Millions of children return to school this week, but a small and growing number – about 2 million – will stay put: home schoolers. The number of pupils taught outside of traditional schools is growing at 5-12 percent per year, according to the National Home Education Research Institute, a non-profit devoted to home schooling research. I asked lifelong home schooler and BargainBabe.com blogger Bobbi Burger Brunoehler about the growing world of home education.
How long have you home schooled your son and daughter? I’ve home schooled them most of their lives. My son is now 18, my daughter is 16.
Why do you home school? Because I want my kids to be able to think for themselves and I want them to love learning and I want them to know how to learn anything because the world changes and you have to know how to learn.
How do you afford to home school when it means your family is living on one income? You almost have to think about what I’m not spending. The fancy clothes I don’t have to have. I don’t have to pay for babysitting when I work and they are out of school. I don’t have to pay for after school programs.
How much do you save home schooling? I think by home schooling I’ve saved more money than I possibly could have made. I think I’ve probably saved $60,000 a year, but it’s hard to substantiate without sitting down and doing the calculations.
When students are not interested in learning, how do you motivate them? If they were interested in the subject and now they are not, you go back and find when they were they last doing well. You find what they didn’t understand, some word or symbol. When there’s a subject that I’ve got to get them interested in, I will get them to follow me into some sort of activity. If a student wasn’t interested in math, I’d say, ‘Here’s $10. We’re going to Toys R Us. What are you going to buy with that $10?’ Get ready to spend four hours in Toys R Us while they look at the prices of everything because now math is important. There has to be a purpose. You can’t just talk about it. ‘Well when you’re older how will you do your taxes?’
How do you create study space at home? I imagine there are a lot of distractions. When the kids were really, really little we would read tons of books in bed. We did a lot of stuff on the couch. It was where anybody was comfortable. We did so many field trips. Whenever it was possible we would go to see the thing, touch the thing, do the thing, as opposed to reading about the thing. Then if they were like, ‘Wow, that was really interesting, I want to know more about it,’ then we’ll go get the book about it.
How do you organize your “schoolroom,” including supplies? We have tons of bookshelves. I also have a really awesome craft closet. Most of my materials have come from yard sales or in the home school community there are curriculum swaps and curriculum sales. You can get curriculum very cheap on Amazon and eBay.
How do you save money on educating them? I got a sewing machine from Freecycle. I’ve bought several computers off Craigslist. Another thing that is wonderful is community colleges. You have so many wonderful resources there.
Clearly there’s something I don’t know about community college. What could it offer a young student? You can go concurrently if you are a full-time high school student. My kids have taken script writing, editing, illustration, Photoshop, photography, and other advanced editing classes. You can graduate with an associates degree at the same time as you earn a high school diploma.
What if anything, do you think your kids are educationally deficient in? Deficient? The only way to answer that is to tell you what I think is important. There are a bazillion facts they haven’t learned. What is important is reading, writing, arithmetic and research because then you can find out anything you want. You’re never going to be able to learn everything and smash it into your head. You have to be able to think logically and know how to find out about things.
Anything else you want to add? You have to keep them winning. You can’t keep having learning be painful so they’re not doing well. ‘You’re behind. You got this wrong.’ You have to focus on what they’re interested in and what they do well. Find what they do well and help them do it better.