I Can’t Homeschool Because I’m a Work at Home Mom

by Jimmie Lanley on March 12, 2013

There are plenty of challenges in homeschooling. But there are very few true obstacles that keep a family from homeschooling.

I’m joining up with the bloggers and friends of iHomsechool Network to address the most commonly used reasons people think they can’t homeschool. Of course, we think that most of these, although valid challenges, are not absolute barriers to homeschooling.

WAHM and Homeschooling

I am going to tackle the situation of being a working mom, more specifically a work at home mom (WAHM) while homeschooling.

Can You Homeschool and Work at Home?

In short, yes. You can work at home and still homeschool your children. In fact, working at home, versus working in a traditional office setting, can prevent the pain of giving up two incomes that is expected in a homeschool family.

Economic factors really do matter when it comes to choosing to homeschool. I have heard some families attacked because they are too “selfish” to make the sacrifices necessary to homeschool, namely giving up mom’s income. But without knowing the financial situation of a family, those are dangerous assumptions to make. Some families truly need two incomes. And if a single mom chooses to homeschool, she normally must find a way to work at home.

Other moms may truly enjoy working and find that being a WAHM makes life more fulfilling overall. Whatever reason you choose to work at home, you can do it and still homeschool your children.

Outside Opposition to Being a WAHM

Know that some homeschool moms will judge or misunderstand your decision to work at home. Working moms for the most part will applaud you and understand how difficult it is to work at home and homeschool. But be prepared to be misunderstood by stay at home moms who do not earn an income. They may not understand why you cannot volunteer for every church activity or attend social functions. Some moms may even criticize your choice to work at all even if it is right at home, alongside your family.

Just like the choice to homeschool draws questions and sometimes criticism, the choice to work at home can also be confusing for outsiders. You have to be convinced that it is the right decision for your family so that you can withstand any outside pressure. It helps greatly if your husband can be a vocal supporter of your working at home so that others know you are not supplanting his authority but operating with his full approval.

Working at Home and the Housework

I will admit that my current situation is fairly easy because my daughter is older. And I only have one child. For moms of many little ones, working at home is a far greater challenge. My advice is to start with what time you do have and work towards creating more time. Realize that if your children are very needy, you will have less time to invest in your business or job. But children do grow up and can be trained to add value to the functioning of a household.

Never feel guilty that your children have to do chores while you are working. Housekeeping is a valuable life skill that teaches responsibility.

Homemaking and money making both have to happen. It makes more sense for children to do more housework to free you for profitable work. While children complete simpler tasks such as dishes and laundry, you can be earning money to buy groceries.

Remember that 200 years ago children spent most of their days at the kinds of household tasks that we today feel guilty about having our children do. And today we have time saving devices that make most jobs very easy. A life only of play and constant entertainment is not healthy for children (or adults). So do not feel guilty for asking your children to take on the tasks that free up more time for for you to work.

Working at Home and Meal Planning

Being a WAHM means that you must be ruthless with time management. Everyone is different, but to make working at home and homeschooling successful, you must have some routines in place.

Meal planning is a huge issue. After working and homeschooling all day, planning a meal and cooking it can feel overwhelming. But if you repeatedly fall back on eating out or consuming convenience foods, not only will your health suffer but your budget will as well.

There is huge temptation to eat out, especially when you are busy with work. Therefore you must learn to plan weekly menus, schedule time to grocery shop, and fall in love with your slow cooker. When meals are planned, your day runs far more smoothly, and you save money.

Working at Home and Actually Homeschooling

I am going to be honest with you. I have other WAHM friends, and we all admit that it is far too easy to let the kids slide while you are working on a big work project.

If you are going to be a WAHM who homeschools, you have to actually homeschool. That means that you plan it into your schedule just like you plan for meals and for your clients or work tasks.

One day Emma asked me about my to do notebook. (I have far more than just a list. It’s a multi-page notebook where I record the tasks I need to get done for the different roles I have.) She asked me a tough question, “Mom, do you have a page for my homeschool in that notebook?”

Actually, I do not. I have a whole binder devoted to her education. But her point is valid. Do I get so focused on work that I forget to homeschool? It can happen very easily.

Fortunately, my daughter is old enough that most of her work is done independently anyway. We meet together each day for an hour or so to do our “together work” and conference on her other tasks. But for the most part, she is working alone. This is appropriate for eighth grade, and not anything that I should feel guilty about.

When she needs help, I am right there to assist. But she also needs accountability. She needs me to check to see that she is working and is working with excellence. And this is where it’s easy to slide.

If you chose to homeschool while working at home, by all means, make the homeschool part a top priority.

Working at Home and Changing Expectations

If you work at home, you need to set realistic expectations. Here are some things I’ve learned as a WAHM.

1. It’s okay if dishes stay in the sink overnight.

2. It’s okay if the guest bed is piled with clean laundry for three or more days. After all, it is clean.

3. It’s okay if you work and do school in pajamas.

4. You don’t have to wash your clothes after a single wearing.

5. It’s okay to use the towels until they start to smell bad.

6. It’s okay to stay up late, working on a project.

7. It’s okay to sleep in the next morning and start school at noon if necessary.

8. It’s good for the family to make do without you while you are on an occasional weekend business trip.

Keeping Some Things Non-Negotiable

Your expectations may be different from mine. You may require everyone to be dressed before the day begins, and that’s fine. But you will have to let something else slide. The reality is that you cannot do it all well all of the time. Embrace that fact, and your life will be less stressful.

Here are some non-negotiables for me as a WAHM.

1. We eat real food, and we eat it at the table as a family.

2. We do some school at least four days a week.

3. When my daughter needs help or wants to chat, I stop what I’m doing and go to her.

Work Flow as a Work at Home Mom

In my situation, I am self-employed. I have my own social media marketing business iHomeschool Network and also work for different clients as a consultant or social media manager. That means I can set my own work hours. It’s one of the best perks of working at home and being self-employed.

One of my secrets to working at home is creative or productive procrastination. 

I have learned that to maximize my performance and keep my sanity, I work on projects when I want to. I chose to start my own business so that I can earn money doing what I love. And working with desire makes the job so much easier than plodding through a difficult chore.

Of course, there are time sensitive jobs that have to be done according to schedule, but I normally work far enough out that I can choose the projects that I am interested in for that day. This freedom keeps me motivated to show up at my desk day after day and even enjoying my work.

When I am in the flow with a certain task, I keep doing it until the flow stops. If I don’t feel like working on a certain project, I don’t. My to do lists are long and many, so there is always plenty to work on. I can normally find something I want to do.

Then when I get tired of “work,” I take a “break” by cooking or running an errand. My daughter says I’m the strangest person ever because my breaks are still work. But I see a break more as a diversion from the task at hand than as a period of inactivity. A break for me means working on a different task to freshen my mind, stretch my body, and strike off another line from that to do notebook.

And when I’m burned out on work altogether, I don’t do any for two or three days. I go offline and focus on sewing projects, take a field trip with Emma, complete a household improvement project, or visit with my mom. Anything but work. After those unplugged episodes, I always return to work with fresh ideas and renewed passion. They are a key to my success as a homeschooling WAHM.

Having a Work Station

For some reason, my physical work area has always been important to me. I’m the kind of person who cannot begin cooking when there is a sink full of dishes. I can’t concentrate on homeschool when the table is scattered with craft supplies. Likewise, having a dedicated work area that is all mine helps me to work more efficiently.

This is one of those best case scenarios that not everyone can afford in terms of space or furniture. But I am a firm believer in having a work station as a WAHM. When we moved into our home, I was given a huge banker’s desk and chair. (What a blessing!) We converted the formal living room into what we call a library. It has my desk, a piano, bookshelves, and upholstered chairs. I can close it off from the rest of the house for concentrated work hours or conference calls.

I have worked at a $59 pressboard desk in the living room with a hand-me-down computer. So I have not always had it this good. But the point is to have a dedicated work space that mentally prepares me for work and indicates to my family and friends that I’m a WAHM.

Bottom Line for Homeschooling as a WAHM

At the core, the answer to being a WAHM who homeschools is to be disciplined.  For some people that may mean a military style adherence to checklists and schedules. For me it a flexible outer manifestation but a very firm mental resolve that keeps me focused on my goals. That discipline makes it easier for me to say no to non-essential projects that might distract me. My internal discipline also helps me stand strong in my choice both to homeschool and to be a work at home mom.

Are you a WAHM who homeschools? Are you considering it? I’d love to connect with you. Leave me a comment here.

And be sure to visit my good friend Joan Otto’s post on this topic. Hers is called The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling as a Working Mom. It’s a fantastic resource!

A few working homeschool moms joined up for one of the weekly iHomeschool Hangouts to talk about this very topic. Enjoy the video below, or click over to find it via podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

Read more reasons people give for not homeschooling at iHomeschool Network.

I-Cant-Homeschool-Because-iHN Link-up

{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Ellen March 12, 2013 at 6:16 am

Jimmie! This is *exactly* what I needed! Two months ago, I began working at home part time. My dc are older, too, but it’s still a challenge. I especially loved and appreciated your words of wisdom regarding housework and chores for kids. Why we feel guilty asking children to help in the household — teaching them responsibility as well — I’ll never know!

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Dawn March 12, 2013 at 6:26 am

You made some great points here Jimmie. I think are article will inspire many on the journey to homeschooling. I need to catch up on your blog.
Blessings, Dawn

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Nicole March 12, 2013 at 6:55 am

Thank you for this wonderful post. I am a WAHM with an eBay business, and I have just decided to homeschool our 7 yr old twin boys. This was a great concern I had, and you helped ease my mind.
Thanks!

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Rebecca March 12, 2013 at 7:47 am

I am a WAHM and I homeschool. It is good to know that there are others that understand and struggle with the same things that I have. I chose to work at home so I would be available to educate my kids at home.

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Paige March 12, 2013 at 7:52 am

Great post, Jimmie! I’ve been a WAHM who homeschools for the last six years and it does take a great deal of discipline and drive. My homeschooled child is older now, which makes it easier, but I’ve also got a toddler in the mix at this point. Some days I wonder if I can keep up this pace, but as long as I’m organized it manages to somehow all get done. I do need to be more purposeful about passing off some of the housework and not feeling guilty about it :). Thanks for the inspiration!

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Mary March 12, 2013 at 8:08 am

What a thorough post, Jimmie! As a mom who has always worked part time, my smelly towels and I appreciate you :-)

It is a balancing act for sure and you have to have grace with yourself. I love all of your advice. As usual you have nailed it.

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Alicia Brown March 12, 2013 at 8:23 am

Thanks for this post, Jimmie!

I work at home, as well, and I did seriously question if I would need to give up either work or homeschool. It’s difficult to do both, but possible.

I love your lists about negotiable and non-negotiable expectations–that’s really a key! (The towel one is my favorite. I do that, too!)

My most powerful non-negotiable is to wake up and work for 2 hours early in the morning. The kids aren’t allowed in the office (they’re asleep anyway) and I have no interruptions. Plus, after I get my work done, I feel energized to go and homeschool and keep my house liveable.

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Tricia Ballad March 12, 2013 at 9:09 am

As an author, I was a WAHM before I was a homeschooling mom – and you’re right, there are so many temptations to let schooling slide when you’re working on something much more interesting than multiplication tables!

Two strategies have worked well for me: first, I have two hours in the morning before DH goes to work. Those are MY hours, to do the writing that requires the most concentration. That way I know that no matter what else happens, I’ve gotten my most important writing done for the day.

Second, I’ve emphasized independence (and yes – chores!) from an early age. My younger kids do most of their schoolwork one-on-one with me, but the older ones gradually do more and more independent work. I like to think this is good preparation for college, when they won’t have Mom or a teacher standing over them telling them “Ok, now it’s time to do your math work…”

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Joan March 12, 2013 at 9:55 am

Exactly!! I think you have nailed it. And I love that you and Emma had the conversation about where she – and her education – fit in. That’s the kind of conversation I have Sarah. I want her to be involved in what I do; I like to remind myself that if I wanted to “tune her out” for 8 hours straight, I could have kept working in an office! :)

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Elizabeth March 12, 2013 at 11:55 am

Jimmie, I’m showing this to various members of my family including my husband and older children. You have very neatly stated all the things I’ve been trying to communicate to them for many years. We have been running my husband’s business for almost 9 years, and I started a business of my own 2 years ago. I totally relate to all you are saying, and can attest to the frustration levels that exist when all the people in your home environment, (not to mention the ones outside of it!), think you are being controlling or manipulating by setting boundries, requirements for participation and a routine. But they are very necessary!
I can also tell anyone, from my own experience, that if you have babies, toddlers and/or preschoolers at home, giving them focused time and attention early in the day, before you try to ‘go to work’ will make your work hours more productive and the children less intrusive during that time. Which is right and good, IMO, because the people part of family life really should be our top priority.

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Heather March 12, 2013 at 1:13 pm

Thanks for this great post, Jimmie. The WAHM role is so new to me and it is very easy to become overwhelmed.

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Malena March 12, 2013 at 2:02 pm

Thank you for this post. I am a full time work at home mom, with two preschool aged children that I home school. I plan on continuing to home-schooling them as they enter elementary school (the older one will be in Kindergarten next year). I do have childcare during the day most days while I work. My goal is to do some reading and math with the boys everyday after I finish work. I do sometimes get overwhelmed and begin to think that this will never work. Reading posts like this really helps.

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Paula Kuitenbrouwer March 12, 2013 at 2:11 pm

Congratulations, Jimmie. How wonderful to read all this.
I am sure you do a wonderful job in advising people.
Kindest greetings from the Netherlands to you & your family from Paula

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Jamie March 12, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Kuddos, Jimmie, for how you juggle so many plates so well and for inspiring other moms to do the same!

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Ami March 12, 2013 at 3:39 pm

I plan to re-read this. Thank you for so much practical wisdom!

I have just started to learn to say no.

I have just begun my journey of not feeling guilty for working at home (i.e. not spending every second of every day with my children).

I have just started a real schedule where I have 4 hours each day dedicated to nothing but work on Homeschool Share. This requires discipline from me and from my family, but it is working! :)

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Kayla Arrowood March 12, 2013 at 4:27 pm

I was a work at home mother for 3 and a half years with 3 small kids from kindergarten to 5th grade! IT CAN BE DONE!! My husband was a great help but I must admit it was a must to have a routine and stick to it!!

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Bonnie Adams March 12, 2013 at 4:32 pm

I love this Jimmie! I am still trying to find the balance and it’s not easy. I plan to read this often!

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Jennifer Parkerson March 12, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Love this post Jimmie. It reminds me that I’m not the only WAHM that homeschools. That is a reminder that I need every now and then.

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Shalonne March 12, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Nice post! I’m also a homeschooling WAHM and it is HARD, but I still think easier than dealing with public schools. I work for a company so have a set schedule and that can make it tougher. I’m hoping to transition to working for myself though. My house is a MESS, but if I didn’t work, we wouldn’t have it, so we deal with it and know it’ll get easier when the kids are older.

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Alison B. March 12, 2013 at 8:54 pm

Hi Jimmie, thank you for your timely post! I am a WAHM homeschooling mom and have really been struggling lately to balance the 2, but getting better at it. Similar to you, I only homeschool my 7th grade son (daughter is still in PS),and he does alot of independent work.I found I really need to build in accountability because yes, as you said it is easy to let things slide and not check assignments. We both need the accountability! I love your list of expectations too, especially #4 as I am living that one right now! Thanks for sharing and I look forward to reading more posts at your adventure as a WAHM Homeschooling mom! Perhaps we need to create a new acronym – WAHHSM?

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MacKenzie Monroe March 13, 2013 at 12:37 am

This was an excellent post Jimmie! I think that so much of it applies to being a blogger mom, especially in this place I’m in of trying to take my blog to the next level. My husband’s job (we own a small construction company) fluctuates SO much throughout the year that it would just be SO helpful if I was able to bring in a little bit of extra income! It is really difficult right now with Emmerson still being so young and needy, but I hope over the next year or so to be able to develop things more. I appreciate your wisdom and advice in how you have walked down this path. I’ll take all the learning you have to dish out!

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Lula B March 13, 2013 at 3:43 am

I’m loving this series and especially your post, Jimmie.

I resonate with what you say about doing what you love and switching between different kinds of activity as a way of taking breaks. On Sundays I love to spend time writing in my special space, but I know that if I do it for too long my body and mind let me know I need a break, so I go and do something like bake a cake in our open plan kitchen, which also lets me hang out in a low-key way with the rest of the family for a while as they enjoy their crafts, books or games.

My children are 7 and 9 at the moment so I’m fairly hands-on with the homeschooling, but I’d love to make more of a contribution to the outside word as they become more independent. As has often been the case, you are an inspiration – thank you.

Finally, thank you (and Emma) for sharing Emma’s scoliosis story. I hope she is fit and well now. A friend recently pointed out that my 9 year old daughter’s shoulders were uneven and it was thanks to you that I took what she said seriously and consulted an orthopaedic specialist. Fortunately there doesn’t seem to be much of a problem so we are just under six monthly review, but it is good to have peace of mind.

Lucinda

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Jennifer March 13, 2013 at 7:23 am

This is excellent! I just found you through Judy @ Contented at Home. I have struggled with making homeschooling my top priority since working from home. I definitely want to work on this more. Thanks for so many practical ideas. You are truly an inspiration, and I will be linking to you this weekend on my blog for work-at-home, homeschooling moms.

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Julia March 13, 2013 at 8:32 am

Thank you for your post. I sometimes wonder if there are other moms out there that are working from home and homeschooling like myself, and I’m glad to know there are lots of other moms doing this too. I do legal transcription from home with two girls. The challenges seem insurmountable sometimes but we struggle through somehow. The housework is sometimes the last thing that gets done but that’s okay. It does get done eventually! Your list of observations is right on target. 12 noon has been our schoolwork start time pretty consistently for about two years now, lol. Thanks again.

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cheri March 13, 2013 at 8:59 am

I am a child care provider and homeschool 4 of my 5 children….I most agree with your recomendations that you need a routine and that the kids have chores….I’ve had people say that I must be super mom to get it all done, but really it’s because the whole family gets it all done! My kids all have assigned chores and they know when they have to be done (ex-the dishwasher needs emptied before lunch, so we don’t waste time scrounging for forks!) I post a menu every week so that my snack helper can see that they need to wash apples and get out crackers for the toddlers, my dinner helper can see that we are having baked potatoes and scrub them for me. As a result, my kids 11-15 are all VERY capable. My 11 year old frequently has people offer him paying jobs because they know he knows how to work. When my kids grow up and move out they will be able to cook, grocery shop, do laundry and all the other things that so many young adults are now learning after they move out. My kids also have learned patience, sometimes they have to wait a few minutes for me to be available to help them with a problem. They know how to deal with disruptions and get back on task, which I’m sure will come in handy in their future jobs. They know how to relate to all ages of people–from the baby to the parents who pick her up. The only thing that I wish we could do better is being able to go on outings more…field trips are a luxury that we just can’t make happen…it’s just not usually feasible to load up 3-4 babies/toddlers to go somewhere enriching for bigger kids.

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Heather March 13, 2013 at 6:19 pm

What a great post. I LOVE your non-negotiables.

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Richard March 13, 2013 at 9:32 pm

I am a working homeschooling dad. I work partime from home for a bank. This is my first year. My wonderful wife has homeschooled our kids for the past 5 years but went back to work as a pharmasist last July. She worked from home as medical transcriber. Our kids are 5 and 9. I work five hours a day, five days a week. Three of those hours must be between 9 and 5. The other 2 can be whenever. I get up at 5 and work from 5:30am to 7:30am. The kids get up at 8. School starts at 9. I work with them from 9-12. Then we eat lunch. From 12:45 to 2:45 they do workboxes and I work. At 2:45 school is done and they play while I work for another hour. This schedule works for us.I am glad to hear that bloggers like you are breaking down barriers that moms(and dads) that work from home cant homeschool because we CAN!

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Brenda March 14, 2013 at 1:58 pm

I am a single work at home homeschooling mom of 2 girls 12 and 17. It is a whole lot easier now than it was 6 years ago as a newly widowed mother of 2 girls 6 and 11 adjusting to working at home. I have worked at home as a medical billing specialist for 6 years. When I was working (17 years ago)I was a RN. Those grief filled days were hard.Its easier now and I am blessed I have been able to homeschool my girls. My eldest graduates in June with plans to go to MBI to major in Preconsuling Ministry and later get a Masters in Consuling Pyscholgy. It will be hard having her 25 hours and 1,713 miles away for 4 years and

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Tina March 15, 2013 at 10:03 am

This is what’s needed to read. I answer phones from home for our family business and I would like to begin homeschooling my daughter who will be in 3rd grade next year. I also have two toddlers at home and I know scheduling and organization is going to make it work

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Laura March 15, 2013 at 11:01 am

I’m a single, homeschooling WAHM. My daughter is in second grade, so she can do maybe half of her work independently. We mostly do night school. The idea of second grade night school is humorous, but it works for us. I think that is the key to working at home and homeschooling. You have to let go of what things “should” be and even let go of what other successful families do in nearly the same situation. You have to do what works for you and your family. No guilt.

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