Counting the Cost[box]Curious about homeschooling? Want to know what you need to get started? Then this month's posts are for you. Join us in the month of March as we look at some of the things that I have learned over the past ten years of homeschooling our children.[/box] Maybe I should have written this post before the last one, but I thought I should address this topic before I go on further. Although I thoroughly love homeschooling, it would not be fair to give a glowing picture without being honest about the costs involved. Now, when I mean costs, I don't necessarily mean financial costs, though that could be a factor. What I will be referring to will describe costs in other areas of your life.

When I first started homeschooling, I was reading Clay and Sally Clarkson's book, Educating the Wholehearted Child. In the first chapter, they addressed this very issue. Being the naive mom I was, I thought "well, that's not going to happen to me." I was sure that I would not have to deal with the issues that they brought up. (Silly me.) I really thought I could do it all and have it all. (That's another myth, by the way.)

When we remodeled our home last year, before we even started making any serious plans, we had to count the cost: What is our budget? What do we have to work with? What can we cut out? What is most important? Stuff like that. Likewise, before you jump into homeschooling, it may be wise to consider what some of these costs might be. Costs like:

  • my personal dreams for self-fulfillment
  • my rights to my own time
  • my agenda for the day
  • my comfort level
  • my convenience
  • the time I have available for outside work, volunteer activities, hobbies, social engagements
  • a second income and the flexibility that comes with it
  • a clean house
  • friendships for you or your children
  • difficult days when you really could use a day alone
  • physical energy
  • emotional energy

Some of these things are costs that any parent will need to consider, like the rights to my own time or my own convenience or personal dreams. Parenting involves sacrifice in any form. However, homeschooling may require you to delay those plans even longer. While many of my friends are now enjoying a little more free time with their children in school most of the day, I may not see that happen until my children enter high school. I will admit that I have not always wanted to make those sacrifices. Like I said, I wanted my own life, and I wanted to homeschool. The first years were tough because I just would not accept this reality. Hopefully, you will not have to go through the frustration I did by dealing with these issues up front.

Some of the costs are ones that are necessary, but ones that I seek to replenish. Costs such as physical and emotional energy must be recouped in some way for me to be at my best. For example, I used to be able to finish with the bulk of our schoolwork before lunch and have the afternoon to myself. With the addition of Anah, along with Jonathan beginning some schoolwork, we have had to push things till after lunch, which means that personal time is gone. That used to be my time for myself to read, take a nap, or do something relaxing to recover my physical and emotional strength.

I am not one that cannot go without adequate rest (woe to the one who crosses this grumpy mommy!). Some moms can do it, but that's not me. And so to make up for the loss of this afternoon time, I go to bed earlier. That does mean that I lose my personal time in the evening when the younger kids are in bed, but again, that's a cost I have had to accept in order to replenish myself for the next day.

Some costs butt up against standards of living that can be adjusted. For us, a single income means that we cannot live in certain neighborhoods or go on fancy vacations. That was hard for me to accept at first. But God has been teaching me that if I am willing to lower my standards, our home will be more than adequate for me. I would love to travel more, but instead of going on a big vacation for spring break and the summer, we have either taken smaller road trips to locales closer to home or taken big trips every other year.

Which leads to the point that some of these costs have alternative solutions. For example, many homeschooling families have created home businesses that have allowed moms to work out of the home while still providing additional income to the family. If a clean house is important, that could be a reality if you are willing to train your children to help in the care and the upkeep of the home. Friendships can be found in a homeschool co-op. For us, not all our kids' friends are homeschooled, so we have worked hard to plan play dates, sleepovers and the like.

As much as I like to know as much as I can in advance, some costs will be hidden. As our marriage counselor advised us, we should be prepared for as much as we can but also realize that we can never foretell every possible issue. I think that is true here too. Just know that there are probably going to be costs for you that may not be a big deal to another mom. Also, some of these costs may not be costs for you. For some, less sleep is not a big deal to some moms but it is to others. For others, loss of personal time is not a big deal, while to others it could be very difficult.

Bottom line: just know that homeschooling does come with a price tag. I encourage you to try to use this list as a starter to evaluate what you are willing to give up and what you cannot. If it is possible to change your expectations, make adjustments or find a creative way to recoup those losses, then do it. And for those costs that take you by surprise, bring them to the Lord, who is able to return to you more than what you give Him as you serve your family.