Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Decisions & School Daze {Part 3}: Pay Yourself

When I first began my homeschooling journey, I spoke with more than a few moms who had traveled before me. I clung to any bit of information and guidance that would make this road-less-traveled a bit more navigable. 

And while I am so thankful for the wise counsel I was given, there are a few things I've had to learn by doing. Or not doing, in this case. 

What's the unconventional advice I'd beg my newbie homeschool self to heed if I could go back in time 5 years? Value what you do, value your {mental, physical, and spiritual} health, value your children...

And pay yourself accordingly.

We all agree that teachers should be paid. Most of us would even argue that teachers {good ones that is} should get bigger paychecks. They are, after all, responsible for educating future generations. 

We pay our public school teachers, our private school teachers, and our kids' tutors. We shell out big bucks in the name of well-roundedness for our kids to take dance classes and art lessons, piano and horseback riding. We write checks to club sports programs and community rec leagues and we don't bat an eye.

Educating and mentoring, these are tremendous responsibilities and we value those who devote their professional lives and extra time toward such noble ends.

But I have yet to meet one homeschool mom who gets paid {or who admits to getting paid.} We don't expect reimbursement because we love our children and we're their moms. And for various reasons, we have chosen to teach them at home because we believe it's best for them. 

No one goes into teaching for the money. And homeschool moms definitely don't do it for the money. 

But shouldn't we pay for the things we value? Shouldn't we take good and proper care of those who take care of and teach our precious children? 

I know what you're thinking. That I'm crazy. That I'm suggesting homeschool families should unearth a teacher's salary from their meager, middle-class budgets.

This will take some explaining but let me back up before I climb upon my feed-the-homeschool-moms soapbox.

This post talks about how we abruptly put our kids in public school 8 weeks ago after homeschooling them for nearly 5 years. And this post talks about the importance of really knowing who you are {the good, the bad, the unmentionable} as it relates to homeschooling. In it I share my own journey and confess some things I wish I'd known earlier.

I try not to think too much about what we're going to do with our kids in the fall but it's impossible not to. My husband and I are trusting God to show us the path chosen for our family and that may mean different avenues for our different kids. For the first time, I can honestly say I'm open to anything...which is both scary and freeing. 

But if we homeschool any or all of them in the future, there will be some big changes and getting paid will be chief among them.

So what kind of currency am I talking about? 

Well, that all depends on you. What do you value? What energizes you, renews you, keeps you sane? If you're not an introspective type, put on your self-awareness cap and start thinking. Talk to your husband and those who know you best. They may know your needs better than you do. 

My currency was simple to figure out. I want to get paid in time alonehelp with the home, and time with my husband. I made a mental list of what this would possibly look like:

  • A mid-week, silent retreat. I'd hire a sitter during the day once a week, someone to supervise my kids' schoolwork, keep them on task, and maybe even do some of my laundry. I'd sit at Starbucks and write. Or walk through the Botanical Gardens with my camera. Or sit in the sun with a book. I come back refreshed and recharged. My kids get a break from me. And I provide a kid-loving college student with some much-needed cash. It's a win-win-win.
  • Someone to clean my house once a month.
  • Takeout once a week. 
  • Date night once a week.
  • Taking a week off more often even though that makes the school-year longer. More and more, I value a sustainable pace over efficiency. This is the one thing on the list that's free.

If you're a homeschool mom you may look at my list and think that I'm a bit of a diva. In the past I would have looked at that list and agreed with you. That was before I realized the plain and obvious truth: educating children {various grades all at once} is a full-time job. It's a sacred calling and a tremendous responsibility. It's exhausting and demanding and it should be done well. {"Well" should not be confused with "perfectly"}. We need rest and help if we're going to live balanced and healthy lives and model those values to our children, something I have not done well.  

If I entrusted anyone else with this responsibility {like I'm doing now with my kids in school} I'd expect excellence from them.  But excellence is hard to come by when you're run down, burned out, and staring at chaos and squalor.

I totaled up the approximate cost for that list of "luxuries" over a 9-month period. It's less than 10% of the average public school teacher's salary. It's less than the cost of tuition to send one kid to an affordably-priced private school in my area. 

My family would be getting me for a steal. 

I realize that there are those who believe homeschooling is just an extension of motherhood, a God-ordained duty that we should do cheerfully and obediently. I have never been part of that camp so I'm not really going to speak to that. The Man and I believe that homeschooling goes way above and beyond the responsibilities of motherhood. Way. Beyond. It's a huge add-on and we'd be wise to treat it as such.

If I teach my kids at home in the future, we're going to put our resources behind that which we value most. It will take some creative budgeting and resourcefulness, but isn't that what prioritizing is all about? We sacrifice and problem-solve and find a way. 

Most importantly, we trust God to provide. He has always been so faithful to provide for our needs, often at the last minute and almost always in ways I never expected. And even if you can't get your whole list paid for, wouldn't just one or two things make a difference?

Instead of teaching homeschool moms how they can be more efficient managers of their homes all by themselves, a subject of quite a few books you'll see at homeschooling conventions, maybe we should tell them that they don't have to. There are those who manage it well, moms who are organized and efficient and whose homeschools are run with military precision. 

And then there is me. 

And the host of weary, amazing, committed, exhausted moms who are my friends, the moms who want to keep going but man, it is so hard. They've read the books and tried being someone they're just not. Maybe there's another way? Think about it. Talk about it. Pray about it.

Maybe it's time to get paid. 


My lovely friend, Bonita, recently started a blog that I WISH had been around a couple of years ago. It's called Reality Homechooling: Where Ideal Meets Real. It's a great place to rest and be inspired.  Check it out. 


  1. You have articulated your "learning" so incredibly well . . . no surprise there. I've never been where you have been (a homeschooling parent), but I certainly believe in your premise of putting your resources (financial, emotional, time and energy, giftings) in what you value most. You know all too well that I'm a late-bloomer in some of this, but I will not stop blooming.

    The underlying principle here should strike a chord with everyone, regardless of gender, age, schooling choices, or whatever.


  2. Amen and you have communicated this so beautifully!! I miss seeing you & your sweet kids...sending love & hugs! :)

  3. I wish I would have heard this when we began our home schooling journey 4 years ago. I think too many moms play the martyr, whether they home school or not. The point is that we cannot do it all nor were we meant to do it all. It is vital that we take care of our selves well to be good mothers, homeschooling or not. If we go back to homeschooling next year I know we will do things much differently!

  4. I believe you have hit on an amazing plan. I would take it one step further and say all working moms should heed this advice. Moms as well as dads need time for rest, revitalization, and rejuvination. With that said, I think if moms went into homeschooling, knowing they would be able to have those amenities, they would survive much better. Even more moms might consider homeschooling. Being on the jobs (mom, wife, teacher,maid, etc) 24-7 if exhausting physically, emotionally and spirtually. I believe you found the missing component!!

  5. I am absolutely a firm believer in taking care of yourself, not in an "I'm going to Hawaii by myself for a week" way, but in a realistic way that speaks to who you are as an individual.

    I have been trying to incorporate those little things into my life and while they help I just want to remind us all: homeschooling is *still* really hard. It is a joy, but it is hard. (You could replace 'homeschooling' with 'parenting' and the statement would remain true.)

    There are no superintendents conference day. There is no one else to share the curriculum planning, to advise you as you feel mid year the need to tweak, to assess the progress you've made, and the weaknesses you're letting creep in. It is a solitary profession, one that will never actually bring any money into the home. I call my house cleaning costs and YMCA fees and babysitting expenses all "tuition," but it's still no picnic. I am a relaxed, 2nd generation homeschooler, but still it's intimidating. So, added to doing what you can to take care of yourself is the importance of PERSPECTIVE. Why am I doing this? Because I know it's good for my kids. And I know it's not as good for me (maybe not good for me at all). But we're still doing it, and we'll make it work, and we'll recalibrate when necessary.


    ramble over

  6. As a homeschooling mom of 13 plus years, I have to say Amen! to your post. I recently started putting my self first in a lot of ways. I think of the cost of working outside to home to afford to send my kids to a private school--clothes, lunches, professional development, help at home, prepared foods, ect and paying myself isn't that expensive. I take time off to spend with friends--be it lunch or a day out of town. I have a message twice a month. And I spend money on curriculum that makes things easier for me. Yes, I could save money and do planning myself, but you know what--I'm important enough to spend the extra money.

  7. insightful and inspiring :)
    i will be unemployed at the end of this school year
    and the future is wide open

  8. Love this post. It's so good to know I'm not alone on my journey in life. So many wonderful women who have "been there, done that" with personal struggles, home school struggles. Paying myself? Very intriguing. Something to ponder. I'm all about finding simplicity, joy, and freedom in life. Thanks for pressing "publish".

  9. I so admire your choice to send your kids to school and reevaluate everything. I homeschool, and it's working for us, but I've seen how holding too tightly to anything with my kids can really be destructive.
    And I think this post is really realistic. Just this year, I started doing the first two things on your list--a sitter once a week and some cleaning help. I'm still trying to find the right balance, but I _know_ I need these helps to stay healthy while I give so much to my kids.
    Blessings to you as you guys explore what works for _your_ family.


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