Thursday, August 12, 2010

Can you afford NOT to home school?

By Larry Arnold with the Texas Home School Coalition and reprinted from the Home Educators Association of Virginia newsletter. One person's suggestion of how much is saved while home schooling....

How much is a homeschool mom worth? Granted, we men could never pay somebody to do what our wives do. They are tutors, home-keepers, child-taxi drivers, tear-wipers, and friends. They also put up with us, and the fact that they do it all because they love their families makes them priceless. Suppose our business sides wanted to calculate their value in real dollars? How much is your homeschooling wife worth? Would you believe over $40,000 a year?

Such a hard-dollar calculation can be derived from three sources: how much is saved because she is a full-time homekeeper, how much would be spent if she worked outside the home, and how much her husband’s ability to earn is increased because of her. We will consider each of these three areas separately.

How much is saved?
Eighteen years ago, we were led to sell our small house in the city so we could move to the country. Instead of using a real estate agent, my wife Maureen took it upon herself to sell the house. She had already found a buyer, so the hardest part of the job was done. A friend in real estate helped her with the paperwork, and a title company kept things legal. We used the extra money we saved to purchase some land in the country on which we later built.

The wonderful thing about doing something like this is that it amounts to tax-free income. A person does not even have to pay Social Security tax on it. This is true every time money is saved. Eating at home instead of at a restaurant means saving more than just the cost of the meal. It is like getting extra, tax-free income. What is true for preparing a meal is also true for laundry, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, etc.

The amount of money a stay-at-home mom saves is easily $1,000 a year for such day-to-day things. Add to that the extraordinary savings of large ticket items such as selling a house, decorating a house, or sewing clothing, and it is easy to accumulate $2,000 to $4,000 a year in savings. Because these are after-tax dollars, the family income would have to increase by $2,500 to $6,000 dollars a year to offset the loss of savings if the mother left home to work. But wait, there is more.

How much would be spent?
Before we discovered homeschooling, we were paying $600 a month for our two sons to attend a private Christian school. This was a long time ago; today tuition is even higher. Add the cost of books; uniforms; and the abundant, miscellaneous, extra fees, and it is not unreasonable to say that it costs $500 a month to provide a private school education for one child. Paying for such an education would demand a before-tax income hike of $7,500. Multiply that by 3.5 (the average number of children in homeschool families), and the bill jumps to a whopping $26,250. (Sorry, but I will not even discuss the possibility of sending children to a government-run school—a culture that is hostile to God’s ways and teaches things contrary to His truth.)

Combining the numbers, a homeschooling mom can save the family $29,750-$32,250 a year if she has 3.5 children. (Pity the .5 child!) Go ahead and use your calculator. How much is your wife saving your family?

Now we will consider how much it would cost the family to put Mom into the ranks of the employed. Begin with the cost of buying extra clothes and cleaning them. Add commuting and insurance costs. Total the extra meals that will be eaten out and convenience items that will be purchased. Set aside a big chunk of the budget for daycare that can easily come to $10,000 a year. Even in light of tax benefits, the cost of adding a wage earner is easily in the $2,000 to $15,000 a year range. This means that the before-tax family income would have to increase $2,500 to $20,000. Do not use my numbers; figure for your family what it would cost for your wife to enter the work force.

How much is husband’s ability to earn increased?
We have now arrived at our third area of consideration—the effect a stay-at-home wife has on her husband’s ability to earn money. I have always been certain that my wife positively impacted my ability to earn more money. I have had customers who looked forward to meeting with me because they knew I would bring my wife’s homemade goodies. The office also enjoyed the special treats she would prepare from time to time. Her contributions enabled me to win the hearts of customers and fellow workers. She also relieved me of many tasks and details so I could concentrate on my job and be more effective. I knew this, but I wondered if anyone had ever done a study to prove this was true for others and if anyone ever measured it in dollars.

Lo and behold, there was in Business Week (9-17-2001) an article entitled “Why Married Men Earn More.” Note that this article comes from a magazine that strongly favors women working outside the home and creating a gender-diverse workplace. Yet this publication summarized research that showed that married men earned, on the average, 12.4% more than unmarried men. A married man whose wife worked outside the home earned only 3.4% more, but a man who had a full-time, stay-at-home wife earned a whopping 31% more. They claimed, “Researchers find no evidence that the marriage premium reflects better economic prospects of men who tend to get hitched. Rather, it appears related to the state of being married—and specifically to the likelihood that wives shoulder household tasks.” They even proceeded to show that “the wage gap declines as wives put in more hours working outside the home.”

We will look at this in real numbers. Suppose you as a homeschool father earn $65,000 a year. Statistically, on average, your wife has enabled you to earn $20,000 more than a single man and $18,000 more than a man whose wife works full-time outside the home. If you are a homeschool father earning $32,500 a year, your stay-at-home wife can take credit for $9,000 to $10,000 of that. If you are a homeschool father earning $130,000 a year, your stay-at-home wife could claim $36,000 to $40,000. Do the math for your own family.

It is time to combine the numbers. Add together what your wife saves your family, how much extra it would cost for her to go to work, and the “marriage premium” gained by having a stay-at-home wife. I think you will discover that your homeschool wife is worth a lot more than $40,000 a year. The number could easily be twice that. Now think of the tremendous loss in the quality of life, the added frustration and agony, the cost of losing the hearts of your children to their peers, and the time pressure that would be put on both of you if she worked outside the home. The most carnal of measurements—cold, hard cash—debunks the myth that two wage earners provide a higher standard of living than one. Add in the spiritual reward of pursuing God’s purposes and plans for your family, and it becomes starkly evident that believing the myth is folly.

Each of you men, take your wife out to dinner. Tell her how much you appreciate her. Be grateful that she comes as a gift from God—you could not possibly afford her otherwise.

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