Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Down Side of Home-schooling

If you've missed any of my posts taking a peek into our home-schooling lives, you can go back and read them. I've linked them here for your convenience. These are my articles on the positive side of home-schooling. 

Back to (Home) School: My Class
Why I Home-school: The Big Question
Home-schooling: How I Teach My Children To Read
When and Where Do We Home-School

(And of course, you can also go to the Homeschool page at the top of my blog.)

However, when parents are seriously considering whether or not to homeschool their children, they want to see reality in both directions. Sure...show me all the great things, but what are we going to give up if we decide to homeschool? So, I want to take a moment and give you the down side of home-schooling...because even though I've read some hilarious articles that joke and poke about the down-side of home-schooling...that's not what you're looking to read about. Before taking on something this monumental, it's wise to count the cost first.

The Mess!!!
Okay, this one is my biggest struggle, as some of you have read about in other posts. You know those hours a day when the kids are all in school (except the baby, possibly), and you catch up on the laundry and cleaning the bathrooms and put things back in order?
Not when you homeschool. Those same hours are spent teaching children to read, sitting beside them while they figure out a new math concept, and reminding them not to stare out the window. Seriously.
I get to sneak off occasionally, but only to go pee by myself or to make the bed really quick. I may have time to put a package of frozen chicken in the sink to thaw while they're at the table working, but I've never successfully cleaned an entire toilet without coming back to all three kids in separate rooms and 30 minutes of rounding up to get them all back on track.
So...the mess is something you have to learn to tackle creatively. (We handle it by taking time every morning to just put the worst offenders behind us--1 1/2 hours or so. Then we just do a couple of cleaning jobs as needed on the weekends.)
This may sound a lot like what women deal with when they go off to work daily. It might be similar if you were able to leave your children at home while you were gone to play, eat, read, and generally continue to pull out things you will have to pick up after you get home. 



Interruptions!
Imagine you're in the middle of a reading lesson and the doorbell rings. It not only stopped a lesson that was going well, but woke up the baby and distracted the older student sitting at the table. That one doorbell ringing is so innocent. The person on the other side just wanted to stop by and say hi, see if you would like to buy a magazine, or was making sure your package wouldn't get rained on. But...it still stopped school in it's tracks. Now, if the person at the door is only there for two little minutes, it doesn't seem like it would be a big deal, right? But...now you've got to find your place in the book your child was reading, tell your older student that you don't mind if she gets a drink but then she needs to get right back to work, and while you're pointing to the reading page, the other arm is full with a grumpy nursing baby that was woken up.
BUT...it's not just the doorbell. It's the phone that you ignore but that beeps a reminder until you check it, it's friends texting you while you're in the middle of something and even telling them you're busy right now takes 4 messages. It's the child who isn't thirsty (or hungry) when everyone else is, but is starving or in tears thirty minutes later. It's the neighbor that's parents allow their child to come by and visit every...single...day, and think that it's a great break for them and doesn't take a thought to the fact you may still be doing school, finally finished with school and the first bit of quiet has just set in, or that you've now gone from working with children to working with more children. It's the toddler who is potty training and needs to go every other page in the science book you're reading or who spills red juice on the table and it's climbing steadily to the off-white cushion on the chair pushed under the table. It's the computer that decides to crash in the middle of looking up what the state flag of New Mexico looks like. It's the child who has an emotional breakdown because they aren't getting how division works or a friend hurt their feelings and it's just coming up during a story.

Big Life Interruptions: It's not just the little interruptions in life that happen. We've been through two hurricanes, two moves, two children born (pregnancy and newborn baby aren't without major interruptions), and I've broken my leg and been in a major wreck that put me on bed-rest with my last pregnancy. All of this has happened since we began our home-schooling journey less than 10 years ago! That's almost one major life event a year. That's one time a year that either stalls, halts or changes the way you do school. Yep! And don't think it won't happen to you. It may be different, but they will come.

Multiple Grades:
Wouldn't it be nice to only teach three or four students? Actually, I'm not just teaching three or four students, but three or four grades minimum. Think pioneer days schoolhouse, where one is learning to read, one is boasting about how great they are at math and the other one barely knows how to count to ten.
AND, most of the time each individual student isn't in one particular grade, either. We might call Abigail a 5th grader, but she may be working on junior high science, memorizing multiplication (3rd?), looking up 7th grade math problems, is in her second year of grammar, behind in spelling, and reading on an 8th-9th grade level.
AND, it constantly changes. It's not like you can sit on second grade reading and specialize in teaching that. Sometimes you will have to search for how to teach certain subjects, and sometimes you will even be learning right beside them.
 
 


It's Expensive!
I know there are books out there about home-schooling your children for free or close to free, but that hasn't been reality in our experience. If you get all of your books from the library, you'll quickly find that it's hard to get them when you need them, since all the other home-school families are looking for them at the same time of year. Then, when you do get them, your child takes longer reading them than you estimated, but the library book is on hold and you can't renew it.
Or, printing off free worksheets from the internet seems like such a frugal way to go, until you actually try it and figure out it would take half your school day in preparation.
We buy (or in some cases borrow) everything we need.
Curriculum and small supplies (like pencils and notebooks) cost us about $500-900 per year. That's all of our start up stuff for the year. Then there's more workbooks through the year as they finish the first ones. That runs about $50-150 every quarter, depending on how much they get through. This amount is based on new workbooks, because I can't stand using old workbooks where the child can see someone else's old answers, used books and guides, and only the supplies they really need to do well that year (with a few new bright notebooks to enjoy the year with, since I keep their old full ones for records).
There are some big, one time purchases that we've made that have made home-schooling life a whole lot better/easier, as well. Among them are a huge white board, a printer/copier combo, an additional computer for the kids, and bookshelves to hold our library. Also, consider that when you look into moving, home-schooling does require extra space. You'll need room to store books, workbooks, records, educational toys and games, and so forth. And, unless you're willing to walk them to a park or other play area nearly every day, you'll need a larger yard than the average family.
In all of this, it seems like it's just not that bad, until you realize that you'll be doing it all on one income. Choosing to be a home-school mom is also choosing to stay at home for the long haul. The likelihood, is that if you choose this life-style, you won't get the nice house with the back yard for ten years after your peers are, you'll be driving used cars longer, living with a smaller wardrobe, fixing stuff yourself, and your presents, parties, and gatherings will be far more humble.
(And just a little bite on the bootie is that you'll be making less, spending more, and you'll be doing it while sending a big chunk of your taxes to paying for public education...of which you get no benefit. This happens to private schooled families, too.)
We don't personally outsource any of their education right now, but that's also something to consider. If you're clueless when it comes to Chemistry, for example, you may have to spend some good chunks of cash on private classes or tutoring.
Shh...nearly all of them came from the thrift store!


I Rarely Clock Out:
By the time school is done for the day, it's time to start dinner. By the time dinner's finished, it's time to clean up. Even while I'm sitting down for a break, the kids still break out into squabbles, want to sit right up against me after being attached to my hip all day long, can't reach something, or are asking me the ten millionth question of the day. Most moms of toddlers know what this is like for a few years, but then most parents send their children off to school or go back to work.
When you home-school, it is rare that you are ever without your kids. I have about 2 hours at church a week, where the kids are all in Sunday school class and only about 45 minutes of that is interacting with other adults. Once a month, I attend a Ladies Night Out for about 3 hours. That's it folks. That's all of the kid-free time I get.
I love being with my kids, but everyone needs time away. I still haven't figured this one out.

Bad Day...No Sweet Mama:
I've learned a lot of self-control over the years, but when there's never a time to de-compress while my children are out of sight, they see who I am at my worst. Sometimes it's Mom who needs a 'time out', and I have to find it in the bathroom or turn on the t.v. when we're supposed to be doing school, or sending them off to play and zoning out a bit. It happens. I hate it when it happens, but it does.


Did I Mention Distractions?
Oh, no. That was interruptions. There's a difference.
Interruptions are usually external (phone or doorbell is someone outside calling in) or an event in your life that's outside the normal, such as potty training (only short-term, but still interrupts) or a spill (not daily).
Distractions are everyday, common things that draw a child's eyes in that direction. It could be rain on the roof that they start chatting about when they're supposed to be finishing a handwriting assignment. It's the toddler that dances in the middle of the living room while we're reading our bible or loudly bangs legos together while a math drill is going on. It's the tree that is blown by the wind right outside the nearest window or the airplane that flies overhead. It's usually small stuff, but it happens all the time. It's constantly a battle of "Back to work", "Pay attention", "Back to your page", "You just have to shut those noises out of your mind, sweety".

I hope in my effort to be open and honest, that this didn't come across as complain-y or whiny. I love teaching my kids and watching them grow and all the fluffy goodness of my home-schooling life! I just want to put forth that, just like everything else in life that's worth doing, there are costs. Even the biggest blessings in life, like having children in the first place, come with costs. But, they're barely noticeable in the scheme of things. When you look back over the years, it's never these bad bits that come to mind. It's the sunshine you experienced while doing multiplication and the light of understanding dawning in a child's eyes that you'll remember. 

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