National Catholic Register

Culture of Life

Home School Is No Free Lunch

Family Matters

BY Tom & Caroline McDonald

February 1-7, 2009 Issue | Posted 1/23/09 at 3:07 PM


My husband was thrilled when I told him I wanted to home school because tuition for private school was straining our finances. Now he balks at every purchase I need to make. How can I get him to understand that home schooling isn’t free?

Tom: Even a husband who may be skeptical of the home-schooling venture is intrigued by the prospect of saving loads of cash in tuition payments. If tuition is thousands of dollars, for instance, he may make the mistake of thinking that will be the exact amount saved. Then, when real expenses come up, he may get irritated by the spending.

This really isn’t a question of money, however (that’s Phil Lenahan’s area!). It is a question of understanding, appreciating and being fully supportive of the commitment his wife is making in her willingness to educate the children at home.

Speaking from experience, I can assure your husband that his support on every level is critical to the success you hope to have as a home-schooling mom. It is a huge undertaking and very difficult to do without his help. That help comes in many forms: prayer support, words of encouragement, discipline, maybe even lending a hand in the teaching of the children in the areas of his expertise. Along with all that, of course, is the need for financial support.

Caroline: Some very practical suggestions: We recommend that you sit down with your husband long before your new school year begins to show him the curricula you hope to use as well as a list of all the supplies you’ll need. Do your research ahead of time so you can list the items you have to buy new, those you can find used and those you can borrow (such as books from the library or from other home-schoolers). Also include an estimate of fees for extracurricular activities like sports, dance and music lessons. Do your part in selecting items you’re sure you will really use. You may also be able to ease some of the burden by reselling some of your books when your child has completed them.

What works for us is that I spend the first part of the summer researching different programs I want to use for the next school year, then compile a master list. I have a primary category for “must haves” and a second category of “dream items” — things I don’t need but would really like to have on hand. Then I hand the list over to our principal — Tom — and he scours the Internet looking for the best deals. He has ordered all our materials for us since we began home-schooling six years ago.

By using this approach, your husband won’t feel blindsided by the expenses and can better incorporate them into the family budget.

Tom: The more you can involve your husband in what you are doing with the children at home, the more he will understand and appreciate how challenging (and rewarding) the home-school undertaking is. Rest assured: You still ought to save a significant amount of money in the long run. As with anything else in marriage, a shared understanding and commitment is key to success.

The McDonalds are family-life coordinators for the Archdiocese

of Mobile, Alabama.