Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Homeschooling with a Budget

The actual costs of homeschooling can be hard to calculate (although this blogger did a good attempt at it:

After all, the costs include:
  • The parent(s) time and possible loss of income
  • Space set aside in your home
  • gas and wear and tear on a vehicle for driving kids all over the place
  • library fines for all the overdue books
  • memberships and admission fees for museums and zoos 
  • dues for homeschool groups and co-ops
  • books and curricula
  • art and office supplies
  • science kits and lab equipment
  • camps and class fees
  • musical instruments and lessons
  • sports equipment and registration fees

The calculation of how much it actually is costing us to choose homeschooling is further complicated by this question: how much of this would we pay for even if our kids were in public school? Sure, much would be covered by the schools, but we'd probably still be paying for private music lessons as an extra, and summer camps, and art supplies.

But it can't be denied that homeschooling and educational costs are one of the larger line-items in our family budget, and this year we needed to make a reduction in that line-item. Last year we spent $11,000 on educational expenses. This year, our goal was to make a 33% reduction. How?

I started by looking at what we had spent in the previous year and identifying "non-negotiable" expenses: math curricula, books, etc. Then we took the budget amount left after those items were covered and gave half of it to each of the kids as a discretionary educational budget for the year. They are old enough now to make their own choices, we decided.

Each of the kids are working with a $1500 budget for the year. They are researching the costs, considering their priorities, and managing a budget ... it's educational in its own right. But it's also been really hard ... mostly on me! I hate for them to miss out on ANYTHING! It's like I have FOMO for educational opportunities. A camp that I hear other parents talking about? My kids should do that! A second musical instrument? Yes! Private lessons? Give us more! 

Where does that cycle of more actually get us? Tired and broke? There's a "keeping up with the Joneses" competition that we can all get sucked into, even when we start from a genuine and loving place of just wanting to do good by our kids.

My kids have not been upset or stressed over this reduced budget, and they've appreciated the feeling of empowerment to make their own choices. It's funny to realize I've been the one pushing us into over-doing and over-spending, and the kids are happy to skip the camps and the lessons. This is good for us on so many different levels!

Monday, March 12, 2018

Community Schooling

We've reached a wonderful age, when the kids can participate in the community as volunteers, and in the process learn a lot of great skills. We've been painting sets at a community theater company, and while we were there they were recruited into being stage hands for the upcoming show. Now they are learning from a lovely set designer and stage manager, having fun and getting a practical education in the tech side of theater.

We aren't really only "Home"-schooling, at all. We are schooling out in the community, and learning so much!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Spend Time Together, These Days Are Precious

I've recently seen a bunch of stats (haven't had much luck tracing them to the original studies, so I'm not saying they are good stats and I'm not linking here) about how much time families spend together ... and it's supposedly averaging to under 30 minutes a day now!

That's pretty shocking to me. 

And, again, it makes me reflect on how much I love the homeschooling lifestyle. My family spends time together - working alongside one another, but also playing and eating meals and engaging in planned "together" time. My 12 year old, in particular, has been asking for even more together time with me recently, such as a "poetry date" where we went to a local bookstore, picked out a poetry book together, and then took it across the street to a coffee shop and read poems out loud to each other while enjoying a hot beverage.

Or there is a new fad in our house: "doing hygge". We sat down with cups of tea, lit some candles, and chatted about how to create more hygge in our lives. Then we played a couple quick games of Six

I won't lie ... I'm just as busy as the next parent and sometimes it's hard for me to carve out this time to be with my kids. But they are growing up fast, and although it's a cliché, soon enough they won't be asking me for this time anymore and I know I'll miss them then. So thank goodness we can spend this time together now. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Learning by Working Alongside

Before there were formal schools, the way young people learned was by working alongside older people. Families and communities worked together, or apprentice programs formalized that arrangement for learning a new skill.

In general, our society doesn't function this way anymore. Specialization, formal schooling, and increasing age-based segregation all contribute to the loss of this old pattern of learning, although they also introduce new ways of learning.

I like the new ways of learning too. I've always loved "book learning" and really enjoyed college, and I now also love youtube videos, and will happily learn how to prune a rose or pluck a chicken through a video.

But I remember learning to sew by working with my mom, and I don't know that it would have ever occurred to me to try and learn it if no one had modeled the activity and skill for me. 

Homeschooling means the kids are just closer in proximity to their parents' work. They are with me for most of the days, whether they go with me to my paid employment (as I did with my parents when I was homeschooled) or are with me for my domestic housework. It gives more opportunity for them to learn by helping, whether they are making French fries, gardening, building a shed, or ironing their Dad's shirts. 

I love this kind of learning!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Homeschool Book Club

We are very fortunate to have a wonderful group on that we are part of ... but unfortunately we are way out on the geographical outskirt of the group. This means that we see all these wonderful group events posted, but for us to attend most of them would require a one hour or more drive each way.

There are some of us down here on the outskirts, but we just don't have the critical mass. So I decided that I needed to either quit this group this year, or make an effort to host more events in this area. In the summer it was easy, as I could host playground meet-ups.

I tried one event with a high dollar cost, and was pretty burned by folks not able to come because of a traffic problem.

But then we had a book club meeting, in a coffee shop. Most of the others no-showed on us, but we still had a great time with the one other person who did show up. I thought this was great! We read a book for our homeschool, and had fun talking about it with another homeschool family. I'll try this again!

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Staying in Control of the Home School

 Homeschooling can be a little chaotic in the best of times, and when I'm also working a full-time job and managing a little hobby farm and being an active citizen, etc. .... Well sometimes the question is "how much of the schoolwork can we get done in this waiting room right now?"

 Starting off the new year I put together a new Life Management Binder for myself, and one of my tabs is definitely "School". I took time during the break to make collage pages for each area of my life, envisioning what I want out of them. I'm envisioning a homeschool that runs smoothly enough to be the very best of what I hope for in education: inspiring, socially responsible, life changing, sustainable, and resilient. 

 And, perhaps most of all, I just need to feel a sense of CONTROL. For some that is a bad word ... that might be exactly why some folks homeschool in the first place, to get away from all the Control and Authority. But the opposite ... total chaos .... I find to be very bad for my mental health. And I think it's important for my children that they have two parents who are taking good care of themselves!

The binder is working out well for keeping this balance, so far. I use to track assignments and to create weekly check lists, and I print two copies (one for the kid, one for me to keep in my binder). I also have all the quarterly syllabi and other organizational documents in my binder. Then, when I want to check on what the kids need to do still in any given day, we sit down together and go through the checklist marking things off. Since we are working at home, in the car, at the office, and all sorts of other places, a portable system was a must.

It's only a tiny glimmer of control, but it's enough to keep me sane. ;)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Free Racial Justice Education Game

I want to recommend that homeschooling families check out the excellent (and Free!) work being shared as The Road to Racial Justice Game.

It is most appropriate for ages 13 and up, according to the authors, but my 12 year old was ready for it. I used the game in my Unitarian Universalist congregational setting, but as a homeschooler I think homeschooling families could also make good use of this material.