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.