You're going to find as you look into homeschooling that there are plenty of places that advertise "free" or very cheap curriculum. Or an easy three-step answer to your child's academic problems. I'm not going to do that. But what I do want to do is tell you that this is my ninth year homeschooling, and it's far easier than you think it is to get started and do well. Here's what I think you'll really need:
1. Two three-ring binders and hole punch.
Keep your child's academic work in one binder, and another for his "to-do" work or other records. Organize this by subject with dividers. Cost: about $20 for the binders... and wow! I just googled "three-ring hole punch" and found a nice one for less than $25. So $45... and then add notebooks, pencils, scissors and that sort of thing. Maybe $80 total here. But you can use the binders and hole punch for several years.
|Here's a sample from Emperor's "Latin" section.|
2. A caddy or convenient location for your supplies.
Old mugs are free, but we spent just a little on an organizer because why not. Cost: $0 to $20.
Every child needs something to read. When you first begin homeschooling, use the library until you get a good feel for his reading level. It simply wouldn't do to get a bunch of books that are too easy, or that he is not interested in. But often books are not expensive, particularly readers. Check on Amazon for used books if you prefer to have your own. We also have a kindle and there are a large number of free or 99-cent titles. Cost: $0 to $100, depending on how much you read and the quality of the book itself (hardcover, new or used, and so on).
Choosing curriculum is a whole 'nother ball game. I would strongly recommend - especially for a younger child - to not buy everything right away. Get to know your child's learning style and about "where he is" while you investigate which curriculum to buy. Check out the sample pages. Give your child the placement tests some curriculum providers put online. Take your time here. If you prefer worksheets, buy cheap workbooks and so on from Sam's Club or your local school supply store. Don't spend a lot. Or you can print these off from the internet (google "free math worksheets" and so on). Some great websites that provide worksheets you can print for small people would be abcteach or schoolexpress.
Want an honest cost estimate here? I've seen "free homeschooling" links and even curricula, but you will be driving yourself crazy printing things and lining up lesson plans and materials if you go this route. I spend about $400/child on printed materials because I want an easy life and a happy family. I spend more on math and science than any other academic subject. I find children can hone their writing with help using only a 50 cent notebook and a few hints from Mom. It doesn't have to be expensive.
5. Optional: computer and printer.
There are plenty of online games and tutorials around if you take the time to look for them. A printer is an especially nifty thing to have if you can afford it. I'm not going to give a cost estimate here because that sort of thing can really vary and besides, most families already have at least the computer.
6. Sports equipment and fees, membership passes.
Know what this is? It's a MonRoi. We actually spend more on chess tournaments, equipment and membership fees than all of our other homeschooling expenses combined. This is an area in which public school parents and homeschoolers are exactly alike. Many public- and homeschool parents have their children participate in sports or other extracurriculars.
We also have a zoo membership, and I think homeschooling helps us get much more value out of that than we would have had otherwise. If I were starting out again, I'd budget about $300 for passes and fun outings. You will see what your child is truly interested in and take it from there. Even $300 may be on the high end for a smaller child.
7. Some things to think about.
Your child won't need as many new clothes for school or a backpack, so you'll save money there. You also won't get hit up for fundraisers and "volunteer opportunities" nearly as much. It's almost worth the daily work of homeschooling right there, isn't it? Factor in all the lost jackets and the cost of the school lunches, and you actually might come out ahead.