Like most women in America, I find myself extremely busy. I am the mother of three children, the wife of a teacher, coach and part-time cattle farmer, a blogger, a homeschooler and, oh by the way, I have a full time job.
Many of the homeschooling families that I come in contact with are ones in which the husband works outside the home and the mother works at home as the resident domestic goddess and educator extraordinaire. When I mention to people that I have a full time job and homeschool, the cries of, “Wow – I could never do that!” increase exponentially and I am often asked how I can manage to do both. In this article, I will give you my answers to that question.
I am able to manage working and homeschooling because:
I have a wonderfully supportive network.
In my professional experience as a Foster Family Coordinator and Child and Family Therapist, I have had the privilege of training families to open their homes to children in need. One of the main points that we attempt to convey as we prepare families for this monumental task is that ASKING FOR HELP IS A STRENGTH, NOT A WEAKNESS. I have learned to apply this in my own life and in the area of homeschooling, especially. Having a supportive network of friends who believe in what you do and ones who are willing to step in and help when you need it is essential to your ability to be an effective and confident educator. My network includes my Mother-In-Law who keeps my children twice a week so that I can attend meetings (and make uninterrupted phone calls – remember those?), a wonderful group of homeschooling neighbors who provide many opportunities for “socialization”, a co-worker who swaps with me for child care once a week for a few hours, a wonderfully engaged husband who tends to the kids in the evenings if I have work that is still pressing and a whole host of others who help me carry the load that would otherwise weigh me down and prevent me from being able to follow the call to educate my own.
Working a flexible schedule is very helpful but not necessary.
For me, working a job that allows me flexibility has been an important aspect of how we schedule our days. Fortunately, I am able to work from home and can take time between my work tasks to do formal lessons with my children at various times throughout the day. Because I have been with the same company for nearly 15 years, I have built a relationship with my employer that enables me to have the flexibility to work for a paycheck as well as spend the time that I need to educate my children. Approaching your employer about a flexible schedule is easier when you have proven that you are a valuable and trustworthy asset to the team. Now… I bet that someone is shaking her head and saying, “That’s nice for you, but I do not have the luxury of working at home or working a flex schedule.” If that is your situation, take heart. One of the beauties of homeschooling is that learning does not have to happen between the hours of 8 and 3. If you are able to work out child care (remember, utilize your network!) you can utilize the other hours of the day to do your schooling. Have school in the car, at bedtime, at the dinner table, playing in the back yard, taking an evening walk, on the weekends and during those moments that you are with your child. It will take more diligence on your part but it is possible, especially if you are schooling young children.
One more word of encouragement in this area: Research has consistently shown that reading aloud to your child is the single most important thing that you can do for their education. Read at the dinner table. Read at bedtime. Always keep a spare book in the car. If you are traveling (and someone else is doing the driving, of course!) read aloud instead of listening to the radio. Read to your children while they are playing in the bathtub. Listen to audio books instead of watching television. For more information on this topic I highly recommend “The Read Aloud Handbook” by Jim Trelease.
My teaching style is flexible and I utilize everyday events as “teachable moments.”
Here at The Clark Academy Of Excellence, we do not currently use a formal curriculum. We do make a point to read, write, and do math every day and I have lesson plans for those things. Other than that, we learn as opportunities arise. My children are young and I do realize that as they grow older, the demands on my time will be greater as I will need to do more planning but for now, this system works wonderfully. In the evenings while preparing dinner, instead of turning the television on so the kids can be “out of the way” we do math by measuring and counting. My preschooler builds dexterity and works on fine motor skills as he cuts strawberries for a fruit salad. When someone falls down outside and scrapes a knee, we apply a band-aid, kiss the boo boo and then we take the time to learn about the epidermis and the importance of keeping wounds clean. Flexibility and openness to “life learning” is critical. Because you (and not someone else, somewhere else) have the responsibility of ensuring that your children are gaining the knowledge they need, you become more keenly aware of opportunities for learning and you see them as fertile soil for sowing seeds of knowledge.
On-line resources play a huge part in our teachable moments.
When we find a spiderweb outside and we want to learn more about how they catch their prey or how they manage to walk around their web without getting stuck themselves, we gather ’round the laptop and search Youtube, Google and Lesson Pathways for spider information. Within seconds, we are transported into the fascinating world of arachnids and arthropods. By seizing upon the moment of interest, the information becomes crystallized in the memories of my children in a way that no pre-planned worksheet could possibly provide. On-line resources put a world of information at your fingertips and allow you to bulk up your teachable moments.
An attitude of thankfulness for my current situation.
Truth be told, I would prefer to not work. I have learned to multitask and with the above things in place, I have managed to find systems that work for me and my family. I could get bogged down in pity parties and feel sorry for myself because I have to keep so many plates spinning. (And as long as we’re telling the truth here, I often have to try VERY hard to resist that temptation.) I have found, however, that if I approach the source of potential pity with thankfulness, I am able to overcome the demons that would pull me into ineffectiveness. Having a thankful heart for the opportunity to be my child’s primary educator keeps me in good spirits and keeps me focused on WHY I have chosen to homeschool.
So, are you thinking of homeschooling but don’t think you can because of your job? Be encouraged! With a strong network, great resources, and a willing and thankful spirit the possibilities are endless!