I would like to debunk a common homeschooling myth today and try to help many of you save money each year on your overall homeschooling costs at the same time. When our family was shown the homeschooling path unexpectedly over 5 years ago, we decided to roll with the flow since at the time our oldest child was 3 ½ years old. Once my husband and I had confirmed that we were indeed going to be teaching our children at home, it was time for my frantic search to begin to find a program that we could join because our oldest child was going to begin entering Kindergarten. Since we had a short time period we felt rushed, but we stayed up late and looked at a whole lot of different homeschooling options that were open to us. We found that we could go it on our own, join a charter homeschooling program, join an online charter program, there was even a program that was half homeschooling and half class teaching time. Wow, lots of options, right?
Since we are trying to discuss cost savings, it is important to note that since you have lots and lots of homeschooling options open to you, even doing it on your own. How can a charter homeschooling program save you money? After putting our telephone plan to the test by spending months, literally, calling local private schools, searching online for options, and researching the homeschooling laws of our state our family decided that a local charter school program would be our ticket to success. We found out that not only does a charter homeschooling program provide support when you hit a road block but every program seems to provide core materials that make your homeschooling journey easier on your pocket book. These two items were the keys that we needed to remind us that as homeschoolers we were not alone. Because the charter school program had a true school type of backbone it gave us the sound of mind that if we needed one, a certified teacher could help us at no cost to us. Also, because the charter school is part of a school district, it receives our local tax dollars per child just like all the other schools, so the program provided all the materials that we would need to buy if we went out on our own at no cost to us. This meant that to us, the materials and support would not cost us any out of pocket expenses.
Think about this for a quick moment: how much does your family spend per year on your core curriculum items you use to homeschool? What if you could find a program that provided all or most of that cost because they received funds from your state through your local district? Think of all of the hands-on activities, field trips, and extracurricular activities that your family could enjoy throughout the school year if the core curriculum funds were not coming out of your family’s budget. The research and buying of materials that I have done in the past typically could be on the order of about $100 for a single year’s worth of math (teacher book, student book, workbook), another $100 for language arts (teacher book, student book, literature books, workbook), another $100 for a science curriculum, and then we were looking at about $50 for a social studies/history program. These costs were just for our son, and would be the same or different for our daughter! So, we typically look at a budget of about $350 for our son and about the same for our daughter. Now, please keep in mind this is just for the core curriculums and not enrichment classes, clubs, or organizations. But, since we chose to look at a local charter school we did not need to worry about those costs because they provide those core materials.
Also, if you consider a charter homeschooling program you also need to consider the extra costs of the type of learning environment you will have. There are a few things to consider:
- Classroom Time: There are two types of classroom type homeschooling programs. It is fundamental to understand the differences. In a full time homeschool everything is done at home under your supervision. In a part-time charter homeschooling program students have a number of classes that they need that are only taught at the school so that the students have to go to the school that many times a week or month. Now, what may you ask is this doing in an article about costs? Well, if you do not have to commute to and from the school then you will have more time and less money spent on your transportation costs and impacts to your time for your other family members. Time is money, right?
- Book Rooms: Lots of charter homeschools have libraries stocked full of core curriculum and enrichment materials that you can supplement or change to at no costs. They have product lines that have matching student textbooks, student workbooks, and the most overlooked item, teacher’s manuals (you are the teacher, right?). You can then hand select your child’s core curriculum books for the school year at no cost to you. And here is the best part, most charter homeschool programs offer multiple different products lines per grade level because someone before you most likely used it so they have it. This can also be a benefit because if one product line does not work for you then you can most likely exchange it for a different one from the library, still at no cost to you. If you were on your own and encountered a hiccup in your homeschooling adventure you would then have to purchase a new product at your cost.
- Curriculum Allotments: Some charter homeschool have a yearly textbook fund where the school purchases your child’s materials for you, but you get to select your materials with your educational counselor. Some charter homeschool programs even allow you to purchase the materials and then the school will reimburse the costs. Programs that allow for this option tend to be extremely flexible in the curriculum that you can select. The bottom line in this situation is that you get to choose the materials, the school pays for it, and you have no cost. – Online Programs: This style of charter homeschool is total created and provided in an online format. These programs utilize technology to the utmost and rely on the internet and records forms where students login each day to perform their lessons. If your child is into technology then this could be a charter homeschool option for you. Some even send you all the extra materials at no cost to you like associated workbooks, hands-on materials, and a whole lot of supplies because the school provided everything. Another cost saving aspect of online programs is that they tend to reach a little further than other programs so if you live rural you might be able to look throughout your county and neighboring counties to find a program that meets your needs.
- Enrichment Classes: Some charter homeschooling programs offer classes during the week or at set times of the month on their campuses to help your child enrich their education. These can range in difficulty and content from simple lunches with grade levels where students can hang out with each other to classes taught by instructors brought in to teach subjects (or by charter school staff) to clubs and sports. These classes are provided at no cost to you so you can select what you want if it works for your family.
- Enrichment Allotments: Some charter homeschooling programs offer an enrichment allotment that families can use to enrich their student’s education. These funds can help offset participation costs and registration costs, so again, you choose and the school eventually pays for it. For example our daughter’s art classes and materials for that art class are reimbursed each month by our school. For our son his Cub Scout attire, books, and fees were reimbursed as well. For our family we are on such a tight budget barely making ends meet each month this is a huge blessing to our budget and our stress levels each month to make sure that our children are involved in local clubs and activities that interest them.
Ok, so there are different types of charter homeschooling programs out there and some may save money, but what about the hidden cost savings associated with flexibility? Can you put a price on being able to do things on your own timeline? What I am referring to is your ability in a charter homeschooling program to decide who creates your lessons to meet your daily education goals and how those goals are met. Since the passage of charter school laws in most states, an increasing number of charter schools have been designed by and for homeschooling families by school districts. Charter homeschools provide resources that can include computers, textbooks, and other instructional materials, depending on what is specified in that school’s charter. I know that many people feel that charter homeschool programs place too many limits on homeschooling families since the school is still funded by their local school district or government. These limits are because these programs are funded by public money and they are required to have oversight of your education. That is not necessarily a bad thing though when you look at what you are truly getting for the resources they are providing. In my examples here the school would be paying about $350 per student in the elementary grades (not including monthly enrichment funds). I feel that since you get curriculum and enrichment provided for you, an educational counselor to assist you, and an entity that keeps all your records and files them appropriately with the education codes of your state that the cost savings to me as a parent and teacher on a budget is a great resource. The only downside to most charter homeschooling programs is that no matter who holds the charter, they tend to not be allowed to purchase religious based curriculums; however, I have purchased materials to use on our own in the past and have used them as core curriculum components and our counselor was clear that it is totally acceptable to use the materials, it was just that the school could not purchase or reimburse for them. I have also found that it is very easy on a daily basis to add religious content into our homeschool since God is everywhere and in our lives on a daily basis. Since we are the teachers and provide our educational lesson plans we are free to teach our child our religious beliefs in any way, shape, or form that we desire as we skip hand in hand with God on our homeschooling journey.
All-in-all, in my opinion, homeschooling through a charter homeschooling program can save you money and sometimes, it can save you lots of time and headaches about what you need to do and how you will be doing it. All of the roads described above lead you down a path in your homeschooling journey where you will have the materials, enrichment, and a teacher/counselor to help support you and your child when, not if, educational road blocks are hit. These programs might help you realize that there is no need to pull out your hair or look at the extra added costs of hiring a tutor to get over a hurdle because your program will already have options open to you to help get you over them. At my last calculation, our family saves over $1600 a year for our two children (curriculum, enrichment, time, materials) without losing our right to hand select their curriculum, plan their lesson plans, participate in enrichment activities, and add in our religious beliefs by schooling through a local charter school program.
If you would like to learn more about why using a local charter homeschool program works for our family these articles may be of interest to you: