Purse strings

I’ve been spending a lot more lately. Well we’ve moved to a new area where there is more to do, HE group-organised or for the general public – but they all cost money! We actually have to cut down the number of things we do – both to save up a little, and to keep our sanity and be able to get some “school” done at home.

Okay so we can easily EASILY make it so that each and every day of the week we’d be out doing something. Easily. I remember there was one week recently where we were out 5 days out of 7 to do activities. Well we learnt a lesson there. It tires us out. Big time. And by the time we have some time at home, the kids are too knackered or distracted to want to do anything academic. But me and my husband want to make sure English, Maths, and any other academic interests (dictated by the kids) – all done in a format which is agreeable to my kids and amenable to change and to their suggestions – are part of our home education. So we need to find a balance there somewhere. I’d say going out for activities 3 days in a whole week is the magic number for us. I’m sure every family has their own magic number for this. But for us, it’s 3. A lot of times, we do end up going out 4 days in a whole week though!

I realised through all this that my kids are really game for a lot of things physical. They love sports, skating, playing instruments (you’d be surprised how that actually also does fit into the scope of “physical” activity), running, cycling, gym, dance, swimming, etc. There is just not much they wouldn’t like in preference to book-learning.  Of course it is also the case that now that my little ones are older and not babies and are ready to try out a lot of new things, I find that we can really try a lot of stuff. And they love it. In the past, it was mainly down to my eldest to dictate what we tried, and she just wasn’t really game for a lot of stuff. Now she is, but I suspect this is because her siblings are joining in, and what a difference that makes.

Okay so I realise it’s not so bad financially speaking. Most of these activities stop during school holidays, so I only really have to be so busy and spend money on them 9 months of the year. But I think it’s a good thing for kids to try a myriad of different activities. Who knows what they might discover that they actually like or can do pretty well? It all adds to confidence boosting and fun.

But yes… it’s true what they say. Home education is only as expensive or as cheap as you make it. For us right now, home educating isn’t cheap. Indeed the more we do out of the home, the more money we spend. I’ve had to become really good at budgeting, and it’s like almost a bugbear now for me to be checking my bank balances every other day.

I have also found some ways to save some money on these activities :

  • Looking for activities/clubs close to home or within walking distance. That saves on transport costs.
  • Looking for sports or recreational clubs that have junior sections that allow school-aged children to join. They can be cheaper to participate in than say, a privately set-up sports/dance school for instance.
  • Looking for places that do discounts for siblings of a child who is a member of the activity/club.
  • Looking for free of charge or heavily-subsidised activities set up by national and local charities and organisations to promote learning for children.
  • Buy a bike for everyone in the family and cycle. Probably easier done if living in a cycle-friendly place though.
  • Buy used club uniform if possible (if children belong to a club that has uniform).
  • Go for pay-as-you-go activities if possible. There are a few round here that do that. That way we can just skip particular sessions if I think we should save the money on certain weeks. Also I won’t lose out if we make spur of the moment travel plans (which quite often happens) and have to miss sessions.
  • Always shop around. Some clubs/activities are really much higher-priced than other similar types of activities in the area. Dance/drama schools and martial arts schools are some of the examples I’ve seen where prices can vary pretty wildly between schools. Not giving up after approaching one and being disappointed by the pricing, and trying another one. There are always cheaper alternatives in a big town, even in not-so-big towns too. But yes you’re damned if you live in a village type place. You just have to pretty much take whatever’s there, or be prepared to spend a fair bit on petrol to drive to places that offer a larger variety of classes and clubs.
  • Watch children if possible when they’re in the clubs/activities – will always get a much better picture of whether the money paid is worth it.  If any of my children look bored, unhappy or even just daydreaming or fidgeting a fair bit (because I know when they really are engrossed in something, they hardly daydream or fidget), I’d start considering whether it’s time to end those sessions. No point putting good money down the toilet. If it’s not fun enough for them, I’d consider ditching it, seriously. I’d always tell them not to hesitate to let me know if they want to quit something. I’ll always take their considerations seriously. There really is no point forcing a child to go through the motions.

Good thing is that my children have tried so many things, so they have had lots of experimentation and experiences. The more they try, the less hesitant they are of trying new things too. I’d say my children seem to be blossoming more these days. I really don’t know how we managed to live in the sticks for 6 months last year with nothing like the variety of activities we get over where we live now. Well if they have tried almost everything on offer here, I guess we could always go back to living in the sticks again. It’s not like it was bad! It’s just not ideal for our kind of home education really. Although we did save quite a fair bit of money by living in the sticks and not having so many activities to go to, I don’t know. My children certainly say they don’t want to go back to the sticks again. Not for some time anyway. I totally understand.

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