For someone like me who has always been fortunate enough to homeschool my kids full-time and not worry about needing a full or part-time job to help with bills, the thought of doing what I do PLUS working seems downright impossible, but there are families doing it, and doing it well. They demonstrate that despite many beliefs to the contrary, you can work full-time and homeschool. I tracked a few working homeschoolers down to find out how they manage to meet both the demands of their children’s educations and the demands of their jobs. It’s a piece I felt compelled to write because never before have so many parents reached out to me to share their desire to homeschool, but also their concern about taking on so great a task while still working full-time.
The overwhelming response I received from working parents in the homeschool trenches was – you can do it. It won’t be easy, but it can be done, and your children can benefit from being homeschooled, even as you and your spouse both work full-time. I’ve organized their answers below so you can learn from them some of the best ways to balance a full-time job on top of homeschooling.
Get on the same page with your spouse.
It helps to have both parents in favor of, and enthusiastic about, homeschooling. It can’t simply “fall on mom” to take care of everything because mom is working too. Because it requires extra planning, coordination, and sacrifice for everyone, finding a way to work full-time and homeschool will work best when both mom and dad want to make it work and actively contribute to its success.
“We always knew we wanted to home school, but with the need to pull 2 incomes (At least!) in the state of NJ, we knew we had to be open to some career adjustments to make this happen. We’ve both always maintained full time PLUS part time employment.” – Lauren, mom to two elementary aged children.
“We chose homeschooling out of necessity because of the following: 1) I taught in our neighborhood public middle school in a major city and saw first hand the sub-par academics and lack of respect and discipline among the students. We didn’t want to subject our young son to this environment at the time. 2) Even with two incomes, we could not afford the local Catholic school tuition nor did we have the time to fulfill the volunteer hour requirements.” – Christine, mom to four students ranging in grades 10 to a college graduate. Her oldest was homeschooled K-12, while her younger three were homeschooled K-8/9.
“I came from an unusual (at that time anyway) homeschooling family in which both my parents worked full time during the same shift plus away from home. At the time I was in Kindergarten, my parents learnt about homeschooling from a newspaper ad (this was in the 90s before the internet was a thing) as well as some people at church and considered giving it a shot. It worked so well academically (it’s really hard to mess up with first grade) that they were willing to continue with my next youngest sibling all the way until we graduated twelfth grade. I’m glad they did.” – Ava, homeschool graduate whose parents both worked full-time
With so many spinning plates, it’s crucial to the success of your homeschool that you and your whole family are organized. Otherwise, things will fall through the cracks; school assignments, business reports, housework, bills, and maybe even your sanity! Put in the time to plan so things can run smoothly, and so you can see where outside help is needed.
“It’s worth the effort, but it takes commitment, exceptional time management and communication skills, creativity, perseverance, and self-discipline. Be a good example to your children. Don’t procrastinate on the little things. Use time wisely!!” – Christine
Maureen Wittmann of Homeschool Connections stressed the importance of learning time management, creating routines, meal planning, and keeping a calendar among her 20 Tips for Working Homeschool Moms.
“Determine what can go and must stay. What is non-negotiable? What can be let go? In your to-do journal, on page one, write down your non-negotiables. Perhaps it’s read-aloud time during lunch. Or nature walks on Saturday mornings. Or weekday Mass. Then write down what can be removed from your schedule, or given to someone else in the family. It could be that you’re doing too many outside activities or assigning mere busy work to the children. It may be as small as changing to a low-maintenance haircut or discontinue changing out decorative sofa pillows with the change of the seasons. Or as big as turning over a volunteer leadership role to another person for now. Eliminate the extraneous things that don’t help you reach your homeschool and/or business goals.” – Maureen
Even SAHM’s who homeschool get help from online classes, tutors, community college courses, mothers helpers, etc. It only makes sense that working parents should too. Or maybe you’ll decide that you can handle the math classes, and dad will take the writing classes, but the housework, or the driving, or something else needs to be outsourced. Don’t forget to connect with other homeschoolers to get the support and community you need when you can’t figure out the perfect schedule, the ideal curriculum, or magic time saving solution on your own. (They can also be great for carpooling.) You don’t need to work full-time and homeschool all alone.
Remember that as your children get older much of the housework, and the schoolwork, can become their responsibility. Make sure you’re not putting more work on your plate when delegating chores, and teaching kids to work independently can free up your time for more important matters.
“Every family’s different, but there were several factors that made it do-able for us: The support of my grandparents and decade older siblings who were willing to rearrange their schedules so that there was always an adult with us during elementary years. They didn’t really oversee our study but they were around if we had a question or if someone came to the door with a question. We utilized a curriculum that included all materials, lesson plans, tests, answer keys, report cards & transcripts, advisors you could contact, was fairly flexible with submission deadlines, etc…It wasn’t the cheapest program but it gave my parents the assurance that we would be academically alright so long as we completed the courses.” – Ava
“Be realistic about limitations. Don’t hesitate to outsource some subjects if needed. Our children attended co-op classes through our homeschool group enrichment program which was conveniently located at our parish. Over the years, we worked in tandem on the childcare duties. Whenever my work schedule overlapped my husband’s, we would arrange for childcare. Sometimes the grandparents would help out. Other times we traded childcare with another homeschool family whose parents also worked full-time.” – Christine
“I delegate a chore chart daily and whoever is up first [with their] bed made, gets to pick their chores. We also have a smaller home, which has its advantages when you clean it yourself! My children are still in primary/ formative years, and I absolutely feel like I’m in uncharted waters with both my husband & I working full time…BUT…I have found others! A number of parents are pulling their children out of public school this year, and they both work full time. I am encouraging them to form a “support pod” with me as we navigate these shores together. ” – Lauren
Give it to God.
By choosing to homeschool your children, you can not only put your family’s faith at the center of homeschool, but you can learn to really put your trust in God as you embark on this adventure. (I mean that’s one way of thinking about it right??) In other words, pray! God will strengthen you to work full-time and homeschool, and He will give you guidance if you just make time to listen to Him. Pray with your kids and remember to turn to God when you feel completely frazzled and overwhelmed (like all of us!).
“Make time to pray everyday! Live your faith and integrate the liturgical calendar into family life.” – Christine
“PRAY!!! This could be both first and last on this list of tips. It is certainly the most important. Don’t let the busyness of the day interfere with your prayer life. Have a set prayer time with the children. Get time before the Blessed Sacrament. Get to Mass a little early so you have time to reflect and talk with our Lord. And, get those kids praying for you – every day!” – Maureen
Give it time.
Brand new homeschoolers of all stripes (parents and kids alike) need time to acclimate to homeschooling. Be patient with yourself and your children as you adjust to your new schedule and routines, and tweak things as necessary over the first few weeks. Learning to work full-time and homeschool smoothly will not happen overnight, but it can happen.
“Stop. breathe. You CAN do this. Especially now, in this climate of COVID, meetings from home, remote learning/remote employment. If you’re already working mostly from home, this is a no brainer. If you’re working partially from home, talk with your spouse and your boss and explore your options, have a conversation before you say “There’s no way they’ll let me do this” or “There is no way I can handle this”. Be flexible with the demands you put on the children and on yourself. It takes at least 2 full years to really get “into the groove”.” – Lauren
Any other advice from other working homeschoolers out there? Share it in the comments below! Or feel free to ask any more questions you may have. Don’t forget to check out the Homeschooling Page for more tips and information!