What’s the most common reason parents have for not homeschooling? They need two incomes. But I’m just not willing to believe that money holds back parents from homeschooling. Here’s why: Anyone has enough money to homeschool because there’s an intrinsic low-cost-of-living that works with homeschooling.
It’s not about high cost of housing
For example, you can move to a cheap neighborhood. There is no way you need two incomes to maintain a homeschool family because you can live in a very low-cost-of-living area because you will not be using the school district. It does not cost money to do what most kids want to do—which is play and hang out with their parents and their friends. Kids don’t need vacations from a life that is fun. People take vacations from life that is full of homework and waking up at 7am to catch a bus. So the big expenses in your life go away.
It’s not about affording to live near cultural opportunities
Also, parents live in a fantasy land, thinking they need to live near cultural opportunities for kids. If your kid is totally driven in one area and an expert and needs the best of the best, then absoltuely she should be homeschooled anyway.
For all other kids, having a smidgen of dance (track national tours of big dance troupes), hearing one orchestra (we have season tickets in Madison), going to one big city and seeing whatever museums are there (Indianapolis has the country’s number-one children’s museum) this is enough. Kids don’t need the 4000 dinaosaur bones in the Museum of Natural History. If the tradeoff for being near phenomenal cultural institutions is that kids spend eight hours a day in school because the parents have to pay to live there, then it’s not worth it.
It’s not about paying off debt
Debt can wait. Let’s say you’re paying off a lot of debt. We do not have debtor’s prison. So you can pay it off over 50 years, on one salary, and that would be fine. Or if you can’t pay it off over 50 years on one salary then get a reality check: you qualify for bankruptcy and you should take it. But when you say you need two incomes to pay off debt, do you know who is really paying off the debt? Your kids. Because they have to go to school so you can pay off debt. It’s not worth it.
People don’t homeschool because they’re scared they’ll be bored
The truth is that people don’t homeschool because they would rather go to work than be with kids all day. It’s understandable. Who wouldn’t? If you are good at work then you have engaging projects, interesting conversation, and an all-round stimulating environment. I like work better than being home with kids as well. And work is a thousand times easier for me.
But it’s not the best or the right choice. Because in exchange for two working parents getting really cool work environments, the kids have a dull existence at a school that does not cater to them nearly as well as work caters to parents who enjoy work. Here’s a revealing statistic: Working Mother found that moms would rather have a 20% pay increase than a year-long vacation. That 20% pay increase isn’t going to change anyone’s standard of living. Which means moms just like going to work.
But you have to weigh the fun of going to work vs the destruction of sending kids to school. Kids do not have enough control over their school life to make it better. But parents have total control over their home life. So they can stop working, rearrange things for homeschooling, and then figure out how to make homelife interesting for themselves, too.
There’s a reason that there are so few how-to-homeschool tips on this blog. Anyone can homeschool. Kids naturally learn stuff. It’s so well documented that it’s insulting to our intelligence to even argue this point. Kids are natural learners, which means the challenge of homeschooling is how to keep the parents who are home engaged and interested and fulfilled.
The real choice for most parents is do they choose to have their kids bored at school or do they choose to be bored themselves at home? And the real question is, which problem is more easily remedied?
That’s the big barrier to homeschooling for most parents, and that’s what this blog focuses on. See that photo of me doing needlepoint? I’ve been saving it for a year. I didn’t want you to see it. I have three startups under my belt, for god’s sake! What am I doing with needlepoint? But it’s a picture of me trying. It didn’t work. But I have spent the last year trying to figure out how to be fulfilled and engaged while I homeschool.
Some days I love being with my kids and some days I don’t. It’s a work in progress. But you don’t get to meet that challenge if you give up at the beginning and put your kids in school so you can have fun at work.