One of the questions that comes up a lot with homeschooling is how much does it cost. And the answer, invariably, is that it really depends. That’s not just rhetoric either. It really does depend.

Here’s why I’m thinking about it. A new elementary math curriculum just came out. It’s Life of Fred for elementary school. Life of Fred is a math curriculum that uses a doodle of a little guy named Fred and stories about him to teach math concepts. I’m happy with what we’re doing (a combination of Math Mammoth and Miquon with lots of living math books) but learning math through stories is so up my kids’ alley that, along with the strong reputation of Life of Fred, I thought I’d check it out.

The series starts with Apples. Next is Butterflies. Then comes Cats. You get the idea. So far only four are out, but the series will apparently go all the way up to Z. With each volume going for $16 a piece, well, do some elementary math… the total would be about $416 for your total elementary math curriculum, and that’s assuming you didn’t use anything else despite the fact that many people use them as a supplement instead of a main program. In other words, I balked. Unless something changes, we won’t be trying it.

That got me thinking. How much does one spend on elementary school math? So I curiously looked it up… All figures are approximate and might be based on me not having looked up for long enough since I only spent about ten minutes on this.

RightStart Math – about **$600** for grades K-5

Singapore Primary Math – **$389** for grades 1-5 (textbooks, workbooks and Home Instructor’s Guides only)

Math-U-See – **$360** for grades 1-5

Saxon Math – about **$300** for grades 1-5 (that figure is especially approximate as the prices seemed to vary from year to year a good bit when I looked on Rainbow Resource)

Math Mammoth – **$128** for grades 1-6 ($95 if you choose the Blue Series)

Miquon Math – **$66** for grades K-3rd or 4th (workbooks, Lab Annotations, First Grade Diary and a set of Cuisenaire Rods)

MEP Math – **$0** for grades K-12

Math Magic – **$0** for grades 1-12

Jump Math – **$0** for grades 1-8

Of course, there are other factors to take into account. Some of these curricula require that you print them out, which can get expensive. Others resell well, which can help offset the costs. Others go on sale through Homeschool Buyers Co-op routinely. Still, that’s a huge price gap. From nearly $600 to nothing but the cost of printing.

And that’s really how I see the cost homeschooling. Of course, some of those math programs, expensive or not, are wonderful programs and worth the money if it’s the right program for the teacher and the kids. But there’s usually options. We spend money. We actually spend a good bit of money, but I’m always trying to remind myself that it’s a choice.

It’s well known to many people, I think, but this is one list of many free curricula options you can find and this is a long running thread from the WTM Forums that has even more ideas. The blog Free Technology for Teachers also has good ideas (even though it’s geared toward public school teachers) and the blog Freely Educate sometimes has good links and ideas too.

I’ve been mulling this one over since you posted it. I think it’s a great starting point, but I would think that even with some of the other curriculum choices you’d probably want to purchase some manipulatives which would increase the price somewhat. I know with Singapore they have a list of the “required” manipulatives and the recommended ones. We’ve gone without some of the “required” ones but even then it all begins to add up.

We haven’t used RightStart, but I’m beginning to appreciate the fact that their costs, while sticker shock inducing, include everything all up front.

Yeah. Both SIngapore and Saxon were hard for me to tell how much you really end up spending. After all, with Singapore, you can end up using completely different components – potentially making it as much as RightStart, I would think.

Interesting post. We use RS plus MM on the side, and I guess I just hadn’t considered how they stack up, cost-wise. I am halving the cost (if I can think of it that way) since I use a level and then turn around and reuse it with little sis. If I keep it around for baby brother, the cost is further reduced, right?

Ah, yes, siblings. That does help I suppose. And RightStart both resells well and doesn’t include as many consumables as many other curricula – you’d spend about that much per kid with Singapore, but you’d only add a little bit extra for redoing RightStart.

FWIW, we have gone through the first two levels of Singapore without the textbook or instructor’s guides. The workbooks cost about $9 apiece and I made my own manipulatives, so it’s been very affordable for us.

I found your blog looking for reviews about “Life of Fred.” After reading there was a possibility that 26 books would be in the elementary series, I emailed Stan Schmidt because I’m considering purchasing his books. He informed me the elementary series will only be made up of 12 books. I really liked what I read on the sample pages from the Life of Fred website. They are teaching storybooks. I’m planning to purchase the elementary series because of my son’s attitude towards mathematics. I will also use Math U See because I already have it. I understand all about budgeting for curriculum so thank you for posting your thoughts on the matter. This is an important subject which I like to hear what other homeschooling families are doing.

Yes, I’ve since read that as well, which definitely makes a difference. I was thinking of coming back to update this and it made me reconsider whether I would try the books. It’s still a bit pricey for something that I would only consider a supplement, but much more manageable.