One of the top concerns I hear about homeschooling from potential homeschoolers is employment. The parent destined to be the primary homeschooler (usually the mom but more and more often the dad) is concerned about whether they will be able to continue working.
The concern is an important one, and not just for the obvious reason. Yes, the loss of income can be difficult for homeschooling families. Sometimes there is already an unemployed or under-employed parent whose time will be better-used in homeschooling, but often families take a financial hit when they decide to homeschool.
But beyond the question of money is also the question of the primary homeschooler’s self-image and personal fulfillment. Working is often as much about personal goals as it is about finances. If you have built a career, leaving it behind can be personally damaging. Focusing on your children to the detriment of your feelings of fulfillment and self-worth does not lead to successful parenting, much less to successful homeschooling.
Luckily, homeschooling and career are not mutually exclusive. Lots of homeschooling parents work and homeschool successfully, though it always requires a certain amount of flexibility and compromise.
In my own case, I started with the benefit that my work had always been done from home on a flexible schedule. Before children, I worked as a freelance writer, graphic designer, online marketing consultant, and small publisher. Once I had children, and then once I started homeschooling, I found that I needed to make adjustments.
But although I started from a flexible work situation, the main reasons I succeeded in continuing my work were the help of friends and family.
There is no way I could have continued working without the support of my husband. We had agreed when the children were babies that he would be the primary parent in the evenings so that I could get work done, and once we started homeschooling we expanded our arrangement. After dinner I would go into my office and it would be “work time” for me. During this time I was able to write a book about homeschooling, a chapter book, and numerous articles.
The other major thing I did was to set up a variety of homeschooling support systems:
- Kid exchange:
I found friends who had children in a similar age range and who had similar needs. This wasn’t as hard as it sounds! We each would devise something we would do with our little pack of girls to give the others a morning off. For example, I live next to a redwood forest, so I led forest hikes and taught nature studies. Another mom was an excellent seamstress and taught sewing.
- Paid care:
I paid money to a babysitter when necessary. I didn’t really have to do this much after my daughter was about six, but it was an option I used.
- Public resources:
I registered both children in a public school homeschool program that offered a drop-off class day each week. You might not have this option in your area, but sometimes private schools offer this as an option, too. This program also led field trips, so the parents who lived near each other would sometimes offer to take each other’s kids on the field trips to give time to the other parents.
- Cooperative homeschooling:
I started a homeschool coop with other homeschoolers. We all taught classes there. Part of my job was to get wi-fi set up so that I could bring my computer and work while my kids were playing or in classes with other children.
Those were very, very busy years. That said, I worked a fair amount. I remember one day at my daughter’s gymnastics class I was worked very hard on a magazine article, sitting in the parent area with my computer.
At the end of class I looked up, and the mom next to me said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone so focused on their work before!” It was a skill that I had to develop once I realized that I’d get very little quiet, focused time at home with no kids. But it worked out. As the kids have gotten older, of course, they have needed me less. Now I can put in something like a 2/3 workday, and actually spend evenings with my family!
Just like homeschooling itself, how you end up juggling work and your children will depend on your family’s needs, values, and interests. For more ideas, read my article “How do we get by? Homeschooling families talk about how to make ends meet.”