Combining Work and Homeschool
By Lorraine Curry
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #18, 1997.
Some tips on how to manage combining work and an effective homeschool.
Many employed or self-employed mothers (writers, publishers, business owners, nurses, and others) are homeschooling their children while working from a few to over 40 hours a week. Some separate work and school, doing each at a particular time; others consider life as school - their children are always learning.
"How do you teach your children and maintain the rest of your responsibilities? First of all, we are very content with being homebodies, so we do not spend huge amounts of time on field trips or on other activities that pull us in too many directions," says Deb Deffinbaugh, co-owner (with husband Dan) of Timberdoodle Company.
"You're going to have to decide what's important. If you work, something else is going to have to give. You may be able to do everything for a while, but your sanity or health will suffer eventually," says Nancy Greer. Nancy works outside her home over 40 hours a week while her husband works at his home business. Then with her family, she spends 32 hours of the weekend at a home for handicapped children. On top of that, the Greers publish a newsletter and run a homeschool supply company (F.U.N. News and Books)!
In order to find the time to combine working and homeschooling, keep a record of what you do - every hour of every day - for a week or two. Then, add the number of hours spent on each type of activity. You might see that you have wasted hours doing things that could be eliminated, and replaced with more worthwhile endeavors. And most of us could become more efficient. Catherine White recommends, "Simplify housework and cooking, eliminate TV, stay home and run all errands on one day." (Nick and Catherine White publish An Encouraging Word.)
A twelve-month schedule works for some, while others do school during the months that business is slower. With a nine-to-five job, two to three hours each evening and four or more on the weekend could meet individual goals and requirements. (Total supervised hours would depend on such factors as whether your child can do independent study, your state's requirements, and how much informal learning you plan to do.) Saturdays would be ideal for hands-on activities, museums, reading, workbooks, or texts. On Sundays, study the Bible - read and dictate to teach language arts, hear recitation of memory verses for speech practice, and read aloud about creation science or church history.
Elise Griffith - who has two home businesses - says, "I 'work' mainly during afternoon quiet time and after the boys go to bed." This plan - dividing the day in half, doing school in the morning and work in the afternoon - is common. Children can either nap, work on projects, read, or play while Mom works. Anne Olwin - artist, writer and business owner - suggests, "Prepare ahead of time for deadlines." And Catherine White wisely explains, "Fit school in - don't be rigid - sometimes fit work in."
Many parents with children in public or private schools spend some time each night helping with homework - reteaching such things as phonics or creation, or reading aloud. With a read-aloud session nightly, a homeschooled child can surpass his public school counterpart, especially in language arts. Since you will be reading to your child, you can use the public library and skip over objectionable parts, or explain the subject biblically.
Begin "schooling" with cuddling and reading to your young child. Then when he or she shows an interest in doing more, teach school subjects one at a time. First cover phonics thoroughly, then go on to reading practice with very easy books. Work on penmanship next, and follow that with creative writing. (Your young child will create more profusely if you do some of the actual writing, as he or she dictates.) Lastly present basic math concepts, including some drill. Strive for a degree of mastery in each area before going on the the next. You save time, and your child retains his or her desire to learn with this easy start.
Combining activities also conserves limited time. While your children are doing penmanship or art projects, read historical or scientific biographies aloud. Integrate speech with literature or history, geography with missions, nature study with family time, and vacations with science (or history, or art) as you visit museums and historical sites.
Once your children know how to read, they can take responsibility for their own learning. Deb Deffinbaugh says, "Children desire to have as much control as possible over their lives, and a system of accountability is a wonderful way to introduce them to the adult world of responsibilities and consequences."
Mary Leonard (who works two 12-hour shifts each week as an RN) says, "The secret is in the planning, and in setting expectations. I wrote contracts with my 12-year-old son, so he knows exactly what he must do in each subject, and with what level of accuracy. The time I must spend with him is primarily in evaluation of his work and feedback."
Housework is usually left for the already-busy working mom, whose children are in out-of-the-home schools. But when homeschooling, much of that housework can be done by your children - who learn to be a blessing as they are taught life skills.
Although most homeschooling mothers with home businesses work around their children's schedules and schooling, those with outside work often share child care with their husbands by working alternate shifts. A babysitter may come to the child's home, where school books and toys are readily available. Some older, responsible children are able to get their schooling and chores done on their own, while their parents work. Children could also stay with a relative - such as a grandparent - and help with chores and projects.
Could you teach your children and yet maintain the responsibilities of a job or business? Efficient methods can help. Just remember Anne Olwin's sound advice to "laugh and keep a good sense of humor," because "everything is more difficult and takes longer if you don't."
Then like Catherine White, you may say, "We love what we do and like to be busy!"
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