As school choice and independent study programs are becoming more mainstream, you may be wondering, is it possible to homeschool your children while working a full-time job?
The short answer is yes. But like many rewarding endeavors in life, it’s not easy.
I’ve been homeschooling my daughter since kindergarten (she will be entering the 7th grade this year), and in that time, I’ve been a stay-at-home mom, a part-time working mom, a full-time working mom and now a single mom working full time. Each stage had its various challenges, on top of the typical challenges of being a mom and homeschooling! For those of you who are wondering how to balance homeschooling while working full time, here are five tips that helped me maintain (most of) my sanity through the years.
1. Accept the Fact That Some Days, You Won’t Get It All Done
For someone who makes Type A personalities look like underachievers, coming to terms with the fact that I wouldn’t always be able to check off every item on my color-coded to-do list wasn’t an easy feat. Trying to be a Superstar Homeschool Mom – teaching all the subjects with appropriate hands-on, Pinterest-worthy activities, planning fun, engaging, educational field trips, making sure my child is involved in lots of extracurricular activities that will look good on her future transcripts, and teaching her two languages, while I make bread from grain that I sifted and winnowed myself – wasn’t realistic.
Some days, it’s an accomplishment just to get everyone, myself included, fed, cleaned, taught and happy and I came to terms with that. So what if the kitchen floors are not spotless, the DVDs are no longer be in alphabetical order and we may have skipped science again this week; looking at the bigger picture, we were able to complete a great math lesson and finish up a book report. The key is remembering not to compare yourself to other homeschooling families out there. Your child has different needs, you have different needs and not every assignment can be worthy of Pinterest.
2. Get Help
No, not that kind of help…though some days I feel like I should get my head checked. No doubt, it takes a village and there were times that I had to call on my best friend (a fellow homeschool mom) to let my child join in on their science lesson while I had a mandatory meeting.
Independent study doesn’t have to be an island. Find a co-op to join or start your own with other homeschool families. Create a schedule where parents switch off teaching duties. Perhaps your family or trusted neighbor could pitch in. I wasn’t homeschooled, but some of my richest lessons were learned at my neighbor’s house. His wife would feed me and he would share stories about his time in the Navy during Pearl Harbor. He would let me practice typing on his brand new word processor and she would teach me how to garden.
Assign your child some age-appropriate responsibilities and count it as life skills education. Depending on their ages, your children can be doing dishes, making dinner, grading their own math assignment, feeding the dogs, etc. Even the littlest ones can make their bed or vacuum. When I was 12 years old, I taught my 4-year-old brother and his friend basic math and how to read.
3. Be Flexible (and Creative) With Your Scheduling
Get out of the mindset that school needs to start when the bell rings at 8:00 am and end when the bell rings at 3:00 pm. The beauty of homeschool and personalized learning is that the school hours are flexible and much less than what you’ll find in a traditional school setting. One-on-one instruction takes much less time than trying to wrangle a classroom of 35.
Figure out a schedule that works for you; perhaps you do a bulk of the teaching during weekends or in the evenings. See if your boss will work with you to come in later one morning or work remotely one day a week. Perhaps, you could work X number of hours four days a week instead of five. If your boss isn’t as flexible, perhaps your spouse’s boss is and you can move your schedules around. Think of it like you were playing Tetris and move your schedules around so that everything fits.
Learn to be flexible (and creative)! Sometimes school was done in the car; we’d listen to a history lesson read on a CD and we would discuss what we heard. When I’m at work, my daughter has “homework,” items that she can work on independently or online work that is assigned to her. I was also very lucky to have a job that was flexible and allowed me to work remotely sometimes. At one point, I took a very large pay cut so that I could work from home, but keeping my daughter at home was very important to me and so I chose to make sacrifices elsewhere.
4. Stay Organized
My favorite subject—organization! The key to success, though, is again, flexibility and creativity when it comes to organizing – whatever it is you need to organize – the school space, curriculum, schedules, etc. Make a FLEXIBLE master plan of what you want your children to accomplish throughout the school year, but don’t try to schedule every single chapter of every single book you are reading from now until next June. You’re only setting yourself up for burnout and failure.
At the beginning of the year, our teacher helps us set up a personalized learning plan which we follow to the best of our ability. Along the way, I assess and adjust accordingly. Some math concepts will be easier for my daughter to grasp than others, therefore, we would spend much less time on certain lessons and more on others. Other days, we may decide to do a field trip or I would unexpectedly get called into work. Going back to tip #3 above, I try to stay flexible in our scheduling, knowing that by the end of the year, we will have generally followed our organizational plan.
I also like to keep an “All-Knowing Notebook,” that houses all the loose papers, passwords, book lists, class syllabi, the year-long plan, etc.; that way everything is organized in one place and easy to find when I need it. We have a tiny apartment with no kitchen table (yes, homeschooling without a kitchen table is possible!), so the school space is also the living room space as well as the dining room space.
5. Find the Right (For You) Curriculum
There are so many resources and curriculums out there – which can be a blessing and a curse. Which one is the best? Is X math series or Y math series better?
Depending on your child’s learning style and your teaching style, schedule and responsibilities, that answer will be different for everyone. If you work full-time, don’t have people that can help, and a non-flexible schedule, your choice of curriculum will look very different from a family who has a stay-at-home parent who loves to do crafts and build projects. Keeping in mind the age of your child, you may consider using an online or DVD curriculum such as Teaching Textbooks for Math or Analytical Grammar for Language Arts. Curriculum that is completely laid out for you and requires minimal planning might be a good option to look into as well.
What works for one child, may not work for another in the same family. When it comes to curriculum, it may take some time and effort to find just the right fit and when you do, hopefully, it also makes juggling your full plate just a little easier.
It’s not impossible to homeschool while working full time. With some creative finagling, a mindset of flexibility and sometimes a lack of sleep, it can work and work well.
What are some of your best tips on homeschooling while working full time? Comment below.
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