A few years ago I participated in an online discussion with a woman who said that she wanted to work outside the home because her family wanted to provide extra cultural experiences for the children, and that could not be done on most single incomes. I’m not really sure what she meant- she was rather vague about it all. It’s possible that the kinds of things she had in mind could not be done on one income. For my family, if it can’t be done on one income, then we won’t be doing it. But it’s surprising what can be done on a single income. Our single income hasn’t really been that large, either, as the Headmaster just recently retired from twenty years of military service- enlisted, not officer. That was a choice, btw. He could have gone to school early on and gotten his degree and bootstrapped into the officer side. But it’s as important to him to spend time with our children as it is for me, and he knew that he’d have to sacrifice a lot of hours with the family for that. We’re very happy with his choice.
To return to the topic of culture on a modest income, below you will find some ideas.
Instead of eating out, fix a fancy dinner at home. Set the table with the best dishes and candles. Have everybody dress up and pretend to be eating out, practicing table and restaurant manners.
Invite people over often. Make sure to include interesting, fun people; eccentric, odd people; tourists and immigrants, and unusual people. Include old people with stories to tell and young people with dreams to share. Include missionaries, former and current. Include your minister and the elders of your church. Ask for storied of faith, stories of when God blessed them, and stories of dark days.
Art museums often have free days. Check out the one nearest you. We’ve often taken advantage of this, even when the museum was an hour or two away. We packed a nice picnic lunch and ate at a park when the weather was nice, in the car on the way home if it wasn’t. Always keep your eyes open for free or inexpensive attractions.
We buy a year’s family pass to a different attraction each year. It may be the
zoo, the children’s museum, the children’s theater, or the symphony. We can’t
afford to do them all at once, and with a family our size the cost of a yearly
pass is seldom more than it would cost us to get in once, so we choose one each year and immerse ourselves in that one, attending at least a dozen times a year.
Study another country/culture in our homeschool once a year, learning the
customs, meals, holidays, and so on, and incorporating something of your studies into your daily lives.
We study art and artists using old art calendars. We hang works by a particular
artist each month, discussing the paintings and the artists.
Take advantage of NPR and other radio stations. Listen to classical music all the time, studying the lives of composers at the same time.
Call local colleges and ask if there are any international students who like a home-cooked meal with an American family.
Volunteer at the nursing home. We have met natives of several different European countries in a small Midwestern nursing home (I won’t embarrass myself by trying to spell them).
Read, read, read. Spend lots of time at the local library. Once we lived in a home that was not was not very near to any library. Paying the extra fee for a library card was my birthday present from husband and I loved it.
Every once in a while the older children and I get out the Shakespeare and read it aloud together, each taking a few parts.
My husband chooses a different classic to read aloud to the kidlets at bedtime. He’s done Pilgrim’s Progress, Farmer Boy, Bread and Butter Indian, some of the Childhood of Famous American books, and many, many more.
Vacations? As a military family every time we moved we tried to make part
of the move include visiting an interesting spot. We did stay in two locations
for five years each so we took lots of short jaunts to places of historical or
environmental interest. We prefer camping to staying in motels (family size,
again. With a family this large most hotels want us to pay for two rooms.
Have poetry recitations at home.
Plant a garden, perhaps an historical herb garden.
Collect sea shells, stones, or pressed flowers- label them with their Latin names.
Many libraries in larger cities like Chicago and Boston hold passes to museums and
other educational attractions, and sign them out to local residents.
If you live near a college, look in to their music and drama productions. Sometimes tickets are very inexpensive. Sometimes you can attend rehearsals for free.
Host a hymn singing.
And, as I said, read, read, read. Discuss what you read together. And then read some more.