Slow and Steady Wins the Race: How I Have Managed Homeschooling and Work

Readers: Join me in welcoming Mika Gustavson as she shares her adventures as a working homeschool parent. (Mika is one of my fellow authors at GHF Press.)
I started homeschooling right after being laid off. My son was 8, and had crashed and burned in school due to a host of "2e" issues. There I was without work, and with a child who needed me--of course it was time to go solo with my private psychotherapy practice! After 5 years we have a nice routine that works for me, my son and my husband--I work close to full-time along with being the primary homeschool parent. My husband works from home one day per week, and we can educate our son the way he needs to be educated.

I’m particularly fortunate in having rebooted my pre-baby career before we started homeschooling -- and that I had a career path to return to. Not everyone has that luxury. However, even outside of those factors, there were a few things that went right, purely by accident, which contributed to my current happy situation.

I have an incredibly supportive and involved spouse. Because of his steady paycheck, I could take things slowly. I was figuring out homeschooling and self-employment simultaneously, so not having financial pressure was key.

Being willing and able to work a wonky schedule has been important. Because I’m self-employed, I can set my own hours. When we started out, I worked one day per week in the office. Now I work in the office on Sundays, Fridays (my husband works from home that day) and Tuesday evenings (while my husband takes my son to weekly 4h-related responsibilities). I also schedule phone calls during our weekly park day. Working a wonky schedule also means accepting the impact on my free time -- it’s harder to socialize on the weekends, and I don’t see my husband nearly enough.

The other side of the equation, the homeschooling, happens more and more in short bursts, and self-directed times. I am planning to enter a PhD program soon, and we will need to have defined times that are “homeschool” and “mom school” so we can both accomplish our work.

I will echo what lots of other working homeschooling parents have said: Not everything will get done. At our house, that usually means housework.When life is too crazy, we sometimes take a break from homeschooling. Even on "non-homeschool" days, I know that my son is thinking and learning and discussing.

In hindsight, my story may look like it was the result of planning, but it wasn’t--we made stuff up as we went along, and I fully anticipate continuing that. My family’s needs and resources change and evolve over time, and I’m sure we’ll continue making course adjustments over the next few years.

As we move forward, my now 13-year-old is interested in earning some money, so we are discussing the possibility of him helping run the administrative side of my practice.This is one of the real synergies of working and homeschooling--and I’m so glad we are making it work for us.

Mika Gustavson, MA, MFT, psychotherapist, directs Gifted Matters, specializing in helping the gifted to thrive. She maintains a private practice and leads groups for parents of QUASIE (QUirky, Anxious, Sensitive, Intense, Excitable) children, and trains other professionals on issues touching on giftedness, homeschooling and parenting. Ms. Gustavson also leads the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum’s Professionals Division. She has many articles in print and online venues, and is the co-author, with Corin Barsily Goodwin, of Making the Choice: When Typical School Doesn’t Fit Your Atypical Child. She works, lives and homeschools in Silicon Valley, with her family and too many crochet projects.

Vintage turtle graphic sourced from The Graphics Fairy

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