Q&A Friday: Is homeschooling an out-of-reach, exclusive lifestyle?

Written by Jamie Martin, editor of Simple Homeschool and Steady Mom

Writing Monday’s post and reading through the comments (which are fascinating, by the way) this week started me thinking about some of the more philosophical reasons not to homeschool.

Here are a few:

  • Homeschooling won’t work for the masses; it’s an exclusive lifestyle for the privileged.
  • Homeschooling won’t work for me because I’m a single parent.
  • I would love to homeschool, but our family can’t afford it; I have to work.

I don’t think that everyone should homeschool or that everyone should want to homeschool. But it saddens me to think of those who may want to homeschool and aren’t able to.

At the same time many homeschooling families make sacrifices in a variety of ways to make this lifestyle work. And yet we know most of us live such a privileged lifestyle in comparison with the rest of the world. Clearly this is not a cut and dry issue.

So my question today is this: Do you think homeschooling is an exclusive, out-of-reach lifestyle? Have you ever found yourself in difficult circumstances, financial or otherwise–did you manage to continue homeschooling or did you decide to put your kids into a traditional school?

The only rule about discussion is the same rule you have in your home: Be kind and show respect. I’m looking forward to reading your thoughts!

About Jamie Martin

Jamie is a mama to three cute kids born on three different continents. She serves as editor of Simple Homeschool, and blogs about mindful parenting at Steady Mom. Jamie is also the author of two books: Steady Days and Mindset for Moms.


  1. I am a single parent, and I am also disabled (I have Bipolar Disorder, but am VERY well medicated), so my two children and I live off of my SSDI and food stamps, and very rarely, a little bit of child support. So money is tight! But I am a wonder at budgeting, and willing to make sacrifices in order to afford homeschooling! I firmly believe that anyone can homeschool, in any situation. Where there’s a will, there’s a way! You can do anything you set your mind to! :)

    • KatieWonderGirl says:

      hey, i’m another single homeschooling mom named Katie. 😉 We live just around the poverty level for our state on a mix of odd jobs, help from family, and, every year or so when tax season approaches and a certain somebody wants to claim one of the kids for a tax break, a month or two’s worth of child support. 😉

      i really love being around my kids. i’ve toured schools and talked to them about school but so far (my oldest is 10) homeschooling continues to be the right fit. –Katie

  2. When I refer to affording homeschooling, I am mostly referring to curriculum. :)

  3. I think that expecting everyone in the world to homeschool or to be able to homeschool is unreasonable, and it is just as unreasonable to call those who do it, privileged. Some people are called to do it because of passion, bad experiences in public school, dreams, desires, or a myriad of reasons. There has to be a comparison to comments about how not everyone can compensate enough (sacrifices) to do it. There are many aspects of our lives where we do may not measure up to “the Joneses,” but do we call them privileged? Or is it a matter of life circumstances and experiences combined in such a way with perhaps passion, frugality, ingenuity – what have you – that adds up to ability to homeschool? I don’t even give a second thought to comments about whether just anyone is qualified or not – that stuff is obviously based in (no offense) a lack of experience and knowledge about homeschooling, as all homeschooling parents here know that you don’t need higher education or specializatino to teach or make choices for your kids. I’ll take ANYONE to taks on that – and I have a terminal degree – but I think anyone out of high school can do it and do it exceptionally well. Hands down! But, what I do think is important to note is the perception of privileged. Single income families who homeschool often take huge but calculated risks (financial, primarily) to make it work. I don’t know that I would call that being priveleged. Brave, innovative, corageous – yes. When you are living as close to the edge, willingly, as we do – it isn’t called privilege. It may be called a lot of things by a lot of people – especially those who do not readily comprehend why we do this and by those who assume we are irresponsible or haven’t taken the time to really think out our choices – but one thing I don’t think you can call it is privilege.
    maggie’s latest post: Debunking the Stereotypes for Child Led Learning

  4. I homeschool mainly because I realized (finally), that better learning happens at home and in the world. I have 4 children, the older two attended a good amount of public school, but also homeschooled at times too. I realized the differences while raising these 2 and now my younger two are homeschooled. There are so many things that interfere with a child being a child, and really discovering the world in an institutional setting. Learning how to think does not seem to happen after years and years of being in a classroom. I really believe that most kids that reach high school and are pulling the 4.0 have learned so well how to “perform” in the system for the praise and the majority of the other kids (which in my opinion are probably brighter, because they see the manipulation) are just screaming to get out and learn what they really want and need. I believe this is why so many kids and parents have the rosy elementary school experience, but then when the child is older, the kids realize that real learning is not about being in a classroom with an “expert” everyday, and their grades slowly drop, because they are tired of playing the school game. I saw how much brighter my kids faces were at home and how much they enjoyed learning when they were able to engage for as much time as they needed and really choose things that interested them.
    I am a Christian and I do believe that my job as a wife and mother are to be the keeper of my home and children, however I did not always realize this because our culture teaches us to be all about “me” and to get as much free time from your children as possible. Just yesterday, I had a mom friend tell me she could not wait for her 3 year old to start pre-school next fall with a look in her eye like she will be so relieved to have him out of her hair for half of the day. For a moment I thought wow! that does sound great! But really?? No. Maybe for a few hours one day, but not EVERY DAY!
    I am so grateful that I am not blinded anymore by what our culture says about education and being a wife and mother is. I can love being home doing what I was called to do. Of course, it’s not a love affair every moment, but it is pretty awesome.
    As for being frugal and simplicity, I am in love with it. God showed me by losing everything in a house fire several years ago, that freedom, peace and joy come from the simple life. My husband is very educated and now makes $188K per year plus our $8,000-12,000 we get from our dividned for our family to live in this state, (we live in Alaska and the cost of living is pretty high). I know that I want to teach my children that life is not about making money, the advanced degree you have, a fancy house or car. We eat at home mostly, cut our own fire wood to burn, raise animals, embrace thrifty shopping, raise our own veggies in the summer, and give much of our money away in service to others and to our church. My priorities were very different when our income was $45K, because I was raised in our culture of “more is better”.
    Homeschooling for us is about teaching what life is really about!! Oh, and you don’t have to have a degree to homeschool – just a love of learning, a sense of humor, and the ability to not be too rigid, but very flexible. Patience comes with learning to love what you were called to do- being the keeper of my family. It’s not always easy, but so, so rewarding!

  5. While we get by with what we have, money is a definite worry and stress for us. We are frugal and get by with very little, yet we still have a lot compared to so many people in the world. It would make life a lot easier if I put the kids in school and went to work. Yet my husband and I want to do this for our kids, so we’re committed to it, but if worse came to worse, we would do what we had to do to keep our house and a reasonable standard of living for our children.

    We had neighbors who lost their house, yet they went right on homeschooling. They moved in with relatives for a while and then the husband got a job. I guess they were confident he would get a job sooner rather than later. I think if that happened to us, my husband and I would both look for jobs, and if we had to stop homeschooling for awhile, we do so. We also try to be proactive by saving what little we can and by not spending thoughtlessly.

    While I believe homeschooling is not just for the privileged, and I have heard of families of little means and even single parents homeschooling, I do think it’s out-of-reach for many, many people. I do not see the young, single mothers who are in my college professor husband’s classes homeschooling. He talks to many young people who are just trying to get their lives together. They may have other family members to support too. I read an article in my local newspaper how a high percentage of kids in the local school qualify for free lunches (a big indicator that those kids are living in poverty). How much time can those parents think about their kid’s education when they are worried about putting food on the table?

    While you don’t need a lot of money to homeschool, homeschoolers will come from a group who are privileged enough to worry about education.
    shelli : mamaofletters’s latest post: Just for Fun: The Five-year-old’s Hot Picks

  6. PS Perhaps I should also add that homeschoolers need to have maturity, self-reliance, and a love of learning as well.
    shelli : mamaofletters’s latest post: Just for Fun: The Five-year-old’s Hot Picks

  7. I don’t believe it is the priviliged who often homeschool, I truly believe it is those who are willing to make the sacrifice of money and time and effort t make it happen. It does not and will not work for everyone. I believe in it 100%, for me and my children. We are a single income household, in no way well off, and I personally find the public library and the internet a HUGE help for lowering costs.I am so grateful for it, or we might not be able to homeschool. There are many free and low cost intenet sites with fun and wonderful learning games, ideas and worksheets. I also love swap.com and other sites like it where you can trade and get books and other supplies. Homeschooling is a gift and a pleasure and any who choose the lifestyle, absolutely are one of the priviliged.

  8. I LOVE that you call homeschooling a lifestyle and not just an educational option.

  9. We don’t homeschool but I don’t like the public schhol system here (NYC), too liberal for me. We make our sacrifice by sending the children to an excellent local Catholic school. Is that an option in other parts of the country or just here in the metro areas?

    • We have good private school options here in the midwest, but they are much more expensive than homeschooling. Plus we have found that we do like our homeschooling lifestyle. While we watch our private school friends rush from event to event our pace is completely different. I am not saying it is better, just different and a better fit for our family.

  10. Jessica M. says:

    Homeschooling, like so many other things, is about what is important to you. If you are convinced – deep down convinced – that homeschooling is the best lifestyle and educational path for your family, then you will be willing to make sacrifices to accommodate that conviction. I am a young wife and mom to 4 little children, ages 5, 4, almost 3 and 15 months. We are on a single income; my husband works hard to provide for us. Although we feel blessed, statistically, we are within the lowest financial bracket in the US. We own only one vehicle. We started formal homeschooling with our oldest last fall (he’s doing great!). In order to make homeschooling work, there are sacrifices of finances, time, energy and emotions that we make on a daily basis. But these “sacrifices” are made willingly because we recognize that we are working toward an ultimate goal…that of raising well-educated, secure, confident adults who are prepared for what life will throw at them, will follow their own dreams and convictions and will bless those around them.

    All that said, I will echo what many people have already stated in the comments: I don’t believe homeschooling is for everyone. But, if you believe that homeschooling is the best route for your family, then there IS a way that you can make it happen!

  11. I was homeschooled, and my mother made it work while running a home daycare to pay the bills. Later, my parents divorced while she still had three kids at home to school, and she managed to do it as a single parent living in some nasty poverty while she found her feet again. My siblings and I all received excellent home educations, and I love my mother for making it work. Now I homeschool my two children, and I work full-time at the same time. We could live on my husband’s salary, but I have a job that I love doing, and I wasn’t willing to give it up for homeschooling. It’s flexible, though, so I get to do it all (which is exhausting but still rewarding). Homeschooling can be part of a family lifestyle in many different ways. Kids can go to work with you, or work in the family business, or you can trade days with another homeschooler, or you can work from home while you homeschool.

  12. I don’t think homeschooling is for just the privileged. I think that what many of us perceive as needs are in fact wants, and by putting them aside and making the sacrifice, we can make homeschooling work. I left a successful research career and cut our income in half to homeschool our children. We have never had to worry about our budget until I started to homeschool, but I think the sacrifice is worth it for us. There may be seasons in our life where we sacrifice our desire to homeschool to meet other needs (Needs, not wants) but this still does not put homeschooling in the realm of only the privileged.
    MIchelle’s latest post: Vegan Tapioca Pudding

  13. My husband and I were both public school kids and we are both college graduates. And we had VERY different experiences.

    I was a basketball player or a”jock” and school wasn’t all that easy for me. I was sexually harassed on the bus by a couple of guys and as a freshman in high school buy a teacher. Obviously, these aren’t good memories but they’re also not everyone’s experiences. I didn’t let that get me down but I also couldn’t handle it emotionally as most girls my age probably can’t. Anyways, I struggled with the math and sciences and somewhat excelled in History and Literature (writing as well). My husband was a Honors kid and excelled and all subjects, especially Math. He graduated with Honors from a local University. I graduated as just a regular person who struggled.

    We have 2 girls (20 months and 4 months) and have been talking about how to school our girls. We can’t afford private school and we’re not convinced that’s any better than public (by way of education) and we aren’t sure public school is a right fit for us either. We have already gotten some negative feedback from our families and friends. There are definitely negative feelings toward homeschooling but I think it’s really from people who don’t know what it’s like these days. It doesn’t have to be sitting at a table at home anymore and there are SO many opportunities for outside activities with homeschools and other parents and their kids.

    I also want our girls to be VERY independent. We are already working on that with them. I don’t play constantly with my toddler and I never have. I have my life to live and it doesn’t revolve around her or making her happy. B/c we were public school kids we didn’t learn how to do laundry, iron, cook, vacuum or run a house. Nor did we know anything about a family budget. Could we have learned this after school? Of course, but there was always mounds of homework, then dinner then before we knew it it was time for bed. I think all these things are JUST as important as learning about how to properly write sentences and work equations. After all, we didn’t live with our mommy and daddy forever and needed to know how to cook for ourselves, wash our own clothes and budget our money. We have struggled with that a little since being married. I want our girls to learn about these important everyday tasks.

    Also, I am a visual learner and an active learner and sitting at a desk 7 hours a day didn’t do it for me. I didn’t understand everything and I don’t even use a quarter of the stuff I learned. I feel like if we homeschool we can’t concentrate on what interests the girls and stay on a subject that is tough for them. We don’t have to get through a certain amount of material by the end of the year b/c a test is coming up. We can go at our own pace and do our own thing. We can also have a lot of outings that integrate into what we are learning that week. And we can use vacation time as learning time too.

    Is homeschooling for everyone? I don’t think so. I don’t think it’s because we aren’t qualified or whatever. It just isn’t a fit for some people. And that’s okay! For us, we feel God calling us to homeschool our girls. Neither one of us is “qualified” b/c we don’t know how to teach the material, it’s all new and all learning experiences to us. But God doesn’t call the qualify, He qualifies the called. I know He’ll equip us during this process, He already is.

    For us, our girls will be involved in other areas. We will do a sports activity, art classes (outside of the home), trips, etc. We want to get involved with other homeschool families as well.

    We don’t want all or hard work on instilling our values in our girls to be thrown out the window on day 1 of public school either. This may be extreme but it could happen. I don’t want to shelter them but I do want them to have great experiences with learning. I love to learn now. I wish I had that same attitude in school. I may have been a different student if I loved it. But sitting in a classroom didn’t do it for me. And I don’t want that for my girls.

    I think as parents we know our own limitations, how our kids test us and after all that what’s best for our kids. Homeschool is right for some while it’s not right for all. And that’s OKAY!

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