Many parents are facing a choice right now: do I keep my full-time job, or do I homeschool my children? Moms and/or single parents commonly ask this question. Good news: there are about as many ways to homeschool as a working parent as there are to decorate a Christmas tree! I’m going to address some common questions, give you a few practical tips, and show you how possible working and homeschooling can be.
I learned how to homeschool and work when I was a single mom with two small children. I was determined to educate my girls at home, and I desperately needed income. These two priorities were equal, so I had to be creative. I’m going to encourage you to be creative, too.
When I became a single mom, my first child was six years old. We already had one year of homeschooling behind us. We were going through a very hard time; divorce leaves children suffering some emotional scars, and I learned that school lessons could not always be priority. During that season of life we did not have set hours for school. We took each day one at a time, sometimes reading together, sometimes focusing on the school lessons, and sometimes playing at the park.
And during all of this, we still needed food, utilities, all the other necessities of life. Over the 2 1/2 years of my single mtherhood, I did various jobs. I did some independent work for local businesses, part time transcription for a hospital, child care, and eventually store ownership. I did a lot of things to make it work. We weren’t well off, but that was not my goal at the time. I just wanted to provide as much stability for my daughters as possible, and I am happy to report that it was successful.
After I remarried, I did work some more while homeschooling at different times. At one point, I waited tables at night. Even though I have a business degree, the hours worked so much better as a waitress than with a corporate career. I tell you this to help you see that sometimes you just do what you have to do.
Whether you have a full-time job that you love, a home business, or something in between, I want to help you find the best way to work and homeschool your children.
PLUS: I’m sharing a free planning worksheet download to help you brainstorm all the possibilities!
The first thing you need to know is that it doesn’t matter what kind of job you have, where you go to work, or what work schedule is. You can still homeschool. Yes, your homeschool will look a bit different from the other homeschoolers you may meet, (and it will look a LOT different than public school) but that’s okay. Homeschooling is flexible! That’s one of the great things about it.
You see, teaching your children at home is just an extension of your parenting duty. You still feed your kids, wash their clothes, and have family time as a working homeschool mom. You can do these things and homeschool with a bit of creativity.
Here are 5 things to take into consideration:
- work hours
- work location
- age of children
- extra help available
But the most important thing to start with is your WHY. I talk about this in my book Anyone Can Homeschool, where I address lots of “special situations” for homeschool parents.
In each of these less-than-ideal situations, you must be very clear about WHY you are homeschooling. Write it down.
What made you even look into this idea in the first place? What cemented your decision? Was it something that happened at school? Was it talking to a friend? What did that friend say? Was it a conviction? Was it reading an article?
Write it all down.
This will be your pep talk when you feel like it’s too hard some days. Because there will be hard days. Even homeschooling parents with rosy circumstances have hard days. Put all your thoughts and feelings about your children and their education on paper and save it. And add to it when you need to.
Think Outside the Classroom
In my book, Anyone Can Homeschool, I try to help parents understand how to think outside the box:
It’s normal for us to see a classroom as the only means of education. Most of us today know one basic style of education: the public school. (Most private schools follow methods similar to public schools, although they have different funding and materials.) We know a few basic things about school:
- It’s mandatory
- It takes twelve years of seven-hour-days
- It takes additional homework at night
- It takes certified teachers and a state-approved lesson plan
It’s time for a bit more mind blowing here: none of those bullet points are true for home education.
You are not a school; you are a family. In the home, parents teach so many things. It comes naturally to us to teach our children how to walk and talk, tie their shoes, hold a spoon properly, and ride a bike. We let these things happen naturally, when the child is ready, instead of during the “school day” or the “school year.” We don’t use worksheets to teach table manners or give a quiz on the proper way to brush teeth.
We have all fallen for the notion that schools must teach everything, and a parent’s job is reduced to feeding the children, clothing them, and shuttling them to their activities. It’s no wonder that a large part of the population believes you must be certified to teach at all.
You may think it takes a 55-minute class to teach each subject each day, with a lecture, notes on a chalkboard, and follow-up worksheets. But you’d be wrong. It all depends on the child, the subject, and several other factors. My point is: there is not just one way to teach.
So, if you’re willing to get flexible and creative, and think outside the traditional school schedule, I am here to help you find your groove!.
What are your work hours? Do you have a part time or full time job?
Part-time jobs are easy to work around, since they give you more time at home. But I know many parents who work full time and also homeschool their children. The other considerations on my list will make a difference in your decision.
Schoolwork does not only have to happen when the kids at the local public school are in session. They have certain school hours and days for the simple management of thousands of kids. Since you’re not managing thousands of kids, you don’t need to worry about the calendar.
Example: you work half days Monday through Friday. 2-3 hours a day is almost always sufficient for a school day at home. Middle school and high school students can do a lot independently, getting help from you when you are home from work. Younger children only need 2-4 hours a day – period.
If you work full time, you’ll need to be more intentional, but it’s very possible. Especially if your kids are older. If they are capable of staying home alone and working through their lessons, you can work full time and check up on their school work when you get home. Some parents work weekends, some work opposite shifts from their spouse, some work nights so that a parent is at least home during the day (even if they’re sleeping part of that time).
There are many variables, but the key is to determine how you will use the time you are at home to best help your children.
Working from home is gaining popularity, and you probably know some people who work from home and homeschool. I do it. I know so many others who do. This, obviously, is the most desireable.
Working from home comes in many forms with many schedules. I used to teach English online to Chinese students with VIPKID, so I got up at 4:30 a.m. to teach. I was finished with my classes by 9, and let my kids sleep through it all. Now I write and publish books, so my schedule is my own.
I have friends who work for the many delivery services out there, such as Door Dash, Uber, Uber Eats, and other food and grocery delivery companies. This allows them to be flexible with their work hours and their schooling hours.
But even if you don’t work from home, there are options. I have taken my kids to certain jobs (part time) and I have friends who have done the same. The kids could set up their school work in a quiet place while mom or dad work nearby.
Whether you homeschool from a home office, or schedule homeschool time around your work time, the options are many!
Age of Children
The child’s age is going to determine how you will set up your day and your week.
If you have young children, they need supervision. Do you pay a sitter? Or do you have family nearby who is willing to help?
If you have paid or unpaid child care, consider asking if the caregiver would be willing to help with school work? Would they oversee homework? Would they help with rides to co-op classes? Many times grandparents or other family members will be very happy to help with this. Another option is to hire a local homeschooled teenager to come help. They understand homeschooling and would be able to juggle the duties.
Since the lockdowns of 2020, parents have become even more creative in making homeschooling work. Neighborhood or church groups have formed their own cooperatives where parents take turns and share in the child care/homeschooling. Ask your friends if they are interested in something similar. Parents could volunteer for days they don’t work, or to teach or oversee subjects they feel most comfortable teaching. This is also a great way to build community. Your kids will have friends doing the same thing you’re doing, and you can visit with parents who are living similar lifestyles.
Older children (I’m thinking teens) are easier on the working-parent schedule. However, they do need to be reliabe and obedient. If your teen won’t get out of bed, and doesn’t do his chores, he may not be responsible enough to do his school work, either. This is definitely something to consider.
But if your teens are responsible, independent study is a great option. Some co-op classes, an online curriculum, and some hands-on reading and workbooks can be combined to vary their materials (and their daily routine) while allowing you to work.
If there is a subject that’s difficult, find help! Find a local tutor, or sign up for an outside class in your area. When you are off work, tackle the tough subjects together!
Extra Help Available
I touched on this above, but there are so many ways to find extra help that will fit your situation. Consider:
- church friends
- retired teachers
- fellow homeschool parents
Whether you pay for the help or find generous friends or family willing to give their time, there are many ways they can help: homework assistance, feeding the kids, rides to classes, overseeing online school, teaching one day a week, and cooperative groups.
I tell about a time when I needed help in Anyone Can Homeschool. As a single mom, I wanted my girls to be home, but I also needed to earn money. I got a part-time job and found a sitter who would come to my home. She was a grandmother, and was eager to have fun with the girls. She volunteered to do educational activities with them, so I took her up on it.
There have been times when my mother helped my sister with her kids’ homeschooling while my sister worked. I am currently doing that for my sister’s two youngest.
Don’t be afraid to share your needs, share your heart, explain your WHY, and ask for help.
Finally, we need to talk about money. This will help to determine how you make it all work. What kind of curriculum will you need? What kind of extracurricular activities will you consider?
Will you choose an online learning option, or will your teen be fine with textbooks and workbooks that are less expensive? Is your child going to attend some outside classes or co-ops? These will have registration fees.
But, you’ll aslo likely save some money. There are no school uniforms to buy, and the list of school supplies needed is up to you, and very minimal. Lunches can be eaten at home, and you won’t be guilted into buying fundraiser popcorn or candles every other week.
And another thing to think about: could you live on less? I devoted an entire chapter to this topic in my book, because many families make the big decision to go from two incomes to one. It’s not easy, and not every family can do it right away, but it’s definitely something to consider. You can read that chapter and see how these families made some adjustments for homeschooling. Again, your WHY will help you to determine this.
Putting it all together
As I said at the beginning, every family is different, and working and homeschooling can look a hundred different ways. Now that you’ve seen what to consider, put it all together for your individual situation. Here are some examples from Anyone Can Homeschool:
Kimberly homeschools three kids and has MS. So she gets help from her parents, who know the lesson plans and can jump in and take over anytime Kimberly needs help.
Tiffany homeschools two kids, one with special needs. She also works part time. The kids go with her to work, where they are free to sprawl out at the conference table to do school work, or hang out in the office with Mom.
Dianna is a single mom of four girls. She has worked various part time jobs that fit around her homeschooling schedule, including delivery services and part-time office work.
Jammy shares how she and her husband decided to take the plunge from two incomes to one, and how they have never regretted it.
And I share how I chose my jobs based on how the schedule would work for me and my kids. The money and the career were not top prioroty; my kids were. So, I once waited tables at night so that I could work when my husband was home (even though I have a business degree). I also bought a craft mall when my girls were small so that I could be the boss and they could be with me every day.
The thing you’ll notice with every working and homeschooling parent is that they just make it work. They understand that it doesn’t take 12 years, or 5 days a week, or 7 hours a day to educate children. They have a goal and they are sticking to it, no matter what it takes to get there.
If your desire is to keep your kids at home, to help them learn with a special need, to raise them yourself – – – you can do this. That’s why I say that literally anyone can homeschool. There’s no right or wrong way to do it. It’s just raising kids!
And if your current employment is not flexible enough to homeschool, consider a different job. There are so many options. You do have to be willing to look at it with different priorities now, but when you do that, it’s very liberating!
My friend Kelly blogs all about working and homeschooling at workinghomeschooler.com. I recently did a video interview with her! Go check out her website and follow her on social media.
Let me encourage you that you can be a homeschooling family whatever your lifestyle looks like. There are so many good things that come from educating your children at home. Granted, a working mom has some time management to perfect. But the flexibility is such a blessing! Your chilren will be given plenty of opportunity to learn life skills, and probably sooner than their peers. They
Just remember that your life won’t be all about work and homeschooling; take time for a deep breath, spend some fun quality time together, and remember to be a family. If you need to have school lessons in short bursts, do that. If you need to bring the math book along while running errands, do that. If you need to take a whole day off and play a board game or catch up on housework, do that! In most states the school year is up to you; the daily schedule is definitely up to you. The beauty of homeschooling is in the freedom that it gives you. Embrace it!
Free Planning Worksheets!
Download my free printable worksheets and sample schedules to help you brainstorm! And please don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you need some suggestions or help with the planning process.