It sneaks up on me every year. Lurking and waiting to claim a major spot on my credit card statement. No, it's not Christmas. This is bigger, much bigger. This happens every spring and occurs when I must purchase homeschooling materials for the following year. Something that non-homeschooling friends may not realize is the expense that goes into schooling our children at home. Hey, I'm not complaining. I would rather pay for books and curriculum and get to choose how, when, where, and what my children are learning than institutionalize them and have little or no say over these things.
There are ways to homeschool for little or no expense. But I don't follow those ways. I prefer prepackaged subject curriculum, the ones with good reviews and preferable a day-to-day schedule to follow. This equals less work for me and less work makes me happy. Problem is, these types of curriculum's can get pretty pricey. I do utilize the library, buy used when I can, and try other methods to get books cheaply, but sometimes I just have to bite the bullet and pay retail. Homeschooling is one of our highest expenses of the year, there is no doubt about it.
How does it get so expensive? Well, books aren't cheap. James' writing program alone cost $240 for this year. Anything a school kid does that we decide to do comes out of our pocket. Field trips, enrichment classes, music lessons, and sports. And just like a school kid, if one of our boys needs a tutor for a subject we are unable to help him with, we pay for that as well.
Do we budget for homeschooling? Sheepishly I must admit that we don't. We are careful to make reasonable decisions over what we purchase. A $300 LEGO robotics science program may look awesome, but it is not really a necessary expense. The boys would love it, there is no doubt. But robotics is not a required science. Paying $100 for an earth science curriculum is still a lot, but that is material that they need to learn to help master science at higher levels. So if we encounter a program that is a must have, like an amazing writing program, we purchase it regardless of the cost.
I buy what works for our family. When my kids are schooling successfully it makes our home life a lot better. Sometimes I make purchases that don't work out for us. A nice things about homeschooling curriculum is that a lot of it has a high resale value. We are often able to resell that material and put the money towards a better program. Another secret is that I tend to spread out our purchases over several months so I don't get hit with a huge bill all at once. I know what math and grammar program we will be using for the following year. Those curriculum's don't change for us. So I watch the websites and if they have promotions or offer free shipping I go ahead and get them. Even if it is only February.
Although homeschooling is not cheap and we don't budget for it, we make this financially work for our family through careful planning and purchasing only those items that we really need.