By Barbara Frank
Sometimes, we find ourselves in circumstances that make homeschooling more difficult than it would be otherwise. Often, these situations are not of our own making, or can’t be helped, but they shouldn’t keep us from homeschooling if that’s what we really want to do. Some are serious, others more annoying or just plain time-consuming, but all of them require us to do some extra thinking about how we can successfully homeschool in the midst of the specific situation.
Money is tight for many single-income families these days, but if the breadwinner (usually Dad) loses his job, that can be a real emergency. While he searches for a new job, Mom may want to find work to bring in some money. If she starts working, does that mean the end of homeschooling?
Not necessarily. If you’re committed to homeschooling, you’ll want to find ways to bring in money that allow you to keep homeschooling. Some ways others have done this include:
- in-home daycare
- selling goods via home parties (books, cooking utensils, candles, etc.)
- working retail in the evenings and on weekends
- starting a family business so the kids can help
- delivering newspapers in the wee hours
If none of these options work out, you can always get a day job and let Dad do the homeschooling. He won’t do it the same way as you do, but a little change will be good for the kids, and Dad will develop further (or new) appreciation for what you do all day. Once he finds another job, you can quit yours and go back to homeschooling, most likely with renewed vigor.
Whether you’re dealing with unemployment or some other kind of financial setback, another option is to cut back drastically on what you spend. A penny saved is not only a penny earned, but a penny earned without paying taxes on it. Until your money situation improves, dedicate yourself and your family to cutting back everywhere you can. Make your children the Utility Police, so that they’ll be on the lookout for lights burning in unoccupied rooms, and showers that take too long and waste water. Challenge yourself to see how low you can get that food bill while keeping everyone fed and healthy. Check out some frugal Web sites (www.stretcher.com is a great one) and educate yourself on saving money.
While you’re at it, save money on your homeschooling. Use the books and resources you already have instead of buying more just now. If it isn’t already your favorite place, make the public library your choice for books, software, and educational DVDs. Organize a swap meet in your support group so that everyone can try some new things at no cost. Find out if your local museums offer “free days,” and if so, visit only on those days.
With some ingenuity and a good attitude, you can get through financial difficulties without giving up homeschooling. Think of what your example will teach your children about perseverance, and what the entire family will learn by working together.
Disapproval of Family and Friends
When someone first learns about homeschooling, and then considers the possibility for her children, enthusiasm begins to develop. The more she reads about homeschooling’s advantages, the more excited she gets. Then she brings up the subject around some relatives or friends. Many times, they don’t share her excitement. In fact, they may be totally opposed to the idea.
When people you care about are against homeschooling, you have some tough decisions to make. How you make those decisions depends on who’s against it.
If your parents, in-laws or other relatives don’t like the idea, you have to decide whether their disapproval is something that would stop you from homeschooling. If you have a very close relationship with them, talk to them and find out exactly what worries them. The older generation has a picture in its collective consciousness of school the way it was back in the mid-1900s. Have you ever read the list of teachers’ complaints from the early 1960s? It includes such behavior as talking in class and chewing gum. Nowadays, that list includes physical assaults on teachers and gang activities in the schools. But many members of the older generation don’t realize that the schools in their areas have such problems. They still picture Miss Smith in her shirtwaist and pearls leading a class in reciting the multiplication tables.
Of course, their memories are tinged in the golden glow of time passed and difficulties forgotten, so they may not understand how you can deny your children the wonderful education they got (or believe they got). Maybe you can calm their fears by citing information you’ve found, or introducing them to some veteran homeschoolers you know with older homeschooled children. These days, the newspapers are filled with stories of homeschoolers winning spelling and geography bees, and other honors. Clip those stories and pass them on to the naysayers.
Eventually, as they see how well your children are doing, your relatives should relax somewhat. If not, they need to be reminded that you are in charge of your children, and that you are doing what’s best for them.
If the dissenters are your children’s grandparents, bring them into your homeschooling. Are there subjects they could teach their grandchildren? Perhaps Grandpa is a woodworker, or Grandma loves to play tennis. These are things they could share with your children. The children learn something new, and the grandparents learn that these are smart children you’re raising.
As time passes, be sure to keep them up to date on the children’s accomplishments. If your children score high on achievement tests, send copies of those test reports as soon as possible. When your support group has a project night, invite the relatives. Let them see for themselves how well homeschoolers are doing.
What about friends and neighbors? They have no clout when it comes to how you raise your children, but it can be difficult to accept that they don’t like what you’re doing. As for your neighbors, do you realize that by homeschooling your children, you’re saying, “I won’t put my kids in the school your kids go to, even though I’ve already paid for it through my taxes.” In other words, it’s like looking at your neighbor’s car or furniture and telling them, “I wouldn’t take that if it were free.”
So these people may not be all that thrilled with your decision to homeschool. But if you’re motivated to homeschool, you’ll have to develop a thick skin and continue on your course. You need to do what’s right for your family.
The Imperfect Homeschooler’s Guide to Homeschooling: A 20-Year Homeschool Veteran Reveals How to Teach Your Kids, Run Your Home and Overcome the Inevitable Challenges of the Homeschooling Life
by Barbara Frank.)
Copyright 2011 Barbara Frank/ Cardamom Publishers
Barbara Frank has been homeschooling for 25 years. Her latest book is
Thriving in the 21st Century: Preparing Our Children for the New Economic Reality
(Cardamom Publishers, 2011). You’ll find her on the Web at www.thrivinginthe21stcentury.com and http://barbarafrankonline.com/blog.php