We've all heard it, and quite possibly been the one guilty of saying it: "I can't homeschool because I have to work."
But what if you could make it work? What if you could find a happy medium between work and homeschool? What if you could find a balance between paying the bills and giving your children the world-class education of which you dream?
Children have been homeschooled from the beginning of time. Parents had their kids by their sides all day long, learning through their work, their play and at the end of the day. In some ways, times were simpler: the main concern was avoiding the saber-toothed tiger who hunted near the stream, all the while filling your family's belly with fish. I'm not sure I would count this as being simpler...less complicated perhaps, but not simple!
Families almost always had multiple sources of income, it's only been in the last, oh, 50 years or so that we have the "ideal" of mom staying at home with the kids; mostly since the second World War. You see, families had lost so many of their children, grandchildren and parents to the horrors of WWI and later WWII, that they were war-weary and really wanted to give their families everything they could. And, because there were more jobs available due to the decrease in people available to fill the jobs, pay was higher than it had been before.
Fast forward to today - and financially many of us simply cannot have only one income. Things are too expensive, and so homeschooling becomes less of an option (in perception) because of the need for two incomes. We are one such family. I work the afternoons, four days a week, teaching violin and viola, and the mornings and nights growing Learning Tangent so that it will one day replace the music teaching income. I love teaching, but I would love to be able to be home more. So that is where my focus lies.
My husband owns a pool service and repair company - he works insanely long hours during the spring and summer, and in the fall his work load lightens up a bit. I do the majority of the teaching, but he helps to reinforce math concepts, and discusses history with the boys. Tonight, they were re-enacting the Punic Wars with little army men.
With no further delay, here are my favorite tips to balance work and homeschool:
1) Change your lifestyle, and find ways to cut costs.
Reducing your expenses will help in balancing the budget and deciding what kind of work you can or need to do to help pay the bills. Homeschooling is a lifestyle, and as such, requires some sacrifices.
When you think about maybe, possibly homeschooling, it's like this switch that flips in your head. You start obsessing about how to teach this, how to teach that, what curriculum is best, what kind of learner are your kids, etc. So it should go without saying that your lifestyle should change along with this shift in perception. Suddenly, eating out every week isn't as important, nor are those designer shoes. Your priorities for what you find value in can and should change to reflect this new reality. Maybe you won't go on big expensive vacations twice a year, but every couple of years with a couple of road trips in between.
2) Make a list of your skills and abilities.
In order to find jobs or self-employment options that are right for you, you'll need to take the time to make an honest list of your capabilities. This includes what like or dislike. There's no sense in building a business around something you hate, that'll last about five minutes!
I absolutely love Dan Miller's 48 Days books - they include step by step instructions on how to find or make work that you love, and that works for you. His podcast is published weekly, and I've found it to be a terrific source of encouragement and inspiration.
3) Lean on trusted friends and family, where available.
Yeah, some of us don't have family nearby, or even family we can trust. We've all got challenges, but we can definitely learn to network, and use this amazing thing called the internet that I hear Al Gore invented (we all say stupid things, but this is too easy to use) to find local groups. Cultivate friendships, offer to help out with another mom's kids when she needs to get a little work done, and she'll probably be thrilled to return the favor unless your kids are barbarians like mine are. Okay, mine are not that bad, but they are boys.
4) Find non-traditional sources of income.
This goes hand in hand with listing your skills and abilities; you've got to know what you're good at, what you enjoy, before you can begin to look for work. That said, a traditional 9-5 job is probably not what you're looking for if you're trying to balance homeschool and work.
The internet is a fantastic resource for non-traditional income, and much of it involves sales of some sort. If you're comfortable talking to people about products or services you love, you can sell. The trick is learning to keep going, no matter how many "Nos" you get.
Besides sales, you could:
- Find businesses that will allow you to tele-commute to maybe keep track of their social media accounts.
- Set up a blog and charge for product reviews.
- Offer to help organize another mom's home for a fee.
- Teach or tutor in a subject where you're strong.
5) Use a crock pot to cook tasty meals without spending a ton of time.
What? A non-work related tip? This is about balancing work and homeschool, and as I mentioned before - this is a lifestyle so you'll be making adjustments all over the place. A crock pot is a busy homeschooler's best friend!
But beyond the crock pot, there are loads of things you can do ahead in big batches to save time later.
- Breakfast burritos full of healthy eggs, potatoes and cheese. You can use anything you like to fill these, but I have to make them by the dozen. The kids and my husband go through them like water. I'll make 30 of them, and freeze them in zipper bags; then like some Houdini trick, they're all gone the next day. But I haven't had to feed the kids for a day either. It's a win.
- Veggie patties are great for sandwiches in the middle of the day. Best of all, the recipe makes a huge batch! The sheer volume of the recipe keeps me from having to remake them daily, but the kids love these! They're easy to make, tasty and healthy.
- Pancakes are a great make ahead meal too, a big batch of these goes in the fridge and they can make an egg to go with it. Yes, my 9-year-olds cook their own eggs.
I'm sure there are more ideas out there, if you're doing this now, what has worked for you? What did you have to sacrifice, and what has blossomed in its place?