I was asked to share some thoughts at a homeschool support meeting on the topic of working and homeschooling and I thought I'd publish them here.
What are the ages of your kids?
Currently they are 8, 11, 13, and 16. When I started working in 2000, they were almost 1, 3 and almost 6. My youngest wasn't born yet. So really the entire time I have had school-age kids, I have worked at least part-time, save for a few months after my last one was born.
What kind of work do you do, schedule do you keep? Outside the home or in?
I work out of my home 4-5 hours a day on the computer. I have to work at least 4 hours a day Monday through Friday. I try to work 1-2 hours before we begin our lessons for the day and fit in the rest in the afternoon and evening.
Other work I have done while homeschooling includes: direct sales home parties (selling Usborne books), teaching part time (during school day, afternoons, evenings), and full time factory work on 2nd shift.
Who stays with your children while you work?
The older two watch over the younger two now, but when my kids were younger, I did a number of different child care arrangements. When #3 was a baby, I arranged my schedule so my husband could watch the kids. After he was injured when #4 was born, I needed to rely on other people somewhat, but I never paid for child care. Since I work at home now, I am always here when I am working.
What sorts of things do you have for your children to do while you are working? (How do you keep them occupied?)
Nowadays they occupy themselves, though I do have gaming systems for them which I always thought we'd never have. They read and play Legos and play outside and play in their rooms. They also do a lot on the computer; we have 2 desktops and 2 laptops for them to use. They do their schoolwork and chores. When they were younger, I worked my schedule around them and they had a caregiver when I was not able to be there.
How do you get schoolwork done? Is your schoolwork independent or require your time?
I try to keep my mornings available for them and require math and reading/literature/phonics to be done during this time. They do a lot more on their own than I imagine a lot of families require. For instance, the oldest reads history aloud to the other 3 and I am not involved at all. We switched to SOS Math so that I would not have the burden of grading math homework. They also do quite a bit online – Livemocha foreign language, typing.... #3 is reading a science book aloud to #4.
How do you get household tasks completed? How do you organize these tasks (if you organize at all!)
I am very organized with household tasks. We have a job chart that tells everyone what to do that day – everything from meal prep to cleaning the bathroom to cleaning the microwave. The kids do all the meal clean up, some of the meal prep, almost all of the household cleaning, and folding their own laundry. I change this chart once a year. The jobs rotate – weekly now, but we have done daily rotation up until now.
What do you do well as a working mom? What do you struggle with the most?
I am great at organization and delegation as well as at protecting my personal time. I am not great at planning meals, though I go in spurts. I also tend to lean more toward the relaxed side of homeschooling, which as they get older may not be in their best interests. So, I struggle with the balance between teacher-led and child-led learning. I also spend a minimal amount of time on my house and almost never entertain.
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I want to add that I am very blessed to have the job I have now - I have the flexibility to work whatever hours I want, as long as they add up to 4-5 in a day; I make good money for a work-at-home online position and I am good at it. My kids want to remain at home or else they probably would have gone to traditional school long ago. And I am blessed to have a husband who has supported our efforts and pitched in as much as he can.