Thursday, May 21, 2015

What I've Learned This Homeschool Year

Every year it's fun to look back and see what I've learned about home education and parenting (it's hard to separate the two).

From this past year, here are a few of the things I've learned:

You can't push readiness

Okay, you can if you really want to. But it's a surefire way to make everyone involved miserable.

This past year, our 8yo finally read his first full-length novel ("The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe"). "Hurray," quoth I, "We're finally done with picture books!"

So I tossed all picture books aside and started reading a ton of full-length picture-free novels during our reading time.

And he wasn't ready.

I persisted for quite some time, but when I saw that all of the joy was leaving our reading time, I finally desisted. The truth is that the transition to upper-level literature is going to be a long one - and there are going to be many more years when he enjoys picture books as well as novels and upper-level works.

In this, as in all areas of parenting and home education, progress is slow. And I need to let it progress at a healthy and natural pace rather than rushing things unnecessarily.

We're in this for the long-term

In both home education and parenting, progress is often incremental. It's slow going, and it can be frustrating to look at how little progress we've made over the short-term.

And that's why it's necessary to take the long-term view. When I look back to four years ago, I can finally see: Wow! We've made so much progress, and I didn't even notice it happening! That is really encouraging.

Additionally, it's neat to realize that with both parenting and homeschooling, mistakes aren't permanent. Oftentimes, parenting books make it seem that if you make a mistake, you might as well consign your child's future to the dustbin and retire in despair. (You failure, you.)

But the truth is that mistakes and mis-steps are a constant given. It's our job to assess, recognize problems, and make adjustments to our course. It doesn't mean that we're failing - it means that we're normal. Mistakes aren't permanent, and progress is best seen from a long-term view.

Children have amazing memories

This year, a club leader gave out a huge Scripture memory assignment to the children. I didn't even bother trying to have the 8yo learn it, because I thought it was impossible. It was just too long. But when the second assignment came out, I heaved a great sigh and decided to give it a go (rather embarrassing not to).

To my surprise, the 8yo memorized it - and did so much more quickly than I did. I found what I have often heard others say - that young children have amazing memories and can easily surpass adults in this area.

Since then, I have begun to incorporate memory work into our home education program. We're memorizing long Scripture passages and poems, and I'm hoping to incorporate historical documents and speeches as well. This is in keeping with the Classical grammar stage, and it's actually been a lot of fun.

You learn something new every year.

Curriculum choices aren't ever completely "made"

My initial thought was that the curriculum search had a final endpoint. Regardless of how long it took, when I found curriculum that was THE ONE that worked for our family, my search would be over.


First of all, almost all moms I know are constantly tweaking the curriculum they choose. (Guilty as charged.)

Secondly, just because you find something that works doesn't mean you won't eventually find something else that works better. Of course, that can take on a pathological mania of its own (i.e. the homeschooling mother who can't stick with anything longer than two months), but occasionally it's bound to happen.

Thirdly, curriculum choices can vary by life-season. Even the craftiest, most unit-study-prone homeschooler might turn to textbooks or online classes during a difficult season of life (morning sickness, health challenges, caring for an ailing grandparent, etc.).

And lastly, I am told that oftentimes the curriculum that works beautifully for one child will be a disaster for another - necessitating another curriculum search. We are still three years from having our second student, so this will be a whole new field of experience for me.

All homeschooling families are different

Homeschooling families and their home education programs are as different from each other as they can be. Even though I know this, the wide variety of educational styles and family environments still surprises me.

Here are a few examples, and you'll see why they would vary so widely in style and substance:
  • Family A - Two daughters are teens and study independently, a third daughter is very young with serious health problems. They fit in homeschooling around hospital stays.
  • Family B - Eight children of all different ages, mother is a unit-study genius and intensely creative. They homeschool with an eclectic mix of textbooks and hands-on studies.
  • Family C - Three boys, all of whom are intensely involved in local STEM competition teams. They spend much of their year traveling for competitions in math groups and LEGO robotics teams.
With all that variation, it would be strange indeed if homeschooling families weren't different and unique!

But it's easy to fall into the trap of comparing my weaknesses to other families' strengths. Gee, I really should be doing more awesome craft projects. And why aren't WE competing in LEGO teams? And we should take more field trips (like THAT family does). And... and... and..."

Which leads me to my next point:

I need to follow God's leading for OUR family

God has a plan for our family and our home education program. It is not the same as His plan for any other family. Thus, I should not feel the pressure to do what friends are doing with their homeschool programs, nor should I expect others to follow my lead.

The temptation to do so is growing less with each year (thankfully). I think that the she's-doing-it-so-I-should-too trap is almost irresistible to new homeschoolers, but I do feel the effects wearing off. Thank goodness, because it's exhausting to run around madly trying to do what everyone else is doing.

Large family homeschooling is very different from small family homeschooling

This is not to pit one against the other, or to claim superiority of one over the other. It's just an observation that curriculum choices, schedules, and ways of life are vastly different in large families than in small families. Indeed, it would be odd if that were not the case.

Unfortunately for our family, we are currently in the awkward family-size stage that is neither large nor small. I don't know where the demarcation lies between "small family" and "big family" (all the more so because such a division is both entirely subjective and culturally defined rather than based in any true absolutes). However, we're at that stage where I'm starting to feel a bit out of touch with small-family homeschooling styles, but not yet "in" with large family styles. An interesting cultural experience.

Three is hard

Not "having three children," but "the age of three." Despite all of my efforts to train and teach diligently, the age of three is still a very, very difficult age. I'm surviving it, but it's definitely not an age that makes me feel like a stellar parent. (Okay, no age does, but three is worse than most!)

The hardest part of homeschooling is not the homeschooling

I've written about this before, but I relearn it every year. The "education" part of home education is the easy part.

Here are the really hard parts:

  • Discipline
  • Character training
  • Requiring responsibility and diligence
  • Chores and helping out
  • Sibling relationships
  • Attitudes

Comparatively, lessons are the easy bit!

My life is not just about home education

Lessons are important. Very important. But they are not the only thing that matters.

My marriage matters. My home matters. My health and sanity and happiness matter.

In other words, I cannot run myself into the ground over homeschooling. It's not okay to make myself into a bedraggled, spent, emotionally-fragile mess because I've worked myself into a frazzle over lessons and curriculum. While those are important, I need to be able to take time for myself, my marriage, my children (aside from lessons), my home, and all of the other things that matter.

How does this work out practically? It means simply that homeschooling cannot (completely, at least) take over my life. I need to choose curriculum that doesn't devour our entire day. If I need to use textbooks rather than super-complicated unit studies, so be it. If we can't cover every subject under the sun and participate in every extracurricular activity, that's okay - and I need to relax enough to make sure that I'm okay with that.

(If I repeat this three times a day and tattoo it on my forehead, maybe it actually will sink in.)

My days of high-volume productivity are over (for now)

In "the old days," when my husband took the children out for a couple of hours, I could dive head-first into any ongoing project and really get things done.

For now, those days are over.

When my husband goes out now, most of the time he is taking only the older children and leaving the littles with me. Secondarily, there is simply more work to be done - caring for babies, dishes, food prep, laundry, cleaning. You name it, it's on my to-do list. And when my husband is gone and I'm home with the littles, I find that several hours can go by with me doing nothing but working busily at my daily to-do list - and never getting around to the bigger projects I have on hand.

I've worried over this for quite some time, but it's time to accept reality. Big projects are going to have to take a back seat to the practicalities of serving my family in everyday life.

And similarly...

Life takes time

A lot of time. Lots and lots and lots of time. From the time I get up to the time I go to bed, there is a huge amount of work to be done, and getting it done is a full-time job.

Right now, extras are just not going to happen.

High-intensity hobbies? Lots of outside activities? Women's groups?

Nope. Nope. Nope.

Not right now, and not for a long time. Basic life is more than enough to keep me super-busy. And that's okay with me.

I love what Lori at Always Learning says:
"...I encourage mothers to not have many activities outside of the home since keeping a clean and tidy home, fixing nourishing food, training your children and having time for your husband take a lot of time and energy from of you." {"When Do Mothers Get a Break?"}
In the past, I have felt guilty about not having a big outside-the-home activity load. But I am finding peace in realizing that I need to be home, and that home is more than enough.

This journey is going more quickly than I thought it would

I can hardly believe that we have four children... or that our eldest is already nine years old... or that I'm approaching my mid-thirties... or that we're beginning our fifth year of home education. All of this has happened so quickly - time is passing with incredible rapidity.

When I look at veteran or "graduated" homeschool moms, my feeling is always: That's great for them, but I will never, ever, ever make it to that stage of awesomeness. Not gonna happen.

But the journey is passing very quickly, and I am beginning to realize that at some point, we will begin to graduate children. At some point, we will have "children" who are... adults. And it's not really that far off.

Life is brief. The homeschooling journey (though it may last 40 years) is similarly brief. And though the days are long, the years are passing so very, very quickly.

I want to treasure this time.

What have you learned from this year of homeschooling?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Tidbits and Snippets for May 19th

Evidence of How Food Affects Children's Behavior - Having lived through the horrors of a 3yo strung out on Red 40, I'm all about this. (Deep Roots at Home)

Your Revolution Is Killing Us - "As we wait, the body count rises ever higher and all the while the revolutionaries insist the revolution hasn’t really been tried, not yet anyway. All we need is a little bit more: more orgasms, more pills, more sex-ed, more abortion, more freedom man, and then you’ll see the beautiful things we can do for humanity. Just ignore all those bodies." (Crisis Magazine)
The Protohomosexual - At first, I thought of skipping this article - it was a bit dense. But I waded through it, and I am so glad I did. Although my brain may have exploded from the sheer depth of thought that the author put into the subject, my understanding of the issues at hand is forever deepened. (Crisis Magazine, hat tip for both of these articles to Like Mother, Like Daughter)

How to Keep Our Loved Ones Away from this Culture of Death - Good reminders here. (Living from Glory to Glory)

The Secret to Teaching Children - Short. Sweet. True. (A Wise Woman Builds Her Home)

How to Get a Mommy Break Without Using the Television - I've printed this one for my parenting notebook. (Raising Arrows)

To end on a wonderful note, Erika at Large Families on Purpose shares super-special news.
(I also can't wait to catch her podcast on Large Families Living in Small Houses. Her family - twice as large as mine - fits beautifully into a house half the size of ours!)

From the Bookshelf

Family Unplanning: A Guide for Christian Couples Seeking God's Truth on Having Children

This is a concise work on the topic of biblical life ethics, the history of contraception, and the topic of family planning. It's short and sweet (and indeed, is not meant to be lengthy - the author wanted to provide his case succinctly), and it's a good starting place for those interested in investigating the topic of pre-conception Christian life ethics. Fellow Protestants, prepare to be shocked! Highly recommended.

Learn more about the author and his family (and purchase the book) at the author's website.

A Girl of the Limberlost

Having never heard of the author or his works, this book is quite a new experience for me! The style is very unique, and it's not a book to understand easily or quickly. I'm enjoying following the quirks hither and yon. 

Thank you to A Fly on My Homeschool Wall for the book suggestion!

Have a wonderful week, dear readers!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Checking In, Catching Up

Hello, dear readers!

I apologize for being so scarce. Since school started two weeks ago, I've been super-super-super busy. School is going well, but the added work of grading workbooks, preparing lessons, and teaching new material has left me a bit breathless. There's a lot to do - more every year.

I also - believe it or not - have not yet decided what to do for history and science. At the moment we're doing a delightful hodgepodge of things (overdoing it, anyone?), but that is something that I am still working hard to figure out.

I've also had a few puzzling health things going on.

A few weeks ago, I started dealing with unexplained nausea and insomnia. (No, it's not what you think. A good half-dozen pregnancy tests back me up on that one.)

Thankfully the nausea has disappeared, though it has left me wondering what on earth I did to cause that one. Was it a supplement that disagreed with me? Was it the new olive oil I was using to make mayonnaise? (That's my current guess, since the nausea started waning and finally left a few days after I nixed the olive oil.) But anyway - weird.

The insomnia, however, has stuck around. While it's preferable to say, hyperemesis, it's quite problematic. Besides being unpleasant, it's quite difficult to function on four or fewer hours of sleep. It is really amazing how one's brain does indeed shut down when sleep hours dip too low.

At least it's now just insomnia instead of insomnia with nausea! That's a definite improvement.

I'd appreciate your prayers, dear readers! I do hope that this is a short-lived issue.

(And with a toddler prone to both bad dreams and nocturnal meanderings and some minor nursing issues and.... yes. Sleep. We could definitely use more of it around here.)

Here are a few notes on the beginning of our school year:

* We are starting our history year with a study of the state of Alabama. My, this has been fun! Here are some of the things we're reading about right now:
  • Cotton and the boll weevil
  • Booker T. Washington
  • George Washington Carver
  • Alabama culture and literature
  • Maps, flags, state flowers, etc.
  • Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott
  • The Civil War
  • Slavery

We are making our first-ever lap book thanks to a fellow blogger's inspiration and are having great fun with it. I am not particularly crafty, and neither is our 8yo, but we just add one small item (a flag, a map) every day. We're enjoying it.

Especially popular around here is the "Boll Weevil Song" in all of its manifestations. Here is the current favorite (except for the ending):

Ah, history studies! You never know where they're going to take you.

* Our first foray into formal language arts has been a roaring success - Christian Light Language Arts is just as wonderful as their math. This is a huge relief - one more thing not to have to worry about!

My one concern is that the 8yo is doing so well with the second-grade language arts that I wonder if I could have pushed ahead to third grade work. However, better too easy than too hard - the one encourages, the other can create some real road blocks.

* Other areas of success this year so far have been:
  • Poetry - We're branching out into new works of poetry, and as always, the children love it. Never would I have guessed that children actually like poetry. (I always saw it as drudgery.)
  • Poetry memorization - This is also going well. The 3yo's favorite poem so far (which he demands daily) is "Click Beetle" from "The Llama Who Had No Pajama."
  • Independent Bible study - This year we decided to require 10 minutes of daily Bible study from the 8yo. It's working out beautifully!
  • Teaching at night - I am not a fan of trying to teach with a toddler underfoot. The method I developed last year is to put the children to bed at night, and then call the 8yo out of bed to go over the day's work and the coming day's new lessons. We've continued this method, and it works far better than trying to teach while pulling the 3yo out of whatever trouble he's invented at the moment. Unfortunately, this method would not work with a ton of students (or would it?), but for now, it's going beautifully.
  • Table manners - We have been working on some basic table manners, namely "Eat OVER your plate!" (As opposed to over the floor.) It's actually going really well, and our kitchen no longer resembles a hog wallow after each meal.
  • Sleep rules - We've started enforcing some sleep rules, and things are going so much more smoothly! For example:
    • Naps for pre-kindergarteners are two hours. Period. If they wake up, they still stay in bed. This means that I no longer have to fear the early wakers. This is a huge blessing for being able to get school time done in the afternoon.
    • In the morning, children stay in their rooms until 7:00 a.m. Thus, I also don't have to fear early morning wakers.
    • Of course, this assumes that the children obey the above two rules. They don't. But we're working on it.
The year is going well so far! We have so much for which to thank the Lord.

And I think I'll draw to a close here, before I waste more time!

Have a wonderful week, dear readers!

A wee lady who celebrated her six-month birthday by cutting her first tooth.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Super Deal on Home Pregnancy Tests!

If you ever find me sitting in a circle, saying, "Hi, my name is Diana, and I have a problem," it will be because I am finally admitting to a severe addiction to...

Home pregnancy tests.

Seriously. I have a problem. I go through those things faster than the strawberry ice cream that's calling my name from the freezer right now.

I'm pretty paranoid about pregnancy. Partially this is because I'm an uptight planner - I usually know my due date down to the minute (plus or minus thirty seconds).

Additionally, I think that most post-HG woman are a bit of a (nervous uptight) mess when it comes to contemplating future pregnancies. HG takes a woman into very dark places with pregnancy, and the thought of future pregnancies can be panic-inducing (literally). I get a bit panicky about pregnancy, even though I've now (by the grace of God) successfully completed a non-HG pregnancy. The fear doesn't really leave.

However, I've gotten a bit side-tracked here.

The point is that going through a handful of pregnancy tests every month ("Hey, I sneezed twice! I must be pregnant! Better check!") can be pricey. Even buying tests for a dollar each from Dollar Tree is a bit more than I want to spend.

Thus, I scouted about the internet for a better deal, and I found one! Check these out at Amazon:

Clinical Guard Pregnancy Test Strips (50 ct.)

For ten dollars (with free shipping), this is a screaming deal. My order arrived in just a few days, and it looks great. The reviews are very positive as well.

So there you go! For anyone out there with a similar addiction, I hope that this will be a blessing for you.

But wait! My left eye just twitched. Could this mean....?

Better go check.

Have a happy weekend, dear readers!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Tidbits and Snippets for May 12th

This Is Supposed to Be Hard Work - "You’ve seen them…the advertisements touting how this diet will make the pounds melt off of you, or this product will make your housework feel like a walk in the park, or this method will be the answer to all your problems.  The prospect of this sort of thing is exciting, tempting, and…destructive." (Raising Arrows)

How We're Setting Our Kids Up to Be Fat, Sick, and Unhealthy - Good information in this article. (Mark's Daily Apple)

Today - I love how God has worked through this blogger's life to reach out to other women who are hurting from the loss of a baby. The linked post is great as well. (Contentment Acres)

"Today is the day I can choose either to say:
'Two years ago today, I gave birth to and lost my son Isaac,'
'Two years ago today, God kept His promise about defeating death
and received my baby boy into Heaven.'"

Needing a Break? - Good hardcore advice for keeping sane as a homeschool mama. I need to print this one and hang it around my neck to read every few days hours minutes. (Always Learning)

Recipe Corner
Am I the only one around here who has spent a lifetime wondering what on earth Turkish Delight was? The 8yo has been into Narnia recently, and after much pestering I finally looked up a recipe for the stuff, and yesterday we made it.
How was it? Well, it was... sweet. Very sweet. We left out the rosewater (didn't have any), and I added some lemon flavoring to up the taste - but I don't think I added enough. It was a bit bland.
(I think to be authentic you have to use the rosewater, which they say you can find at Asian food markets. I'd like to try it sometime just to see what it tastes like.)

The texture is like super-stiff Jello jigglers, but a bit stickier. You roll them in powdered sugar to finish. If you use granulated sugar instead of powdered they're very similar to a favorite candy from my childhood - Sunkist Fruit Gems. (Except that Sunkist Fruit Gems are a lot better - but I think that I could equal them eventually by tweaking the flavors.)
Our next project is to try this recipe for Turkish Delight from Nerdy Nummies:


One thing is for sure - the unfortunate person who consumed "several pounds" of this stuff would be sicker than a dog. 

But the children love it! And the 8yo is planning to use it to take over the world.

From the Bookshelf

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Having never seen the movie or read the book, I decided it was time! And I'm so glad that I did. This book is simply darling, and it is full of delightfully dry humor that is just as funny (or funnier) to adults as to children.

A Midwife's Story

What do you get when you combine one of my favorite topics (midwifery) with my favorite people group (the Amish)?

A book about Amish midwifery, of course!

I can't believe it's taken me this long to find this book. I actually thought that I'd caught all the major midwifery memoirs out there. I was wrong! And when I saw this on a friend's bookshelf, I was immediately drooling. She had mercy on me and let me borrow it. And...

It's wonderful!

I love it. I already love anything about the Amish people, and adding in homebirth midwifery makes this book an absolute delight (as far as I can tell in the first few chapters). Definitely recommended.

Have a wonderful week, dear readers!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Overnight Crockpot Oatmeal Breakfast Cake

A few years ago, a sweet friend gave me a recipe for Oatmeal Breakfast Cake, and we have used it ever since. (Thank you, dear friend!)

The only downside is that I am terrible at the logistics of making baked items for breakfast. Inevitably, the children are rowdy and hungry, the babies are cranky, our schedule is falling farther and farther behind - and I need something fast!

No pictures of the oatmeal, so pictures of the 3yo will have to suffice.

Lately, therefore, I've been trying certain recipes as overnight crockpot recipes, and I decided to try that with this recipe.

It was a complete success, and now I'd like to share it!

This recipe is incredibly versatile. If you like more (or less) sweetness, adjust the syrup to taste. You can use any fruit or vegetable puree (or yogurt). You can add things like raisins, peanut butter, chocolate chips, nuts, different spices, etc. With this recipe, if you want to try it - do!

It's also incredibly easy to make this recipe gluten-free (use gluten-free oats) and/or dairy-free (don't use the dairy options, or use dairy-free milks).

With overnight crockpot recipes, there are sometimes overcooked edges. Using a separate container as an insert, with a water bath, completely eliminates that issue.


Overnight Crock-pot Oatmeal Breakfast Cake

3 cups regular oatmeal
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 cup maple syrup (or pancake syrup)
1 1/2 cups applesauce, mashed banana, pureed pumpkin, or whole-milk yogurt
(or any combination thereof)
1 1/2 cups milk, cream, or water

Sometime during the day: Mix all ingredients, place in greased loaf pan. Cover with foil. Stick that critter in the fridge. 

Just before bed: Put an inch inch of water in your large oval crock-pot. Put a trivet or bunched-up roll of foil in the bottom (to keep the loaf pan from touching the bottom). Place covered loaf pan on trivet or foil, Set crock-pot to LOW.

When you get up: Use hot pads to remove loaf pan, let cool while you get ready. 

Serve sliced with butter and/or jam. 


(Sliced leftovers freeze beautifully and are a blessing on busy mornings!)

Experiencing rain, a true rarity around here.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

How Much Does It Cost to Homeschool?

So, how much does it cost to homeschool?

That's a difficult question to answer.

In fact, it's an impossible question to answer - because the answer varies so widely. Each family will have different homeschool costs based on many different factors.

Ask yourself these questions:
  • How big is my family?
  • How crafty am I? (More craft supplies = more expense)
  • Do I use a lot of non-reusable workbooks?
  • How dedicated am I to searching out used curriculum? Or do I prefer to buy new?
  • Do I use boxed curriculum or pay for a correspondence school? ($$$)
  • Do I have family members contributing to expenses? (i.e. Grandma pays for piano lessons)
  • Do I outsource a lot of my classes?
  • Do I participate in a lot of extracurriculars?
  • Do I go on pricey field trips?

Since every family answers those questions differently, every family will have different home education costs. In all honesty, home education can range from nearly-free to thousands of dollars per year. (Both extremes are rather rare.)

Homeschool Costs - The Basics!

The costs involved in home education can be generally categorized as follows:

  • Curriculum
  • Class and Co-op Fees
  • School Supplies
  • Field Trip Fees
  • Extracurricular Fees
  • Books and Games
  • Extras

* Some of these fees might not be considered "homeschool" fees, as they would also apply to non-homeschooled children - for example, fees for extracurricular activities. Thus, cost will also vary by your definition of what falls under the umbrella of home education.

* There is considerable overlap between several of these categories.

Homeschool Costs - The Scoop!

Here is what is included in each cost category, along with a summary of what our family spends. You'll soon see why each family will have such radically different costs for a home education program.

(At the current time, we have one student in third grade, and three children who are still too young for school.)

  • Textbooks (reusable)
  • Workbooks (usually not reusable)
  • Computer CDs (for computerized courses such as Switched On Schoolhouse)
  • Teacher's manuals (sometimes needed, sometimes not)
  • Extras - Math manipulatives, educational games, teaching tools, flashcards, wall charts, etc.

This year, my curriculum purchases were as follows:

  • Third grade math and language arts (workbooks and teachers' manuals) = $105 
  • Four geography books, purchased used (for use in coming years) = $16
  • "The Well-Trained Mind" = $28 (I paid $16 for this and used a $12 gift card)
  • A curriculum book which we won't use but I simply *had* to have at the time = $12

I also am anticipating the following purchases at our homeschool convention:
  • Maps Book C = $11
  • Rod and Staff History Curriculum = $15
  • Piano theory book = $10

If you buy boxed curriculum or lots of new textbooks, prices will rise steeply. I love to search for used curriculum, as well as local used-curriculum sales (here in the Phoenix valley, the used-sale season is May-June).

When buying used, it pays to know your prices. Sometimes a used item will be offered at a price that is nearly as much as one would pay for new materials - or even more!

Additionally, when buying used it is (usually) extremely easy to find teacher's guides - but much more difficult to find workbooks. If you use a lot of workbooks, don't plan on necessarily being able to find used versions.


Our favorite - Christian Light Education.

Of course, when looking for used curriculum, problems often arise over trying to find the correct editions. That is why with some things (like our math and English, above), I prefer to buy new and save the hassle.

Class and Co-op Fees
  • Classes are usually taught by one person and are more expensive, since you are paying that person for his or her time and expertise.
  • Co-ops (short for "cooperatives") are led by each participating parent in turn. They tend to be much less expensive, since everyone shares the load. At most there is a small fee for supplies.
  • Also under this category would be tutoring fees, fees for online classes, and community college fees (for teens).

We currently do not participate in any classes or co-ops. Maybe sometime! I get schedule-overload extremely easily, so I am very protective of our free time.

Some moms absolutely thrive on running about from class to class. If you're one of those moms, your fees in this area will be higher.

School Supplies
  • Pencils, pens, paper, crayons, markers, etc. - the usual.
  • Computer ink - This is a big one.
  • Craft supplies
  • More expensive school supplies, like microscopes and chem lab materials.

We buy computer ink throughout the year. We also buy a small amount of craft supplies throughout the year, at a minimal cost - I'm not a huge crafter! Costs = I have no idea, since I haven't kept track. (Sorry!)

This year my annual trip to buy school supplies totaled $21. I intentionally kept it around $20, since I had that much to spend in teacher's reward points at OfficeMax. I was not able to get everything I wanted, and I plan to spend about another $10 in the next few weeks. As I earn reward points through the year (through turning in ink cartridges), I anticipate adding a few things to our stock that we could use (like extra kitchen timers, a pencil sharpener, etc.).

The more expensive purchases (microscopes, etc.) do not yet apply to us, as we do not have teens.

Some of this year's supplies (piled on top of our camping stove, of course).

Field Trip Fees
  • Field trip fees will be as much or as little as you like - they can be anything from free (yay!) to incredibly expensive.

We participate in free and low-cost field trips. We do not participate in the pricey ones right now. There are many opportunities for field trips, and we manage a minimum of two per month (usually two to five per month). I would guess that we spend a maximum of $20 per month, but often much less.

I usually set aside some of the children's gift money to use in fun field trips for them. For example, this year our 3yo received birthday money from both his aunt and his grandparents. I set aside some money from auntie's gift money to take the boys to a local open gym (twice), and I set aside money from the grandparents' gift to take the boys to our local aquarium. This is a great way to use money in a way that the children adore - without cluttering up the house with yet more toys (which the children will then proceed to fight over).

(Here is a clip from the children's field trip to the open gym. They had so much fun!)

In the Phoenix area, many field trip destinations hold homeschool days with reduced prices for homeschoolers, and we always wait until those times.

Additionally, many field trips are completely free. Examples: our local airport open house, the jazz festival, our Christmas parade, free days at local museums, etc. It's just a matter of finding them and then remembering them! (Learning the local event schedule is much easier when one is involved in an active homeschool group. I'm constantly getting reminders of free events from my homeschool group members!)

Extracurricular Fees
  • Sports
  • Music lessons
  • Choir, band, theatre
  • Speech and debate
  • Church youth clubs (AWANA, etc.)
  • Boys' and girls' clubs (American Heritage Girls, Trail Life, Royal Rangers, etc.)

We participate in a church kids' club that has a small annual fee, plus badge fees. I'm guessing that this costs something like $40 per child annually.

We also will be doing piano lessons, which will be free (since I'm teaching).

We hope to get involved in more extracurriculars over time, but we don't yet know when that time will be or what extracurriculars we will select. Right now we are very protective of our family time, because we've seen (by experience!) how easy it is to overstress our family by overcommitting to extracurriculars.

Books and Games

Most homeschool families desire to build a solid home reference library for their home education program, and small book purchases are a constant given. This is not a big fee (especially if you shop used), but it is something to take into consideration. Several friends of mine utilize, which allows one to collect books for only mailing fees (and now a small membership fee).

"Just give up now and buy more bookcases."
- Homeschooling Proverb

Some of last year's used-book finds.
Many homeschoolers also collect large amounts of board games, educational computer games, musical CDs, documentary videos, historical movies, etc. We're not really into any of those right now (and we use the library for some of those), but the cost can mount up if your family leans in that direction.
  • Homeschool group membership fees
  • Homeschool convention attendance fees
  • HSLDA membership fees
  • Everything else!

This year we paid $60 for our combined convention fee and state homeschool association (Arizona Families for Home Education, AFHE) membership fee. We paid $15 for our membership fee with one homeschool group, and $20 for membership in another homeschool group. We also belong to a third group which has no fees.

We also pay a yearly membership fee to HSLDA ($120 per year, less for renewals and less if multiple years are purchased at once).

As for *everything else* - well, the possibilities are endless! And at the end of the day, it all depends on your unique family and your unique situation. All in all, home education is a significant budget component - but it doesn't need to be exorbitantly pricey. And as the parent-in-charge, you get to set the pace with how much you want to spend for your family's program.

Enjoy the ride!


There you have it, dear readers! I can't actually answer the question "How much does home education cost?" - but I hope you've gotten some ideas.

Experienced homeschoolers, what would you add to the above? Please share!