Strategies for the Working Parent
by Kim Jaworski, Homeschool Resource Specialist
Can I work and homeschool my kids? It’s a frequent question. Some parents are wondering if they can remove their children from traditional school to homeschool and still keep working. For other families, one parent has been at home doing most of the homeschooling, but now finances have changed and part-time or fulltime work is needed to keep things afloat. Each scenario has different factors to consider, so I shall do my best with both.
First, continuing to work away from home and pulling kids out of school:
Obviously, if your children are young you’ll need to arrange some kind of daycare or supervision for them while both parents are away. Once you have that worked out, you can certainly take care of the educational part of your day when you’re at home, regardless of what time of day that might be. You can homeschool in the evenings no differently than homeschooling in the mornings or afternoons. To keep the costs of childcare to a minimum, you might consider working a different shift than the other parent. Shift switching is an option if you work in a medical setting, factory or light industrial field or retail. You might still have a few hours of overlap with the other parent’s work hours, but if there’s a grandparent or other local relative or friend who can help cover a couple of hours for you, you’ll be all set!
Another option would be to explore whether or not one of you could work from home part of the time or fulltime. This could be with your current employer if that’s an option or in some other capacity or by changing to a work-from-home-friendly career. Be creative and think through your options. If you currently work in health care as a nurse, nursing assistant or PCA at a nursing home, you might have options to shift your hours, or you could pursue a position with a home health agency that assigns you to work a couple evenings a week and weekends. If you’re currently a preschool teacher or teacher’s aide, you might consider starting your own home daycare or preschool program or an afterschool daycare program with homework help for school aged kids. With some thought and creativity you just might find the employment niche you’ve been looking for. If one of you has an accounting background, you could do tax prep from home or bookkeeping for small businesses in the area.
In our second scenario, you’ve been home with the kids but are seeking to add some income to the family budget. As we talked about earlier, working an alternate shift can fit into the schedule for some families. Working a couple evenings and weekends when the other parent can be home might be just what you need. Or consider options for working from home or a job with flexible hours. Home daycare (fulltime or part-time), special needs daycare, or come up with a creative approach to working from home. You could offer drop in daycare for parents who need short-term child care (like while a parent is sick or recovering from surgery) or just a day here or there for doctor and dentist appts. You could advertise through your church or homeschool co-op. You could offer piano or other music lessons, tutoring or homework help, math or language classes to other homeschoolers or your neighborhood at large.
If your children are old enough to be on their own for a few hours each day you could try to arrange a work schedule that would take that into account. Maybe your new job starts at 3pm and your spouse is home by 5pm. Or you work a few mornings per week and Saturdays for a home health agency or retail location. You can structure the kids’ time so they have chores and school projects to work on while both parents are away and it’s helpful if there’s a neighbor home during that stretch of time to be a resource if something unexpected happens.
Whatever you’re able to work out, try to also envision a backup plan for when a child is sick or your daycare provider is unexpectedly unavailable (illness or family emergency). If you have a tentative ‘plan B’ it will be less stressful and chaotic for everyone when something comes up.
If you don’t feel like you’ll have time, with work, to coordinate all of the curriculum for the kids, you might also consider enrolling them in an online school for a year and see how that goes. With the online schools, the assignments and lessons are all accessed by computer from anywhere (home, Grandma’s or other daycare provider). You’ll need to make sure the work gets done and the kids stay on schedule with assignments, but the everyday lesson planning is taken care of. Online schools are free and are considered like charter schools. You don’t have to complete the usual homeschool paperwork in the fall or worry about annual testing.
Another budget strategy to consider:
A family I know was considering trying to add a 2nd fulltime job to the family budget. By selling their 2nd car (no more insurance or gas expenses for that vehicle) they were able to save on expenses and get by with doing some part-time daycare from home a few days a week. Dad was able to join a carpool a few days a week so that Mom had the car part of time. Lowering expenses can be equal in the budget to bringing in more money. Cancelling cable service, cutting back on cell phone packages, shopping second-hand before buying new - all of these strategies can help get your finances where you need them to be.