A lot of people who hire me for career coaching finally tell me that what they really want is a way to make a life that will let them homeschool their kids. When they have kids. Here’s what I tell them:

1. Find a husband who makes enough money for you to stay home.
Look, if you don’t have kids yet, you should know that in most cases, one parent will homeschool the kids and one parent will work. It would be really nice if both parents could work part-time from home and both parents could homeschool, but this is extremely difficult to set up and it’s high risk because no one is concentrating on their career enough to keep it stable.

So since you already know how you want your life to work, don’t be shy about making sure you marry a breadwinner. If you know you want to homeschool your kids, then other options, like marrying a starving artist, are not open to you.

2. Make sure your spouse is on board.
Check out the photo up top. It’s another by James Maher. At first I didn’t like that the photos he took for this blog would be just me and the kids. But then I realized that it makes sense, and here’s why: I have yet to see a homeschooling operation that is lead by the dad. I see a lot of dads participating, but the moms are running the show. This is no surprise to me because I’ve already been in the special needs world, where it’s largely the same situation. There are dads who do a lot, but one person needs to run the show and it’s always the mom.

So the people planning to homeschool are most likely the moms, but having a spouse that is on board is essential, because the spouse will get as much grief about taking the kids out of traditional school as the mom. The spouse needs to be ready to stand up to the doubters and not get crushed—especially in front of the kids.

3. Live in a mediocre school district.
You will have to confront so many naysayers no matter where you live. But in a town where the parents pay top-dollar for their homes to get access to the schools, homeschooling is suddenly an affront to the financial decisions and housing decisions of the neighbors. In a top-tier school district, homeschooling is heresy.

You will have a lot less friction if you move to a not-as-great school district. And, on top of that, you will get more house for your money, which will come in handy during long days at home with the kids.

4. Practice staying home with kids.
The first time I stayed home with my kids, starting when my oldest was born until my youngest was two, I really hated it. I had no sense of who I was or what I was doing. I thought I was missing out on the good stuff in my work life because I was home with kids instead of running a cool business.

So I launched a startup. And did that for a few years. And then I tried staying home again. The second time I was better at it. I knew what  to expect and I also knew myself better.

No one ever told me that I would need to practice being at home with my kids. People told me that it was natural—either you like it or you don’t. But I don’t believe that. Being home with kids might take getting used to. So leave yourself time to do that before the pressures of homeschooling emerge.

5. Find likeminded friends.
The earlier you can hook up with other families planning to homeschool the better adjusted you’ll feel. When I had a baby, I felt like I needed friends with a baby. And then I had a kid with special needs and I felt lonely until I found a group of moms who understood how totally different parenting is when you have a kid with special needs.

Now that I’m homeschooling I have that same feeling. I really need a community of people around me who are homeschooling. This blog has been that for me, and I feel lucky to have it. Make sure you feel part of a homeschooling community from the start: this support system has made all the difference to me.


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27 replies
  1. CJ
    CJ says:

    Your family is gloriously beautiful. Thank you so very much for sharing this photo with us…kids and I are smiling, cuddled and warmed by your joy.

  2. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    Homeschooling is important to me, so I’ve focused on my career for the past 8 years in order to support a stay-at-home husband. I will be married next year, and we plan to have kids shortly after that.

    I am not sure how much my feelings will change once I have kids. I am not sure how he will feel being unable to support his family financially. I am not sure how he will handle the pressure of raising children, and I’m not sure how I will handle the jealousy of him being the one to raise them.

    I worry that homeschooling is hard enough without additional complications. I’m worried that everything looks perfect on paper, but in real life it will get too messy and complicated, and I will give up and send the kids to public school to save our marriage.

    But I am moving forward and trusting that we can make this work and that we will help pave the way for others so that homeschooling can be a dad thing, too. Equal-opportunity homeschooling.

    • Mark K
      Mark K says:

      Elizabeth, if I could bet on your success, I would go “all in!”

      The only way to have certainty is to say no to the adventure. The only way to be free of worry is to not care. So being unsure and a bit worried are perfectly natural and healthy. They help keep you vigilant and honest :)

      • Elizabeth
        Elizabeth says:

        Wow, thanks Mark! That was so wonderful to hear – I really appreciate the sweet thought! :)

        • JML
          JML says:

          Elizabeth, this is what we have done and it works wonderfully!

          My children are not school-aged, but we decided that my husband would stay home to avoid putting them in daycare. It makes more sense for our family that he stay home instead of me. Of course there are times when I get jealous, but I still get to spend lots of quality time with them. I think someone on this blog once made a comment about transition times. With a parent at home full-time, there are fewer transition times for the children. When I get home, the kids are playing and I can just join them in whatever they are doing. I also don’t have to worry about dinner and there is no rushing to get daily tasks done.

          And my husband loves the time he gets to spend with them.

          I would say that it took us about a year to fully get used to being a single income family and for my husband to be a stay-at-home dad. But it’s completely manageable and not that complicated. Now that we’ve been doing it for a couple of years, I really can’t believe that more people aren’t doing it. I guess it’s just a question of priorities. But when I hear people moan about having to put their kids in daycare (and I mean people at a comparable income level – I realize that it’s not feasible for everyone) I can’t sympathize. It’s all about choices.

          Homeschooling is our next conversation.

          I’m really excited for you!

  3. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I’ll throw this one out there – make sure your kids are on board. They’ll get questions and they should know better than anybody else why they’re being homeschooled and its’ benefits.

    • Cathy
      Cathy says:

      Mark, I unschooled my kids from the beginning. I would be the last person to advise not talking to your kids about homeschooling and why you’ve chosen to do it–I talked to my kids about everything–so I agree with you, in principle. However, when a kid is age four and five and six, they really are not going to be able to verbalize all the philosophy and research findings that lead many families to choose homeschooling.

      Nor should they have to.

      I felt somewhat protective; if my kids were quizzed by adults about why they homeschooled, I asked the adults (nicely) to engage with ME about that topic. I felt that it had been primarily my opinions, decisions, and philosophies that had started the unschooling ball rolling, not my kids’.

      Even when one kid was on the local high school dance team, at age 15, through the school district homeschooling program, and I’d opted her out of state testing by a letter to the principal (the required procedure here in Calif.), I was a bit pissed when the principal pulled her out of dance class to try to pressure her to take the test. She floundered around, not sure what to say about the topic. She ended up saying, “You should talk to my mom.” And then she texted me as soon as she was released back to dance class.

      I called the principal ASAP and explained that I’d given him two different phone numbers for ME just in case he needed more information and that I wanted him to address any concerns he had about our decision to opt out to ME, not her. His pressure techniques did not work on me, naturally, and my daughter stayed high-stakes-test free.

      • Mark W.
        Mark W. says:

        Hi Cathy. Thanks for relating your experience(s). I can understand where homeschooling your children was your decision and they are your responsibility. However, I still believe that while your children didn’t need to grasp the philosophy and research of unschooling, they had some knowledge of the differences between learning from you and their environment and school-based learning. I’m guessing this to be true if they interacted with children who went to school. So basically my comment about being on board has more to do with them having general discussions with the parent about their learning style so that they can appreciate the benefits of homeschooling rather than having to defend it. I agree that’s more in the realm of where the parent should be involved when they’re being quizzed by an adult.

  4. MoniqueWS
    MoniqueWS says:

    My tribe can be found at the Oregon Homechoolers Chautauqua. http://www.oregonchautauqua.org/index.php This is hands down the BEST money (and really inexpensive) our family spends. It is the first (and many times) the only vacation we take as a family during the year. Please check out the website/photos/info. Ask me if you have any questions. (I am not affiliated in any way beyond attending this for the past 12 years.) I would love to have you join my tribe. :-)

  5. karelys
    karelys says:

    I feel that #3 is so true. Mostly because of the more house for your dollar.

    I am of the belief that men and women should pitch in equally for household chores and parenting. But sometimes it’s so hard to fight the current so I think that I should take advantage of it and ride it.

    Dads may be okay staying home with kids but I wonder if it’s the same sort NEED feeling you get as a mom. I am still pregnant but dread the thought of leaving my kid to someone else during the formative years. I never thought that would be me!

    Whether it is biology or culture or anything else I think I should waste time fighting it and already find some way to make money to help support us while I stay home and later homeschool.

  6. Dome Farm
    Dome Farm says:

    We will begin homeschooling next year with my husband in charge of the bulk of the homeschooling and working part time & evenings. (I work 30 hours.) I would also suggest to start living on your projected homeschool budget and save the rest for at least several months. We have been doing this for around 6 months now and it is helping us to see areas where we need to economize. I’m also taking your idea and blogging about our struggles mostly just to get things straight in my own head.

    I don’t know how it will work to have him in charge. I’m certainly going to have to let him do it his way and that might drive me crazy!

    • CJ
      CJ says:

      I felt peace just looking at your site. And thanks a bunch for the simple homeschool link. We are hitting the road for a month without a plan this summer too!

  7. Bec Oakley
    Bec Oakley says:

    This post has really made me think. Mostly about how I prepared to homeschool, or whether I did?

    I find it fascinating to read the comments from people who haven’t even had kids yet, preparing for the day when they will eventually homeschool. For us it was a reactive decision, borne from some pretty traumatic years trying to get my square pegs to fit into round holes. I’m thinking about how different it all could have been if I’d been more knowledgeable about it all before I even had kids…

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I, too, had very little preparation for homeschooling and just figure out how I do it as I go. So I am really surprised at how many people hire me to help them plan for homeschooling.

      But then I think, so many people in their 20s today are great, great planners. They are really determined to do the right thing to get the life they envision for themselves.

      On the one hand, this seems futile and sad in so far as that there is not really a single idea of a good life and we often have so little control over how our life unfolds. On the other hand, I’m really impressed at how methodical this generation is, and how determined they are to be responsible for the outcome of their lives. That personal accountability piece is impressive to me.

      So maybe the next phase in the homeschool movement is the methodical approach – where people do marriage and family planning around homeschool instead of that proverbial white picket fence.


      • Zellie
        Zellie says:

        I was surprised to see steps to prepare. But it turns out I did have those steps covered naturally, except the school. This generation must be planners. Besides, it must be different when you’re working and can’t imagine homeschooling. I just did it. First you have the baby, then they play . . .

  8. CarolineB
    CarolineB says:

    Anyone considering it should marry a strong breadwinner but you can also consider your lifestyle needs wisely. My husband and I had earned similar salaries and then we learned to live on one after my first child was born.

    It’s just a little irritating when I hear someone complain how she can’t give up her job to stay home with her children because they couldn’t afford their home, car, clothes etc (saying all this as they live in their huge home in an expensive neighborhood, drive new cars, enjoy expensive vacations…) Um, one could…it’s a choice one makes. Life really is a series of choices. Choose wisely.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      I was very poor for the majority of my life since I was a kid and vowed to work really hard so i’d never deal with it again.

      Now that I am having a kid and stressing about finances (because I want to stay home with him) and don’t know how I’ll earn money from home I think back to when we were so poor and had nothing much. We were fine. We were so loved.

      I am trying to reassess priorities and cut my “needs” in half then half them again. It really is about choices!

  9. ReportingLife
    ReportingLife says:

    Beautiful picture… Wish I had that kind of relationship with my mother. Your boys are very fortunate.

    Money…being on board… dealing with what the neighbors think… Even without kids, still issues in a marriage.

    Just like anything else, you can’t decide whether you really like or hate something unless you try it or watch other people very closely who are doing it. Then you can decide if you hate it without questioning your decision later on.

    Finding like-minded people is something I’ve struggled with. My whole life, people always found me. I never took control of that before, finding good people. Other people would see what I’m doing and then compete with me. I’m not even a competitive person, yet somehow I’ve attracted that. I just am who I am. I just do what I do.

    I’ve learned how to keep out bad people. Now I just have to figure out who the good ones are and surround myself with them…or not. I like peace too.

  10. Deila
    Deila says:

    Well, I never planned on homeschooling, so didn’t prepare. But I have learned to roll with the punches and make the best of it. Never found like minded friends, lived in a school district rated high in the nation. Oh well. ( I knew better) But my husband was on-board — he lets me do whatever I want.

    My two oldest kids went to public school. But by the time my third kid was ready for middle school I decided to forgo the horrible experiences of the two older kids. I told him he “got” to be home schooled for grades 7-8. It then evolved into homeschool for high school and my next two younger kids joined the home front.

    But we struggled financially with my entrepreneur, out of the box thinking hubby. Now, 15 years later, it was worth it for the kids and my satisfaction that I took control. Hey, I don’t have to send my kids to public school!

    My last one is 16, the other two went to college — one has graduated and works for himself in writing/marketing. The other one is following a pre-med course in college, majoring in Chinese (he served a mission in Taiwan for the LDS church).

    All my kids think for themselves, listen to Dennis Prager and Medved, read a lot and have married (except last one). Now I have to worry about them homeschooling my future grandkids! It’s hard to convince the spouses. If we all lived close, I think I would start granny’s homeschool. :)

  11. Cristina
    Cristina says:

    Very good points. I always considered myself lucky that my husband is usually on board with my crazy schemes. I don’t know if I would have taken the leap into homeschooling without him. As for community support, it really does help keep you sane to find other homeschoolers. My first year (15 years ago!) I almost gave up when I found a local homeschooling group. They gave me the courage to continue.

    I love the photo! I’ve been reading your blogs for a while, this is the first time I’m commenting.

  12. jennifer
    jennifer says:

    Thanks to Ann Althouse I found your blog. I am a retired homeschool teacher! I was ill prepared in the beginning, as we were forced into homeschooling because of my youngest child’s health issues. We had homeschooled the oldest in Germany~because it was easier than putting him on a bus for an hour each way to the US base. But I had never considered homeschooling an option long term.

    We homeschooled 19 years. And for the record we did so on a shoestring and a ton of creativity. My husband left military and became a police officer in a rural community-which meant pretty low pay. I challenged myself to do more for the kids with less. We learned about our community by participating. We studied government by heading to the state Capitol and met with the governor twice. We used the city pool and raised incredible swimmers. The county fair became our gallery showing for any and all art projects we made for the year. We entered writing contest, moved to a farm to take it to the next level. Science firsthand is what happened. We also bought a 1964 F100 truck for the kids to rebuild. They have had to help garden, raise animals, butcher, and preserve foods in addition to the coursework they had.

    Little money has not been a problem. My son, who turned 20 yesterday, told me of his plans to become the county fire investigator. He has been on the volunteer fire department for 3.5 years, is a certified wildland firefighter, and will complete the reserve sheriff’s dept. training 30 June. My oldest son went in the army. My family is military and he opted this route. He has been to Afghanistan. My youngest son works in the ER of our local hospital while taking courses via the hospital for a medical degree. He thinks he would like to become a doctor, but is also drawn to the military, and he could do both in the service. My daughter completed her high school and has begun her college on line with the local university. She wishes to become a photographer, she is 16.

    Homeschooling was not my first choice. I have heard everything negative about it. But my sons did play football with the local school-small school needed every body to complete the 8 man team. I also have been asked to join the PTA, which I did not join but assisted in fundraisers. I was the number one purchaser of books at the school book fairs…and through our actions made more aware of homeschooling and how it isn’t exactly what is portrayed in the media.

    The lack of a money did not impact our decision one bit, and I am and will always be grateful we ended up on the homeschooling path.

  13. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    I homeschooled my kids for a year and a half, got burnt out, put them in a nice charter school, and started going back to school myself to get a teaching license. Dumb, I know. I have been struggling with my decision all semester and now in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, I fully realize how dumb I am and want to stay home with my kids again. My husband, whom I had to work hard to convince homeschooling was a good choice the first time around, is NOT on board and thinks I am using the shooting as an excuse to not commit to having a career. Any advice on how to get it across to him that my perspective has changed, I know more about myself now than I did before, and that it’s okay to give homeschooling another try? I feel like everyone I know is pressuring me to “get a job”, but they don’t see that I view my kids as my job already. I totally get the “practicing” part of staying home. I’m really good at it now, but I hated it at first. I’m glad to know that someone else had to practice, too!

  14. Viktoria
    Viktoria says:

    Thank you so much for this post! This is EXACTLY what I have been looking for. I have a beautiful daughter, who is 6 and a son who is 4 in December with Down Syndrome. For the past two years, I’ve considered homeschooling. I am getting closer to finally making that decision but I am terrified as I am ALSO in the process of working on a business I am stressed because I am not sure if I can make it work, and it’s such a big role to take on that will alter all of our lives.

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