The most time-consuming part of homeschooling for me isn’t teaching the kids. If they have what they need, they teach themselves. It’s figuring out a strategy. For example, if my kid loves hip hop and he says he needs someone to teach him to do the flips, who do I find? What do I tell them? How do I help my son prioritize this given that best dance class for him is the same time as the best flip class for him?

Or, my other son is sick of classical music. He just wants to play fiddle music. His teacher is not into that, but he loves his teacher. So do I change teachers (he’s had her for five years) or do I find a fiddle teacher in addition? Do I tell him no fiddle because it won’t get him into college?

I think this strategizing piece is the most important part of homeschooling, and I’m good at it. I help my boys set goals for themselves and I come up with a tactical plan to meet those goals. And I hire people to help me with other parts.  There’s a happiness coach, a individualized learning coach and an Asperger consultant which are all pretty unique to our family, but there are more common needs I hire out, too.

Driving. Driving is never fun, and the more your kid does outside of your home, the more driving there is. So I hired a driver. I pay her $20/hour and that includes time when she drops my kid off at piano and then goes shopping while she waits for him. That also includes our insane eight-hour trips to cello lessons in Chicago twice a week. So probably I pay her about $2500 a month. Though it varies.

Cleaning. I actually like to clean. But there is a lot of stuff I like to do that I don’t have time to do, and cleaning is one of the first things to go. I have a cleaning person come once a week, for $30/hour. Sometimes I’ll call her if I come back from a trip and hate the idea of unpacking, or if I let the house get really messy and I need her to get it back to normal. In general, my house is very clean, and it costs about $1000/mo. I read that women are much more likely to want to have sex if the house is clean. That’s probably true for me, but what’s also true is that I enjoy being with the kids more in a clean house.

Cooking. We live on a farm, in the middle of nowhere, so I cook three meals a day. Not because I’m a good cook, but because there is no other choice. I tried having the kids cook. They actually did a good job, but I noticed that teaching kids to cook is like teaching kids to do farm work: it’s not time saving until they really know what they’re doing, and every time they learn to do something well, they want to learn something else that’s new.

So for now, the kids cooking is more like high maintenance homeschooling, not a day off. So I hired someone to cook. Sort of. I tested out a few meals. She was a great cook but it doesn’t feel nearly as good sitting down to a meal as when I cook. I’m not sure if this is logical. I mean, based on that logic I’d feel better if I cleaned the toilets, too. It was a good lesson for me, though. I don’t actually want to hire everything out.

I want to do more with my kids, not less. And while I would like to think my kids want to sit around reading with me, and then take a break to work in my garden with me, the kids are not actually interested in doing things I want to do. And this is why the problems of homeschooling transcend money. The biggest problem of homeschooling is that it requires spending time with kids doing stuff they need me to do, rather than the things I want to do. The kids want me just to be around. They want me to witness their days and be charmed by their insights. I can’t pay someone to do this because they don’t want someone else to do this. They want a parent.

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15 replies
  1. Eric
    Eric says:

    Penelope –

    Have you ever looked into or read any of the Thomas Jefferson Education books by Oliver and Rachel DeMille? It sounds like you take a similar approach with your kids (allowing them to teach themselves, finding expert mentors, etc.) but their style is much more…fair to you, shall I say? Of course, as parents they are always there for when a child has a question and helps them get the resources they need but the parent also has a life of their own. Things like driving become an opportunity for the kids to watch mom in her own element. Things like cleaning the house become household chores that everyone shares. I agree with you, strategy seems to be the most difficult part of homeschooling but it seems Rachel and Oliver have a lot of valid points and experience in making this task much easier for the homeschooling parent.

  2. Sandra
    Sandra says:

    Here is an article that might help with your sons’ music teachers/lessons:
    This article is about piano lessons, but the tips would work with all music lessons. You should also check out Tim Tophan’s website, timtophan dot com. Tim wrote the 3rd part of that article on how to keep boys engaged in their music lessons. Your boys can find some modern music that incorporates classical music. For example, Nirvana has some beautiful cello chords in many of their songs. There is one Nirvana song, “Dumb” that I am not too fond of the lyrics, but the cello pieces bring tears to my eyes. I am sure that you can find the same for the violin, like Eleanor Rigby by The Beatles and a few Kansas songs. If you let your son indulge in fiddle music, Amanda Shaw is a talented (and attractive) young lady he could look up on the internet.

  3. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    I was going to say that I have the same darn problem. I want to sit and read and be calm and the kid wants to jump up and down and be chased down the lawn or taken to the park to ride a four-wheeler.

    My best time mothering him in his short 20 month existence was last week when he was sort of sick and he was pretty calm and cuddly and he was okay with watching tv for more than 20 minutes. It was mother heaven for me.
    Also, no noise.

    I just try to be a better sleeper and get up earlier to steal a few minutes of reading. I read at work. And just really try to drink lots of coffee before I leave the office so I get home wired (only 7 minute commute be jealous people!) so I can chase him down the street. He’ll laugh like it’s going out of style.

    Truth is, I don’t even know what I am doing. I think it’s important for him to know I love him and it’s also imperative that he learns others have needs too. But it’s hard to teach him that mom has needs too like being alone and quiet when I am away at work for more than half the day.
    Thankfully his father is at home with him. So it alleviates the pressure quite a lot. He’s much calmer now that he doesn’t have to be nervous that a parent won’t be around.

    But still. You can’t outsource this kind of thing. Just work around it I guess.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I love that you are happy when he’s sick. I love when my kids are sick. I just want them to be snugly and sweet and too weak for sibling rivalries.

      Something I think about is that when I was working all the time and I had a nanny, I missed all those sick days! Now I am happy to get some before the kids are done being snuggly when they’re sick.


      • Becky Castle Miller
        Becky Castle Miller says:

        All four of my kids have had a stomach virus the past few days. I have cleaned up so. much. poop and vomit. But other than the laundry, it’s been fantastic. They’ve been quiet and relaxed, slept a lot, been too sick to go anywhere, and been super snuggly. I feel bad for them that they feel bad physically, but actually, it’s been a break for me as a mom.

        • karelys
          karelys says:

          haha! I think that people still give me dirty looks and consternated faces when I just honestly tell them that sometimes – as much as I love my husband and son – they drive me nuts.

          It’s normal!

          But we have to pretend that it’s all roses and butterflies and unicorn farts.

  4. Jessica
    Jessica says:

    “The biggest problem of homeschooling is that it requires spending time with kids doing stuff they need me to do, rather than the things I want to do. The kids want me just to be around. They want me to witness their days and be charmed by their insights. I can’t pay someone to do this because they don’t want someone else to do this. They want a parent.”

    I’m just going to rewrite that somewhat here-

    “The biggest necessity of homeschooling is that it requires spending time with kids doing stuff they need me to do, rather than the things I want to do. The kids need me just to be around. They need me to witness their days and be charmed by their insights. I can’t pay someone to do this because they don’t need someone else to do this. They need a parent.”

  5. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    I really appreciate how you pay your employees a living wage. And I totally get what you mean about cooking! We’ll order a pizza every now and then, but it’s so much nicer to cook. We also have a CSA share, so it’s essential for us to stay on top of cooking all the damn veggies. My son is really into cooking, and I try to find ways to let him help with food prep, which is usually a bit less stressful than having him ‘help’ with the actual cooking.

  6. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    Why is fiddling not good for getting into college? Seems like classical violin is very competitive vs a niche of a fiddle, mostly done by rural southerners not applying to competitive college?

    See the 2 cellists that cover ac/dc etc. they probably aren’t quality to make first tier symphony, but everyone goes nuts over their covers because unique.

  7. angie
    angie says:

    I was homeschooled! For years! And I play violin! Which I also majored in college. And I’m Suzuki certified, and I went through a fiddle phase for sure, but luckily my teacher was into it (he was going through his own fiddle phase as well) I think it’s a down side of classic music is feeling stuck in a box. I’m still not great at improv or pickin’ style but I can play the hell out of Bach- as long as I have the music! Anyway, I would recommend some fiddling books (which is still kinda boring, but a start) or even some youtube videos.

  8. Lauren
    Lauren says:

    I live in a music town (Athens, GA). There’s a kick-ass bluegrass fiddler here who must be in 20 bands, no joke. There was a bluegrass festival a few weeks ago, and he played with 17 different bands over four days. I heard a rumor that he’s actually *gasp* able to live on what he makes as a musician. Point being, there’s definitely more demand for kick-ass fiddlers, college-educated or not, than there is supply.

  9. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    I know this is not the point of the article, but classical violinist and fiddle player don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I know a violinist who plays in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra by day, and is in bluegrass bands for fun. Sometimes mixing it up once in a while is enough to get fresh eyes.

  10. Melbgal
    Melbgal says:

    As an Aspie Mum with a son who may be an Aspie, I’m curious to hear what your Aspergers consultant does?

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