Can you work and homeschool?

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My “desk”, aka, the kitchen island. My real desk is behind me and too cluttered for my laptop.

So. . .can you work* and homeschool?

My short answer? Well yes! After all, I’ve worked part time for the past four years while homeschooling my three kids who are now in grades 2, 4 and 6. 

Though, make no mistake, it isn’t easy.

Most of the families I know who homeschool their kids have one parent working full time (yes, usually–but not always—the dad) and one parent who does the majority of the schooling, as well as the upkeep of the house, the cooking, the doctors’ appointments, etc (usually—but not always—the mom.)

I imagine there are some families out there who would like to consider homeschooling but aren’t sure they can get by on one salary. Or maybe they are single parents and must have an income. Or maybe the parent who would be the primary teacher isn’t sure they want to leave their career entirely. Maybe both parents want to share the homeschooling duties and need to figure out how to do this while also working.

So, let me say that in my small sample of families, which represent about .00002% of the total homeschooling families in the nation (I’m making this percentage up; don’t make me do math this early in the morning), there are several of us who have found ways to do both.

  • I am Associate Editor for two websites, Cool Mom Picks and Cool Mom Tech which allows me the flexibility of working in my pajamas, at any hour, without dealing with a commute.
  • My good friend works as a nurse in a nursing home, 3-11p shift (though she never gets out as early as 11) between 2-4 days a week.
  • Another friend uses her considerable skills to create incredible cakes and cookies for weddings, birthdays, parties.
  • One friend is a talented photographer who may find herself up all night in the maternity ward waiting for a baby to be born.
  • Some work for “home party” companies–you know “Come to so-and-so’s house for drinks and to see Product X”.
  • Another mom I knew used to work nights at a department store, heading out for her shift after her husband came home from work.
  • I know of other mamas who do web designpublish books, or tutor on the side. Some teach violin or piano, or run weekly paid classes for other homeschooling families.
  • And others work from home, taking on projects from the companies for whom we used to work, or from within our same industry.

That said, it’s not easy. Though I have an incredibly flexible schedule, the most understanding bosses ever, and lots of control over what I do, I’m not always the best “juggler” of my time.  It’s hard to tell the kids, “WAIT! Mommy’s working.” (again) There are days when I can feel proud of something I wrote online but look around at my  messy house and the piles of laundry and realize my day is far from over.

And sometimes, I just prefer working over dictating a spelling list. I would rather lose myself in my laptop than start another math lesson.  And sometimes, I want to close the laptop and walk away.

My friend who works as a nurse often finds herself coming in the door at 1am, starving for dinner, needing a shower, and exhausted at the prospect of being up again in a few hours to teach grammar.

Dealing with the logistics of getting a wedding cake done with five (young) children scampering around makes my hands sweat.

Even my friends who do not work “for pay” but run mini-farms in their backyard, canning foods for winter and doing all the backbreaking work of tending crops, wow, do they bust their butts. And they are saving a ton of money for their families in food they grow themselves.

But, I’m curious: Do you work* and homeschool? If so, how do you make it work?

Did you used to do one, but found you couldn’t do both? Which one did you give up?

If you had the flexibility in your job, would that change your mind about homeschooling?

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* A disclaimer: ALL mothers work. And all homeschooling parents have a full-time job to educate their kids (or provide an environment that is conducive to learning). My question is specifically asking: Can you hold down a full or part-time paying job while also homeschooling kids?

Comments

  1. Heather says:

    Well, being one of the friends who do not work for pay, I still consider myself a working mom. We run two businesses and I am often building computers or shooting weddings into the wee hours of the morning. Since I also have my very mini farm, it gets a bit crazy at times. The thing is, that as crazy as things are, I still like homeschooling better than the alternative. With the kids in school, there was a concentrated time of craziness. They would get off the bus and we would run for several hours doing homework, sports and social time. I like having them home and having our days spread out before us. I don’t know if I could work out of the home for more than 24 hours or so, but that’s mainly because I’ve never tried it. It seems like most of the homeschoolers that I’ve met over the years tend to be overachievers. We seem to like to push the envelope. Whether that is because we homeschool, or if its a result of homeschooling, I’m not sure.

    • Christina says:

      Heather, you (and Lori) were definitely the two I was thinking about with regards to the farming—though you don’t collect a paycheck from it, I imagine that you are able to save a lot on groceries (or the cost of a CSA) from all of your effort. And, yes, the “overachiever” label seems to fit many (if not most) of us! Thanks for adding your thoughts to this!

  2. Erika says:

    I work part time outside the home. I work on a Friday every other week and then every other weekend. My husband’s work has every Friday as a half day or they can take off every other Friday completely.
    My children attend a class for a few hours on Fridays, which makes it more doable. On the weeks when there are no classes, I work purely on weekends or try to schedule a vacation day.

    I do laugh when people comment about me not working very much at my work. Seriously, my days at my paid job are often easier than my non-paid days :).

  3. Mir says:

    I’m working and homeschooling, though I feel like I “cheat” because my kiddo is only here half the time (attends a collective several days a week), plus he’s a middle schooler and pretty independent. I never have to deal with “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” when I’m in the middle of writing. But yeah, it can definitely be done. My house is a little less clean than it was when the kids were in regular school, but that’s alright. On the up side, it’s nice to be able to say “Home Ec time!” and have help making dinner. ;)
    Mir recently posted..Draw Something, say somethingMy Profile

  4. Rande says:

    I’m homeschooling and I work outside the home part time, as well as own a home business. My husband works full time, plus a catering job some weekends! It gets crazy at times, but my children are very young (my school age daughter is a kindergartner) so I’m a newbie and have some time to figure out how I’m going to juggle everything ;-) I’m hoping my employer will work with me at cutting my hours back a bit in the next year or two so that I have more time to dedicate to our homeschool. If it comes down to cutting one, it would be my part time job outside the home. I would need to find a new source of temporary income. Homeschooling my children is very important to me and I will do whatever it takes to make it work.
    Thanks so much for this post. It’s very encouraging to read that I’m not the only one attempting to juggle an outside job into our mix. :-)
    Rande recently posted..Working Outside the Home vs. Inside the HomeMy Profile

  5. What a great topic for a post. In anticipation of my forthcoming book (due in 2013 from GHF Press) regarding “how to work and homeschool,” I spent a lot of time this summer collecting stories of parents just like you.

    Yes, it’s a challenge, but a lot of us do it–be it for money or intellectual stimulation (or both). And then there are the men and women who balance “non-paid” work alongside their homeschooling, too. In my book, that all counts as “work” (literally and figuratively). People with elderly or ill relatives, passionate community volunteers… even a neighbor who is headed on a short mission trip to help children in Africa… it’s amazing what we homeschoolers can do.

    Thanks for sharing your story and perspective on this important topic.
    Pamela @RedWhiteandGrew recently posted..{Friday Fun} Mother Nature’s Mosquito TrapsMy Profile

  6. Kristen says:

    Crazy but totally worth it. The short answer of “how I do it” is: my house is a mess. The long answer: there are sacrifices. I was always an ambitious career-person, and it’s hard to see people that I trained move up and get promoted while I stay where I am because I can only work part-time and evenings. There’s a homeschool stuff we miss out on too. There are classes, trips, outings that we just can’t do because of my work schedule (or I’m too tired). Missing every other weekend with my family just plain sucks. We have less hours available for homeschooling too, which is bothering me more the older the kids get. So, the over-achiever in me gets frustrated that I can’t be super-duper at everything because I’m doing it all at once. And don’t get me started on my housekeeping – it’s lower on the list than work or homeschooling. And I’m pretty sure I come across as scatter-brained to lots of people…

    Benefits (in addition to the numerous benefits of homeschooling in the first place)? I think I am less likely to burn out from homeschooling, although I’m tired and over-committed most of the time. Why? As much as I love spending time with my kids, it’s wonderful to get away and do something totally different. My job is all-consuming when I am there, and I often go hours at a time without even thinking about my kids or my home. That can really put things into perspective for me. When I was having a rough homeschool morning the other day, it was great to drop my kids off at FOM’s house and say, “See you tomorrow!” But I LOVE homeschooling my kids. It would be too hard to swing it on one income for the whole duration, and I’m not sure I’d want to. I get overwhelmed and frustrated often, but feel like I really *do* “have it all”!

  7. Meg says:

    I’m not a homeschooler, and I bow to your multitasking skills! It’s all I can manage to get my 4 yr. old to and from all his therapy appointments while keeping his 1 yr. old sister and the other 1 yr. old I babysit for from killing themselves!
    Meg recently posted..Mega-meditationMy Profile

    • Christina says:

      Oh, Meg, you are so in the thick of things! Toddlers are way more work than anything else! You may be multitasking more seemingly ridiculous things (“no, don’t put that in your nose!” and “what is that you are wiping on the wall!”) but they are WAY more time consuming at that age than they are when they are a few years older.

  8. SabrinaT says:

    Yes, I work 3 nights a week, and Ian is deployed A LOT! You learn to give things up, to get others done. I gave up blogging, reading blogs, and basically anything that involves time… But, it has been worth it..

  9. Mom Sleppy says:

    Yes, I homeschool and work. In the mornings, I teach our children, grades 5, 3, and 2, and mind the younger “preschool” (who don’t really do any school) twins, the laundry, some cleaning, and breakfast and lunch. In the afternoons, I teach piano, guitar, and voice to school children in their homes. I leave homework for the homeschooling children (penmanship, spelling, definitions, and copywork) to do when I’m at work. My husband stays home, makes dinner, and minds the children during that time, getting them ready for bed. I get home just in time to kiss their foreheads Good night.

    I go to the library to catch up on lesson planning when I don’t have a student scheduled. I must make my own curriculum based on my state’s department of education’s posted standards per grade and subject because homeschooling curriculi are expensive!
    Mom Sleppy recently posted..Three Years of WeatheringMy Profile

  10. Sara says:

    I was homeschooled (oldest of four) by a mom who also ran a home daycare at the same time. Now I homeschool my kids and work a full-time job for a church as their Director of Religious Education. My main work day is Sunday, and then I work evening meetings, three afternoons a week of office hours, and then the rest is flex-time from home. My husband can watch the kids evenings and weekends, although when he used to work a more demanding job I had to hire an evening babysitter. The kids go with me for office hours, and I’ve set them up a corner of my office that is their space at the church. It works, and I’m really lucky to have such a flexible job and for an organization that wants to be family-friendly. But it’s also a juggling act. :)

  11. Lebo says:

    Hi! i am new homeschooling mom, i started last year 2012. i have a 9 to 1pm job Monday,Thursday and Friday, i also run an accounting business. i really would like to find a way to do all that for my kids without feeling overwhelmed.

    • Christina says:

      I’m not sure the ages of your kids, so I’ll just tell you what we do: First, I choose my curriculum carefully—-I’ve found that books/programs that require too much of “me” end up getting pushed aside. For instance, my kids do Teaching Textbooks for math which is wonderful and smart and something they can do on their own. We use Growing with Grammar which has short lessons they can read themselves, along with a workbook page that they can do on their own as well. I’m not perfect with this though—-I bought a very teacher-intensive grammar program in September that has sat on the shelf all year. It looked SO great that I forgot that I’d never have the time or energy to keep it up. Live and learn, I guess! (and resell it!)

      Also, I “double” (and triple) up my kids on some subjects—we’ve done history and science together for years—-my oldest may do some extra reading or different worksheets, but I read the chapters aloud to them all at once. I also have found a friend who shares subjects with me (I teach her kids history, she handles science). I now do spelling with my two youngest together. Art is a group effort too.

      Finally, I’ve let go of the notion of me being some amazing superhuman—I try to cover the basics, make sure my kids have lots of “down time”, and tweak stuff ALL the time. I’ve found my kids like to have a “schedule” that shows them their work for that week, so I’ve started doing that for them. (they actually like to check off the boxes when they finish something)! I sometimes think that my kids learn in spite of me!

    • Natasha says:

      What do you do with your kids when you are at work? That is my challenge.

      • Christina says:

        I work from home, so I don’t have to worry about finding someone to watch them. I also take my friend’s kids once a week so she can go to work. She also has used a babysitter or her husband works from home on the day she has to go to work. It’s not easy, especially when they are young. I’d try to find a family to do babysitting “swap” if a babysitter’s cost is out of reach.

  12. N says:

    I am very interested in this. My daughter is in 6th grade at a wonderful Montessori school. She’s been there since she was three. But next year she’d have to go to regular public school. I’m not good with that. So I’m looking at homeschool.

    I work outside of the home 3 mornings a week. I’m home by noon. My husband can work from home one day a week. Is it realistic to leave a 7th grader home alone 2-3 mornings a week to work independently? Due to her Montessori background, she is well suited for self directed work.

    How do I find a curriculum? There are so many choices!!
    She is “ahead” academically. I’m not worried about her falling “behind”, but I want her to remain challenged. I also want to focus on personal growth and social responsibility.

    Can it be done??

    • Christina says:

      Hi N,

      I think it is totally realistic to leave a motivated, responsible 7th grader home alone for a few hours–especially if she is okay with it. And there is a good chance she could finish her school work before you even get home from work, leaving you the rest of the day for experiments/activities/outside classes/field trips.

      There are lots of curriculum choices out there from soup-to-nuts programs (like K12) to a la carte subjects. I have always preferred a la carte to a totally boxed curriculum, though I know some families who like Oak Meadow’s full curriculum which, while not Montessori based is influenced by the Waldorf method. My 6th grader uses Teaching Textbooks for math and Growing with Grammar for grammar—both of these can be done with little input from me. Also your daughter may enjoy reading Story of the World for history (it’s a 4 year program) b/c the reading is doable by a 7th grader and the assignments/activities/extra reading could be something you assign ahead of time.

      This site may be helpful: http://www.homeschoolviews.com/resources/curriculum.html#Montessori-Resource-&-Curriculum-Links Unit studies seem to be mentioned a few times.

      I would urge you to look into local homeschooling groups who may hold “curriculum fairs” where you can go and see different curriculum. Rainbow Resource Center will send you a HUGE catalog with a lot of options in there. I also like The Well-Trained Mind (though don’t get too intimidated by her schedules) and sites like homeschoolreviews.com. Hope this helps! Please email me if you’d like to “talk” more.

  13. Deziree says:

    I homeschool my children. They are in first grade and kindergarten, plus I have a 2.5-year-old and a 10-month-old. I work as an office administrator 15 hours a week — translating to four three-hour work days plus some work from home. My husband is a firefighter who works 24-hour shifts and when he is not firefighting, he is working one of his two other jobs doing construction/roofing/siding and as a stage-hand. It is not unusual for him to work 100 hours/week, though normally he only works 60. I bring the kids to work with me anywhere from 1-3 days a week. They have a regular play date with their cousins, who are also home educated, on Tuesday mornings. My kids are expected to play nicely and quietly at my workplace for 2.5 hours at a time. When we are in a good routine, it works *okay* at best. When they are out of their office routine (they’ve had a few days home with Dad and then we go back to work), they forget office etiquette, and rightfully so — they are so young! I struggle with what to do. I consider quitting my job because of the guilt of it all… always being on double-duty is tough! But I also think that having a professional outlet has the potential to make me a better mom. There is also the problem with geting it *all* done. Something has to give. That is the bottom line. It is usually my sleep… or sanity… but often the condition of my house. I try to keep the main level spotless so that when the stress of it all overcomes me, I can know that one level is bearable and I can just avoid the upstairs if need be! I reckon that once my littlest begins to sleep through the night, the rest will all be much easier to handle. I would like to also get to a place where I can devote my attention to one thing at a time. When it is time to invest in my kids, they have my full attention. When I need to work, the kids are occupied safely and wholesomely elsewhere. Then I can be guilt-free. For now it seems like a pipe dream. :) How do you other moms do it?? The thing I struggle with most right now, is that I don’t want my kids to see me stressed out all the time. It’s not their fault that I’ve taken on too much and I don’t think they should have to pay.. I also don’t want them to learn that a stressful life is a good/normal life. Advice welcomed!

  14. Yes, I run a business from home and homeschool my preschool twins. I do have a college sitter that comes 2-3 days a week for several hours and works with them on lessons so that I can conduct conference calls and client meetings(without two very loud sweet boys in the background.) Ideally I would like to work 4 days a week mornings, but that is a work in progress. I do work in the educational publishing helping authors and others, so I can create my own schedule. I use my weekends to catch up on projects when needed. It is possible but can be a little hectic.

  15. Bitty says:

    I have a paying job that takes me out of the home about 45 hours per week. Thankfully, my husband works in the evenings/weekends so he is able to do a bulk of the homeschooling with our first grader during the weekdays. But, we’re thinking of moving to a four-day schedule where I homeschool with her on the weekends and my husband covers the other two on a couple of weekdays. This way we get to share the time equally. We have two younger kids under the age of five so we’re not sure how we’ll work them into the schedule in the coming years.

  16. michele says:

    I want to homeschool my kids, currently in 4th, 3rd, 2nd and pre k. I work full time 40 hours a week out of my home, and so does my husband. Do you think there can be a good balance?

    • Christina says:

      Michele, honestly, that is going to be very, very hard to juggle. If you had one very motivated child, maybe 12 or older, I think they could work independently on many things without constant supervision. But, when they are young, I think one parent has to be home enough to be the “main” teacher, and I’m not sure how you could do that if you are working out of the house 40 hours of the week. My good friend works 24 hrs a week out of the house, and could attest that even this is very hard to do—and she only has two kids, and has had to get used to living on very little sleep. I’m a “never say never” kind of person, so perhaps it can be done, I just think it would be very hard. Sorry!

    • Jennifer says:

      Michele, did you homeschool them? How did it work out? :)

  17. Bran says:

    We are currently going through k 12 I work a 40 hour job my husband is an over the road truck driver. His schedule install over the place we live next door to my mom and step dad and across the street from my brother and sister in law. I work 10 mons away my mom works 3 mons away . My brother and sister in law has weird schedules and to older boys. Some how with all of us around we have managed to get my 5thnandn7th grader throw this year. When we first started my mom work half days hubby wasnhome three days a week. I only worked 35 hours and off when regular school was out. That all changed and we talked about putting the kids back but decided some how we would make it work I got to work by 7:30 we have a white board with a daily schedule mom goes to work at 8:30 I get lunch at noon mom has lunch at 1 I am home by 4. I come home work with the kids one what I need them to do the next day and start dinner. With k12 a lot of it is on line so we just have to help them with a few things. Some people think we’re going about this all wrong I did for awhile until state assessments scores back and for the first time my daughter that is ADHD with anxiety and a recent hearing aid at 12 she is 13 now almost got exceding standards. I felt better. They both did a wonderful job is it easy not by any means and yes we do have r days where they just don’t want to work. But don’t wenall

  18. Jessica says:

    I will start working very soon for an internship I must complete in order to be licensed. What we are ended up doing is having two smaller ones (Pre K and 1st grade) at the Christian Academy at church and my two oldest 7th grade and 10th grade doing A Beka DVD at home. All are getting a Christian education (that is our priority) and works best for our budget (for now).

  19. Wow! It is nice to see other working homeschoolin’ mommas! I will be working AND homeschooling this year. My kids are 10, 5, and 2. I am a part-time nurse and the hubs is an LEO…so life is busy. I am already feeling like a breed all my own. I have been working extra this summer so to not feel so strapped this winter. I don’t have the time like SAHMs so I have pretty much missed every park day and community event this summer for my homeschool community. I’ve also had to change my September schedule twice already because things get changed with the homeschool community but only seems to be a problem for working moms. I know things will be better when school starts though. I will have a fixed schedule and will only be working 8 hour shifts Saturdays, 12 hour shifts every other Friday, and a “call” shift on Tuesdays (I normally only get called in at night). I am also going to be a tutor for our Classical Conversations community and will have that on Mondays. We will be keeping homeschool simple this year and sticking to a classical model of education. That should help all the way around :)
    Heather @ A Nurse’s Wildflowers recently posted..FriendshipsMy Profile

  20. Karen says:

    I am a single Mom with a daughter who is a junior in high school. She has been having health issues which are preventing her from physically going to school. Our school system has an “online school” but does not offer honors or AP classes. It’s geared more towards kids who just want a diploma & not a GED. I looked into the MA Virtual Academy which uses K12 curriculum, but I see very mixed reviews. Since I work full time+ I don’t think there is anyway I could home school – especially since she is far beyond my intelligence level. Is there such a thing as a surrogate homeschooler? She has goals for college, and it seems unbelievable that the school system does not make accommodations for honors level students. Has anyone had good luck with an online high school with honors classes? Feeling lost…

    • Christina says:

      I don’t think MAVA goes past 8th grade, so your daughter may have aged-out of that option. I’m not aware the MA has a high-school virtual school option in place right now. You can, of course, purchase K12, though it is a very expensive homeschooling program—though she could probably do a lot of the work herself if she is self-motivated. I know some people who use Oak Meadow curriculum for the younger ages, and their High School offerings are interesting and varied. Perhaps she can do some classes through her school, but supplement with Honors or AP-level courses you find online or through homeschooling resources. . .Have you ever heard of MHLA (Massachusetts Home Learners?). They have a yahoo board if you post your exact comment there, you may get a lot more information for people with older kids. Here is their URL: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/masshomelearningassoc/conversations/messages Good Luck!

    • Jennifer says:

      I found the k12 site you were referring to. MA in Greenfield…there is a link to the high school classes. I’d make some calls to them and find out how much classes would cost – if there is a cost.

      Good luck! :)

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