Before You Decide to Homeschool, Try This Technique!



A few years ago I used to host online webinars for prospective homeschool parents. It was a great way to build some community around the decision-making process and encourage grown ups to make custom education choices based on individual needs.

One of my favorite tools for this undertaking was one that I picked up back when I was a career adviser at UT Austin. It's called a "force field analysis," and it provides form and structure for making a decision. Kurt Lewin developed it in the 1940s. (A good overview and general how-to can be found here.)

For homeschool parents, I find that force field analyses help lay out visually where the obstacles and opportunities lie.

Here's a step-wise approach to get you started.

5 Essential Tips for Homeschool Moms Returning to the Workforce



At the very beginning of our homeschool journey I intentionally kept one foot in the working world, thinking that I'd ease my transition back into the workforce. That is until a couple of years ago, when my "job" became helping my elderly disabled mother through her last days. I let my work slip to be a caregiver.

Since Mom died last summer I've floundered a little professionally. It seems that the "world of work" is changing so rapidly that people move on, technology changes, and tried-and-true options vanish in the blink of eye.

And so, at 46 years of age and with a child still at home for a couple of more years, I became a "workforce reentry" gal.

Oof.

In my mind that phrase conjures up images of 1980s women in professional dress toting briefcases. Fortunately, even though I struggled with my own mid-life reality, I had an extra set of tools in my tool kit.  

You see, once upon a time, I ran a university career center.

Granted, that was a long time ago, before I became a writer and stay-at-home mom and eldercare provider. Nevertheless, that old job gave me a framework for figuring out what I could do to get things moving in the present.

25 Questions To Ask Yourself Before You Decide to Homeschool



Each homeschool family has a different journey, from start to finish.

If you're contemplating homeschooling, however, these questions will get you thinking sensibly about the road ahead.

Answers will vary, of course, and if you get to feeling "stuck" feel free to come ask the question via a message to the How to Work and Homeschool Facebook page.

  1. What are your motives for homeschooling?
  2. What are the state and local rules about homeschooling where you live?
  3. If partnered or co-parenting, are you both on-board with it?
  4. Do you see homeschooling as a short- or long-term endeavor?
  5. Will you homeschool by semester, academic or annual calendar?
  6. When will you take breaks (fall, winter holidays, spring, and/or summer)?
  7. Do you understand your child's strengths and weaknesses?
  8. Have you researched homeschool approaches?
  9. Do you know which approaches will work best for your child? For you?
  10. Are you willing to modify how you teach to fit your child's needs?
  11. Do you have a budget for homeschooling?
  12. Have you researched curriculum options with your budget in mind?
  13. What might a typical homeschool day look like for your family?
  14. If you have small children, how will you keep them occupied while teaching older kids?
  15. When might you need childcare to work or tend to another family member?
  16. If you plan to use a co-op, are you comfortable with their rules and regulations?
  17. How will you evaluate your homeschool progress?
  18. Are you prepared to teach your own with patience and compassion?
  19. What are your academic and emotional strengths and weaknesses?
  20. How will homeschooling affect your own personal goals and ambitions?
  21. Are you prepared to sequence home education to put your children's needs first and, if needed, delay some personal and professional gratification?
  22. Do you have emotional support from friends and family?
  23. If you don't have support, can you find it locally or online?
  24. How will you know that you've found your homeschool groove?
  25. What do you want to look back and say about your homeschooling years? 

A Few Helpful Resources for Homeschool Parents Trying to Find Work-from-Home Jobs



With the word "work" and the root word "home" (from "homeschool") in this website's name, I get a lot of spam from disreputable sources about "work from home" options. Similarly, I spend a great deal of time on the How to Work and Homeschool Facebook page banning spammers.

It's tiresome but necessary. Nothing rattles me quite as much as people preying upon stay-at-home moms and dads, especially when they're trying to figure out how to work and homeschool.

At the same time--whether they're just starting our with homeschooling, dealing with a temporary financial setback, or preparing for an empty nest--I know that some homeschool parents need good online resources for finding paid, flexible work.

If you're in one of those situations, here are some good places to help you get started--bearing in mind that this is not an outright endorsement by me of any of them.

The Work at Home Woman
With the goal of helping "women find remote jobs and businesses that they love" this site provides tips and tricks as well as a helpful newsletter. The related Facebook page is a useful read, too.

Jobspresso
This site "curates" remote positions tech, marketing, customer support and so forth.

Indeed
Purportedly "the world's number one job site," there's a wide array of job options here, but beware "sponsored" ads.

Glassdoor 
Popular for its commitment to transparency, Glassdoor does a good job of vetting companies. According to this story over on Pennyhoarder.com, you'll find work-from-home jobs by selecting "Remote (Work from Home)" in the search bar.

LinkedIn
This option is best for people with college degrees and professional training. That said, I've been surprised lately at how much work I've captured through my own private LinkedIn page.

The Balance: Best Work from Home Jobs 
This last entry is actually a collection of pages from TheBalance.com has a great round up of work from home job options and website leads. (I will say regarding the entry for Craig's List, caveat emptor. Yes, some good local jobs may turn up there but so can a lot of scammers.) 


-- Pamela Price is a former academic and career adviser at The University of Texas at Austin. She's also the author of How to Work and Homeschool (GHF Press, 2013). You can find her here at HowtoWorkandHomeschool.com, on the HWHS Facebook page, or her main blog (RedWhiteandGrew.com).

 

Explore More: 

Below are some suggested reads on this topic via Amazon.com.
On a budget? Remember that that your local library may have these and similar titles.



The Hidden Challenge to Homeschooling Your Kids While You Work



Pragmatic homeschool parents spend a lot of time thinking about "socialization." Concerns about ensuring children know how to "get along" with non-family members can motivate parents to sign up for co-ops as much as academic ambitions.

But here's the thing: some co-ops and traditional homeschool learning communities are challenging for some working parents.
 
Co-op and other learning group organizers usually expect a parent to always be in attendance, and some may turn away substitutes like grandparents or nannies.

This topic came up today in a conversation today and, to be honest, I'd never really thought about it much. I mean, I work from home but my work is also portable, for the most part. Yet some working homeschool parents find themselves needing to stay in an office or business and must rely upon someone else to do the shuttling and to help manage school work. (That's a common solution, in fact, as mentioned here.)

On the one hand, I understand organizers wanting to have a parent on hand to supervise kids and keep trouble-making behavior to a minimum during class time. On the other, I think there's a conflict at root here between old school homeschoolers (primarily faith-based folks who believe parents should be hands on with education) and new school homeschoolers (a mix of faith-based and secular parents who, for whatever reason, need to keep working).

In large metro areas with a vibrant, diverse array of options for homeschoolers, exclusion from one group is just an excuse to find (or start) another one. But for families out in rural and small-town America this could be tough to take because it feels a bit judgmental, even if it's not intended as such.

It's no big secret that some homeschool communities can be insular and prone to "icing out" questions and objections from newcomers. This makes it harder for dialogue and progress. And that's truly unfortunate because, as our child matures, I'm finding common ground--as a working homeschooler--with moms who are ready to go back to work.

Surely there's room for growth here?  A way to nurture strong communities, good academics, and learning spaces where parents with diverse needs can be included?

Some thoughts.

For working parents who find themselves in the situation of being excluded, you'll have to take a hard look at the motives for group participation in search of alternative options. Academics may be addressed via online curriculum or classes and social opportunities can be found in play groups, churches, and even eclectic choices like game nights at comic book stores. 

For existing groups who'd like to open up options for parents who must work, it might be worthwhile to revisit the "whys" of the rules that exclude participation. Rather than just keeping things the same, consider getting input from members on what might make for some middle-ground solutions. (SurveyMonkey.com is a handy tool for this, especially if you want to collect data from members anonymously.)

I'd really love to hear from more people with different perspectives on this topic.

Drop a note in comments if you'd like.

Pamela Price is the author of How to Work and Homeschool (GHF Press, 2013) She blogs at RedWhiteandGrew.com.

Find and follow How to Work and Homeschool on Facebook.

Explore More:

• I'm excited about the potential of new learning models for homeschool families--especially working homeschool parents interested in launching groups for their kids that are centered on engaging academic work. Along those lines is my friend Jade Rivera's micro-schooling concept. Here's her book, by GHF Press:



Balancing Work with Homeschooling: The Quick and Dirty Guide




One of the most common critiques of my book is that it doesn't tell readers exactly how to work and homeschool down to which specific curriculum to buy for each child and which paying gig to line up.

Fair enough.

Having once been a new homeschooler, I understand that desire, as a parent, to have someone lay it all out for me hour by hour, year by year. Yet as a seasoned homeschool parent I know that cookie cutter approaches seldom work.

The best, most successful attempts to balance jobs and careers (and volunteerism and caregiving or whatever your "work" is) with home education involve trial and error. One year, one month, one season can vary a great deal from the next. That's a tricky concept for those of us who grew up with traditional education. But tinkering doesn't mean that you're failing or floundering.

Here are some tips to find your work and homeschool groove.

Take care of the childcare issue first. Hands down, this is the biggest problem parents face: what to do with kids when your hands are full with other tasks. Solutions include enlisting family members, hiring a nanny or babysitter, and staggering parent work schedules to get the job done. This isn't, however, a problem unique to working homeschool parents. Many moms of young children, for example, struggle to keep one child busy while attending to another. It's part of the work of parenting.

If you can't get it to work--and traditional education options remain on the table out of necessity but you still want to supplement what your kids are learning, then consider after-schooling your child on evenings and weekends using online services, apps, or curriculum targeting home educators.

Be realistic about how flexible your career is. Your job options vary by a lot of factors: your location, your skills set (and demand for it), and even the economy. A lot of working homeschoolers do work out of their homes as freelance or contract labor, but that can present challenges for income. Many homeschool families reevaluate their "needs" versus their "wants" and downsize homes and lifestyles to accommodate their efforts, but other people find that home education presents a financial hardship (or loss of healthcare coverage) they can't manage. (Note that while most homeschool families are two-parent households, there are a number of successful single moms and dads teaching their own--an important point made in my book.)

Work out the learning schedule. The biggest misconception, in my opinion, about homeschooling is that it must take place between the hours of 8 AM and 5 AM, Monday through Friday, September to June. Not true! Homeschoolers have all kinds of schedules! Here at home we go year 'round, more or less, which allows us to take regular breaks to travel. Others spend 4 to 6 weeks on, 1 to 2 weeks off. I've known people who homeschool every morning of the week and others who concentrate the action on evenings and/or weekends. If you can't wrap your head around what that might look like, then take a look at the appendix of the How to Work and Homeschool {Amazon Affiliate Link} for ideas.

Select a learning approach that fits for you. If you know other homeschoolers, they may try to "sell" you on their approach. Trouble is, what works for one family may not work at all for yours. Let me tell you a secret: when working with clients, my favorite resource for selecting an approach is the Homeschool Diner's Click-O-Matic guide coupled with a personality assessment (see this post). Using the tools laid out in those two links, you can discern better what curriculum (if any) will work optimally.

Introduce curricula or new classes gradually. There's no need to rush into things. In fact, if you've pulled a child from school due to poor educational fit, then some deschooling is in order. Work on your relationship, let them follow their bliss a bit. (Many parents end up staying in this vein of learning and resort to what's called "unschooling.") After a few days or weeks of deschooling, begin to add curricula or classes. Great places to learn about curricula include: Cathy Duffy Reviews and the Homeschool Buyers Co-Op. There are online resources, too, with popular ones among the How to Work and Homeschool Facebook community including Time 4 Learning and courses offered by Athena's Academy and GHF: Gifted Homeschoolers Forum.

Find social support for the entire family. Most people worry primarily about finding socialization for their kids. In truth, parents need it, too. Look for Facebook pages and groups, play groups and classes in your community, and your neighborhood or community for places to connect with other people. That's right--people don't have to homeschool in order to make good friends for you or your kids, and online groups dedicated to homeschoolers can be a great source of support and information. In fact, I've just relaunched the How to Work and Homeschool parent discussion group on Facebook, a moderated community. We'd love to have you!

Have questions? Leave a comment or reach out to me on the Facebook page or via RedWhiteandGrew.com. (Note that I do take on a limited number of coaching clients every fall, but only if I feel that we'd be a good fit and that I can genuinely help you.)

***

Pamela Price is the author of  How to Work and Homeschool (GHF Press, 2013) and the founder of RedWhiteandGrew.com.

 









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