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.
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!