Sticker Shock

by Rebecca Kocsis
Homeschoolers live in their houses all day–every day. Contrary to our traditional schooling counterparts, who are often out of the home for the better part of the day, our homes are well occupied.  Because they are well occupied, our furnishings have a way of developing that lived in look well before their time.  That “lived in look” is fine for a pair of jeans or old sneakers, but on sofas it quickly deteriorates to just plain old shabby.  I know that the shabby chic look is in, but too shabby is not chic.

Shabby or Chic?
By the way, I have determined the difference between shabby chic and shabby. Shabby chic makes use of faded feminine fabrics and distressed wood resulting in the effect of a charming, old-fashioned, semi-formal yet comfortable look.  Whereas plain old shabby may include faded feminine fabrics and distressed wood, it also includes lumpy and threadbare cushions, ugly holes, mystery stains, and the unpleasant smells of stale sweat and dirty feet.

At any rate, shabby was the state of my living room sofas for the past year. They may have been charming and comfortable at one point, but those days have been gone for awhile now.  Even my husband wanted to replace them.  He said the money was in the bank and I should start shopping.  That was last May.  So just before Labor Day I started watching the sale pages . . . Can you tell I wasn’t really convinced that my shabby chic sofas were just plain old shabby? And I have to admit, I don’t enjoy furniture shopping.  What starts out to be a shopping trip becomes a heated pursuit to find the perfect piece, and then transforms into a quest of biblical proportions. After awhile I can identify with the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness . . .

This Price Can’t Be Right
OK, so just before Labor Day, I started watching the sale pages to get an idea of what was on the market and how much sofas cost nowadays.  I was shocked!  If the circulars were correct, new sofas were going to cost more than twice the amount I paid for the old ones.  That couldn’t be right.  Even if it was, there had to be some secret, super-low discount store somewhere.  I took an informal survey from a group of friends to see what their experience had been.  They assured me that I was going to have to make a significant investment to replace my shabby furniture with something a little more chic.  There were no secret, super-low, discount stores.  If you find something cheap, you get what you pay for!  They actually seemed a little surprised that I was surprised.  I could almost read their collective minds, “This girl needs to get out more!”

At this point the cheapskate in me emerged.  I didn’t want to spend a small fortune on furniture that I was just going to have to turn around and replace in another  ten to twelve years. The years slip by pretty fast.  And since when is furniture an investment?  It’s something you use.

Dismay and Surprise
Have you figured it out?  I was suffering from something commonly referred to as “sticker shock.” This is defined as “the dismay and surprise that a customer feels at the high retail cost of a consumer item.” I was definitely dismayed and surprised.  It took a few days for me to adap–thirteen to be exact–and then I went shopping.  God is good.  I found what I needed at the first store I visited.  No quests of biblical proportions.  It was too easy.

In retrospect, my bout of sticker shock reminded me of our homeschooling experience.  I had very little idea what the cost of homeschooling was going to be when we first started.  I’m not simply referring to finances either.  I, like most of you, sat down that first year and calculated the cost of our curriculum (yes, that was a bit shocking–especially multiplying that by the number of our students) and the cost of our enrollment fees and group affiliations.  Coming from a public school background, these fees were significantly more than we were accustomed to paying.

Unforeseen Expense
However, somewhere around the November of that first year I became aware of an unforeseen expense.  I realized I was tired—and I don’t mean just physically.  Being, at that time, the mother of three small children, I was no stranger to busy days.  However, I was not prepared for the mental exhaustion I experienced at the end of every school day.

I had another bout of mental exhaustion several years later when I was homeschooling all of our five children.  I was teaching kindergarten through eleventh grade.  At that point, I really appreciated those kindergarten lessons.  Making letters in the sand with my five year old was much easier than teaching essay writing.  I would choose play dough over Plato in a heartbeat.  At the end of the day I would sit on my sofa (It was still chic back then) and stare into space.  I did not have enough mental energy to focus on the evening news; forget about making intelligent conversation or reading a book.  Dinner consisted of whatever was easy—simple recipes with few ingredients.  It was not uncommon for us to eat the same thing for dinner two or three nights a week.  Burritos or hot dogs and macaroni and cheese were the usual fare.  I did not have the mental energy to come up with an interesting menu, let alone trying new recipes.  I have to say that over the years, I have learned to adapt.  We moms are like that.  We quickly figure out how to pace ourselves, and how to order our lives in such a way as to do what the Lord calls us to do.

Don’t Be Shocked
I write this to you now, in November so you won’t be wondering what’s wrong with you.  If you find yourself staring listlessly into space, or making pancakes for dinner—again—you’ll know what’s happening.  Don’t be shocked.  It’s part of the cost of the homeschooling life.  You’ve hit that point in the school year where you need to adapt.  Tweak your schedules and reconfigure your student’s lessons, so that you can continue to do what the Lord has called you to do.

Homeschooling is not like furniture—a consumer product that wears out in time.  Homeschooling is an investment; an investment in your family that will have eternal rewards.  It’s worth protecting.  Yes, you are going to spend a small fortune, with money being the least of your investments.  You can usually get that back in some way.  It’s very difficult to put a price tag on time and energy.  But if you’re expending them for eternal pursuits, you’re building quite a treasure trove.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroys, and where thieves break in or steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is there your heart will be also.” Matthew 7:19-21

I did, by the way, decide to make a bit of an investment in my new furniture. I was willing to pay a little more so that I wouldn’t have to be doing this again for a good long time.

Rebecca serves as the general manager of CHEA and Support Network Director. She homeschooled her five children for 22 years.

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