In many homeschooling families, parents create a division of labor in which one works full time and the other stays home with the kids. While this may be the most obvious set-up for homeschooling, it’s not the only option. Single parents and families with two working parents also homeschool quite happily. Below are ideas for making homeschooling work when you have to work.
Be flexible When both parents want to or need to work, seek non-traditional employment situations. I have a part-time job that offers a semi-flexible schedule I fulfill partially at the office and partially at home. My husband is a musician with a flexible schedule and work hours that fall mostly on afternoons, evenings, and weekends. Did you find the key word in that? It’s flexible. If there’s any way you can find a job with flexible hours you’ll have an easier time creating a workable homeschooling schedule. The other situation that’s advantageous for homeschooling is the ability to work at home.
Who’s the boss? Another option is to be your own boss. Homeschooling parents have been known to start their own businesses and hence make their own hours. Fields I’ve seen work for people include child care, catering, teaching, editing, dog walking, and web design.
Assess your options Creativity and cooperation are your friends in this endeavor. Sit down with your partner and brainstorm. Can either of you work different hours? Fewer hours? Work at home? Take your children to work with you? Can you take turns working? In one family I know, the dad works for a few years, then the mom takes a turn. When my 16-year-old was an infant, I worked at night and brought her to the office with me. The key here is keeping an open mind and understanding that once you start thinking outside the box, you do have options.
Use the village What if you’re a single parent and don’t have a partner with whom to negotiate this territory? Or, what if you’re in a situation where there are hours during the week when both parents simply have to be at work? In cases like this, look to your homeschooling support group. Often, you can find another homeschooling family willing to work with your kids on a regular basis for a fee or even barter. If your needs are sporadic, swapping child care is an option. Sometimes, the solution involves several families helping each other with rides, kid watching, and more. Figuring out a schedule that offers your child a satisfying homeschooling experience might not be simple, but it can be successfully done. Don’t be afraid to ask for (and offer) help. Another obvious solution is hiring a teacher or tutor to be with your kids in your home while you’re at work. While that may seem easier, it’s far more costly and in the end, may not be as rich and rewarding.
Ask the kids Don’t forget to involve your children in the discussion. They’re stakeholders in the outcome, and they may have some great ideas for solutions, too. Remember that the window for needing someone to be with your kids while you work is relatively small. Each family has to make personal decisions about when kids can start staying home alone, but regardless of yours, in the scheme of a lifetime the period during which you’ll have to juggle working and homeschooling is not long. Another payoff for doing it is that homeschoolers tend to be self-sufficient and independent, which makes homeschooling and working during the teenage years, when kids can get around on their own and are capable of taking charge of their own educations, even easier.