Will Financial Concerns Override Homeschooling?

My son’s latest interest is carnivorous plants, so we went to look at them at the Chicago Botanical Garden.

Note: This column was published in the Barrow Journal on July 17, 2013.

As we approach our second homeschooling year, my husband and I are having a discussion that has come up before: can we sustain this lifestyle on one salary? As much as I love homeschooling, and as much as my husband supports it, it’s not easy when financial concerns arise.

Most new homeschoolers have plenty of concerns. On top of their list is socialization and whether or not they have the ability to teach their children everything they need to know. After doing my research, I no longer worry about those issues, but I’ve always known that if anything stopped us from homeschooling, it would be money.

As homeschoolers, we get no tax breaks or any support for what we do. We’re still paying taxes that benefit the schools even though our children do not attend. We have to purchase all our educational materials or find free resources.

Fortunately, free and inexpensive resources for homeschooling are plentiful, but it takes time and creativity to use them. The main issue for us is cost of living in a culture that toots its horn about family values, yet I see little action or incentives for families to keep one parent at home full-time. This is an issue whether a family intends to homeschool or not.

I think some people think we must be well off, but that’s far from the truth. True, we’re not in the poor house, but we live a frugal lifestyle. We don’t decorate our house or take many vacations. We don’t own smart phones so that we can keep our monthly costs down. My husband feels guilty whenever he wants to purchase something we don’t need.

I am not a woman who likes to shop, which is good because I doubt my husband would have married me, if I were. But it’s true: The things I want to work at do not pay any bills. I make pocket change at best. Nobody sympathizes with that, and I don’t expect anybody to.

I’m not against traditional school, and I’ve always known that we might not be able to sustain this lifestyle, but thinking about giving up is difficult too. Homeschooling or being a stay-at-home mom is a personal choice. For me, it’s the most fulfilling job I’ve ever had, and I’m excited at the potential it gives us to tailor our sons’ education to their learning styles and interests.

Having read several forums on homeschooling, I know that many homeschoolers struggle with money, but they seem determined to do it anyway. For them, the benefits outweigh the financial struggle. My husband is not so easily buoyed by ideals. The pressure to keep our family afloat is a huge stressor for him.

I don’t hear this debate often on the homeschooling blogs and forums. Is it because those who can’t quietly slip out of the conversation? I don’t know.

I want a savings account too, and I want security too. Like my husband, I’m willing to sacrifice a lot, but are we being stupid?  Sometimes he thinks so.

A homeschooling friend of mine once scoffed at people who felt they needed to have a savings account. Have faith, she insinuated. I looked at her in disbelief. Later, they foreclosed on their house.

There are people who forge ahead with life goals no matter what the risk, and I admit I’ve done that to a degree. For some, it pays off, and we hear those stories because they are inspiring. For others, it doesn’t pay off, but do we ever hear those stories? I bet someone could fill a book with them.

I know people who look down on me for not working. Why should we struggle at all? Put the kids in school like everyone else and get a job. It’s our fault if we aren’t prepared for emergencies or can’t retire comfortably.

It’s crossed my mind many times that life might be easier if I just put the kids in school and got a job, but I’ve also heard about the struggles of moms who work and have kids in school. The truth is that we’ve all got money struggles, time struggles, questions and second guesses. There are many paths to raise a child, and we each need to decide what is best and possible for our family.

We are not giving up on homeschooling yet, but I will need to bring in some kind of income to keep us going.  The boys are getting a little older, which makes it more feasible, but I’m disheartened at the opportunities awaiting me.  Wish me luck….Or call me stupid.

How do you deal with the financial aspects of homeschooling?

UPDATE: I have written an extensive article on this subject for home / school / life magazine’s Summer 2014 issue titled, Money Matters, in which I interviewed three families who have homeschooled through financial crisis. It also includes advice for becoming more financially savvy. Also there are some awesome comments below that might help you.

Concerns About Homeschooling: Financial & “What’s the family gonna say?”

This post was written on April 8, 2009.

When I talk about my financial concerns with homeschooling, I am not talking about how much homeschooling might cost by itself.  I do know that there are many companies who are marketing expensive curriculums to homeschoolers, and there are schools who offer a kind of independent study at home or other kinds of support/evaluation in exchange for tuition costs, but I don’t think I would take either of these routes.  I have read also that new homeschoolers can get very excited and buy almost every educational tool they come across only to find out that their children don’t respond to these gadgets or computer programs or what-not.  I believe that especially in the beginning when my children are young, I would mainly use the library and a few well-selected books and games, and then we would build from there.  If later I felt we would benefit from part of a curriculum, I would look into those.  But I don’t believe that homeschooling has to cost a lot of money.  What I mean when I talk about financial concerns is that we would be living on one income for many more years to come.  We have been living this way for the past few years now, and we’re okay, but it’s not easy.  So I worry that in the long-run,  we might wish I had gone back to work.

I know what homeschoolers would say about this: it is worth the sacrifice!  Because nothing is more important than the children and their well-being, and if homeschooling is important to us, we can find a way.  I agree.  That is why I’m 99% certain we’ll homeschool.  And I might be able to find some kind of work-at-home job, although I don’t think I should count on this.  We have already made sacrifices so that I can stay home in these early years, so it won’t come as a shock to us.  But when you live on the edge, you aren’t as prepared for emergencies as you wish you could be, and that will always be an issue.  What it comes down to is that while homeschooling, finances will always be a concern, so we’ll have to decide if we can keep living like that.

UPDATE May 31, 2011:  We are moving forward with our plans to homeschool, and though we will always wish we had more money, we continue to live frugally.  I am writing for our local newspaper, which pays me a small fee for my columns, and though not much, even a little bit helps.  I have also been taking on some photography jobs.  As we move forward, we’ll continue to look for ways to save money and make a little extra.  I think it’ll be worth it.

Finally, I think about what some of my extended family might say about our homeschooling.  This should be easy.  Who cares what other people think?  I wish I could say that I didn’t care what others thought, but I do.  At least when it comes to big issues like this one.  And I know there are people in my family who know how to “push my buttons.”  So this is something I think about.  Fortunately, there’s not much I need to do about it.  People will think what they think, and we’ll do what we want to do.  This is part of the reason I have started this blog — so that I can gather my thoughts and research on this subject and hopefully be armed with information when people question me.  Also, I have considered that the few people I’m thinking of might surprise me and won’t think it’s a big deal (yeah, right).  Ultimately, I would hope that their concerns will be put aside once they see that my children are doing well, academically and socially.  This, anyway, is what I read in The Homeschooling Handbook.  Many people who express anxiety because their grandchildren or neighbor’s children or niece or nephews are being homeschooled, later come to appreciate the choice, once they see the outcome.

So in a way, this is a non-issue, but I wanted to bring it up here because it will be an obstacle I face, and I’m going to have to deal with.  Wish me luck!

So please tell me what your concerns are about homeschooling?

Click here to go to Part 1 in this series, which is about socialization.

UPDATE May 31, 2011:  I also write about concerns and issues regarding homeschooling on my FAQ page.