It is a rare family indeed that isn’t hit by the financial impact of home education. Let’s be honest about that. Whether tag-teaming shift work, paying for books and resources, covering examination fees, or stretching your food budget to incorporate weekday family lunchtimes, the decision to home educate comes with a price tag. It might mean changing the hours that you work, or it might be adapting the way that you work and removing the divisions you might have had between work and family life. For us, it meant dropping from a fairly healthy combined income, down to a single salary. At first, I wasn’t sure how we would cope.
Life is about choices and, in choosing to home educate, you are also free to choose how to cope with the pressures that this brings. Foreign holidays, branded clothes, and pub lunches often lose their appeal when the quality of your daily life improves substantially. As an example, we went from eating out regularly and booking weekly Ocado food deliveries, to a zero-waste semi-vegan lifestyle which feels both highly satisfying and environmentally conscious. Within a few months of practise, we cut our weekly shopping budget in half and significantly reduced spending in other areas; choices which we consciously made to enable us to maintain a reasonable budget for books, visits, and other activities.
Of course, it all adds up, and simple changes make a big difference. Meals can be cooked from scratch, leftovers can be reheated, holes in jumpers can be mended, and wrapping paper for birthday presents can be individually designed using paints or by ‘upcycling’ old newspapers or magazine cutouts. When you are juggling two full-time jobs alongside the relentless demands of school, few people have the time to adopt this kind of mentality and yet, when you do slow down and ‘opt in’ to living this way, it can dramatically increase your appreciation for the value of goods and create a sense of deep connection.
It is an absolute myth that home educating is for affluent middle-class families. Almost any family you meet will be getting by on a tight budget; many couples are on low-incomes and some single parents use shared living arrangements as a financial solution or ‘bridge’ during a particular stage in their child’s home education. It is not an easy or privileged path to choose, by any means. What families do have, though, is unlimited time together, the freedom to make their own choices, and a powerful engagement with the real world.
We have done both and, for us, homeschooling is worth it. We might have holes in our trainers, but we laugh harder, live more wisely, and enjoy closer friendships, than we did before.
Anna is a former teacher turned homeschooling mum-of-three. Her first book The Case for Homeschooling is out now.
Stories written by Anna and uploaded by Streams.