• Homeschooling's untenable economics

    In the debate over education funding, the focus of which is mainly funding public schools or providing vouchers for charter schools, you never really hear about another option that’s out there: homeschooling. More than three percent of the school-aged population are homeschooled.

    There might be a reason this option is rarely discussed, however. Upon looking closely, it’s pretty apparent that homeschooling is probably not a viable option for many people.

    This conclusion actually has nothing to do with curriculum or any of the common criticisms of homeschooling, believe it or not. The old stereotype is that home education consists of fundamentalist indoctrination, but many homeschooled individuals have gotten standard educations, thrived at college, and become well-adjusted adults. The argument that homeschooled kids miss out on socialization is not entirely true, either, as they still can participate in after-school activities. Some public schools also allow homeschooled students to participate in extracurricular activities and even sports.

    If it is inviable, it's simply a matter of economics.

    Homeschooling is treated like private schooling. According to the Department of Education, the average cost of private school per year is nearly $8000 for elementary school and more than $13000 for middle and high school. While homeschooling doesn’t charge tuition, the parents have to provide all the materials of a school like textbooks, workbooks, testing, and so on. Despite not quite reaching private school levels, even pro-homeschooling organizations admit the costs can add up.

    Here in Indiana, the median household income in 2013 was $48,248, according to the U.S. Census. That figure was slightly higher in Lake County at $49,035. On that budget, a few hundred to a few thousand per year per child is a considerable expense. And that doesn’t even take into account the fact that an adult in the household would have to devote much of their time to teaching, ostensibly sacrificing employment and, ergo, a good amount of household income.

    Is homeschooling worth the cost? Well, I've found that's the point where research shifts from figures to mostly opinions about the topic. I honestly can't say, but the question is kind of a moot point if it's unaffordable for so many.

  • In the Spirit of Holiday Business

    The last few months of the year are packed with trips to different locations away from home, aren't they? Though getting to where you're going might be cumbersome, travel is a great learning opportunity for entrepreneurs. Whether you are just visiting with family or having a more extravagant destination holiday vacation, seeing different areas expands our understanding of what can work in business. However, successful locales don't just spring up overnight. They take years to develop and shape an identity that is attractive to those from beyond their local market. We should be working to encourage this sort of business climate here in The Region.

    Tourism as a Solution

    Creating a welcoming environment for tourism starts with one intrepid person's vision and expands as others join the movement to fill gaps in the landscape. What good are hotels if their aren't natural landmarks to enjoy? Someone had better get to building a big ******* thing (Thanks Lewis Black!) to get people to come around.

    No municipality or district can rest on its earlier achievements forever though. It is critical to continue working to improve the amenities and switch out retailers that no longer work hard for visitor revenue in exchange for those that will (though the market often does this with little oversight). With that said, tourism is not the only way to generate an influx of traveler money. There are other ways to bring in people that are more business oriented.

    Let Businesses Meet

    Events such as sports-related outings or conferences are an excellent way to get people together from beyond the borders of Northwest Indiana. Bringing together people in industry and business communities means that even when they go home, a solid relationship can result in new jobs or economic growth here at home. Our area should seek to encourage conventions and promotors to stage their gatherings in the venues and towns throughout Lake & Porter county Indiana.

    As Joseph Pete, a journalist for The Times, stated in a recent article, The Region is experiencing an unemployment rate above the state average. If we are going to catch up, and hopefully lead the way to economic prosperity, our leaders and business people must find ways to stimulate growth here. Though we receive help from downstate, the hard work must come from the innovators that call our area home. The conversation needs to permeate every level of our social fabric.

    Let's jump-start the renewal process!