Welcome to “Ask a NextGen Homeschooler…” It’s your turn to ask the authors of NextGen Homeschool — four formerly homeschooled moms who are now homeschooling our children — to weigh in on your homeschooling questions. From the practical to the personal, all questions are welcome — whether you’re a current homeschooler or just homeschooling curious!
This week’s question is very common in our challenging economy: Can you work while homeschooling? And if you do work, how do you balance work with homeschooling, homemaking, and family responsibilities?
NextGen Homeschool Editor Renée Gotcher
Was homeschooled in 11-12th grade
Began homeschooling in 2010
Three daughters ages 12, 10 and 5
The easy answer to this question for me is yes, you absolutely can work while homeschooling. I have worked both at home and away from home during these past three homeschooling years. I can say from experience that it isn’t easy to do both, but it’s certainly possible.
The more difficult question that I believe every homeschooling couple must face — and come to agreement on — is how employment fits in with your family’s mission and priorities. This decision really determines the answers to “why work” and “how do I work” alongside your homeschooling.
When I began homeschooling in 2010, I was an Independent Sr. Sales Director for Mary Kay. Managing a team of 50-plus women takes a lot more time and effort than sharing and selling products with my clients. I know women that do this while homeschooling and seem to do it well. For me, I just wasn’t able to easily separate work and homeschooling in my mind: When I was doing one, I always found myself thinking about and feeling guilty about the other. Long story short, a year later I stepped down from my director’s position.
This was not an easy financial decision: In the height of my business, my commission was paying almost as much as my husband’s salary. It also wasn’t “extra” money but necessary money. However, with much prayer and discussion about our family priorities, reasons for homeschooling, and sacrifice that would be necessary, my husband and I decided we would try to make it work without that level of income.
Today, I still service my existing clients, many of whom are now friends, and I do contract editorial work through a content consulting business I launched called WriteWords Ink. I find that working in these avenues provides enough flexibility to create small segments of work time during evenings or weekends that no longer interfere with our homeschool day, while still being a positive experience for myself and my clients. Some ebb-and-flow income is produced by these two sources, but more important to me is the fact that the mental battle between work and family is over.
Now I feel truly free to spend my homeschooling day completely focused on our girls and letting our activities flow more freely. I no longer avoid time-consuming (and messy!) projects or dash out the door at the end of our afternoon enrichment programs while other moms stay for fellowship. It might take years for my very part-time income to help us get into a better financial situation, but I still feel extremely blessed that I can do both for what we believe to be the right reasons for our family.
NextGen Homeschool Author Rosanna Ward
Was homeschooled since 8th grade
Began homeschooling in 2005
Two homeschool graduate daughters & two sons ages 7 & 2
This is a topic that comes up quite a bit at my house. We have homeschooled for eight years, and we also own a very busy donut shop. Until about two years ago, I also worked at the donut shop at least a couple of hours a day. In addition to that, I did and still do all of the bookkeeping, payroll, errand running, etc.
After we had our youngest son Leif, I was able to stay home from the donut shop — because he is a holy terror and can’t be at the shop. I thought this year homeschooling was going to be easier because I wasn’t working in the shop and I only had one child to teach, plus a toddler to take care of. But in November, an opportunity came our way to open a second shop. Life has gotten a little crazy since then.
The second shop opens February 1. Once again, I need to readjust the balance between home, homeschool and work. There will be double the amount of bookwork and errand running, that is for sure. And I will be needed to help train and fill in on the counter and drive-thru at the new shop. My two-year-old is in Mother’s Day Out three days a week, and I have found a sitter that can help out some of the other days. My seven-year-old, Joel, is more of a “have books, will travel” kind of kid that can come with me.
I considered switching Joel to a packaged curriculum that might be less teacher-involved, but several things stopped me. First, we are really enjoying the eclectic curriculum we are currently using, and second, I think no matter what type of curriculum I use, my second grade boy is going to need my direction and involvement. Every day he is becoming a more independent learner, but for now he still needs explanations and encouragement constantly.
Since the winter break, his schoolwork routine has been pretty good. I am trying to get everything very organized and running efficiently, and I am also making contingency plans. Every week I look at Joel’s lesson plans and decide what absolutely must get done that week, putting things in order of priority. I also need to get in the habit of spending a little more time planning his week ahead of time. Making sure I have the books, activities, tests, etc., set out for him and ready to go. I need to know what lessons will need some extra explanation. I need to get better about having his outside activity stuff, such as soccer uniforms and piano books, ready to go on the days we need them.
I have two more weeks to work on this and then it is “go” time. I realize there will be unexpected schedule interruptions, but if I plan and organize properly, I think Joel’s schooling won’t be paused when these things happen.
All that being said, I think there are two very important things that are needed in order to make homeschool and “work” work together: Organization and flexibility. To that end, I have found three companies this past year that have really helped with this. Check out my personal blog, Rose of Grace, for this week’s post about these companies and why I recommend them.
NextGen Homeschool Author Cristina Eklund
Was homeschooled since the 6th grade
Began homeschooling in 2010
A son (7) and daughter (4)
Right now we live in an 825 square-foot cottage behind my in-laws’ house. This summer it will be six years since we returned from our two years of living and serving in Nicaragua with our then-two-year-old son, Elijah. Then in 2008, we had our daughter Arielle.
The years following, I found I really struggled in my heart to go back to “work” — mainly to help get our family a place of our own. But with the support of my husband, we continue to seek the Lord for direction as to what our family’s priorities should be and how, by our decisions, we can support them. A lot of women these days call it their family “mission” statement, but since that verbiage weirds my husband out, we refer to them as our family “priorities” instead.
Right now we feel that homeschooling is what we should do. Not so much a “divine calling” to homeschool, but a divine privilege to mentor our children for as long as God allows time for. To love them, spend time with them, create memories and experiences that will serve them for their lifetime.
When I look back at my own homeschooled past, I remember that finances played a big role in what we could and could not do in our family. It also put a strain on my parents’ marriage. I really believe at some point, public school may have been a better environment than the emotional chaos of home.
For this reason, I’ve made it very clear to my husband that I am more than willing to work when things start to feel tight or my husband gets too stressed out with work (he just got a second job as an on-line teacher). I do keep my ears open for small jobs that I could do without adding tension to our days. For example, I did respite work driving a boy home from school for six months last year. This also means using a charter school program and the funding it provides to do things like taking group classes and building our library.
Someone once told me in light of the Proverbs 31 women, that when she worked, it was to benefit her husband — to do him good — and for her family, and not for herself or her own self interest. I know seasons change, and there may be a season someday when I work outside of the home again. We’ve even talked about going back to school so I can finish my BA in Art History.
But for now, I am taking it day by day, seeking the Lord to be content with what I’ve got, but being open to bless my family however God may have me to do so.
NextGen Homeschool Author Elizabeth Thomas
Was homeschooled from K-12th
Began homeschooling in 2009:
Five daughters ages 13, 12, 10, 4 and 4 months old.
Elizabeth answered this week’s question in this recent post, “How we manage working while homeschooling.“
Do you work as well as homeschool? How do you balance working with your homeschool, home and personal responsibilities? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this important topic!