homeschooling with parents who work full time

While I worked one full-time teaching job plus an additional class at a different college, and Eric kept leaving the house 11 hours a day 5 days a week for his regular job, our homeschooled second-grade-aged child continued to exist.

Since it seemed awful to say ‘hey, child who emphatically prefers homeschooling, we’re going to stick you in whichever public school happens to have a space available, and oh you’re starting in two weeks’–especially since we knew I’d be home again in four months–we didn’t change our approach to schooling when I started working away from home again. We paid for part-time childcare at home (for the baby too, of course), I worked during naps and evenings, and we called it ‘summer vacation.’

You see, we do year-round schooling. There is no summer break. So if we needed to do School Lite for a few months, who cared?

Some families, however, actually do homeschool while both parents work full-time, as a long-term thing. I have a better grasp of how that could work and how it could be hard now, after last semester.

Homeschooling sounds incompatible with dual-income families or working-single-parent-led families. But here are some ways it can work:

  • Your retired parent (aka Grandma or Grandpa) / stay-at-home sister / friend who’s also a homeschooling parent / etc. lives in town and is delighted to take care of your children while you’re at work. Maybe this person wants to do some learning with your child(ren), but that’s not really the point: the reality is that there’s plenty of time to ‘do school’ during non-work hours. But daycares typically don’t/can’t accept school-aged children during the day, and they have to go somewhere.
  • You can afford full-time in-home childcare, and you can find a great person for the job.
  • Your children are old enough to do lots of independent learning, take care of themselves, and be at home alone.
  • You work from home and have older children or can afford to hire some help (perhaps from an older homeschooled child) so you can actually get anything done ever.
  • You have a partner, and you work very different schedules (nights vs. days, weekdays vs. weekends, etc.). But hoo boy that sounds exhausting and like a huge bummer to me: I hate the idea of seeing Eric even less than I do now.

What we found last semester is that the learning happened even when we weren’t prioritizing it. Noah is curious and a huge reader, we kept having conversations, we kept going to concerts and museums and libraries and events in our community … it seems like ‘school’ and projects sneak in no matter what we intend. This is another way to say ‘we basically started unschooling, and it worked beautifully.’ Our childcare situation was a stressful mess, though. That stress and expense is the part that would keep us from committing to homeschooling long-term with two full-time jobs. (We do not have a magical child-loving aunt with lots of free time living down the street, you see.)

I don’t know what our work lives will look like in the coming years, or how school will happen down the road for our family, but this was definitely enlightening in a lot of ways. Food for thought.

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One Comment

  1. Lara
    Posted 22 January 2014 at 7:52 AM | Permalink

    The working-different-schedules plan is tough, for sure. We didn’t home school per se, but when the kids were under school age, we paid for less child care than we really needed, and either my husband or I was always working. “Family time” was a rare occurance. Time for the two of us was also rare, and usually happened by “cheating” — someone was supposed to be working, but we started making tea, and got in a conversation, and the work got put off. We made it through those years, and we have a better balance now, and I’m glad. It was the right solution for that stage of life, for us, but it was a strain.

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