I am having a tough time today. I’ve been looking through the agenda for the FPEA Homeschool Convention. I’ve been looking at all the wonderful workshops that are being offered… all the great vendors that will be there… and all the opportunities to connect with other homeschoolers. I am longing to be able to go. But the reality is, that though the convention is only about an hour away, I can’t even afford the gas to get to it… let alone the admission fee. Most days, I am okay with our tight budget. I am okay with the fact once the bills are paid for the month, there is really nothing left (I am not exaggerating… different people mean different things when they say “I don’t have any money”… but in all honesty… the bills wipe out our bank account each month). I don’t mind… we are well cared for. We eat well, we have a roof over our heads, the kids have more toys and clothes than they know what to do with, we have plenty of friends who will babysit when needed, we are healthy, we have two cars that mostly work… I could go on. We are “poor” by American standards, but compared to the rest of the world, we are doing more than alright.
But… days like today, I struggle. We’ve chosen to homeschool our kids. We cannot afford a private Christian school. After teaching in the public school system and watching the trends that are trickling down in our public school system, I know that, for now, we do not want our children there… but that’s another blog post for another time.
Homeschooling costs money too. I went to the Southeast Homeschool Expo last year. I was so overwhelmed with all the goodies that were available for purchase to enhance my homeschooling. I was like a kid in a candy shop (with no money to buy candy). It was bittersweet. Today, looking at the FPEA brochure, I was sad and mad and frustrated and feeling very inadequate. I began to think of how my kids must be missing out on some great experience because we cannot afford great curriculums or shop around and piece together some ultimate homeschool package. We cannot afford to join homeschool co-ops (oh, but some are only like $25 for membership… well.. when you don’t have a spare $25… it’s just the same as if it was $250). I feel like my children are being cheated. Big Brother is gifted with intelligence. He is six and reading on a 4th- 5th grade reading level. His comprehension skills are amazing. His problem solving skills are stellar and he is not lacking in the area of math either (and Little Sis isn’t far behind). I feel inadequate to teach him because I cannot buy books and materials to keep up with him. One curriculum review that I read from a company that is rather expensive (I won’t name names) said in response to the cost of their curriculum that you should invest your money in good quality and that’s what you get with that company… that sure it’s expensive, but it’s worth spending the money… well that’s all well and good… but we just can’t. Of course I want to invest in good quality. I want the best for my kids! I feel guilty if I spend the money and guilty if I don’t.
Now… I have vented and had myself a little pity party. I know. People have taught their children for ages and ages without the aid of curriculums and manipulatives and materials. Missionaries and friends in other countries do a great job teaching without all the bells and whistles we have here. Libraries have great resources…. the internet has great resources… there is more to teaching than what the vendors at those conventions have to offer. It’s just frustrating to hear about all the wonderful things that people are using in their homes and know that it is just out of my reach. I suppose that this will challenge me to think more creatively and use what we have in our home more effectively.
When I started teaching after college, the furniture and materials for my classroom had not been ordered. I made my kitchen center out of cardboard boxes. I begged, borrowed and dumpster dived to gather the materials I needed. I don’t think my students suffered in the least. What’s that old pioneer saying “Use it up, wear it out… make it work or do without” (something like that anyway). I need to stop longing for what I don’t have and be a little more thankful for what I do have. I also need to have a long term perspective. Our time in seminary is ending… the hubs is graduating this Friday. A new chapter in our lives will begin… I don’t know what our budget will look like next year or the next. This time in our lives has been great in terms of learning what is a necessity and what is not. Truth be told… I bought a nice preschool curriculum a couple of years ago before we started seminary. It was one of those full package things with everything you need… I used about 1/3 of it over the year and ended up selling it on ebay later. Hopefully, if our budget one day allows some freedom in buying homeschool materials, I’ll be a little more discerning.