Thinking of home schooling? Me, too.

By Allison Barrett Carter

While the rest of the parenting world thinks ahead to summer camps and languid months of their children lounging on their sofa all day, my thoughts are consumed with the month following that: September. My desk has stacks of paper with applications and printouts. It’s the season of charter school lotteries, open houses and registration forms. My anxiety level rises as I desperately look for a perfect answer for my children’s education. Then I unearth an old email about home schooling.

I do feel fortunate to have so many educational opportunities available to my children; it is certainly a privilege to have options. But somewhere between the local public school and its poor performance report, the open choice options, the four private schools we can’t afford, and the six charter schools that are an option only if we win the lottery (literally), my husband and I are lost. What is the best fit for our family?

I grew up the product of public school, as did my husband, and we did just fine. Before we had kids we never imagined we would look for alternatives to the public school down the street.

But things have changed in six years and we, like most American parents, have been bludgeoned with news that the U.S. public school system is failing.

Articles about how public school systems are especially ill-suited for boys are huge. Books about the superior education systems of other countries are bestsellers. One of the most-watched TED Talks, with more than 9 million views, is of Ken Robinson declaring that schools “kill” creativity.

Robinson says: “Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we strip-mine the earth: for a particular commodity. And for the future, it won’t serve us. We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children.”

Thus, my husband and I struggle. We want to be part of America’s education solution, but not at the cost of our children’s futures.

So when an email from my friend Gina, who home-schools her three children, hit my inbox, I was intrigued.

“There is a misconception of how much time it takes to educate your children at home,” she writes. “I enjoy that we can really focus on each child’s interest. Each of my children has a separate curriculum that highlights areas where they excel as well as areas where they need more focus. Then, we have certain activities that they always do together.”

Home schooling takes the old axiom “the best teacher is no substitute for what you do at home” and boldly cuts out the middle man. Perhaps it is the solution for our family?

After reading Gina’s email, I became aware that more parents in my social circle are taking this route. I have been privy to numerous playground talks about Classical Conversations — a Christian-based home schooling support network — and my Facebook feed shows many friends teaching at home.

So I did some research. I learned that I live in a state where more children are home-schooled than enrolled in private school.

The New York Times has reported that home schooling is on the rise across the nation, regardless of race or religion. In the 2011-2012 school year, according to the Times’ reporting, nearly 1.8 million children were home-schooled in the United States, compared with 1.5 million five years earlier.

These statistics surprised me, but I guess they shouldn’t. The Internet has opened many alternative educational opportunities; it was only a matter of time before individualized at-home learning reaped the benefits. America is a nation of “do-it-yourselfers” full of grit and determination, so why should we not DIY what matters most: our children’s education.

The Internet offers a potential home schooling parent free step-by-step how-to’s, lesson plans, books, activities, proposed daily schedules, and active communities for support and connection. In my immediate area, I have found multiple Facebook groups of home schooling parents who meet regularly for lessons and field trips.

Add to this the popular lifestyle blogs, such as the Handmade Home, that dedicate entire series to their home schooling tips, and I can’t help but romanticize the idea. It seems like a simpler, slower way of life. No more school buses, 6 p.m. homework battles or packing lunchboxes at 7 a.m. I can change my office into a classroom and our home will ooze family time and learning.

With the help of the Internet, home schooling has become normalized. In fact, with all my clicking and reading, I find myself excited about it.

I am an educated woman with a degree from a top public university; why wouldn’t I be able to teach my own children elementary school topics? After all, the media keeps telling me that many teachers may not be qualified. Maybe I am? With the Internet as my partner, I feel strong.

Home schooling isn’t right for everyone. It is a commitment and it requires an intense dedication from the entire family. My husband and I are aware that a making a decision to become our children’s primary educators is a big one. And like all things in education, there are pitfalls to the decision.

But as families like mine tire of waiting for our country to fix public education, as the Internet puts resources at our fingertips, as it becomes normalized and even romanticized, home schooling is a serious contender for our educational choice this fall. I might just decide to not worry about my lottery chances and DIY it.

Allison Barrett Carter is a freelance writer in North Carolina. She blogs at allisonbarrettcarter.com.

 

How to be a better money role model for your child

By Kimberly Palmer

As a mom who writes about money for a living, I figured my 6-year-old daughter would learn a lot about personal finances from overhearing me talk about my work. She’s listened to me give radio interviews espousing the benefits of budgeting, and heard me talk at the dinner table about the importance of frugality.

The behavior I was modeling, though, was severely undermining many of those lessons. She noticed that when we went out for dinner, it was almost always her dad who picked up the bill at the end of the meal. (In fact, I often left my wallet at home, knowing he had his.) When she heard her father and me talking about bills and saving for college, she probably could tell that while I was handling many of the monthly bills, her dad was managing many of the longer term savings accounts. Until recently, I am embarrassed to admit, I didn’t even know some of the passwords.

As I researched my new book, “Smart Mom, Rich Mom: How to Build Wealth While Raising a Family,” I realized that I was probably passing on harmful lessons to her and that the situation needed to change immediately. The dozens of smart moms I interviewed taught me how essential it is not only that I take more control over our family finances, but also that I demonstrate that behavior to my daughter, so she can learn from it.

A 2014 survey of parents, kids and money by T. Rowe Price found that boys are more likely than girls to say their parents talk to them about setting financial goals (58 percent versus 50 percent). The survey also found that boys are more likely to consider themselves smart about money and to say that their parents are saving for their future college tuition.

[Are we holding our own daughters back? 5 ways to help our girls become leaders.]

Those gender differences are pretty disturbing, and I can’t help but wonder if they are related to the fact that surveys repeatedly show that as young adults, women tend to save less, invest less and earn less than their male peers. One 2014 Wells Fargo survey found that women in their 20s feel less satisfied with their money than their male peers and that the women carry more debt.

The moms I interviewed who I admire most when it comes to money were in constant communication with their children about the financial choices they were making for their families. Those useful conversations include the mistakes that they made with money; how and why they earn money and what it pays for; and how they are saving for big goals such as a family vacation or college tuition.

I started trying to incorporate these money-related discussions into our daily chats. On the way to school, when my daughter asks for a story from my childhood, I tell her how I made a budget before my parents let me get a hamster, and about my first job running a neighborhood summer camp.

I could tell she started thinking more about money, too. She often reminds us now that we shouldn’t go out to lunch because it’s too expensive. Or she offers to share her piggy bank savings with us if we ever run into hard times (I really appreciated that one). After helping me pay the water bill one morning, she brainstormed ideas for how we could reduce our water consumption. When her 3-year-old brother bemoaned the fact that I had to go to work on a day he didn’t have school, she calmly explained to him, “Mommy has to work so we can live in our house.”

Like highly trained CIA agents, our kids are studying us all the time — even when we think they’re distracted. Sometimes it’s shocking to hear them repeat our words back to us; sometimes it’s adorable. One thing is for sure: In all things, from eating to getting dressed to interacting with our partners to paying for a restaurant meal, we are their models.

Kimberly Palmer is the author of “Smart Mom, Rich Mom: How to Build Wealth While Raising a Family,” from which this piece is adapted. She lives in the Washington area with her two children.

Brain into Better Financial Behavior

 

Here’s a scary thought: We use the same part of our brains to think
about our future selves as we do to think about strangers. If our future
selves seem so far away and strange, how can we care about what
happens to them? No wonder so many of us make such poor long-term
financial decisions!
The sad fact is that 40% percent of Americans have no retirement
savings, while another 40% have less than $100,000 saved for future
needs.

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