But Public School Is Free… Won’t Homeschooling Cost a Lot?

There are many ways to look at this question; please allow me to explain them in detail before you make any quick decisions.

What is the true “cost” of public schooling? Aside from the obvious arguments of emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, or moral issues, public school is not free. Stop for a moment to reflect on how many extra costs come up: field trips, fund raisers, extra supplies, uniforms (sports, cheerleading, band, gym, etc.). Then there is my un-favorite: I purchase new school clothes (or notebooks, pencils, whatever) only to have my students come home after a few days of the new school year with the report that their clothes (or notebooks, pencils, etc.) are not appropriately in fashion and must be replaced. They absolutely would become the lowest pariahs in the school if they had to continue with the original purchase.

Once you have become committed to homeschooling, constant attention to fashion tends to pass by the wayside. The ability to do math in one’s pajamas becomes a status symbol. Occasionally, you can spend a little more on a special wardrobe item because you know you have not spent a lot already on clothing that is not being worn. Food from home is always more economical than purchased meal plans or special lunch-box items, and there is the added bonus of raiding the fridge of leftovers between classes. All in all, I found homeschooling to be a great benefit to our budget — we seemed to have extra money, even after buying all our books and supplies.

Invest in “recyclable” homeschool materials that can be passed down from one student to another. Workbooks are considered “consumable” — used up by only one student. Some students benefit from the “personal” aspect of workbooks, other students do not have strong feelings and can write gently with pencil (allowing the answers to be erased later for use by the next student) or will not mind writing their answers in a separate notebook (allowing the workbook to be used and reused and reused). Textbooks and (of course) all “real” books can be read and reread by as many students as you can produce.

Once your books have been passed through all your available students, you may be able to resell them to other homeschoolers. Beware: textbooks will eventually get replaced by newer editions, which can leave you stuck with an unsellable volume. When selling or purchasing used curriculum, it is important to keep all related materials together in the same edition. There is nothing more frustrating than finding a “bargain” on a used math text, only to find the answer key is no longer available for that edition (sadly, the voice of experience).

So far I have only addressed financial “costs,” but I realize that in the back of your mind you are already assessing other costs to your children and your family as a whole. Some of you (unfortunately) have already experienced the “social” cost of seeing your child’s attitude change from being a dedicated member of your family to becoming more attached to the government school teacher. To borrow a theme from currently popular advertising, “Box of pencils, $2. Textbook, $56. Getting respect from your child, PRICELESS!”

When our family began homeschooling, I read or heard somewhere that it takes approximately one month to “recover” for each year spent in government school, double that if the student also went to preschool. Recovery involves un-learning public school ways and re-learning a homeschooling mindset. It was a fairly accurate guideline for my children who had preschool-through-fifth grade and preschool-kindergarten in a public setting. (Their preschools were church-sponsored, but still are considered as meeting the government-school-model qualification.)

Another symptom of the social cost is the child who takes up with the “wrong” friends, adapting their values and habits. I probably do not need to go deeply into s*x, drugs, and attitudes to convince you that there is an extremely high cost associated with peer pressure.

[Unfortunately, some spelling had to be edited to eliminate unwanted search engine hits.]


  1. Anonymous says:

    I dont even know how to use outlook express but am very interested in your homeschooling for second and third grade for my grandson…the Christian life is very important to me…granmere3@sbcglobal.net Carolyn Halbert

  2. I fully agree about the role which fashion plays in the public schools. When I was young, I found it ridiculous enough that other kids would reject you ifthey didn’t like your clothes. I’m surprised to see that it’s now extended to having the “wrong” school supplies.

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