Homeschooling Option Can Be Expensive For Families
© Beverley Paine
Hundreds of South Australian children are homeschooled. The growing popularity of teaching at home has brought more options for parents, but the options can also come with a hefty price tag.
Beverley Paine writes and self-publishes books about homeschooling for parents just starting out. She talks to parents from all walks of life that are looking for books, tapes, curriculum and materials to teach their children at home.
She knows what it takes because her three children were homeschooled. Her three children, now in their twenties, opted for careers in retail.
"April chose to finish her education full-time at senior high school, but both boys have opted for adult distance learning courses - one completed a Diploma at the age of sixteen, and the other is part way through a Certificate in Electronics."
The Paines know about the cost of homeschooling from both sides of the spectrum.
"It's possible to spent up to $1000 per year or more if your children are keen on studying subjects like microbiology or astronomy. Even photography or carpentry can work out expensive. How much you spend depends on the quality of resources you want," Mrs Paine said. "It's easy to spend $300 to $400 per subject per year, especially if you count excursions and homeschool camps."
Homeschool parents make a serious commitment to the children's education. For many, it is a financial investment. However, there are some price breaks - used books and material can be found at reduced prices, art and craft materials can be sourced from recycled items and advantage can be made of free community events. The internet with its huge array of free learning resources also cuts costs considerably.
"It can be as inexpensive as a library card," Mrs Paine said, adding that when her children were young she was able to reuse text books for each child and often made learning resources from recycled materials. "It takes a bit of ingenuity but homeschooling can cost next to nothing if you want it to." She cited the case of a friend who made a scrabble game from a used pizza box. "Basically, the difference is the less you spend the more you work at creating alternative resources."
Computers are a major investment, with upgrades a continuous headache for many parents. Not for the Paine boys, who learned how to fix computers for other people.
"We encouraged the children to take responsibility for their education, and this makes them motivated. Goal setting is important," Robin Paine, the boy's father, said. "They've paid for all their computer equipment during most of their teenage years."
The Paine family found homeschooling moderately expensive, but "it's because we do lots of stuff. Making model solar cars was another expensive activity, as was astronomy, but we don't regret buying the telescope."
However, homeschooling is truly a labour of love as there are no tax breaks are available to homeschool households. And discounts can be hard to come by... The Home Education Association Inc of Australia sources discounts for their members from educational suppliers and institutions.
There is no funding for homeschool students either, and other financial benefits available to schooled children, like discount fares on public transport are denied. It can be hard but the Paine family are adamant it's worth it and worry that if funding and tax breaks did arrive they would come with too many restrictions on the freedom to home educate their children in the way they want. "These things always come with strings attached," Mrs Paine said.
To help with costs, homeschoolers often banding together to form informal cooperatives and buying groups. There are flourishing support groups in all the major metropolitan areas.
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Since 1989 Beverley Paine has steadfastly promoted and supported home education as an educational choice for Australia families. Her books and websites aim to demystify education, gently deschooling families so that they may meet their children's individual and unique educational and developmental needs. Her honesty, insights and wealth of experience continues to bring hope, reassurance and confidence to families. Beverley publishes her recent articles, tips and links to resources in her quarterly magazine, Homeschool Unschool