Making Homeschooling Affordable – Financial Issues to Consider
The decision to homeschool your children is an important one with far-reaching ramifications. The impact on your time, how to select and follow a curriculum, the effect it will have on college choices and careers, and most importantly, the quality of your child’s education are all factors that a family should carefully take into account when considering teaching your children from home. But in that storm of variables, cautious consideration should also be given to the impact this choice will have on your family’s finances and long-term costs.
Free and Low-Cost Resources
One of the simplest ways you can reduce your costs is to take advantage of existing resources, minimizing the need to purchase new curriculum, supplies, and educational programs. If your city has a public library, you are in luck. Libraries offer a wonderful treasure trove of free materials that are useful when developing a homeschooling plan, including curriculum and teaching guides, study guides, and reference materials. They may also know of study groups, social groups, and field trip groups with other homeschoolers who can really assist in developing a well-rounded educational plan. Also, speak to your local public school district. Roughly 80% of states require you to register with your local school district, but they will then offer assistance in developing and monitoring a plan and milestones for educational attainment. Your local school district may also require you to submit an individual education plan each fall and may have a schedule of testing that your child needs to complete each year. By knowing these requirements, you can plan your budget accordingly.
Nearly all homeschooling parents also reduce their costs by applying education in real-life settings. Integrate a math class with gardening. Explore the science behind cooking. Embark in a local nature study of nearby hiking trails, ponds, and forests. And don’t forget to make good use of local opportunities for visitors, including historic places, museums, zoos, planetariums, and art centers. Many of these places host learning laboratories that offer an excellent supplement to your homeschooling curriculum.
Impact on Taxes and Deductions
On December 22, 2017, a new tax law came into effect and with it, new rules that may directly impact families. The popular 529 College Saving Plans have been expanded to cover costs relating to K-12 tuition at public, private and religious schools. Unfortunately, homeschooling expenses were not a part of the final 529 expansion, however, graduates of a homeschool program can still use their 529 savings for college expenses, or if your child is enrolled in or attends a public, private, or religious school. This may include attending a fully accredited and licensed online school – a popular option to supplement a homeschooler’s educational experience.
In most states, parents cannot establish their homeschooling operation as a business nor as a non-profit as it is not customary for individuals to charge their own children for any education they receive. Also, donations of supplies or cash, such as those from well-meaning grandparents, can’t be written off on anyone’s taxes. Furthermore, parents cannot take the standard $250 deduction for Educator Expenses, as they are not salaried teachers.
While homeschooling expenses are not deductible on federal taxes, six states currently offer homeschooling tax credits or dedications on your state return, including Louisiana, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. The rules vary by state but typically apply toward a percentage of supplies and other qualified expenses, generally limited to $5,000 per child.
Cost Savings and Expenses Avoided
As you draw up a budget to consider the costs of homeschooling versus a traditional school, remember to take into account all of the costs that you won’t be facing. You won’t have to face the need to purchase back to school clothing or transportation to and from school – both the cost of gas and the cost of your time. And you can forget about having to support a school lunch account.