You'll definitely find that homeschooling entails more expense than conventional public schooling, but also that it will cost considerably less than the annual $2,000 to $10,000 per child that private school tuition typically runs.
The least expensive option is a public school program tailored to homeschoolers. Those programs that allow more flexibility in choosing materials are often a bit more expensive because they may only provide or reimburse for certain “approved” texts and materials, or they may established yearly budget limit for each student. If you choose to other texts than the program recommends, you may end up having to cover the costs yourself. Some programs offer equipment, such as microscopes or computers, for loan during school terms.
Also often provided are “consumables” – items like paper, pens and pencils, workbooks, and so on – although, as well as the other materials, supplies may be limited to specific amounts each school term.
Private homeschooling programs vary mainly accordingly to the services they provide. Some programs, such as Calvert sell mainly complete curriculum packages. In 1995, the average tuition for a complete Calvert curriculum for a single grade was around $450, with their advisory teaching service (grading, testing, record maintenance) costing an additional $220. Calvert requires that textbooks and the teacher's guide be returned when the course is completed.
Other programs like A Beka Books (a popular Christian-based program), sell individual courses and books as well as complete packages. In 1995, A Beka priced individual books from $.75 to $16 and teacher curriculum guides at about $30. Like Calvert, A Beka sells both curriculum-only packages ($ 120/year at elementary level) and full correspondence programs (around $450/year for elementary grades, $590/year for high school). Homeschoolers at the high school level often use conventional correspondence courses available through public and private universities. Such courses are relatively expensive, typically $100 to $300 per course; textbooks and other required materials may or may not be included in the course fee. For homeschoolers who desire formal credit in specialized topics, particularly in mathematics, sciences, and foreign languages, such courses can be well worth the extra expense.
Less structured private programs may offer per family pricing rather than per child or per course. The Waldorf based Oak Meadow School offers enrollment for an entire family at about $250 per year; curriculum packages (mainly storybooks, novels, and activity guides rather than formal textbooks) range from $150 to $250 according to grade level. Families can opt for teacher assistance for grading, record keeping, and general advice at $65 to $95 per quarter. Clonlara School is extremely flexible with its services and specializes in helping unschooling families. Their 1996 to 1997 fees for record keeping and curriculum advice were $550 for one student, $575 for two or three students, and $600 for four or more students per family. Books and other supplies are additional and vary depending on the type of program you and your family chooses.
Costs for unschooling families are almost impossible to predict, but most families estimate they spend somewhere between $300 and $1,000 for the entire family. Many families buy lots of books, crafts, games, toys, and other “stuff” without keeping official track of whether it is “educational,” and can count items such as computers as general family purchases it rather than as specifically educational. (Some of us deliberately avoid trying to calculate educational expenses, fearing to see the grand total.) Especially with younger children, though, it's difficult to say that such expenditures differ much from those for conventionally schooled children.