Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Another False Homeschooling Assumption

The imamother thread on "The High Cost of Jewish Education and [limiting] size of family" went into a discussion on aliyah and homeschooling. One mother states "Homeschooling is a big expense, it means giving up an extra salary." Well, I'm NOT here to argue about accounting of homeschooling and lost opportunity cost vs. paying private schooling tuitions. Every family is welcome to make their own accounting if they have an interest in alternatives to private education. An naturally cost is only one part of the equation. Needs and personalities of parents and children are other large parts of the equation.

But, I do think it necessary to point out the misconception that a parent cannot earn an income and homeschool at the same time. Yes, it is true that most homeschooling families include a self-identified "homemaker," which may or may not mean translate into "income free" as many a homeschool teacher also operates a small home business. But there is also a growing contingent of dual income homeschooling families in which the primary teacher (usually the mother) is also employed in the professions.

I'm kicking myself because I'm unable to locate a Wall Street Journal article that my husband generously clipped for me a couple of years ago thinking it might be of interest for the blog (can't locate it online either). This article featured the feat an increasing number of dual income families are taking on: simultaneously homeschooling their child(ren). These families were not driven to homeschooling out of any particular ideology except their drive to provide their children with a high quality education that they had concluded could be provided best in the home. Somehow these families found that they were both able to instruct their (generally independent) child(ren) while working side-by-side them on their own paid employment through telecommuting and flexible scheduling opportunities. I did note that both parents generally shared the responsibility of instruction and I don't recall a mention of pre-school aged children in the home either. These were not stereotypical homeschooling families (strongly Christian, often residing in small town or rural areas, numerous children, traditional gender roles), but rather "modern," cosmopolitan, an at least somewhat egalitarian families. The article provided an interesting window into a growing contingent of homeschooling families that few would expect exist.

Trivia Question for all the Sports Fans Reading my Blog (don't click on the following link before making your guess): Which famous NFL star was homeschooled during his high school years? (Yes, apparently you can homeschool and still participate in a public school sports league, another interesting dimension in the continuing exploration of homeschooling).

While I was unable to find the Wall Street Journal article, I did find an informative article from the CATO institute on homeschooling that contained a lot of interesting history, subject matter and even statistics on homeschooling families, as well as confirmed that there are different contingents of homeschoolers.

  • A few interesting stats from March 1997 study by the Home School Legal Defense Association, "Home Education across the United States," which is sighted about article shows that the average cost incurred per homeschooled student is $546.
  • 87.7 percent of mothers list their profession as homemaker, home educator. Another 12.3% list another occupation. The next highest occupation listed is Professional 1 (Accountant, Registered Nurse, Engineer) at 4.8%.
  • The five most popular occupations for fathers included 17.3% Professional 1 (Accountant, Registered Nurse, Engineer), 16.9% Professional 2 (Doctor, Professor, Lawyer), 10.7% Small Business Owner, 8.9% Manager, and 8.1% Technical.

I wonder what the percentages are currently, almost 12 years later. Nonetheless, it is erroneous to conclude homeschooling must equal income free for the secondary income earner, although I imagine the more young children that are in the equation, the more difficult it is to both achieve an income and serve in the role of teacher.


Anonymous said...

I'm so thrilled to make the first comment on this post. And thanks SL for once again highlighting the homeschooling segment of the (Jewish) world.

We are officially a one income family. But in reality, we are more complex than that. My husband is a psychotherapist who takes private clients during the evenings and on weekends. He also teaches parenting classes (Dr. Neufeld -HOTYK). I have been serving as a mikvah attendant for the past three months and average 2.5 nights per week. This is all in addition to the very packed schedule of home-teaching four kids - ages 9, 7, 5 and 2.

Yes, it is much harder with a toddler as part of the equation for many reasons. But what you stated is also correct. More amiable kids who are very self-directed and imbued with a strong family-oriented help ethic makes life not just more manageable but so pleasant as well.

I look forward to reading more comments and hope to chime in again.

Commenter Abbi said...

Yes, I'm sure there are families that can pull off many different kinds of parenting feats. I have no doubt that dual income homeschooling families exist. But they require a very specific set of career circumstances that few families enjoy today, Jewish, frum, modern or not.

First and foremost, they require the parents to split the parenting equally, meaning both parents have to have flexible schedules. These families do exist, I'm currently working in such a flexible job. But the thing about flexible jobs- there are little to no benefits and you generally can't move ahead in your career working a flexible job (particularly in high powered careers like law and finance). It's one thing for one parent (usually the mother) to be working such a job. It's quite another to have both parents working such jobs and basically treading water in terms of salaries. How would this impact the family's long term financial security?

Also, I'm just wondering how well working and teaching your kids really works. I have enough difficulty managing a pretty good 6 month old who plays nicely by himself and working simultaneously. I can't imagine having teaching my kids things they really need to know to get ahead in life while juggling deadlines/a boss/client needs, etc.

I generally find that when you do two important things at one time, you tend to do both not that well.

I'm not sure why it matters that these families are "modern". The NYT had a huge article in the magazine in the fall on equal parenting. Plenty of "modern" parents engage in this type of parenting. I still don't see how this is a dual income/homeschooling is a viable option for most families today.

AriSparkles said...

Dear SephardiLady,

I know that this is totally off toipc and i am sorry, but I cannot find your Email address.

You once asked me how we got away with making a wedding in brooklyn for under 3,000$ Here it is. Some of it applies to just brooklyn...

*Gemach gemach gemach! Table linens, silk florals, really uncomfy bedecken chair, dress.
*Nice invites from Staples and printed on your printer.
*Invite 100 peeps or less.
*Limited Bar, mostly wine. Joyvin bought by the case in Jersey.
*Rent your local hillel. At Brooklyn College, this can come with Kosher catering if Carmela is still there.
*Photos taken by art student. BEAUTIFUL.
*Even our Delish wedding cake came from a Gemach.
*Day wedding.
*Make your own wedding favors. Get jordan Almonds, little bells at a bead shop some tulle and ribbon.
*Opt for a bridesmaids bouquet rather than full size.
*Get your hillel rabbi to do the ceremony.
*Assign your bridesmaids a color, and let them pick their dresses.
*Hire a Deejay who is a friend.
*Have your brother tape the wedding.
*Have a very artsy friend design your ketubah.

Your really cheap wedding will also lack those odd dudes who crash weddings and eat food and ask for cash!

rosie said...

I followed the imamother link and one of the posters said what I have said in the past, that a stay at home mother can economize in ways that working mothers often either can't or don't. Mending, baking bread, wearing old clothes, having only one car, etc.
Obviously a homeschooling mother must find ways to intellectually satisfy each child. I hope that the Chabad online homeschool either expands or someone opens an offshoot. The last that I heard, they catered to children who did not live in range of a day school. It started for children of shluchim and then included those who lived in sparsely populated Jewish communities. They did not want to compete with day schools, feeling that an online school is a conciliatory choice.

Orthonomics said...

I apologize for leaving off the CATO institute article link because this article is an important read to understand the history of homeschooling. (Shoshana, there is a study noted in the CATO article that I know you and your husband would be interested in).

I'm not sure why it matters that these families are "modern".
As the CATO Institute article points out, homeschooling has two distinct historical threads in American history. The studies of Raymond Moore ended up unexpectedly becoming a homeschool movement and his school of thought attracted the religious parent who was looking to impart a certain set of mores; the school of John Holt is that of "unschooling," and has attracted a different constituency, the "new age" crowd.

The reason I saw fit to mention that the families featured in the WSJ were "modern" is because these families do not fit into either established stream, but are rather forming a newer homeschooling trend.

I wish I had that article because it did not show parents engaged in "equal parenting," but rather parents who were engaging in homeschooling while still maintaining their careers. There certainly was *not* equal involvement of both parents, but there was commitment to both parents career.

I'm not superwomen by any stretch of the imagination. I expect that very few parents would be able to pull off such a feat. I imagine that parents of many children, especially any babies or pre-schoolers, would be particularly handicapped in this area.

But, I do find it interesting to learn how alternative schooling arrangement work and what makes them work. I think we tend to erroneously believe that the job of the home educator is like that of a public or private school teacher. But if you speak to homeschooling parents, I think you will find that the hands on time teaching is generally fairly low. And, perhaps the group is fairly self-selecting, but I believe that the parents who do engage in (more long term) homeschooling have, for the most part, children that tend towards the independent side.

Anonymous said...

I don't like working from home, and I'm not trying to also homeschool. I came to work in a snowstorm this morning rather than work from home :)

Ahavah said...

I did transcription work for year, often sitting right there at the same table where children were working on their assignments - or, if it was an audio transcription, I did the work in the evening and sometimes well into the night if it was a "rush" job for an attorney.

Now I have carpel tunnel, so I don't do that much anymore (except special circumstances for longtime customers), but there are plenty of other home-based or part-time things I could do if I needed to - as do most of the other homeschooling moms in our co-op.

Many women make more net (take-home) working from home than they ever did working full time away from home. And the costs for the textbooks and workbooks are, needless to say, a tiny fraction of paying tuition.

There are two christian homeschool co-ops in our town, too, and they have a sufficient number of participants in the same situation that it's clear nobody's starving due to homeschooling. Usually just the opposite - funds are freed up for other things.

And even if a mom decides to quit work completely, the costs of working outside the home often still actually exceed the net income of the mom once all the extra costs are added in, so they're no worse off homeschooling.

Obviously, the only way to know for sure for anyone's particular situation is to do the math beforehand, and plan accordingly.

Anonymous said...

Ahavah, you are so hung up on the 2 income trap that you can't imagine that the reality is different for many women. And as for Rosie's comment on the savings of being a SAHM: realistically, how many SAHMs are actually baking their own bread and wearing old worn out clothes? Most wear decent clothing that would pass muster in today's offices, which are largely business casual, and are too worn out from mothering to bake their own bread and do their own cleaning. And some working mothers / families do all those things anyway.

Adina Lav said...

I love working from home (I try to do it twice a week since my commute is so impossible). But homeschooling is not for me; I'm not disciplined enough. But even with kiddies in school working from home has its advantages- I'm there when they get home from school (even though we have a sitter looking after them, they float in and out of my office), I can throw in a load of laundry, or cook something, and I usually schedule doctors/dentist appointments on days I'm at home.