Monday, May 21, 2007

Gas prices and homeschool driving

My husband is a purist.

He believes that if you are homeschooling your children, you should be home. Schooling.

I have a much different approach which says that we stay home (schooling) long enough to study math and grammar and all that stuff and then pile into the van so that we can do some real learning.

(This is achievement test week, by the way, so we'll see if my thoughts on homeschooling have led Meelyn and Aisling into a transcendent sort of scholarly wisdom, or if we've just been frittering away our time on different activities when we should have been seated around the dining room table learning how to spell parellellogram...paralillogram...parelellegr....oh, never mind.)

So we have a wide range of outside-our-four-walls activities, some which occur weekly, like French, piano lessons and art class. Others happen once a month, like our docent-led tours at the Indianapolis Museum of Art; some even less frequently than that, like HISTO History Bingo or the Shakespeare Workshop. Some, like our recent field trips to the Simmons One Room Schoolhouse and Conner Prairie or to the Indiana Repertory Theater to see Twelfth Night may occur only once a year, but we really treasure them for their very infrequency.

We also try to go to our parish church for daily Mass at least once a week, a practice that we started during Lent.

Recently, I have noted that our comings and goings - mostly goings - have been eating away at my housekeeping money at an alarming rate. The week before last, I spent $115 on gas, just traveling our normal round of activities. It's a good thing that summer vacation is within waving distance because frankly, we just can't keep this up.

If gas prices continue to climb throughout the summer, or even if they stay the same, something's going to have to give, and I know what it's going to be. It's going to be Exxon. I am going to write them a strongly worded letter explaining in detail the low esteem in which I hold them. They will buckle beneath the weight of guilt I will pile upon them as I describe how my daughters are being denied the opportunity to use the freedom of homeschooling to have educational experiences that many traditionally-schooled students are denied.

No, really, I don't think Exxon is going to care all that much.

So my husband and I have been doing some talking and it looks like art class might be on the chopping block next fall, the same art class I wrote about a couple of weeks ago. The lessons, I mentioned, were ridiculously inexpensive, but the 45-minute drive there probably costs us about $15 a trip. Four times a month. That takes art lessons from being a bargain, considering Kendra's level of artistic talent and her skill as a teacher, to being a significant chunk of change that is the approximate equal of our electric bill.

I can't sleep. It is 2:42 a.m. and I am up late worrying about money, money, money -- why our income isn't increasing at the same rate as our utilities and grocery bills; why we don't have one of those trees out back that my father was always referring to whn I was growing up; why the part of the country in which we happen to live is one of the few parts of the United States that is in an economic tailspin in the retail sector.

"If all your problems are money problems, you don't have any problems," the old saying goes.

I always think that the person who said that was a well-meaning sort who spoke those words right after he checked the numbers on the NYSE and found them much to his bullish liking, right after he shared a good cigar with his accountant and his mutual fund broker. It's always seemed to me, cynically, that the only people who can afford to say that if you have money problems, you don't really have problems, are the people who have money.

I guess they're in a position to know. We sure aren't.

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