Can You Really Afford To Homeschool, Or Can You NOT Afford To Homeschool?

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Over the last 12+ years that my wife and I have homeschooled, we’ve heard quite a few reasons why people do not homeschool that say they would like to do so. I have found that after asking questions and working through solutions to their barriers of entry, affordability is hardly ever the real issue. Let us look at the commonly held belief that you have to make “good money”, in order to be able to homeschool your children.

How Much Does It Cost For You To Work?
We are led to believe from an early age, that working is all about financial gain and costs little. Is this really true? Since I have been working from home, I have been amazed at how much I have saved on clothing, gas, “wear-and-tear” on my vehicle, food (and I never drank coffee and rarely bought lunch). How much money could you save without those expenses?

The next, and perhaps the largest, is child care. On average, American’s spend over $15,000 per year on child care. No wonder parents adore free daycare urrr…I mean public schools!

Of course, this list is by no means exhaustive, as we would also need to factor in intrinsic factors as well. I love noticing the kinds of cars sales people and construction workers buy. People in sales feel the psychological pressure to drive a more expensive vehicle to add value to what they are selling and their presentation. Construction workers often do the same, as Dave Ramsey used to note, many will buy a $60,000 pick-up truck to take out on a construction site and have the nicest and dirtiest ride in the crew.

Also, job satisfaction cannot be underestimated. Perhaps you love your job or work because you bring fulfillment to other people’s lives and that is rewarding for you. First, I would hope you then would not say that you are not homeschooling because of economic reasons. At the same time, and I say this to the teachers out there, are you willing to bring fulfillment to the lives of other children while taking the chance that someone is going to do it for your children? I almost equate this to the pastor that preaches faithfully to his congregation every Sunday but never has bible study with his own family.

1 Timothy 3:4 He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. 5 (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?)

We Can’t “Make It” On One Income

It is now 2016 and I am not going to argue about whether the woman should be at home or the man should stay at home. Optimally, someone needs to be at home. Notice I said optimally, as that may not be possible for everyone. That stated, the default paradigm that, “It takes two incomes to ‘make it’ these days” is one that I categorically reject. I have found it possible to “make it” from an anecdotal standpoint, and research such as that done by the Pew Research Center indicates that well, not everybody’s doing it! Over 1/3rd of households are single income.

FT_dual-income-households-1960-20121

Now, that may not mean that they are living the way we are constantly being told we “need” to live, but what you really need to do is evaluate your household’s needs versus wants.

  • Do you need:
    HDTV ($500)
    cable/the internet ($200/month)
    game console ($400+games and related app purchases and ~$15/month online subscription)
  • Do you need a:
    new vehicle (average price of $35,560 in 2015 and average lease price >$400/month)?
    How large of a vehicle do you really need? For example, do you need a minivan and related cost for <4 children?
    Are you paying for a vehicle of a certain size that uses a certain amount of fuel out of want or needs? For example, can you afford a $40,000 SUV because you might need it for that once per year you may go off-road or just in case you get stuck in the snow? Trust me, snow tires are just as or even more effective for a fraction of the cost.
  • How large of a home do you need?
    Does every child NEED their own bedroom?
    How many bathrooms do you need in your home (personally, I’ve never lived in a home with more than one until I was in my 40s)
    How big of a yard do you need?
  • In what ways could your reduce your food budget?
    Do your kids need to be able to have a buffet every night at dinner? Empty calorie foods are very expensive. Children will graze and consume all day long and still say, “I’m hungry!” Are name-brand foods a staple in your home due to habit, taste or necessity?

Please understand, I’m not trying to be in your pocket. But if would like to homeschool and do not think you can afford to do so, I am just requesting that you really evaluate what you can and cannot do. Framing is extremely important here. Quite honestly, some budget cuts may be necessary like any other decision we make in our lives. Think about it, your budget gets impacted when you buy that car, pay that monthly cell phone bill, or buy that house. But for reasons only known to you, you make that purchase based on some value that is being added to you or your family’s life.

Therefore, how much is homeschooling really worth to you?

So my overall point is this, if you look at how much it is actually costing you to work and keep up a particular lifestyle, you may actually be making a small percentage of the minimum hourly wage. So calculate the costs and the benefits of all options. But before you immediately assume, “We cannot make it on one income”, at least do some math to see if that is fact or fiction. After that, think of the benefits of you being the sole mental, spiritual and physical provider for your children. Sometimes they are hard to see because you may not have a reference point, but there is so much value in those three areas, and the return on the investment blows away your 401(k). Then again, that’s why we are here for you!

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