What Is the Real Cost of Homeschooling?


Depending on how you look at it, homeschooling is cheap — or expensive.

Let’s say you spend $500 per child per year. When you compare that with the public school system which spends $5000-8000 per child each year, that’s cheap.

But, if you are a one-income family, as most homeschooling families are, and you have 3-5 children that might seem expensive.

Michael Farris of the Homeschool Legal Defense Fund says:

The average cost per student in the public school is $6,000 per year. What does it cost to homeschool a student? In 1996 national survey found that the average family spent $546 to homeschool their child…principally for curriculum materials…homeschoolers save U.S. taxpayers about 7.5 million dollars per year.

One of the delights of a Charlotte Mason education is the cost.
The homeschooling family buys high quality literature that become part of the family library. They have a long-term relationship with the books, rather than a textbook or workbook that will be tossed out or sold at the next curriculum sale. The cost can be quite low.

In contrast, another author on the topic of the cost of homeschooling argued that parents must make sure their child can compete with public school children:

The actual cost of educating a child at home is surprisingly high. Up-to-date textbooks, course materials, a library, computing equipment, lighting, specially designed furniture all cost money.

Specially designed furniture? Up-to-date textbooks? Nothing could be further from the tenets of a Charlotte Mason education. The furniture of the home is the best possible for a child. Of course, the table may have to be adapted for writing, but a large dictionary works just fine.

“Up-to-date” textbooks are not what they seem. They are generally acknowledged to be dumbed down to in order appeal to the lowest common denominator. William J. Bennetta, author of the Textbook Letter, says:

Of course, schoolbook companies can’t promote these books by saying outright that the books are aimed at backward students and dullards, so some companies have taken to using a code-phrase. The phrase is all students, as in “This is a book for all students.” Knowing that all students means the least capable and worst-prepared students.

So if you don’t buy into glitzy textbooks and workbooks, the cost can be quite modest.

The Real Cost of a Charlotte Mason Homeschool

Where does this leave us regarding the cost of homeschooling? Right where we should be, if we faithfully follow Miss Mason’s methods. A CM homeschool should have a few math books, penmanship and copy books, perhaps a science or language book for the later grades, paper and pencil, craft supplies, lots of inspiring art and music. The rest should be captivating, well-written, well-told books that delight and refresh.

Living Books Curriculum strives to provide such books. In fact, our curriculum packages usually contain at least 40 books–all carefully chosen. The cost of our curriculum, which includes all standard academic subjects (except math), is less than $2 a day. The literature becomes part of a family’s permanent collection, and the sharing of music, poetry, art and nature study build family closeness that lasts a lifetime.

What is the real cost of a Charlotte Mason education? Priceless.