When I began my researching working homeschool parents, I made a special commitment to spotlight the "unsung heroes" of home education: single parents.
For starters, I was struck by the fact that their demographic is given so little attention in "how to homeschool" manuals. This type of marginalization is unfortunate because as more and more families choose to homeschool, we inevitably will attract more single parents to the home education sphere.
As more and more single-parent homeschool families appear at our play groups and homeschool co-ops, how can we--as a community--help them succeed if we don't know what works for their particular family structure?
Second, and anecdotally speaking, single homeschool parents (mostly women) are more likely to work outside the home and therefore have a unique perspective on the homeschool lifestyle. In other words, I think that they can teach the rest of us a thing or two about the work/live/play/learn balance.
In my experience and research, I've learned that single homeschool parents succeed by:
- Putting education first. Not only do they prioritize education on the weekly calendar, they make it a priority in their own intellectual lives. Several of the single parents that I encountered while researching the book pursued their own degrees or professional development in tandem with homeschooling.
- Building communities of support. Be it through online groups or within their communities (and ideally both), these folks know that to succeed with home education, kids and parents alike need a steady flow of encouragement and nurturing in order to flourish.
- Practicing excellent time management. Since most single homeschool parents are also working homeschool parents, the successful ones keep a watchful eye not only the calendar but also energy levels. They look to create a balanced schedule and work to evade burnout on extracurricular activities.
- Embracing innovation. Technology is a boon to home educators, be it through access to online courses or through the use of iPhones to monitor what's happening at home from one's desk at work. For single parents working outside of the home, technology--used wisely--can be a useful tool.
- Keeping a level head about homeschooling in general. Successful single homeschool parents tend to approach home education one day and one year at a time. They tend to resist "all or nothing thinking" and are open to other alternatives, including traditional public or private schools. This mindset is less stressful and more realistic. After all, one just never knows when change in life might require a change in schooling, and it's wise to have back-up plans in mind--even if one never uses them.