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Friday, January 2, 2009

Cost Effective: Public School or Sonlight?

Which method of education is more cost-effective: Sonlight or your local Public School?

Which is less expensive?

Well, we all know Sonlight is a rather high-priced option in the homeschooling world, it's true. That is due to the many great books that come in every package, and we do our best to make the price tag worthwhile beyond the great resources by offering world class support and fantastic guarantees. Even so, Sonlight is one of the most expensive homeschool curriculum options. I quickly poked around and found that the Sonlight Newcomer 5s are the most expensive packages Sonlight offers at around $1,200.

If you have more than one child, your cost will be split between them making it much more viable for larger families. Plus, you're building an incredible library and all those other benefits Sonlight users rave about.

The fact remains: $1,200 for a year's worth of curriculum from Sonlight.

So how much does your local public school spend per child?

I did a quick search and found that in 2006 public schools spent over $9,100 per student.

Almost eight times as much as Sonlight's most expensive package today.

Eight.

Then I read an article that suggests that, realistically, the number should be closer to $25,000 per child.

Over twenty times as much.

And yet we hear, over and over again, that the public educational system doesn't have enough money; we need to increase our educational budget; our teachers are underpaid; our schools aren't given enough resources to properly educate our children. If any of those are true, I want to know where the money is going.

When I was in high school I had to buy some of my books. And the texts offered by the school were worn out and I certainly didn't get to keep them. So what did I get for all that money?

Does "socialization" really cost that much?

The system is deeply flawed somewhere.

I'd really like someone to fix it.

Here's the post that got me thinking about this today. Be sure to watch the video if you've got five minutes and then, perhaps, do some research about your local school system's budget.

It certainly is eye-opening.

~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

P.S. If you're interested, my latest article is up on Heart of the Matter as well.

16 comments:

"Indescribable" said...

Great Question! Sonlight or Public... speaking as a public school teacher it's a very challenging but even more frustrating job. It has gotten out of control with the "public schools have to blah, blah, blah" and "test scores needs to go up". I don't feel true to myself by being a public school teacher at times, but I do know that I'm the only beam of light for some of my students.

Sue said...

I'd really like someone to fix that too -- over there and over here in Japan! Our tax dollars go to the public schools whether we use them or not.

I have never considered Sonlight expensive. Even if my kids went to the private school where my husband works (where we would get a discount) we would still be paying at least 5 times more a year, per kid! Let's not even talk about the 10 to 20 times more we would be paying for international school!

Mom to Mr. Q and Miss E + 7 said...

You didn't even touch on the cost of things that our tax dollars don't pay for... such as lunches, school uniforms, fees for sports, field trips, community school supplies, costumes, etc.

No wonder public schools are trying everything they can to woo students back.

Sonlight is not expensive by any means.

Mrs. C said...

Well, we use mostly Bob Jones stuff and if you buy EVERYTHING that you're supposed to with the kits, Sonlight is cheaper. Have you really gotten out and priced all the "extras" the other curriculum providers want you to get? (Surely you have staff that does that, right?) I enjoy BJU stuff very much, but I'm not fooling myself that it's cheap.

Meg_L said...

a good friend likes to say that public school is the only monopoly that when it doesn't work, we give them more money to play with.

Melonie said...

I have to admit that the upfront cost is what has prevented me from buying Sonlight in the past. I'm very familiar with their elementary programs as my former step-daughter was using Sonlight when I was married to her father. I *really* wanted to use it with my daughter as well but we chose to focus on digging out of debt instead.

Overall I believe Sonlight is "cheap" for the education a child/children would get from the program and even just from reading *only* the books that are recommended for each grade level. I have to agree with the other commenters who have mentioned that we have to pay taxes for the public schools anyway.... honestly when I look at all the fundraising and "stuff" the schools want us to buy, if I were to break it down into a full-year school of Sonlight it'd only be $100 a month. I think a public school parent easily spends that much or more, depending on the age(s) and number of children they have. If a child is involved in school sports, the costs can be astronomical. Sonlight really does come out "cheap" compared.

For now, due to the situation we find ourselves in, my daughter is attending public (military) school overseas. When we get back Stateside, if homeschooling is still an option (who knows what will happen in the next 3-4 years on the legalities of a lot of rights we are accustomed to - anything can happen with a new administration), I will be looking into Sonlight. For now I supplement "real" school with good learning materials at home - the American Girls series of books, and just about anything I can find at the library that appears on a Sonlight reading list!

One final note: to "Indescribable": THANK YOU for your service as a teacher. I can't even imagine the amount of red tape and political correctness you deal with in a day, let alone all of the random things that distract from the job you are trying to do, which is to TEACH CHILDREN. Keep being that beam of light to those kids - they deserve it, and you deserve kudos for sticking it out and serving them. Know this: there are parents out there who appreciate what you do, no matter what education system they choose for their own children.

Julie said...

Gee...maybe the ps should use Sonlight and save everyone some taxes! : )
...not to mention improving the system immeasurably...gee, imagine...teachers reading to the kids, weird, huh?
sorry. I'm feeling saucy today...we got GOOD news!

SuperAngel said...

happy new year to you too, Mr. Holzmann!
Miss Amanda
The Daily Planet

agentlejoy said...

A few disjointed comments:

1) The public libraries are so full of books on witchcraft, dragons, mummies, vampires, and suicidal teens that I love, love, LOVE getting a box of good books every fall. My kids read them over and over.

Like the commercials say: cost of books: $800. Cost of character building reading: priceless.

2) We have four kids to run through each grade level. By the time we've used them four times, we're paying less than $300/year/kid for our Sonlight. We actually pay a little more because we supplement with Apologia science, Veritas press handwriting & some other things.

3) Even if you homeschool, sports are still expensive. Argh!

4) One of the problems that makes public schools so expensive is the administrative overhead. You're not only paying the teacher, you pay the principals and guidance teachers and janitors and cafeteria ladies and bus drivers and gardeners and county and state administers, their secretaries, inspectors and the insurance people who charge schools an arm and a leg to insure the buildings, etc. I donate my time as a teacher and janitor, so my homeschool costs are only books. Which is why even relatively expensive Sonlight is cheaper than two months of private Christian school.

5) A friend who was abroad with the US military said the US government allotted them $1200/child/year for homeschooling costs. My entire budget is $1200!! Can you imagine how much we could do if some kind of school voucher program was put into place? Holy Moly!

6) Sonlight WORKS. It W-O-R-K-S. Our kid's test scores in reading, reading comprehension, history and science are incredible. (Wish their math and spelling could keep up...) As my husband points out over and over, it doesn't do to scrimp and penny pinch on something as important as education. We'll wear second hand clothes, eat tuna and beans, sit on a couch with holes in it and skip vacations to afford quality materials to develop our children's minds.

“When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.”-Erasmus

7) Last point- if I continue with Sonlight, there is a very good possibility that at the end of their education, my children will know who Erasmus IS. Coming out of public school, I know I didn't!

~ Angi :) said...

For what it is worth, I am one (perhaps a lone ranger) who has a strong opinion that Sonlight is NOT expensive. Not expensive at all.

Why? Because I paid for the private school to educate my older daughter(s) at a hefty price. That school employed Abeka curriculum.

When an unexpected event transpired that caused us to pull our [then senior] out of the academy, I turned to the Abeka DVD's to complete her education.

Then, I purchased the 6th grade DVD series for my youngers.

Then, I found Sonlight, and breathed a sigh of relief. Not only for the approach, but also because of the lessened price tag.

I haven't ever, nor do I plan on complaining about excellent literature delivered to my door.

Luke said...

Indescribable: I hear your frustration. Hang in there, and I'm rooting for you all the way! Your work is very much needed and appreciated. And I hope that as people continue to try to tweak the system that it will improve for you and your students.

Sue, Mom, Mrs. C, Angela, and Angi: Thank you all for the perspective. I tend to get into this rut where I focus on the negatives. I'm glad to hear that so many people see the value and cost-effective nature of Sonlight. Thank you all for the encouragement! I had a blast reading the same thing over and over <smile>.

Meg, that quote is hilarious!

Melonie, may you continue to find grace and peace in whatever choice you make. You are the ones who can make those decisions, and it sounds like they are perfect for where you are right now. But, I have to admit, we'd love to have you as part of the Sonlight family at some point <smile>. Keep up the great work you're doing!

Julie, I think I missed your good news. What's up? I like cheering with people <smile>.

Miss Amanda, thank you!

Angela, the rest of your comments were great. Sports are crazy expensive. I haven't even been able to go to local pool because it's that far outside the budget. Crazy. But I'm so glad that Sonlight it working for you and your family. Great to hear!

Thank you all for jumping in here. I love reading your comments!

~Luke

mary grace said...

Sorry to be so late chiming in here, but I just wanted to let you know that I hear the "SL is so pricey" comment quite regularly in my local support group. Many moms say that their husbands balk when they see the price tag and refuse to even consider Sonlight. I've explained how I get education for all three of the ones I'm homeschooling for that price, and how I can reuse it, blah, blah, blah ... but it all seems to fall on deaf ears. Finally, a newbie mom (who had wanted to use SL but "couldn't afford it") totaled up what she had spent on curriculum for her first grader and shared it with us. She thought she'd gotten a pretty good deal until she put all the numbers together and realized that she could have bought Core 1 Newcomer and *still had $50 left over* for what she spent on workbooks and lifeless readers. I think that lesson will stay with all of the moms who think SL is out of reach!

And, fwiw, I paid $600 for Calvert kindergarten. I have nothing to show for it. After that, SL felt like a deal.

MamaGeph said...

If I had the money the public school would get if my kids attended, I could take us all on a yearly field trip to Europe.

The real shame of it is that teachers and kids see very little of that money - it mostly goes to run the administration machine. My MIL (a former school secretary in Aurora) could tell you tales of open bar ski trips and more. Then when a levy wouldn't pass, they would have all the schools turn down the thermostats and restrict supplies until the taxpayers gave in.

Disgusting. And the most poorly run business in America.

Luke said...

Mary Grace, I'm so glad you brought your perspective and experience. Your anecdotes are priceless <smile>.

MamaGeph: Excellent points. I agree: It is sad that more of that money isn't spent on actually educating the youth of America.

~Luke

Butter said...

Let's see... about $800 for Core 2 plus the extras (science, electives, Bible, LA). About $50 or so of that is consumable (mostly ARTistic Pursuits supplies). Two kids will be using it this year. Two more kids will be using it in a few years. That's around $200 per kid for a school year. They still need math (we use Math-U-See), but that's not a whole lot more per year. Not bad at all, especially for such an awesome curriculum.

Luke said...

Great comment, Butter. Wonderful! <smile>

Thanks so much for adding your experience to the mix. Love it.

~Luke


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