Imagine you woke up one day single. You might be a widow or you might be a divorcee. And here you are, a long-time, passionate homeschooler, wondering what in the world you will do next? How will you support yourself and the children? How will you pay the bills? How will you comfort your children while you grieve the loss?
And then point of this post: will you continue homeschooling?
Because you probably desperately want to.
Now, after you’ve spent just a few minutes imagining yourself in that situation, look around you. Do you know a mom (or a dad) in this situation right now? If you felt a few seconds of panic over that possibility, I urge you to put yourself in the shoes of that person you know.
It’s usually a mom with several children. She has probably given up a career (if she ever had one) and devoted her life to her family. She may or may not have a small side business out of the home. But her business has been the business of raising children, keeping the home, and overseeing their education. Now she is the only parent in the home, working desperately to make ends meet (housing, food, clothing, and transportation), while continuing the homeschooling she still feels called to.
What would you do in her situation? More importantly, what would you want? Would you want everyone around you to tell you that the kids must now go to school? That you need to get a real job and give up the convictions you had about raising your children?
I was in this situation one time. I had two children, ages 2 and 6. They had never been in a public school or daycare. Homeschooling was my heart’s desire before I even had children. When I ran away from my abusive husband, I felt that the worst possible thing I could do to the girls, on top of moving away from the only home they had ever known, was to send them to school and daycare for 8+ hours a day. I wanted to give them what security I could by keeping them with me.
I started with absolutely nothing. I had no money and no income. I moved into my parents’ home for what I thought would be a couple of months. I got a job as a church nursery worker at first, and then my own church hired me to clean weekly. This was a blessing since my girls could be with me while I worked. So we homeschooled.
I was able to get temporary food stamps, and then received child support. I also used a credit card for gas and other essentials. I had the help and support of parents and grandparents, as well as my pastor. But I’ll be honest: the rest of the people around me didn’t seem to notice. I do not say this with bitterness. I say this out of the desperation I felt then, and the hope for the ladies in this situation today.
It was a very hard time, but also a time of peace for us. My 6 year old learned to read, and my preschooler learned to count and sing. We took walks to the park and fed ducks at the pond. We sang songs in the car, and memorized scriptures and hymns together.
I also cried every night.
As the months went by, I continued to struggle financially. My parents were very gracious to let us continue to live in their home. But I was barely scraping by. So I found a part-time job as a medical transcriptionist at a small, local hospital. I was able to request my own hours to work around my preschooler’s nap time. I worked from 1-5 p.m. each day. But this presented something new: child care needs. I prayed desperately in this situation and was able to hire a nice older lady to come to our house for those 4 hours each day.
But this isn’t what I wanted for us. I needed a long term solution to: a) provide for my little family, and b) continue to homeschool.
So I bought a store.
It was right there waiting for me. A craft mall/craft supply store, up for sale, in the town where I already worked. My reasoning was this: I can be my own boss, set my hours, bring my kids to work, and accomplish all of my goals and desires.
Did it work?
Well, it did accomplish those goals. But running a business has its own set of worries. It provided a whole new level of financial needs, long hours, and huge responsibility. But I was with my children all day. They had a playroom at the store, so they could play, rest, or be with me. We had school when there were no customers. Some of my work I did at night while they were sleeping. It was a mixed blessing, but it got us through.
I am telling you this story for this reason: single moms can homeschool, too. Circumstances are widely varied, and it may not work for all, but I highly encourage moms not to immediately assume that they must give up this desire.
And I encourage those who want to minister to single moms, that if you know one who was or is homeschooling, and they would like to continue, please ask how you can help.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Help with lessons
- Help with income
- Hire them to work for you
- Help them find work that fits their homeschooling schedule
- Help with legal matters
- Mentor them in a new career from home
- Pay for their curriculum
- Offer to babysit
- Pay a bill
- Take them dinner
- Give them a grocery store or fast food gift card
- Pay for curriculum or classes
- Pick their kids up for field trips or activities
- Help with lawn care or repairs
And most of all, don’t judge her situation. Whether you think she should be divorced or not, or whether you think she should live a certain way or homeschool a certain way, or whatever you think: just don’t. Just love her where she is. Remember: it could be you.
Think about your homeschool community. Could a committee be formed to help these moms? We’ve done a little something like this in our area. A few people can make a huge difference; collecting donations, coordinating child care or work days, or setting up a grocery delivery.
I have learned in my own experience that my homeschool family is sort of an extended church family; different people sometimes, but with the same goal in mind. We are the church. And if one of our own is in need, it’s time we stepped up.
I made a commitment to continue homeschooling through some very tough years, and I do not regret it. I would do it all over again. For several years, I dealt with credit issues stemming from a huge financial shortage, but I wouldn’t have done it any other way. The relationships I have built with my children were, and still are, worth it all.
Children suffer just as much (or more) in a broken family, whether from divorce or death. I just wanted to be there for them. There are numerous other moms who feel this way, too, so I implore you to reach out and help them.
I have several single mom friends, and they have been very creative with combining homeschooling and working. One became a nurse and has hired some help with schooling, one owns a bed and breakfast, one does various small jobs.
If you are the single mom who wishes to continue homeschooling, here is a great link for you.
You probably already know that my story has a happy ending. After two years of single motherhood, I married a very wonderful man who jumped right into my ready-made family and my craft store (even though he didn’t know a seed bead from a glue stick!), and we have been going strong for 15 happy years! Those two little girls are now grown women, and one is a newlywed. We have three more children now, and those single motherhood days are a just a memory. But they are a very profound memory, and I vowed never to forget.
Do you know a single parent trying to homeschool? Have you considered ways to help lighten the load?
Are YOU a single parent homeschooling? What are you doing to make it all work? I’d love to hear your story, or help encourage you!
Want to read more about how we made it through? My post “When Faith is All You Have” pretty much spells it out.
Nicki Truesdell is a 2nd-generation homeschooler and mother to 5. She is a homemaker at heart, and loves books, freedom, history and quilts, and blogs about all of these at nickitruesdell.com. She believes that homeschooling can be relaxed and that history is fun, and both can be done with minimal cost or stress, no matter your family’s circumstances. Nicki is a member of the Texas Home Educators Advisory Board. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.