I’m just going to be blunt and tell you that I make an amazingly large sum of money for someone who is homeschooling. Last year, my first year of homeschooling, I cleared $150K. Some of you will admire my spunk. Some of you will say what I’m doing doesn’t even count as homeschooling.
Either way, you will want to know how I did it. Here are four rules I follow and they help a lot:
1. Spend money where other people cut costs.
Other people have budget vacations. You have all year to take vacations, so you will travel more than a normal family. You will have more lattes than a normal family because they will be drinking theirs at work. You will be drinking yours while your kid zones out in a cushy Starbucks club chair. And you will want more because homeschooling is so easy at Starbucks.
But there is no scenario where you feel financially safe giving up free babysitting and giving up eight uninterrupted hours of work. So you will need to take measures to approximate safety using some other avenues besides having a stable career. My favorite thing to do is cut costs. Under dire circumstances I have gone too far, and we have had our electricity turned off. But I’m better at a low-cost lifestyle now. I know how far is too far.
Some things we live without that I wouldn’t think we could live without, but I actually don’t mind. No air conditioning, for example. People hate coming to our house, but it’s already like going to another universe for most of my friends to come visit a cattle and pig farm in the middle of nowhere, so what’s ten or twenty more degrees after that? We also have only one bathroom. I could pay to put in another bathroom, but mostly it doesn’t bother me. And anyway, in the summer the boys use the Slip-n-Slide as a bathtub.
My point is that if you cut costs as a game (called maybe “Is this too ridiculous or not?”) then it feels better. You are already living on the edge of what’s reasonable because people think you’re a nut for homeschooling. So cutting costs where other people wouldn’t seems okay.
2. Send email just enough to look like you work all day.
The trick, of course, is to scan email all day looking for mail that really truly needs to get a fast response so the person thinks you are not with kids all day.
But to do that successfully you need to know when you can not do that. The break times are what give you strength to do the rest of the time. And, luckily, there are times you look bad sending email. For example, when I have written email on Rosh Hashannah, I cued it up to send out after sundown. I don’t want people thinking they are communicating with a bad Jew. And Saturday night has always felt like a great night for me to send out email, like it’s a sneaky time when the parents finally get a little leg up on the single people. But when I was single I felt like it was pathetic to be home on Saturday night answering email.
Avoid sending email at dinner time, because losers send email at dinner time. Because you need people to think you have a life. And if you don’t have a life, at least respect the sanctity of your digestive tract.
But there’s a magic time around 9pm cst when everyone starts sending emails. It’s the pause in the evening for people to tend to their personal lives. And then people start doing work again, if they like their work, when it’s socially acceptable.
3. Mix work and family all day, but know which is which.
So you are essentially going to have to mix work and kids all day long. Some people will say that constant attention to work is leading to the destruction of the family. The Harvard Business Review (admittedly a biased source) says our constant attention to our iPhone is merely a reminder of how boring life would be if we didn’t always have something new to read when our mind needs some candy.
Even though you are sneakily mixing kids and work all day, you will need to make a clear distinction for yourself in order to feel like you have sanity. You need to be able to be a parent sometimes and a worker sometimes and not a eunich all the time.
When I realized there is an uptick in email at 9pm cst, I started planning my kids’ bedtime around the event. If I can get them to bed at 8:30 then I can have a bath and have a marker between family time and work time. The bath is the transition.
4. Don’t let the kids know when they have trapped you in kid land. Use reverse psychology to get them to leave you alone with your work.
So last week I filled the tub up just high enough so it would get my book wet while I read it.
My son barged in.
“I’m in the bath. It’s private time.”
He walks over to the toilet paper. “I need to blow my nose.”
“Get paper towels from downstairs.”
“Hey, what’s that blood in the toilet?”
Pause. “I cut my hand.”
“Are you okay? Let me see.” He reaches for my hand.
“No. You can’t see.”
“You didn’t cut yourself.”
“Go to bed.”
“Are you okay? You’re bleeding.”
“It’s the eggs that I didn’t use for babies this month.”
He yells to his brother: “Oh no! Mom laid her eggs!”
His brother comes rushing in.
“You guys, get out of the bathroom. I’m taking a bath.”
“Let me see the blood.” He looks. “Oh. Yeah. It is blood.” He looks again. “And mom, you have to tell him you don’t lay eggs.”
The older boy leans against the sink like he’s never going to move. “Mom. You tell everyone in the world that we don’t go to school because we do self-directed learning. So you have to talk to us about the blood when we ask.”
I shoo them. I towel off, get dressed and go to the bookshelf to get the book I’ve been saving for this moment.
“It’s called Life Blood. It’s a book about when women’s eggs come out as blood.”
“I’m too tired!”
“Yeah. Don’t talk to us! We’re going to bed!”