A few things happened recently that prompted me to consider the economic value of homeschool parents. First, I was chatting with the private tutor of a “homeschool” kid. She also has two kids of her own, who attend traditional school. In the course of the conversation, we were discussing some of the pros of her current job and homeschool, as well as past jobs and benefits of being able to have time with your kids.
Then she asked, “Do you miss working?” My response was an immediate no. I find homeschooling the kids and maintaining a blog very rewarding. I have the opportunity to research and learn things that are directly beneficial to my kids. I coach a FIRST Lego League team. I’m investing not only in my own kids, but bringing science and robotics to their friends. I have tons of flexibility and freedom in how we accomplish our goals. Later, the irony of the question really sank in. I don’t have any animosity about the way the question came across, it simply shows the mind set of our society. The private tutor and I are doing nearly identical work, but she is performing the service for another family and receives a paycheck. Therefore it is considered work with economic value – she isn’t a homeschool mom, but instead a private tutor. On the other hand, homeschool parents don’t receive a paycheck, so many people don’t consider it work. However, the value of the homeschool parent and the private tutor are roughly equivalent to the respective families. The transfer of money from one account to another is not what gives value to work.
I also came across the popular info graphic comparing the cost of educating each student at $500 / year for homeschool students to $10,000 per student in a public district. I’ve seen the graphic used numerous times, and it always bothers me because it isn’t comparing apples to apples. That figure only considers the cost of materials and outside classes and completely ignores the contribution of the homeschooling parent. The homeschooling parent is dedicating at least 30 hours/wk to monitoring progress, making lesson plans, supervising field trips, reviewing curriculum and other activities related directly to the learning of the students. Again, because there isn’t a transfer of money some people disregard the economic cost.
It’s hard to put a dollar value on the contributions of a homeschool or stay at home parent. Maybe it should be compared to private school tuition times the number of children plus the additional cost of maid and laundry services and possibly aftercare. Maybe it should be considered the same as a classroom teacher – although the jobs are vastly different. Maybe it should be compared to the amount the parent is giving up by either not participating in the work force or having a more limited schedule. Whatever the amount is, it is not $0.
I consider our homeschool choice the economic equivalent of choosing an expensive private school. Given the choices on the market, I can’t find a private school that offers the level of customization our homeschool provides. As a consumer, I’m happy to pay the cost. As “President of Student Affairs and Human Resources”, I’m humbled and honored my services are so highly valued.
Maybe choosing a different job title would emphasize the fact the parent is doing work that has value for their family. ” I’m the Individual Education Coordinator for a small private academy” or maybe “Director of Student Education.” Imagine the Linked In profiles stating the job responsibilities – “I ensure the integration of science, nature and technology into the daily life of students.” “Using the latest research in project-based and experiential learning, I facilitate the semi-independent and independent learning process of students in a supportive atmosphere.” We could talk about the values of our respective schools – “The Core Values of the Academy include enabling students to become independent learners – self-motivated, self-confident, and prepared to contribute to the world both now and in the future.” “At the Academy we strive to develop the student as a whole person. We value not only academic performance, but promote service to community and respect for self and others.” It’s actually a good exercise to think through our goals and core values. At the end of the day, I still like the titles “homeschool mom” or “homeschool dad”, they imply a certain warmth and commitment. My goal is not to impress others or elevate myself, rather my goal is to make contributions to my family and society that have lasting value.
We choose to homeschool because of the positive customized learning environment for our children. For us homeschool also creates a more peaceful environment for the entire family by giving us more freedom to live our lives on our own schedule. It isn’t the right choice for every family or in every season. For some families the economic strain of having only one income would create stress. Perhaps schedules can be adapted so both parents are still working, but the stress of working and overseeing school might be too much. Some kids may enjoy the social aspect of school so much they wouldn’t enjoy homeschool. These are all considerations for every family to make.
When a parent chooses to be a stay at home parent or a homeschool parent, that decision has value to the family and comes at a cost. The parent’s time doesn’t suddenly become worth nothing just because there isn’t a paycheck. The family has decided to do without $ x to obtain the benefit of having a stay at home parent. Other families might decide they can’t afford or don’t want to give up $y when they are reasonably satisfied with their current education choice and family situation.
So homeschool mom or dad: Make sure you know the value of your work.