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Developing a Homeschooling Budget
© Beverley Paine
So, how much does homeschooling cost anyway? This is a question I hear frequently.
As much as you can afford! That isn't a very comforting answer, but it is a realistic one. Some families reportedly homeschool on as little as $50 a year while others will tell you it doesn't cost them a thing... We've done both, and have spent as much as $100 a week, but that's when we added petrol for excursions, every little last scrap of sticky tape and blutac and piece of string... Most of us will spend around $20 a week on consumables if we have active little handicraft or model making children or budding artists, with an extra splurge now and then to take the children to the pictures, pool, zoo or wherever. I've always figured that we would have spent this much money on the children anyway - our house has always been well stocked with art and craft and science materials, musical instruments and we've always explored the environment and community.
How much you spend, exactly, is going to depend on the resources you have available and your children's needs. Buying homeschool goodies can easily get out of hand, especially for new homeschoolers. Take it slowly to start with. Your children will be best served if you spend your dollars conscientiously. Hopefully, the following steps will help you conserve your dollars. Most importantly, they will help you make sure that your homeschooling dollars are spent conscientiously.
Spend some time researching available materials before you buy anything. Check out local stores, catalogues, web sites, the local library and homeschool resource books. Examine curricula carefully (check with members of your local support group to see if anyone uses the curriculum you are considering). Don't forget to consider memberships to local museums or zoos, private classes and lessons, and fieldtrips. Write up extensive wish lists. Once you have an idea of what is "out there" you will be better able to determine what will be useful to you.
It is highly unlikely that you will be able to purchase everything on your list, so you'll have to begin to narrow things down. Focus on the things you want for this year. For many families, a packaged curriculum is the largest single expense. Consider this choice carefully. Will you be using all of the curriculum, or only portions? Will you have to supplement it with additional materials? Can you purchase different materials that cover the same ground? Consider whether or not the ease of using a packaged curriculum justifies the expense. Would you prefer to spend those dollars on different materials? Read the sister article to this one: Evaluating Educational Materials. These are personal decisions and there is no single correct choice, but it is important to consider the options before laying out the money.
Now we're finally getting to the money part of the equation. How much can you afford to spend? Do you plan to purchase most of your materials in a big chunk each year, or will you purchase smaller amounts of materials each month? This factor may have a significant impact on what you can afford to spend. If you're like me and only plan your educational program out a month at a time you'll want a more flexible budget. I tend to buy student text and work books when the children need them and not before... Plus we use the library a great deal for finding resources for our unit studies. Unit studies can cut the cost of homeschooling considerably - but it can also bump the cost up if your children are anything like many I know, the ones who love to get right into the topics, making costumes and reproducing artefacts, etc...
Look over your wish list again. Now that you know what you can afford to spend, you can transform your wish list into a shopping list. Most likely, your money won't go as far as you'd like. Can you reduce expenses by purchasing used items? Can you borrow materials from the library rather than purchasing them? Ask the librarian to get books in for you...
With a little bit of ingenuity you can recycle household waste into educational materials. A friend used bread tags for math counters; another made a scrabble board and game from a relatively clean pizza box. Perhaps you can start a resource library with homeschooling families in your neighbourhood? Don't throw out those old clothes - save the buttons and recycle the fabric into the craft or junk box. You'll find the junk box one of your children's favourite haunts...
Don't forget to stick to your wish list. This is really the key to staying within your budget. Don't buy any homeschool items that are not on your list. If your needs change, rewrite your shopping list. Getting carried away at Office Max or the local teacher supply store can easily be the death of your budget. Review your wish list and your expenditures at least once a month to be sure they are in alignment.
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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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