Saturday, May 24, 2008

Business Unusual?

I've been unemployed for a year and a half now. One of my major panic attacks about quitting work to homeschool was the prospect of being unemployed for about 10 years (by the time the then-youngest was about ready for high school, now I'm looking at 14 years if I continue to homeschool and 18 years if it seems like we'll homeschool through high school) and then trying to reenter the work force in anything like my then-current profession. I pretty much decided that any future employment of mine was either going to be in retail ("Would you like paper or plastic, Ma'am?") or would involve a fresh college diploma (I always was jealous of my husband's extra degree).

With this idea of a science course for homeschoolers, though, I wonder if there might be another path. Whenever I meet an ex-homeschooling parent, usually the mother, more often than not I'm presented with a business card touting their math or general tutoring abilities. Ah, I think, so this is what homeschooling moms do when their children are older.

In our area there are a number of nature-study type classes for homeschoolers as well as a few co-ops. The co-op I saw seemed interesting but many of the courses were disappointing. They concentrated on non-essentials (like crafting, or a foreign language), or used a curriculum like any homeschooler could buy. Obviously I didn't take the whole meaning of co-op into account. This is likely because most parents already have curriculum for the essential classes.

The interest expressed in the astronomy class was eye-opening. Not only did we have quite a large waiting list the first time around, now that people are beginning to look for fall classes, we've been cold-called by enough families that we didn't have to re-list the course. In fact, the sheer number of interested parties convinced hubby to run the class again.

So can I make a small business out of offering science courses to homeschool families? The science course I was already contemplating was mostly to light a fire under my own butt and also to introduce the hierarchical pedagogy to others. I've had some interest in the course. Sometimes it seems like people accepted the course before they even heard what it was about.

To make a business, though, involves a lot of consideration. There's the amount of work required to prepare material (I'm sure Mr. Powell of History at Our House is quite familiar with that). Since I'd be holding the class at my house there's upkeep of the house. Maybe even liability claims? What if someone drops a weight on their toe? I'd have to purchase a decent amount of material to cleanly demonstrate some concepts. How many kids could I have without losing the quality of the presentation? How many classes should/could I offer? Would that be enough to make it profitable? How long should I expect before my initial investment is paid off and I actually start making money? How much would parents be willing to pay for an in-person class? (That's a lot higher than I would have thought considering how much people pay for sewing, quilting, and naturalist classes and other curriculum materials.) How often and how long should the class be held? How profitable would I like it to be? Do I need a lawyer, a business license, a tax attorney? Would the ability to buy wholesale be worth the need to determine the tax on the part of my house used to run the business?

Heck, I'm trying to answer most of those questions and I'm no where near trying to make money.


Monica said...

That's so awesome.

I was pretty depressed at my job prospects near finishing my degree. With a degree in mycology, I thought I'd be relegated to either academia or a government profession eternally. A year later, I'm doing something I never would have imagined possible: medical writing. My client loves my work. I've also considered expanding my career over 5 years' time in a number of different directions, all science-related but not strictly related to mycology.

In time, I'm sure you'll answer your questions and work it out to be quite profitable. Intelligent, hard working people always make a new way for themselves. I'm looking forward to reading about your adventures!

Kim said...

It's freeing to feel like maybe I can do something different. It's also sad to think I may not get to work in engineering again.