Saturday, September 30, 2006

Homeschool Bargain Hunters

There's an old joke that a man boasts about how much he paid for his watch, while a woman boasts about how little she paid for hers.

When it comes to homeschoolers and money, are we more like the man or the woman in the joke? Diane Flynn Keith wants to know and asks, "What is it about homeschoolers and money?"
I know I'm going to irritate some people with this next comment, but there even seems to be an "entitlement" mentality that is alive and well in the
homeschool population. Some parents seem to think that things related to education should just be given to them -gratis. They complain about the cost of
curriculum, textbooks, workbooks, lessons, field trips and everything else related to educating their kids. They bargain, barter, haggle, whine, and demand discounts or freebies. Don't these penny-pinchers realize that discounts and freebies aren't always feasible? Do they understand that decreased revenue (and/or the inability to just recover costs) for suppliers will discourage them from offering future opportunities and products? A desire to gouge the profits of big corporate businesses (you know, greedy textbook publishers) is one thing, but I've seen these cheapskates nickle-and-dime homeschool businesses, support groups, and non-profit organizations that have slim (if any) profit margins. I've actually seen them complain and harass the homeschool mom who offers a field trip or a co-op class for a fee. Don't they know that if she doesn't get reimbursed for out-of-pocket expenses she may feel resentful and be discouraged from offering future opportunities? I just don't get it.
We are on a tight budget. And I admit it, I do like getting things for free and even negotiate to get a good deal on materials. Bartering isn't illegal or even unethical. And a salesman is always free to refuse to accept any negotiation on price. But my few years in computer sales have also taught me that knowledge isn't free. If I pick someone's brain at a convention about a product, I'll buy it from them. Even if I could get it cheaper online. The time and effort they put into helping me is worth something. I've never bartered on field trips or other such events. But I have exchanged services with others to help defray costs. Right now, we're bartering piano lessons for spanish lessons. It is working out very well.

However, I have had discussions with friends who believe that making any kind of profit on homeschool materials is just plain wrong. Like Diane, I don't get it. Many of these vendors have large families to support. Foods isn't free. Neither are homeschool materials. Perhaps the "entitlement" mentality comes from our years in public school, where we were given all materials for free. Or at least it seemed that way at the time.

On the flip side, I have seen some attempt to take advantage of the homeschool market, producing materials that are heavily inflated in price. We are also of a aware of a father who began a sports league in our area and he had no intention of ever playing one game but accepted the cash. Even Mr. Kiyosaki in his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad that Diane Flynn Keith references as being relevant, has some questionable ideas and a credibility gap . Many homeschoolers have bought into his philosophy on money and are quick to endorse Kiyosaki without doing their homework. My husband did a three part review that would be worthwhile reading for anyone considering using his methods to teach their children. In part II, he talks about the fact that "Rich Dad" never existed.

So there is a place for caution and making sure that the price accurately reflects the value of the product or service. And at the very least, that the person you're dealing with is credible and trustworthy. Don't assume just because they homeschool that they are.

Overall, I think Diane brings up some excellent points in her article especially how our attitudes toward money affect our children. However, I'm not sure that looking for a bargain is unique to homeschoolers, but more just general human nature.

(HT: Scott at K-Dad Education)

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