Money Mic: Why I Home-School My Kids

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Money MicIn our LV Moms’ Money Mic series, we hand over the podium to people with thought-provoking views about money and parenthood. These views are theirs, not ours, but we look forward to opening up the floor for discussion. 

In the past, we’ve spoken to parents who chose not to use diapers with their children and dove into the stay-at-home parent debate. This time, one mother shares why she has decided to home-school her children. 

In 2002 we had our third child, ten years after our second was born. Our eldest two boys were in a private school, but we began to consider the best way to educate our newest addition. Although we loved the school our boys attended, each year cost us about $10,000. We questioned how feasible it would be to put additional kids through there, too.

We had three more children in the following years, for a total of six, and with each new baby came further confirmation that putting our four youngest through private school was out of the question financially. Our two eldest were approaching college age, which put even more pressure on us.

The decision was simple. We elected to educate our four youngest at home.

Why Public School Wasn’t an Option

We always knew that we wouldn’t send our children to public school. Parents who opt out of public school do so for many reasons: safety, quality of education, religious conviction and many others. My husband and I both went to public school, but that was a long time ago, and I don’t know what schools are like today. For us, religion was the main reason. We believe that God gave parents the responsibility to raise, train and educate their own children. Many parts of the Bible talk about training your children–to us, that includes education.

We believed that for our two oldest boys, too, but we sent them to a private Christian school that shared our beliefs, so for us that was a partnership. I had home-schooled my eldest son when he was in preschool, because a regular preschool’s schedule didn’t fit in with my work as a physical therapist. But that was only three days a week, and involved simpler lessons. After that, I sent him to the private school.

As we considered how to be more involved in educating our children, we were afraid that we couldn’t effectively cover all the subjects needed beyond the preschool stage, that we lacked official teaching credentials and so on. I believe we missed an opportunity to grow closer as a family when we sent our oldest two to private school—which is something, now that I have home-schooled for years, I can say with certainty.

Would You Home-School?

Have you ever thought about home-schooling your children? Why or why not?
DISCUSS

Now that we’ve tried it, any doubts we had have fallen by the wayside. We’ve found good resources like lesson plans, online courses and, perhaps most importantly, the confidence that we do know enough to teach our own children and give them an excellent education. Below, I’ll explain what that looks like to us.

Our Home-School Life

We’re following the classical model of schooling, which is also used by the private school our boys went to. It goes through three phases: “Grammar” is what would be primary school, and it focuses on teaching children facts—but, as defined in the classical model, “grammar” is a far larger category than just learning sentence structure.

For example, my first and second graders are learning about electricity, so they’ve learned what protons, electrons and neutrons are. “Logic” starts around 6th grade and teaches the framework for these facts. “Rhetoric” is for high school and focuses on teaching students how to clearly express themselves. So for example, rhetoric as applied to math is learning how to use the basic concepts in a more theoretical way in algebra and calculus.

I do the teaching, and my husband helps with discipline. We get our curricula from Veritas Press, which is geared toward parents who don’t necessarily know the subject, so that they can learn it ahead of teaching it to the children. I can do the lesson word-for-word if I want, or put it in my own words. I’m learning as I go, and it’s a lot of fun for me. My education in physical therapy (what I did before I became a stay-at-home mom) focused on math and science, so now I’m able to go back and learn literature and history. And, as with any teacher, my enthusiasm for that rubs off on the kids–they love history. 

Right now we teach three of our children at home. We start classes at 8 a.m. (well, ideally). My first grader is finished by 1 p.m., my second grader is finished no later than 2 p.m. and the fourth grader goes until 4 p.m. That’s eight hours of my day every weekday.

Teaching First, Second and Fourth Grade

Sometimes it’s tricky to deal with three children of different grade levels. For example, after a short lesson, my fourth grader spends an hour and a half working on math problems by herself everyday. While she’s doing that, I tackle lessons for my first and second graders. Sometimes the lessons overlap a little, so I try to incorporate their lessons into the same activity.

For example, I bring them to the calendar, and ask them different questions according to their level. I’ll ask one how many days there are in one week, two weeks, three weeks, etc., to teach counting up by multiple of sevens. For the other, I’ll ask what is the day of the week one week from today? A lot of their lessons overlap because they’re only a year apart. We use a spiral math program, meaning I’ll teach them something new and keep coming back to it throughout the year to build on the concept.

Our daughter in fourth grade is taking an online class with an academy in a subject that is weaker for me: traditional grammar and writing. The classes are wonderful. Twice a week at an appointed time, 15 students “arrive” in an online classroom. The teacher uses the computer screen as a blackboard, and the students interact during the class by “raising their hand” (clicking a little hand button) and chatting via instant message. Besides filling in a weaker point in my abilities, it frees up an hour for me and gives my daughter friends in five different states, with whom she communicates regularly by letter, email and video chat.

My husband, who works every weekday as a contractor, is kind of like the principal. If we are having problems, like the kids aren’t doing the work or there is a disciplinary issue, that’s where he comes in.

Why Home-Schooling Works So Well for Us

As parents, we study our children. Home-schooling allows us to completely customize teaching for each child. We are able to choose from a huge variety of curricula, determine what is effective for their learning styles, and change it when necessary. My second-grader is doing second grade math, but first grade reading. I’m able to keep him at two different levels according to his ability, which is something schools can’t do easily. I don’t tell him so; I just say, “This is your grammar lesson and this is your math lesson.” He’s a happier kid for that.

We believe that the family environment is the natural environment. Children who are home-schooled live and learn among siblings who are older and younger than they are, rather than in a contrived environment with those strictly their own ages. They seek advice from their parents because they have always done so, instead of turning to same-aged peers whose opinions come from other kids. As parents, we always have their best interests in mind.

We also integrate religious studies into the home-schooling experience. Our first class is always Bible study. It’s devotional time. We read something from the Bible, we sing something, we pray and we have a Bible lesson.

Being Teacher and Mom: The Unique Challenges

The biggest challenge of home-schooling is that it’s hard for a relationship to go back and forth between parent-child and teacher-child, especially when they’re young. To address that, I try to make the atmosphere a little bit different when we’re “at school.” We practice raising hands and taking turns. If they ever had to be in a classroom setting, I wouldn’t want them to be totally unequipped.

We haven’t done any standardized testing yet, as it doesn’t start until 6th grade. I’m eager to see how they are doing, but I’m pretty confident. Home-schoolers have been found to do exceptionally well compared to public and even private school students. My kids are strong in reading and spelling, and are starting foreign languages early. I’m already teaching my fourth grader Latin, though this has been the most challenging subject this year for me to teach. (I don’t know why I thought I would remember anything from my year of high school Latin.) I’m considering getting Rosetta Stone once my children move on to other foreign languages.

When it comes to socialization, we aren’t worried. In the textbook “Sociology,” Richard T. Schaefer, Ph.D. wrote, “The family is the most important agent of socialization in the United States, especially for children.” We make opportunities for our children to participate in group activities. Community sports, home-school groups, church activities and play dates are all things they enjoy. They see neighborhood friends every day. Sure, they always want to see their friends more, but what kids don’t?

And there is nothing like the joy I experience watching our children play with each other. My two oldest boys, who are now 20 and 21, didn’t share a lot of activities because they had such different personalities. They are just now choosing to spend time together. But my younger children are buddies.

The Hidden Costs of Home-Schooling

I don’t think you can put a price on the experience our kids are having being home-schooled. But the costs can add up: Books, supplies and the curriculum run us about $1,000 per year, per kid. Included in that amount is buying yearly lessons ($200 for three students) on subjects from math to science to history. The online class my daughter takes costs $500 for the year. And as the other kids come up we’ll be adding more of those, so I have to be discerning about which topics to teach myself and which to outsource to the online academy.

Overall, I pay $1,000 to $1,500 per child per year—but that’s as compared to $10,000 for a private school.

And the dollar amount of home-schooling is second to the commitment of time. I was already a happy stay-at-home mom when I made this decision, so I was fortunate that we wouldn’t have to give up income to make the switch. But this is a career. You pour yourself into it. These are your children. There is no more precious investment.

Cate Dwyer lives in Glen Burnie, Maryland with her husband Duane and five of their children, Joe, Gillian, Jonathan, Amelia and Finn. Her oldest son recently graduated from college and is teaching in Indonesia. Her second oldest, Joe, lives at home while working and taking full-time classes at community college. She has home-schooled three of her children for five years and plans to home-school her youngest when he is old enough.

 

 

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  • Dreamweaver2040

    Doing something like this terrifies and excites me all at the same time. I was a really good student and I loved learning, so part of me thinks I could be a really great and enthusiastic teacher for my son. Also, I am a pastor’s wife…but instead of making me more apt to home school, this fact actually swings me more in the direction of public school. If we want to build an authentic life in authentic community with our neighbors, don’t I have to show that I am committed to that by sending my child to the same schools? I’m still thinking through it, which is fine, since my boy is just now six months old! Schooling your kids is definitely a personal choice, but for some reason really controversial?

    • hsmomnotbychoice

      No they don’t have to attend the same schools.  Your children get a customized curriculum to meet their needs and likes.  Also get your kids involved in neighborhood and community activities, church activities and have them be catalysts in helping other children be involved in service projects to feed the poor, read to seniors at a local nursing home, cleaning up local parks, etc.  I have met families who say they will make their children “shining stars” and “pillars” for Christ in public schools only to see their children become indoctrinated in politically correct thinking falling away from Christ instead.  Just because you want it does not mean that the Lord wants.  You need to put this to serious pray and take time to hear that still small voice of God to guide you into a right decision for each individual child.  I will pray for God’s guidance for you and your family.

  • Stephanie

    I was heartbroken when my 9 month old baby was diagnosed with severe neutopenia (no white blood cells to fight bacterial infections). I have been instructed to keep him out of daycare to prevent exposing him to a variety of viral infections. Any virus, whether a common cold or a more serious flu, would compromise his immune system that much more and could prove to be fatal for him should a bacterial infection set in. He also will not likely be able to attend school. At first, I saw this as a huge setback – my son will be sheltered and won’t have ‘normal’ childhood experiences. Upon further review however, I am seeing that this may be a blessing. Before this diagnosis, homeschooling had never crossed my mind.
    I am a single mother. I have a good paying and solid job that I love - the only thing is I work from 4pm-midnight. Once he is in school (which is still a few years away) I would only see him for a bit before school and on my days off – so he would pretty much be raised by his teacher in the day and my mother (an affordable and reliable alternative to daycare) at night….or I could give up my job and get a day job. The thought of that breaks my heart. If, however, I were to homeschool, I would have all day with him before I had to go to work. He is usually in bed by 8, so I would only be missing about 4 hours of time with him each day. Not only could I spend more time with him, he would be more likely to stay healthy at home, and I wouldn’t have to give up a career that I love. It is a win-win situation. The doctor has said that as he grows his neutrophil numbers may increase – I pray that they do. If that should happen, I think that homeschooling is still something that we may persue.

  • Westernjustice

    Great article!  I am in my second year of homeschooling and it is wonderful!  We also use the classical model for our education.  We are involved with Classical Conversations.  We use their curriculum and meet with our group once a week.  It is wonderful to get to know other families that have chosen this for their children also.  The kids love getting together and still get to experience a classroom setting but it is with mothers present as well as our tutors.  We also go on field trips together.  They are building friendships that last a lifetime and learning to respect elders.  All of the children are very outgoing.  It helps that they practice public speaking every week!  It is a great experience for my children, my husband and myself!

  • http://www.facebook.com/Myrinda.GirlScoutCookieCrazy.Dixon Myrinda Ray Siciliani Dixon

    I pulled my DD8 from her school around Halloween and we’ve never been happier! We are lucky to have a “home study” option in our district with activities like guitar and orchestra clubs, etc as well as one optional classroom day a week. I don’t love the cirriculum that much, but it’s our first year and it’s free and they can’t stop me from doing lots of other great stuff outside of “school”. I incorporate Girl Scout material as well…I never thought I’d be here, doing this, but life has never been better and my DD has never been happier!

  • Marie H

    Thanks for sharing! My husband and I are considering homeschooling for our daughter — but we still have time, she’s a newborn right now.
    I read through your calculation of what it costs to homeschool a kid, and while I understand you were a stay-at-home mom before you decided to homeschool your kids, I think in general one should include the opportunity cost of one parent leaving their job… In our case I don’t think we could actually afford it — and then there’s the fact that we both love our jobs.Has anyone here tried homeschooling while still working? Like, recruiting shared tutors with other families?

    • Cate Dwyer

      Leaving my job (several years before homeschooling) was a leap of faith for us.  Our budget did not work on paper, but we were convicted that it was the best thing for our family.  God has indeed been faithful to provide for our every need and we have no regrets about the loss of income.
      I do have a couple of friends who work part-time as physical therapists who also homeschool their children and are making it work for their families.  In our area, there are also homeschool tutorials.  Generally, the students attend classes once or twice a week and are given work to do at home the rest of the week.  The tutorials usually do not teach all of the classes and it will vary from tutorial to tutorial what is taught and what is left to you.
      We are also involved in a co-op with several other homeschooling families.  We share the teaching responsibilities and our kids have the opportunity to be in a classroom setting with other children in a larger group, where they can develop their ‘classroom skills’ and do some presentations/public speaking.
      As you can see, there are lots of options.  I think that if you are committed, you will find a way to make it work for your family.

    • gigi256

      I was home-schooled from 7th-12th grade and my mother worked full time with somewhat flexible hours. My younger brother and I used independent study courses through out the day for a majority of our subjects (like those from BYU’s Independent Study Program for High School) and we usually had course books or other resources for any additional subjects like music or foreign language.
      This method worked well for us because we were older and able to be home by ourselves for extended periods of time (usually no more than 5 hours at a time) and my mother set aside an hour or so for each of us to show her what we’ve done each day and get questions answered or additional clarification on a project or problem. We also learned quickly that we were responsible for our own education and learned to manage our time and workload well. That proved immensely important during my college years, and wasn’t really taught to me when I was in public school. 
      If your children are young, I would recommend looking into a co-op program in your area for home-schooling. Students gather to be taught as a group, and the parents will rotate teaching a class or subject. Each co-op varies in how, what, and when they teach, so check out a few in your area to see what fits your schedule.
      Hope that helps!

  • Delci Eschberger

    I love this article. I was homeschooled until 8th grade. I can honestly say that I learned so much more and was encouraged to do so by being home schooled. It was a different atmosphere because I was the only child at home, so by 8th grade I was ready to get out in the world, be on dance teams, etc. I’m so glad my mother took the time to home school me. It was a great experience!