Following last week’s column on the success of homeschooling our (now graduated) daughters, I received many comments about why some people can’t homeschool, either because both parents work, or because the parent is single (divorced, widowed, never married). Under these conditions, is homeschooling impossible?
Dr. James Dobson is once again urging Christian parents to withdraw their children from public schools lest we lose the next generation. But financial or parental difficulties still exist for many people. Are these factors insurmountable?
I decided to seek the advice of two outside sources far more knowledgeable about these issues than I am: Dr. Brian Ray with the National Home Education Research Institute, and staff attorney Darren A. Jones with the Homeschool Legal Defense Association.
Dr. Ray offered a great deal of sound – and often blunt – advice. “What are you willing to live without to have time with your child, and to customize his or her education?” he began. “Homeschooling eliminates the stress so many children experience in institutional schooling. The bullying. The labeling. You’ll be guiding his socialization experiences and helping him be adult-oriented rather than peer-dependent. You will get your child away from the curriculum thoughts and ideas that defy the concept of living as a citizen free from government/state thought control. You’ll avoid a curriculum that defies your – the parent’s – cherished values, belief and worldview. What will you do and what will you trade for these foundational, excellent and noble concepts and things?
“Let’s take the money issue,” he added. “Some things in life are very hard. But what are the prized things worth to you? Let’s be blunt: What are your priorities as a dad or mom? What do you really need more than basic, wholesome home-prepared food, shelter, clothing, basic transportation and medical care? Two nice cars or one adequate one? A five-day vacation in a low-cost hotel, or three nights in a tent? A $3 fluffy coffee from a favorite shop or home hand-ground joe for 28 cents? New pants or a blouse for $25 or decent used ones for $10 at a thrift shop? Be honest. Where is your heart, your mind, your expectation? Homeschoolers spend, on average, $400 to $600 per child per year on educational materials. Some spend only $150 per child, although others can and do spend a lot more. Two hundred dollars is less than two $3 coffee drinks per week for one year. Get my point?”
(My side note: The so-called “two-income trap,” in which both parents must contribute financially to pay the mortgage, often arises because the parents chose a home in a neighborhood with better schools, which jacks up housing prices. By homeschooling, parents are freer to choose a home independent of the quality of the school district. Something to consider.)
“Let’s take the homeschool single-parent challenge,” Ray continued. “Again, some things are very hard. But what are the prized things worth to you? Let’s take the least important issue first. Research shows single parents are very successful at homeschooling their children and seeing them scoring average or above on standardized tests. And they do just fine socially. As a single parent, don’t think of homeschooling as a ‘sacrifice.’ Rather, it’s a gift to your children. You’ll be fulfilling a responsibility and a duty.
“For single parents (or for those who genuinely need two incomes), be creative and look around. Maybe grandma will help during your work shift. Perhaps a local homeschool family will take in your child and make him a part of the gang. Perchance there is a local homeschool co-op, small or large, that will allow your daughter to attend while you are at work. Maybe you can swap some teaching/child care with another homeschool parent. Perhaps your income is just enough to hire a thoughtful 19-year-old to come in for a few hours while you are gone, and do a little math or art with your son or daughter.
“As your child gets older, he becomes more independent in his learning and needs less teaching or educational supervision. There are oodles of free or inexpensive resources online or through libraries offering self-paced learning opportunities
“Whether your issue is financial ability or being a single parent, let me be blunt: What are you willing to do to keep your children away from teaching, training, and indoctrination by the state and peers? What are you willing to do to keep your child from spending most of his waking hours with adult strangers who are training and teaching and guiding his social/value interactions?
“When we consider the financial cost of having only one or one-and-a-half incomes, or finding a way of working hard when being a single parent, we face who we really are. Are we people who run to the government/state to be our daddy, mommy and overall provider, or do we buck up, get real with family, friends and church members, and dig in to do the hard work that has great rewards? Are we really – down deep – just looking for a way to pass off the nitty-gritty character-development work (and academic teaching) with our children to the government and our neighbors’ tax dollars, or do we believe it is our job as parents? Parents must honestly face challenging financial situations and the serious bumps that come with being single. We can choose to send our children away to a government-run school or a private institutional school; or we can choose to educate them in a home-based way. This places them eye-to-eye with our deepest beliefs about eternity and of what kind of sinew, grit and determination we are made. May God help all those who carefully and honestly face these issues.”
Attorney Darren Jones with HSLDA offered the following: “Homeschooling as a single parent is hard, but it can be done. In my experience of talking with single parents, they tell me the support they get from their family and community is invaluable. Sometimes that support is financial, sometimes it might be child care, and sometimes it’s helping to teach the children while mom is at work. I’ve seen some single-parent families combine instructional times with other homeschool families, too.
“Homeschooling can also be a financial sacrifice,” Mr. Jones concluded. “I have talked with families who, because they have chosen to homeschool, live in smaller homes or rent rather than buy a home. Many of them choose a more frugal lifestyle than their peers, foregoing the newest technology or vehicles to instead focus on education at home. Additionally, a lot of state and local homeschool organizations have curriculum fairs, where homeschool families can get curriculum for reduced prices.”
Both these men have spent their professional careers assisting homeschoolers. They know their stuff.
I know homeschooling can be a challenge, but the old cliché about the best things in life are worth sacrificing for is true. In the end, ask yourself this: Can you afford not to homeschool your children?
I urge anyone who has homeschooled as a single parent or on a tight budget to chime in below with advice. Please give hope to those who think homeschooling is hopeless.
Media wishing to interview Patrice Lewis, please contact [email protected].