I coach a lot of people about how to earn money from home while they homeschool. Many of them have a spouse who is either living with them or paying child support. My answer is almost always: “Forget it. Let your spouse take care of the money. You take care of the kids and maintaining your sanity while you’re doing it.”

Financially it’s not likely that the psychic and emotional cost of revving up a side business to do from home, in between managing kids, is going to be lucrative enough to justify the extra work it requires. It’s much easier to just cut down on the money you spend.

Remember that most people think they will have an easier life with 20% more income. But after two years of more happiness, that feeling that you need 20% more comes back. That’s how we are made. It’s in our DNA. If you collected berries in a cave and decided you always had enough, soon you wouldn’t. And you’d starve.

We can’t stop wanting more berries.

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that I make lists of goals for my life every other day. Because I know that if you don’t have goals you won’t reach them, and I know that writing goals out by hand is such a pain that the very act of doing it is an expression of commitment to those goals. So, like many things in my life, I have faith in the research and force myself to act on it.

When people ask me how I homeschool and have a startup and earn so much money and not fall to pieces, the answer is that I never, ever do something that is not related to my top three goals in life.

I have three main sections of goals: Family, work, and spirituality.

I break them down. Family has four sections: My older son, my younger son, Matthew, and my brothers. Work has three sections, my blog, my startup, and coaching. Spirituality has three sections: exercise, religion, and gardening.

But what am I doing with gardening? I spend a huge amount of time and money on my garden so it’s important to me to figure out where it fits. It’s unlike me to spend so much time on something and not be able to make money at it.

But I can’t figure out how to earn money at gardening in any way that’s appealing to me. In fact, I have found that the best way to learn about gardening is to travel all over the Midwest buying twelve of something at a garden shop, planting it in sets of three and learning how to grow it and design with it.

Then I saw the way Melissa cropped this picture (above). And I realized that I garden because I love making fun places for my kids to play. I watch them out the window all day long, seeing the paths they create while they kill plants in their way. I rearrange to make stepping easier, I put subtle shrubs in corners to direct the turns the kids take.

I buy benches that are just a little too small, because I miss when they were young. I buy weather gauges that are a little too complicated in case they want to learn among the roses.

I make the garden because I like making it for them. I don’t tell them that. I spend way too much time on it for them to ever believe me. And also, they might start to feel less too guilty when they trample parsley during a fight.

There is no question that my kids have ruined my life – the life I had before kids. Everything you strive to create after college is destroyed when kids come. The whole game changes. But I remember thinking, in my 30s, when I had mastered the game of earning money and looking hot and having people wish they were me, that I was bored. I could have done that forever, but it would have been monotonous.

So my garden is the place I build that I can control, that keeps my life interesting while I focus on kids.

When you ask yourself if you need a career while you’re homeschooling, ask yourself why. It might be that you just need a garden. A career is a huge, psychic commitment that chips away at your control over your life. A garden gets you the same type of high learning curve and creative opportunity, and you can get immediate feedback from people around you.

That’s what we want, I think: challenge, learning, and the ability to see progress in a context that you can control. And when you have kids, a garden gets you that in a way more manageable way than a job.