The most frequent question I get from people is, “How can I work and homeschool at the same time?” For example:
Just recently got turned onto your blog and am seriously considering the homeschool path for my three, yes three children-ages 9 and 6 yr old twins. Neither my husband nor myself want to give up our work–thankfully I work at home as a researcher and writer for a non-profit, he is less flexible. So please direct me on your blog or elsewhere to how, if it is possible, to work and homeschool. Do I have to give up working to manage the day? What resources can I access to start to figure this out?
I should have sent her the picture above of my older son reading while I meet with my banker. But I wrote this answer back:
I work about 60 hours a week, and I homeschool. So my whole blog is about how to do that. You can look at specific posts about work, like Day in the Life of a Homeschooler, or How to homeschool if you love going to work.
But probably the best thing to read about on my blog is why you don’t need curriculum. Why you don’t need to teach math or science. These are the things that cause fights and suck time and energy and make both kids and adults unable to be their best selves during the day.
In a household where everyone is doing what they are passionate about and everyone is helping each other get the tools and resources they need, parents do work that engages them and kids do work that engages them. You have plenty of time in that scenario.
This arrangement requires, most of all, you being okay with whatever your kids choose to do. My kids play video games a lot. They play musical instruments and I find that most of the time I’m not working, I am practicing with them. It’s not at all the life I imagined for myself, but I think that’s a good measure of if you are following your kids instead of leading them – if you are doing a life with them that surprises you.
So that was my answer but afterwards, it nagged me for days. I realized that the person asking the question – and it’s a new person every day, really – never really wants to know about homeschooling specifically. It’s really a sociological question:
“How can I work and . . .?”
You fill in the second word. How can I have an interesting job that allows me control over my hours and who I work with and allows me to care for my personal relationships? It’s a huge question that research shows that 80% of people are asking. And believe me, it’s not just women. Men want to do the same thing, just not at as high a rate.
There is no secret path to getting work that allows for other aspects of your life. We know that you will not get to the top of a ladder working and [fill in the blank]. We know that corporate jobs go to people who show potential to climb ladders. Imagine it: you are 35 with two kids and you are competing for a job with someone who is 27 with no kids. Who gets the job? The 27 year old, of course. You have roughly the same experience, and while the 35 year old has a little more, it’s clear that if the 35 year old is competing with 27 year olds then their career is stalled, and people don’t like to work with people who have stalled careers.
So you will probably have to work from home. In some capacity. You will probably have to create your own work, based on your own skill set that is special to you.
The question how can I homeschool and work is really about freelancing. How do I freelance while I raise my kids? It’s a great question, but the first step is knowing that that’s what you’re asking.
You don’t want to have your own company – it’s a huge burden to be responsible for peoples’ paychecks while you’re building a company and raising kids. The pressure is insane. And you don’t want to help someone else build a company because startups require long hours. So what’s left is freelancing. (And you should start doing it before you have kids, if you can.)
It’s a great way to scale up or down, depending on your time availability. And it’s a great way to control your own learning curve by taking easy or difficult work, depending on how much energy you have. Freelancing gives you a window to the rest of the world, and you open it as wide as you want or you just crack it a bit for some fresh air while you’re at home.
I’m surprised that more homeschoolers aren’t asking about freelancing because that’s the question they should ask. If you have a freelance business, homeschool will make a lot more sense to you.
So I’m offering a course: Get the Guts to Start Freelancing. And everyone who wants to figure out how to work and homeschool should take this course. Freelancing could be the key to making your family life work.