“I want to homeschool, but I need to work.”
Is it really true that working parents cannot homeschool? Many working-and-homeschooling families challenge this assumption every single day. It can be quite a challenge, but many families manage to do it successfully. How?
Consider all opportunities for flexibility in your work
The more flexibility you have, the more smoothly you will be able to manage the demands of homeschooling. Some work situations require regular hours but may be adaptable to working all or part of the time from home. Others allow for significant flexibility in when, where, and even how much work is done.
Flexibility may not be something your employer routinely offers, but a thoughtful proposal might change the status quo. If your current work is inflexible, consider a job change. If change is not possible, don’t despair! There are many ways to make working-and-homeschooling work.
In families with two working parents, it may be possible for parents to adjust their working hours so that one parent is home whenever the other is working. You might divide the responsibility for homeschooling equally, or one parent might take primary responsibility for education while the other takes more responsibility in other areas.
Single parents who work can still homeschool. If your work is done entirely at home, and if there is a good fit between your child’s ability to be independent on one hand and the needs of your job on the other, you may be able to multitask throughout the day. Whether or not this is successful will depend largely on your temperament and that of your child.
If the needs of your job and the needs of your child are too much to manage at once, or if your job takes place away from home and you cannot bring your child along, you might piece together a scenario that includes time for learning with a parent or another adult.
Be flexible with your expectations about how you will homeschool.
Homeschooling can happen anytime, anywhere. There is no rule that says homeschooling must take place during school hours or at a desk. Focused, supported learning activities can happen before parents head off to work in the morning after they return in the evening, or on the weekends.
One of the most wonderful benefits of homeschooling is that students can learn the same things in less time than they would in public school. Homeschooling, especially if it is done one-on-one or with siblings who are at the same or a similar learning level, can be very efficient. If you plan to devote a portion of the day to helping each of your children with bookwork, how much time would you need? What time of day is your child the most focused and receptive to learning? What kind of learner is your child, and how can you help make learning most efficient for him or her?
For some homeschooling families, a rigorous, detailed curriculum is the best choice. Others have the time and drive to piece together a carefully selected, eclectic combination of materials. Or you might find that a very relaxed approach to learning allows your children to happily absorb the basics and then pursue their passions. Don’t hesitate to shift gears if you or your child are stressed or unhappy with your current approach. When you find something that works, celebrate and stick with it!
Assess your child’s capacity for independence and make intentional use of it
How old is your child (or children)? How much direct attention, supervision, and care does he or she need? When is your child happiest to accept guidance from others, and when will only a parent do?
Young children will need a direct caregiver all or most of the time. Many caregivers are open to supporting this age group in gentle learning activities involving nature, art, handwork, storytelling, and play-based exploration. You may need to make suggestions or provide materials. With a thoughtful plan, your care provider can become a homeschooling ally.
Preteens may be able to tolerate being left to themselves for periods of time while you are working at home, but there will be limits to their independence. They may need or want to engage periodically even if you are nearby. With your child’s input, develop ways to connect and reconnect with each other as needed while you work.
Older children and teens may be able to handle all or some of their homeschooling work on their own. Some subjects or activities might require more regular support than others. You might work in short bursts with scheduled breaks so that your child knows when to wait and when he or she can have your attention again.
If you have a wide range of ages in your family, perhaps an older child could be engaged to help a younger child or children while you are working at home. Carefully plan ahead to set them up with suitable assignments or activities. When you are not working, your attention can shift to the younger children while the older ones focus on their own learning.
Families who choose homeschooling invariably have compelling reasons that make it worthwhile. Why are you working and homeschooling? What would be different if you made a different choice? Would those differences be acceptable to you? Identify the motivating factors in your situation and remind yourself of them whenever you need a boost.
Working while homeschooling can be a formidable challenge, even with children who are older and fairly independent. For many parents who do both, the combination is not really ideal. But when other options are unacceptable or even more challenging, it can be worthwhile to do what is necessary to make it work. If you choose working-and-homeschooling, you are in good company.