With more people now homeschooling either due to choice or the COVID-19 crisis, you may decide that this is something you’re interested in doing. Our children have always been home educated, so we’ve always had these hidden costs of homeschooling in our lives, so I thought I’d share them with you so that you can be prepared if you decide to go down this road. Knowledge is power, after all.
As your children approach the end of their home education career, one of the greatest costs of homeschooling could be exams. Depending on where you home educate, there may be differences in government legislation about costs. Here in Northern Ireland we still of course pay our taxes for those who are educated in public schools, but we are fully responsible for all costs of home educating our children. There aren’t any rebates, tax breaks, or expense funds. This year, in particular has been fierce as public school children have received a grade without sitting their exams, and although there has been controversy in the way those grades were given, home educated children were not given any grade at all, nor will they receive a refund.
Heat and Electricity
Exams aside, there are other hidden expenses for homeschool families. The electric bill for us is so much higher now than it was when it was just Phil and I home. People didn’t believe us when we said how low our bill was, because we were careful with our electric use and we were both out of the house for work 12 hours a day, 4 days a week. Now, with all four of us home 24 hours a day, and more electronic gadgets such as laptops and lights being used in more than one room at a time as we spread out to work, the kilowatts of energy we use has gone up drastically.
Also because there are people home all day long, we use more heating oil to heat our home and water tank. We do use a timer for early morning, noon, and dinner, but from September to April once the sun hits a certain point in the sky, the temperature drops quickly and we tend to have to put the heat on to take the chill out of the air. I know some people who only turn their heat on for a month or two all year, but with 2 asthmatics in our home, it’s important to keep the damp out of the air and not give any mold spores the chance to proliferate.
One thing that has been noticed by many people this year, is how much free school lunches are a necessity for many families (these are based on a family’s income here). Those who had been using them during the school year suddenly had to find the funds to feed their children at home. The use of food banks has increased this year, and this is one of the causes. Personally, I do know what the menu at our local school is, and what it costs, and I can make more nutritious meals for a lot less at home, but it’s still an expense that one might not have when children ‘go’ to school.
The costs of homeschooling in relation to school supplies could go either way. I can’t fathom why children need so many glue sticks and pencils at school. And those must be newly purchased each year and often must be of a specific brand so they can be pooled together. Yes, I know this is sometimes done to help out those children whose families can’t afford all the supplies and they can then be shared out, but so much goes to waste.
When you homeschool, you must purchase your own paper, pens, crayons, construction paper, glue, paints, science kits, and everything else. While many only need to be replaced when needed rather than every year, they still cost money, and science equipment can become costly, and sometimes hard to come by. However, homeschool parents can be creative when it comes to supplies and can often find ways to cut down on costs.
Loss of Earnings
This isn’t something that is always thought about in the long-term, but it should be. I used to work full-time in the city until my maternity leave finished. It was a hard decision to make to leave the secure full-time salary for a tiny fraction of the wage as a childminder. I am now a virtual assistant, but still don’t make the income I used to, which means that we may not be able to do or have as much as perhaps we could if I was working full time.
This has obviously been a sacrifice, and we don’t live on just one wage, but it does mean that we have more time together and are able to home educate our children.
If our children went to our local school they’d be able to walk there, so the cost for transportation for elementary school would be nil. However, if we wish to go into the city, on a field trip, group outings, co-op meets, or anywhere outside of walking distance, we need to either pay for the fuel for our car or for trains and/or the bus. This can add up very quickly for 3-4 people and also the public transportation schedules need to be taken into consideration for time (a 20 minute appointment or meeting in a nearby town could take 4-5 hours of our time by train). These costs can vary widely by area as our 20 mile journey in Northern Ireland by train costs the same as a 2km journey by bus in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Wear and Tear
General wear and tear on your home can definitely be seen when there are little people there all day every day. Sofas, counter tops, wall paint, etc., all take a beating, even when you’re careful, and furniture, appliances paint, and flooring all wear faster than you would initially expect.
When I was childminding a 10% tax deduction on income was standard to account for the extra wear and tear on a house, and that’s probably pretty accurate. Although this isn’t a direct expense, it is something to consider and budget for to put a little aside every month for when new furnishings are needed.
Toiletries & Cleaning Supplies
Everyone uses toilet paper, soap, tissues, etc., but they will become much more in demand when there are more people home all day. You might soon understand why teachers cannot supply the class with never-ending boxes of tissues and why some schools trying to cut their budgets have asked parents to send in toilet paper (this has actually happened in the UK and in the USA).
So it may be that you’ll be paying for these items either way, but it is something to keep in mind so that you can stock up a little bit more the next time you see these items on sale.
Are The Costs of Homeschooling Worth It?
As you can see, these hidden costs of homeschooling aren’t insane, but they may have been things you haven’t considered. Our groceries, utilities, transportation, and furniture may directly cost us more on a monthly basis, but with all of the cuts to the education sector, it’s becoming much more likely we’d be paying for these costs one way or the other, anyways.