As the homeschooling movement continues to grow in the United States, more and more parents are keeping their careers while personally meeting their children’s educational needs.
The 50-percent increase in homeschoolers seen from 2003 to 2012 ─ they make up 3.4 percent of 5─17-year-old children in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics — has gone hand-in-hand with an increase in parents who are willing to take on a “second shift” to teach their own. The numbers could be much higher if it weren’t for many of the stereotypes that have been tagged on homeschooling.
“Plenty of families would like to try it … [h]owever, many are held back by the assumption that one parent (likely Mom) would have to stop working,” explains Fastcompany.com’s Laura Vanderkam. “But talk to homeschooling parents and you find that a number are attempting the ultimate ‘second shift’: building a career while running a small school operation at the same time.”
More parents are finding that they can continue to earn a good income while educating the children at home.
"[I can earn a good living while] getting to give my kids individualized educations that really meet their needs," marketing consultant and homeschool mom Catherine Gillespie shared, according to Fastcompany.com.
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Vanderkam says that parents who juggle their careers and homeschooling embrace several key concepts.
“First, they realize that all working parents need some sort of child care, even parents who work from home,” she informed. “Traditional schools serve this function for some families, but ‘education’ and ‘custodial care’ can be unbundled. You can work 40 hours and homeschool for 20 hours, sleep eight hours a night, and still have 52 hours for other things.”
The expert on time management exposed another commonly held misconception held by those who ponder whether or not to homeschool.
“Second, core learning comprises fewer hours of the traditional school day than you might think,” Vanderkam continued. “A school day that runs from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. includes lunch, transition times, and classroom management. One-on-one instruction is a lot more efficient. Twenty hours a week would match what most schools offer, and most schools only run for nine months a year.”
For Gillespie, starting homeschool between 7:30 or 8:00 in the morning until noon or 1:00 p.m. is the norm, which includes extra time for reading. After her nanny arrives in the afternoons three days a week, she goes to work. Her husband covers for her on Saturdays while she works. Gillespie says that she’s able to sneak in her email for work — which reportedly consumes nearly a third of the average work day — while her children are working independently.
"School does go faster when you are teaching a smaller class," the homeschool mom explained, alluding to the hours of non-instructional time kids spend at conventional school.
Vanderkam goes on to let parents know they can platoon during home instruction.
“Third, homeschooling parents can share the load — [t]wo parents can divvy up subjects and instructional time,” she added. “Many hire tutors for individual subjects. Carrie Beam, an engineer who works in an office Monday through Thursday, told me that her daughter goes to tutoring for a few hours per day. On Fridays, Beam teaches math to her daughter and several other homeschooling students. Many homeschooling families belong to such co-ops or programs that provide group learning or specialized instruction at least one day a week.”
Home school plus
The stigma of homeschoolers being stuck at home all day behind a stack of books at the kitchen table is also dismantled when what really takes place during home education is examined — especially when looking at home learners who are engaged in co-ops and other homeschool programs. Athletic activities, college classes and trading teaching time with nearby friends are also commonplace. These are all academic endeavors that afford parents time to keep their careers going.
Author Pamela Price reminds parents that homeschooling doesn’t have to take place between regular business hours during the work week — pointing out that there are 168 hours to work with every week that can be moved around.
"Their school day and your work day do not have to mirror each other exactly," asserted Price, who wrote How to Work and Homeschool.
Vanderkam provides an example of what shifting a work and homeschool schedule around can look like.
“A nurse might work Monday, Thursday, and Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.,” she ventures. “She homeschools on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. If the kids go to a homeschool co-op on Thursday, that leaves just one weekday for coverage. Maybe her partner can take that day, or she hires a sitter. Just because the majority of society does something does not mean it’s the optimal way for you.”
A real example was also given of mom working from home in teacher professional development who also teaches her seven-year-old son through an online learning program. She hires a baby sitter from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. — to whom she gives detailed instructions — when she travels twice a month while her husband is at work.
"The people who are coming in are mostly graduate students or college students, and they have no issue with it," says homeschooling mom Tera Gall about her clients’ reaction to her dual role. "They’ve all taken some sort of class online."
Gillespie says that after many of the parents she knows have come to understand that they can move the variables around when putting together a homeschool schedule for their children, they are more than eager to give it a try.
"They are passionate about giving their kids a great education, but they also have their own interests and passions outside of school," the career homeschooling mom shared.