Getting Started



Editor's Note: This page originally appeared as a blog post.

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.)

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

 








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