Another post from the old blog. Some of the things that made us hesitate when deciding to start homeschooling, though all things that can be overcome.
Earlier, I mentioned that my wife and I had many discussions before deciding to not enroll our son in first grade. In those discussions we came up with a number of reasons that we were unhappy with the public school system. At the same time, there were a handful of things that made us apprehensive about homeschooling. Surely, you may not agree with all of our reasons, or think we missed some key reasons to keep a child in public school, but these are what we deemed to be the most consequential.
As adults, we make decisions for ourselves, as parents we also make decisions for our children. Every time we make a decision we are utilizing a recollection of previous experiences as well as synthesizing new information surrounding present circumstances. A lot of the decision making when it comes to whether or not homeschooling is a good option, can be based on our experience in school both educationally and socially. I was a student that thrived in the elementary school setting (fell apart in middle school and was back to enjoying high school by the end.) I enjoyed the projects, I enjoyed reading and writing reports, I enjoyed gym class every other day, I enjoyed running around like a hooligan on the playground. Believe it or not, some of my teachers taught me to enjoy learning and instilled some important values. In the end I would eventually go on to get my Master’s degree in education. Public school also worked for my wife as she went on to get her Doctor’s in Audiology. So if a generic public school setting worked for us (and countless others) why should it not it work for our son? And further, why would I take those enjoyable experiences away from my son? Unfortunately, when you’re making decisions for a third party, you need to keep their best interests in mind, and sometimes what worked for you may not work for them. My wife and I really tried to remove our personal experiences with school from the decision making process, but it was difficult. Compounding the difficulty was the fact that the public school landscape has changed and not necessarily for the better.
One of the biggest factors for everyone to consider when it comes to deciding whether or not to homeschool – and it’s really too bad – is it’s affordability. There are a couple of upfront costs, but there are also some hidden fees that need to be considered. The most obvious cost is curriculum. Even if you create all the curriculum you will use, you will still be using resources: paper and ink, pencils to write, or even just the electric to keep the lights on when they would otherwise be off. Luckily for us, my mother-in-law is a homeschooler and my mother is an Elementary Special Ed teacher, my brother is a high school tech ed teacher, and my father is an engineer with a huge science brain: we have the educational resources. Over the past couple of years we have bought a few boxed curriculum sets and filled in the rest with miscellaneous worksheets from workbooks given to us. If we decided to buy a boxed curriculum for every subject, the cost would add up quite quickly. And while those costs might add up, the biggest cost associated with homeschooling, is that you are essentially working for free. Say what you will about a homemaker/homeschooler it’s a job. It takes time and effort and most importantly – financially speaking – it reduces household income to one salary. Next year both of our children will be school age and we could be sending them to public school which would free me up to work part time or even full time as a teacher. That would be easily an extra $30k per year. Over time, that second income adds up and homeschooling becomes pretty costly. Over three years, it could easily cost $100,000 to homeschool your children. The last prong of the financial fork in your homeschooling steak is tuition. The moment you buy a piece of property, you start paying property taxes and somewhere wrapped in that massive payment the state/county takes from you are your school taxes and you’ll pay them until you start renting or you curl up under a log and die – long after your child has finished with school. Depending on how big your house is, or how vast your property, your tuition will be different, but the fact remains the same, the state is already forcing you to pay for public school, so you might as well use it. Clearly, public school is not free, but the cost of homeschooling can be much higher.
The last big hang up we had (okay, it was mostly mine) is sports. It is one of those things that will not surface for another handful of years, but all the same, it is something to think about – and something I still think about quite frequently. School districts often offer youth rec-leagues and there’s usually some sort of travel program depending on the sport. Though by seventh grade, the youth programs begin to peter out to be replaced by high school sports and the cost of travel programs begins to increase. At a quick glance it seems that most states allow for homeschool students to participate in school sports (you can find a fairly comprehensible list here), but Georgia (our state) is not on that list and when speaking to other homeschoolers, their students have not been allowed to participate in public school sports. (Though I imagine if the student was an all-star QB the district would quickly change its mind.) To me, this is an issue.
I ran all three seasons of high school sports: cross country, indoor and outdoor track. It was something that I recall quite fondly, and I think instilled a strong work ethic and a sense of routine outside of school. Everyday, when school ended – a place I was compelled to be – I would play some frisbee with my friends for an hour and then at 3:30, practice would begin and I would spend the next hour-and-a-half of my day doing something that I technically did not have to do. Sports kept me occupied when I might have had too much free time, and they also gave me certain standards I had to meet if I wanted to keep participating (grades, behavior, tardiness, etc). It really gave me an incentive to work through high school as opposed to fighting my way through.
If the incentive sports gave to work through school was not enough, there was also the team aspect. There was nothing more important in my education than learning to work with others and the camaraderie that comes when aiming to achieve a universal goal. Understandably, this might not be true for all students, but it heavily impacted my high school education and in turn impacts my decision making when deciding to not enroll our son.
As I look back at the decision making process, I think we had some other minor drawbacks here and there, but these three were the ones that came up repeatedly. Almost every anti-homeschool discussion focused on these topics. In the end they were not enough encouragement for us to keep our son in public school, but they might be for others. And as we move along this homeschool journey, we may find other traits of homeschooling we disagree with. There is nothing in the near future that I can imagine would make us want to send out son back to public school, though as we approach high school, different factors may arise.