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Monday Q&A | Provider Issues, plus Homeschooling Burnout

Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!

I’ve been trying to be more conscious about my consumption habits: spending less, bringing less into the house, borrowing or buying used whenever possible. It’s going well, but I’m having a little bit of trouble getting my husband on board. He’s not a big spender for himself, at all, but he’s the primary wage-earner, and I think he feels like he’s not providing for us if we’re borrowing things we need or going to Goodwill.

I do not think that at all, obviously. But I’m just wondering if you had any issues with Mr. FG ever feeling like your frugal habits were somehow a reflection of his not being a good provider and, if that was the case, how you guys dealt with that.


This is a great question, and it’s definitely something that’s cropped up in our house. Occasionally, my frugal habits have made Mr. FG feel the same way your husband feels (he’s always been the primary wage-earner too), so I asked him for his feedback, and here’s the Clif’s Notes version of what he said.

He says that keeping in mind my reasons for doing the frugal thing helps and it’s especially helpful to remember that I’m just trying to squeeze the most out of the money he brings home. For instance, if we save money by eating at home instead of eating out, we can afford to go on a vacation. And if I get our clothes on clearance, we can have a better wardrobe than we would otherwise.

It also helps him to think about other non-frugal motivations I have for some of my frugal activities. For instance, he might not feel like we need to shop at Goodwill to stay within our budget, but he does get the whole idea of buying used so as to avoid supporting companies that treat people poorly.

So, I’d maybe emphasize those sorts of things to your husband. Also, though your commitment to conscious consumption is great, I think it’s good to compromise sometimes. If your husband feels very strongly that you should buy a certain item instead of borrowing it or that it would be better to buy a particular something brand new instead of used, consider agreeing to that.

As long as you’re reducing your consumption, you’re making progress, you know? And important not to sabotage your relationship while you’re trying to save money.

I’m the mother of twin almost-five-year-old boys. They will be heading to kindergarten next year at our local elementary, which is the best choice for our family at this time, but I have a lot of reservations about our local middle school (and middle school in general!), think very favorably of homeschooling, and am starting now to explore the possibility of homeschooling them for middle school. My only real concern is my sanity! I know that my kids are still young and rambunctious now, and will probably grow calmer as they grow older, but the idea of spending such a concentrated amount of time educating them each day without any down time on my own seems a bit daunting.

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by homeschooling four kids? If so, how do you handle it? What do you think about parents introducing a certain element of cooperative homeschooling with other like-minded parents so as to give each other breaks and give the kids a different perspective? Am I putting the cart before the horse, and should I wait a good three or four years before I start to worry about this?


Yup, there are days when I feel really overwhelmed by what’s on my plate, and sometimes I watch the neighborhood moms send their kids off on the bus while they walk home to a quiet house and I think, “Wow. That would be pretty nice!”

But when that happens, I remind myself of all the many reasons I homeschool (that post is coming up later this week!), and I also remind myself that being the mom of traditionally-schooled children isn’t all ease and comfort either. There’s the dreaded homework monster, the school activities that take time, the fund-raising, and probably a lot of other things I haven’t thought of! Also, I would hate having to operate on a school schedule determined by someone else, and my hatred for that would probably outweigh my love of a quiet house and alone time.

If I’m feeling really overwhelmed and stressed, sometimes we do take a day off of school, or we have a light day of school (just Math, Latin, and Composition). We still finish our work by the end of the schoolyear, of course, and having a day off here and there is sometimes just what the doctor ordered.

I definitely think that homeschooling can look all sorts of different ways, and if you would prefer to do more of a part-time kind of homeschooling thing, I’d recommend looking into what tutorials are offered in your area. A lot of tutorials hold classes one or two days a week and the rest of the week is spent doing schoolwork at home. It could be the perfect in-between system for you.


Readers, do you have any advice on these two topics? Chime in!


Today’s 365 post: I don’t get the drill out very often…

Joshua’s 365 post: Go-Kart Ride!

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Tuesday 21st of February 2012

I am the mother of a public school middle schooler and I teach at a local college part-time.

I definitely think that most people dread the middle school years. I was amazed how strong of opinions people had about which elementary school our children should attend (when asked) and people often talk about which is the best high school in the area but I just don't hear much at all about middle school. Almost as if we all just hope those years will pass as quickly as possible.

As a college instructor-I've had homeschooled students who do a wonderful job in the classroom and some who were a real challenge due to lack of preparation or even in one case comments like "I didn't have to take tests, I was homeschooled". Personally, I feel like there are some great examples of homeschooling and some not so great examples. I don't do it because I don't feel like I would be one of the great ones.


Monday 20th of February 2012

I am also a current public middle school teacher (8th grade langauge arts for 10+years!), but also watched my sister homeschool her 3 children. The two oldest have since graduated from college alongside their traditionally schooled cousin. Although the concept seemed so foreign to me, my husband and I have discussed the possibility for our future children. He attended private schools, I was always was public and have also looked into charters. I believe when it comes down to it, parental involvement is key to any student's success.


Monday 20th of February 2012

I had a question about your choice to teach them Latin? Wouldn't a language they are going to encounter more in the world make more sense? Like Spanish or Chinese? I am just curious I went to regular old school and in high school had 4 years of french.What a waste. I wish I had concentrated more on Spanish. The only other language I know is an old german dialect that my great-grandmother taught me. I think the only other people who speak it might be the amish.Again useless unless I am talking with the amish.


Tuesday 21st of February 2012

I took French then Mandarin. I found French to be quick useful when I travel and for cooking. Mandarin had vast professional application. Still wish I really knew Spanish, though, instead of a few hundred words of Tourist Spanish plus whatever I can figure out based on French.


Monday 20th of February 2012

I studied Latin for quite a while in (home)school... it really helped me later when I was in college and took Spanish-- I was able to ace those classes partly because of my Latin background. Additionally, studying grammar in Latin gave me a more clear sense of English grammar and helped me draw parallels in vocabulary studies (more so than Spanish did.)

I haven't really had any use for my Spanish after taking those classes, though. :(


Monday 20th of February 2012

That's definitely something that I mulled over. I eventually decided to give them a few years in Latin (Joshua has one more year) and then they'll learn Spanish for precisely the reason you mentioned...I think it'll be more practical than doing 8 years of Latin.

Amy @ Feathered Friendsy

Monday 20th of February 2012

I would definitely recommend looking into homeschooling laws in your state before making any decisions. I was absolutely certain I would homeschool until I read into the laws and talked with other homeschooling parents in my state... now we're probably just going to send them to public school anyway. The reason is that the laws here are SO strict and SO rigidly similar to the way the public schools are run that my reasons for homeschooling almost can't happen (you can't teach religion, you can't do anything outside of what your local school district is allowed to do, you are monitored by teachers in the school district to make sure you're "actually teaching your children," etc.).


Monday 20th of February 2012

I want to second Kristin's earlier comment about middle school simply being a difficult time for students. I'm a middle school teacher at a private K-8 school (I teach grades 6-8), and it's very interesting to see the different challenges students face--both socially and academically--at each grade level. Even with dedicated teachers and involved parents, students struggle at that level due to social development, fluctuating hormones and other physical changes. Some students handle those changes well. Some students struggle with those changes, and their parents want to blame those difficulties on the school (and are somehow surprised when their children still struggle with being young teenagers after moving them to any number of different school environments). It may not be the school that's the problem--it may be the age.

I'm not necessarily anti-homeschooling--I have seen kids come out of wonderful and enriching homeschooling experiences and flourish in a traditional school environment later on. But I have also seen how unprepared some students are when they hit the middle school, high school or college levels after a life (or even a few years) of homeschooling. If you want to consider homeschooling, I implore you to teach your children the importance of organizational skills and time management--these are often harder to learn in an environment in which students have so much one-on-one classroom time. When students attend a traditional school (especially a larger one), they are responsible for keeping their binders organized and keeping up with due dates and assignments without much intervention from the teacher, thereby preparing themselves for high school and beyond. If you are able to find a way to foster independence and personal responsibility for your children, then your homeschooling experience will be a successful one!


Monday 20th of February 2012

I personally feel like my homeschooling experience prepared me really well for independent self-motivated study, but not every parent homeschools the way my mom did. My mom had four of us to homeschool, so we did a lot of independent work! :)

I'd just also like to add that when you work in a public school, you're most likely to see homeschooled students coming from situations that weren't working out very well (that's not always the case, but it is a lot of the time). So, it's probably not a very representative sample, yk? There are probably more of us doing well than it seems from your perspective, and studies have shown that homeschooled students do well in college.

I appreciate your gracious attitude in spite of the sample you tend to see most often, though!

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