How to quit your job so you can homeschool

This is a guest post from Erin Wetzel. She is a artist who lives in Tacoma WA and homeschools her daughter. You can connect with her on instagram @ekwetzel.

Matt was laid off in January. A few weeks ago, I wrote about how it was affecting us. And then to our surprise, Matt accepted a new job, a better job than his old one.
What a relief.

We went out to a restaurant to celebrate, and, while I was eating the first steak I’ve had in ages, I thought about how good it will feel not to need food stamps anymore. Before we became parents, we never dreamed of homeschooling, but, once our little girl was in our lives, we decided that we would adjust our lifestyle so that we could live on one income and homeschool our daughter.

We made a lot of mistakes over the last four years, trying to figure out how to make it work. Here are some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way:

1. Don’t buy a house.
It was Sunday morning. We were in a good mood, because MATT JUST GOT A JOB! Then we got a clog in the toilet. Matt tried to plunge it and broke the plunger. Then a pipe burst in the garage and poop water spilled out, flooding everything, soaking cardboard boxes and old furniture.

The plumber came out and helped us unclog the pipe, pulling out a baby wipe that had been the culprit. Then he went under the house, into our crawl space, to locate the drain line. He came back out with bad news: the pipe that drains out of our tub was broken and had been dumping water into our crawl space for months.

This is what being a homeowner is like. When things fall apart, you are the only one responsible. It’s expensive and stressful and overwhelming. And it’s not worth it.

2. If you want to work from home, establish a business BEFORE you have kids.
I’m at this point with my art where I have the knowledge I need to launch a legitimate career but I don’t have the time to invest. I work evenings, after Phoebe is in bed, and I have one day a week completely to myself, when Matt’s mom takes Phoebe for several hours. That’s it.

Clearly my art is a low priority. I already have the full-time job of being a homemaker and stay-at-home-mom, and I won’t pursue my art until my other duties are done. But I still make art because it makes me feel alive, and, after spending my day doing mundane tasks and putting my family’s needs before my own, making art is an outlet that helps me feel significant and valuable.

I know people who have kids and work from home, and they have a lot of control over their income. But they put in the insane amount of hours and effort to build their careers early on. That is not an option for me. Maybe I can build my art slowly over the next decade and work full-time once Phoebe is grown, but, for now, my art is not a career. It is a hobby. And that’s ok.

3. Split roles with your spouse, then work really hard.
Matt makes the money. I take care of the house, the cooking, and Miss Phoebe. When Phoebe was born, Matt’s job was exactly what we needed. He worked for a large company, he was able to work lots over overtime, and he had excellent benefits and perks. Plus there was a lot of promise for upward mobility and raises.

Then, things slowly got worse and worse.

First, the company stopped hiring new help. Then they stopped giving raises and bonuses. Matt made it through three rounds of company-wide layoffs. Then they cut overtime and denied repayment for hundreds of dollars of Matt’s work expenses.

Maybe we should have seen the writing on the wall sooner. Maybe we should have already been looking for a new job. But we were not, and this was our wake-up call. We knew that one of us needed a second job fast in order to get us through this rough patch.

When I ran a shop reselling vintage clothing, I only made about $2.50/hour. I’ve also tried providing childcare and freelancing as a technical writer, but neither were a good fit. Now that I paint, I make a decent wage, but commission work is feast-and-famine. I thought about putting Phoebe in daycare and getting a 9-5 job. I thought about working nights, after Matt got off work. But every time we crunched the numbers and walked through how that would work out practically, the expenses outweighed the benefits.

So Matt took on a night shift at a sorting center, and Phoebe and I spent our evenings missing him.

4. Don’t eat out.
Just don’t. It’s so expensive.

72 replies
  1. sunshinesmom
    sunshinesmom says:

    Oh my goodness! I truly relate to all of this. There are months when we have it all under control and we can do what we need to do with ease. Then there’re those months where we’re using the vacation change.
    I did the whole work from home search. That was lousy. It made me feel qualified to do nothing. I was in the workforce before making a great income. Now there’s nothing I can do?
    At the end of the day it’s all OK. We knew there’d be days like this when we made this decision. We’d do it again with no reservations. The payoff is priceless! Hang in there. This too shall pass.

  2. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    bahaha! I just love number 4!

    Erin, your voice is so sweet and it comes out clearly in the way you write.

    We’re in a similar boat.

    When we got married we were “good and responsible” people who “did things right.” We were chasing the American Dream and getting close to it.

    And then things changed. And we didn’t care for the American Dream. We had a different worldview; in no small part to our interracial union and polar opposite upbringing. We wanted freedom and didn’t care if it meant sacrificing material things.

    We rented our house out. We got lucky and found a mobile home. Rent is lower than an apartment but the space is bigger. I don’t know what I did with so much more square footage in the past. Wasted it probably.

    We’re stumbling around trying to forge a way of living so we can really live life. I don’t want to get old and realize that I invested all my precious life to build and maintain a lifestyle that is inconsequential.

    And seriously, only eat out if it’ll be life changing.

  3. heather bathon
    heather bathon says:

    We stopped our weekly ritual of take-out on Friday nights to help save for a month-long trip this February. After no take-out for a year, we decided to indulge last Saturday after a busy day. Fifty bucks for three people.

    Shoulda made omelets!

  4. Ali Davies
    Ali Davies says:

    It is always interesting to read other people’s homeschooling journeys.

    We all have different approaches and family logisttics. For example, both my husband and I are Self Employed and have been homeschooling our 11 year old for just over a year. We share the responsibilities for work, home life and our son as best we can.

    Our situation is different to yours yet we are tied by a common truth….it is better to focus on progress than perfection….especially when the curveballs hit!

    • Erin
      Erin says:

      Ali – I love hearing how the balance works differently for you. Sometimes I envy people who have your set up. The freedom of working from home & having my husband working from home would be enticing.

      But then I remind myself: partnerships look differently with different people.

      We considered having Matt work from home, but my husband is not the type to be happy running his own business or managing self-employment. He’s an ISTJ. He does really well working for one company year in and year out, being consistent and hard working and loyal. This would drive me nuts. I’m an INFP and I like change & challenges. But the way I see it: loving him & supporting him means letting him be who he is. And, honestly? We’re both happy with our arrangement.

      I sometimes joke that it’s my job to take care of the daily tasks that overwhelm him, and it’s his job to take care of the big picture that overwhelms me. By trusting each other to meet each other’s needs, we free our minds to spend metal energy on things we truly care about: like homeschooling.

      Here I go rambling again. Cutting myself off.

      :) Erin

      • Ali Davies
        Ali Davies says:

        Hi Erin
        Although my husband is Self Employed he doesn’t work in the home. But we manage to sort out our working hours to compliment each others work commitments and to cover shared responsibilities for our son’s homeschooling.

        You are so right when you say different thigns work for different partnerships. This works for us but it might not work for others.

        Also, totallly agree that it is important to understand yourself and what works for you. For example, I had a corporate career for 14 years. I have been Self Employed for 13 years. I would hate to go back to corporate life. But that is who I am. Freedom is one of my core values.

        I am a big believer that the key is for each of us to design the life we really want based on our values, who we are as a person and what is most important. And that will look different for different people.

        By the way, I just had a quick look at your website. I think your art is fabulous.

  5. Gretchen
    Gretchen says:

    Wait, how old is the child in this family? If the child is not yet school-age, does it really count as home-schooling? It’s being a SAHM to a preschooler/baby—which I did and I think is very valuable. It’s not something I would compromise, in fact, which is why I only have one kid. I feel like I can only afford the one “sabbatical” from full-time ladder-climbing employment.

    I saw the title and read on with great interest. Lots of interesting tips, but I don’t feel it delivered on the title.

    “I know people who have kids and work from home, and they have a lot of control over their income. But they put in the insane amount of hours and effort to build their careers early on. That is not an option for me. ”

    This was me, sort of…except I build a reputation BEFORE having the kid, ramped off with consulting based on the reputation, then ramped back on (a lot was just luck and the stars aligning). But when you say this all is not an option for you…why not?

    • Heather Bathon
      Heather Bathon says:


      When you say you ‘ramped back on’, you mean when your child went to school full time? I ask because I have gotten the impression from our posts that you don’t homeschool, right?

      If Erin continues to homeschool, ramping back on is a) not always possible and b) quite a different animal than for a non-homeschooler.

      After 4 years of homeschooling one child, my husband still asks why I can’t get my own art done during the day. (This is after the occasions that I whine a bit that I can’t get art done during the day.)

      I’ve had a moderate degree of money-making success from painting (had some pieces commissioned for a movie, a few music cd covers and sold work locally to interested buyers). All of this was pre-kid and pre-homeschooling, although I also had a full-time job while painting.

      For me, the difference is this: constant interruption, or even the anticipation of interruption, wrecks my ability to focus. I can’t get the momentum going to complete work in any kind of timely or effective way.

      I’m not saying that artists are special, just that this has been my experience; that uninterrupted solitude for hours is a necessary component of making art.

      Maybe it’s a personality thing – some people are easily pulled off course. I am. I know it frustrates the heck out of my engineer husband.

      Maybe it’s situational – some people have demanding kids, either because of age or temperament. I do. (Temperament.)

      Where I’m going with this is that Erin’s answer to ‘why not’ may never jive with your own criteria for ‘why not’, even if you did homeschool.

      • Gretchen
        Gretchen says:

        It doesn’t matter if it jives with my “why not”or not, I’m still curious.

        There are 24 hours in a day.

        • heather Bathon
          heather Bathon says:

          In the context of this discussion, I’m curious what you mean by ‘there are 24 hours in a day.’

      • Gretchen
        Gretchen says:

        p.s. – yes, ramped back on when my child went to school, actually 1st grade – I was so lonely and bored the year she was in Kinder, consulting part time from home – it was time

        if I didn’t *have* to work (relative, subjective assessment) I would love to home school…to me not having to work would mean I am set in retirement and with college money for the child, i.e., independently wealthy or with big time investments so I really, truly, would not have to work…I don’t just mean getting by one on salary by eating ramen and doing our own home repairs

        • Amy A
          Amy A says:

          I don’t understand giving up time with ones child, and especially their time with parent and at home, while they are growing up (when they are dependent on their parent) in order to save money for their college tuition for when they are a young adult. I often hear about parents doing this.

          When a kid is 18, they have a lot of energy and zest for life. They can be working to pay for school and going to school at the same time. (I did that until I had my first kid.)

          And really, doesn’t ones adult choices take on a whole new meaning when one is footing the bill. I.e. college might be a learning experience rather than a big party, so choose wisely. Maybe paying 40 grand a year doesn’t seem so great.

          Plus, I am a fan of being out in the world, job shadowing, finding one self as an adult, before choosing a degree. And maybe they will decide college isn’t for them, or they can climb ladders faster without it.

          Sure, if I have extra money when my kids are grown, I would gladly help them out. I will likely be giving by letting them live with me as long as they want and being an emotional support–both areas to which I would love to be given as an adult, especially as a parent.

          I am sure someone will say that paying for college is giving their kid a head start. Well I don’t believe life is ever a race. And I value personal growth, well being, and enjoyable relationships more than anything else–areas which tremendously help with living life no matter what, which enable a person to make things happen for themselves.

          • Gretchen
            Gretchen says:

            That’s one piece of the “living a safe life we’re comfortable with” equation. Just one. My kid’s college is basically paid for now, if the investment continues to grow and not crash, come to think of it. So, it’s more than that we also have to think about our retirement, etc etc…

          • Amy A
            Amy A says:

            I wonder what makes some people more concerned about retirement than others? This could be a long discussion.

            I used to be a big time future-planner: when *this* happens *then* life will be really great. I finally had to give that up and face right now. I mean, life is nothing like what I planned as a teen and 20-something (I wasn’t going to have kids until my grandfather’s dying process changed my mind). The tremendous disappointment in life not being what I had planned it to be made me realize I need to quit planning so much and start living because This Is It. This is my life. I could croak tomorrow, so I best love up my kids, myself, my life today.

        • Gretchen
          Gretchen says:

          Also, planning for retirement (basically that means saving) is different from having a very tight, set view of what you want your life to be (which I think is a little foolhardy, but some people are into that). I don’t think it should be unusual to save money so that when you come to a point in your life where it is more difficult to work or you don’t want to work anymore, you can maintain a standard of living you’re comfortable with—WITHOUT BEING A DRAIN ON YOUR KIDS OR SOCIETY.

          So, when my mind goes off wandering, I feel a little…angry? Not sure the word for it… when I encounter people who are all “living their dreams” that may be old and poor someday and whining about how they don’t have enough and how horrible the 1% is…when they mismanaged their lives.

          It’s possible to semi live your dream, like enjoy life but also bite the bullet and do things you may not want to sometimes for a benefit later…

          • Amy A
            Amy A says:

            My “very tight, set view” of what I wanted my life to be had everything to do with my being a (very fulfilled and financially-independent) workaholic for my own business.

            But life doesnt end in my mid-fifties. That’s when I will be free as a bird, child-rearing behind me, busting my ass, if desired.

            I don’t have this fear you have about being a drain as I have always been extremely independent and personally-responsible. But if some people need help, I hope they get that help. I hope my tax dollars help parents care for their own and I hope all old people get the care they need, straight from my tax dollars.

            Is it being a drain, per your definition, using tax dollars for your child’s childcare at public school while you make money for your family?

            “It’s possible to semi live your dream, like enjoy life but also bite the bullet and do things you may not want to sometimes for a benefit later…”

            Yes, this is what I am doing as a stay-at-home homeschooling mom.

            Anyway, I totally get that we all want different things for our kids and ourselves and that our life choices reflect those wants.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Planning for retirement is a very logical, important, and good goal to have. It seems apparent that when you share your thoughts with us that you have huge retirement dreams. I really hope that your retirement is worth all of the personal sacrifices you are choosing to make right now.

            We choose to invest, take risks, and save money, but not to the detriment of our goals of being close as a family during the best years of our lives.

          • Gretchen
            Gretchen says:

            I don’t have huge retirement dreams at all. In fact, I wouldn’t even call them “dreams” I would call them survival. Most Americans underestimate how much they will need for housing, food, medical care, etc.

            And, since I, myself, am a taxpayer, to a very high degree…cough cough…my use of public education is not me being a drain. I pay for it.

            Worse than being a drain, which, I’ll admit, was a bad choice of words because, after all, who cares…I don’t want to be BEHOLDEN to someone else or needing to count on the government or charity or someone’s good will to care for me. And I don’t have illusions that I am going to be some mover and shaker at 60 years old…nor should people who have dropped out of the workforce for years…

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            I feel like we are officially derailing the topic of conversation, but oh well. Just want to point out that it has been said here before, that you can retire in a foreign country and live like royalty off of your piddling US retirement income. There isn’t just one path to retirement, living in the same home for your entire life, and getting a boat and living debt free. There is an entire world of possibilities out there, and the traditional US path is only one path. I have relatives who are retired, my uncle/aunt plan to travel around the world renting homes for 6 months at a time and only having a small condo to stay when they are in the US. You don’t have to be rich to live this lifestyle, and you don’t need to save conservatively and pinch pennies for this either. Just something to think about.

          • Gretchen
            Gretchen says:

            all the things you are describing cost money, even living in a foreign country, and what foreign country? do you think the whole world wants America’s old people? no, you don’t have to be “rich” to do the things you describe and I don’t expect to be rich…maybe I am a lot older than many here…

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            I don’t typically ask people what their ages are when they comment, but now you have me curious since we know how very important retirement is for you, are you close to retirement age?

            Why would ALL the of the retired people from the US relocate to one country in your scenario? I do think that other countries would be happy to have US money being spent in there. You seem to have a disdain for older people, like they are all drains on society or something and you emphasize how you won’t be that way. Are you saying you won’t accept social security, medicare or whatever else the government offers you in your golden years? I’m honestly curious.

          • Gretchen
            Gretchen says:

            I’m 43 and I feel like you are being intentionally obtuse. Save, don’t save, whatever. Over and out.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Not intentionally obtuse, maybe just giving you a hard time, but not being malicious. I just have never known anyone who was as obsessed with retirement like you are.

      • Amy A
        Amy A says:

        “For me, the difference is this: constant interruption, or even the anticipation of interruption, wrecks my ability to focus. I can’t get the momentum going to complete work in any kind of timely or effective way.”

        This was one of the hardest things for me to adapt to when becoming a parent. Even when I had a few hours alone (rare), I couldn’t switch gears fast enough to use my time productively–including being productive by doing nothing in order to recharge, I was just chasing my tail.

        (My ex also couldn’t understand it. But he is also the type who can only focus on one thing at a time and gets it done in order to move on to the next thing. Whereas, to-do lists swirl around in my head. I notice almost everything around me, both seen and unseen. And I’m much more attuned to and aware of our kids and their needs.)

        I wrote an article with my advice for people who plan on being parents. Included in that article, I suggest being (mentally) prepared for many starts-and-stops, and not getting much done.

        • Amy A
          Amy A says:

          I want to add that I’m great at multi-tasking and juggling in a job environment. But being a homemaker and SAHM is a totally different ball-of-wax for me.

    • jessica
      jessica says:


      I get what you are saying. In that case, I would advocate for a childminder (family/nanny/ etc) that can help the child pursue their interests while mom and/or dad are building up their interests/projects/businesses and evaluate time spent.

      • Gretchen
        Gretchen says:

        “a childminder (family/nanny/ etc) that can help the child pursue their interests”

        oh I am far too much the jealous kind for that…I think she’s better off in school

        • jessica
          jessica says:

          I meant in reference to your question of the poster. (How to make it work) That’s what I have done, and what I would do again, if need be. If you are doing meaningful work, and the daughter is doing meaningful work (sometimes away from you), I don’t see the problem. Forward progress for all :)

          • Gretchen
            Gretchen says:

            Ah, my answer revealed to me that my desire to homeschool may not be so much about not thinking school is good enough but by thinking I am so much better than the school and my strong desire to be with my wonderful and delightful child more. I get mad that her teachers get the privilege of spending all day with her while I have to do my stupid crap.

    • Karelys
      Karelys says:

      It makes sense that this advice doesn’t deliver to your situation. Perhaps it’s worth for you to connect with another reader more in line with your situation.

      Like you said, you’ve consider not having to work to be financially set (not ramen noodles, etc.). So what do you have to do to get there?

      Perhaps making a plan for 3 years from now. DC is a very expensive area from what I’ve heard from military families. If walking away from your jobs is incredibly painful I’m assuming you guys are pretty high up. Which means your skills, knowledge, and experience can be very valuable everywhere you go (whether in the private or public sector).

      Is moving even an option? Do you have family you can’t leave? A job would have to be too good for me to leave because all our family is here. The benefits would have to more than outweigh what we would be leaving here.

      So can you network and make a move to a city that is less expensive? Perhaps selling your home is not a good idea financially but renting it out is – the renter pays your mortgage. You can still move to an exciting metro area that’s not DC expensive.

      Think in terms of what would happen if you and your husband are forced out of work. What can you do to make sure you’ll be okay?

      I’m thinking that if your job is too good to leave for the sake of homeschooling you are great at it and can find a way to transfer in other areas of life to make lots of money without the time restrictions. Can you negotiate remote time? Can you take a leave of absence and try your luck in another city. If you hate it so much come back?

      If you figure out a way to work remotely, it seems like your child wouldn’t be a distraction, you could even live in a different country and afford a lifestyle three times what you enjoy right now.

      My cousin in Mexico build a house in one year for 1 million pesos (that’s about $74k) and I couldn’t believe it. The house is gorgeous. It would be at least a half a million dollar house here in the us.

      Just something to think about.

      • Karelys
        Karelys says:

        Ps. Right now, all I need to make my bills, fuel, food, and a couple date nights is $2500/month. When we pay off our cars we’ll need $800 less every month.

        I’m working on figuring out how to make at least half of that with online business (thanks to P’s class).

        I just came back from a month long vacation in Mexico by the way. You’d be floored how well you can live there on $2500/mo. You’d be like well into middle class even in the most expensive city there (Ensenada, a beautiful beach town). Which is considered rich there because middle class is virtually non existent.

        But I digress.

        I live in a place with very low cost of living. We don’t eat ramen noddles. In fact, we just don’t eat fast carbs (which are considerd cheap). We eat a lot of meat and vegetables and sometimes fish.

        Right now we’re not contributing to our IRA like before. But getting back there is part of the plan within a year. We have an emergency fund and we have life insurances. And we have another fund with about $14k in it that we consider non existent.

        We own two homes. But it may not be your definition of that.

        We travel quite a bit. I don’t feel deprived. On the contrary.

        Gretchen, you guys are giving your daughter a HUGE gift. She won’t have to worry about your guys if crap hits the fan. Not financially at least.

        And you sound like an intelligent dynamic woman that takes charge of her life. I think that homeschool is a mindset. I could see how, in your situation you could say “I’m homeschooling but using the school for childcare. Our self directed education is more active in certain hours.”

        Part of the minset is to see life from different angles so you do what you want while sacrificing the least and what’s most important to you.

        • Gretchen
          Gretchen says:

          Karelys, you’ve given me a lot to think (dream) about. Mexico. Man, I could do it. I speak Spanish at about the level of a slow 10 year old, but I could get by : ) and of course, I’d grow in my fluency.

          Sadly, my husband would never go for any of it…so I have to do the “I’m homeschooling but using the school for childcare. Our self directed education is more active in certain hours” that you articulated so well.

          • Karelys
            Karelys says:

            What about other places? I’m sure that with your level of work you could do a horizontal move and just have an adventure, even if for a year, in another country.

            I’m sensing that you’re driven and your kid is not going to be one of those kids that flounders around directionless. When she knows what she’s passionate about you guys could to a stint abroad to focus on growing her changes on getting into an elite college by using that time to grow her experience/experiment.

            Maybe if you are brave enough to put in the extra hours for freelance work on the side you can get to your retirement at your own comfort level faster than anticipated. It’s amazing how much of a punch money free of commitment can pack, even if it’s a little bit.

            I think your daughter’s school can be a great way to grow a network and teach her about the importance that politics play in life. Finding a way to be true to yourself, uncompromising when needed, but also being a part of the group to advance your own agenda and the well being of others.

            Honestly, if my kid wans to go to college I’d do my everything possible to help him get into an elite college just for the network. Because let’s be honest, when it comes to quality of education many state colleges are giving the Ivies a run for their money. So getting into a big name school would be just for the sake of the amazing network that comes with the experience.

            Your child can use her time in school to learn about how people work and how to climb the ladder in her terms. Then use her time outside of school to learn whatever she likes. Also, school comes built in with the ability to try out different things (sports, music, art, etc.) not on your fine (directly). That’s a good way to take advantage of the opportunity.

          • jessica
            jessica says:

            I’ll say here that my husband went to school and hated it. The teachers would say ‘if only he would try a little harder’. He did not care. He did enough to get by.
            Most people that ‘beat the system’ are able to call b.s. quite clearly on what is going on around them. From what you’ve said, your daughter is becoming more aware of this so it sounds like she will be just fine. I’m guessing she’ll start developing really passionate interests and school will become secondary at some point in your life (even more so, in the way of mastery etc.) and then you’ll have enough reason to break away with what you thought you wanted for your future (not saying you won’t get there, but just in a different way). It reminds me of what I’ve read about the Swift family (she went to school- shocker!) :). Don’t be afraid to say go, when it’s time.

          • Trilby
            Trilby says:

            I enjoy your comments, Karelys, but I’m not sure I understand this statement – “I’m homeschooling but using the school for childcare.” How is that homeschooling?

            I sometimes feel like the terms “homeschooling” or “unschooling” are used so widely that they lose meaning. Can you homeschool a toddler? Can you homeschool while sending your kids to school? Maybe. But to me, that’s just parenting.

            I think there are a lot of great ideas shared on this blog and I don’t think we have to be “home schoolers” or “unschoolers” to appreciate them, but generally speaking, there seems to be a desire among commenters to show how they fit under one of these labels.

          • Gretchen
            Gretchen says:

            “But to me, that’s just parenting.”

            Yeah, on the other hand…I agree with this, too…

            Labels, labels…

    • Erin
      Erin says:

      Gretchen –

      In response to this:

      {“I know people who have kids and work from home, and they have a lot of control over their income. But they put in the insane amount of hours and effort to build their careers early on. That is not an option for me. ”

      This was me, sort of…except I build a reputation BEFORE having the kid, ramped off with consulting based on the reputation, then ramped back on (a lot was just luck and the stars aligning). But when you say this all is not an option for you…why not?}

      What you did is similar to what I see working for people who cut back on careers to stay home. Build a career before you have kids, then, when kids come, you have options. You can plateau your career & still pay the bills while spending more time with kids. But building a new career WHILE there is a kid in the house is just impossible. Like with my art. I got a late start. That is a way I have the potential to make good money, but I don’t have the 60hr/week to devote to establishing myself right now. I might have, like, 16-20hr/week.

      My late start is also why I believe in the principle of passion-centered learning (which is my version of unschooling). I don’t want my kid to go through life not knowing what she’s good at. I want her to figure that out while she’s young & still has a chance to do something about it.

      Having said all that, since I wrote this article, I was offered a steady position working from home that combines my skills as an artist, writer, social media geek, and people-person. I’m really excited about the opportunity, and I recognize that I worked hard to get here, but there was also a lot of luck involved. Since our family finances have been so rocky, we’re jumping at the opportunity to get some financial stability. But I would never recommend to someone: “oh just quit your job & start a new career with a baby in the house.” Because it’s almost impossible.

      Oh and by the way: thanks so much for your comments. I really appreciate the time and energy you devote to engaging with me and my writing.

      – Erin

  6. Kaye
    Kaye says:

    I’m wondering how many people decide to rent in order to make life easier. We have never owned but because of that do not put money towards something…making ends meet every month….we are thinking of buying a home but reluctant to make life more stressful…

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      My two cents…

      Why would it make life more stressful? Write those reasons down!

      Do not buy a house unless you are financially sound first (have at least 20% down, and a multiplier in savings for expenses-besides all other savings) and plan to stay in the house for a very long time. Housing is not a great investment money wise. For growth/investment purposes there are many places to put your money, besides in a house.

      First, try to get past paycheck to paycheck living. Figure out where the money is going and try to improve sources of income.

      I hope it turns around for you soon. It’s hard to know what’s the right financial thing to do sometimes. If you need more information or guidance there are many personal finance forums online that deal with exactly this.

    • Kaye
      Kaye says:

      Thanks! We spend our money on food and nothing extra. But it will get better and I’m not worried about our choice to live low income so we don’t have to institutionalize our children.

      Please let me know if anyone has a good money management forum. I’ve been searching bit when people talk about limiting lattes and call phone bills it never applies.

      • Karelys
        Karelys says:


        (I look wrong and think it says Kanye haha!).

        I know what you mean. You can only cut back on so much stuff.

        For us it’s been a journey of seeing life different and washing off the ideas of what work and jobs and money means.

        something we noticed when my husband became a stay at home dad was that time is on our side. At some point he joined a crew of people doing landscaping, lost a few pounds, ended with a few hundred dollars.

        Kids didn’t have to be institutionalized. Neither were we ;) because we knew it was short lived.

        We think of earning money as all or nothing (as a society). Either you stay home and earn no money, or drive yourself crazy staying home and trying to earn a steady income. But what about surges?

        If you or your spouse stay home and make an opportunity to make some money that’s uncomitted to basic expenses, you can do that and then be done. Then do another stint later. In a year you could make the equivalent to a part time job without continuously being tied to the ball and chain that is a job.

        Can it get crazy with child care? Yes. But life with people is crazy anyway. But it’s just for a little bit.

        My opinion is that the most important thing is to change our perspectives. Like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube. You turn things around until you get it done.

      • Kaye
        Kaye says:

        Kaye – My favorite source for financial wisdom/inspiration is Dave Ramsey. He is Christian, but his advice translates well no matter what your faith is. He has a book, “The total money makeover,” as well as a free podcast & just launched a free budgeting tool called Every Dollar (which I have yet to try out…but it’s both on the web & in the app store).

        I hope this helps.

        — Erin

    • Amy A
      Amy A says:

      I love renting. If anything goes out or breaks, it’s fixed for free. I don’t have to do yard work. I have a pool I don’t have to take care of. I’m not tied to the place financially, so I can move when I want with a 30-day’s notice. It really does make life feel simpler. If you read some minimalism blogs, you’ll find some people rent for these reasons plus more.

      (I have owned a home before.)

      I agree with Jessica. It’s best to buy if you “…plan to stay in the house for a very long time. Housing is not a great investment money wise.”

  7. jessica
    jessica says:

    4. Don’t eat out.
    Just don’t. It’s so expensive.

    LOL. When I first moved to NY years ago, our monthly eating out expenditure was over 2k!

  8. Karelys
    Karelys says:


    I am not quite sure what the objection is. The purpose of homeschooling or unschooling for a lot of us is to provide a personalized education to our kids.

    If you can “work from home” but decide to work at the coffee shop instead, does that change the outcome? Is the location what this is all about? or the flexibility.

    There are many parents who will hit hard times and they both have to get jobs so the kid either has to go to school or have a nanny. Is the personalized education ending then?

    What about kids who are going to classes outside of their home? are they not homeschooled?

    It’s really not just about parenting. It’s about purposefully pursuing education a certain way for a specific purpose.

    Can you homeschool a toddler?

    I think the question denotes a certain mentality that needs to be done away with to fully understand self-directed learning.

    Can you homeschool a toddler? This assumes that schooling, the way we know it in the grade system, is the standard. Therefore, if your child is not of age to attend school you are just parenting, you’re not unschooling.

    I don’t see it that way.

    I call myself an unschooler and my oldest is 2.5 years old. Why? because this is a choice we’re making and it will alter our lives significantly. We have to work around the two-parent working household. We will use school as childcare as the very last resort if we have zero options at the moment.

    I am an unschooler because of how I approach education. And that affects how I approach my parenting.

    When you get specific, the unschooling label denotes no curriculum. Which puts homeschooling as the curriculum at home option. For some people this matters for certain reasons. For others it doesn’t.

    Unschooling is a mentality, an approach, a worldview. By the time the child is 2.5 years old parents want to start prepping the kid to go to pre-K. Then they are in preschool and the child must learn xyz. If you’re an unschooler you may or may not be concerned with this timeline. It’s really about the child leading the education journey.

    So yes, when your child is very young you can unschool because you’re letting the child lead the way in education rather than pressuring learning to be on par with the demands of a grade system of schooling.

    • Trilby
      Trilby says:

      Hi Karelys,

      I’m not objecting to any of this. I absolutely agree that self directed learning and many of the other concepts discussed on this blog can occur anywhere and at any time.

      I was just making a comment about the need to label these things. I’ve read previous comments questioning your fit as a “homeschooler” and I’ve read the same things directed at Erin. But I think both of you add interesting ideas to the discussions. As did Gretchen. If a person self identifies as a homeschooler or unschooler, that’s great. I just don’t think people have to fit into one of those buckets in order for their comments to have value. The variety is what makes this blog interesting.

  9. Amy A
    Amy A says:

    I quit working full time while trying to conceive my first child. And I quit my independent contracting work and schooling right before she was born.

    It was a huge adaption to not have the rush of a career, being an ‘important’ adult. It really was like going through withdrawals, like missing my drug.

    I would say it took me about twelve years to completely sink into full-time parenting. Meaning to be at peace with it, to enjoy it, to not be bored or lonely, to not feel anxious to find exterior things as distractions.

    But I kept at it. I kept seeking fulfillment and contentment while being present and with my children.

    Thing is, I have seen this as my job to do since I am the one to chose to be parent. I know once my kids are adults, this tremendous opportunity for my personal growth (by parenting full time) will be over.

    I will never regret sticking with this and finding my way. This learning and growing experience will be with me for forever. (And this isn’t even addressing what it means to my kids and our amazing relationships with each other.)

  10. Kelsey
    Kelsey says:

    Loving this conversation. This community is awesome. Between Karelys naming Mexico as her homeland (right? I had wondered for a while!) and Gretchen posting as a homeschool supporter… Good comments section :)
    But… I miss your input in comments recently, P.
    Great post, Erin!

  11. Anastasia
    Anastasia says:

    We’re doing great on 3 and 4. Failed #1 and oh my, it’s a money drain! Especially the dump we bought, unknowingly. While #2 is GREAT advice and I agree, I ended up starting/building my business after the kids, when my second was 6 months old – it was mostly because the kids were the ones that inspired me and gave me the push to abandon what my career started out with and what I had a degree in before they were born and to instead pursue that which I was truly passionate about (photography). Now as a wedding photographer, I am really thankfully for the flexibility it gives me to continue homeschooling while helping hubby with the finances. :)

  12. amy
    amy says:

    Penelope, can you recruit some guest writers that aren’t living at the bottom of the socio-economic food chain to share their experiences? This one doesn’t seem smart, or like a true problem solver. She seems selfish. And genuinely poor – not temporarily broke. And the antithesis of living an examined life in context of societal responsibilities.

    We all have a right to live – and share – our own experiences. But, I read your blog because I admire the smarts behind the posts you share.

    These women from Washington seem like they are writing in their diary, not sharing knowledgable and informed insights.

    They are true mommy-bloggers. The whiny kind. Whose life no one wants.

    • MBL
      MBL says:

      Not that you asked, but I am able to find value in everyone’s story. No matter how different their circumstances are from mine.

      “Whose life no one wants.” Honestly? You felt the need to share that?

      While I wouldn’t want to switch places with Erin on the financial front, I admire her commitment to put herself out there. And to actually practice her art–even if it isn’t as often as she would like. And even that she risks flouting “societal responsibilities” for a bit in order to craft the life she and her family want.

      I find value in her courageousness to share and her refusal to allow exposure to shaming and judgmental people to silence her.

        • MBL
          MBL says:

          Thanks for that.
          I just re-read amy’s comment and was so aghast the first time that I missed the slam on Karelys too. Don’t even get me started K’s veritable font of “knowledgable and informed insights”!! Sheesh

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            We are pretty protective of K here so I hope she was not part of the women from Washington comment…although I had not considered that all these nice ladies are all from Washington until amy pointed it out.

          • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
            YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

            Ok, I am loving the women from Washington terminology! Instead of it being degrading we can make it a positive thing.

    • Erin
      Erin says:

      Amy –

      Penelope’s blog is about being open and laying everything out there, even the messy and unattractive sides of things. She values truth and using the truth of our lives to reach out and help others. ( )

      I get it that you disagree with my lifestyle and decisions, and that’s ok. If we were sharing coffee and talking, I would ask you to talk about your life, your beliefs and values, and I would hope that, through open discourse, we could learn from each other.

      But your comment was petty and narrow-minded at best. If you want to have a constructive conversation, first you must bring something of value to the table. Karelys, Sarah, and I (the women of Washington) are putting ourselves out there and sharing the truth about our lives. And if you attack my women, I will call you out for being a troll.

      Be better next time.


      • YesMyKidsAreSocialized
        YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

        Don’t even worry about it, Erin. Not to sound cliche but “haters gonna hate”. You should read what people have called Penelope over the years, pretty mean. Kind of scares me from ever wanting to contribute here!!!!!! You guys are so nice, and I’m…rough around the edges so who knows what people would say to me.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Amy, I’m pretty open to anyone guest blogging here who wants to. And, that includes you. Also, a note to anyone who is thinking of guest posting on this blog:

      I’m really committed to this being a community full of a wide range of voices, and if you want to write a post but you’re not sure what to write about, I’d be happy to talk with you to figure out a post for you to write.

      Finally, Amy, here’s an example of someone who is not struggling financially and wrote a guest post. This is one of my favorites from her:


      • amy
        amy says:

        Thanks, Penelope.

        Now this is a post I can get behind. And not because of the socio-economic status. But because Judy provides societal context to the particular issue she is facing.

        She, like you, shares links to supporting details that provide a framework for how she is thinking about her choices and gives the reader a broader understanding of our world and hers by the time we are finished reading.

        It makes sense to provide a platform for people from all walks of life. I get that.

        But, in the above post, Erin only provides her own (spotty) experience as support. If there was supporting links from her research and understanding of economic and social trends (or even indicators of trends beginning) supporting her suggestions, the post would make much more sense as being worthy of Penelope Trunk blog post.

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