“Mommy, teach me.” “Mommy, let’s play school.” “Daddy, look what I did today.” Your preschooler loves to learn and you love watching her learn. You read reports that the public schools aren’t doing a good job and you wonder, “Could I do better? Can I teach her what she needs to know? Can we get financial help if we home school so I can stay home to teach her?”
The government will not supply you with a paycheck if you decide to home school, even if you are a certified teacher. The government hopes you will send your child to a public school or pay for a private school if you opt out of public school. Iowa, Minnesota, Arizona, Louisiana and Illinois offer tax credits to home school families, which isn't a paycheck, but may reduce your expenses. If you have a special skill or training, you might receive payment from other home school families to teach their children in areas where the family feels deficient, such as music, early foreign language skills or structured physical education. Alternatively, you might teach in a home school cooperative where you don’t receive a paycheck, but your child benefits from the knowledge of other teachers.
“What if I can’t afford to stay home?” you ask. The Home School Foundation has limited resource to help families with serious financial needs, such as becoming a single parent when a spouse dies or falling victim to a natural disaster. The fund also helps families on a limited basis if they have a special needs child. You might also check with your local home school support group. Sometimes they supply scholarships for field trips, special events and may also help out in extreme circumstances. All of these are short-term, so if you need financial assistance on an ongoing basis, you might find options to serve your local home school group in ways that benefit your pocketbook or take a work-from-home job so you can work and school your child.
“Curriculum can be expensive,” you say, and you’re correct -- sort of. Many parents don’t need a curriculum for preschool or pre-kindergarten. You can access online resources to tell you what skills your child needs to learn or purchase inexpensive preschool workbooks. Home school families often sell, trade or give away curriculum they don’t need any more, so you might be able to swap or sell curriculum you don't need for stuff you do need. Used bookstores often carry deeply discounted textbooks and workbooks and your local school might provide materials on a limited basis. Organizations such as PaperbackSwap.com, homeschoolbuyersco-op.org and curriculumshare.com offer free curriculum if you can’t find it locally.
The real pay as a home school parent comes from watching your child learn and grow. You can move as fast or as slow as she needs, reteach lessons or find different ways to teach them. Your child loves to learn now, and feeding her hunger for knowledge and her curiosity makes her a willing participant. You can respond to, “Mommy, what does it mean to…” or “Why do we…” questions when she wants to learn or you can say, “I don’t know. Let’s learn together.”
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