Money is the number one reason parents cite for sending children to public school. The government confiscates your money through taxation, and you can therefore send your kids there for “free.” So to send kids to a private school means paying double tuition, once to the state and once to the private school.
Homeschool is Cheap, But . . .
For those who want to leave the public schools but cannot afford private tuition, homeschooling is an enticing option. Homeschooling has a major advantage over private school in that its expenses are minimal. Homeschool parents need only purchase books, workbooks, and videos—and it is feasible to spend under $1,000 per year for the entire family. For example, a family can subscribe to Ron Paul Homeschool for $250 per year per family (plus $50 per course), which has a full k–12 curriculum with video lectures and reading and writing assignments. Parents can then supplement this curriculum as they see fit.
The growth of resources on the internet is actually making homeschooling cheaper every year, with some resources being completely free (such as Khan Academy). Further, homeschooling becomes cheaper after your first child, as parents can pass down resources to younger children.
This means the main expense for homeschooling is time. Someone has to stay home with the kids to either teach them or oversee their self-study. This is not a problem for the traditional family, where the husband works full time and the wife stays at home with the kids.
Unfortunately, the traditional family is on the decline. In 2014, only “14% of children younger than 18 lived with a stay-at-home mother and a working father who were in their first marriage.” Compare this to 50% in 1960. This radical change in the family structure means most families today are unable to homeschool without making significant lifestyle changes.
The issue is not that women are working but that mothers are working. It makes sense for women without children to work. But mothers have children who need taken care of, and if they work, this means they need to find someone else to care for their kids. Sometimes this is another family member, but more often it means putting young kids in day care and sending older ones to public school.
This is a big change from previous generations. So we must ask—why are so many mothers working today? I think there are three reasons:
(1) Mothers are working because of the expected lifestyle of many Americans. Many Americans have grown accustomed to things that can be considered non-essentials—cable TV, iPhones, big homes, new cars, fancy clothes, name brand items, eating at restaurants, etc. Technology and mass production have made products cheaper than ever, which means the masses have become accustomed to having all the latest technology. These things are fine if you can afford them. But we have come to expect them even when we have low incomes or high expenses (such as paying for school or raising children).
(2) Mothers are working because of the growing expenses of our day. In spite of the lower costs of goods compared to previous generations, it is still expensive to live today. Much of the blame can be laid on America’s ever-growing government. We pay a plethora of taxes, some of which we are unaware of—federal income tax, state income tax, Social Security & Medicare tax, state sales tax, property tax, vehicle registration tax, etc. Factor in the Federal Reserve devaluing our dollar by printing more money (inflation) and the rising cost of health care thanks to continual government intervention—and you are left with growing costs and stagnant wages. So yes, our government is making life very expensive on us, and it is particularly hitting the middle class.
(3) Mothers are working because they value work outside the home more than raising children. The rise of mothers in the workforce is about more than money. Feminism has run its course, and women now expect to have careers outside the home—even when they have children. Sadly, being a stay-at-home mother is no longer considered a worthy career by our society. And so women pursue careers outside the home, have fewer children, and have somebody else take care of the kids they do have.
Making It Happen
If a family wants to homeschool, they have to say no to the dual-income family. They have to reject the feminist lie that says being a stay-at-home mother is not a valuable career. That could not be further from the truth. Motherhood is a high calling from God. A mother who stays home with the kids ought to find fulfillment in her work, and her children should be considered blessed.
This still leaves the money issue. Life is expensive, and many families have trouble living off just one income. However, there are things that can be done to help make it happen. Nothing can be done about rising expenses. But you can make sacrifices and seek to live within your means. This may mean renting or buying a smaller house, buying used cars, limiting how often you eat at restaurants, and even going without luxuries like cable TV. This is how earlier generations lived so that mom could stay at home with the kids. They lived a very simple lifestyle. The problem is nobody wants to live like this anymore.
It must also be said that it is often not worth it for mothers with young children to work a full-time job. The cost of day care is so expensive that unless a mother has a high-paying job, she does not end up with a net gain. When you factor in work expenses (work clothes, travel expenses, food, etc.) on top of day care, most mothers would be better off financially by just staying at home with the kids. (This is not true when all the kids are old enough to go off to a school.) If necessary, it makes better sense for a stay-at-home mother to work a part-time job, particularly one that does not require leaving the home. The internet is making this kind of work all the more possible.
Really this comes down to what we value. If parents want their children to receive a Christian education through homeschooling, they will go to great lengths to make it happen. Homeschooling is inexpensive, and the primary cost is the time of parents. Someone has to stay at home with the kids to school them.
So yes, homeschool is affordable. It costs a minimal amount of money and a large amount of time. But it is time with your children, and it is time invested in their education. Homeschool costs time, but it is time well spent.