I've been noticing a trend for the last couple of years. I never really followed it before I started homeschooling my daughter, but it is truly amazing how much it costs to send children to the supposedly "free" public schools. While I may think that it costs a lot of money to homeschool my daughter (and so does my husband every time I tell him I need to buy a new textbook), it's not always cheap to send your child to public school any more either.
This article from the Houston Chronicle really is interesting to me. A mom in the article spent around $1500 on public school for her three children this year. That's pretty amazing, considering I spent $377.87 to buy books for my daughter this year, and I had to buy books and teacher's manuals for every class! My most expensive costs were a $42 set of CDs for a music class and another $42 on visuals for a Bible class. Of course, she probably didn't shop at Wal-Mart during their annual dirt-cheap school supplies sales, because she spent $75 on school supplies alone. I spent about $15, and that included 10 boxes of crayons, 2 dozen pencils, 2 boxes of markers, paper, folders, and notebooks for my husband that is attending Arizona State University. Office Max also had some great sales that she missed out on... they were selling pencils for $.01 for a week there.
Another lady spent $130 on novels for her child's English class. I never spent that much money on books for my college composition courses at the University of Southern California! What do you want to bet that most of those books won't even get read? $130 will buy a lot of books, especially if you go someplace like Half-Priced books.
Many schools charge for mandatory student ID cards. Another school in the article charged $1 for people forgetting to wear their ID card, or $5 if you lose it. I highly doubt that those things cost $5 to make. I can go to the local teacher's shop and have stuff laminated for a lot cheaper than that. Many schools also charge for parking, different elective classes, technology classes (are those mandatory nowadays), and PE uniforms (whatever happened to wearing shorts and a T-shirt from home to those classes).
It's getting so bad that some schools are hiring collection agencies! Who ever heard of such a thing? And then of course, you have the endless parade of fundraisers at many public schools... candy sales, wrapping paper sales, sales of useless knick-knacks, concession sales, etc.
A friend of mine (who chose to homeschool rather than send her child to public school) would have spent the following on fees had she sent her child to public school:
$150 book fees
$50 gym shoes
$50 (at least) for supplies
$250 for school lunches (they discourage bringing your own)
It's true that she included lunches, and of course I have to feed my daughter lunch every day. But we can always eat leftovers from the night before, and she begs me to make her peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, which is really cheap to make.
I also spend money on things like annual zoo passes, but then again, if my daughter was in public school I'd have to pay for her field trips as well, if she went on them. When she is older, I'll probably want to buy or rent microscopes and other scientific equipment as well. But the difference between those expenses and the expenses that people incur to send their children to public school, is that I can keep all the books I buy. I will be able to use all the nonconsumables for my son when he is old enough for school, which will save me a ton of money. And when my kids are done with the books, I can sell them.
While it isn't cheap to homeschool, public school isn't cheap any more, either. For those people who are not frugal with their money, it could cost more.