Thursday, September 12, 2013

How Can I Afford Homeschooling?

For many homeschooling families this subject isn't always at the forefront of the initial decision to homeschool. If you're still making the decision to homeschool or have just thought that homeschooling can be an option for your family, it's important to note that there are expenses to homeschooling--some you may not have considered.

So, just how can you afford homeschooling?  Let me share some ideas.

Whether you plan to purchase an 'all-in-one' curriculum or not, there are monthly fees for items and activities you'll want to do with your children that if you aren't aware of can put a strain on any budget.
Here are just a few of the purchases homeschooling families regularly make:

  • Tickets to museums and other site-seeing venues
  • Gas for vehicles and/or passes for public transportation 
  • General supplies: crayons, pencils, paper, etc.
  • Group/Individual Classes such as swimming, gymnastics, music lessons, etc.

These are typically yearly costs:
  • Membership fees for homeschool groups and/or co-ops
  • Memberships to online resources such as teacher resource sites and gaming sites
  • Homeschool Conference Fees

Just as setting family goals, deciding upon a homeschooling method/approach and mapping out a schedule that matches your family's ebbs and flows are important, figuring out just how your family will afford to homeschool is crucial.

I've learned from experience and from listening to others that any family can afford to homeschool.  No matter what your budget is. The key is to plan out a budget that will accommodate it.

A word to the wise: You and your partner should have a detailed conversation about this subject. Both of you should know what the expectations are and how it will affect the overall household budget. This is one of the ways that knowing your family's goals can be used right away in planning for homeschooling.

A typical homeschooling family lives on one income. Adjustments are made, on a regular basis, to make this work. Perhaps you already know first hand that car-sharing, meal planning and watching your spending on expenses are all a part of this balance. With more and more families choosing to homeschool, you can now find single parents, full-time working parents, business owners and other entrepreneur types finding creative ways to make homeschooling work for their families, too.

Because it is important for each individual family to come to terms for themselves on what matters most, I will offer you some guiding questions to help you determine how best to create a budget that can include homeschooling.  I will then offer some ideas as to how you might make it work.
  • What is your monthly income?
  • What are your monthly expenses?
  • Can all of these expenses or, at least, your basic needs, be met on one income or do you need both incomes to make it work?
  • Are there expenses that you could eliminate? (For example, could you lower your budget for gas by using public transportation?)
  • Are there extras in your budget that you'd be willing to cut or eliminate to homeschool? (For example, can you limit or eliminate your cable bill, dining out budget, or clothing allowance?)
  • Have you thought about just how much it will cost for you to homeschool your children (see bring list of expenses above)?
  • Have you considered what homeschooling can/will do to your current budget?
There are books that offer homeschooling parents creative ideas and ways to homeschool for free or nearly free. I strongly encourage you to read the ones you can find at your public library.  Here are a few titles you might check out:
  • Homeschool Your Child for Free by LauraMaery Gold & Joan M. Zielinski
  • Homeschooling On a Shoestring by Melissa L. Morgan
  • Homeschoolers' Guide to Free Teaching Aids by Kathleen Suttles Nehmer
There are also whole websites, blogs and Pinterest boards devoted to helping homeschoolers find free homeschooling materials. Explore your options before settling on purchasing any curricula or other materials. A simple 'homeschool for free' search online will bring up lots of these sites.

If you find that you do need supplies, which, you will, always look for deals. Wait until the traditional school year begins as supplies are lower then.  If your state offers a tax-free holiday weekend, take advantage of those dates and shop then. Watch your local stores for clearance items. I am always surprised at just what I can find right after the 'Back to School' time has passed. Last year, I was able to purchase most of the supplies we are still using now (pencils, erasers, notebooks, crayons, glue sticks, etc.) by waiting until they were marked down further.

If you decide to use a curriculum, attend used book/curriculum sales. These sales are hosted by homeschool groups and organizations. They typically take place toward the end of the traditional school year (April, May or June) and in some places at the end of the summer (July and August). There are also online sites where homeschooling families sell curriculum/resources throughout the year. Some of these sites require a small fee to join, yet there are many others that do not--go that route whenever possible.

What else can you cut to lower your budget?

Meal planning is all the rage now. If you're anywhere near Pinterest, you know exactly what I'm talking about (smile). From freezer meals and meal sharing, to cooking from scratch and eating clean--all are ways to reduce the amount of money you spend monthly on food.  Many families find ways to better use the money they spend on food, thus creating money that can be devoted to homeschooling costs.

Thrifting: Purchasing clothing at thrift stores and/or consignment sales is another option for creating funds for homeschooling. Just as there are used book sales throughout the year, consignment sales are schedule around those same times too. Many growing families use this option since children typically grow a size a season. You can also find books and sometimes curriculum at this places too.  Keep your eyes open. 

Trading and bartering services with another family or going in on bulk items from a 'big box' store can also help cut your costs. There may even be co-ops in your area for this very thing. All you need to do is ask around. You may be surprised at just what the homeschooling families in your area are aware of and willing to share with you.

Using the library as your main resource for books and online resources will definitely lower your costs. Librarians are some of the first persons you'll want to make friends with as they can help you locate many things throughout the library system and online. I am thankful for the number of resources my library system carries that are COMPLETELY FREE and available to anyone with a library card.  This one way has helped keep my homeschooling budget low.

Asking family members and close friends to support your homeschool financially is another option. I'm sure that this would be a difficult request to make in that form, however, you could share your wish list of items and request that family/friends give those as gifts throughout the year.  I have asked family members (grandparents and aunts/uncles, mainly) to give us school resources for birthdays and holidays.  Initially, not all were on board, but now we regularly receive books and art supplies. We've also received games and other interactive learning resources.  I have also requested family memberships and magazine subscriptions as gifts. Over the course of this year we've benefited from instruments and lessons--all gifts from family and friends. The people you and your children matter to can assist in keeping your budget low.

Opting for yearly memberships to museums is a way to cut your costs for field trips and other outings. These memberships, although a big investment upfront, will usually pay for themselves by the second or third visit--depending on the size of your family.

Joining other families either through a homeschool group or co-op for group memberships and group discounts is yet another way to take advantage of personal savings.

I'm sure there are several of you reading this that are already finding and creating ways to make homeschool work for you.  I'd love to hear what you've found to work for your family.  I'm sure others reading this would too. Take a moment to comment below so we can continue sharing ideas in making homeschooling affordable to everyone interested.  Thanks in advance!

Be well.

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