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.

Homeschooling’s Biggest Challenge: No Break for Mama

The hardest part of homeschooling for me is not getting enough rest/breaks/”me time”/time alone/time to get my ducks in a row.  I love it.  Don’t get me wrong.  But we all need and deserve some down time.  After my second son was born two years ago (see photo above), the time I got to myself decreased dramatically.  As an introvert, I really need time alone to recharge, yet I have surprised myself at how I can thrive with such little time to myself.  I think this is because I love my job.  I love my boys, and I love being with them most of the time….but that still doesn’t take away the need to have a break sometimes.

I can get tired, cranky, and I can yell.  Sigh.  I’m not perfect.

I knew that I couldn’t be alone in this, so I put out a message on one of the homeschooling e-mail lists I belong to, and I asked other moms to share with me how they do it.  Do they get any free time?  Do they hire someone?  Do they suffer through it? Or maybe I am just a selfish mama?

Thankfully, there are others like me who need their “me time.”  And they allowed me to share their comments in the latest column I wrote for The Barrow Journal.  I hope you’ll click here to read it and then come back and tell me how YOU do it.