Moms (and dads), I’m writing this post straight from the heart. I have been a single mother, and I have never forgotten that time in my life. It was the hardest thing I’ve done. I learned a lot during that time, including plenty about single parent homeschooling. Let me share with you how possible it is, and how many ways there are to make it work.
When my oldest daughters were 6 and 2, I made the decision to run away from my abusive (then) husband. It was a difficult decision, and when I made it, it happened in less than a day. With the help of family members and close friends, I packed up everything I could, put most of our belongings in storage, and went to stay in a house my parents were building for their retirement. I had a car, but no job or money.
I did not set out to prove that single parent homeschooling was possible. I was already a homeschool mom. You see, I was homeschooled as a kid, and was convicted and determined to homeschool my own children. I hadn’t planned on divorce, or being a single mom, but that’s exactly where I found myself. My convictions about raising my children didn’t change, so I had to figure out how to continue homeschooling.
Let me tell you, it was more about survival than thriving. If you’re a single parent, you probably know exactly what I mean. I didn’t feel like a powerful woman, full of strength and prowess. I was tired, broke, lonely, and always behind. And yet, I knew that education at home was the best way. That was non-negotiable. So day by day, I set about earning money, providing for our needs, and keeping my girls at home.
Since those years, I have remarried and had three more children. The difficult single parent years are behind me, but the memories are not. And I now have so many friends who have also found themselves in the same precarious position I did, and have seen even more creative ways for single parents to homeschool.
There are a few key ideas you must understand: first, that anyone can homeschool, and that it does not take 12 years to educate a child. In fact, you need to de-school your mind as much as possible. Toss out your ideas of the school day and the school year. Homeschooling takes so much less time to accomplish than the typical public school day. All of these concepts are addressed fully in my book, Anyone Can Homeschool, but I’ll give you the basic vision here.
Anyone can homeschool
A single parent, a working parent, a family on a tight budget, two working parents, even grandparents – – I really mean that anyone can homeschool. I can tell you this from experience in my own life, and from watching many other families, from all backgrounds and in all walks of life, educate their children at home. The system we know in America today has made us believe that only certified experts can teach a child, but that’s just not true. There are hundreds of wonderful resources available for every budget, every age, every kind of parent, every crazy schedule, and every learning challenge. If you’re not aware of the amazing homeschool curriculum market, you might just be shocked! Whatever you need, it’s out there.
It does not take 12 years to educate a child
This has been my mantra for several years. I learned it the hard way in my working and single mom years, when we missed weeks and months of school time. I thought we were so far behind sometimes. But after my two girls graduated, I looked back and realized how those gaps in time didn’t hurt them at all. Now my younger three chilren are reaping the benefits of this concept.
You’re probably thinking, “I can’t teach my child for 6-7 hours a day and still work. There’s no way I can homeschool.” Luckily, you don’t have to copy the public system. The beauty of homeschooling is in its freedom! Many subjects take 30 minutes or less at home (especially for younger kids) as opposed to the hour that is devoted to each subject in school. A lot of time is wasted on busy work and unnecessary topics. Understanding this concept will help you to understand how single parenting and homeschooling can work with just about any work schedule.
The 12-year system is a fairly modern one, and is completely unnecessary. Read my blog post all about it here.
The financial challenge
This, to me, is the biggest concern. It’s not about finding or affording curriculum. The major issue is income. Single-parent households are one-income households. This parent usually holds a full-time job to support the family. And this makes child care an important thing to consider, especially with younger children. Who will watch the children while mom or dad work? Some parents receive no child support, or if they do, it’s not enough to be a full time parent.
The good news is that the are several options available to the single homeschooling parent. As I point out in my blog post on Working and Homeschooling, no two families will look the same. There is not one answer for everyone. Younger children definitely need care and supervision. This might come in the form of hired sitters, willing family members, active support groups, a flexible boss, working from home, or a mix of many options.
When I was on this particular part of my homeschooling journey, I did many different things: worked flexible odd jobs where my children could accompany me, worked part time and hired a sitter to come to my home, worked extra on the weekends my girls were with their dad, worked from home, and started a business. I kept trying new things, and it was quite the juggling act.
The most important thing I can stress here is that your faith in God must be strong. You cannot fear the future. If you have the conviction that your children do not belong in the public school system, like I did, you will find a way (or many ways). Trusting in our own power and our own strength always disappoints. I learned about this kind of faith through these single mom years (and not just because of homeschooling) and my walk with God grew deeper and stronger than I could have imagined. I shared some of this in my blog post, “When Faith is All You Have.”
Thankfully, we live in the golden age of homeschool curriculum. The internet has made such a big difference for single-parent homeschool families and the ability to keep up their education. Look at all of your options, and consider two things: budget and time. Your budget will be a big part of this decision, but be assured that there are many free and low-cost curriculum options available.
Time is a bigger factor. You will need to consider your work schedule and the ages of your children. Younger children need supervision and plenty of help. This is where finding a really great sitter comes in handy. If you can reach out to your local homeschool community, you might very well find a homeschooling mom who needs some extra income, or a homeschooled teen or recent graduate. They make the best sitter/homeschool helper combinations! The possibility of help with school work is going to make this so much easier on you and your children!
What if you have teens? It’s a bit easier, as far as curriculum goes. They are often more independent, and online classes make this very possible. Dual enrollment is another great option. In many states, dual enrollment is extremely affordable, and gives your homeschooled teen the ability to earn high school and college credit at the same time. What a bonus for a single-income household!
Check and see if there is a homeschool co-op or hybrid school in your area. A co-op that allows children to be dropped off can provide some extracurricular activities and/or academic help. A hybrid option is more like part-time school (two to three days a week). For some parents, this works great with a part-time job. The more active your homeschool community is, the more options there are likely to be, such as weekly math classes, tutoring, and various cooperatives. Ask about special concessions for single parent families! Many groups are willing to work with this this need by making an exception for drop-offs or giving discounts. If your group doesn’t do this, you can certainly request it!
A support network
Support is so important for homeschooling parents, and even more so for a single parent. The ideal situation is an extended family who is supportive and helpful, as well as a church family and homeschool support group nearby. I was fortunate enough to have all three in my single parent years. I belonged to a church with many other homeschoolers, and as a second-generation homeschooler, my family was very experienced in this lifestyle.
However, I know this is not the case for everyone. If your family doesn’t help or support you, seek community elsewhere. Find a local in-person support group. Online groups are helpful and informative, but there is nothing like getting to know people by visiting, meeting at the park, and letting your family get to know other families intimately. This can be hard work if you’re new to homeschooling. Just press through. Be open and candid about your desire for support. If you don’t find a supportive group, keep looking and praying. You might even consider starting a group!
Emotional support for your children
While you need support for yourself, your children will need it, too. This is why I was so adamant that my girls would not be sent to school. They had just lived through separation and divorce, which was quite a dramatic change in their little worlds. I wanted to be with them as much as possible, instead of sending them off to day care and school for the first time ever. So while our lives were pretty hard during this time, I had the privilege of being right beside them most of the time. If they were having an emotional day, I was the one to comfort them. On the hard days, we didn’t even worry about school work. We walked to the park, fed the ducks, or watched a movie together. I understood exactly what they were going through, and they had the security of a loving parent right when they needed it.
Though we were broke most of the time, and I was tired all of the time, I do not regret one moment of single-parent homeschooling. I do not regret the time I had with my girls. They are both adults now, and despite these early hardships, they are happy and well-adjusted young ladies. God definitely restores the years the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25).
It is hard, and it is worth it
My years as in single parent homeschooling were some I will never forget. I promised myself I would not. It takes a strong vision of discipleship, time management, and can be a huge sacrifice, but 20 years later I can promise you that it is worth it all. Remember that there is not just one effective way to homeschool; there are many. Your family will look different from others, and that’s okay.
Anyone Can Homeschool was born out of my experience as a single mom. I wrote it to spread the message to single parents, working parents, families with special needs children, moms and dads on one income, and many other circumstances. If you haven’t read it, and you’re a single parent trying to homeschool, I think it will bless you! Get it on Amazon or here in my shop.