In these tough economic times, the focus is on value-for-money. One of the best values in America is homeschooling. Although research shows that homeschooling gives children a better education than public schools, many families think that they can't afford it. They worry about losing the paycheck of the parent who stays home to homeschool the kids. But giving up that paycheck could be a smart money move. Here are three reasons why:
1) The biggest cost in homeschooling is what economists call the opportunity cost of the pay a homeschooling parent could earn in the workforce. Usually, the homeschooling parent is the mother. Economists Anne-Marie C. Fagan and Maria Sophia Aguirre found that after adjusting for costs of child care, taxes, work-related expenses, and other factors, "For the most part, the net income contributed is close to zero with the exception of the highest and lowest income levels." This means that the opportunity cost of staying home with the children, instead of working, is close to zero. Of course, when children are in school, out-of-pocket daycare expenses may be limited to costs for after-care, affecting the calculation.
2) People pay steeply for so-called "free" public schools. In order to have access to good public schools, people in the United States have to live in good public school districts. But the better the school district, the higher the price of homes and the higher the property tax bill. (It would be interesting to find out how many people took out subprime mortgages in order to afford homes in good school districts.) This is a scandal of school financing in the United States. However, homeschoolers don't have to depend on school districts. No matter where they live, they can give their children an excellent education. So homeschoolers can avoid or move out of pricey neighborhoods and save on mortgage and tax bills.
3) What about expenses for books and curriculum? It's possible to put together a homeschool curriculum free, and the website Homeschool4free.com offers hundreds of resources to do so. In fact, most homeschoolers do choose to spend some money on books, curriculum, activities, technology, etc., but the important word is "choose". Homeschoolers get a very good return on their educational investments. Dr. Albert C. Andrade finds that homeschooling delivers "something previously available only to elite and affluent families ... enriching and essentially private, educative experiences for their children."
Surveys of homeschoolers seldom ask whether they are homeschooling for economic reasons, but the rapid growth of homeschooling in America suggests that it's a good economic value. In fact, the real question may be not whether families can afford to homeschool but whether they can afford not to. When it's possible to get a better education than public schools provide, and at a lower cost, why aren't even more people doing it? Clive Belfield, professor in the economics department at Queens College, City University of New York, suggests that people may get a feeling of independence and self-esteem from work, and in some cases "for some families, work relations are better than home relations."
The calculations work differently for single-parent homeschoolers. We'll return to that subject in the future.
What does homeschooling really cost? Take a survey at the website linked below.
Financial journalist Gregory J. Millman has written for Forbes, Barrons, the Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post. His books about global markets and financial trading have been translated into over ten languages. He is co-author of Homeschooling: A Family's Journey. Comment on this article, find sources, and learn more at Homeschoolingafamilysjourney.com.
For free homeschooling information and curricula, go to Homeschool4free.
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