Opportunity Cost

Last week I finished reading Guerrilla Learning. Andrea had the chance to read a fair amount of it first. Eventually, I swiped it from her because she was taking it slow. It didn’t take me long to find out why she was taking so long with it. It is chock full of little gems that give you lots to think about. Here is a single sentence worth a few minutes pause:

Each thing we do – no matter how valuable – has an ‘opportunity cost’: It costs us all the things we are not doing or paying attention to while we are concentrating this one thing.

There is an odd bit of irony that comes into that statement from my perspective. I haven’t said much about the project I’m working on. Most of my career has been carried out under confidentiality agreements, so I’m used to not talking about work. Without getting into too much detail, the project I’m working on is a decision support system which weighs the cost of hundreds of thousands of ‘opportunities’ and recommends the most cost effective solution.

In choosing to homeschool, we cut ourselves off from other opportunities. I expect most HSers have come to the same realization. At this point, we have been doing this for over 12 years. And we have had the chance to see the fruit that has been born out of choosing and sticking with that opportunity. There is nothing that would persuade me to not do this all over again. I recall talking to an acquaintance last fall who had just started sending her oldest to kindergarten. Without thinking about it, I blurted out, “I couldn’t do it.”

She asked, “Couldn’t do what?”

I said, “I couldn’t send Emma to kindergarten. I just couldn’t.”

In choosing to homeschool, we made some opportunity choices for our kids. We knew we were doing that. But it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized we had given them something that few children get in lieu of the things we had taken away.

  • They’ve seen how the adult world operates.
  • They’ve seen household finances in action.
  • They’ve learned how to get along with the same person/people over a long period of time.
  • They’ve seen adults disagree, compromise and continue to work together and love one another.
  • Whether or not they could explain it to you, they understand opportunity cost better than many adults that I know because they’ve been given access to opportunities and choices.

Over the weekend I had a fair number of conversations with one or more of the children. What occurred to me on the way over here is that I talked to them as adults. Whether or not the world considers them to be adults, I do. Over the course of the weekend, I had explained to all of them the situation we had as a family (what I mentioned briefly in the post below the disappearing post) and the interim solution we had come to. Even though it wasn’t described in terms of opportunity and cost, I did describe both the opportunity that was there for us and what the short term costs were going to be.

Children should not be secluded away from opportunities and costs. They need to be able to make plans, execute them and see the results. They need to see other people with more experience at it than them working it out. They will never come to understand opportunities and cost as long as someone else is telling them what their opportunities are and assigning a cost to the failed opportunities through an arbitrary and artificial mechanism.

Author: Ron

Homeschooling dad of 4 (ages 27 - 14), grampy to 3, WordPress core contributor, former farmboy & software developer by profession.