Working and Homeschooling: Finding Balance

I toss a stack of books into the leather ottoman that discreetly stores my children’s textbooks. A and C gather pencils , clean excess paper and schoolwork off the dining room table then rush off to read silently for half an hour while I dress for work. My husband and I discuss dinner and practice schedules, and I leave a few last minute instructions with the kids before I head out to the library where I will spend the next five hours tutoring. My husband steps in to handle the afternoon duties of shuttling the kids to practice, feeding them dinner, and preparing them for bed. When I return home from work, I will run upstairs where my two little ones arewaiting patiently for books and good night hugs, thus ending another day for our homeschooling family.

An oft-repeated comment I hear from moms who wish to homeschool is “I’d love to homeschool, but I have to work.” I’m often greeted with looks of surprise when I share that not only do I work but so do many of my homeschooling friends. Working mom and homeschooling mom need not be mutually exclusive. In fact working while homeschooling can provide real-world learning experiences for your own children.

While working and homeschooling is possible, it isn’t always easy. If you decide to tackle working while homeschooling, you might need to rethink your vision of work. It probably isn’t realistic to assume you can maintain a career as a full-time doctor or lawyer and adequately school your children without reevaluating your schedule, especially when your children are young. In my family, my husband and I both run businesses from home and are able to swap easily between work and school. My son often works on h
is math and spelling while my husband fields business calls in his office. C enjoys watching his dad in action. If you happen to be a nurse, you could possibly schedule shifts for weekends or evenings and school on off days and in the mornings. As children become more independent in their schooling, which is ultimately the goal (self-directed learning), schedules can resume a more traditional path.

Finding balance in work and homeschool is often the most difficult challenge, and some careers more easily allow this balance. Here are a few traits, compiled from conversations with working homeschooling moms, tat successful homeschooling moms tend to share.

1. They work from home or work in careers with flexible scheduling.

IMG_2115I run a tutoring business and meet with students in the afternoon and  evenings. This leaves the morning free to school my children. I also schedule one weekday free for field trips and have chosen not to work on weekends to protect family time and worship. I also teach one day a week at a co-op that allows my children to come with me to work and even provides childcare. If you excel in a certain subject area and enjoy working with children, tutoring is an excellent career.

My friend, Jennifer, works the early morning and evening shift at a local YMCA. She’s home during the middle of the day with her children. Any job that allows a split-shift is ideal. Retailers will often allow this. My friend, Michele, is a rep with Premier Designs. Most of her work is completed at night, and she simply schedules jewelry showings around her children’s schedules. With a little research, you can find many careers that allow for flexible scheduling. I have friends who monogram, friends who bake, friends who edit copy. With ingenuity, most hobbies can become entrepreneurial endeavors.

2. They include their children in their work.

If you run a business from home, your work provides an ideal learning experience for your child. What better real-world eperience than to allow your child to watch and to even participate in the running of your business. Michele, a rep for Premier Designs, allows her young daughter to place labels on catalogs and assist in creating hostess pacIMG_2555kets. She even incorporates her business into their homeschooling lessons. I, too, try to incorporate lessons from business into homeschooling. Recently, my daughter was learning about sales tax. My husband displayed several receipts from his business and illustrated for my daughter how his business charges and pays certain taxes
in transactions. We were then able to discuss how the government uses our tax money.

Early in my homeschooling career, I bemoaned the fact I had to work, feeling it took time away from my children. Now, I view it as an opportunity. My children
experience a true laboratory of learning as they observe my husband and I tackle the day-to-day challenges that come with running a business. They understand how entrepreneurship works. As society changes, more and more people will work from home or will run small businesses. They will learn how to better balance aspects of home, work, church, and family from experience rather than theory. Michele’s older children have shown an interest in entrepreneurship as she’s shared her business with them. In fact, several young homeschoolers run successful businesses now. They are already honing the skills necessary to developing a successful career.

3. They create balance in their lives and have a support system

The key to successfully creating an ideal work/homeschool environment is balance. When I first began homeschooling, I had just started my business. I was trying desperately to build a network while also trying to both research curriculum and create a homeschool. I was teachinIMG_3789g 18 hours a day, either my own or children of my clients. I experienced burnout and was staring down the long, dark road of depression. I realized that to adequately provide for my family, I needed to find balance, so I decided to trust God’s promise to provide and prayerfully considered what was absolutely necessary to include in my day. I narrowed the focus of my business to just include ACT/SAT tutoring, I turned down several volunteer and work opportunities, accepting only those I truly felt called to do, and I decreased my work hours. Wihin months, I felt my health and faith restored, and my children learned a lesson by watching their mom evaluate her schedule and make difficult but necessary choices to improve her family’s quality of life. I also taught my children that it is okay to say no, even to good things because better opportunities lie ahead. I hope I also taught them a lesson in having faith.

The moms I know who handle this successfully also carve out time in their day for themselves. This may be a bible study, hour at the gym, or twenty minutes with a book. It’s also important to spend quality time with your spouse. Give your children positive associations with work. Michele places ten percent of her jewelry earnings in a “fun jar” and the family reaps the benefits of her hard work together in an enjoyable activity. This, too, is an example of balance. Money is tithed, saved, spent, and enjoyed.

Successful working homeschool moms also ask for help and delegate responsibilities to their children. Your child is capable of cleaning the bathroom and of preparing simple meals. Enlist the help of your spouse. My husband is a true partner in our homeschool and folds laundry with more precision than I ever could.

So, yes, if you feel led to homeschool but feel that it’s impossible to reconcile that calling with your need to work, know it’s possible. There are thousands of moms balancing work and school and not at the expense of their children but to their benefit. Though it isn’t always easy and requires a true evaluation of priorities and expectations, there are many fulfilling careers that fit your desire to contribute to your family’s income with your desire to homeschool.

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