(Not) homeschooling high school

Ever since my kids were wee little things, I’ve been asked how long we plan to homeschool. And, I wouldn’t really have a good answer because I wasn’t sure—would I be able to homeschool a 10th grader? Would I want to?

The options for homeschooling high school are as varied as they are for younger ages, but now those options seem to carry a lot more weight, especially with “college” looming on the horizon. My homeschooling friends are talking about transcripts and college courses and distance learning and how the heck are they going to do science labs in their kitchen.

So, when my now-eighth-grade daughter announced definitively that she wants to start public high school in the fall, I was a bit relieved. Sad, but relieved.

I’m sad because, damn, I’m going to miss her. I know the ages of 13 and 14 are supposed to be hell with teens, but I’ve really enjoyed this more mature person in our house who still tells me a lot about her friends and her life. I love how she sees the world and how she’s approaching this next chapter in her story. Oh sure, we still snip and snap at each other like I did with my mom, but she still comes in for a goodnight hug or wants to tell me some big long story about something she saw online.

I’m excited for her too. Our town’s high school has so much to offer, and over the years, she has made some good friends who can’t wait for her to join them.

And, yes, I’m a bit relieved that someone else will be there to talk her through Algebra I and World History II. But boy am I hoping that I gave her enough of a foundation to stand on when she’s in those college-prep classes.

But here’s the big question: Will it be weird if I walk her to the bus stop on that first day of school and cry as my baby boards a public school bus for the first time? I’ll wear sunglasses. And promise I won’t chase the bus down the street as it drives away.

Never sign your children up for anything

 photo IMG_3561_zpsbd50760d.jpgThe biggest mistake I’ve made as a parent is that I started a playgroup for my firstborn when she was four months old.

FOUR MONTHS. Think about this: Why the heck did she need a playgroup at four months of age?

Let this be a cautionary tale to you new parents. Because, after a few months of pleasant chatting with other moms while our babies kicked their chubby legs on blankets spread carefully over the rug, the little buggers started reaching out and taking each other’s toys. I later remember the three little boys and three little girls all lurching around on unsteady legs, so excited to have someone their size to push over or hold onto when the world got spinny.

And, just like that, my daughter had a social life. And she knew there was a world “out there” that she wanted to explore.

So explore we did.

We went to “mommy and me*” gymnastics, swimming, and music classes that consisted of her swinging a tambourine around in my lap while we sang the most godawful tunes. As she got older, we added art classes, dance instruction, the “everyone gets a trophy” soccer teams, and group nature hikes where we drove twenty minutes to collected the same leaves and acorns I could collect in my backyard.

The whole time, I thought I was so smart. We weren’t overdoing it. Even as she got older, her activities never became of the “five day a week” variety like I saw with some of her peers.

But, I kept having children. And they too learned about playgroups and gymnastics and art classes. Last year, they even took indoor rock climbing classes!

Because I apparently forgot the whole mathematical rule that says (and I paraphrase): If you keep having children and keep adding activities, the cumulative effect will be that you will become batshit crazy. Or X + Y = *(@)#&!(*!!!!!!!!!!!!

This year, when I tried to assemble our jigsaw puzzle of a schedule using a color-coded spreadsheet, I had a revelation that I shared with Liz: “NEVER SIGN YOUR CHILDREN UP FOR ANYTHING.” Because now that they are 8, 10, and 12, they know there are so many things out there to do, and the world is their oyster.**

As homeschoolers, I could have had three children happily whittling away on the porch, who later go off to tend their backyard garden, or who retire inside to knit and read. I could’ve smugly laughed at all those parents who need color-coded spreadsheets to keep track of the days. They could’ve been hermits, and not even lonely hermits, because they have each other. And the squirrels in the back yard.

Instead, I’ve become that person in a minivan driving to the performing arts school, dropping off two kids so I can then drive the third to swim lessons, before picking up the other two, and rushing everyone home for an 8pm dinner.

It all started, I swear, with that playgroup when my oldest was four months old.


*we live in a more enlightened time now where these classes are called “parent/child”, but back a dozen years, things weren’t so politically correct

**provided their parents can afford it; horseback riding lessons, hockey, and skiing are still on the back burner for that reason

Can you work and homeschool?


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?


* 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?