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.
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
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
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
Sports Equipment: $300.
Magazines: (ie: Kids Discover, Highlights, 3-2-1 Contact, Kid City, Family Fun, Sunset)
Phone Calls, Mail Costs, Printing: $200.
Science Equipment & Materials: $1,000.
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:
|For Curriculum, Books,Textbooks, Workbooks:
|Paper, Supplies, Etc.:
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, 180 El Camino Real, #10, Millbrae,
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
"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.