How Much A Homeschooling Setup Cost A Family Making $47k A Year

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Raising a child supposedly costs you a quarter of a million dollars, but it can honestly be more daunting to face the idea of spending $80 on bottle nipples in a single month. Expense Report gives us a look into the spending, scrimping, and wishing that defines parenthood, from what moms spend on birthdays, to childcare, to sleep, to self-care (we wish!), and beyond.

School this fall is all anyone can think about, talk about, or worry about. Will your family choose in-person schooling, distance learning, or traditional homeschooling? As soon as you think you’ve come to a decision, something changes. Case numbers, state guidelines, and even the individual personalities of each child can affect the decision making process.

Nia, a mom of three in Illinois who has always been a strong advocate for public schools — and even works for one — has decided to keep her kids home this fall. As a single mom, it is a sacrifice to give up the time to keep them home, but she feels it is what is best for her school-aged children right now. What exactly does it cost to set up for a year of homeschooling?

Family: A mother

Location: Illinois

Annual Income: $47,000

Children: 3 (6-year old twins and an 8-month-old baby)

For the past two years, Nia’s twins have been in traditional public school, attending both pre-K and kindergarten in the district she works for as a paraprofessional. With the changes to the school day to follow CDC guidelines, and how much her boys struggled with online learning in the spring, she made the tough decision to withdraw them and begin officially homeschooling them for the 2020-2021 school year. Her twins have some health issues and learning disability due to their prematurity, so their education during a pandemic is complicated by many issues.

Loss Of Income Due To The Pandemic: $5,000

While Nia still has a job this upcoming school year, her hours have been reduced as a result of the pandemic. She is unsure exactly what her income will be this year, but she will lose at least $5,000 due to COVID-19. It could potentially be quite a bit more.

Converting Spare Bedroom Into School Room: $140

While homeschool parents debate the topic of if a dedicated school room is needed or not, since Nia plans for her children to eventually return to public school, she decided to set up a dedicated room for learning. She also knows her kids, and knows they are easily distracted so hopes the space will let them know it's “school time.”

She bought two desks for $50 each and a cubby shelf for $40 to organize their supplies. She then hit up Wal-Mart and Target for the wall decor and some supplies. If you haven’t visited Bully’s playground at Target recently, it is a veritable dream for fresh new optimistic homeschoolers. Colorful bins, inspirational quotes, and more flashcards than any one family could ever hope to own. Target knows their audience. (Looking at you, pandemic parents.)

Curriculum: $250

Each state has different guidelines for homeschool curriculum, so check with your individual state before making a decision to withdraw your child. In Illinois, Nia has to submit a letter to her district informing them her kids won’t be coming back, and will be attending a "private school." Yep, in Illinois homeschooling is considered private schooling — the main difference is that rather than khakis and a polo, their uniform is Crocs and pajamas.

She has to provide instruction for math, language arts, social studies, science, fine arts and physical education. She has to teach these subjects in English, which works for her but seems to be a eurocentric requirement overall.

Rather than purchase a pre-set curriculum, Nia pieced together different items for different subjects. She wanted lessons that were mostly screen-free, so she can save some of their screen time for when she needs to relax at the end of the day. She knows she will add more pieces to the curriculum as the year goes on, but for now she has a starter set she feels good about.

Childcare: $6,500 for the school year

Like many parents, part of utilizing public school is that it also functions as essential childcare for parents. Since Nia will still be working mornings and some afternoons on a split shift, she will need to hire a sitter for several hours per day. As of yet, she has not found someone. As many parents scramble to find private childcare, it's becoming a competitive market in some cities. The average rate for a sitter in her area is $13 per hour.

Homeschool Legal Defense Association Membership: $120 per school year

Because one of her children has special needs and was attending school with an IEP, Nia feels extra pressure to meet his unique educational goals. She knows that elementary school, as it will exist this fall, will not be a fit for him. “He will be so overloaded with all the things he has to worry about — masks, social distancing — he won’t be in a good place to learn.”

Yet Nia is also a first time homeschooling mom and a Black woman, and is cognizant of the fact that those two factors may place her more so under the microscope than other more seasoned -and white- homeschooling families. That is why she also decided to pay $12 per month to become a part of the HSLDA. She then has not only their educational support, but their legal backing, should she need it.

Total: $12,010