If you sign up, please pay

For several years both my kids took art classes from an amazing teacher here in Manhattan.  She has a studio on the Upper West Side and we were introduced to her by one of Maya’s friends who took her after school art classes.   At one point someone in the homeschool community organized a daytime class for homeschoolers, which we joined.   After the first year, I became the organizer of the class, gathering names and setting up class days and times – being the liaison between the teacher and the NYCHEA community.

The class was not cheap by homeschooling standards (most homeschool classes are offered at a discount because teachers are happy to be able to fill studios during “off” hours, and also because, well, homeschoolers generally won’t pay much for a class) but it was still very reasonable and included all materials.  Also, it was art – not crafts.  The kids learned about color and perspective and worked in water colors, pastels and pen & ink.

There was only one ever-present, ongoing problem.

Some of the families who committed to the class either didn’t show up, or didn’t pay.  Or asked to be able to pay on a class by class basis in order not to hand over a large chunk of money at the beginning of the year, but then would stop coming to classes or would miss so many that they might as well have not been there at all.    The teacher finally told me that although homeschooled kids are “far and away the most fun to have in class”,  she can’t recommend to her friends that they offer classes for homeschoolers because of the fact that they likely will not get paid enough to meet their expenses.

I cannot tell you how much this bothers me, but the art class was not an isolated incident.   I’ve seen it happen in other homeschool classes like Maya’s dance class which needed six paying students in order to run, got six and then promptly had one or two drop out without paying,  meaning the teacher is barely breaking even.   Or the theater productions where, I’m told, there are always families whose kids participate without ever paying the fee that everyone is supposed to chip in to help defray costs.

I don’t know if this problem is isolated in New York, but it is a black mark on our community.    The bottom line is that if you can’t afford a class, don’t sign your kid up for the class.   If you sign up, pay.    Miss a few classes?  Well then, that’s on you.    Don’t expect the person running the class to eat the cost because you can’t be there every week.   It’s the height of arrogant entitled behavior.

The thing is, in the case of the art class, if we could have guaranteed that all the kids who signed up would show up and pay, costs would have been lower.   But we couldn’t, no matter what we did, including telling people not to sign up unless they could pay for the class up front, or pay in two 50% installments.

Yes, shelling out large chunks of money at the beginning of the year sucks and is sometimes prohibitive.  I’d be all for allowing families to pay class by class if it meant they would show up to every class and pay for even those they miss, out of respect for the person who has offered their time and energy to run the class.    Homeschool classes aren’t mandatory – you are supposedly there because your kid wants to be there.  Usually the classes only exist at all because there is a desire for them; so why can’t we honor the people who respond to our request for instruction on a given topic by paying them for their time?

What kind of example are we setting for our kids with this behavior?  Somehow, because we don’t send our kids to school we should be exempt from paying for any instruction?  Even the classes we ourselves organize?  If money is a real issue, then it’s time for creativity and not dishonesty; because make no mistake, enrolling your kid in a class and then not paying is dishonest and unethical.

We need to be better than that.

4 comments on “If you sign up, please pay

  1. Hi Amy,
    This is always a problem if you don’t get the money up front – even back in the old days. 😉 And it’s probably not even limited to homeschoolers, when people are allowed to pay in installments. The bottom line is that many homeschooling parents over-commit at the beginning of “the year,” or they put kids in classes THEY want them in, but the kids burn out.
    We almost always made people pay in total, before it started. And if it was pretty expensive, our numbers were low. Sometimes it couldn’t happen because the teacher needed a minimum number that we couldn’t scrounge up. And other times, we ended up building relationships with the teachers and they were ok with doing the class for three kids that were really into it.
    It’s hard to be the coordinator sometimes – things don’t always work out the way you want them to. Good luck.

    • Kasim says:

      Getting ready to start Anatomy and Physiology with my 10 yr old and Physical Science with my 14 yr old. Excited for the Physical Science Notebook to be available! First year hmhnscooolieg both of our boys, and first year with Apologia. Looking forward to it!

  2. Dawn Sullivan says:

    It’s a problem everywhere, not just in the homeschooling segment. In our business we have about 70 customers, every year there are 4 or 5 folks who drag their feet and I have to chase them down after the fact. It’s annoying but it’s part of doing business.

    One suggestion I might have is to do the work in a semester-type of arrangement. My children take gymnastics classes that are set up that way. Each class session is 10 weeks long based on seasons (Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer). It makes the payments less painful and gives parents a chance to either recommit or back out without losing a large sum of money.

    Of course that scenario makes it more difficult on the coordinator but maybe it would help.

  3. Mary says:

    Sometimes this is part of the learning curve for families who are new to homeschooling/unschooling. At least here in the Southwest, a lot of people who are drawn to unschool are quite individualistic; a wonderful, underencouraged trait in our culture, but one that can sometimes lead to inconsiderate behavior.
    In these cases, the families usually learn and adjust to the mores and expectations of whatever group they are in…or sometimes just start new groups based on their own values. It is uncomfortable to have to be explicit about what the rules and expectations are in any given group, but I think that the discomfort comes up sooner or later, so it is better to deal with it upfront. Thanks again for taking on a delicate issue that many of us unschoolers have experienced, but few feel comfortable discussing!

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