This continues the series that started with No. 11: Why?

Money, Money, Money.

Here are the things you’ll hear:

  • I could never afford to homeschool.
  • How can you possibly afford to stay home?
  • How can you live on one income in Portland?
  • Doesn’t it bother you that you went to graduate school and you’re wasting it?

Answers:

  1. No, you can’t, especially if you go into it thinking that. (Real answer: “Yes, it’s a balancing act.”)
  2. See No. 1.  (Real answer, “Yes, it’s a balancing act.”)
  3. Very carefully. Among other things, we own our cars outright (and don’t have to put gas in one of them), we don’t eat a lot of red meat, we live in a place I hate, we make sure all our medications are generic, and we have our cell phone bill down to $50-60/month (yes, for three phones). Also, I am a wizard at buying things on crazy clearance.
  4. Fuck you and yes.

I’m writing this a couple of days after my husband’s contract job ended (I picked the wrong month to cut down on Xanax). To add insult to injury, I woke up to an email from friends-of-friends who wanted to let us know they’d listed their house for sale, as if we could consider buying 1) in this market or 2) at all, ever. Bless their hearts. Right now, getting the car washed is a luxury.

The good news about panic attacks is that I have generic drugs for them.

More seriously, the thing about money and homeschooling is that no one–homeschooler or not–thinks their family has enough money. There was a great NPR series on it: even people in the 1% look around and think they’re struggling. (Bless their hearts, too.) And so if you don’t think you can afford it, you’re in good company. None of us do.

Taking the second income away, you have some slight benefits: there is a parent available for emergencies and illnesses and appointments–things that would ordinarily require a lot of juggling with two jobs, especially the sort we had. You’ll get knocked down into a lower tax bracket. You will not be paying for before or after school care.

As for extracurriculars: you’ll choose those as carefully as you would if you were working. (You have more flexibility for times that are bad for working parents, though.) You learn about your local parks and recreation department. You learn about free concerts. You weigh mandatory vs. optional. (Mandatory for us: swimming, self-defense, music.) We just wrapped up two years of swimming, which was one of the more expensive things; during that time, I let piano slide for a year and have to get her back into it. There were a bunch of programs through parks and rec: art, gymnastics, gym, archery etc. At pH’s piano level I could teach her myself–but didn’t want to– though I’m considering it to finance fencing and aikido and maybe more archery.

And so it goes.

But no: there is not a lot of wiggle room. Do I wish I were working? Yes. Could I do another thing now without losing my shit? No. Does my husband believe I should be working? No. Does that matter? Yes. I feel guilty enough for all of us. (When I reach that place, he will often laugh, sigh, and ask when I have time. If nothing else, he’s aware I’m the one who kept things together the last few years when the bottom fell out.)

So, money. Can I afford to homeschool? No. Can I afford not to homeschool? No.

There you have it. Clear as mud.  Just remember, “It’s a balancing act,” plaster on a fake smile, and remind yourself to sweetly say, “Oh, bless your heart” when someone just won’t shut up about their upper-middle-class first world problems.