Families have diverse considerations when choosing what educational route to take, from schedules to socialization. But, as in many decisions, one factor that looms large is the price tag.
Homeschooling is often more expensive than public school. However, public school is not completely free, and there are ways to reduce the expense of homeschooling. In addition, the difference in value between the two can make up for the price difference.
For some parents, picking a schooling method ultimately comes down to cost. For others, it is just one aspect of the decision, but still an important one. So, how does the cost of homeschooling compare with the cost of public school?
Cost of Homeschooling vs. Public School by Year
The estimated cost of homeschooling is six hundred dollars per child per year. However, the price varies among homeschooling families, with some spending significantly more or less on homeschooling.
Many factors affect this cost. Large families will generally have more expenses than those schooling one or two children. The ages of children attending school are also significant (source).
While books, paper, and crayons may be sufficient when a child is in kindergarten, parents often have to invest in calculators, lab equipment, and SAT prep once they reach high school.
Different curriculums also have various levels of affordability. With its emphasis on physical activity and handcrafted projects, Waldorf-style homeschooling is likely to cost less than programs such as Classical Conversations, which require many specific books.
What is the average yearly cost of public school?
Public school in the U.S. is currently estimated to cost $13,000 for every student per year. However, the government pays this price rather than directly to students’ families.
While the government runs public schools, there are still costs for families of children attending them (source).
Depending on school policies, where they live, what extracurricular activities their child pursues, and other aspects of their family, “free” public education can become quite expensive.
In fact, in 2021, the average American public schooling family spent more than eight hundred dollars on school supplies (source).
Cost of Homeschooling
There is a difference in opinion on this subject – many parents who homeschool their children do so for less than $1,000 per year. Additionally, this includes all of the children within the home. Other sources suggest that homeschooling is more expensive than public school.
It also depends on how one does their homeschool. It’s possible to homeschool on a budget using free online and in-person resources. It’s also possible to run a homeschool for a ton of money.
Is it more expensive to homeschool?
Since public school is paid for with tax money, homeschooling is typically more expensive than public schooling. This is because homeschooling families pay taxes plus all the costs associated with homeschooling.
However, the greater expense of homeschooling is a matter of net cost. Some families believe the value of a homeschool education makes it worth spending more than the price of a public school.
In addition, due to expenses associated with public school and methods for saving money on homeschooling, homeschooling can be a cheaper option than public school.
Do you save money by homeschooling?
While homeschooling costs more than public schools, it costs less than most private schools. As a result, it provides a middle-of-the-road option for families who want a good education at a manageable price.
Even though homeschooling does come at a cost, it doesn’t have to be a financial burden. There are many ways to strategically reduce the price of homeschooling and make it a realistic possibility for a family on a budget.
Why is homeschooling expensive?
Homeschool families invest time, money, and resources in all the curricula, books, supplies, and extracurriculars that a public school would provide. The costs of these items can add up quickly.
Homeschooling often means a parent switches to work part-time or stops working entirely to supervise children’s schooling. The loss of that income adds to the price of homeschooling.
How much should you spend on homeschooling?
Time and effort impact the quality of education more than the amount of money spent. Every family’s expenditure will look different based on their finances and educational priorities.
With careful planning, it is possible to homeschool for about five hundred dollars per child per year (source). However, in some cases spending more than this may be the best decision.
When choosing a schooling method, there should be a balance between affordability and quality when deciding how much to spend on homeschooling.
Cost of Public School
Public schools may cost up to $13,000 per child every year for taxpayers. Parents must pay the price of transportation, school supplies, clothes, and money for lunches.
This cost is paid through taxes, though schools also do fundraisers and accept private donations.
So while a family isn’t shelling out $13,000 per student yearly, they are paying taxes for public education.
How is a public school funded?
The government funds public schools with money from property, income, and sales taxes. The percentage of tax money used for education varies from state to state.
Public school is “free” because families do not pay anything for it beyond their regular taxes. Every taxpayer contributes toward public schools, regardless of whether they have children enrolled.
How much does public school cost?
The current average cost per student yearly in the United States is about $15,000. However, there is a wide discrepancy between states. In some states, the cost of public school per student is more like $10,000; in others, it is $30,000 (source).
This level of spending means that, technically, public schooling is far more expensive than homeschooling. However, as mentioned above, the total cost is not being charged directly to the families of children enrolled in the schools.
Are there extra fees related to public school?
While public schools do not charge tuition, there are often costs associated with them. These can include uniforms, school supplies, and fees for participation in extracurriculars and field trips.
Families must also pay for transportation to and from school, after-school care, and tutoring. All these expenses lead to public education not being as free of charge as it might appear (source).
What Makes Public School Worth the Cost?
Public school can be an affordable, accessible form of education that offers children education, socialization, and many extracurricular opportunities. There is no cost for tuition since public schools are tax-funded, and many public schools provide a good education.
Public school is not only less expensive than homeschooling, but it also saves parents time and energy in comparison to homeschooling. Planning curriculum, gathering supplies, teaching, organizing, and supervising can all be stressful and time-consuming for homeschooling parents.
The public school allows them to be freed from these responsibilities.
Charter and magnet schools are also open to the public and often provide a more rigorous education than traditional public schools.
Admittance to these schools is supposed to be based on merit and interest rather than location or who one knows, making them a good option for families who want an alternative to their district school (source).
That being said, I’ve heard of stories where these schools admit students based on who the parents know, donations, or other reasons. So these schools aren’t guaranteed to be free from problems, either.
What Makes Public Schools NOT Worth the Cost?
Public schooling may not be the best choice for a child’s academic, emotional, and physical well-being. For this reason, many families choose alternative schooling options despite their greater cost.
Some districts’ schools provide insufficient education. Other public schools may have adverse social environments or be downright dangerous, with children exposed to bullying, drugs, and violence.
Many public schools do not have sufficient resources to help children with special needs, learning differences, and emotional difficulties, who often need one-on-one assistance the overworked special education system can’t offer.
Although charter and magnet schools are still “free,” they often have more costs, such as uniforms. These schools are often in high demand and have long waiting lists, meaning many families who would like their children to attend are unable to.
As outlined above, even regular public schools may have additional costs.
Test scores have indicated that children attending public school have poorer academic performance than those educated by other methods (source).
Of course, there are individual cases that both disprove and/or validate that claim.
Children attending public school spend less time with their families and more time with their peers than homeschooled children, meaning family bonds are not as strong for them.
What Makes Homeschooling Worth The Cost?
Homeschooling is known to provide students with academic and relational advantages. Since it is a personalized education, homeschooling can be adjusted to provide the best fit for a child’s unique needs.
For the price of homeschooling (however small or large it may be), parents receive an education for their children that they can tailor specifically to their personality, strengths, and interests, as well as their family’s circumstances and personal preferences.
It’s unlikely to find a public school without compromising some of our preferences, but homeschooling can be whatever parents want it to be.
Homeschooling also fosters strong family relationships, and some studies indicate it yields better results in students’ academic achievement (source). While public school students learn to follow directions, homeschooled students become independent, self-motivated learners.
What Makes Homeschooling NOT Worth the Cost?
Unlike public school, homeschooling requires families to spend money beyond what they would regularly pay for taxes. For some families, this is enough to make public school their preferred choice.
In addition to money, homeschooling parents must invest time and energy in their children’s education. For busy parents, planning and supervising the schooling process can be overwhelming.
Even though many resources are available to help homeschooling families, parents must research and decide which resources they want to use. Overall, homeschooling is a major commitment and not for everyone.
Are there ways to get homeschooling paid for with public school funding?
Some areas have ways to do this, depending on state laws. These programs must be run according to state laws for homeschool families to qualify for public-based funding.
My kids are enrolled in an online program partnered with a public school. So technically, they are enrolled in a public school. It’s not our local district, as our local district doesn’t currently partner with this particular program.
I work with a licensed teacher through this program to get my kids’ curriculum approved. I do weekly check-ins so the teacher can see my kids’ progress.
From there, there are additional rules and regulations I have to follow. But as long as we follow those guidelines, we’ve got a pretty good amount of independence to do our homeschool – while getting a good deal of money spent on books or other school-related stuff reimbursed (up to a pre-determined amount per student, based on grade).
If you’re in a state that allows for this kind of partnership, there are usually several options. My neighbor’s kids are in a similar program, though they have more oversight by a teacher than our program does.
If you want more information on the program we use, check out My Tech High at their website here: https://www.mytechhigh.com/. We see no monetary or other compensation for referring people to their site or program.
Are there other ways to save money on homeschooling?
Creativity and dedication make it possible to homeschool successfully for a very low cost. Some ways to save are buying used books, reusing, taking a DIY approach, networking, finding resources, and simplifying.
Abebooks.com has used books available at very low prices. Local homeschool associations often have book sales, and online homeschool groups are great places to find used books sold cheap or even given away.
When homeschooling multiple children, save books for the next child to use when they reach that grade. Workbooks intended to be disposable can be made reusable by working problems on loose-leaf paper instead of in the book.
For supplies we can’t reuse, such as chemistry kits, multiple children can use them simultaneously, even if they aren’t in the same grade.
Do it yourself
Kids can learn to cook by helping around the house instead of doing a formal course. P.E. doesn’t have to involve sports teams and expensive equipment.
Kids can get exercise by running around outside, climbing trees, or doing jumping jacks in the living room. The only limit to do-it-yourself homeschooling is the educator’s imagination.
Friendships with other homeschooling families are a blessing in and of themselves, but they can also help families save money in mutually beneficial arrangements.
Families can work together to split the cost of an expensive science kit, exchange tutoring services for babysitting, loan each other textbooks they aren’t using and find many different ways to help one another.
Public libraries are fantastic resources for homeschooling families. In addition to free books, most libraries have computers with internet access, printing services, collections of music, movies, and magazines, educational opportunities for children, and volunteer opportunities for teens.
Online schooling programs are available nowadays, which can help save money on physical books, curriculum materials, tutors, etc. These are an especially great option for middle and high schoolers, who often need less hands-on instruction than younger students.
A more complicated education isn’t necessarily more complete, and quality always beats quantity. While it can be easy to feel pressure to follow trends or copy other homeschool families, the most popular programs are not necessarily the best.
The fanciest, newest technology and packaged curricula may not be as effective for teachers as a handful of books from the library and the nature available in the backyard.
When to Choose Public School vs. Homeschool (Based on Cost)
Public school is the way to go if the main goal is the cheapest education possible. Homeschooling requires a significant investment of money, time, and energy on a parent’s part. This is not possible for some families; fortunately, many excellent public schools are available.
Even so, let’s get into the details because that’s where things are less clear but more fun.
When does cost make homeschooling the best option?
For others, the academic advantages, flexibility, and family bonds associated with homeschooling are worth the cost. Homeschooling’s advantages over public school make many families believe the higher price is worth it, and the above strategies can help keep the cost affordable.
For us, the cost of homeschooling has been worth it, especially due to the mess that pandemic school was for our children’s mental health. We also found a program that reimbursed us for the vast majority of costs by enrolling our children in a different public school.
So we didn’t have to worry about a ton of the extra costs associated with homeschooling, despite doing most of our schooling at home.
However, even if we hadn’t found this particular program, odds are good that we’d still have homeschooled post-pandemic due to the emotional cost of public school during the back-and-forth of in-person and online public school.
Key Takeaways and Next Steps
Hopefully, this article has clarified the price difference between the cost of public school and homeschooling. While public school may be less expensive, homeschooling may improve our children’s welfare in some situations.
Of course, many children also get a great education at public schools. Public schools are a great option for many children. I loved being educated in a public school up through 12th grade.
There is more information about homeschooling for you to read about in your homeschooling journey and decision-making process. We have listed some articles below packed with details you’ll want!
Or, if you’ve got a different question, use our search bar (up at the top of this page) to find what you need. We’re always expanding this site with new articles, and we love answering reader questions in an article. So if you don’t see your question – contact us. We’d love to get it answered, too!
Learning from your own experience is important, but learning from others is also smart. These are the sources used in this article and our research to be more informed as homeschoolers.
- “Breaking Down the Pros and Cons of Charter Schools.” ThoughtCo, 15 Apr. 2018, www.thoughtco.com/what-are-the-pros-and-cons-of-a-charter-school-3194629.
- “coe.ed.gov.” Public School Expenditures.
- Homeschool-Curriculum.org. “Cost of Homeschooling VS Public School.” Homeschool Curriculum, 12 Jan. 2018, homeschool-curriculum.org/cost-of-homeschooling.
- Lombardo, Crystal. “Pros and Cons of Magnet Schools.” Vision Launch Media, 8 Sept. 2015, visionlaunch.com/pros-and-cons-of-magnet-schools.
- “Pros and Cons of Homeschooling.” Pros and Cons of Homeschooling, 2017, pros-and-cons-of-homeschooling.com/cost-of-homeschooling.html.
- “The Cost of Homeschooling Vs. Public School—A Detailed Comparison.” DoNotPay, donotpay.com/learn/cost-of-homeschooling-vs-public-school. Accessed 21 Sept. 2022.
- Quora. www.quora.com/How-much-money-does-public-schooling-cost-the-average-U-S-citizen. Accessed 21 Sept. 2022.