Jeremy Smith is a designer/developer in Greenville, SC. He runs HYBRD, a tiny web studio. More…

How to Homeschool Your Kids with a Full-Time Job

I know for a lot of people, the thought of homeschooling their own kids is unpleasant. My wife and I have talked to many people who say, “Oh, I could never do that.” I think what they mean is not that they couldn’t do it, it’s that they would never really want to. And that’s fine, I guess. Although, I think they’re missing out on some amazing moments with their kids.

But, for the people who have considered the possibility and don’t know how they could manage it because they work full-time, you need to know…

It Can Be Done

We’ve just finished the sixth week of the new school year with our 7 year-old (2nd Grade) and 5 year-old (Kindergarten). They aren’t getting good grades (because we don’t give grades), but I can tell you that they are both doing well.

And we still love each other. And I’m still getting my work done.

Here’s how.

When I Said Full-Time Job…

Let me clarify what I meant by “full-time job.” Not all full-time jobs are going to work. If full-time means 50+ hours in the office, this isn’t going to work. If you have an hour-long commute one-way, this isn’t going to work. Sorry, that’s just the reality of it.

But, if you’re able to perform your occupation close to home in 40 hours a week, and have some flexibility over your work schedule, this can be done. It has taken me several years to get to a scenario that makes this feasible for our family. Hopefully it takes you less time.

I currently work 40-45 hours a week as a contract web designer. (That’s all work-related time, not just billable time.) For the most part, I have the flexibility to determine when I put in my work hours and where I do said work. But I think this can still be done if you work in an office, if you live close enough and if you can talk your boss into letting you come in an hour later. You need to be able to carve out a period of time in your day when your kids are awake (critical!) and you can be home without your job encroaching. For me, that’s 1-2 hours in the morning.

You Will Need Help

“Ahhh,” you say, “but 1-2 hours isn’t a whole school day!” That’s true, it’s certainly not a full day by public school standards. But then, it doesn’t take nearly as long to teach 2 students as it does to teach 25-30. Know any homeschool families? Ask them how long they spend on school work each day.

Still, it does take more than 2 hours. For our family, it takes more like 4 hours a day, currently. Hence, why you need help.

My wife and I split homeschool responsibilities roughly down the middle. I cover Phonics, Math and Language Arts with our 7 year-old and Math, Reading and Writing with our 5 year-old. My wife covers subjects like Science and History (often working with both kids together).

You will need your partner’s help, but doing this together can help balance the stress homeschooling adds to your lives and helps you stay in sync on an important area for your family. Educating your kids is something you are doing together.

With that, here are some tips…

Tip 1: Right After Breakfast

I’ve tried this a few different ways, but the best time to fit school work in around your job is to do it right after breakfast. Just clear the dishes and get out the books. If you’re disciplined about getting up and helping everyone through breakfast quickly (I’m still working on that), you can be halfway through your portion of the school day before most people have finished checking their email.

If you wait until later, the context switching will kill you. And if you’re working with others, this becomes either very confusing for them or very difficult for you to juggle without it affecting them.

Tip 2: Prep Beforehand

That time you’re sitting down with your kids needs to be as focused as possible. If you’re trying to figure out where you are with assignments and projects, you’ll lose momentum and it will take longer. This is another thing I’m working at, but setting aside an hour on the weekend can make a big difference to how those school hours go during the week. You can also take advantage of time when your kids are working through worksheets and personal assignments to prepare for the next subject.

Tip 3: Accept that It’s a Sacrifice

5-10 hours a week is a big time commitment. If you do this, you have to accept that it’s a sacrifice. You will not be able to do everything else you want to do. Seriously, don’t try. You won’t be able to take long lunches. You won’t have time to goof off during the day. You will have to fit your work time into a smaller space. You may have to work some at night or on the weekend. And there will be projects you won’t have time for.

You have to decide ahead of time. Is personally educating your own children worth this investment? If so, commit to it. And don’t get upset when you’re strapped for time and other responsibilities are weighing in on you.

And definitely do not take it out on your kids. I’ve been tempted, when stressed with work responsibilities, to act as if it was my children’s fault that I had to be spending that time homeschooling them. Own your decision. Don’t ruin the act of homeschooling by being frustrating and impatient. Learning happens when you and your children are relaxed and enjoying each other. If you can’t be patient and calm, you’re not in a good position to be homeschooling.

Tip 4: Enjoy This, It’s Special

I can’t help but think that we were meant to be the primary teachers of our own children. We’re introducing them to the world, helping to awaken their curiosity and passion in it, helping them to form relationships with it. This is a very special thing to watch. And it’s a privilege to play a role in the process.

If you haven’t taught a child to read, you’re missing out. There are moments, when you are able to let go of the rest of your day and focus on the boy beside you. When you can remember what it feels like not to know, to be grasping and trying and sounding out letters. And then to make a word, and understand what it is you said.

There’s a word for that.

It’s delight.

“If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, or looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert.”
– Australian psychiatrist W. Béran Wolfe

Posted September 16, 2013 at 11:38 am