Then I ran across this article, from Chicago's Daily Herald, by Burt Constable, who sends his kids to a public school in one of our major metropolitan areas. Take a look at how much this "free" public school is costing him.
My wife and I could buy a 42-inch plasma HDTV with the money we spend on fees required to send our three kids to public schools.Mr. Constable is trying to keep this cost in perspective by comparing it to a homeschooler near him. But the homeschooler he's comparing himself to spends $7000 to school six kids. That sounds like a lot to me! I have a book on my bookshelf entitled, How to Homeschool Your Child for Free. I'll grant you, I don't use that method much, and I do spend significant money homeschooling. But I use excellent quality materials, and every year's curriculum I buy contributes a significant number of great titles to our home library. I don't buy many textbooks or workbooks, and I certainly don't spend money on "instructional materials" or "lunch supervisors," nor on supplies to restock the teacher's closet! The majority of the money I spend on curriculum and supplies provides our family with long-lasting value - not just this year, but for many years to come.
There’s the “instructional materials” fee of $205 for each of our middle-schoolers, the $76 grade-school version of that fee, the “lunch supervisor” fee of $84 and myriad charges for gym uniforms, musical instrument rentals, field trips and general whathaveyou.
Topping it all off, we are required to send our kids to school with treasure troves of school supplies that include glue, Scotch tape, soft soap, a 54-function scientific calculator, a 512 MB flash drive and more Crayons, markers, colored pencils, pens, binders, folders, notebooks, scissors, erasers, highlighters, correction fluid, paper and sharpened No. 2 pencils than our kids can carry in their humongo backpacks, which are of a weight usually associated with sherpas.
When I was a grade-schooler, I included a pencil and maybe even a back-up pencil in the Swisher Sweets cigar box that carried all my supplies to school. Now, in this age of computers and printers, our sixth-grade twins are required to cart a mind-numbing total of 18 dozen pencils, pens and markers to school.
And for those who have less to spend, there are many resources they can use to homeschool for much less than I spend. Libraries are full of excellent, interesting books that can be borrowed free. People with more than one child can combine some resources, especially in areas like literature, history, and science. Some of the best curricula out there expects you to combine your kids for everything except math and language arts, or to re-use materials for younger children, substantially reducing the cost.
Statistics say the average homeschooler spends $600 to $1000 per child. That includes those individuals like Mr. Constable's acquaintance who spend $1200 each for six kids, which means many families homeschool for much less. Mr. Constable is already spending somewhere around $1000 for his three kids; it wouldn't cost him much more to homeschool.
As for me, it's a real encouragement to know that homeschooling isn't all that expensive compared to public school.