I went to public school when I was growing up (not including my three-year stint at Catholic school), and while I really valued the education I received, I would have loved to have had some more freedom to explore my passions. About seven years ago, as we began the kindergarten search process in New York City, I fell in love with the idea of experiential, interest-based learning. And while the private schools that we toured and applied to were excellent, I knew that a full day of school plus commute time on the subway would be too much for my daughter. My thoughts were underscored when I was talking to her about the length of a school day before one interview, and she asked, “but when will I have time to play?” So that was that.
Seven years later, here we are. I am a single parent who has worked by doing things that I loved (as a writer, teacher, and bartender) along the way in order to provide for my daughter. Admittedly, it can be a little tricky to manage sometimes, but when we get into the right groove, being able to balance work and homeschooling is a beautiful thing!
There are about a million different ways to homeschool, and countless working parent scenarios, but there should be something for everyone here. And if not, well, as any homeschooler will tell you: find what works for you in the moment, and if it’s just not working, you can always adjust!
Before you begin
- Ensure that all paperwork required by the city, county, or state has been filed
- Be open to adjusting. If one aspect doesn’t work…schedule, curriculum, etc, you can always adjust
- Spend a period of time deschooling before you jump into your school year. This will help parents and children unwind and welcome in a new way of learning.
- Get organized: join online homeschooling forums, email lists, and in person homeschool groups. Familiarize yourself with the necessary curriculum. Set specific goals for yourself and for your child(ren). If possible, create a homeschooling space or study area.
Have a set time and place to work
- If you work outside the home, and have a set schedule this isn’t really an issue
- If you work from home or if you have flexible work hours, ensure that you have a place in your home (office, living room, bedroom, pretty much wherever your children permit) or outside of your home (coffee shop, co-working space, library, etc) where you can get the work done. Stay consistent. If necessary, adjust your working hours for while they are asleep: early morning, late evening, or quiet time. You can even work while they do their assignments or log in to a class (especially if they are older or more independent).
- Some parents prefer to work a certain number of days, and then do schoolwork on other days. For instance, they might work three days a week, and then work on schoolwork with their children four days a week.
Create a routine for child(ren)
- Certain subjects at certain times and days
- Take breaks
- Activities outside of the home…swim, theatre, piano, soccer, library, etc
A support system is vital
- You’re a wonderful parent, excellent teacher, and a great employee…but you can’t do everything. Share parenting responsibilities. Hire a babysitter.
- If you have an older child who can help out with schoolwork or childcare, rely on them, pay them for their labor, if you can. Grandparents and extended family are a wonderful resource.
- Cultivate relationships with other homeschool families (trade childcare responsibilities, arrange for rides, hire a tutor together).
Emulating school is not necessary
- One of the great things about homeschooling is that you have a lot of freedom. You can school from 8-3 if that works for you and your child(ren), but you can also do schoolwork from midday-on, or in the evenings, or only do schoolwork on particular days.
- You also don’t need to follow one curriculum. Use multiple resources: books, websites, museums, travel.
- Some families prefer nature-based homeschooling. Incorporate an educational philosophy that works for you: Waldorf, Montessori, etc. Literature-based and nature-based are very popular, as well.
- Learning is everywhere! If they are working on video editing, playing an instrument, playing a sport, reading voraciously, baking, cooking, running a business, acting…they’re learning.
- Don’t overthink it
- It’s ok to adjust!
Ask for help with academics
- You’re not an expert in all fields, and that’s totally ok.
- Reach out to your networks..do you have a friend who can tutor your child? A family member? Is there a math teacher you know who wouldn’t mind a few extra dollars?
- Use reputable, accredited online classes
- Classes can be found through parks and rec departments, local theatres, museums, cultural organizations, and libraries. If it doesn’t exist: ASK. A lot of cultural organizations and museums have classroom space and experts at their disposal. Many of them would be delighted to fill those spaces, share their expertise, and create a class or workshop for you.
Ask for help with academics
Give yourself a break
- It’s ok to take a nap, zone out, scroll, garden, or whatever you need to do to rest.
- If your child is frustrated or tired, let them take a break, too.
- Take a few days off if necessary…get into nature, go on a quick trip, donate your time to a local organization, have a family movie marathon…whatever you need to do to decompress and re-energize.
- Facebook groups for homeschoolers abound and they will help you immensely. There are specialized groups for gifted learners, regional groups, neurodiverse groups, etc. Secular, Eclectic, and Academic (SEA) Homeschoolers is a wonderful starting place.
- Reading lists. I love to read, and have found many books for my children to read for fun and to supplement their learning through the New York Public Library website, and A Mighty Girl. We Need Diverse Books is a great website that also has an app to help guide you in choosing the right books for your children. I also enjoy looking at the reading lists of elite private schools throughout the U.S. to get an idea of how to challenge and entertain my daughter.
- Online classes, supplemental classes, and tutors can add up! Your local library, YMCA, JCC, and parks departments all offer free or low-cost learning experiences and extracurricular activities for your children.
MHA is a supportive voice for all in the Minnesota homeschooling community. We encourage those interested in writing for the blog to do so without bias for or against any religious group or political affiliation. Please email us your blog submission or requests.