June 1, 2017

If You Have the Will, There Is a Way

One of the most unfortunate myths about homeschooling is that one must be “rich” to do it. In reality, researchers such as Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI) have regularly shown that the range of household incomes among homeschooling families is essentially equal to that of all other families - i.e., homeschoolers are represented in every socioeconomic category – but the Leave It to Beaver myth persists. And that sets up a sad scenario whereby too many parents believe they “can’t” homeschool, either because they honestly need two incomes to manage or because a parent is single and provides the only income for his/her family.

I myself did in-home babysitting for most of my kids’ lives in order to provide a necessary income supplement. And I’ve found in both my local homeschool association and via a large online group I moderate that a great many homeschool parents – including single moms whom most would say “can’t” homeschool because of work constraints – have paying jobs, most out of necessity. These “regular” moms and dads have decided that providing private home education for their kids is a priority regardless of the sacrifices they must make to do so; thus, they simply find a way to manage.

Out of curiosity, I recently took a survey in my online group to find out who works paying jobs, what they do, and how they juggle their work with homeschooling. Within just a couple of hours, I received dozens of replies listing a broad range of part- and full-time employment in all sorts of occupations, including:

  • Selling products such as essential oils, Jamberry, homemade soaps, and handicrafts
  • Teaching tae kwon do
  • Working in human resources
  • Nursing – for in-home care and in hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons
  • Teaching online ESL to students in China
  • Teaching homeschool classes online
  • Web design
  • Doing reception and billing work
  • Medical coding
  • Running a small business
  • Driving school bus
  • Working in a warehouse or factory
  • Decorating cakes
  • Cleaning – homes, offices, hotels/motels
  • Providing seamstress services
  • Working as a police officer
  • Working dispatch
  • Providing mental health therapy
  • Providing occupational and physical therapy
  • Tutoring
  • Teaching at the college level
  • Working at FedEx
  • Babysitting
  • Technical writing and editing
  • Coaching high school sports teams
  • Bartending
  • Architectural drafting
  • Working in group homes
  • Teaching fitness classes
  • Dental hygiene
  • Optometry services
  • Working as a pharmacy technician
  • Grooming dogs
  • Voice-over work
  • Glass blowing

In explaining how they manage homeschooling with working, they noted that, though it’s not easy, they’ve devised a number of helpful strategies, including:

  • Homeschooling in the morning and working in the afternoon or evening
  • Working in the morning and homeschooling later in the day
  • Working third shift
  • Getting work done before kids wake up
  • Getting work done after kids go to bed
  • Working a traditional 40-hour week and then homeschooling in the evening and on weekends
  • Working opposite a spouse and sharing homeschooling duties
  • Trading childcare with homeschooling friends
  • Enlisting grandparents’ help with childcare and homeschooling
  • Making arrangements to bring kids into work
  • Setting up the homeschool area near mom or dad’s at-home work space
  • Training children to work independently as much as possible
  • Homeschooling year-round to accommodate seasonal work schedules
  • Including children in the family business as part of their homeschool education

These parents admitted that their busy schedules create some casualties. Some noted that it’s hard to keep up with housework, and many acknowledged not getting enough sleep. A few of the married folks mentioned the difficulty of maintaining a healthy husband-wife relationship, particularly if the spouses work opposite shifts. Some worried that they weren’t doing “enough” for their kids and most said they’d cut back or quit work if they could in order to create more margin in their lives. But none said they’d opt to put their kids into school. In fact, they pointed out that having kids in school wouldn’t decrease their busyness; they said it would simply create a different kind of busyness and increase their stress.

All of that is to say, by way of illustration, that if you have a will to homeschool, there is a way even if you must also work at a paying job. Doing both requires an extra measure of creativity, flexibility, time management skills, and endurance. But if – like so many parents I know – educating your kids outside of the institutional schools according to your own preferences and beliefs is a priority for you, you’ll be willing to think outside the box and then persevere in the process. And you’ll be in good company, balancing work and homeschooling alongside thousands of others who do the best they can day by day and trust that their diligence will pay off in the end.


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