The most recent figures I could find show that where I live, the state spends just over $14,000 p.a. educating a primary school child. This idea of ‘How much does education cost?’ comes up often enough in homeschooling forums. The numbers change a bit depending on where the data comes from, but the comments all have a sameness to them. Whenever I have seen discussions on the cost of state schooling a child, the comments will be like this.
‘I only ever spend a few hundred dollars each year. How can the state waste all this money?’
These comments always kind of grate against me, because they fail to take a number of things into account. From my own perspective, the state spends a little more than I do, but it is a fairly comparable figure. Like many people, I spend a few hundred dollars a year on supplies and various classes and events. There is a lot more than just that, though, to the true cost of homeschooling.
For every option that we choose in life, there is a whole collection which we pass over. When we chose to homeschool the boys, my days as an above average income earner came to an abrupt halt.
Being unable to be in two places at once, I had to cut down my work hours fairly drastically, because I was busy teaching the kids. It certainly means I earn a lot less. I just told myself that the boys were attending a very exclusive private school, and that was the cost of homeschooling. In a sense it is, but there is a bit more going on.
I have flexible hours at work, which is great, but now I am just a place filler. I am not trusted with any of the important, challenging or especially well paid jobs any more because I just dont turn up often enough or at the right times. Work is certainly no longer stressful for me, but nor it is particularly interesting. My career hangs in limbo.
At the same time that I notice this, I also see people that I trained at work overtake me, and move into leadership or specialist positions. I certainly cant begrudge them the rewards of their efforts, but it is still an oddly humbling experience to watch. When the day comes that I want to fire my career up again, there is going to be an uncomfortable gap in my CV. It seems unlikely that anybody relevant is going to be impressed by the fact that I spent so much time educating my own children, regardless of what they might achieve. That is another part of the cost of homeschooling.
I am sure I am not the first to have found that homeschooling is very expensive in terms of lost income and career opportunities. Suddenly a very relevant question becomes What is a great education worth?
The boys certainly are getting a great education. Although they are stronger in some areas than others, overall, they are definitely ahead of what would normally be expected of them. On top of that, they take a genuine interest in learning, are socially aware, and have a far better relationship with me than they otherwise would.
Still, I wonder sometimes if we would be better off as a collective group if they just had a good education at a school instead of a great one at home, and I made more money to cover the difference. There doesnt seem to be any definite right answer here. It all depends on the circumstances at the time.
For all the effort and energy involved in teaching the boys, I see it as a luxury not everyone can afford.