There are lots and lots of excellent reasons to homeschool (many of which can be found in Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto), but one of concerns people seem to have before taking that step is money. One of the first questions people always seem to have about homeschooling in my experience is either "isn't it expensive?" or "how much does it cost?" My answers to those are no and less than sending you child to a public school. That second part surprises a lot of people, but it is true in a lot of other people's experience as well as mine. When you send a child to school in the fall, oftentimes there is a list of supplies that they are required to have and some of these lists are quite expensive. I've seen parents spend well over a hundred dollars, some even over $200 for supplies for kindergarten or preschool! Of course that number is going to vary wildly depending on the grade level, teacher, income level of the school district, and any number of factors, but the National Retail Federation says that the average spent on school supplies in 2010 was $96.39, with an additional $181.60 for school related electronics and computers. And the spending spree doesn't stop there--the average family also spent $328.41 on back-to-school clothes and shoes. Wait, there's more. Once the kid gets to school, they have fundraisers galore that you, as their parent, feel guilty if you don't support. There are special lunches either to purchase at the school (gross!) or to make and pack. Some other kid's got-to-have thing may mold into your kid's new favorite got-to-have thing, through that demon of peer pressure. And....it....just....doesn't....stop..... EVER!
<Here I pause dramatically while you run screaming around in circles, clutching your head with the agony of all this money wasted when there is a better way.>
So how much does it cost to homeschool? As little or as much as you'd like it to. You don't have to buy what the teacher says all right now. You can buy what you need as you need it, so if you anticipate the needs a little bit, you can save a lot of money. I'm especially fond of those 90% sales on school supplies after the non-homeschool kids have been shuffled off to their classrooms (jail cells?) for the school year. Plus, you can be a lot more discretionary on what you do decide to purchase. For example, I'm not a big fan of markers because my soon-to-be 4 year-old daughter thinks she is especially beautiful multicolored, so I don't use markers in our "classroom". Realistically, I'd say I spend about $15 or less a year on the actual supplies, maybe take it up to $30 or $35 if you include printer ink and paper. We have a zoo membership and museum membership that my parents get for us for Christmas each year (Yay Mom and Dad!), but for the sake of argument, I'll throw them in here too, so that's another $110 for both memberships. The museum has monthly homeschool days that we try to attend that have a $4 lab fee, so, assuming we actually made it to all of them, that would be another $32. I really liked the member worksheets at enchantedlearning.com for what I was looking to teach this year, so I splurged on an annual membership there at another $20. A lot of the materials for his lessons are food we'd eat anyway or things for the garden we'd be using anyway, (since you can learn a lot about math, science, reading, writing, and a miscellany of other things by cooking and gardening!) so I'm not going to even include those items in the total. Aaaaaaaaaaand...I just bought the child in question a new pair of shoes the other day for about $20. Most of his clothes I get as hand-me-downs from Freecycle or other such places, or occasionally as gifts, so I don't need to include any cost in there. (Clothes aren't nearly important without that peer pressure demon around. He's happy with whatever he's got!)
So right now, I'd say this year of homeschooling will cost a grand total of $216, but really only $106 out of pocket, since some of this stuff was Christmas gifts. Compare that to the National Retail Federation's figure of $606.40. Yeah. If you aren't going to homeschool your kids, it isn't because of the money.
<Cue random homeschool pictures to show how much more fun it is to be homeschooled than to sit in a classroom>
Keeping that in mind, I thought it would be fun to show interested people in some of the things we do day-to-day in our little home school by sharing my lesson plans with the public. Something to keep in mind about these lesson plans, though, is that it isn't a complete picture. My son and I kind of clash a bit on our styles, so we compromise. I like unschooling a lot and would love for our family to just live that way, letting learning happen organically as we go through our day to day lives. My son, on the other hand, wants more structure. As a result, we've been kind of following a loose curriculum, mostly involving reading some stories, doing related worksheets I find on the internet, and then doing a craft or making something, ideally cooking (because then that creeps back into unschooling territory, but he loves it anyway). There is a lot more learning taking place here than these lesson plans show, but the main point is to show you how easy it is. I think this age, pre-reading is the hardest part to homeschool too, since I have to lead him through everything and can't just have him read his own directions or information. Also, I show the products (books, toys, etc) we use to show how simple it can be. The books are from the library in our case (although I could buy $500 worth and still be paying $0.40 less than the average for sending a kid to "free" public school! Ha ha!), or Paperbackswap.com or we just happen to have it and I don't really know where it came from. The toys were mostly gifts or garage sale finds. These lesson plans can be seen at my spin-off blog at Lesson Plans of a Thrifty Mama (currently dormant because we've been doing more unschooling this year). Enjoy and I hope you find some inspiration there!