Homeschooling is one of the most promising educational options that parents have. It gives families a way to provide quality education to their children on their own terms. Homeschooling parents can teach to their child's needs, foster a love of learning, and choose the best curriculum for their own children.
So many benefits!
But how much does homeschooling cost? Is homeschool expensive? Is homeschooling cheaper than normal school? Is it something you can afford? Or is it outside your reach? And when it all comes down to it, is homeschooling worth the cost?
Before you pull out your calculator to begin tallying the financial cost of homeschooling consider the other costs that go beyond dollars and cents.
The first, and possibly most important, cost to homeschooling is that of commitment. Homeschooling is not just a 9 am to noon chunk of your day or a different approach to educating your child. It is truly a lifestyle transformation that affects family routines and relationships. As homeschooling becomes part of your life, you will begin to see learning opportunities in everyday activities. But you must be willing to take advantage of those opportunities ... even if it means setting aside your to-do list as you prioritize helping your children learn.
Another cost may be social pressure or displeasure. As you may already realize (if you've begun discussing this change with your extended family), not everyone is excited about the prospect of your homeschooling their grandchild, nephew, etc... Concerned, well-meaning family and friends will have varying attitudes about your decision to educate your children at home. You must be convinced it’s the right path... despite what others may say.
Yet another cost comes in time and energy. To add teaching to your already busy schedule, you will need to organize your home, divide the chores, delegate, and plan ahead. Keep in mind that as your children will be learning math, science, and reading in your homeschool, you will be learning right along with them. And it could be that your greatest area of learning will be how to wisely manage your time and energy each day.
And of course, there is the actual financial expense of homeschooling which will be the focus of the rest of this article.
How Much Does It Cost to Homeschool Your Child?
It's true there are many different costs associated with homeschooling. From teaching materials to extracurricular activities and co-ops, there are many expenses that factor into a homeschool budget. As any homeschooler will tell you, homeschool expenses cover a broad range from budget-friendly to costly.
The bottom line is that you have complete control of the ultimate cost.
You can weigh expenses against their value to you. For instance, if you have a large family or are a homeschool parent who works from home, you may decide to pay extra for a curriculum that offers you time-saving (and sanity-saving) benefits. You may want to take into consideration things like how much time you spend preparing lesson plans, whether you have valuable homeschool support to answer common questions, and if your chosen curriculum offers your family any combined teaching options for the core subjects.
Your largest single expense as a homeschooling family will likely be your curriculum. So once you know how much you’d like to spend on curriculum, you can estimate your annual cost of homeschooling by simply adding on the activities and programs you plan to offer your children.
How Much Does Homeschooling Cost a Year?
Most curriculum comes organized in a 36 week framework that mirrors a typical academic year of 180 school days. So you can add up the cost of curriculum, online subscriptions, co-op, field trips, and electives to come up with a cost for homeschooling over the course of 9 or 12 months.
It costs $500-$2500 annually per child to homeschool.
But your costs go down if you extend the use of a curriculum beyond a typical 9-month school year. For example, Sonlight programs are filled with dozens of fascinating books and provide abundant opportunities for rabbit trails of exploration and unit studies. Some families extend a single History / Bible / Literature program to 18 or even 24 months. This makes the cost of curriculum even cheaper.
You set the pace as a homeschooler, so you can slow down (or speed up) as desired or as suits your child’s needs.
Most families find that their costs are low when children are very young and increase as tweens mature into high schoolers.
How Much Does Homeschooling Cost a Month?
If you’re teaching multiple children with a single program or re-using a program in years to come with a younger sibling, you further lower your costs!
Let’s look at a scenario* as an example. Imagine a family with a 9-year-old and an 11-year-old. They opt to combine both children with History / Bible / Literature D and Science D that they will use over an 18 month period, doing school year-round. Each child gets his own Math level and will need two programs over the course of 18 months as this family wants to work on math at a typical pace instead of stretching it out.
- All-Subjects Package D with customizations $950
- 2nd year of Math for 1st student $165
- 2 years of Math for 2nd student ($165 x 2) = $330
- LA for 2nd student $52
- Extra Science Activity Sheets for 2nd student $15
- Lap Book for 2nd student $60
This scenario comes out to $786 per child and just $43.66 per month (when divided over 18 months).
Sonlight offers a payment plan (up to 12 months) so you can actually divide up your cost—interest-free.
(*Figures shown are approximate for illustration purposes only. Please contact an Advisor for free assistance with creating an estimate that will work for your family.)
Is It Possible to Homeschool for Free?
It’s a common question: Is it free to be homeschooled? While it is possible to homeschool for free, you need to be resourceful. Realize that what you save in money will be spent in time and energy as you cobble together a program and hunt for the best resources.
Here are some tips for free or low-cost homeschooling:
- Lean on your local library where you can borrow books and materials.
- Take advantage of free online courses like those on YouTube or Khan Academy.
- If you already have Disney+, Netflix, or other streaming subscriptions, search for documentaries that complement your studies.
- Other zero-cost options include free resources and printables.
While you can homeschool for free, you want to be careful not to shortchange your children. For a homeschool education that is complete and academically robust, opt for a proven curriculum at least for your core areas of language arts, math, science, and history. What you spend in money on those subjects will come back to you in confidence, convenience, time, and ease. With the basics covered, you can patch together an assortment of free options for supplements and electives.
How Much Do Homeschool Curriculums Cost?
Once you’ve decided to spend money on curriculum, it’s important to get your money’s worth and not be stuck with a costly expense that you’ll be slogging through for a full school year. When choosing the right curriculum for your child, here are things to consider:
- Pay attention to your child’s personality and learning style.
- Find out if the curriculum matches your worldview and faith.
- Buy a curriculum that includes everything you need. Although you can buy items separately, you lose the bulk discount available in a complete package and add on extra (possibly stressful) decision-making.
- Buy a curriculum that has a guarantee! You want to know that what you’re buying is actually backed with a way to recoup your investment if it doesn’t suit you.
The Cost of a Complete Curriculum
Sonlight’s All-Subject Packages are the easiest way to get everything you need in one convenient and discounted purchase. An Advisor can walk you through all the options and customizations so you are getting exactly what your child needs.
An ASP costs around $1000 and includes all the academics and resources you need for a full school year:
- Language Arts
- Instructor’s Guides
If $1000 seems shockingly high to you, make sure to read How Expensive Is Sonlight, Anyway? The Sticker-Shock Conundrum.
The Cost of Individual Homeschool Subjects
If you’d prefer to piece together your curriculum from a variety of sources, that’s doable! Here are the general costs of Sonlight’s programs in the key academic areas.
The Cost of History / Bible / Literature Packages
History / Bible / Literature costs $400-600.
The Cost of Math Curriculum
A single level of Math costs $100-200.
The Cost of Language Arts Curriculum
Sonlight Language Arts costs around $200 at elementary levels (more at high school levels).
The Cost of Science Curriculum
Sonlight Science costs around $300.
Do Parents Pay for Homeschooling?
Unlike public schools which don't charge tuition, homeschooling is not something the government covers for families. In fact, when you choose to homeschool your children, you are assuming all costs associated with it.
Is It Free to Be Homeschooled?
But you don’t have to pay your school system, the state, or the federal government in order to homeschool. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, and there is no fee to remove your child from public school and opt to homeschool instead.
How Much Does a Homeschool Teacher Cost?
In most circumstances, the homeschool teacher is free because you are the one homeschooling your children. However, if you choose to hire a tutor for homeschooling, it could cost anywhere from $25 to $80 an hour.
If you’re looking to hire a qualified teacher to homeschool your children, consider these factors:
- What credentials and experience do they have?
- Can they teach more than one grade simultaneously?
- How much input will they expect from you as the parent?
Typically parents homeschool their children themselves, so the question of how much does it cost to hire a tutor for homeschooling doesn’t really come up. They may hire an instructor for certain difficult subjects in high school or join a homeschool co-op, but for the most part, moms and dads are the homeschool teachers. So there’s zero cost involved there.
When you do the teaching yourself, not only are you saving an arm and a leg on an hourly tutor, but you get to learn alongside your child and deepen your relationship. It’s truly a priceless benefit of homeschooling!
"I love how much closer together we have all grown, especially our kids. Their relationships are stronger now ... because they get to spend more time together instead of in separate classrooms and going to different activities and trying to get homework done. We have more time to play games together, and we love reading new books together, which we had already been doing prior to homeschooling but now we can do way more." —Regina N.
How Much Does Homeschooling Cost Without Materials?
The main cost associated with homeschooling is curriculum. If you take that expense out of the equation, there aren’t any particular costs for homeschooling. Thankfully, there’s no homeschool fee that the local, state, or federal government will come to collect.
The other things you spend money on (beyond curriculum) are likely things you’d be doing for your kids anyway as a parent—homeschooler or not:
- Taking family vacations or going camping.
- Going on excursions to museums, zoos, planetariums, nature preserves, and live theater.
- Paying for music lessons or team sports.
- Buying books, musical instruments, educational tools, and tech gadgets.
- Subscribing to educational streaming or online games.
Those are actually the costs of raising a child. Any parent will have those expenses, so they aren’t solely homeschool expenses.
The Cost of Homeschooling
But yes, there are costs associated with homeschooling.
- The primary cost may be the loss of income from at least one parent sacrificing full-time employment. While many mothers do successfully juggle both working and homeschooling, it’s not uncommon for at least one parent in the family to scale back to part-time work. This loss of income can be a big sacrifice.
- And another big cost is the price of curriculum as discussed above.
Beyond these two big chunks, you’ve got the myriad other expenses involved in giving your children a vibrant childhood experience like
- Tickets and transportation for field trips.
- The cost of homeschool co-op classes.
- Filling your home with great books, music, and board games.
Parents do end up paying to homeschool their children, but there’s a massive upside! As a homeschool parent, you get full control over how to spend this money, choosing your own resources and activities instead of being boxed into requirements.
However you choose to educate your child, as a parent, you will be spending money! Raising kids is simply expensive.
Data on the costs of homeschooling varies widely.
- Some research reports that families spend $50-$500 annually per student on curriculum. (Of course, there are other expenses not factored into that range.)
- Other research shows that families spend around $1500-$2500 annually on all costs related to homeschooling.
- The National Home Education Research Institute reports $600 spent per student annually.
The actual cost of homeschooling varies from family to family. And the cost of living varies from locale to locale. But even looking at the highest estimates available, homeschool parents spend a fraction of what public and private schools spend to educate a single child.
Is Homeschooling Cheaper Than Normal School?
As per August 2021 data, United States K-12 schools spend $12,624 per student annually. (See what the figure is for your state in the chart below.)
Private school is close to that figure. Tuition at an American private school tuition is on average $11,777 per year for one child.
So for purposes of comparison, let’s round these two numbers to an even $12,000 and take that as the typical cost spent per child in normal school.
Twelve thousand dollars is around twelve times what you would spend on a Sonlight All-Subject Package plus electives for one child. If you are using a History / Bible / Literature program with more than one child or reusing it with younger children in future years, your costs are even lower!
So homeschooling is incredibly cost effective when compared to what a public school spends on educating children.
STATE | FUNDING* FOR K-12 EDUCATION PER PUPIL
District of Columbia $28,822
Indiana totals $12,574
Iowa totals $13,692
New Hampshire $17,898
New Jersey $22,483
New Mexico $12,099
New York $26,796
North Carolina $9,731
North Dakota $15,835
Rhode Island $18,272
South Carolina $13,443
South Dakota $11,912
West Virginia $13,141
(*Dollar amounts are a combination of state, local, and federal funding.)
Although some states do funnel back a small portion of these funds for parents to homeschool or spend at charter schools, for the most part, you as a parent, don’t have access to that $12,000 per child to spend on homeschooling.
Fortunately you don’t need anywhere near that amount to provide your child an outstanding education at home! And you don’t even need as many hours per day as school requires. Homeschooling is efficient and cost effective compared to public school.
Why Is Homeschooling Cheaper?
For many families, home educating turns out to be an affordable option when comparing the cost of homeschooling vs. public school, and especially compared to private school tuition. Here’s why:
- You can reuse curriculum with younger siblings or combine multiple children with a single program.
- Homeschooling erases the daily pick up and drop off as well as paying for school lunches.
- There are no school uniforms, fundraisers, or required fees and events.
- There is no costly tuition.
And then there are the non-monetary rewards of homeschooling that are impossible to put a price tag on:
- Avoiding bullying or a toxic peer environment.
- Spending more quality family time together.
- Strengthening sibling bonds.
- Giving your kids a place to shine, feel safe, and grow at their own pace.
- Allowing room for quirks, special needs, or learning challenges.
- Living life on your own terms instead of complying to outside norms.
Is Homeschooling Worth the Investment?
Homeschooling is an important decision you have to make for your kids. You will never regret the time spent teaching them yourself, but it can be challenging on a budget. Look at all of your options and do some research before making any decisions about their education.
If you’ve read this far, then you know homeschool can be free, but there are likely to always be some costs associated with learning. The bottom line worth discussing is if homeschooling is worth the investment and the answer for many is a resounding yes.
Keep in mind that what you invest in homeschooling, you will easily get back in what your children learn. I know that the best way to ensure it’s worth the investment is finding curricula and books which they enjoy! You have the opportunity to instill the love of learning in your kids, that’s a huge payoff! It's not always easy but every day we work hard on improving the education for our children because it will be worth all the effort in the end.
Read more about how homeschooling is worth your sacrifice of time and effort:
- To the Homeschool Mom Who Wonders if Her Time at Home is Worthwhile
- Homeschooling is Hard and Worthy Work
Count the Cost and Take the Leap
Before you leap into anything, it’s always important to weigh the pros and cons and outline a cost-benefit analysis. The stories of thousands of Sonlight families confirm that yes, while there are real costs and sacrifices, the benefits make homeschooling a worthwhile choice:
- Flexibility in your schedule.
- Tailoring an education that meets the needs of your children.
- Greater involvement in your child’s day-to-day life.
- A rich family culture centered on lifelong learning.
Ready to start your homeschool journey? Get everything you need to homeschool with a Sonlight All-Subjects Package.