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How do we get by? Homeschooling families talk about how to make ends meet

From the outside, homeschooling sometimes seems like a luxury to families who think they can’t afford to have one spouse “not working.” But homeschooling families say that no matter what their finances or their family structure, they find a way to make it work.

Probably the commonest scenario is that the primary homeschooler has to cut her (or his) work down to part-time. Substitute teacher Maricela Sandoval did just that, and she loves the flexibility.

“I enjoy my job because if we decide it’s a beautiful day to go to the beach, we go,” Maricela explains. “I don’t have to call off work.  I just don’t take any assignments for that day.  Yes, I don’t get paid, but sometimes that doesn’t compare to family time.”

Other homeschooling parents might run a business out of their homes that they can do when the kids are busy. Or they might offer a homeschooling related service, such as teaching or childcare.

Homeschooling mom Jaime Smith moonlights as G3 instructor Headmistress Guinevere at the online homeschooling academy she created at first to fulfill the needs of her daughter and her friends (see OnlineG3.com). At this point, Jaime admits, “If I added up all the hours I would probably frighten myself!”

Some parents are able to share the homeschooling and the work, which can lead to a rich homeschooling life for the parents and kids alike.

“We both work about 75% of a job, allowing us to each have time to homeschool the kids and all of us to have family time together,” says high school and college instructor Jennifer Henderson. “We are tied to the school calendar, which is often disappointing, but we know how fortunate we are to have the jobs that we do.”

Other careers that work on shifts, such as nursing, can work well with homeschooling, as do careers that can be done at unusual hours, such as bookkeeping.

Henderson points out that when you can do some of your work off-site, the bits of time when your kids are occupied can be used to chip away at work. “We are able to do a lot of the work at night, while we are watching the kids take classes, or in small chunks of time throughout the day as the kids allow.”

Homeschoolers are also ingenious about finding cheap and free ways to educate their kids. Aside from the obvious – the public library, the Internet – there are all those ways you can avoid buying expensive curriculum by making it up yourself.

“99% of my son’s schooling is done via TV, Xbox 360, and the Internet,” says Carrie Courter, a single mom who started homeschooling her teenage son this year. “I’m forever recording programs that we’ll both find interesting, and we watch some of them together, pausing to discuss things, look things up on the Internet, etc.  Usually most games have something in them that is historical.  So he researches to see if it’s accurate or not.  He started this on his own, but what he’s learned is mind-boggling to me.”

Local parks can be a free or cheap way to learn as well. “We went to Joshua Tree National Park,” Sandoval remembers. “This activity cost only $15 for admission into the park and entertained us all day, not including gas.”

Previous editions of The California HomeSchooler have included lists of free services provided by your public libraries. Book clubs, math clubs, and drama clubs can all bring homeschoolers together while costing  literally nothing. If three homeschooling families get together and share their skills, homeschooling can be enriching and allow the parents to have some time off for making money or recharging their homeschooling drive.

“We also try to take advantage of freebie activities like going to the museum on free days or  discounted rates to zoos or amusement parks,” Sandoval adds. “In addition, I try to take advantage of activities with other homeschooling families whenever possible.”

Homeschoolers show that the key to getting by is being creative with what you’ve got… and remembering to enjoy it.

This article was originally published in The California HomeSchooler.

Posted in Homeschooling, Parenting.


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