How to homeschool if you love going to work

I am great at work. I was born to dream up big ideas and then sell them. I love a meeting—as long as I’m talking the whole time. So, actually, I love a lecture. But the only time it’s socially acceptable to lecture is in the context of work. So I really love work.

And I’ve had to really adjust my worklife in order to accommodate homeschooling. Just a few years ago I was delivering dozens of speeches each year for $15K a pop. I traveled two weeks out of every month. For most of my career I was running a startup. I ran three. They were all absolutely exhausting and I love that this guy calls it entrepreneurshit. He’s right. Running a startup is so difficult that when I was reading his post about how difficult it is, I had to stop in the middle. I think I might have post-traumatic stress syndrome from being a startup founder. But still, I was gearing up to do another startup until I realized that I was going to have to homeschool. I was going to have to homeschool because it’s the right thing. I decided it’s like breastfeeding. You do it because it’s right.

So here are three mental shifts I had to make so I could do the right thing:

1. Change my assumptions about work. 
The key for me was being able to dream up career ideas for myself that work well with homeschooling the kids. At first it was a disaster. My career tanked and I started losing my mind. But then I started rethinking career options.

For example, people have always asked me to coach them, and for years, I have said I don’t do that. But then I realized that coaching people via phone works really well for the lifestyle I have with the kids. So now I do tons of coaching and it’s worked well for me because it also allows me to talk with smart, interesting people all the time.

Everyone has things they are good at that they think they will not do. No one is good at only one thing. Jobs are like men: there are lots of fish in the sea.

2. Change my assumptions about success. 
When I was at the beginning of my career and my boss wanted me to save his flailing company, he gave me the book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful. The book is by the insipid Marshall Goldsmith, who appears to have become irrelevant in the Internet Age because I keep getting emails from public relations people about why he’s not irrelevant.

So you will not buy his book. Because I just told you that it’s stupid. Even though I linked to it and I will make money from Amazon if you buy it.  But not a lot. Which is why I thought of trying to make a living by reading books and getting you to buy them. And then I rejected that as being too much like a used car salesman but the kind of used car salesman who isn’t even selling expensive cars.

I tell you this to tell you how many ideas I had to sort through before I landed on the one that would be good for my career. I am giving a webinar this month: How to Write About Yourself. It’s a great business for me because I can do it from home, and I can set the schedule, and I made a lot on my last webinar. Hooray for me. But I didn’t know it would be a great business. I totally procrastinated on the first webinar I did because I was scared no one would sign up.

My idea of success today is being able to have interesting work, with interesting people, while I homeschool my kids. And at the same time, making sure we don’t starve. I would not have defined this as success before I started homeschooling. And, to be honest, I might have snubbed my nose at this version of success. But I like to think it shows a strong ability for me to adapt. Or something.

3. Change my assumptions about homeschooling. 
The unschooling movement really rocked my world. I realized that kids do not need parents teaching them all the time. The photo up top is me at the beginning of homeschooling. Realizing there was nothing for me to do and I should have brought my laptop. It took a while before I realized that this was true for a good chunk of each day. It was up to me to choose to focus on work in the available time.

In the spectrum of homeschoolers, the smartest kids end up being the ones with the least number of hours of a parent directly teaching them. Smart kids learn fine on their own – through play, exploration, asking to take a class, and so forth. As someone who loves work you probably know this intuitively – you are probably an excellent self-learner and get bored being lectured to by a teacher. Well, your kids are probably the same way, which is good: it frees you up to do more stimulating things during the day, for yourself.

14 replies
  1. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    You kept me from making an ass of myself today.

    On a local news feed site, there’s an article about schools, and how they have evolved to handle more and more responsibilities from 1900 – present. It ended with a request that parents get more involved with these overburdened schools rather than griping about them.

    One guy made a comment about longer school days.
    ” Ours is no longer an agrarian society, kids need to be in school several more weeks per year without a reduction in the number of hours per day”

    I had to reply to that.
    “As a homeschooling parent, my kids require far fewer hours to do a day’s work and require zero money from the school system. That’s what a truly involved parent can do.”

    Someone replied with “…That does not make them uninvolved or bad parents as you so self-righteously implied with your careless comment.”

    I was not going for self-righteous.. I meant to turn the article’s “lesson” on its ear. More involvement doesn’t have to mean longer days, after school time, money galore.

    I wanted to write back swearing. Then I tabbed over and read your new post. It leveled me out. Maybe because you’re part of my web tribe. When I finally replied, there were no swear words. I also quoted you and linked to an earlier post.

    Behold: the site where the drama unfolds:

  2. Mandi @ Life Your Way
    Mandi @ Life Your Way says:

    For many years, I *thought* I wanted to be a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom, and that I was working just to be able to afford to do that. But along the way I discovered a business I really love (online publishing), and I realized that while I was still really passionate about homeschooling, I also really wanted to be able to continue to work.

    It’s a constant evolution of figuring out how to do both without losing my sanity, but being willing to say no to opportunities that don’t fit with my goals is the number one way to make it work. I could probably make a lot more money if I’d say yes to everything, but being home with my family and being able to homeschool are important enough to me to say no along the way.

  3. Rachel G
    Rachel G says:

    What if I don’t really want to work? Like, I never really had a career I loved. Now I just want to stay home with kids (ok, the first one is just about to be born, so I don’t really know that yet, but that is what I think.) Should I find some job thing to do so that I don’t go crazy? How will I find that now, if I didn’t find it before? What about people who don’t love work?

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Hopefully you married someone who likes to go to work and earn money. So then just stay home. It makes sense to me that if someone just wants to go to work, then they go to work. And if someone just wants to stay home, then they stay home. Marry someone whose dreams fit with what you want to do with your life.

      I think it’s really important to stay home with kids if you never liked work. I also think it’s important to be open to giving work another try if you find you don’t like staying home with kids. I think if everyone would listen to their instinct, they would make good decisions for themselves.


      • Virginia
        Virginia says:

        I am glad you found a job you enjoy. Earlier on, some of your blog entries made it sound like you were a little depressed about your work/homeschooling situation. It sounds like you have found a good balance now.

    • Cristen H
      Cristen H says:

      When your child arrives, you may go crazy. The identity shift is enormous. That doesn’t mean you *should* go back to work, it may just mean you need to build a new support network. If you live in an area with lots of stay-at-home parents or an urban center your community may be in person. If not, an online community can suffice. Find parent voices you respect and follow that as far as it takes you.

  4. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    I would love to see a post (maybe on your career blog) about how to get over procrastinating because of fear. I am so very guilty of that. How did you finally make the leap?

    • Jana Miller
      Jana Miller says:

      I know you were asking P but I wanted to chime in. I was scared of a lot of things when I started homeschooling. Mostly that I’d ruin my kids. I didn’t know how I would teach them how to write and I thought I might go crazy without any alone time.

      I was able to get myself beyond the fear by trying it at the end of a school year with just one child. I figured I couldn’t mess things up from April until June. I made a small step without committing for life. This also helped my other son the following year when he wasn’t sure about homeschooling.

      I said let’s just try it until December and then you can go back if you want. We always left the door open because family situations sometimes change.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      I have found in my life that everything I have done that looks brave was really a last resort.

      I launched a company when I had young kids because I had no idea how else to make money and be able to see them during the day.

      I move to the farm because I had no other place I had ever been to that felt right to raise my kids and I was scared I wouldn’t find anywhere else in time to actually raise them.

      I started homeschooling because I couldn’t find any research that said putting the kids in school was better for them. I felt like it would be selfish and shortsighted to keep them in school.

      So I guess what I’m saying is that the only way I have guts to do anything hard is to look at the facts and see that the only rational decision is to do the hard thing. If there is ever an easier alternative, believe me, I take it.


  5. Lisa S
    Lisa S says:

    Well, your transition into homeschooling has been great for helping parents prep their kids for a career. We’re all in this together and I’m glad you’re showing us alternative ways–I mean, all I had was a guidance counselor (who neither guided nor counseled), test scores, and people saying I could “do anything” and “have it all.” I feel like my kids deserve advice that is individualized and more practical than that.

  6. Mel
    Mel says:

    I love when your posts line up with what’s going on in my life. I’m homeschooling my boys (4 and 5 yeas) and trying to work.

    I used to freelance write, and sometimes still do, but find it hard to concentrate on writing something good with these boys constantly interrupting me. I think it will get better as they get older, and already they are spending more time playing/learning independently or with each other.

    And I have changed what I do. Now I do social media for a non profit. Is it as rewarding as writing? No. But, I can do it at the same time as talking to my kids. Or at gymnastics. Or at the park. I don’t need an hour of silence. And I’m making money.

    I wonder if there is something out there even better for me, but for now, this is working.

  7. Jill
    Jill says:

    It would be lovely if you could research and write a post called: How to homeschool when you work full-time outside the home. Some of your readers have indicated that this is possible. I am very curious to know how they swing that.

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