Ask a NextGen Homeschooler: Can you work while homeschooling?

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AANGHButtonWelcome 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?

Renee GotcherNextGen 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.

RosannaWardHeadshotNextGen 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.

CristinaEklundNextGen 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.

ElizabethThomasNextGen 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!

Renée Gotcher is a wife, writer, editorial consultant, and home-educating mother of three daughters. She has been married for 26 years to her best friend Kenny, whom she met while attending Oral Roberts University in the early 90s. Renée was homeschooled during her last two years of high school and started homeschooling in 2010. A former journalist, she is currently editor of NextGen Homeschool and blogs on personal topics at A New Chapter. Her family lives in Castle Rock, Colorado.

20 thoughts on “Ask a NextGen Homeschooler: Can you work while homeschooling?

  1. This is so great! Thanks for sharing. I am blessed to be able to work from home while homeschooling. I used to teach in a private school, but now I am doing virtual assistant work and freelance writing/blogging.(http://www.lindseysbloggingandadvertising.com) I definitely have to learn how to prioritize my time better, but it has been doable. I strive to make our homeschooling moments more important, but to be able to work feels great and like I am contributing to the family. God is so good.

    1. You’re right Lindsey — it is definitely a huge blessing to be able to work from home and have control over what your work hours are so you can give you family and homeschooling moments priority. I am very grateful for that as well! Thanks for sharing your take on this topic.

  2. I work part time at our church staffing the two year old classrooms for Sunday School. Right now, we have to have that bit of extra income and this job was a Godsend. It works very well with our family and I love that I get to work at our church. Most of the work I can do from home in the evenings. Right now, my two kindergarteners go to a homeschool enrichment class on Thursdays, so my mother in law watches the other 3 little ones while I go to work for a few hours. It works for us right now. Of course, there are times I wish i didn’t have to worry about work, but so far I can balance it and I love my church and co-workers! Also, I do think that time with other adults has been good for me since we don’t get out much these days with 5 kids ages 6 and under! 🙂

    1. Hi Shannon! Your job at the church sounds wonderful, and it’s great how the Lord is providing some extra income for your family while giving you a break from the little ones — I know how important that is when they are 6 and under. It is wonderful to see how God provides in different ways during different seasons in our motherhood, and that He is making it possible for you to work while you homeschool in a way that really fits your family!

    1. Sounds like a great idea! Owning your own business can afford some great flexibility for homeschooling (as my sis-in-law Rosanna mentioned above). Best wishes on your launch!

  3. This is a great article. I have homeschooled for several years, and I stress several, While doing things to bring in extra income for the family. I have done evening/weekend daycare, I too was a DIQ in Mary Kay for awhile (very fun, but a lot of work) currently we have a paper route that we do for a couple of hours early in the morning. We are not financially were we would like to be, but I would not change the path we have taken in raising our kids. We have a 19 yr old College student, an 18 yr old Senior in High School, a 16 yr. old Junior in High School, and a 13 yr. old. As my children have gotten older and have their own part time jobs, we are finding more money to put away. Eventually things start to work out financially, but it does require some sacrifice in this area to homeschool that is for sure.

    1. Melissa, thanks for sharing how you’ve made it work over the years! It’s encouraging to all of us to hear from homeschooling moms who’ve graduated children and made it work through the years. It’s definitely a sacrifice. Great point that teens can start earning money too — many homeschooling organizations offer paid apprenticeship and mentorship programs too that can help teens earn while they continue to learn too!

  4. Wow, some great answers here! I am visiting from A Mama’s story, but I’ll have to bookmark this and read more later. I run a home day care and am thinking of homeschooling our kids, so this is a constant question for me.

  5. Yes, I work 36 hrs per week ad a night shift RN, I am the sole income earner as well as the primary teacher for our homeschooled children ages 7,6,5,&3. We also have a 16 mo old & another on the way. teamwork & flexibility is key. ground rules and discipline helps. Lots of prayer. we school 4-6 days/so, usually 4 hrs per day. we use every waking moment to teach something to our kids. We also have a farm so the kids get plenty of teachable moments there as well.

    1. Wow Noe, you are a great example that moms can work full-time hours and be sole income earners for their families while homeschooling. Your keys to success are wonderful — thank you for sharing them with us!

    2. Noe, great to hear your story. I am also a RN, currently have been off work for a year. I have a 1 yr old, 7 yr old and 10 yr old and I plan on homeschooling them this fall. I’m a little scared if I go back to work, especially if I only find night shift. What are your tricks? Could you email me? It would be nice to have an encourager. Wenjoy123@msn.com

  6. I’m not quite to homeschooling yet, but I really appreciate the advice on finding balance. I have a lot of hats at my church and now a blog, all of which I do feel called to, so I’m really trying to figure out the balance of the day. It pretty much equals out to a few late nights a week. I have no idea what it will all look like once my daughter is ready for full homeschooling, but I am excited to find out! 🙂

    1. Hi Mikah!
      We’re glad you stopped in to read on this topic as your contemplating homeschooling. How exciting! I hope our different scenarios and advice will be helpful to you as you get ready to add more homeschooling to your full plate.

      As you know, we all blog as well so that is another job we didn’t even mention in our post! I have found with blogging the key is to be clear on your mission, just like with your homeschooling and parenting, and when God is leading you, He will help you prioritize. It’s also important to start getting comfortable saying “no” to good things and good ideas if you know in your heart they don’t belong on your priority list — that was a really hard one for me!
      Renée

  7. Finally back to read more in detail! I love these stories and how each family can make things work. I’m still doing the home day care, but starting to do a little freelance work too, so I’m hoping to be doing more writing and less day care in 2 years when my daughter will “officially” start homeschooling (she’s 3 now). Thanks for sharing your stories!

  8. Noe, I am so glad to read your comments. I work in the medical field, we just started homeschooling in January, and I have this tug-of-war about homeschooling, working full-time with the pressure to complete my education, and the desire to expand our family. It is reassuring to see that it is possible when the impossible looks like the only answer. Great post!

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