Finances of Home Education: How to Homeschool Inexpensively

Deciding whether or not to initiate a home education program can be complicated. One of the biggest concerns is the cost – how to juggle child care and a job, affording curriculum and resources, the expense of extra curriculars, and more.

Homeschooling isn’t cheap or easy, but families can make deliberate choices and tap into extensive resources to bring down the costs.

 

Cost Per Student

Many families who consider homeschooling their children are concerned about the expenses and often presume that the cost is high or comparable to the per pupil cost of public education. In truth, it’s not even close.

Per the NH Department of Education, the average cost per pupil is $16,823.88 as of the 2019-20 school year for grades K through 12. And that does not include each family’s back-to-school expenditures for clothes, shoes, supplies, electronics, and other associated items.

This is much, much higher than the cost of home education.

According to Time 4 Learning, the average cost for homeschooling is between $700 and $1800 per year per child for curriculum, materials, field trips, and extra curriculars.

In a recent survey of GSHE members, the average cost per child was under $500. Members remarked that costs are higher for the high-school level, which comes as no surprise. A couple people shared more specific answers. One person shared that her teen is traveling to Europe for a language immersion program and another said their teen is learning a trade that has expensive equipment, but they see it as an investment in his future career.

Costs vary greatly family to family, depending on the children’s educational needs, interests, ages, and available resources. For example, some families need to independently provide special education services, and while that can be expensive, they may be able to use inexpensive materials for their core subjects. Other families may forgo a second income, but then they no longer need after-school care. Many families budget for field trips and outside hobbies, so the costs can be better managed and anticipated.

There are trade-offs that are unique to each family and no right or wrong answers.

 

Taxes

New Hampshire families do not receive a special tax break for home education expenses, nor is there a federal tax break.

Home owners also still pay their local property taxes that are largely used to support the local public schools. However, this is why resident homeschoolers are able to participate in classes and “extras” through the Equal Access statute and can enroll part-time in the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS) at no additional fee.

 

Employment Options

It is never easy to be a single-parent or single-income household, but even these families are sometimes able to make home education work for their children. It often depends on the type of employment the adults have, whether they can work from home, have flexible hours, or the children are of ages and abilities to work somewhat independently. It isn’t easy, but it is possible for some, particularly when families discard the traditional school mindset that learning must happen Monday to Friday between 8am and 3pm. Homeschoolers have flexibility to have home education fit around the family’s needs and schedules. There are families that have parents split the education responsibilities based around their work hours, give the kids work to do independently with check-in times periodically, or have a neighbor, teen or grandparent help supervise the kids when parents aren’t available.

Some families operate home-based businesses of various types. We have GSHE members that have farms and sell various produce, breed puppies, sell various products, have Etsy shops, offer education services, and more.

To support our community, we have a Self-Promotion Saturday in our main Facebook group to help support local small businesses and other homeschoolers. It’s a win-win.

 

Tips to Bring Costs Down

Reusable Materials

One of the biggest potential costs for a home education program is curriculum, but families have a lot of options to minimize the expense.

Not all approaches to home education require a formal curriculum, textbooks, and other expensive materials. On the GSHE Homeschool Methods page, we have descriptions of popular approaches to homeschooling, along with online quizzes to help identify which may be a good fit for your family. There are resources that go with those styles, and review sites so you can dial into what approach and materials may work best for your children. This helps eliminate purchases that are not suitable for your family.

Once the learning approach is identified, families can often find discounted sources for those materials, including used curriculum sales and groups for second-hand resources. Christian Home Educators of NH and southern ME has an annual sale that is the largest in all of New England – definitely worth checking out each spring. GSHE also manages a Facebook group, Granite State Home Educators Marketplace, specifically to help bring buyers and sellers of gently-used resources together. Families can also find quality resources at second-hand shops such as Goodwill that have books and reference materials.

Remember, too, that homeschoolers are not required to duplicate any aspect of public education, so even using textbooks, workbooks, and other more formal resources is purely optional. Many families, instead, choose to use classic books that may be available to download or from free sources such as Project Gutenberg.

Homeschool resources do not have to be consumables that are used by only one student and instead can buy reusable materials that can be used by multiple children or later sold at curriculum sales or online forums.

 

Free Online Resources

The internet has countless resources and many are free! GSHE compiled an extensive list of apps, websites, and even curriculum sources that are available at no cost. There are well-known websites such as Khan Academy, Duolingo, Easy Peasy, edX, MIT Open Courseware, and Scratch programming, as well as many other lesser-known resources to explore.

And remember, homeschoolers can take classes through the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School (VLACS), NH’s only online chartered public school. They have extensive offerings, including AP classes, world languages, and many more courses. VLACS is available for grades K through 12.

Homeschoolers can also participate in classes and “extras” through their local public schools through the Equal Access statute. Check your local SAU’s policies for specifics.

We also compiled free planners that can be printed and customized to help you keep track of your children’s homeschool program activities.

 

Educator Discounts

Several retailers extend educator discounts to homeschoolers. Usually showing a copy of your home ed acknowledgement letter is sufficient documentation to qualify. Check our list here for the most current information of participating retailers.

 

Library Resources

Our neighborhood libraries are fabulous resources for homeschoolers! Not only do they have extensive book collections and access to materials across the state, they often have website subscriptions and field-trip passes that residents may use. Many also host virtual and in-person events that are great social and educational opportunities for kids of all ages. Get to know your local librarians who can show you all the amazing resources they have available.

 

High-School Resources

Although resources often do get more costly for our teens, there are ways to bring costs down.

For teens that are college-bound, there are several dual-enrollment programs; check the New Hampshire Dual Admission Program for additional information.

Modern States offers free courses and exams for the College Level Examination Program (CLEP). These credits are accepted at over 3,000 colleges and universities across the country.

Equal Access extends to NH’s regional Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs, too, for teens looking to explore careers in the trades.

Because home education does not need to replicate public education and is not limited to traditional class experiences, homeschooled teens can use hands-on jobs, volunteer positions, internships, and other experiences as part of their education.

Explore more information in our High School & Beyond page.

 

Group Learning and Social Opportunities

As NH’s homeschool community grows, so, too, are the group learning and social opportunities around the state. Check our Support Groups page to find one near you. We also have many events shared in our social media groups and monthly e-newsletters.

Families are able to form informal groups to do periodic field trips, hang-outs, or learning groups in any format they choose and the options are limitless.

Earlier today, one mom near Concord offered to host a Friday evening around a campfire with smores for teens and nearly 30 people responded in just a few hours. Another GSHE member asked about teen groups near Manchester, and another couple dozen people responded who are also looking for friends for their pre-teens and teens. We encourage families to initiate opportunities that match their own children’s interests. Chances are there are other people looking for similar connections.

Does your child want to go apple picking, visit a haunted house, do a Nerf battle, catch a movie, host a pot-luck meal, play a bunch of board games, do seasonal crafts, work with other kids to do a beach clean-up or service projects for elderly or veterans in your community? All of this can happen and GSHE encourages members to coordinate these opportunities in our group so more families can join you. The costs for these opportunities are based on whatever outings the group plans.

Some families are enjoying organizing periodic events or hands-on projects through a local company or organization. There are many that are friendly to homeschoolers, and some offer their programs at a discount to homeschoolers. There are art classes, martial art studios, theater groups, nature and farm programs, choirs, STEM programs, and more.

We also compiled tips and resources for finding and creating learning groups. Students can take an online class together and form a study group, organize a book and writing club that meets periodically, go through a parent-led unit study on any subject such as sewing, art, science, a world language, or anything else that is of interest. The cost is minimal and usually just for materials.

There are also many organizations that offer drop-off programs and classes for various age ranges. They are also listed on our Support Groups page. The prices are often higher as they have paid staff and facility charges to cover.

 

Extra Curriculars

Our children’s hobbies and interests can get expensive quickly, whether or not they are home educated. Several spots and activities have expensive classes and equipment. Fortunately, many programs offer special homeschool classes during the day when their facilities are less crowded and discounts may be available. For example, many homeschoolers organize group ski classes at various mountains around the state and there are discount programs available.

 

Financial Support

Low-income families can apply for the education tax credit scholarship program. It covers educational expenses for a variety of homeschool educational purposes and the largest program is managed by the Children’s Scholarship Fund NH.

Another program open to low-income families is the Education Freedom Account (EFA), also managed by the CSFNH. Participation in the EFA is similar to, but different from home education in critical ways including sending in the annual assessment results, Equal Access is not available, and funds may only be used for approved expenses by approved vendors. See our article for more information and contact the CSFNH for the application.

 

By Michelle Levell