We all know there are many advantages to homeschooling. A more personalized curriculum, more one-on-one education, a safer environment…the list does go on. But there’s one major problem that can worry parents: cost. Educating a child at home can be an expensive proposition compared to private schooling.
How much does homeschooling cost?
Is homeschooling expensive?
Let’s face it. Textbooks, classroom resources, supplies…they cost money, and if you’re not careful it can add up fast! According to the folks over at Time4Learning, the average cost to homeschool a child is about $700-$1800 per year per student. And of course, that estimate may not include extras like video courses, extracurricular activities, field trips, tutoring and even co-op costs.
These costs aren’t usually enough to break your bank account, and compared to private school it’s certainly more affordable, but in these tough times it might add up to more than you want to spend.
Ideas for making homeschooling more budget-friendly
Homeschooling may not be the most expensive method of educating your child, it certainly is more affordable than sending them to private school, but it can become difficult when times are tough or when money is a bit tight.
Here are some ways you can offset your costs and make things a bit more affordable.
Say, do you get paid to homeschool your child?
This is a common question people ask, but no. As challenging as it can be sometimes, you won’t get paid to homeschool your child due to it being a private choice of education and not a form of recognized employment.
Join a homeschool co-op: save money, make friends
What is a homeschool co op?
A homeschooling co-op is a group of families who meet (usually once or twice a week) and cooperate to achieve certain goals when it comes to homeschooling their kids. They can be centered around academic needs or based around social activities, projects, extracurriculars and more.
How a Co-Op can help you save money
By coming together, groups of homeschooling parents can pool their resources and share the cost of buying equipment, hiring teachers and tutors, and buying the other assorted supplies and services you might need to provide high quality homeschooling.
By buying as a group they can negotiate substantial discounts on supplies, fieldtrip prices and more that can be passed along to members.
But you should know
Some co-ops are more formal, with committees and directors, codes of behavior/statements of faith, hired teachers, common lesson plans and so on. Others are less formal.
Because parents can organize themselves into co-ops, it’s not uncommon for co-ops to be centered around shared beliefs and educational styles. You might find some that are faith-based, have stricter or looser codes of behavior, or others that teach around particular pedagogical approaches.
So if you apply to join a homeschool co-op, make sure you do your research to make sure it is a good fit for you and vice versa.
Start or Join a homeschool pod
If joining a co-op isn’t for you, you can always choose to set up or join a homeschool pod.
What is a homeschool pod?
A homeschool pod is like a microschool of homeschoolers. A small group of parents band together, meeting a few times a week (or less, depending on the pod) and form their own, private, one-room schoolhouse covering multiple grade levels. There, they can share teaching responsibilities or even hire a teacher or tutor to oversee things or supplement learning.
How a pod or microschool can help you save money
Working together, much like a co-op, a group of parents can pool their resources more effectively, sharing resources and create a better learning experience for their kids. As a group they can even more effectively negotiate discounts on supplies, teachers/tutors, extracurricular activities and field trips
An interesting thing about forming a homeschool pod is they may find more success securing grants and funding, as organizations can sometimes be hesitant to deal with individuals.
Of course, forming a pod or microschool comes with its own challenges as we discuss in this article.
Government help for homeschools
Note: The below is not to be considered financial advice of any kind and is not written by a certified tax professional. Make sure you talk to a certified tax professional before making any decisions related to your taxes or your finances.
Federal Tax Assistance
At this moment, there are no federal tax breaks for homeschooling parents, as they can’t be run as a business, charge for education or count as providing a community benefit.
State Tax Assistance
Generally speaking, there aren’t too many state tax benefits for homeschooling, either. However, a handful of states do offer a few benefits to parents of homeschoolers.
In Illinois you can file for a small tax credit for up to 25% of qualified educational expenses in excess of $250, to a maximum of $750 per student. Qualified educational expenses include tuition, book rental, lab fees, curriculum fees and some others. They do not include things that aren’t consumed by the end of year (textbooks, maps, calculators), tutoring, enrichment beyond the required state curriculum and more. It’s best to get familiar with their regulations if you want to apply.
If a student is in a private or homeschool in Indiana, you may be able to claim up to a $1000 tax deduction on state tax returns per child for expenses like textbooks, tutoring, curricula and supplies. Get familiar with their regulations if you want to apply.
Louisiana offers a state tax credit to parents looking to homeschool their kids. They allow an income tax deduction of 50% of the qualified educational expenses, such as textbooks and curricula, to a maximum of $5000 per student on qualified educational expenses. Get familiar with their regulations if you want to apply.
The land of 10, 000 lakes may include homeschooling in its K-12 Education Subtraction and Credit, which can cover up to 75% of a certain maximum of qualified educational expenses, so long as the expenses are part of what they consider “a normal school day for subjects usually taught in public school grades K-12” and you meet certain income requirements. While the details are quite complicated, they’re worth going over if they apply to you., so read them first
In certain states, homeschoolers can qualify for allotments or stipends that can help ease the financial burden. Check your local state laws to see if they apply.
However, do check the requirements since they often have requirements associated with them, such as stricter adherence to a set curriculum, requiring a registration with a school, meetings with state teachers or not including religious education. You’d have to determine if it’s really worth it for you.
At some point you may have heard about voucher programs. The idea for state vouchers is to offer parents more choice in the educational programs in which they can enroll their kids. Parents who are found eligible can receive funds by the state earmarked for use in private education.
In some instances, they can be available to homeschooling families. However, because they are offered by the state and redirect public funding, there are a number of requirements attached to them, including who can take them and how the money can be spent.
States may, for example, require that your student be registered in a school for part time, join a private charter school, or mandate evaluations by or reporting to the state department of education. As such, particularly with charter schools in certain states, they may limit the full educational authority that homeschooling parents have over their children’s education, particularly with regards to offsetting the costs of faith based curricula, and is therefore a choice each homeschooling parent has to make themselves after careful consideration.
Remember, every state is different, and you need to look into the rules, regulations and availability of yours.
Local School Districts
You should always check with your local school district as to what support they offer homeschooling parents. Many homeschooling families have found their local school district to be very supportive, allowing them use of public schools to access books, laptops, social/sporting events and equipment and supplies. They sometimes even have funds available for materials, as well. It never hurts to ask, so contact your local district to see how cooperative they are!
Private Homeschool Support and Grants
While federal and state governments may not be the most helpful when it comes to helping you shoulder the cost of homeschooling, there are private organizations that can help.
Here are some resources we’ve compiled..
Grants and financial assistance
Homeschool Legal Defense Association (HLDA)– The Homeschool Legal Defense Association is a group aimed at helping would-be homeschoolers. Their website offers many resources that can help you get started on your child’s education. They also offer monetary help, though you do have to meet some requirements before applying. Namely, you have to be a member, you have to have been homeschooling for at least one semester, you have to be the legal guardian of the child in question and you have to demonstrate financial need.
HLDA Compassion Curriculum Grant – The Compassion Curriculum Grant offers money to help homeschooling parents with financial challenges offset some of their costs. The grant can help with buying curricula, school materials, homeschool courses/classes and co-ops, technology and even testing and assistance with special needs students. Generally, these grants work out to a few hundred dollars per child per year. It’s not a huge amount, but with careful budgeting it might be of tremendous help.
The grant does have some requirements, so make sure you read them before applying.
FEAST Scholarship Fund – If you live in Texas (Bexar, Kendall, Guadalupe, Wilson, Atascosa, Medina, Bandera, Comal, or Blanco Counties), the Family Educators Alliance of South Texas (FEAST) awards an annual grant to certain families homeschooling elementary and high school kids that meet certain eligibility requirements to help purchase curriculum.
Equipment and Supply Discounts
Notebooks For Students – Notebooks for Students offers a program that will sell refurbished laptops with a 4 year warranty for substantial discounts to homeschooling parents. There is an additional discount available to homeschooling pods and groups.
Homeschool Support Around You
Take a look around your neighborhood and ask yourself “What can I use here to help in homeschooling?”
You might be surprised at how much you can find!
For instance, a local library can be a tremendous help to a homeschooling family. In addition to material for reading assignments, you can often find textbooks and other school materials there as well. A local museum or art collection can make for a good, educational field trip destination, and is usually much more affordable than a larger one. A tour of town hall can be a great civics lesson.
Your neighbors and the people you see around you ever day can also be educational resources. A local gardener might be willing to lend some space and some soil for a life science project. An amateur historian might be willing to give a lecture for history class. A neighbor who speaks another language may be willing to tutor or give a class. You’ll often be surprised how helpful neighbors can be.
Using all the resources you have available will not only help you keep costs controllable, but you’ll also offer your child a richer and more well-rounded education
While homeschooling doesn’t have to be all that expensive, especially compared to private schooling, it can be a financial burden to some families. While the government has some limited support, it may come with strings attached that some believe run contrary to the point of homeschooling, and is a choice each parent must consider on their own.
Overall, however, if you do you research you can often find ways to save money and even find some private assistance.
Jennifer Keenes is a writer and a new mom living in Florida. She studied education and, prior to becoming a freelance writer, worked as a substitute teacher at the elementary and middle school level. She is a big fan of the beach, working out and homeschooling her two daughters.