The ultimate guide to homeschooling for working moms

Some days, I feel like my head is going to explode. 

I’m a wife, a mom, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a blogger, a martial artist, a homeschooling facilitator, a newspaper columnist, an editor, a project manager and, occasionally, it all gets to be a bit much.

There are days where I wallow in “oh, poor me.” You know…

I work at home. I don’t even have a home office – just a table with a laptop on it in the middle of our main floor.

I don’t use a planned curriculum, so just about everything my daughter learns requires my direct involvement.

I’d love to be able to have “free time,” or even “uninterrupted time,” but it never happens.

Someone still has to keep up with the dishes, the laundry and the floors, and that someone is often me.

And then I realize how blessed I really am.

I’m busy – but so are you. So is your spouse. So is your mother-in-law. So is your neighbor’s sister’s cousin’s friend. And all of us make choices, and we make the time for what’s really important to us.

That’s why I’ve made the time over the past few weeks to compile what I hope will be the ultimate guide to homeschooling for working moms – because it’s important.

  • It’s important to me that no one says, “Oh, homeschooling is the right choice for our family, but we can’t because I have to work.” 
  • It’s important to me that no one says, “If I homeschool AND work, we’re only ever going to eat takeout.” 
  • It’s important to me that no one says, “Sure, I can homeschool and work and keep up the house – but I’m stuck being the martyr who has no personal life and no time for friends or fun.”

This guide is my look at how NOT to end up like that. At how to try to spin the plates or juggle the balls or whatever metaphor you choose.

The Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling as a Working Mom

Here’s who this guide is for:

  • Homeschooling parents who work outside the home.
  • Homeschooling parents who work FROM home.
  • Homeschooling parents, REGARDLESS of job status, who feel like there’s never enough time in the day for themselves, their spouse, their friends or their house.
  • Parents who want to homeschool, but aren’t doing so because of job demands.
  • Parents who work and want to spend more quality time with their kids, regardless of educational philosophy.

That’s a big list, right? Mostly, I encourage you to read through and see how we juggle our household, our homeschool, our work and our personal lives – even if not all those areas apply to you.

I don’t know ANY group of people who wouldn’t like to streamline their lives and have more time – and I hope I can shine a light on some of the resources that have helped us do just that in all these areas.

First things first: Making a list

It doesn’t matter how you do it.

The title graphic for this guide shows my ACTUAL to-do list, from a calendar pad I get each year at the kiosk in the mall. I write part-time job items toward the top, full-time job items in the middle and personal and family items at the bottom. (No, not in order of priority!)

But you can use Post-Its, a Google Doc, a whiteboard, the back of your hand, whatever.

Make yourself a list, though, of what you need to juggle today. Not an idealistic, “Boy, it’d be nice to wash the insides and outsides of all the windows while the baby’s napping” type of list. This should be a list of stuff that has to happen before you can sleep at night. Appointments, work tasks (including concrete subtasks of larger projects), homeschooling objectives (depending on your learning method).

I will write on my list the night before anything I can think of, then I revisit it first thing in the morning. You will often see great things like “Take chicken out of freezer” on The List – because there’s nothing like realizing at 5:45 that dinner is currently in a tundra-like state and you have to go to a tae kwon do lesson at 7 p.m. Hypothetically.

That’s what keeps me sane – because my brain is too full of the thousand awesome things that happen on a given day to be counted on to remember the chicken and the Twitter responsibilities and the Lego club meeting. I bet yours is too – so give yourself the freedom of writing it down.

Keeping up with your HOUSEHOLD

Let’s get real here. For most of us, this is the LOWEST priority item when it’s compared with your homeschool, your work and your personal life. That’s actually why I’m starting with it.

Disclosure: This post has some affiliate links, which will make me a little bit of money if you choose to purchase any of the products I’ve mentioned through them. I only link to things we legitimately use and recommend, so if you see such a link, it’s because we really do believe in the book or item!

Joan’s takeaway tip: Focus your energy on what matters most, and set up systems to quickly manage the things that matter least.

I do like a clean house. Thankfully, we’ve gotten rid of a TON of our stuff, selling and donating the things we no longer love, and I’ve quickly realized that the less stuff we have, the easier the house is to keep up.

Our biggest areas of work are our laundry, our dishes and our floors. So we’ve set up good systems for some of them – like keeping laundry baskets in each bedroom and washing when any one gets full. The floors are the hardest to keep up with, thanks to our menagerie of five cats and a large dog, but I try to vacuum at least once a week and to clean up spills when they happen, which is WAY quicker than mopping the floors in our above-average-sized house.

Here are some of the resources that have helped us – OK, mostly me – keep up the house in a way that isn’t time-consuming, but leaves us ready for drop-in guests at almost any time.

  • First, I have to share that there are other guides in today’s “Ultimate Guide” series entirely devoted to this topic. I would highly encourage you to check out The Ultimate Guide to Housekeeping Habits on Habits for a Happy Home, as well as One Fun Mom’s Ultimate Guide to Keeping Your Home and Keeping Your Temper for a much more thorough list of resources than I can get into here. I will hit some of my highlights, though!
  • Tops on my list is Flylady, both her website as well as her book, “Sink Reflections.” I’ve been “flying” with Flylady, aka Marla Cilley, since probably 2001. I talk more about what this system meant for me when I discovered it in this post about the books that have influenced me the most, but the short version is that her system taught me to do one thing at a time, and to chip away for short, focused periods. I can’t take a full day to deep-clean my house. Not gonna happen. But I can take 15 minutes that I’d otherwise waste playing Facebook games and vacuum one floor of the house. I can take 15 minutes and sort out a drawer full of junk that’s gotten hard to close – and so can you.
  • The other big items on my list of key “household” influencers are Adam Baker’s Man vs. Debt and Sell Your Crap. I actually work for Baker as his project manager (and writer!), but I’m not getting any money out of this. And, in fact, when I discovered MvD almost three years ago, I had no idea I’d someday live the dream of WORKING on it! At the time, I had a serious excess of stuff, and a matching serious excess of debt. We’re doing better on the “stuff” front, thanks to selling our crap, and we’re almost $30,000 paid down on what was at worst $90,000 in consumer debt, which I’m incredibly proud of. Like with your physical house, getting your financial house in order is easier when you simplify. Paying off debt has freed up money, but more importantly, it’s freed up options – like changing jobs when the opportunity arose to find one that was a better fit for our homeschooling lifestyle!

I said I wasn’t going to go into too much detail in this area, but I do have one piece of assurance to offer you. As Flylady says, you can do anything for 15 minutes, and all I can say is, isn’t it worth a shot to see if you CAN make a difference in that amount of a time a day? What do you have to lose?

Keeping up with your HOMESCHOOL

One of our biggest motivations for homeschooling was that it would actually use less of our family’s time than traditional school, especially with the volume of homework and projects we were dealing with as parents of a middle-schooler, while allowing us to actually learn more in both depth and breadth.

I have to be careful here, because I absolutely want to be clear that I believe there is no universal right curriculum or right homeschooling “method” or style. We’re very far on the informal end of things, but I believe that for some families, a much more structured approach is the right one.

That said, I know plenty of homeschooling parents who drive themselves crazy by planning WAY too much time for school. Whether you’re working in an office, working from home or not “working” in a career sense but parenting 1, 2, 5 or 8 children, I cannot imagine you can devote 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, to solely your “homeschooling” and have any room left over for the other things you need to do.

Joan’s takeaway tip: You don’t need to be “doing school” for 8 or 10 hours a day – or even for 3 or 4 – to be learning plenty. The key is flexibility.

Sometimes, the best way to gain flexibility in the long run is to invest a lot of time at the start to make things go smoother day to day.

A great example of that: Even if you’re using a prepackaged, planned curriculum, spend time KNOWING what’s coming, through the week and through the year. If you have that background, it will be much easier for you to feel confident about adjusting on the fly when work gets hectic or the house looks like it’s a step away from being condemned.

Getting organized is almost as important as being flexible, I think.

I don’t just mean organized in the neat-house way. I mean organized in the “do we know where the library books are and when they go back?” sense, and, in turn, avoiding the end-of-the-year, “I don’t know what we learned or what I’m going to show the evaluator and when’s the last time we did anything that conceivably looked like art” panic.

With those points in mind, here are some resources to help you make sure that (a) learning is really happening in your family and (b) you still have time to keep your job and keep the dishes from touching the ceiling.

  • I actually wrote a post earlier this year that I think sums up our personal tips for “making it work.” It’s called 10 pieces of advice that helped us get started homeschooling, but it’s good no matter where you are in your homeschooling journey.
  • Meanwhile, one of my favorite bloggers, Jimmie of Jimmie’s Collage, has a great list of Homeschool How-Tos that tie heavily into the idea of being flexible. My favorite part? “There is always something  that needs to be done. So if math is causing frustration, move to science. If writing is not clicking today, work on art instead. If school is generally a disaster, well, do some organizing in the bedroom, make a craft, or take a nature walk. … In my view, as long as forward motion is happening, we are succeeding in our homeschool.” Amen, Jimmie!!
  • Pick the days and times for “school” that work best for you. You might be an unschooler, or you might be using one of the popular Sonlight cores or a curriculum like Calvert that has a daily lesson plan. Doesn’t matter. Nowhere – NOWHERE – does it say that you need to work on that material Monday through Friday, or when it’s daylight out. And I thank God for it!! 22 ways to homeschool your kids on Christian Mommies tackles this with ideas like weekend schooling, evening schooling and so on. (But if so, what do you do with the kids when you’re working? I’ll hit that topic in depth when we talk about managing your job!)
  • If you have to provide any homeschool documentation, I implore you, do it as you go. We live in Pennsylvania, home of Documentation Requirements That Make Even Organized Moms Weep. (Not an official state motto.) One of the pieces that is required every single year is a “book log” of materials read by date, and I can’t even imagine trying to go back and guess at that even a month after we’ve read something. Specific to our state, there is an amazing site, Ask Pauline, that gives free printable copies of a variety of formats for most of your official paperwork. While it’s designed around PA law, I am sure that if you’re familiar with the requirements in your own state, you could easily adapt many of the materials!
  • Don’t over-plan or over-schedule. Relax. Theresa on Red Oak Road has a great list of Ten Things I Would Like to Tell New Homeschoolers, and the key one to me is “Say NO to things.” It is so easy to think that you just HAVE to sign your son or daughter up for this class
  • Figure out your children’s areas of strength, and play to them. This is key no matter what, but I attribute it as the number one factor in my ability to work from home.
  • There are actually other Ultimate Guides in today’s series devoted to this topic, as with homemaking. On Simply Living… For Him, check out The Ultimate Guide to Simplifying Homeschool. (There’s also An Ultimate Guide to Homeschool Rooms on Hopping To It, if you, like me, LOVE peeking into other people’s houses!)

The good news about homeschooling is that I truly believe that children – and especially younger children – are NATURAL learners. Do you ask your infant, “Would you like to learn to crawl today?,” or does he simply explore the world around himself and have a desire to experience it more?

Remember the 15-minute challenge about seeing what you could accomplish in keeping up your home? Here’s a bigger one: Take the one-day challenge or, better yet, the one-week challenge. No matter your child’s age, go a full day without “overseeing” any learning and see what happens. You’re welcome to discuss this with your child, to show them the curriculum schedule if there is one, and so on. Or just let go and experiment.

You might hate it – and that’s OK. I believe that what will happen is that you’ll see that at least SOME learning happens even on the days you don’t have time to facilitate it as fully as you’d like.

Then, the next time you’re in the pit of despair because you’ve got a big project due at work and the only math your kids have done all week is counting how many times their brother punched them in order to tattle, just stop. Take a breath. Your homeschool will still be standing, and your kids have not suffered permanent educational damage. Be willing to be flexible – and you’ll make it happen.

Keeping up with your WORK

Oh, the job thing. I did promise this was a guide for parents who homeschool while working, huh?

I currently work a full-time job and a part-time job. They’re done mostly from home, though I have a day a week in the office for my part-time job, and occasional travel requirements for the full-time one. My husband works 60 to 70 hours a week in an office, and we both run small businesses from home on the side.

Before moving to my work-from-home position, I also worked about 50 to 60 hours between my office job and a couple of part-time jobs, and at that time, we were dealing with public school problems, occupational therapy and an autism spectrum diagnosis.

I’m not pretending this work-and-learn-and-live thing is easy. Some days, to be quite honest, it stinks. Right now, we’ve made the financial choice to do this, though, and we’re committed to making it work.

There are good things, too. My daughter has learned a lot of self-sufficiency and time-management skills because she doesn’t have my undivided attention. Even in public school, with her learning-support staff in place, she had almost constant adult supervision. The poor kid didn’t even know how to make her own breakfast waffles at the age of 11, but now can get her own breakfast, lunch and simple dinner.

Joan’s takeaway tip: The grass is never greener. Please don’t indulge in the “we could do X, Y and Z if only I didn’t work” mindset, or, if you work in an office, “I could accomplish more if I worked from home” – or vice versa. Focus on what you CAN do, and put 100% of your effort into doing that.

Look, that wishful thinking might be true – and there’s nothing wrong with working with your employer to create the most productive situation possible, if you really think working from home will make the difference, as it did in my case.

The point, though, is that focusing on what you CAN’T do is almost never productive. So let’s talk about some resources that help you focus on the ways it can be done:

  • While I live in Pennsylvania, one of the best resources I’ve found for working parents who homeschool is this list from Homeschooling in North Carolina. There are forums, essays and all sorts of help, from practical tips to simple reassurances that it CAN be done.
  • Homeschool Diner’s post, What if Both Parents Work or I Am A Single Parent? Can We Still Homeschool? is incredible. It’s from 2006, but I don’t find anything in it that’s not relevant to my life today! The best takeaway from this is the following question: “Are you willing to do whatever it takes to make it work?” There are many ideas here for what to do with your kids while you work.
  • I am a huge fan of the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond, an amazing homeschooling domestic diva. On the homeschooling section of her blog, one contributor, Heather, shared a reader question about Homeschooling When Both Parents Work, and the comments are full of fantastic advice.
  • Specifically if you own your own business, work freelance or otherwise set your own schedule, pick your times wisely. I’m writing the last bits of this post at 12:23 a.m., when my daughter is in bed. Tomorrow morning, I’ll get up earlier than I’d like to write a post for Man Vs. Debt while Sarah’s at a summer Lego day camp she signed up for. There is no way, though, that I can work during the two hours before dinner or before Sarah’s bedtime. There’s just way too much going on in our home for that. So setting myself up to do so would only be inviting frustration.

This is counterintuitive to what most productivity professionals suggest, but I am not a fan of setting “work hours” in long blocks if you work from home. I do have periods where Sarah knows I’m busy working – but there are two caveats.

First, I’m never too busy to be interrupted if it’s semi-urgent. Some people might disagree with what we consider “urgent” – like, “Hey, Mom, come look at this praying mantis in the garden!!!” Sometimes, I’ll say, “Oh, that’s cool, but I’m writing and I can’t look right now.” But sometimes, I am blessed to be able to say, “Whoa! Let me save this draft and I’ll come see!”

Don’t forget the reason you’re working and homeschooling – it’s because you feel homeschooling, and more importantly, being with your child, is important. That means, to me, that I never give Sarah the impression that I’m consistently too busy for her. When you DO go back to work after an “interruption” like that, it’s almost always with a positive, rejuvenated attitude.

Second, I keep my individual work blocks fairly short – almost never more than an hour and a half. Let’s be realistic; if you work from home and homeschool, you’re not REALLY going to get 6 uninterrupted hours to work – OR of educational time – are you?

This helps minimize interruptions, because Sarah knows I’ll be free “soon enough” in most cases. It also helps me prioritize my tasks into bite-sized chunks, rather than behemoths like “create spreadsheet of all blog posts since 2009 for SEO.” Instead, my task list turns into concrete steps that can be done in that amount of time, like “copy all 2009 post URLs into Excel.”

That’s the part that many people consider counterproductive, but it works for us!

That’s the challenge: Be willing to find what works for you. It’s not always comfortable – many days, I miss the routine of my neat desk and my defined tasks at my office job – but it’s sooo worth it.

Keeping up with your PERSONAL LIFE

I have less than a year until I test for my black belt in tae kwon do. I’ve enjoyed several good books this month, helped my best friend move, had a scrapbooking night and thrown a summer party.

Joan’s takeaway tip: The answer to juggling all the things you are is NOT to stop being who you are.

Balance, in all things. I am a better, more focused employee who can often accomplish twice the work in half the time thanks to my tae kwon do practice. I am getting better at being intentional as a parent thanks to the kinds of affirming, goal-oriented people I interact with in the personal finance and lifestyle design blogging realms. My prayer life is better than it has been in many years, and I directly attribute that to my ability to keep my cool when I want to shout at the rest of my family.

When I’m unhappy, I’m not very productive. It takes forever to do the simplest thing. Any delay, interruption or frustration derails me.

But when I’m happy, I am more able to successfully manage all the things I try to do in a day. I am flexible and can roll with the punches; I am wider awake and have enough energy; I am intentional and can be mindful of each task.

I get unhappy when I try to be someone I’m not – or NOT be someone I am, I guess is a better way to say it.

I AM a friend. I AM a daughter. I AM a wife. I AM a martial artist. And if I neglect those parts of myself and my relationships for too long, I’m only part of myself, and not the best part.

So how do you make time for YOU in a sea of house needs, homeschooling needs and work needs – and why is it so important? Here are some of the best reads I’ve come across on, you know, actually having a life:

  • Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project website (and book!) have been life-changing for me. I especially would encourage you to check out the Eight Splendid Truths of Happiness.
  • One of my personal happiness projects came after I read Cami Walker’s book 29 Gifts. Essentially, the book asks you to give a gift every day for 29 days in a row to change your own mindset about what you do and don’t “have” in life. I’ve completed three sets of 29 gifts so far and am looking forward to completing at least one more before the end of the year. It’s a challenge I highly recommend. One of the best takeaways, for me, was that I believe that changing your perspective into one of abundance serves to make it clear to you how abundant your life really is. Instead of thinking of yourself as “too busy,” you come to realize how blessed you are to have the opportunities for using your time that are in front of you.
  • A wonderful post on Hip Homeschool Moms, Out of the Overflow, talks about letting go of the minutia of homeschooling for a little and focusing on time with God, time with your spouse and time with your family.
  • A great read on tying it all together – being actively involved with your kids and spouse, making a welcoming home, having a career and having personal passions – is the blog Awesomely Awake, by Shawn Ledington Fink. I’m actually lucky enough to know Shawn in person; we used to work together, and I’ve long considered her someone worth emulating. So when she started her blog and published the Awesomely Awake Manifesto, well, I became a proud fan and have enjoyed putting Shawn’s great suggestions into practice in our life.

Your challenge this week is to simply spend a half-hour doing something you love.

I don’t care if that comes in 10-minute chunks on three different days. Give yourself the gift of 1/336th of your time this week, and use that time to be refreshed and to create some positive mental energy to help you get through the next seven days.

Working and homeschooling and having a life and keeping a house aren’t an easy set of plates to keep spinning. I hope, though, that I’ve pointed you in the direction of some ways to make the road easier to walk – and some encouragement for the path!

Even more great resources

First of all, if YOU have books, websites or ideas that are helping you juggle a busy life, especially if you’re homeschooling as a working mom, please leave me a comment below! I’ll keep updating the list with as many great resources as possible!

Also, this post is part of the iHomeschool Network’s Ultimate Guide To… series. Click the image below to see great tips from some of my fellow bloggers on everything from choosing curriculum to Pennsylvania history to inexpensive art projects!

81 thoughts on “The ultimate guide to homeschooling for working moms

  1. Oh, my goodness. This post is so wonderful, Joan. I am finally embracing the WAHM title. Of course I never stopped being a homeschool mom. So I am super busy.
    Thanks for the mention/quote. Is it terrible to admit I don’t’ even remember that post/page? I was thinking, “Did I write a homeschool how to page?” Then when I read the quote, I realized those were my words. 🙂
    When I’m stretched, my memory gets thin, but you know, it’s okay. I revert back to my LIST just like you do. It is my lifeline. And email, of course. If it’s in an email, I feel safe. I can always find it again.
    I agree with you on work hours. It just doesn’t work for me. Instead, I try to be available for my daughter. The praying mantis would absolutely take me from work unless it were a live event like a Twitter party or client call!
    Here’s a tip I try hard to implement. When your child draws you away from work, move physically from the computer. I’m in a rolling chair, so I turn. (You may close the laptop.) Give undivided attention. And then WAIT. Don’t be the first to leave. Let your child determine when the conversation has ended. I notice that when I give her those extra few minutes (and really, it’s often only 3-5 minutes), she leaves satisfied that mom cares. Because I do care. She is important to me. And why work at home if you’re not going to be available.
    That little switch of letting the child end the encounter instead of always saying, “Ok, let me get back to work” is very powerful.

    Obviously, there are exceptions: a close deadline, a live Skype call. But in general I try to follow that rule.

    • That is a wonderful idea! I also have a rolling chair and try to do that, or look away, or take my hands off the keyboard. The same when I’m checking messages on my phone and Sarah needs my attention (or, even when my husband or mom does!) – I try to physically put the phone down. It is such a symbol of respect to me, and I never thought too much about it, but you’re right – why am I doing this if not to BE PRESENT in my family’s life?? 🙂

      Jimmie, you always make me smile.

  2. This is great, Joan! So glad I read this today:) I’m a wife, homeschooling mama, blogger, writer, crafter, and professor…some days that’s just too many hats to wear, but other days I love every minute of it. Saving this post for future reference!

    • Jenn, thank you so much for stopping by – and you’re exactly right. You can’t be EVERYTHING all the time, but when it all comes together, it is wonderful, isn’t it? 🙂

  3. Thank you so much for writing this post! It’s packed full of things that I needed to be reminded of. I’ve been a WAHM for several years now, but this year things have really stepped up with work and at home and I’ve realized that I need to be more organized. Love your take away tips!

    • Paige, thank you so much for the kind words, and for stopping by. I hope you’ll pass on any other suggestions you have, too – I would be thrilled to hear what’s working for you as well! Good luck!

  4. While I’m not a “working” mom (hey, I just cook, clean, do laundry, teach, chauffeur, you know!), I found this article to be incredibly encouraging. I think ALL moms can benefit from the practical tips you’ve shared.
    The Homeschooling in North Carolina site is full of excellent material–thanks for sharing the link! While I was there, I found a whole section on homeschooling a large family, as well. 🙂
    You’ve obviously put your heart into this post…and it is much appreciated.

    • Judy, I am SO glad you found valuable things here too! Isn’t that North Carolina site amazing…and when will PA get on board? 🙂

      You are so right – EVERYONE works, and EVERYONE wants more time in their day! 🙂

  5. I LOVE this post, Joan! Thank you so very much for all the great insight & info! I, too, am not a working or homeschooling mom at the moment, but I was afraid that when I did need to return to work, that I wouldn’t be able to homeschool Keira like I want to, & you have helped to alleviate my fears! Thanks again!

  6. Good morning. I am pinning these Ultimate Guides and thought you might like to know that when I tried to go to yours I got a message from McAfee that it might be a suspicious site. I double-checked the address and then selected to come here anyway. But it may affect your traffic if others have that same problem, so I thought I’d let you know just in case. I personally have no clue how to help you there, sorry… but knowing is half the battle, right? 🙂

  7. Thank you immensely for writing this. It’s just the thing I’ve been looking for. I am new to (getting BACK into) the blogging world, and my first post has been about this article and how blessed I am to find it. THANK YOU from the bottom of a Christian, single, working mom’s heart!

    • Faye, I don’t even know what to say except that I believe that God will CONTINUE to guide you right where you need to go – and I am so floored at being able to help a little along the way! 🙂

  8. Please forgive me – I haven’t a CLUE where to begin on enabling the “reply to comment” feature on my blog (I am googling it now!) I have subscribed to your feed, however and I look forward to reading your posts and keeping in touch.

    Remembering you and your family in my prayers tonight! Thanks again for the inspiration, Joan!

  9. Super duper post Joan!! So packed full of good advice! I am a list maker too, and I like my home to be clean and organized…plus I homeschool and work outside of home…so this is all applicable 🙂

  10. Loved this post…tons of information and I haven’t even had time to go through it all, hopefully I will later, 🙂 I teach preschool part time and home school my 4 & 8 year old. I’m excited this year to be teaching only 2 classes instead of 3. Plus I want to put more into my children education. I can’t forget to keep on top of the house work and my church callings. I loved the idea of paying attention to my children and letting them direct the conversation and end it. Sometimes I’m in such a hurry to get my work done that I waste time trying to get them to leave me alone instead of focusing on them for a min. I’m excited to set up a rough schedule and excited to have more flexibility this year. Thanks for the advice!

    • You know, I never thought of it that way, but you’re right – in so many cases, it actually takes LESS time to really interact with Sarah than it does to, like you said, convince her to leave me alone! 🙂

      So glad you stopped by – and good luck with your busy schedule this fall!

  11. A wonderful post to all those WAHM’s and all those who just struggle to get everything done. These tips and advice apply to just about everyone. I don’t think I’ve met a mom yet that didn’t wear “too many hats” during different seasons. Also, great suggestions for those looking to get back into the workforce a bit while homeschooling—always better to be prepared ahead of time as much as possible. Thank You!!

  12. Excellent post! Thank you! This has been a good encouragement for me today. If nothing else than to affirm that what I’m already doing really is ok. 🙂 I’ve been homeschooling for … well I guess sort of 19 years (my oldest is 19 years old) and wouldn’t change it for the world. But sometimes our financial struggles make me worry that I might have to abandon my home business and take an office job instead, which then makes me worry that I might have to put the kids in school (that would be a tragedy to me! And to them! They don’t want to go to school any more than I want to send them there!) but this post really encouraged me that no matter WHAT happens, it will be ok and we can still keep on being who we are, and doing what we do, and we CAN make it work because we want it to work!

    God bless you.

    • Laurene, thank you so much for the kind words – I am so glad to hear from you and to know that you’re keeping up the fight for what is important to you and your family!

      I am praying for all blessing and success for you and yours in this new year!

  13. Thanks for this post! This is my first year to homeschool (2 girls in 6th grade) and I am slowly FINALLY learning that what works for other people doesn’t always work for us. I am a speech therapist for a home health company and work about 10-15 hrs/week. At first, I was trying to do all the things that people I see around me who don’t work can do, and was feeling like I was failing. Finally I realized that because I do have to work, our homeschool may run differently than others and that’s OK. Loved your post which reaffirmed that for me! 🙂

    • Trina, WOW – two sixth-grade girls. I will be praying for you! 🙂 Just kidding, mostly, but I am so happy that you are doing something that works for YOU and your kind words just made my day!

  14. Joan, I just stumbled across this article as I contemplate taking a PT job working from home. I wasn’t sure if it would be possible, but your post has given me so much hope!! Thank you for the incredible amount of time you put into writing this and the FANTASTIC links! I can’t wait to work through them! Blessings to you and your family!!

    • Kimberly, I am so glad you found this – and glad it could help!! I hope you’ll check back in and let me know how it’s going for you if you do pursue that job from home… it’s not easy, but I do know it can be done 🙂

  15. WOW! I am thankful I came across this post through Pinterest, and also found your blog. I work full time outside the home for my Pastor four days a week. I pulled my daughter out of school this year in the 7th grade and we successfully completed our first year of homeschooling last week. It has been hard, as I struggle with attitude, especially with “mom as teacher”. I cannot tell you how many times we switched curriculum after the school year began. I am happy to report all of my curriculum is chosen and we are buying and planning for this coming year. Blessings!

    • Barbie, I’m so glad you found this – and I am thrilled to meet someone else with a just-finished-seventh-grade daughter doing this crazy thing! 🙂

      I hope you’ll keep me posted on how your year ahead goes. I will certainly be praying for a successful one for both of us and our girls! 🙂

  16. WOW am I glad I have foud this… many gems here! I have four children aged 13-5 and work full time (part from home part out of the home)……I always said I can’t return to homeschooling because I need to work, but God told me quite firmly to ‘think outside of the box’ so we took a step of faith. Thank you so much for this reassurance as I haven’t found anyone else who does work and homeschool – I just keep getting people saying wow in admiration, which makes me feel even more like I’m crazy! lol.

    • Louise, I am thrilled that you listened and took that step of faith!! It does make you feel kinda crazy, but it’s a good crazy… the kind where you can tell people, “Not me on my own, but with God’s help!”

      You rock. Thank you so much for your kind words!

  17. Thanks for posting this!! I was a homeschooler myself but have had my kids in school for the mandatory 3 year preschool here in Mexico. I had them at a private school, but this year I decided I wanted to be more time with them. I looked into this post because although I was homeschooled from elementary to college, my mom never worked out of home, so I was really wondering if there were other mothers who really did both. I am an RD and attend my private nutrition office, besides having a school furniture business. thanks for the links, the suggestions and overall for the encouragement!!

    • Marcela, thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your story! I am glad to say that it IS possible – and I wish you the best in your family’s journey! It’s not easy, but in my opinion it’s well worth it!

  18. Hi Joan, I just saw that I was getting a lot of traffic from this post. Thank you so much for the mention!! I loved this post. It has taken me a while to learn to be flexible, but I am slowly getting there. Also, I really like the advice of playing to your children’s strengths, I am going to think on that one. Sometimes I think I figure, eh, they are good at that we don’t need to spend time on it…but if they enjoy it, why not spend time on it and let them develop that skill more. Thanks for the advice and making me see something differently.

    • 🙂 You’re very welcome – on all counts!! I think there is value in BOTH mindsets, but I’m finding a lot more success with the “play to strengths” one, both in homeschooling and actually in my work life! I am sure it just depends on the person!

  19. Hi Joan! I was checking out your Unschooling 8th grade(ish) post and saw this post so came to check it out also! I’m so glad that I did. 🙂 I’m trying to start a business and have been having trouble juggling it all. I feel like the business would be a good thing for our family…and heck, even for me so I don’t want to give up on it. This post really gave me some food for thought and opened my eyes to some things that need a little attention from me in order to continue moving forward. I look forward to reading more on your blog…you’ve got some great stuff here!

    • Adriane, thank you so much for the kind words… and so glad you found this post. It’s not always easy (OK, I’m not sure it’s ever easy) but it really has been worth it to us!

  20. I needed to read this post. I am the single mom of two young children each with multiple special needs. I love homeschooling them but was recently getting discouraged trying to juggle everything. They are not independent learners and some days there just doesn’t seem to be enough of me to go around. I also have to find time to work on my business and find myself sleep deprived more often than not. Your post has given me practical suggestions and more links I can dig into later. It has also given me hope that this impossible task I’m attempting can in fact be done. Thanks for the encouragement and sharing a glimpse into how your family makes it work. It is appreciated.

  21. I’ve always played with the idea of home schooling but I have never felt confident I can offer my children the level of education they will need as they get older. I am terrible at math and not strong in other “left brain” type of studies. I am strong in visual arts, English, etc. Are there any resources available to teach me to teach my children math and whatnot through the use of arts and hands on techniques? I’m an intelligent person but had always shut down in school because most things were taught one way and didn’t meet the diverse learning needs of children that didn’t catch on to simply being instructed. If I struggle with math concepts, how might I teach them to my older children who need more than the basics? These are the things that have held me back from home schooling even though my own children struggle in areas at school and have even built up an unsettling level of anxiety when it comes to school. Currently we are considering removing our 2nd youngest (4years old) from kindergarten because although he does well academically, he doesn’t seem to be ready socially. His frustration in having to get to school and adhere to all of the rules and routine is causing problems at school and at home. While I am confident that I can handle his learning at home, I know that this will cause some serious resentment with our 2nd eldest (7years old) who finds school to be a major source of stress and is desperate for another way to learn. I am not confident I can give him the educational guidance he will need as he gets older if I decide to home school him as well. There MUST be a way to meet their needs even though I barely skimmed by in certain areas. Help!

    • Tina, it ABSOLUTELY can be done – and much more easily now than ever before. There are hundreds of online classes, books, etc. – and I will tell you right now that 90% of what Sarah learns is NOT stuff I already know. (Or, if I once knew it, I’d long since forgotten!) The one thing that comes immediately to mind is the Khan Academy videos… those are free and delve into a ton of topics from mid-level math/science to REALLY advanced stuff.

      Around here, there are a lot of people who use co-ops to deal with sciences and math. In our case we also prefer the hands-on approach; for us, science looks like this: and math like this:

      I’m ALWAYS glad to listen, provide suggestions, or just encourage you to keep trying… you have to find what’s right for your family, but take a deep breath: You know your kids. You know their strengths and all you have to do is be willing to point them toward the right resources, just like you would if they wanted to take sports lessons or art classes! 🙂

  22. I just found your website. This article was very encouraging to me, and I look forward to exploring the wealth of resources you’ve included. Thank you!

  23. What an amazing post! It is just what I needed to read this week. Thank you so much for all of the wonderful resources and encouragement. Looking forward to looking through more of your posts.

  24. This is such a great thoughtful post. Our boys have been home with me since the beginning, and I think the key to working and directing their education is the flexibility you mentioned. There are times when they need or want more, like your daughters Lego camp and you can adjust. If you take charge and be willing to change course often (lol), you will be so grateful for putting them first! Thanks for a great post – glad to have found you.

  25. I am the mom of 10 and have homeschooled since 1991. I still have five children in school and today I accepted a full time job. I will be working at home most of the time, but some in the main office. I have had so many apprehensions and many in my life are shocked that I am going to continue homeschooling and work as well. I can’t begin to tell you how encouraging this article is for me! Great tips and words of wisdom! Thank you, thank you, thank you, so much!
    Anna D.

    • Anna, I’m so glad you got encouraged through everything here… and I’m excited that you’re willing to do this with five at home and working full-time – you’re MY hero; I don’t know if I could juggle multiple kids and do what I do! You’re awesome. I hope you’ll check in and share how it’s going… and any tips that you find helpful as you get started!

  26. Thank you for writing this. With the school year approaching and homeschooling weighing very heavy on my heart the self doubt was setting in about being a self employed workaholic trying to home school. My son will be 9 and our daughter will be 4. I am excited and nervous to start this journey Your article was a great inspiration for me and I can not wait to read all of your suggestions. Thanks again.

    • Makiiya, I’m so glad you commented, and I totally get the self-doubt feeling. I am definitely also a workaholic type and I am definitely also struggling (regularly) with the feeling of never being able to do anything “well enough” – homeschooling or working or my house or… – but I’m trying. I hope you’ll come back and let me know how your year goes!

  27. I’m moving to a new home, have sold and give away many things from our bigger home. I have use mixed curriculum and many times I don’t use one and just do things with my daughter, very inspirational words.

  28. I am a working, homeschooling mama to four kiddos. It’s a crazy, busy, wonderful time. I totally agree with you that being organized is paramount with being flexible. Some (most) days are insane, but I find SO much joy in homeschooling and know it’s a calling…I lean back on those important ideals and keep truckin’. Thanks for your encouragement. We mamas need to have each others’ backs. 🙂

  29. Your blog was just recommended to me. I’m a single mom working outside the home part time+ while homeschooling my 2nd grader. And it hit me a few days ago when I was digging my irrigation trenches after work/school (so we can have a garden next year and hopefully save on food!) that I’m not really doing anything as well as I would like and need some help or guidance.
    Even though I’m opposite from you in many ways, I think there are quite a few things on this post that will be helpful – thank you!

  30. This is a great post!!! I love reading tips from other working homeschool moms. I’ve been homeschooling for a couple years now while working and it is definitely a work in progress. Finding balance is huge right now for me. Thankfully I have my husband helping who is a huge motivator for me. Thanks for the encouragement!

    • Heather, thank you so much for the kind words! I will be sending good thoughts your way about that whole balance thing… I STILL struggle with that pretty much daily, but I’m trying, and I feel like that’s got to be good enough!

  31. If you work outside the home full time as a single parent and unschool, when does school work get done? Who cares for the child while you are working?

    • Jenny, those are exactly the issues I address in this post – in our family, we learn all the time, so there are no “specific school hours.” Sarah is old enough to stay by herself if needed, though we have a large family at home and there is almost always someone here with her while I’m working. Other families have other situations – including those who use daycare, those who team up with other unschooling or homeschooling families and “split days” (that’s actually the way I was homeschooled myself in elementary and middle school) and more! There are almost an infinite number of options there; my goal is to just encourage families to be looking for them!

  32. I’m a single mother of a six month old baby girl, and in the past couple months, I’ve been really thinking what would be best for her. I was raised in a homeschooling family, and at the time, I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite understand the benefits of homeschooling, at least not nearly as well as I do now. I’m at the point where homeschooling is the only way in which I can see myself raising my daughter the way I want to. The real dilemma for me is having the income to support us. My plan is to go to a school has a Women with Children program, and get a degree in accounting, which I feel that I can do a lot with, and either grow my own business in the mean-time, or find a job with a company where I can work from home. This post has given me a lot of good ideas and things to think about. Thank you!

  33. Love this post! It gave me such encouragement and best of all, made me laugh – I needed that! I work full time and am 9 weeks in to my first year in a blended program with my 6th and 8th graders. They attend a Charter two days per week and work at home three days. It has been a challenge finding our groove and I admit I have had several melt downs in the process. I think most of the stress comes from having the traditional school mindset. I still haven’t fully grasped that this is a flexible thing and we can create our own flow, even with the Charter providing a lesson plan. Like the pirate code, the lesson plan is just a guideline right? I am getting there, but your post really helps. Just knowing there are other moms (and dads) out there in the same boat helps so much! Thanks

  34. I love this post! Thank you so much for such a rich and varied source of information. I’m in UK but this is all hugely useful and relevant.

  35. This is great but what do you do with your child while you and the other parent are working? I would love to home school my 8 year old and I know I have the discipline and organizational skills to make it work but we both work outside of the home. I can’t figure out what to do with him. Most daycares don’t take school age children during the day (and even if they did I would not want him in any of the centers around here) and we don’t have any friends or family that do not work. How can I accomplish this? I really need some helpful advice because it has been eating at me that I cannot figure it out lol

    Thank you in advance,

    • Kayla, thanks for asking! That’s a really common question and one to which there’s no easy answer. One thing that my own parents did was partner with another homeschooling family – even if your styles are different, it’s possible that perhaps you could take certain days or times and the other family could take the others. (We had day-on-day-off with my friend Laura and her family for three years when I was homeschooled, as both my parents worked full-time!)

      Another thing that some people pursue is alternate-shift work. That’s actually what our family has done most often – one worked nights, the other days, so someone was home at least most of the time with less need for any kind of babysitter.

      There is definitely no easy answer – some people have to go so far as to change jobs to one with more flexible scheduling, or the ability to bring a child to work or telecommute. Others essentially advertise for a “mother’s helper” in-home person. Others switch shifts; partner with other parents (even if you don’t know anyone yet!); some even decide to send their child to public school as, essentially, free daycare, with the idea of doing their “real” learning together at home at other times. I can’t say that any one of those is “the solution,” but I can say that what it really comes down to is – where can you experiment with a change and see what happens? Can you try to meet up with homeschooling parents in your area (Facebook is a great place to connect with them) and see if anyone clicks who might be a partner? Is there any ability to ask about changing shifts or work-from-home? Find one thing you can explore and see where it goes. If that doesn’t work, find one more thing. It’s not fast, unfortunately, but it really can work!

      I’m cheering for you! I hope you’ll let us know what happens!

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