Homeschooling and Money


Five years ago we made the conscious decision to homeschool our children. It was altogether exciting and frightening not to mention a bit overwhelming. Now that we have some experience under our belts it is difficult to imagine living any other way.

There are countless positives to our lifestyle. There are also some obstacles. One of those would be living in a two income world on a single income. My wife works extremely hard to make ends meet but as we all know inflation and day to day living expenses have little foundation or consistency in relation to ones income. In fact when curious families approach us in regards to potentially becoming homeschoolers they express concern over being able to afford the lifestyle more than anything else, even more than the mythology of socialization.

In general, homeschooling lends itself to creativity. My first piece of advice would be to embrace that aspect in order to successfully live the homeschooling lifestyle. There are a number of ways to make ends meet. By exploring the less beaten path there is opportunity. Maybe not endless wealth but the potential to pay the bills and put food on the table. Lets explore some of the things our family of 6 has done to accomplish our goals.

Curriculum:  Initially we used a canned curriculum and it was very helpful. It was also a few hundred dollars and with experience we now realize unnecessary. Though it is a nice safety net for beginners there are a number of free and inexpensive resources available.At the Library

First of all make friends with your local librarians. Aside from the obvious assets a library provides in the form of books, periodicals, dvd’s and cd’s there are also a number of social/educational experiences available.  Everything from technology club to lego club, author meet and greets to local political debates can be found at your local library. Most importantly, for free! Our librarians are on a first name basis with our children and are very receptive to program ideas. They have been so warm that my oldest daughter currently wants to be a librarian when she is older.

We have found websites like amazon.com to be a great place to buy used books and learning materials. With a little research you can easily find books for a penny. The shipping tends to be about $4.99 but $5 dollars for a “school” book is perfect for the tight budget.

There are of course cheaper options. Library book sales, garage sales and thrift stores are great places to find learning materials.

We have also borrowed material and traded with other homeschoolers as well.

Clothes: I know that along with the lack of socialization myth there is an idea that most homeschoolers walk around in homemade denim dresses. Though they do exist they are not the norm. There are a number of frugal options for homeschooling families in regards to clothing.

Locally we have a number of really nice thrift stores and consignment shops. If name brands are important to you there is a good chance you can find something nice on the shelves way below retail cost. If sturdy, clean, wearable clothing is more important than name brands you can find that as well. Last year my wife bought an entire years worth of clothing for our family at a consignment store “bag sale” for less than .20 cents per article of clothing.

As with a number of these subjects garage sales are another option.

There is also the hand-me-down circuit. Our family has never been too proud to accept other peoples used clothing. 99% of it has been in great shape and very stylish. When we outgrow it we in turn pass it along thus helping the next family in line.

042Food: This can be a tough one. We all eat so we all experience the outrageous prices in the supermarket. There are ways to eat healthy and ways to do it frugally.

If you are fortunate enough to have a little land a garden is a great way to go. We have taken it to the next step and on 1/16th of an acre have an urban homestead. If you are interested in knowing more about it you can check out my blog for Grit magazine at  http://www.grit.com/blogs/whitaker-gardens-and-micro-farm.aspx or my long running gardening blog at  http://seedtoharvest.blogspot.com/

The point I am making is that you can grow food for a fraction of the cost of what you would end up paying for it in a market. You can eat it fresh or store it by freezing it, canning it or drying it to eat later. We have vegetable gardens, fruit and berry patches, edible flowers and herbs and also raise chickens for eggs.

Another option are farmers markets. In our experience you can get healthy food for a reasonable price. Plus if you buy when it is in season you can get bulk and then can or freeze some of it for down the road.

Bulk stores also have their benefit but be careful not to get carried away.  We tend to stick to things like rice and baby products.

leeExtra Income: Extra income is always helpful. Be creative. Watching other peoples children is an option. I know some people who have “shops” on ebay who have made some money. Going back to our discussion on consignment shops that is another option for some additional income. We have raised and sold rabbits for a few dollars at farm stands, sold excess vegetables from our gardens and had garage sales.

Though all of these suggestions are rather brief and barely scratch the surface the point is this, it is difficult to homeschool and to do so on one income. It is a sacrifice. But it is a sacrifice that we are committed to and with a little creativity anyone can do it. On some level you just need to reevaluate what it is that is important to you. We can always find ways to make ends meet we will never get this time in our lives back.

Tobias Whitaker also blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine.  You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad .  

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Home Is Where The Heart Is


051Nearly three weeks ago my wife gave birth to our fourth child, a lovely, healthy baby girl. We decided early on that we were interested in having a homebirth. The reaction has been varied but none the less interesting. In fact it created a dialogue between my wife and me in regards to family and home in general. Not only did we have a homebirth but we homeschool and have a modest homestead as well so as you can image we have been exposed to a number of stereotypes over the years.

My goal is not to call into question the lifestyle of those who may read this piece, because honestly I am comfortable with the choices of others (for the most part). Rather it is an attempt to shed some light on some good old fashioned family values that somewhere along the line have become clouded with fear and simply put a lack of knowledge on the subject.

As a country we often speak of the importance of family yet our day to day values and experience speak otherwise. Family is regularly put aside in an effort to gain a financial or social foothold. The truth is we live in a two income world for the most part. Very few families are able to live comfortably otherwise. I would suggest the cost goes far beyond our bank accounts though.

My oldest child is nine. She did attend pre-school at one point but has been homeschooled, along with her siblings ever since. Financially speaking it was and at times continues to be a very trying experience. In fact homeschooling is what lead us to homesteading. In the beginning the goal was not necessarily even healthy meals but simply providing meals on a regular basis. By taking part in the homeschooling lifestyle it has provided an avenue for our family to grow significantly stronger as a unit and to come up with some very creative and satisfying solutions. 044

We shop at consignment shops for clothing. We use the internet to purchase used curriculum and other educational materials. We are on a first name basis with our local librarians. We grow vegetables, fruits and berries and recently started raising rabbits and chickens. We can, freeze and dehydrate summer crops and farmers market purchases. In other words we are attempting to be responsible for our own well-being as far as circumstances will allow. This of course does not imply that we can do this alone because we cannot. In fact it is only possible by being part of a wonderful and supportive community. We have amazing neighbors and have been fortunate enough to find other like-minded families in our neck of the woods. Just like everyone else we have needed assistance from time to time.

Homeschooling was the first step. It made us reevaluate the way we looked at the world and our role in it. That is the catch; homeschooling is about being active in your community. In fact it is only successful if you are fully engaged in the day to day activities of your town. My children and the other homeschoolers I know are very happy, motivated children who thrive in social situations. Recently I heard it put best when it was said to me, “Just because my kid does not act like an asshole does not mean they are not socialized.” So I politely put the “socialization myth” to rest.

043As mentioned beforehand homeschooling led to homesteading. Homesteading has created numerous financial benefits, educational opportunities and has ensured that our children will benefit from the knowledge of good stewardship. In essence you cannot separate one from the other.

Homeschooling and homesteading eventually led to us exploring a home-birth. Our second child was born via emergency C-section so we are very aware of the value of a hospital in the role of childbirth. But with that said we were fortunate enough to have one of the most empowering and beautiful experiences of our adult life. An experience that could not have happened without a knowledgeable and nurturing midwife and a patient and caring doula.

None of the above mentioned lifestyle choices were made hastily or blindly. In fact you can rest assured most people who take part in such activities are far more knowledgeable on the subjects at hand than those who simply respond out of fear and ignorance. I realize how condescending this may sound but this is the truth of the matter. In order to be successful you have to be educated. In the process of educating yourself you are in turn setting the example for your children in regards to the value of knowledge and providing the work ethic to obtain it.

Homeschooling, homesteading and even a homebirth take a c090ertain level of sacrifice. I realize not everyone can make these sacrifices; there are a lot of variables in life. There are also those simply not willing to make these sacrifices. But with that said, walk away from this article knowing there is another choice out there. Leave knowing that your spouse and your children will be the most important opportunity to express love that will come into your life. Life is far too short. Someday we will all unfortunately realize this. Do not let it pass you by while pursuing false notions of happiness.

Tobias Whitaker also blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad .