Working and homeschooling: It’s do-able!

I love my job managing volunteers and connecting newcomers at our church. So when my sons had graduated and left home, and my daughter was happily enrolled in a private Christian school, I thought our homeschooling days were behind us. But then my daughter was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, just as the Covid lockdowns began. The entire crazy set of circumstances forced us to reconsider homeschooling. But how would it work? How COULD it work?

My husband works full time, and with my more-than-full-time ministry job, at first I didn’t think it would be possible. But my daughter enjoyed doing her studies at home, and I liked guiding her studies and spending time with her. So we decided to give it a try.

Is it easy to homeschool while working full time? Naw. It’s challenging. Thankfully I could bring my daughter to work with me on some days, or work from home on other days. This worked okay, but to be honest, I was not very diligent in checking her work… and sometimes she took advantage (especially if she was obsessed with a good book, or just not in the mood to manage her time wisely). We learned some lessons in that first year, and then decided to enroll her in a Classical Conversations group (a homeschool co-op that focuses on a classical education). It helped, but we still had to make adjustments.

Here are some lessons we’ve learned, in the hopes that it will help others who need to balance a full-time job with a quality home-grown education for their kiddos:

Take control of the internet in your home. Most internet providers have parental controls. You can block out hours when your kids cannot access the internet. Your computers, tablets and phones can also have scheduled access. Take full advantage of this, because it is so easy for kids (and adults) to wander into what I call “the valley of distraction,” and lose valuable time on electronics. The internet is not a safe place for kids. Instead of buying a cell phone with full access to the internet, consider a phone that allows texts, photos, and calls, but no internet access.

Use online courses. You can find free and paid online courses, and they can be a great way to keep your child on track. If you use online courses for your kids, try to use those internet blocking tools to keep them from wandering off site when they should be “in class.” You could also schedule access to them while you are home, so you can supervise–even if it means that online class is accessed only on the weekends.

Design a daily schedule. When you are juggling work and school, a schedule is your friend. Your kids need the structure and predictability, and the schedule will hold you both accountable. Make and keep appointments with your kids like you make work appointments. When my boys were young, our schedule was pretty free-flowing, which was fine, because I was at home full time. But when you are juggling responsibilities at home and work, you need the framework of a solid schedule.

Make the schedule interactive. Most kids (and a lot of moms) like checking off boxes or crossing items off of a list. If your child is a hands-on kind of person, your schedule could be made of a poster or pocket file with moveable cards. They can move cards from the “to do” side to the “done” side. An artistic kid might enjoy coloring squares on a paper schedule as they finish a subject. Find some way to help your child visualize their accomplishments (completing their work), and then reward them with praises and compliments. You can never give too many of those! Check out the simple schedules here.

Be flexible. If your child is consistently failing to finish their work, consider that you might be assigning too much. When you homeschool, you have more than 9 months to finish a school year. Slow the pace and work through the summer, if that works best. If a schedule or program isn’t working well, consider changing it. Maybe you need to discover your child’s learning style, and adjust accordingly.

Consider homeschool co-ops. Classical Conversations works well for my daughter. My husband and I are our daughter’s teachers, but it’s nice to have the one-day-a-week gathering with other kids who have all been working on the same assignments. My boys attended a co-op a couple of days a week that offered paid classes. Friends enrolled their child in a public school program that met twice a week. You are still in charge of your child’s education, but for one, two or three days a week, you can focus on work while they are coached and mentored by others.

Clubs and sports are great things. Your kids will enjoy pursuing exercise or hobbies while you get a block of time to devote to work. Count those hours as school hours, because they are part of your family’s learning adventure!

Add chores to your schooling. Chores help manage a home but they also teach life skills. It is good for kids to contribute to the management of your home. Being responsible for tasks that bless the family builds confidence, competency, and character in your kids. Because these are important life lessons, these hours can count as part of your school day, too.

Schedule in some fun! Game nights or outings will build your connection with your child, and reward both of you for the hard work you are doing. Tie them to the things you are learning and you can count them as part of your lesson plans, as well.

If you’re choosing to homeschool while working full time, it will not be an easy road. But it can be done! Just extend a lot of grace to yourself, and your kids, while you figure it all out.