What would you do if you had ten million dollars?

If you had $10,000,000 would you still homeschool?

Someone emailed this question to me.

It’s an interesting question. Because before I started homeschooling, I would have taken that money and hired a consultant at $10K per kid to get them both into one of those top NYC private schools. Then I would have bought a summer home in the Hamptons. It would have to be a cheap house, actually, if I only had $10 million. But whatever. I’d buy the house and spend summers there and send my kids to private NYC schools during the school year.

That’s what I would have done before I started homeschooling. But now, I honestly can’t imagine not having my kids with me all day. I can’t imagine sending my kids away for eight hours a day. It sounds crazy to me now that I’ve been a family with my kids all day long. If I had ten million dollars now, I’d hire a lot more help. I’d use the money to get people to help me be better at giving the kids what they need to grow up into happy, productive adults. I would get more coaching for myself as a parent.

The photo above is my son’s violin teacher at his recital. Diana Popowycz. We’ve been taking lessons from her for six years and I still have no idea how to pronounce her last name. But I feel very close to her. At this point, she’s not just a violin teacher. She has seen me go through a divorce. She introduced me to four cello teachers before we started driving to Chicago. She was the first homeschool parent to challenge my assumption that all homeschoolers are lunatics.

She has given my son confidence, a love for music, and a deep connection with another person besides me.

When we started, I broke a thousand rules of being a Suzuki parent. Like, I participated in no group activities and I never paid on time. But the biggest rule I broke was that I didn’t go to the lessons or practice with him. I couldn’t handle it. I’m not sure if what I couldn’t handle was that he has Asperger’s and so do I and when we clash, it’s bad. Or maybe I couldn’t handle that I was working 120 hour weeks, and simply could not focus enough to know where he should place his fingers. So I paid her to give him extra lessons and she found someone I could pay to practice with him. And then I paid a nanny to bring him to all that.

Diana never told me I was a bad mom. Or an insane mom. She just helped my son learn to play the violin – consulting with her own Asperger’s consultant to customize lessons for my son’s skills.

And when I stepped down from my 120-hour work weeks as CEO and became much more involved in my kids’ lives, she was right there to teach me how to practice with my son. And how to show up for lessons. And how to love the music.

If I had $10,000,000 I would fill my family’s life with people like Diana. I want my kids to know that the world is full of good people who can teach us fun and interesting things. I want my kids to know how to ask for help from experts to make their days more engaging. We do that now. It’s our biggest household expense. I can’t imagine what I could do with $10 million.

27 replies
  1. Debt Free Teen
    Debt Free Teen says:

    I think that if you had 10 million dollars you would feel drawn to homeschooling because you wouldn’t want your kids stuck in a traditional public school all day while you could be out experiencing the world.

    Things like traveling the world while learning history, private music lessons and even hiring someone to teach your kids how to budget and handle their money properly would become a top priority.

    Chase Miller

  2. Kimberly Rotter
    Kimberly Rotter says:

    Wholeheartedly agree, as with your last post. The money would allow my family to spend more time together. I would be able to hire wonderful people to be teachers in my child’s life, and we would be able to focus on family and learning without getting caught up in the rat race of work. Rather than signing up with an expensive private school, I would relish the opportunity to just quit my job and be more present as a parent.

  3. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Easy. If we had that kind of money I’d hire someone to do all of the grocery shopping, food preparation, and clean up. Then we would travel. I’d love to buy an RV and take our schooling on the road.

  4. Caroline
    Caroline says:

    I’d continue homeschooling, become debt free (we’re almost there anyways) and travel more. I’d like to make my home a little nicer and more organized. Right away, I’d hire someone to spend time teaching and speaking their (foreign) language with my children.

    I like Sarah’s RV schooling on the road idea, by the way. I know people who do this. Wonderful!

  5. Rachel D.
    Rachel D. says:

    “I want my kids to know how to ask for help from experts to make their days more engaging.” This….this i have the hardest time with.

    I never had good role models growing up, but I was always able to make connections with people who would try to help me. I’ve had a good life and career because of people wanting to help me. Every career move I made was from someone reaching out to me.

    But that’s the problem…. I don’t know how to ask for help when I need it, so now I’m stuck. When I have asked for help in the past, I sound stupid because I don’t know what kind of help to ask for. Or maybe I’m not stuck. Maybe I am where I need to be. I’m great at finding motivating answers, but not so great at knowing all of my options and picking direction.

    Yeesh….Sorry about this comment. Kind of off topic, but it’s great your kids are learning how to do this.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I think it’s a hugely underrated skill to know how to ask for help. I see it all the time in research about careers — people who know how to ask for help do the best in adult life. No one can do stuff all on their own.

      Someone once told me that education is not about getting answers but rather asking sharper and sharper questions.


      • Rachel D.
        Rachel D. says:

        Great point. I only want to ask questions about things I’m interested in. I’m still learning what my true interests are, and I’m only figuring out now the people who have information in those areas…and I’m a grown-up.

        I can’t imagine being a kid and already knowing how to access all of that information, and then knowing who to find guidance and direction from. It’s the exact opposite of always being told what to do and being led by others. Instead, you lead yourself to all of your resources. You become your own leader.

        haha….I’m homeschooling myself as an adult. Better late than never, I suppose. I might have it all figured out by the time I’m dead….lol:) If I had $10,000,000 I could catch up much quicker.

  6. MBL
    MBL says:

    This is the best post ever. Diana sounds amazing! I suspect that if you were to sign that 10 million over to her, she would continue to teach. I am so happy that she found her niche and that you found her.

  7. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    The writing is good.
    The story is even better.

    This post is one of your best on a few different levels … and it’s a great tribute to Diana. She came through for you and your son with flying colors on both a professional and personal basis. There’s really no amount of money that can be pegged to her efforts. It’s her kindness, tolerance, and labor of love which is priceless. Recognize it, acknowledge it, appreciate it, and be grateful for it. Then pass it on. It will make the world a better place!

  8. P Flooers
    P Flooers says:

    “I honestly can’t imagine not having my kids with me all day. I can’t imagine sending my kids away for eight hours a day.”

    This is the true paradigm shift that happens when you homeschool. Congratulations. Its a beautiful shift, isn’t it?

    My MIL is a billionaire–for real. She is lovely but neurotic and frightened of poverty and her children are covetous and small. My father, who grew up in a poor rural family, says their social world is rife with mental illness and drug problems. Money doesn’t buy love or happiness.

    But togetherness does. And homeschoolers are the billionaires of togetherness. Cheers!

  9. kristen
    kristen says:

    This is exactly how I plan to homeschool.
    Thanks for sharing and please keep posting about how you accomplish finding the mentors that your children need. The “how” of homeschooling is sometimes a lot harder to find than the “why”.

  10. Hazel
    Hazel says:

    I don’t know if it is a symptom of Asperger’s or your business background, but your approach to the social issue of education seems to completely selfish and short sighted.

    If you see that the best thing for your children would be to have both an involved parent and qualified teachers with expertise that you don’t have, why not advocate that money be put into schools to provide great teachers and role models to all kids, not just those who can afford it. The good school/good neighborhood issue is all about economics as you pointed out in your last blog entry. But rather than advocate pulling out the motivated families from the system, why not use your position of influence to work for more economic equality and better educational opportunities for all the children who are faced with failing public schools?

    What percentage of families will you have to convince to homeschool to create social structures that will be able to sustain a liveable world for your kids to enjoy? The divide between educated and uneducated people isn’t just a problem for the uneducated, it will affect us all.

    With 10 million dollars one could do a lot more than just raise two kids well.

    • P Flooers
      P Flooers says:

      I am a liberal tax and spend democrat who finds this argument against homeschoolers very shallow. The system is broken. I’m not going to dump my kid there just because of political ideals, even if they are fine ideals.

      Homeschool families pay education taxes without using the system. So we are supporting the system doubly–paying without taking our fair share of space, resources, or teacher’s time.

      Raising well educated moral citizens is the best way to support our country and all of its systems.

      • Hazel
        Hazel says:

        Why is the only alternative to “dump” your kids into a broken system?

        Obviously paying taxes into the system without participating isn’t helping to fix it. It is possible that homeschooling and private schools can educate enough of the next generation to keep some of our culture alive, but if the majority of children are dumped into a broken system, our society will end up broken too.

        Homeschooling isn’t a very realistic option for single parents. And if quality homeschooling depends on paying for private lessons, it isn’t affordable for everyone.

    • Meg
      Meg says:

      Where have we seen that argument before, that homeschooling is selfish, because it somehow means we aren’t supporting the public schools? Really? Sorry to break the news, but homeschoolers still pay the same taxes everyone else does, so we’re supporting the public schools, except our kids aren’t (usually) using the resources, taking up seats and texts, etc.

      The argument that we somehow owe the system custody of our kids for the greater good, is specious. And the social systems present in society, outside of the institutional weekday life of schooled kids, are ever richer and more interesting and varied, as more and more families decide school isn’t the best way to live or grow up, and don’t put their kids there.

      Believe it or not, if homeschooling grew to overtake public school use, the foundations of society would not crumble. All those interested and interesting people, free to visit museums whenever, packing coffeeshops and libraries, public spaces and galleries? The social consequences could be magnificent!

      Heck, even without lots more homeschooled and unschooled kids out in the real world each year, the real world is still more rich, interesting, and varied, than school.

    • Aquinas Heard
      Aquinas Heard says:

      I’d also like to say I appreciate your (Ms. Cruz) being selfish in regard to your children. They are some of your top values, if not the highest, and they benefit greatly from you considering them as such.

      Homeschooling is selfish – and that’s a good thing. I assume part of the reason you homeschool is because you selfishly want what is best for your children according to YOUR values. You have no moral obligation to provide an education for those less fortunate. Obviously you can help those people, if you so CHOOSE to do so. Just like nothing is stopping Hazel from voluntarily choosing to help the less fortunate through her labor or her money. Hazel, just don’t force me to help.

      • Hazel
        Hazel says:

        Sorry, but I would argue that we do have a moral obligation to assist with the education of children other than our own.

        That doesn’t mean that I don’t see that parents will generally take care of their own children first. But we as nation seem to be forgetting that unless we work together to find solutions to the crises in education and healthcare, we will all suffer. With $10M Penelope could do more than just make the lives of her family better. The fact that we all spend so much time dreaming about what we’ll do when we strike it rich rather than how to make things better now just makes me sad.

        My point is that I don’t agree with Penelope that every parent can homeschool and that there are costs to the well-being of the group when a large number of families abandon public schools, even if they still pay taxes.

        According to Kant, “you should only perform acts that could become universal laws – for example, you should not steal because if everybody were allowed to take whatever they wanted when they wanted it, there would be chaos, and therefore stealing could not be allowed universally” http://marciamalory.scienceblog.com/2012/07/18/on-altruism/

        • P Flooers
          P Flooers says:

          As a liberal democrat who believes society should function with the least of us in mind, I have sympathy for your argument, Hazel. I want the schools fixed.

          The institutional elementary system is broken in a way we can not currently fix. The whole thing is based on academic research that is fundamentally flawed. Academic pedagogy can’t be fixed until we learn how to help children grow to be as smart as they can be. And until we value children over economy. (Which, lets face it, is nearly un-American to suggest.) However, the best current research underway is the homeschool movement.

          So, aside from paying a huge amount of taxes into a system most citizens actually believe to be superior and would not agree is broken, and aside from demurring use of the resources my taxes support, participation in the homeschool movement has the best possible shot at actually influencing meaningful reform for children forced to grow within the system.

          And, Hazel, unless you can top that with a concrete fix before the start of school this August, you are remiss to suggest I put my children into a broken system. If you are a parent who is willingly keeping your children in school because you think that is going to solve the fundamental flaw of industrial pedagogy, you and I will simply have to disagree. If you are a single parent who can not homeschool, I’m sorry. That sucks for your kids.

          Many many many families homeschool on or below the poverty line (my family included, when we began) because they value their children more than money. Your values may differ. Many families have values that differ. And there are other families who truly can not (or should not) homeschool. Again, that sucks.

          But putting children in a broken system serves neither the system nor society. Affirmative Action has done more for poverty and social bigotry than industrial pedagogy ever will.

        • Meg
          Meg says:

          I like the Universal Law test applied to homeschooling. What if everyone homeschooled? How would that hurt society? It wouldn’t keep women who want to, from choosing the labor market as their career, because they could hire another family they felt comfortable with, to include their kid in with that family’s, same as daycare only more natural, less institutional.

          So what if the entire society dispensed with the need for public schooling completely, and kids still learned to read, write, and figure, and could still get to a point where they can read, research, study, and experience, anything and everything independently as well once they can read and write on a fluent level and use computers independently?

          I am not seeing the great social harm there, even if Everyone did it. In fact, it sounds like a better society, to me.

          • Hazel
            Hazel says:

            Ok, we’re playing “what if” here. I think what prompted my initial reaction to write was my reaction to “what if you had $10 million dollars” question in the face of the reality that after 30 years under a government steered by a principle that unrelenting greed is the best measure of success our society seems on the verge of collapse, not just a trollish lets-bash- homeschooling-on-a-homeschooling-blog impulse.

            Marissa Meyer with her obscene amount of wealth (she just joined the WalMart board?) won’t have to worry about having well-educated children. But I wonder what type of school that kid who just shot people in Aurora Colorado went to.

            The establishment of public schools has been an advancement for society. http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/database/article_display.cfm?HHID=627 While never perfect, the public school system in the US was once something that did serve a large number of students well. I am probably unfairly placing too much blame on the way schools have declined to the homeschool movement.

            I don’t hold it against anyone who homeschools for the best interests of his or her child. I’m just pointing out the what if downside to a continuation of the financial and social disinvestment in public education.

            When playing “what if” both Meg and I are entitled to utopian visions. But when we can’t even have each child housed and fed by a nonabusive parent, the prerequisite conditions necessary before each child can be homeschooled by a qualified parent are much more unrealistic than improving the public school system.

            It’s not that we can’t have a bit of both; kids happy at school and at home. I’m just worried that not everyone will be dedicated parents and willing taxpayers like people here and that what we’ll end up with is Oliver Twist again.

  11. Tracey Mansted
    Tracey Mansted says:

    Wow – for the first time I feel you have really GOT being a homeschool mum! It takes a while to find your feet and lose your fear of being consumed (well, it certainly did for me anyway). You are in the rhythm of it.

    Changes your life perspective doesn’t it.

    In our family, payments to teachers/experts is our greatest expense too. Much better than alcohol and shoes : )

    Well done you!

  12. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I forgot to mention – set aside some of those millions, invest it, and retrieve it when it’s time to set up your kid(s) in their own business. No college worries if not enough grant and scholarship money is available, can’t get in to college of choice, or decision is made to skip the college route.

  13. Aquinas Heard
    Aquinas Heard says:

    This was another great post, as usual. I would only add that I would give my children more experiences (travel for adventure, history and art) and more resources for them to discover, invent, and build.

  14. Anna B
    Anna B says:

    If I had 10 million dollars? I’d pack up the kiddies and travel everywhere with them. Also lots of new, fun activities. For example, we’d go boating. We’d study languages. We’d go to fun restaurants. Hopefully, we’d keep our heads on straight and give a huge portion of it to families who are less fortunate and struggling to just get by on low-paying jobs (or, per the current economic climate, no jobs).

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