Trailer Park Unschoolers

Because you don't need to be rich to unschool!

Welcome to the Trailer Park

13 Comments

When we first started off on our journey to the world of homeschooling, I have to admit, I was pretty intimidated.  A good friend of mine mentioned how she felt uncomfortable with her connection to other homeschooling families because she was poor and most homeschooling families weren’t.  Homeschooling just isn’t for the poor.

I have to admit, at that point I hadn’t thought much about it.  In my mind I’d always thought homeschooling was as simple as teaching your children everything they needed to know and letting them go.  No one gave me any hint that it just might be expensive.  Sure, I’d imagined there would be some costs.  There would be the standards of paper and pencils, add all the art and craft supplies, and it still ranks up to be less expensive than the school supply list and new clothes for school.  I’d never thought much about how expensive it must be to homeschool.

When she started talking to me about it I started to get scared.  I needed all these things in order to homeschool and I was clearly doing it wrong.  I needed to buy a curriculum, which is insanely expensive for my budget, even when used.  I’d have to make sure my children made frequent trips to the library.  I had to pick a style of homeschooling, and that might mean giving up my whole lifestyle.  Waldorf happened to be my style of choice at the time, which would mean giving up recorded music, television, video games, and even reading to my children.  We’d have to replace all the toys in the house with more natural counterparts.  I was starting to rack up the costs in my mind and I was suddenly feeling how she must have felt, really quite incapable of providing a “proper” education for my children.  What was I thinking?

I’d finally started to find my comfort zone when I started going to the local homeschool co-op.  I was faced with the shocking reality that I was the poor girl that was playing with the rick kids, or at least richer than I was.  I felt really intimidated the first few days there, my children all in hand-me-down clothing and I felt bad about the meager lunches we always brought.  They were talking about the curriculums their children were learning from and offered different suggestions for things I could look into for my daughter’s challenges.  I appreciated it, but I was embarrassed at the fact that I couldn’t afford any of those things.  Maybe my friend was right and it was awkward and uncomfortable to be a part of the homeschooling community if you weren’t middle class.

Last year we decided to have our gingerbread party, as usual.  I was really intimidated.  These people my children wanted to invite over were all a lot better off than we are, yet they were going to come in and see our home in all of it’s lack of grandeur.  They would all see that we were poor, so poor that our three children were sharing a room in a two-bedroom in a run-down little trailer we were renting.  They would see all our hand-me-down things.  It was intimidating.

Now, when I say my family is poor, I don’t mean that we’re just barely lower class.  We live decently below the poverty line for a family of six.  Right now we don’t have a car.  We didn’t have a washer and dryer at the time, though we do now.  We didn’t have a television, game systems, or the luxury of cable or satellite TV.  We lost pretty much everything we could lose to pawn in an attempt to keep ourselves afloat when my partner lost his job.  All I still managed to keep was my computer and the internet, paid for by the freelance writing I was doing when I could find work.

It was at that party that it hit me, no one really cares what we’ve got.  No one really cares if we work from a curriculum or if we wing it.  No one cares if we’ve got fancy new clothes for our kids or live off of hand-me-downs.  We were even given a car by one of the people from the homeschool co-op to help us out, even though it ended up having a lot of problems, but we were at least able to sell it to help ourselves get into a better position.  What’s more important than no one caring that we were in a rough situation, they helped us out.  We were given cloth diapers, clothes for my sons and daughter, and that car.  I couldn’t be more grateful.  Not only did they give us things we needed, but they also helped open my eyes to how incredibly wonderful people can be when they look past the boundaries of class and social standing.

The truth is money doesn’t matter when it comes to homeschooling and unschooling.  Sure, it can set you back if you’re looking to work with a curriculum, but it’s really not all that necessary to have a curriculum.  I don’t feel like I’m doing my kids any kind of injustice.  They may not get to do all the traveling or go on all the cool trips that other kids get to go on all the field trips or see all the same places, but they’ll be on board with helping us decide what we will go see and do.  They’ll get to choose all the things they find most important and they won’t have to go on trips that we might think are fun but they aren’t so interested in.  They learn the value of a dollar as we’re not going to hide from them our sticky financial situation.  It’s kind of hard to hide that when you’re explaining to them why we can’t do something, or why it’s a choice of this or that.  It’s just another reality of life.

In many ways I think we’re offering our kids a huge advantage.  They may have other advantages if they came from a “more privileged family”, but they have different advantages.  They have a chance to see the world from the point of view of a family that has to work for things.  On top of that, they’ll learn how good it is to pull yourself up and earn everything you have in life.  There’s no reason we can’t all homeschool, no matter how financially advantaged we are.

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Author: Fox

With four kids in the house, who has time for much? Well, we're trying to make it work, trying to get as close to our unschooling roots as we can while state restrictions and family pressures try to stand in our way. Every day is a new adventure.

13 thoughts on “Welcome to the Trailer Park

  1. Oh, I’m so glad you discovered this! Homeschooling isn’t about money or how much you have; it’s about the relationships we build with our kids and the learning that we can instill in them. What an exciting lesson to have learned!

    • That’s just what I’ve thought from the beginning, but it’s funny how other people can color your perspective and give you fears when you didn’t have one to begin with!

      • Being a Christian, I believe that sometimes it is the influence of the world preventing me from living out the path that the Lord called me to. I need to trust that the Lord would never lead me astray and have faith in our relationship.

  2. you go sister! every now and then one of our children has asked, are we poor mama? i ask them, how can we be poor when we have such a wealth of love? they’ve since concluded that there is a greater treasure that forms wealth than money, which i always find exciting for some reason, that they ‘get’ that rich/poor doesn’t have to do with what material goods or possessions or ability to own that we have, but something else . . . . . . something that the person with sacks of gold may or may not have regardless of the gold, which in turn makes a pauper out of that person despite the sacks of loot . . . . because it’s not about the gold . . . . . .

    • Thanks so much! I take a similar stance with my children. I tell them honestly that we don’t have a lot of money, but I don’t care. We’re happy (for the most part). There have been a few occasions where we haven’t had much food to go around or when we didn’t have the money for things we needed, but we always manage to get by. It’s sometimes tricky, but in the end it always works out. My daughter says that’s what makes life such a great adventure, an adventure that would probably be too scary to do alone, but we always have each other.

  3. There is absolutely nothing wrong with teaching your kids to live within their means. You’re doing them a favor by teaching them how not to go into debt. Your kids are also learning that people are people, and that’s a lesson that so many children miss. I look forward to hearing more about your adventures.

    • Thank you so much for your wonderful comment! Yes, you’re very right. No one taught me to live within my means when I was younger. My family dumped debt from one credit card to another. As a result, I’ve gotten into some debt problems myself that we’re finally starting to get a handle on. I don’t want my children to end up the same way I did. It’s a lesson I really wish more children learned!

  4. Beautifully written! I absolutely believe in teaching children to live within their means. I was a homeschooler, and in the summer, if I wanted extra money.. Well.. It was off to the neighbours houses to clean, rake leaves, mow lawns, whatever I could do to earn a little bit of extra. Most of the money I earned I spent to buy things for my family. Not because they asked for them, but because my parents really instilled the joy of sharing what little bit you have been given.
    The local homeschool groups here were so “clique” I couldn’t stand them. After a few “meetings” my mother and I dropped out and continued down our own path — Because we didn’t fit into their lifestyle. My family struggled financially when I was young, but over the last 5-7 years we have finally leveled out into lower middle class, but I will never forget the values that were instilled in me during those years. Mom would say “If you can’t pay for it with the money in your pocket, you should really consider if you NEED it or not.”

    • Your mother said exactly what I was told by a friend of mine that gave me some very good advice when my children were young. I like to call her my second mom.

      Your words just gave me even more confidence! It’s good to know from someone who grew up with the life lessons I’m trying to give my children that I really am offering them a wonderful gift in the long run! Thank you for being even more inspiration to continue on our journey!

    • You make me feel so blessed to be in the homeschool group I’m in. We have a wide variety of socioeconomic levels, but when we come together, we’re just mom’s doing the best we can to give our children the best education we can. Some spend thousands of dollars a year, and some get by with what they can scrape up. We are here for each other, no matter what educational philosophy we subscribe. Our kids play together and love each other. They don’t notice who has and has not.

      • I think that’s definitely the best part of it. Our kids don’t see social class or anything like that. They just see other kids who are doing interesting things with their lives too. Money doesn’t have to matter.

  5. What a wonderful attitude! I am so blessed to have seen and experienced both sides of the financial situation coin and learn that it doesn’t even matter. My kids will grow up in a home full of love an acceptance! Plus we’ll have the added blessing of family time and a “proper education” through unschooling them 🙂
    Thanks for your comments on my blog and I look forward to reading more of your writing!
    -Tessa

    • I love how you list unschooling as a “proper education”. It’s so true! Money doesn’t matter, just all the wonderful time together as a family and all the wonderful experiences!

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