by Shari McMinn
Can homeschooling parents also work a job or career?
I didn’t know whether I should cry, laugh, or scream! It was recently explained to me that a person I love said I made her feel guilty for not homeschooling because she chose long ago to work and have a career, sending her only child to private school, instead of staying home to homeschool as I had chosen. It was apparently one of those ‘working moms’ versus ‘stay-at-home moms’ judgements.
I wanted to explain — but didn’t have the chance to do so at that moment — that I had always worked in addition to homeschooling (and she could have, too!). My late husband and I were continually self-employed and made the decision to work together in our family business so we could tag-team in homeschooling our growing family. Now that I am a widow, I continue to work in my own home-based business so I can be available to homeschool the youngest three of my 11 children.
We each should: a) prioritize our lives according to how God leads us, b) agree with our spouse or determine as a single parent as to the details, and c) adjust to the needs of our individual children. From there, each family can make their own decisions. My priorities should not make others feel guilty about their priorities — and vice versa! For example, my priorities at this stage in my life are 1) continue to homeschool my children through their high school graduation; 2) complete my work to pay our bills and do so in between their schoolwork and extracurricular activities; and 3) give myself some time off when I can.
Here are my suggestions for working, homeschooling moms:
Downtime — Whether its soaking 15 minutes alone in a hot bath, walking up and down your block while you watch your kids in your front yard, listening to a podcast in your car while waiting on students’ lessons, or enjoying a ladies’ annual retreat, we all need to be refreshed for the marathon called homeschooling. Plan now for daily, weekly, monthly, and annual breaks.
Home — It’s called homeschool because we are supposed to be home schooling! You save both money and time the more you stay home with your students. If our homes are reasonably organized and inviting, perhaps our kids might want to be home with us more than they want to be away from home without us?
Meals — Three per day plus a snack keeps families fueled, healthy, and connected. Take the time to prepare meals from scratch and have your kids help with planning, shopping, cooking, and clean-up. Toddlers can set the table, tweens can prep produce, and teens can cook simple dishes to help you out after a long day of school and work. Sure, we all sometimes eat-out while in between errands and sports, but the more we eat-in at home, the more our family connects with memorable routine. Mealtime is also a great time for family devotions or discussing current events.
Paying work — Schedule your work each day around school and other daily activities. Some moms work at night, weekends, or the graveyard shift when Dad is home. Others can divide their time throughout the day as I do — work two hours in the morning before homeschooling, two hours in the afternoon after, an hour or two in the evening after supper before relaxing, and if needed, a half-day or more on the weekend. Working on my laptop at the kitchen table helps me remain accountable to my kids while I do internet research and makes me easily accessible for school questions.
Routine — Adults and children, including teens, do better with an expected routine. Your schedule might change somewhat depending on the day of the week or the season, but be consistent throughout the year. Day after day, week after week, month after month, a steady routine helps all family members know what to expect, progressing slow and steady so we can win the race.
School — Establish when and where you will do school. Your students should know when they start and end their day, and where they should be for each task. You can help them individually part of the time, and they can learn as a group at other times. Schedule what works for you and train them to your expectations. Once they are used to a particular pattern, they will comply and work independently as they mature. Having older students help younger ones is not only a help to you but also builds their relationships and individual knowledge. Whether at the kitchen table, on desks in the teens’ bedrooms, or the living room sectional, school can happen anywhere it works for your household. Having an organized storage system for supplies and books is helpful to control clutter and makes lesson supplies easy to find.
Sleep – How much do you need to be the glue that holds your family together? Be sure you get a good night’s sleep, and if you need a midday nap, take it! Based on my experience, kids need at least 8-10 hours for optimal brain function and cheerful cooperation.
Volunteer work — There are never enough volunteers in Christ’s Kingdom! Whether for church, kids club activities, or the local nursing home, pick somewhere to serve and have your kids help you weekly or at least monthly. Compassionate care is a crucial thing for them to learn, and you can have fun doing it together. Baking treats with your kids and taking them to elderly neighbors is a great way to serve the Lord.
KISS: Keep It Simple, Silly! You can do a lot if your priorities are in order. Focus first on Christ, second on your family and yourself as their nurturer, and third on everything else. The more focused your family’s life, the more you can accomplish with a merry heart and cheerful disposition.
Working, homeschooling moms — you are my heroes! Keep it up. Prioritize your life so you don’t burn yourself out. In homeschooling the precious children which the good Lord has seen fit to place in your family, you are laying up for yourself treasures in Heaven which neither moth nor rust can corrupt (Matthew 6:19-20). And don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about it!