From "The Teachable Moment" September 1996
" 'How much money do I need to budget to start homeschooling? How much does homeschooling cost?' I have been asked many similar questions by those interested in homeschooling. I always wish I had an easy answer for the questioner. I always say 'as little or as much as you want to spend'. That was the answer someone gave me years ago and it is so true.
Some people want to rush out and buy a packaged program that will cover all the bases. I know this is what I wanted to do. For me, that would have given me a feeling of security. Fortunately, an acquaintance talked me out of it. She listened to what I had to say about our oldest child and realized he needed something different. Because we went another route, I was able to take money I would have put into one grade level and buy items that benefited all the children, if not at the moment, then later. We were able to build up our basic library and invest in a computer.
I also look around and see what everyday things on hand can be used to help us learn. Reading the power meter and figuring the kilowatt hours used, organizing the cancelled checks in numerical order (followup: boy, is this part outdated!) , alphabetizing something in the house (be it spices, files in the cabinet, etc) and of course the cooking. The list can go on and on!
If you're able to get to the library frequently, you have a built-in curriculum. In our first two years of homeschooling, this was not a good option for us. Trying to keep a newborn contented and keep up with an active preschooler all at the same time made for some stressful scenes at the library! We're just now at the point of being able to really spend time there without me becoming totally frustrated.
I recommend that you try to borrow a particular curriculum item before purchasing it. Sometimes the advertisements sound so-o-o good. However, your child or children might absolutely hate it. Even recommendations from friends (while helpful) might not take into account your childrens' personalities. I like to tap ito the homeschoolers bulletin boards to hear about new products, but also realize they may not be for us.
I remember being at a curriculum fair and being convinced I had to buy a reading program ($150) with all the bells and whistles. A good friend did a lot of talking and helped me get past the moment. That child learned to read without me investing in a reading program at all.
We're at the point now of trying to decide if we will enroll with a correspondence program for high school for our oldest kids. We have a year to make up our minds. So I'm once again weighing options to decide what will be best for our children. Our oldest child, interestingly, is leaning towards the program and actually seems to be looking forward to it.
Cost of curriculum and what kinds of curriculum to use are very individual situations that have to be tailored to each family and child. There's no way to give anyone a set answer on these kinds of questions."
2012 Followup: The options for homeschoolers have exploded over the past few years. Our three oldest children used a curriculum from American School (one of the oldest correspondence courses in the nation; Sandra Day O'Connor is a graduate). They then did a dual enrollment with the local community college which is available for junior and senior years. Florida Virtual School had come along by the time of our youngest child (A big thank you to Brenda Dickinson, President of Home Education Foundation!) for middle and high school. An interesting tidbit about computers. Homeschoolers were in the main category of households that had computers as they were hitting the market. The buzz at the legislative level just 3 years ago was to start mandating that high schools have a mandatory online class for students. Homeschoolers have had this one down for years!.