One of the first questions considered when someone is researching homeschool is “How much does homeschooling cost?” The answer isn’t an easy one because it involves many elements. But let’s talk about it.
This post may contain referral links. Please note that the links below are included as examples and don’t necessarily mean personal recommendation or experience.
How Much Does Homeschooling Cost? Can You Afford to Homeschool?
Homeschooling costs vary extremely, depending on what method you use, what resources you use, how much work you can or want to do as a parent/teacher, and what extras you include. It can be easy to rack up expenses. But you can also homeschool on a very small budget. Costs can range from practically free to extremely expensive.
If you buy a complete boxed-set curriculum from a publisher, you will generally find this to be the most expensive option. The trade-off, however, is that you will typically be able to open your books and get started with minimal prep, knowing that you have everything all together for the year.
Let’s see what these costs might be. Using Grade 5 as our comparison, here are some examples of boxed set costs from publishers directly (not taking into account the added costs of the exchange rate and shipping) so you can know what to expect. These are completely done-for-you programs that are highly popular and recommended in the homeschooling community. This can be a real help, especially if you aren’t feeling very confident in your homeschooling yet or don’t have the drive or time to devote to detailed lesson planning. Notice how they include all the core subjects and all the books and extras you might need, depending on how they put their packages together. Visit the publishers for more information.
Alpha-Omega Publishing – LifePac for Grade 5: $349.95US
Encourage your child to learn with the LIFEPAC 5th Grade 5-Subject Set! This colorful set contains five core subjects: Bible, History & Geography, Science, Language Arts, and Math. Each individual subject in this Alpha Omega curriculum has ten worktexts and a teacher’s guide. All flexible LIFEPAC lessons have engaging, Bible-based content.
You can find it here: https://www.aop.com/curriculum/shop-lifepac/5th-grade-5-subject-set
Oak Meadow – Grade 5: $575.00US
This grade includes U.S. History and English, Science, Math Coursebook, Math Workbook, Teacher Manual, The Story of Harriet Tubman: Freedom Train, Ben and Me, Johnny Tremain, Little House on the Prairie, Sarah Morton’s Day, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, If You Sailed on the Mayflower in 1620, Where Do You Think You’re Going, Christopher Columbus?, Children of the Wild West
You can find it here: https://www.oakmeadow.com/middle-school-5-8/
Sonlight – Full Curriculum Package for Grade 5: $862.03US
- Daily lesson plans for the entire year.
- A History / Bible / Literature Program that integrates History, Geography, Bible, Read-Alouds and Readers.
- Carefully-selected Math and Science.
You can find it here: https://www.sonlight.com/5MSPB
Timberdoodle – Full Curriculum Non-Religious Package for Grade 5: $932 to $1045US (depending on options you add).
This year you will love helping your child continue building his language, math, and thinking skills. He will study the five core science disciplines, learn about American history, and make his own stop-motion videos. With creative art, robust STEM kits, and more hands-on materials that develop logical thinking, this year will be a year packed with happy memories for both of you!
There are many others as well. Of course, you can also buy curriculum in a more mix and matched style – where you piece together different resources from various publishers.
Things that might cost money when you are homeschooling:
- technology tools like computers, e-readers, tablets, and a printer
- equipment like a microscope, art supplies, etc
- school supplies and furniture
- memberships to museums, galleries, a gym, and other learning centres
- extra-curricular fees
- field trips
- subscriptions to online programs
- transportation costs
One of the great things about homeschooling is that you have options. You are not obligated to get or use or do anything – you can decide what is within the budget you have and work with that. The bigger your available budget, the more options you have, but it’s not required.
Can You Really Homeschool for Free?
While asking “How much does homeschooling cost?” many people are curious if you can really homeschool for free. The answer is yes, but it usually comes with a different expense – typically time and effort (and often…. printing.) To homeschool for free, you typically have to piece together your own plan – creating resources and activities (or finding free ones) to match your plans for the year. The internet offers us so many more options and resources than we’ve ever had before, so it’s much easier to do this now thanks to things like Pinterest, YouTube, and TeachersPayTeachers. It can be pretty labour intensive to make your own curriculum plans for the year. And it can also be easy to think you are doing it for free only to realize that there is a cost involved with printing a large collection of printables.
There are a few complete online programs that allow you to homeschool for free – since the creators have already gone through the work of piecing it together for you. The downside to these free programs can be that they might not match your child’s learning style or your preferred homeschooling method. Some of them can feel quite antiquated if that is of concern. However, the only costs to you are to find the books needed and printing any worksheets. Some examples of this are:
- Letter of the Week by Brightly Beaming Resources
- God’s Little Explorers by Motherhood on a Dime
- Read to Me & ABC by Walking By the Way
- ABC Jesus Loves Me
There are also programs that are available for free that focus on specific subjects only, so you can use them to put together a program of your own. For example:
- Middle School Chemistry
- MSNucleus (Science for K-8 + some high school)
- MHSchool: McGraw-Hill (Science for K-6)
Plus, there are tons of free individual lesson plans available online for just about any topic that you are looking to study. You just have to find them and get them set to use.
How To Save Money on Homeschooling (especially as a Canadian)
One challenge of being a homeschooler in Canada is that many of the resources we want to use are published by companies in the US. That means we have to deal with the added expenses of the exchange rate and a high cost of shipping. Shipping can be costly even within Canada! Here are some ways that you can save money on curriculum.
- Buy used. As long as it’s legal or permitted to do so, look for the books and resources that you’d like to buy on swap groups, curriculum sales, thrift stores, friends, sites like eBay and Kijiji, etc. Remember though that not all programs are allowed to be resold for whatever reasons, so be sure to respect the publishers and follow their copyright rules.
- Buy digital. Some publishers offer digital editions of their resources, which means huge savings in shipping costs. Plus it means that you can use it again with another child, if applicable. Of course, this also means that you might need to print things out. Try reading the files on your computer or tablet instead of printing the whole thing out and only print worksheets (or use a spiral notebook to answer questions separately.) Here are 7 benefits to using digital curriculum in your homeschool.
- Reuse. If you have multiple children at different stages, intentionally buy things that you can reuse. Spending more money on a program that you love for child #1 but never have to buy again for subsequent children can save you astronomical amounts of money!
- Resell. Ok, so this isn’t a saving tip, but it sure can help! If you are done with a resource and know that you don’t need to use it again – sell it. Please make sure you are allowed under the rules of the publisher before you do so! This can get money back into your pocket to buy something else (and free up space in your home!)
- Wait for sales. Homeschool curriculum publishers often put their resources on sale in the spring (conference season) and in mid-summer when people realize they need books to start lessons in the fall. Watch for sales from those that you are wanting to buy from.
- Ship it to a US mailbox. Many Canadians save on shipping by getting their curriculum sent to a friend or family member in the US or to a mailbox that they rent across the border. Then they take a trip to the States to pick them up. Of course, this tip only works if you live close enough to the border to be able to do so….
- Buy local. Look for a Canadian distributor or store that is close to you and buy directly from them. Sometimes you can even pick up in person to save shipping costs all together.
- Buy with friends. If you know other local homeschoolers that are using the same curriculum or buying from the same store, place a group order and split the costs of shipping. This can be a great way to lower your overall shipping expenses.
- Shop around. Often, there are better deals for curricula on non-publisher websites. Check different stores and compare the prices and shipping and the cost of the exchange rate vs buying from a store in Canada.
- Don’t feel pressured to buy expensive. You do NOT have to buy a boxed curriculum or the most popular names in the homeschooling community – you can ABSOLUTELY buy or use more cost-efficient resources that are a good fit for your family. Just because it seems like what everyone else is using, doesn’t mean that you need to spend the large amounts of money they can often cost.
In summary, the question “How much does homeschooling cost?” is dependant on how you homeschool, what resources you use, and how many of the money saving tips you put into practice while homeschooling. A family can homeschool for free when a parent is willing to put time and effort into pulling together resources to make their own plans, but for some the freedom that having an open and go curriculum offers is worth every penny.
The main question probably shouldn’t be “How much does homeschooling cost?” but more “What can we afford to spend on our homeschool resources?” and then choosing things that fit within that budget.