We started homeschooling seven years ago, and for a year I was homeschooling and working full time. Is it possible? Certainly. Is it easy? No.
Homeschooling and Working Full Time. Is it Possible?
Before we emigrated to New Zealand and were living in England, homeschooling or home education whatever you wish to call it, was something that had always interested me. Two things stopped me. Having a huge mortgage meant that we couldn’t survive on one wage alone. I owned and ran a café at the time, and I certainly wasn’t going to take two kids under 7 with me to work. Can you imagine? Sonny would have eaten all of the profits for a start. And secondly, I was under the impression that homeschoolers were a bit weird – another reason I didn’t try harder to make homeschooling an option.Homeschooling remained a distant fantasy. And off to school, they went.
In 2009 we emigrated to New Zealand. House prices there were a lot lower than the UK, and so financially we were slightly better off.
I still thought about homeschooling, it had never left my mind, and now it seemed a more attainable goal.
Unfortunately, I still had my fears and worried that taking your children out of school was something that only hippies or religious people did.
Our first two years of living in New Zealand saw both of my children enrolled at the local primary school.and on the whole, they were happy. New Zealand’s attitude to primary school is a lot more relaxed than the UK. I know people say that the system isn’t as advanced, but I never saw any evidence of this.
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But school is school. No matter where you are in the world. There are still thirty children to one teacher, peer pressure is prevalent, and if you don’t know a, b and c, by the time you are nine years old you will be labelled as struggling. All the things that annoyed me about school in the UK were still present in New Zealand. I got involved in my children’s school day as much as I could by volunteering in their classrooms as a helper, but this made me want to bring them home even more. Sometimes you’re best off not knowing what goes on at school.
On the mornings that I wasn’t staying to help I’d drop them off at school and wave goodbye. I’d go home feeling empty and sad. There was so much that I knew I could teach them my own way and at their own pace. Everywhere I looked, places were just screaming out to learned about and explored.
While it was true we could go and do these things together as a family, having two days at the weekend just wasn’t enough, and anyway, the children were always far too tired to do anything by the end of the week.
What Made You Decide to Homeschool?
I became friendly with a lady who was giving Tessa horseriding lessons. She lived down the road from me, on a farm. She unschooled her two boys. I knew nothing about unschooling and so proceeded to ask all of the typical questions about University and socialising.
She patiently informed me of what it was all about. Unschooling, for those not familiar with the term, is freestyle learning that is very much child led. The children decide what they want to learn and then dive headlong into learning about it- in whichever way takes their fancy. Be that spending two weeks curled up in front of the fire reading about the world’s highest structures or collecting driftwood from the beach and taking a week to build their own Leaning Tower of Pisa.
I’m not going to go on about my thoughts on unschooling right now, but just know that if I had my seven years again, this is the way I would go.
I admired the lady down the road for homeschooling and unschooling. She seemed so happy and relaxed. The kids were free and always outdoors. She started telling me about the local homeschooling community that she was part of, about how there were over 200 kids and that they did all this fantastic stuff together as a group. I began to plan an escape from school.
In 2011 we decided that we would pull in our belts. Cut back on a few things- no more meals out or buying fancy clothes- in fact, no more clothes unless they were second hand.
We would be buying cheaper wine, and swapped our petrol car for an affordable diesel model. All of these things would enable us to survive on one wage for a while. And one wage meant that I could homeschool.
Was Everyone Keen to Make Homeschooling Work?
Brian, of course, was ever supportive. He’s a science man so was excited at the thought of being able to teach the kids something I knew absolutely nothing about. He also had his own heating business, so the possibility that both kids could go to work with him and learn how businesses run was a very exciting prospect.
Sonny and Tessa, as you can imagine, were over the moon. Their mum had just told them they could quit school. Why wouldn’t they be? Especially Tessa. She was at that beautiful age where the only person she loved more than her Mum was her Mummy.
I was excited but scared too. I knew it was a massive undertaking and was aware of what the consensus of homeschoolers was. Having been one of those people that thought homeschoolers were weird.
How funny. Now I would be annoyed if people thought I was normal.
Homeschooling has taught us all that to be different is to be unique. And to be unique is exciting. Back then, I wasn’t aware of this yet and so was just a tiny bit terrified and worried what people might think of me.
How Old Were The Children When You Started Homeschooling?
Sonny and Tess were 10 and seven respectively when we started to homeschool. Initially, we told everyone that we were just going to try it for a term. After the first term came to an end, I kept hold of my safety blanket by saying that we would just homeschool until the end of the year.
That year turned into six without me noticing. I am in no way an expert on homeschooling, but I know what has worked for us and what hasn’t. In the six years that we have been at home, we have had lots and lots of fantastic times. But we have also had many tears. Mostly always mine. It’s hard being the Mum, especially when that same mum has to tell her daughter that she needs to learn how to spell.
The First Six Years of Our Homeschooling Journey.
Your homeschooling journey would look completely different to mine. But in the first six years, before I tried to homeschool and work full time, our homeschooling journey was very special. Like I said, not always easy, but then nothing is. That’s fine. This is how our homeschooling journey looked for the first six years.
Where We Learned.
My children have learned mainly on the beach and at our kitchen table. They have learned by living. If they’ve wanted to do a project on pollination we have spent hours laying in a field watching a bee going from flower to flower.
If they ever showed an interest in British history, we would spend a week watching BBC documentaries.
What we Learned.
Before I turned to online maths tuition, Maths was always done through the Singapore math programme. It’s apparently the best in the world, and we used it for five years. It was a fabulous, thorough programme and I can’t recommend it highly enough if you are looking for a teacher-led maths programme, remember though, it does require that you teach it!
I’m rubbish at science. I try, I really do, but ask the kids…every single experiment that I’ve ever done has failed. I’d spend days researching how to get the yolk of an egg to the outside by spinning it really fast in a pair of tights. I’m not joking; it was a bloody disaster. The kids would almost wet themselves with laughter at my attempts. It not only cost me a small fortune in eggs and tights, but in the end, I forgot why I was even doing the experiment.
Thankfully I found a very inexpensive science course online. These days I don’t even attempt to do science, which is a shame. I miss those epic fails in a way.
General English, History, Geography.
We did lots and lots of reading in those first six years. Reading covers everything. We would spend hours reading on the beach or in the garden. Every time we went in the car, we would listen to a talking book. I could fill pages and pages of the books that we have read, but I just want to recommend the ones that taught my kids (and me) the most.
Homeschooling was easier when the children were younger. Although it demanded more of my time, it was more straightforward. No phones or gadgets were vying for their attention.
For the past three years, we have had a no phone policy while they are doing school work. It’s quite hard to police it though. Short of putting the phones down my pants, so they cant find it, both of them always seem to find a way to get hold of their phones. Of course, when confronted about this, the answer is always the same… “I’m just checking the time.”
We don’t have clocks in our house you know.
Homeschooling and Working Full Time. What it Looks Like.
Homeschooling and working full time. It’s hard, but it’s not impossible, especially not if your kids are teenagers and are capable of sitting with the work that has been assigned to them.
As S and T became older, so our homeschool routine changed and adapted. I found that by using more online tutors my time was freed up.
This was probably the insane reason I decided to start my own business again and believed that I could manage both homeschooling and working full time.
I am addicted to starting new ventures; I get a real buzz from it. I was ready for a new challenge and so decided to build a touring theatre in education company. This I did, and it was a huge success. But what was supposed to be a part-time venture took over nearly 40 hours a week of my time for a year. I was homeschooling and working full time, and it wasn’t easy. It almost killed me, to be honest. The trouble was not being able to give 100% commitment to either one or the other. I tried to balance both, but in the end, it was too much. After a year of success, I put the theatre company on hold. I then began a whole new adventure (and a different story!) We took the kids backpacking around the world for a year. All those years that I had wanted to unschool? Well, now I was going to do it!
But back to this post.
I now know how it feels to homeschool while working full time and it’s not easy. Yes, it helped that the kids were both involved in my business, but at the same time, It was a massive juggling act.
Sonny was 15 at the time, and he coped fine. He is doing exams through a correspondence course. He’s very independent. I’m only there to advise him on assignments, nag him to get on with his work and tell him to get off Facebook.
But Tessa, she was only 12 and had to take a bit of a back seat. Although I don’t think it did her any harm, in fact, it was probably good for her to see her mum create a business from scratch and then make it all work, I also know it wasn’t easy for her. She has been used to having me there to help her and to arrange science experiments that would fail. Yes, it’s made her a lot more independent, but I don’t think either one of us was ready for it, or particularly enjoyed what it did to our homeschool routine.
Would I recommend homeschooling and working full time?
For me, no. It was just too much of a struggle. We all try to be like super mum. And although it is possible to do both, homeschooling and working full time, comes at a price. That price for us was a tired, stressed, over-stretched mum and teacher.
My idea of homeschooling is all about spending as much time as I can with my children. Failing at science projects and watching bees flying into each other. You might be different. If your homeschoolers are of an age where they can get on and work independently then yes, it probably would work for you, but my daughter was just that little bit too young.
Do I Know of Anybody Who’s Made a Success From Homeschooling and Working Full Time?
Yes, I do. I know lots of people.
The lady on the farm that I told you about earlier, she was a full-time vet who practised from a clinic at home. She made it work for her family, and her boys were both under ten years of age. They would spend all day playing games and writing out projects.
I have a friend who works full time while her son – who surfs for New Zealand, is left to fit his work in around his own schedule. He is a successful teenager, and the family make it work for them.
Another friend who is a full-time midwife juggles three children under 12 and still manages to smile when she sees me. Some days she takes the children with her to the clinic, and other days her husband is at home for a few hours.
I could go on and on. My point is, it’s not impossible, it just didn’t work for us.
I take my hat off to any parents who are homeschooling and working full time, I really do. If you can make it work for you without having a nervous breakdown, then go for it. Me? When I come back from our year travelling around the world, I will consider it again. Tessa will be a lot older and capable of working independently so we will see.
Do what works for you. But remember, homeschooling is a job in itself, granted it might be an unpaid job, but it’s still a job. Don’t spread yourself too thin, the years that you do homeschool may be poor ones but make sure they are happy ones.
You can always be supermum when they’ve left home.
Are you a homeschooler/unschooler/home-educator? Or are you thinking about homeschooling but don’t know if you can homeschool and work full time? Drop me a comment below and let me know what you are thinking. I’d be happy to answer any questions you might have. Or, sign up for my newsletter, and you’ll be able to stay up to date with our worldschooling journey that we are about to take in November for a year when we go around the world.
Should you be in need a science teacher? Don’t ever knock on my door; I won’t be in, I’ll be down on the farm asking the farmer for some more eggs for my next experiment.