Sunday, October 4, 2015

The REAL Cost of Schooling

I often hear anti-homeschoolers trot out their favorite reasons for why they think homeschooling is bad. Unfortunately for them, most of them have been very publicly debunked by multiple studies - and the obvious results. 

Socialization? Homeschoolers are better adjusted that government schoolers. 
Academics? Homeschoolers out-perform government schoolers. 
Extra-curricular activities? Homeschoolers have just as many or more than government schoolers. 
College? Universities actively recruit homeschoolers because they are good students.

So what’s left? Well today I’m going to debunk the last, tired old argument against homeschooling: 
It costs too much.

“I wish we could afford to homeschool, but we really need both our incomes,” a dad sighs.

“I want my child to have the best educational experience possible, so I have to work to afford it,” a mother insists.

“You can’t tell families to homeschool in this economy – moms have to work just to make ends meet,” a friend lectures.

And I say… Facts are better than arguments. Let’s look at the numbers.

I did some extensive googling on the cost of institutional schooling. The numbers were very interesting. 

The Cost of Government Schooling
“Free” government school costs can include lunches, school supplies, tests, field trips, and school clothes (gym clothes, uniforms, etc.).  An average family can spend $500-$1500 a year on “free” government schooling necessities.

But we all know there are extras. Before and after school care, sports, tutoring, music lessons, it all adds up. Now we are looking at another $5000-$1500 per year.

On top of that, when both parents are working, the average family ends up eating out a lot more. Mom just doesn’t have time to cook every night. A typical family can spend $200-$500 a week on restaurant food alone. Restaurants are expensive - many studies have shown that home-cooked meals average one-half or even one-third of the price of restaurant meals.

There are other costs to consider too. When mom works every day along with dad, the gas costs go up. Not only does mom have to go to and from work, she and dad now have trips to pick up children from school, lessons, or daycare. Average gas costs for a family every year can be upwards of $2000-$3000.

Mom also needs more expensive clothes when she works. She may even need to buy a whole new wardrobe routinely. This can start around $1000 a year and go up to $3000-$4000 or more.

If mom is working full time, she probably doesn’t have time to deep clean the house. So now we can add in the costs of hiring a cleaning lady. This can be an additional $200-$300 per month, adding up to $2500-$3500 a year.

Then there are the things that are harder to add up. When there is no “general manager” at home every day, waste happens easily. Someone forgets to stock up on milk and bread, so dad grabs some at the convenience store on the way home – for a 30% higher price. With mom and dad too tired to supervise playtime, expensive toys get left outside in the weather or are neglected and broken.  It’s too much trouble to refill things like soap dispensers so new ones are bought every time. Clothes aren’t laundered or mended properly and must be thrown out due to stains or holes.

And finally, there’s the health costs associated with a family that is running all the time, stressed, eating poorly, and has improperly supervised children. A quick overview of this subject shows that when children grow up in a clean, peaceful, healthy home environment instead of being herded in a high-stress environment with a crowd of other germy children, they wind up much healthier and have less accidents. Medical costs for the average institutional schooled family can be $3000-$10,000 per year.

The lowest estimate of all these costs I came up with was about $10,000-$12,000 per year. That’s the bare-bones lowest, not the average. Average costs of a normal family can be $20,000-$30,000 a year or more. 

All so that mom can work and let the kids have “free” government schooling...or so the family can "afford" private schooling. 

DOES IT PAY? Let’s see…

Moms Making Big Bucks?
Let’s set all those costs against what mom will make in her job. An average woman in the U.S. has a salary of about $35,000 per year. Subtract out all taxes and social security and she’s left with around $25,000 per year to spend.

Did you notice those numbers? Average family costs for “free” government schooling while mom works are $20,000-$30,000. Average salaries for working moms are $25,000 after taxes. It’s entirely possible that a family using the “free” government schools could wind up losing money every year on the transaction.

And it's possible that a mom who is working so the family can "afford" private school will wind up losing money on the transaction.

Not just possible, but highly probable.

The Cost of Homeschooling
But wait,” you say. “Homeschooling costs a lot too – the government schools at least provide some things for ‘free.’ Homeschoolers have to pay for everything themselves, plus the taxes that support the local schools.”

Let’s take a look at that claim. To begin with, curriculum for homeschooling can be completely free. Yes, I said free – without quotation marks. There are free books, free downloads, free printables, free ideas, and of course, free books at the public library. Used curriculum abounds and you can often borrow or buy second-hand for just a few dollars. And these free curricula can work well - studies for years have shown that there is no correlation at all between how much is spent on curriculum and how well the student succeeds. What studies do show is that a loving, one-on-one tutorship situation always out-performs every other teaching scenario.

But that’s just the curriculum. Field trips can also be free or very low cost. Many parks and museums offer special passes or deals at certain times of the year.

Even lessons or special tutoring can be more cost-effective through homeschooling. Homeschooling parents tend to be much more engaged with their children in helping them regularly practice and fully benefit from the lessons. A homeschooled child can make as much progress in a year as an institutionally-schooled child might make in two or three years.

A homeschooled child can be a healthier child since mom is around to prepare healthy meals three times a day. Mom also has time and energy to disinfect bathrooms, do laundry regularly, make sure the children brush their teeth, take their vitamins and go to bed on time. And a peaceful, low-stress, and bully-free environment helps a child’s health and development, not to mention his or her safety.

Every study ever done comparing government schooling to homeschooling has shown that homeschoolers out-perform public schoolers. The only excuse anti-homeschoolers have left is that it’s too expensive for mom to stay home from work. And I just kaboshed that. Yay me!

And yay you if you choose to tap into the academic, social, health – and financial – benefits of staying home to teach your children!

Written by Heather Sheen

1 comment:

  1. The home is also a much happier place. Children and their parents are closer and quicker to detect something out of place. Stress is low. Flexibility is high. Time spent on education is actually spent educating and not the various other issues that schools deal with on a daily basis. This is my last year. Gonna miss the time spent with my son but so proud that he is out there with a solid base. Btw, the house doesnt get deep cleaning when you homeschool either.