The big barriers to work‑life balance are time and guilt. The best way to solve those problems is to homeschool your kids. I know because I work 70 hour weeks, and when I pulled my kids out of school, I didn’t work fewer hours, but my life got a lot easier. Here’s why.
1. School ruins your calendar.
School assumes that you will run your life around the school calendar. This means that you have to structure your life so that you can pick your kids up at 3:00 PM or have someone else pick your kids up at 3:00 PM, but some days, like institute days, your life gets messed up, or some weeks, like winter break, your life gets messed up. This means that some years you’ll schedule your life to start summer break the first week of June, and some years there will be too many snow days and your first week will be school and your whole calendar will be messed up. What ends up happening is a life that’s a moving target.
There’s research from Harvard University about how it’s easier to acclimate to losing a leg than to a bad commute, and here’s why. If you lose the leg, it’s the same bad thing every single day. So you can acclimate to it. If you have a bad commute, you never know what the commute is going to be like. You never know how long it will take and you have no control over it.
The same is true with homeschooling versus sending your kids to school. If you send your kids to school you give up control over your family life. The demands of school are a moving target, and you never know when it will change. If you homeschool your kids, you have total control over your schedule. So it may feel like a lost limb at the beginning, but you have to remind yourself that it’s much easier for us to adapt to a lost limb than it is to a bad commute, and the same is true with school versus homeschooling. It’s much easier for parents to create a happy life with a schedule they can control. I might have to make lunch every day, but it’s predictable, so I can do a conference call while I cook.
2. Kids are more difficult when they are traditionally schooled.
The most difficult time to deal with kids are when they’re clingy, when they’re fighting for your attention, and when they don’t want to do what school tells them to do. These are all separate fights. They’re all separate annoying moments where you want to tell your kids to get away from you, because you think all the fights and clinginess and obnoxiousness will never end.
But here’s what happens when you take your kids out of school. They see you all the time, so they don’t need to be clingy. They have your attention whenever they want it, so they don’t have to do insane tricks to get the small moments of attention they can get after school. The most successful homeschooling households do self‑directed, optimized learning, which means the kids only learn what they want to learn, when they want to learn it, and how they want to learn it, which teaches them to not only love learning, but to not have fights with their parents about what they have to learn next.
There’s evidence that kids who have no choices about how to learn are anxious, and there’s evidence that kids who feel like they have access to their parents are more secure. So the worst parts of being a parent disappear when you take your kids out of school. Which means that being around them is actually much easier than you can anticipate. School makes kids artificially difficult and high maintenance to be around, which is why you think you could never get any work done while they’re there.
3. No one ever had a great job when they stopped working at 3:00 p.m.
If you tell someone in an interview that you’re going to stop working at 3:00 PM, you won’t get the job. And if, instead, you regularly sneak out at 3:00 PM, eventually you’ll stop getting promotions. Which means that if you divide your day between time to work (when kids are in school) and time you don’t work (when you’re home with them), your career stalls. Your only hope of not having a stalled career when you have kids is to be able to work evenly throughout the day. (Best tip: have a stay-at-home spouse.)
Homeschool enables you to work evenly throughout the day because while you’re not working 100 percent of the workday, you’re working enough that people will perceive that you’re working full time, and you can make up anything you missed after the kids go to bed. The idea of dividing the world between work time and kid time has been a failure, which is why people say work‑life balance doesn’t exist. The only thing that works here is melding things that we love to do into one successful life. If you love to work and you love to be with your kids, then the best way to do it is have it all day long: both things not competing, but working together.
4. The end of guilt about being away from your kids.
It’s difficult to imagine feeling the too-common parenting guilt about time when you’re home with their kids all the time. If you take an hour for a conference call, it’s unlikely you’ll feel guilty for that time without them. But if you have to take a conference call after school, after the kids have been in school for eight hours, you’re much more likely to feel guilty.
So if you want to really alleviate your guilt, you should take your kids out of school because school is so wrong in so many ways, and you should work full time while your kids are at home, because kids don’t need your attention full time, and your work doesn’t need your attention full time. You’ll have very little guilt on either side of the equation because you’ll be giving everybody enough.