were our situation, so in reality, including riding lessons we are paying more than for private school. That probably doesn't make sense. :) However, I'm sure DD would want riding lessons anyway, so if that were a wash, then we are back to saving by homeschooling.

At least that is my story, and I'm sticking to it! Bottom line though is that I try to be careful about what I buy, we use the library as much as we can or free videos on Amazon Prime, and I believe that paying for experiences (museums, lessons, etc.) is well worth it. Also, to me, our ability to homeschool is priceless - it is such a joy to me that I would scrimp and save in order to do it, regardless of our income.

01-28-2014, 09:53 AM
I don't spend a lot of money on online things (anymore) because I find that a lot of the materials that are online usually have free or very cheap versions somewhere. Site subscriptions and online unit studies make up about 100$ a year. Brainpop, spelling city, a couple unit studies.

My money goes to books - work books, texts, reading more than anything else. Especially things I can reuse for the younger.

I also will spend more in an area I feel we are weak. Right now I'm not so confident with our writing/grammar progress, so I'm considering getting MCT as I've heard so many good things about it. I slightly regret purchasing a couple years ahead with our EiE workbooks, but they were only 8$ each so if they do not get used its not the end of the world.

I am also a sucker for buying things I think are "cool" while being educational, but for which I have no plans to use right away.... like a good microscope, air dry clay (think of what we can make!), and boxed games/projects. I consider this homeschool budget because I probably wouldn't be as motivated to buy stuff like that if I didn't peruse so many homeschooling sites.

Then we have a printer/scanner for homeschool use, lots of paper and notebooks and page protectors and organization devices. No sure if that counts but I like things that make my homeschool clutter look clean. So that's how the budget goes.

01-28-2014, 11:07 AM
I agree there are many "fuzzy" areas that may or may not be included if your child went to a private or public school. I think I'm saving a fortune on clothing as a homeschooler! Same with stupid fundraiser stuff.

01-28-2014, 11:14 AM
Suddenly the data analyst in my wants to see a chart of homeschool spending as a function of family income and number of years homeschooling

01-28-2014, 11:29 AM
I don't have a budget either, but I don't spend much. Like others, though, it depends what counts. Math (MM), spelling (AAS), history (HO2) and science (Classiquest) make up pretty much all I bought this year for curriculum. But then other things come in, of course:science kits, homeschool classes, online computer programming classes, and so on. And things like microscopes and birding binoculars were gifted from grandparents.

Honestly, we spend far, far more on his various sports than we do on homeschooling. Hockey (ouch), USATF membership, US Triathlon membership, swim classes, countless meets and games and travel and equipment...He would still do some of those things if he were in school, but he wouldn't have time or energy for all of it.

01-28-2014, 11:53 AM
We moved from private school ($15K a year, not including commuting time/gas money) to homeschool so I consider homeschooling a bargain! No more school clothes if the kid insists that pajamas are good enough for school. Slippers on her feet mean no more shoes for rapidly growing feet if mudboots, winter boots and crocs work for most out-of-house activities. All the time I save NOT packing a lunch (and shopping or making those 'special' things that all her friends are eating) is a bonus.

So I consider homeschooling inexpensive, money-wise. It is TIME that I am short on now. (Anyone have any suggestions for that?)

01-28-2014, 12:12 PM
I'd say the bulk of our costs right now have been on core curriculum, reference/spine books, and setting up our learning area. We needed bookshelves, a desk, binders, pencils, white board, laminator, printer, etc.
Last year (K) I spent around $1,000, not counting activities. We do swimming weekly, a nature class, field-trips, etc. Luckily the Smithsonian is FREE!!!!! and only a short Metro ride away! We didn't use HO or RSO last year so, $205 worth of curriculum has carried over to this year. Everything that I've purchased can be used again with my younger son (so far their learning styles mesh)so I'm saving money there. I just bought MM, placed another order with Rainbow Resource and have another wishlist running with RR that I'll probably order in the next month. So, I've probably spent another $1,000 this year.

My son went to pre-k and junior k before we chose to homeschool for k. We were paying $450/mo for 5 mornings a week. The private schools we were considering ran $7,000-$12,000/mo! And that's just for one kid! So we're definitely saving money. I could do better though. I need to utilize our library more, that would save me a bunch! I don't mind spending what I have to on our main curriculum choices and activities. I could save on games/toys and supplemental books though, those tend to add up quick.

01-28-2014, 12:29 PM
Suddenly the data analyst in my wants to see a chart of homeschool spending as a function of family income and number of years homeschooling

good question!
I think it would probably go down fairly dramatically and then back up again around high school.

01-28-2014, 12:45 PM
We don 't have an exact budget either. I try to buy curriculum on sale, use the library and all of those sorts of things. But there is always something I picked that doesn't work out. Usually it is a math curriculum for dd. So then we end up spending a little more than anticipated. We also buy a lot of books; mainly because our library is so small and I can't plan on getting books reliably through inter-library loan. We also like doing projects, so we spend a lot on supplies for those. Next year I'm hoping to use less curriculum and move towards more projects.

01-28-2014, 01:17 PM
Remember when you are figuring budgets that you can always resell some of your items when finished. Even at half-price, you can recoup some of what you spent.

01-28-2014, 03:32 PM
Suddenly the data analyst in my wants to see a chart of homeschool spending as a function of family income and number of years homeschooling

Yes. I didn't really understand how the years spent homeschooling really affects the cost until this year when to start the year, I think I spent less than $100 total on curriculum for both kids. That was it. And even I was shocked. I've since spent more... I mean, I built that math order at RR up to $50 just now by adding in the next AAS level we'll need soon. But in the end, I still will have spent less than $200 per kid this year.

The difficult piece too is how much income did the parent sacrifice to homeschool? That's the biggest cost.

01-28-2014, 05:22 PM
Yes. I didn't really understand how the years spent homeschooling really affects the cost until this year when to start the year, I think I spent less than $100 total on curriculum for both kids. That was it. And even I was shocked. I've since spent more... I mean, I built that math order at RR up to $50 just now by adding in the next AAS level we'll need soon. But in the end, I still will have spent less than $200 per kid this year.

The difficult piece too is how much income did the parent sacrifice to homeschool? That's the biggest cost.

So you're telling me there's hope?

01-28-2014, 05:31 PM
Lisa, Yes, there's hope. As you (1) homeschool longer and realize what does and doesn't work and (2) start acquiring items that can be used year to year, it seems you spend less in the upper elementary and middle school years. Also, borrowing or swapping materials with homeschool families helps. Our microscope has made the rounds of the homeschool circle around here!

Farrar: Yes, the hidden cost of homeschooling is the potential loss of a spouse's income. Around here, it's quite common for the primary homeschooling parent to find part-time/full-time jobs as the kids reach high school age.

01-28-2014, 05:54 PM
i always hated that concept of lost potential income. I only live in this one life where i didnt earn the income, so its not mine. I feel like the potential drop of income level when I return to the workforce is more REAL.

01-28-2014, 06:04 PM
I agree. I could spend way less than I do, but we budget it, so I find ways to use the money on enhancements/enrichment, rather than straight curriculum. I have really adjusted where the money goes, each year. Less toward "curriculum" and more towards activities or projects (like my son's garden or his fish tanks, trips, microscopes, plays, concerts, etc), but when I stopped working - that is game changing. I gave up my licensing, and a clientele that I worked hard to acquire. I can't just pick up where I left off - I closed my business. Like most of us, I'd be starting all over again. I'm not sure I want to go through building a business up again when I'm in my 50's. Or maybe I will. One thing this all has shown me is that you can't predict what life will look like and to be flexible and make the most of whatever you do!

01-28-2014, 06:48 PM
Lisa, Yes, there's hope. As you (1) homeschool longer and realize what does and doesn't work and (2) start acquiring items that can be used year to year, it seems you spend less in the upper elementary and middle school years. Also, borrowing or swapping materials with homeschool families helps. Our microscope has made the rounds of the homeschool circle around here!


I thought I was doing well until I saw what other people were spending. So far nothing has gotten pushed to the side (except for the year delay on HO and RSO), we're using everything that I've bought, and most everything I've purchased is non-consumable. I also figured I can make some money back on items once my 4yo has gone through them. I'm sure at that time I'll need to make room on the bookshelf anyways.

01-28-2014, 07:43 PM
yeah, i didnt homeschool until my kids were 6 and 13, and had spent time in public school. Things I bought when they were 4 were never homeschooling expenses lol

01-28-2014, 07:51 PM
So you're telling me there's hope?

Well, that's just curriculum. We also spend on classes and art supplies and so forth, but I think a lot of that we'd spend anyway. But yes, I think there's hope. You get savvier as you go along, you reuse things and buy materials that last for a longer time. I think, though, that there's an inevitable bump when you get to high school for some subjects. I don't expect English or history to cost much more, but I do expect math and science to go up quite a bit and art and music as well if the kids pursue it.

01-29-2014, 06:10 AM
now the time the education even for the kids has gone costlier as well

01-29-2014, 06:18 AM
The difficult piece too is how much income did the parent sacrifice to homeschool? That's the biggest cost.

The lost potential income is one of the thoughts that stopped me from homeschooling earlier. :/

01-29-2014, 10:09 AM
Homeschooling expenses are fluid, they change year to year. We are another that spend a lot more then average and have another account we use just for homeschooling. But like this year, when that money is gone, it's gone and we can't pay for extra classes or sports they would normally enjoy. Our curriculum is by far the most expensive as we are still doing K12 for 2 kids. Their once a week coop classes are up there too, we had to cut that out this semester.

The things that get our homeschool budget money are curriculum, classes, activities, sports, school supplies, field trips, dues and material fees, clothing and shoes sometimes.

As far as what curriculum items get our money, we are fairly happy for now with our boxed curriculum. It meets our needs and covers all the basics, with a few things I would love to find time to cover independently. We usually don't find we need to supplement too often.

01-29-2014, 10:17 AM
I love free stuff. I have like three hundred pages of notes on free books and stuff that I've been slowly putting together in some kind of order to share with people who are interested in that kind of thing. That said, I am very keenly aware that in most instances you do get what you pay for.

I think that it is very important to know what free things are out there so you can evaluate how they would work for your family, because now and then you really will find something free that will work out well. I think it is very important to know what free things are out here so you can evaluate the potential use of those resources as supplements to your planned program. I think that it is very important to know what free resources are out there so that in the event that you don't have enough money to purchase a better program you will at the very least have access to a usable one. I have heard some families complain that they want to homeschool but they can't afford to buy curriculum. I want to share those free resources with people like that so they can see that homeschooling doesn't have to mean spending thousands every year on something like Calvert or Oak Meadow.

When I first started pulling together lists of all those free books and things I made the mistake of sharing it with my husband. He thought it would be wonderful if we only used free resources. So we did that for a while. It worked, but not as well as things would have worked if I had bought a few things here and there that weren't free but fit my kids much better. Vintage books, especially history books, can be great but wow did I spend a lot of time pre-reading and deciding whether to address certain things that came up, like racism, or to skip over it this time and change the wording of what I read so we could just get through the material. MEP is a great math program, but it can be hard to understand at times. I found some great science resources, but they don't present science the way I'd like to do it. DH and I had a long talk about this, and while I don't think he quite 'gets' it he has accepted that I'm going to keep on buying stuff if I think it would be better for the kids. Or a better fit for ME.

So I do have a budget for homeschool stuff. The budget is "Wow we're broke, what do we really need to spend money on?" How does that work, you ask? Well, here is a little break down of one homeschool mom's thought processes on budgeting and trade-offs for one homeschooling year.

I want a globe, but DH insists that Google Earth is just fine. Um, no, really a globe or a wall map would be really helpful, especially since we are nearly crippled when it comes to functioning computers right now. Our total functioning computer count consists of one ancient desktop with no cd drive, that is so insistent on speaking Mandarin that even the tech support from Microsoft could not convince the thing to switch to English, and an Acer Chromebook. I have to print from my Nexus because the Cloud print function on the Chromebook doesn't recognize my printer and the desktop, well, it's all in Chinese. Anyway, it isn't like the kids have a laptop at the ready to jump on Google Earth. I really want a map.

I have a whole set of second edition Saxon Math books and my daughter loved them. I was the one who dreaded math class. I wanted Singapore. I like Singapore better for a lot of reasons. She finally agreed, so now we buy Singapore Math. I'm happy, she is happy. But it isn't free. I'm figuring about $80 or so per kid per year, barring giant intellectual leaps.

I was over the past few years pulling together free LA stuff and buying more LA stuff and really working on the LA stuff when it occurred to me that my kids are natural spellers and have an innate sense of grammar, so why the heck was I buying or seeking out all this spelling and grammar stuff? My kids read incessantly and don't need to be assigned reading, so why was I doing that? What they didn't do very well and didn't have much interest in turned out to be writing, so thanks to Farrar I'm planning to give Bravewriter a shot as our only 'official' LA program next year. You don't want to know how much money THAT is going to save me, because if you did then you could figure out how much money I was spending on stuff I finally realized my kids didn't need and were totally bored by. Oh, and yeah I'll keep on reading the same books the kids read so we can talk about them and I can check comprehension...because having to read really cool kid's fantasy novels is such a hardship for me, lol.

I've looked for history books that read like a story and that I don't have to edit as I go and do you know it is really hard to find decent ones? We do history as a read aloud. It turns out that it is worth it to me to pick up used volumes of Story of the World. I have an old Sonlight Core D that DD10 has been reading her way through, so I guess that counts too. We don't do the vocabulary or the comprehension questions that came with the core because most of questions are stupid and she nearly always looks up words she doesn't understand. She just reads the books, for fun. I'm not ever going to buy a Sonlight core again, though.

I have a lot of science stuff, paid and free. BFSU is the only thing, up til now, that I've had that preserved my kids' excitement over learning science because it let THEM figure things out for themselves and asked them to come up with experiments to prove or disprove their ideas. The Socratic method really works here for science, who knew? There was a learning curve for me in figuring out how to best use it, so not only was there a cost for the book there was the personal cost of figuring it all out, and it does require me to do some planning. This month we started a free trial of Aurora Lipper's Supercharged Science. Yeah, her ads can be annoying, but we were hooked by a few of those videos and decided to sign up for the free trial. The kids so far are crazy about her and I can combine this with BFSU. This isn't a cheap science program, but I absolutely love seeing my kids get so excited over science, so.....I really really want it. It's like $37 a month plus stuff for the experiments, divided by two kids, or $225 a year per kid plus experiment stuff. Expensive to us.

My library has Pronunciator, a language learning program free to library patrons, and we already like Duolingo which is free. Signing up for Supercharged Science means we can't buy the next level of Latin, but we can use one of these free programs to learn another language.

And so it goes. Decisions, decisions. We are well under a thousand a year for two kids, counting curriculum, fiction books, fun stuff like logic workbooks and things, and art stuff. Printer ink is a whole other issue. I'd love a new laser printer and of course a decent computer or two. I'll probably have to become a bank robber to get one, though. Manipulatives like Knex and snap circuits are generally gifts for birthdays and holidays so do they count as school stuff ? Sports we would sign the kids up for anyway even if they were in public school so do they count? Museums and things we can't afford in terms of gas or admission (like twenty bucks a person at the Carnegie Science Center and totally not worth it) so I haven't included those. I wish we had some decent museums around here.

We do get earned income credit, so income tax time is usually the time we can afford to buy stuff. Unfortunately it is also the time our single, ancient vehicle chooses to manifest some horrible mechanical problem as well. Ultimately, it will be the cost of repairs to the car that will determine the extent of our homeschool budget, I guess. This year it has decided to have issues with it's starter and possibly with a thing known as a timing chain. It is still currently unknown how much the mechanic gods will want in sacrifice to restore the car to a useable condition......but no matter what I am going to at least hold out for a dang map.

01-29-2014, 01:35 PM
The dollar store near me has a teachers section, and I found a laminated map for $1.00 that has the US on one side and the world on the other. Not a gloriously detailed globe, but it works. And I find it all over the house, and know he is using it and referring to it, because he runs to get it whenever he hears the name of a place but doesn't know where it is. Useful things don't have to be expensive. Free would have been nice, but I can fork over the buck when needed.

On the other hand, the MiF we bought this year is working out so well that I feel it is money well spent, even if it is more expensive than I am sure my DH would care to spend. But if wants to be the one to teach math, he can choose cheaper curriculum - I'm sticking with it.

01-29-2014, 03:46 PM
Rainefox, I was chuckling when you talked about your husband wanting to do it for free especially after you showed him all the free resources. There is no way in hell that I would ever tell my husband that there are actual free curriculums like easy peasy or ambleside. He is frugal to the extreme and if it's free, he wants it. And I think he wouldn't even care if they were christian based at that point. And he has little knowledge of curriculums and the differences between them so it would all be the same to him as long as his kids were doing school work. Since I am a former teacher and do all the research, he leaves it up to me to make a best judgment as long as he feels the kids are progressing. Though not sure what his litmus test for good academic progress is. ;)

And I have to admit I am a little concerned when people say they have no budget at all for homeschooling. If that were the case, I don't think I could homeschool. I don't think public schools are the devil and they do a offer a lot of resources that are unavailable to families who couldn't otherwise afford them on their own. Sure there are hs families who can do it on a zero budget, but having no extra money would be too much of a burden for me to be able to homeschool.

01-29-2014, 05:54 PM
I am too starting to put together a rough budget of how much $$$ I will need to get me thru to NEXT summer...2014 is going to be an expensive busy year for us. We have 2 destination weddings to attend. One I am in, and it is in Washington state...almost Canada really, Anacortes WA. That's for my niece, who is like my little sister and my best friend..plus both our kids have a role in the wedding. That's in July..bachlorette/wedding shower/family BBQ in June (here in MI, "Thank the Maker!!")
Then in December DH eldest niece is getting married and they are in Florida. That trip will be easier on the wallet as DH's dad has made arragements for us and DH's sisters family for a double condo for free!..we just need to get ourselves there.. so far DH has the Delta miles to cover a ticket for himself for both trips!! whoohooo.
So I know what main curriculum I am going to use, and that's the the big ticket item.
I have a good idea about the math we are going to use. I have found that DD like a blend of different things.... a variety. She LOVES her Life of Fred books, and we use Right start Math for praticing the basic and manipultives, but I am evaluating her for Math Mammoth. The levels she works at are all over the map.. She loves fractions and geometry..but she needs to do practice of some basics that PS just dropped the ball on. ie: time, money, place value and estimating. so we are working to get her caught up in those areas, thankfully she likes math alot. So having all these math programs please her. So if I add MM and the next few LoF books thats not much $$ and just continue on with the lessons and games from Right start Math..I feel I have enough to draw on so she can catch up where needed... and continue on at her higher levels.
Spelling is a biggie that needs to be worked on. We have AAS, and so far so good. she likes it, so I like it..it's easy to use, and its working. DID you know they came out with an app for the phonics CD ROM??. YAAY (for all you AAS users.)So I'll need to buy at least the next 2 maybe 3 levels of that.

She does a young naturalist program for homeschoolers thru our Metro parks that meets one a month, and runs the entire standard school year. and its pleasently inexpensive $45 bucks. She goes once a month for 3 hours and has a ball..it's almost all girls...lol..although we have aquired a couple boys since the last class, which is great.
Sports and extra curriculars don't come out of the homeschool budget, they both take swimming classes (I only homeschool DD, DS goes to a Montesorri school.....for now:rolleyes:) DD is in ski club for the first time and loves it, thru (what would be her PS school) huge discount there! and she will be starting reptile camp in the spring that runs thru most of the summer. DS will start karate in the spring (thru parks and rec)
I have a small business I run from my home. I am a professional artist, I do art tutoring and sell art and jewlery, and I am a professional henna artist.. that helps to fund our homeschooling. Otherwise it just has to be budgeted and saved for, I have a separate account so it doesnt accidentally get spent!:o..I sock away everything I can. Something always pops up. I buy used thru the secular swap, which is great, and thru this site have discovered the buyers co-op and rainbow resourses.
Plus the I have 3 fantastic libraries very close that not only are great resourses for books, but have educational programs that are free or have a small (no more tht 5 bucks) fee for supplies.
So I hope to get all my STUFF picked out by the end of Feb in time for the spring sales and discounts to start.:o

01-29-2014, 10:31 PM
I didn't start with a firm number. I discovered that there was going to be some trial and error at the beginning, and we are going with a mostly unschooling route, except in reading and math. We purchased a curriculum from Global Village school, which does not provide the actual materials, but just a text with lesson suggestions. We get most of our books from the local library. I was not happy with any of the math curriculums so we have purchased workbooks (about $25 each) for math and I supplement from a variety of sources, such as workbooks from the dollar store, though that will only work until about 1st grade. The other curriculum is for reading & phonics. My 6yo is working through reading slowly, so we purchased Bob Books and Explode the Code. Many people have free supplements for the Bob Books which we use. We also have subscriptions to magazines from Cricket publications (Click and Ladybug which covers literature and science for the young ones. They also have history and culture for the older kids) and Ranger Rick for nature.The magazines are a little expensive (about $25/year for each subscription), but there are no ads, which is a sticking point for me and my child's media consumption. The magazines provides some aspects of our lessons. We will see what came in the mail that month and base some lessons around that. We also use Netflix for documentaries and other kids edu programming, especially PBS shows and the like. But we don't have cable so Netflix provides with most of our entertainment too.

One of our best purchases is BrainPop Jr. ($90/year) It provides short, age appropriate videos for K-3rd grades. (There is also one for kids in 4th grade and older.) We have used many of the lessons and my 6yo enjoys watching the videos on his own. They have quizzes, and activities for the kids to do. While they have an option for homeschooling families, in that each child can have an account for you to keep track of, I wouldn't pay the extra money. All of the materials can be downloaded and printed out, so one account can be used for multiple kids.

Art and science are important to use so we have put money towards supplies for art and science experiments. Though there are lots of experiments that can use things in your kitchen and nature study just walking out the door. Also we purchase science videos not available on Netflix, such as Bill Nye the Science Guy and Disney science videos. These get a lot of use, as we watch them for fun too.

Of course there are the smaller purchases, such as maps, art supplies, paper, print cartridges. I will also purchase books that we can't get from the library. Or books such as a good dictionary, which is always important to have around.

Fortunately there are also quite a bit of activities and museums that are free in our area. The local university has free events for families and we take advantage of events as learning experiences. For those have have to pay to visit museums, note that many museums with an admission fee, generally have a free day, sometimes as frequently as once a month.

We also pay for swimming and gymnastics lessons, which we would do anyway.

I don't know if that answers your question. Figure out what is most important to you to make sure you have it in the budget, allow for some figuring things out, and then based on what you feel like are the "would be nice" factor that in too. Sometimes the free option works and sometimes it doesn't, it really depends on your child.

01-30-2014, 02:24 PM
I bought tonnes the first year, less the second year, and even less the third year. Now I know what works, what we like, etc and I make myself not look at all the shiny new curriculum out there! (Okay, I look; but I don't buy! ;))

We're set for our main spine LA, Sci, SS (MBtP) and French (Rosetta Stone) until high school (I hope!). Wondering where to head next with math (aging out of TT) but have decided to try one of our least expensive considered curriculums first (AoPS). I do add in tonnes of stuff (books, DVDs, lab stuff, etc), but try really hard to borrow from friends or the library before purchasing. Lots of out of home extras too (science centre, art, music, field trips), but, like others, it's the sports that kill our budget. He has two main competitive sports and he'd still do those even if he were in a B&M school, but with HSing he has much more time to dabble in everything else and because he attended school for a few years, we sign up for a bunch of team sports so he can still hang with his friends on a regular basis.

School and associated will likely cost 1-2K each year til high school. At that point I expect it will increase significantly, but still be much less than private school. Sports? I'm afraid to add it all up and hope he'll be able to get a job at the barn before he needs his next horse!

Pennie Elwood
01-31-2014, 05:40 PM
Thank you for all of the responses! This was exactly the kind of feedback I was looking for. We have a lower budget, but I do agree that it's hard to do it 100% free. It CAN be done, and I certainly wouldn't discourage someone from considering homeschooling if they had the right attitude for it. But I know for myself that I'm just going to have to put more money into certain categories than others. It doesn't help that I feel like I haven't quite found what works best for us. Makes it hard to nail down costs and makes the freebies all the more appealing.

02-04-2014, 12:04 PM
The amount we spend on homeschooling relates to the rest of our financial picture. We have a firm budget for homeschool resources because we have to plan carefully for everything so we live within our means.
I've been homeschooling dd for about 10 years now and some years we spent more than others. I would say $200-$800 is what my budget for homeschool ranges. The budget comes first and then I find what I can that fits that amount. We do use free resources but have never relied solely on just free things. I shop twice a year (homeschool year round) so it is easier to change things. We are not heavy library users even though it would save us money I'm sure.

As dd has gotten older, I have not bought a full packaged curriculum. I know that we aren't going to use all of it so I put the money into things we will really use. We use the internet and things like Netflix that we would have even if dd was not homeschooled so I don't count those as part of the homeschool budget.

I spend the most money on math, history and science. I think language arts is the easiest subject to find free resources for or work into other subjects.

We have a globe and that has been used quite a bit over the years. Having a computer, internet access and a printer at home are useful as well.

02-06-2014, 05:46 AM
Looks like my budget is already going over what it was supposed to be for the upcoming year. We're investing in a new ipad (our 1st ipad is still in great condition, no cracks or anything, but they wont support updates for it anymore! ahh!) and husband is getting new computers so the kids will be getting our old ones.

We also do our school in a 'school house'. So there's extra money to finish supplying/furnishing that and some things need doing in there that ive been putting off, like the light fixtures.

also looking at homeschoolbuyersco-op hasn't been a wise move for me. =)

02-06-2014, 04:24 PM
We keep school pretty low-tech at this point (except YouTube for our composer of the week and the occasional use of NOVA or the free bits of Starfall).
I don't have a fixed budget. I save money by

distinguishing between what is request-it-from-the-library worthy and what is purchase-worthy, and by
buying used the things that can be bought used.

Our globe was $2 at Goodwill, and that was worthwhile this week as DS ran his fingers over the bumps of mountain ranges we're studying. We also have a couple of homeschooling-specific resources here, a Yahoo curriculum-reselling group and a homeschooling store with a consignment section. So I shop there first (which is how I bought the Child-Sized Masterpieces stuff for art, and our library has the Mike Venezia books and others on painters, for example). I go to used book sales as well; the local UU church has one annually with prices from 10 cents to 3 dollars, while the public library's prices are $1 for paperbacks, $2/hardcover. Our enormous school district has surplus sales 5 or 6 times a year, so our school table and chairs and music stand were $5 each.

What resources are near you? The bigger the metro area and the higher percentage of homeschoolers, the more you should be able to get secondhand.

02-07-2014, 05:06 AM
We use a charter school homeschool program (the entire charter is homeschool without a brick and mortar schoole), and we receive a yearly stipend for each of the kids so that's most of our budget. The stipend is a combined family amount, so my oldest receives $2,00 and my youngest receives $1600 (high school vs. elementary school). This goes towards not only curriculum, but classes and services as well.

Some years, we go through all of the money before the end of the year, and some years we have funding leftover and I'm in a mad dash spending spree. I typically buy curriculum for the following year, as we homeschool year round. If I have money left, I buy something nice such as a microscope, high quality art supplies, or I stock up on printer ink and toner.

Last year, I ran out of funding before the end of the year and I had to buy a few things to finish out our year. I ended up paying around $100 out of pocket.