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Is it possible to successfully homeschool your children while working (either from home or outside of the home)? More and more homeschooling moms are working. It can be done! In the past, moms who had to work (or who chose to work) knew they couldn’t homeschool their children. But it’s not that way any more. This series of interviews with homeschooling moms who work will give you information about how other moms have made it work!
As part of my Homeschool and Working Moms series, I am interviewing working homeschool mom, Jen MacKinnon. Jen has been homeschooling for the last 11 years. In that time she has juggled homeschooling, working outside the home, and running a successful blog. She has two teenagers at home whom she homeschools.
Jen never expected to be a homeschooler. Like most homeschoolers, she was preparing her oldest for life and education by playing games, taking nature walks, and making frequent visits to her local library. When she had to send him off to school, she had a gut feeling that this wasn’t the right path, but she shrugged it off. It wasn’t until his teacher informed her that she didn’t want him in her class that she realized there might be another path. Jen’s son was already ahead of his fellow classmates because of his mom’s diligence to teach her son through play. The teacher was concerned that he would become bored and be a distraction to the other students. She actually encouraged Jen to become a homeschool mom.
How do all the “mom responsibilities” fit into the day?
Nowadays Jen can be found every day working on her blog, Practical, by Default, homeschooling both her children, and working part-time outside the home. She even finds time to volunteer. With the typical “mom responsibilities” of housework, grocery shopping, errands, pet care, etc. how does she find time to fit everything in?
The truth of the matter is, especially if you have been a stay-at-home mom before you returned to work, you may think nothing needs to change when you enter the workforce with your “life.”
You need to ask for help, and you need to be vocal about it. Your family members are not mind-readers. They need you to be specific with what you need. This includes your spouse or other adults in the home. I cannot tell you how many times my husband will step over a bag of garbage that needs to be taken out and not see it. I am not kidding! Over the years, I have learned to be specific. I can’t say, “Please clean up before I get home.” I need to say, “Please take the garbage out and wipe off the counters before I get home.” You know what works best in your home. Do that.
Jen is a big believer in training kids to be successful in life. This includes learning life skills such as cooking, cleaning, and basic maintenance.
When you involve your children you accomplish three things. You…
- …give them the skills they need for life.
- …lighten the load on yourself.
- …make them feel like an important part of the family.
When I do these three things, the load lightens immensely, and I feel like I can breathe. I feel like part of a group working towards a common goal instead of someone who’s all alone fighting against the storm.
What does Jen’s day look like?
Jen admits that she had to let go of what she thought homeschooling would look like for her family. They’ve learned to rely on independent learning and make use of online programs that work for her kids along with textbook programs. They have had to slowly become more flexible in their homeschool.
I’ve let go of what “clean” is for our house. Tidy is a nice replacement. Getting everyone involved means the towels aren’t folded the way I want them to be, but in the big picture, it doesn’t really matter.
I’ve had to let go of impromptu… well… anything. Our life is very scheduled in order for all the parts to work together. We have one car, so we need to coordinate pickups, drop-offs, errands, lessons, and classes. Instead of spur-of-the-moment, we try to set aside a few days a month to keep free to meet with friends or do something fun–like a fair or a family get-together that is coming up.
The Common Thread Among Working Homeschool Moms
Jen’s blog, Practical, by Default, is centered on helping working homeschool moms find practical solutions. She has interviewed many working homeschool moms, but she finds that one thing unites them all.
The determination to make it work for them. Each of them has had to let go of a preconceived notion of what this “juggle” was going to look like. Almost every single one of them talked about the fact they had an “idea” of what homeschooling, working, and life were going to look like. However, in reality, changes needed to be made. Being brave, flexible, and willing to make those changes in order to keep reaching all the needs of the family are the common threads. Besides the obvious — working and homeschooling at the same time.
What is the best homeschooling style while working?
According to her research, she has found that there isn’t one homeschooling style that works better or worse while working.
In our Facebook group, we get the moms to introduce themselves. We have very structured homeschoolers to unschoolers. Among the moms I’ve interviewed, we have Charlotte Mason Tidal School with a large influence of Brave Writer Lifestyle to extremely relaxed Charlotte Mason to Spark Learning to Textbook and Workbook with a side of crazy thrown in!
However, having children who are independent learners makes life so much easier — age appropriate of course. Taking advantage of the tools at hand and being creative is vital. Using board games, coloring books, notebooking, unit studies, project learning, video games (yes, including Minecraft), and seeing the educational value in these without removing the fun really helps you meet all your educational requirements without overloading your child and yourself.
The Most Useful Tool for Working Homeschool Moms
She finds that the most useful tool for working homeschool moms is having a plan.
You need to make a plan that fits your family, your needs, and your lifestyle. This is one of the first things I encourage working homeschool moms to do. I am not saying use this planner or that–not that I don’t have my favorite. Find a planner or organizer that works for you, not against you. Your life is busy with a million moving parts. Chances are I am only slightly exaggerating with a “million.” You need to keep track of all the pieces so nothing gets lost and to keep it manageable.
The key is to be as scheduled as you need to be to run your life. Not so scheduled you can’t breathe.
I have a 3 step process to help you find the unique plan for you, based on your life, work, homeschool. Being a working homeschool mom is hard. Not impossible. Having a simple schedule designed by you for you makes a huge difference!
Other tools she finds are helpful are:
- Online programs/audiobooks – These allow the children to learn when we are not with them.
- Crockpots and Instapots – Really anything that helps you get food on the table.
- “Me Time” – This is the most important. This one is a battle as most of us don’t have time for this. A common misconception is that:
- We don’t need it.
- It takes too long. I work hard to change the way moms see self-care. I’ve lived through burnout and survival mode; both can be avoided with as little as 5 minutes of self-care a day. I recommend 30 minutes, but you need to start somewhere. Keep it simple.”
The Biggest Struggles for Working Homeschool Moms
Jen works with lots of working homeschool moms in her group, The Working Homeschool Mom. She sees the biggest struggles moms have as time management, balance, self-care, guilt, and comparison… all the things we all struggle with but just with the added bonus of working.
They have the idea they can do it all; that they can do it perfectly. They can keep up with Sally Jane down the road and look like they stepped out of a magazine. Setting realistic expectations is a battle for all of us. Not only do we feel like we need to do these things, but that we can. The reality is you can’t do it all. Homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint.
According to Jen’s research, working homeschool moms can learn to balance homeschool and work.
Finding balance is an ongoing battle because life keeps changing. Learning to recognize that balance is not doing all the things equally. Balance is about setting priorities, focusing on what is important, and letting go of perfection.
The Best Advice for Working Moms Who Want to Homeschool
Her number one piece of advice for working moms who want to homeschool?
Don’t do it alone.
You need a support system in place; you can’t do it all. I know how it feels to be alone on this journey — to be surrounded by others who don’t really get it. When you are chatting with workmates and they encourage you to put your kids in public school if you are having a bad day instead of realizing… bad homeschool days happen. When homeschooling friends tell you to quit work when you are coping with a rough work day instead of understanding that maybe you need your job.
Find someone you can talk to who really gets it. Someone who can encourage you, inspire you, make you laugh, and let you cry. Someone who has a hidden stash of chocolate and is willing to share. It can be hard to think positive when loved ones, friends, and family tell you it’s impossible. I am here to tell you it IS possible!
I also hang out with super positive, supportive, and kick-butt working homeschool moms. It’s the perfect place to get feedback, make friendships, and ask questions.
They all balance homeschool and working. It can be done. You are not alone!