As regular readers of this blog know, my wife and I homeschool our two tween-age children. I'm a community college professor and my wife stays home with the kids.
It's a sacrifice living on one salary (most people are surprised when they learn how little community college professors are paid - around here, it's significantly less than the local high school teachers and everyone thinks they're underpaid). The benefits are good but the administration is always trying to chip away at them and I've been 2.5 years without a contract. Anyway, this time of year is always rough with higher electric bills, fuel bills (both of which I sent out today), and the holidays with all that entails in terms of groceries for dinners and gifts for family.
We live in a very modest modular home, I'm currently driving a 1998 Saturn with 190,000 miles on it, and we have old, mismatched furniture I'm somewhat ashamed of when friends and family come over to visit. My wife and I rarely buy new clothes and we carry pay-as-you-go TracFones.
So, with all of the financial struggles, why do we homeschool? We could send the kids out each morning to the school bus, my college-educated wife could get a full-time job, and we could easily bump our salary up to over $100,000/year. Things would be easier financially. But, as those of you who homeschool know, our lives would be dramatically different.
As a professor, I have a flexible schedule (it doesn't mean, what some people think, that I only work a few hours a day - flexible means I can do my course prep and/or grading at home at night rather than in the office during the day). I can leave work in the afternoon and shoot off model rockets with a bunch of home-schooled kids and their parents. We can go with another homeschooling father and learn about tree identification. We can take month-long driving trips across country to see national parks. We can go caving and learn about karst and groundwater in the middle of the day. We can have other kids over some afternoon to learn about dinosaur trackways. We can teach them Greek, just for the fun of it, even though it's not part of the NY State curriculum. [Screw the NYS curriculum - as a community college professor I see the kids who come straight out of high school and they're illiterate and innumerate - not ghetto kids, by the way, these are regular, middle-class kids from OK families]
Yes, you can do all of those things and have public-schooled kids, but not usually as a family. There's always some one's work or school schedule to worry about. If something comes up, we can suspend formal schooling for a while without problem. We continue schooling throughout the summer. The kids move through stuff at their own pace (not a pace determined by a teacher) and they don't advance in subjects like math until they have mastery. We don't separate learning from other activities - all of life is educational and learning. They don't think of learning or reading as something for "nerds." We don't watch broadcast TV (we don't have it) but we all read books every single day. I would match my kid's knowledge and educational level against any public school kid any day of the year (except in popular culture - without the TV they wouldn't recognize some of the popular "celebrities").
My kids likely won't remember our old brown couch with holes in it (the one I'm sitting on now). They will, I hope, remember rocket day and hiking with dad, and camping in Yellowstone. They will remember a mom who was with them at home as they grew into young adults and the freedom and encouragement to pursue their own interests wherever it led them.
All I want for Christmas is for it to continue in the future as well as it has to date. In another 10 years, we'll see how it all turned out!