Homefires - The Journal of Homeschooling OnlineHomefires - The Journal of Homeschooling Online

What It Costs To Homeschool

This was an informal, voluntary, anonymous survey of homeschooling families in the San Francisco Bay Area conducted in June-July, 1995. The results were compiled by the editor of this publication - not a demographics firm. I believe the information to be a fairly accurate representation of the families who responded. Only about 16% of the families who were sent this survey actually completed and returned them. So temper the results with that knowledge...

Description of the Average Survey-Responding Family:
Two parents with 2.1 children. Children range in age from infancy to 15 years old, the average age being 8.7 years. (The majority of the responding readers did not indicate the "grade level" of their children. Most said they just didn't feel it mattered.) This "average" family has a single annual income ranging from $35,000-$100,000+, the average being $55,770.

Estimated Costs to Establish A Homeschool:
Research books to begin homeschooling:
Ranged from $10.- $300. Average: $101.
A few readers took the plunge without investing one nickel. Most, however, did buy books to get started.

Membership Dues: Range: $7.- $200. Average: $72.
This included memberships to local support groups, state & national groups, and ISPs/Administrative Units. Very few respondents paid membership dues to any homeschool organization or support group at all.

Home School Legal Defense Association: One half of our respondents are members of HSLDA. Cost: $100./year.

R-4 Affidavit: While no one was charged a filing fee, most people mailed it ($.32) and a number of people filed it "certified, return receipt requested" with the Post Office. ($2.90) Range: $.32 - $2.90

Newsletters: 99% of our respondents subscribe to newsletters spending from $10. to $100. annually. Average Annual Expense: $52.

Teacher's Record Book: About 40% of respondents use these, average cost of $5.00

Conferences on Home Education: About 65% of respondents attend Homeschool Conferences. Costs ranged from $15.-$200. Average cost: $101.

Costs for Educational Products/Curricula:

Curriculum Package: Only 25% of our respondents purchased a complete packaged curriculum. Costs ranged from $60. - $460. Average: $200.

Texts, Books & Workbooks For:

Math: All but one of our respondents purchased math texts! Parents seemed to feel they needed the aid of a textbook or workbook for this subject. Costs ranged from $25.-$250. Average: $72./year

Science: Range: $30.- $250. Average: $62./year

History: Range: $30.- $200. Average: $64./year

Spelling: Range: $ 5. - $ 25. Average: $17./year

Handwriting: Range: $10.- $25. Average: $12./year

Composition: Range: $ 7.- $38. Average: $15./year

Grammar: Range: $10.- $40. Average: $33./year

Social Studies: Range: $20.-$65. Average: $30./year

Fine Arts: Range $30. - $50. Average: $40./year

Health: Range: $10. - $20. Average: $13./year

P.E.: Range: $20.-$100. Average: $40./year

80% of respondents use computers and have purchased software to enhance their children's education. Parents purchased software for the following subjects: Math, Science, History, Typing, Geography, Art, Spelling, Grammar, Foreign Languages, Health, Anatomy, Writing, and Computer Science. Parents also cited the use of Shareware, Online Services and the Internet. There was a wide range in spending: $20.-$400. Average: $134./year

Audio-Cassettes, Videos:
Subjects mentioned included: Art, History, Social Studies, Math, Vocabulary, Language, Music, Mythology, Foreign Languages. Range: $60. - $600. Average: $160./year

Homeschoolers take classes including: Music Gymnastics, Science, Karate, Ballet, Spanish, Swimming, Literature, Poetry, Oil Painting, Red Cross, Math, Singing, Soccer, Theatre, Baseball, Home Ec., Clay, Track & Field, and Community College Courses. Range: $10.- 2,160./year Average: $1,560./year

Memberships to Museums, Galleries, Clubs, etc., to Enhance Curriculum:
Homeschoolers support museums with memberships. Many respondents had memberships in several museums. Museums most often mentioned in the survey were: Monterey Bay Aquarium, Academy of Sciences, Bay Area Discovery Museum, Oakland Museum, SF Museum of Modern Art, Tech Museum, Children's Discovery Museum, Coyote Point Museum, Marineworld, Lawrence Hall of Science. Range: $20.- $300./year. Average: $140./year

Costs for Paper, Pencils, Art Supplies, Rulers, Manipulatives, File Folders, Glue, etc.: Range: $20. - $1,000. Average: $150./year

Field Trips:
The response to this was interesting. Many cited "camping" as a favorite field trip. Trips to museums (the Monterey Bay Aquarium topped the list) and factories were mentioned frequently. Some families included gasoline and parking expenses along with the admission charges in their costs. Others did not. Lots of families count vacations as field trips. Even though these families said that they probably would have taken these trips regardless of whether or not their kids were homeschooled; they also indicated that they extended the vacation time or deliberately visited more places of historical or educational interest because they were homeschooling. Several families said they took more than one vacation each year because they were homeschooling and could justify the cost as part of the children's education expenses. As you can imagine the expenses varied immensely. I tried to regroup this information into two categories: One-day Field Trips, and Extended Field Trips. The Range of Costs (a reliable and representative average was impossible to determine) for Extended Field Trips: $30. to $10,000./year. Average costs for one-day field trips: $223./year/family.

Other costs associated with homeschooling:
Just reviewing the following list you can see that homeschoolers spend their money on their children's areas of interest. Once again, comments indicated that homeschooling families justify "extras" as part of their children's educational expenses. Many respondents were not sure if these should be included in "costs associated with homeschooling"- since they might have purchased them regardless of whether or not their kids were in school. I did not include these costs in the final tally of homeschooling expenses since they are different for every family - but have submitted them for your information only:
Sports Equipment: $300.
Magazines: (ie: Kids Discover, Highlights, 3-2-1 Contact, Kid City, Family Fun, Sunset) $95./year
Bookcase: $40.
Phone Calls, Mail Costs, Printing: $200.
Science Equipment & Materials: $1,000.
Aquarium: $300.
Garden: $25.
Gasoline: For trips to library, sports practices & games, pottery classes, etc. Range: $50 - $720.
Chess: equipment, books, tournaments $285.
Set of Encyclopedias (used): $300.
Lost Income Because Mom is not "Employed"

The Final Tally:
Our "average, survey-responding family" spent:

To Establish Homeschool: $ 432.00
For Curriculum, Books,Textbooks, Workbooks: $ 398.00
Software: $ 134.00
Audio/Video: $ 160.00
Classes: $ 1,560.00
Museum Memberships: $ 140.00
Paper, Supplies, Etc.: $ 150.00
Field Trips: $ 223.00
Grand Total: $ 3,197.00/year

How do your expenses measure up to our "average" family? Homefires would like to hear your opinions and reactions to this information. Write to us. We'll publish your thoughts in the next issue. Homefires, 327 Saint Francis Street, Redwood City, CA 94062.

Additional Comments from Survey Respondents:
"Classes make the costs add up. I don't think they are essential. They are a luxury."

"Our annual costs would be higher if we did not have so many books already on hand. I expect our cost to rise as our children get older especially in the science area - for microscopes, chemicals, etc."

"Wow! Didn't realize we spent so much! Our kids did some expensive things this year like private swimming lessons. I guess we could subtract that. We also spent an unusual amount on books and software as we were trying to establish a good "core library" of texts and materials."

"Please note that the gas I have to buy brings our total way up. Also establishing our homeschool cost much more (probably $3000. approximately) but once established, the cost to maintain it is small. We buy more books living where we do than if we lived in the city closer to the library. It's also hard to say what costs are just for homeschool. Many activities would be done even if the kids were in school."

"I fear our music expense throws our numbers off the typical scale, but we have made the long-term commitment and it is not necessarily reflective of a typical homeschooling budget since we have embarked on private lessons and string instruments, etc.. Much music can be learned in homeschooling without such an expense."

"Can we include damage to the house by children during school hours in the cost? I'm only half joking."

"We provided music lessons, electronic equipment, computers, magazines, scouting activities and much more. We would have provided these things no matter how our sons were educated and therefore these could be considered costs of raising our sons - and not the costs for homeschool."

"It is hard to differentiate between family activities and things we do every day which are educational or strictly for homeschooling. Since all life and the world is educational, it was hard to itemize this cost."

Final Comment from the Editor:
It looks to me that just as there is no one right way to homeschool, and no one right kind of homeschooler, there is no such thing as a typical budget for homeschooling. One of the distinct advantages of homeschooling is reflected in this survey, and that is: when you homeschool you can customize and tailor your course of study to your child's interests and needs. Not only that, but families determine for themselves where, when, and how much of their annual income will be spent on education. The ultimate authority for developing an educational philosophy, choosing curriculum, and determining expenditures lies squarely with the family - right where it belongs. Thank you to all who participated.