#1-Choose Your Job Wisely
There are some moms who choose to work outside the home because they absolutely love the benefits of being employed. Most of us, however, work because we must. For whatever the reasons may be, our family depends upon our income in order to make ends meet. Let’s just get passed the question of whether it makes financial sense to work. Those of us who are already established as working moms have already weighed out all the options, and we already know that we do indeed need to work. So, the first tip I can offer to moms who need to work but want to homeschool is to choose a job that will allow you the needed time to balance your homeschool choices with your work choices.
In my case, I am a teacher. For now, I teach at a school that allows me to work four days per week with hours that give me later mornings and later afternoon hours than public schools in my area typically allow. Also, the school gives me a lighter workload than I would have if I were teaching in a public school. Plus, the school is only about 20 minutes away from my home, so that I am able to get home quickly in case of an urgent need in the middle of the day. I know that sometimes we have to take a job that is less than ideal. Do what you need to do, but if the job you are working does not fit well to support a homeschooling lifestyle, make a concerted effort to find a job that will work. If the ideal position does not exist, then consider starting your own business, working as an independent contractor, or consider choosing a different line of work that may fit better for your family’s needs.
#2-Build a Strong Support System
Start with prayer. There is no support system that you can build for yourself that will even come close to the support system that God will build for you. When I say “support system,” I mean that you must know people who will be able to help you when you need help. It’s not wise to depend completely on one person to help you all the time, but having several friends, coworkers, family members, etc. all who are aware of the homeschooling choices you have made and who are supportive of your choices for your family will prove to be invaluable. Besides having the close personal relationships that it will take to help your homeschooling to succeed, you should also have a solid set of resources available. For example, build a strong relationship with your pediatrician. If you do not trust your pediatrician to be available and reliable when you need him or her, then diligently seek one who will support your lifestyle and the choices you are making for your family. If your children are young enough that childcare is a necessity, then be sure that you have a strong, positive, and mutually respectful relationship with the person or people who will care for your children while you are at work. If your children need tutoring or extra help, be sure to make choices that you will be able to live with for an extended period of time. For example, if you can only afford to pay a tutor for a few weeks, and it is likely that your child will need help for a longer period of time than what you can reasonably afford, then try to find online or free resources that could work just as well for a longer period of time.
In our case, one child needed quite a bit of help getting caught up with reading. We could not afford private tutoring, and she needed more help than our private caregiver could help with for reading. We chose to use an online reading remediation and instructional program. The cost was about $15 per month, which is not cheap for someone living on an already tight budget, but it was doable and much less expensive than a private tutor would have charged. One of my other children needed extra help with math, and our district allows homeschoolers to enroll part-time at the local middle and high schools, so we took advantage of this free option and enrolled him in one class, just math, at the middle school we are zoned for. Other people who would be included in the type of support system I’m talking about are those would be able to provide emergency pick-up care if you cannot get to the kids (due to being stuck at work), virtual teachers, private tutors, childcare givers, and back-ups for each of these roles as well.
Establishing the support system can be one of the hardest things you will do, because it means that other people will need to support your choice to homeschool even though you are working. From my experience, this has been one of the hardest parts of homeschooling. Typical homeschool families make me feel like an outsider because I am not staying home with my kids. Typical working moms also make me feel like an outsider because I am not schooling my kids in a more traditional way. So, I guess you could agree that this support system will provide not only logistical help, but it will also provide mental and emotional support for you as the working mom. At times when no one seems to understand your choices, at least these are the people who will empower you to continue with the choices that are right for your family.
#3-Avoid Comparison Syndrome
This tip is really important, because you are making a choice that is not very popular. I am confident that in the next several years, as virtual school options improve, and public schools continue to decline in many ways, a growing number of families will choose homeschooling, even though both parents work. For now, though, our choice is widely unpopular. “We do things differently” must become your mantra. If you compare your homeschooling experience to other families, you will inevitably feel less adequate. I would call this the Pinterest syndrome, because like looking at the picture-perfect images on Pinterest, comparing your own homeschool experience to other people’s, it just will not look the same. Your kids may not have their own little flip-top classroom desks and whiteboard in the in-house classroom where Mom teaches all subjects flawlessly to three kids in three different grade levels, but they will have the independence to know how to conduct research for answers to their questions.
Your homeschool will look different than almost everyone you know. Avoid comparing, because you will very likely begin to feel inadequate, or worse, cause others to feel inadequate in comparison to your system.
#4-Remember the Reasons
This tip really could be applied to many different areas of life, but the truth is that when we cannot remember why we do what we do, then we are likely to stop doing it. There are going to be very difficult days in your homeschooling experience, and if you are not highly intentional about remembering WHY you are homeschooling, you are likely to give up. Over the past two years, I have seen multiple families who have been homeschooling for many years give up. They say that their kids need to be socialized better, that they need better teachers than what Mom can be to them, or they are just too exhausted from homeschooling.
All of these families who have told me that they are finished homeschooling have justified the reasons why they are now choosing public schools, private schools, or charter schools. I listen carefully, and I know that these moms and dads adore and love their children. I know these parents believe they are making the best choice for their children. But I also know these families were convicted several years ago about making the choice to homeschool, and I feel deep down that they are giving up because homeschooling is very difficult. I know it is very difficult for parents who are there full time with their kids, and I know it is very difficult for those of us who have been balancing a work schedule with a school schedule and feeling everyday that we could have done better. But, like anything worth doing, this is going to be a difficult choice.
In my case, I have to remember that with me teaching, every morning would include three drop-off locations before I arrive at work, if my kids went to school, because their age differences place them each at different campuses. I also have to remember that as a college professor, I see very clearly that students who are homeschooled are better prepared for college than their public-schooled counterparts. And, I also have to remember during the difficult days, that God answers our prayers and opens and closes our doors of opportunity. He called our family to this lifestyle, opened the doors to allow it to happen, and whether we continue or whether we stop homeschooling at some point, the path we choose ought to be aligned with the will of God for our family. Changing our course without God’s blessing would be going against His will, so we would not make a change without confirmation that it is the absolute right choice, not simply a choice we make selfishly in search of something easier.
Whatever your reasons for homeschooling may be, be sure to write them down. Make a list, and refer back to your list before you make any drastic changes. Homeschooling is not for everyone. While I do believe we, as parents, are responsible for the educational choices we make for our children, I do not believe that all of us are called to homeschooling. But, some of us truly are called to homeschooling. Changing our minds just because it’s a harder choice than we really care to deal with would be a move in the wrong direction. If you are called to homeschooling, then it will take a great deal of commitment. At some point in time, you may decide to change the course for your family. Just don’t make that choice in a moment of desperation, because wisdom tells us that doing so would only lead to regret later.
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