More than ever before, parents are weighing the differences between public school and homeschool options. This conversation happens in households with children aged 0, 18, and everything in between. The reasons are as diverse as the families making the decision. One of the factors in the decisions for some families is the cost of homeschool. It’s correct, for any new endeavor, to consider the cost before going down a path. The comparison, though, is one I hear framed in an incomplete way. The framing usually pits homeschool with a laundry list of costs against public school or the “free” option. Is it really free though? Here’s some things to think about as you make decisions about your family’s educational approach.
Is Public School Really Free?
You might pay tax dollars that go toward your local school district, but that does not mean there is no cost to you outside of your taxes. It goes against conventional wisdom largely because you don’t get a monthly bill for the local government facility where the elementary school meets, but there is indeed a number of costs, both direct and indirect.
"For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?" Luke 14:28 ESV
What are some of the extra costs for public school students?
A sample of some expenses a public school student could be charged.
Some classes or activities at school carry a fee. This can be anywhere from $20 up to several hundred dollars.
Some schools and districts have made fees for technology like laptops a requirement.
Some schools ask parents to shoulder the cost of certain textbooks.
If your child is in the band or orchestra, you probably expect to buy an instrument. The same expectation goes for sports. Most parents have an expectation of buying equipment for extracurricular activities. Charges for sports, clubs, and other activities are in addition to these kinds of costs. These can be several hundred dollars per activity in some parts of the country.
Number two pencils are still in existence. Even the slimmest list of required supplies for a school is a long list of items besides just a backpack and paper.
Your child has to get to and from school. If you drive them, then that’s additional gas and miles throughout the year. Thinking about the bus? Some districts charge a fee for students that ride the bus.
Field trips almost always carry some cost.
School lunches have a cost to them, even for the food that’s barely food.
Graduations, field days, prom, or other special events can all carry a charge.
How can I find some of the expenses for public school?
The best way is to ask other parents in your community. Contacting the school or school district can help too, but validate what you hear. The same thing goes for any school websites or social media pages. Validate before you trust and budget on the information. Also keep in mind, all this can change year to year.
Is the cost to homeschool less than public school?
This is a much bigger question than this post. Homeschool costs are very different from family to family. Some homeschool experiences will cost less out of pocket than public school would, and some will cost more. The key is to accurately weigh the true or likely costs of the options you’re considering.
Cost should be a consideration, not the deciding factor
As you consider the cost of homeschool vs. public school, make a it a consideration in your decision, but not the deciding factor. The decision you make for your child’s education is a complex choice that weighs many factors. The cost of homeschooling will be as unique as your family. Just make sure your comparison with the public option is done with the true cost.
"In school, you’re taught a lesson and then given a test. In life, you’re given a test that teaches you a lesson." Tom Bodett
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