There are so many comments on this blog about how difficult homeschooling is for a single parent. My first recommendation would be to get enough child support and alimony to make it work. But of course, not every ex-spouse is responsible. So if there is no extra money coming from an extra spouse, what can you do in order to homeschool?

There are at least three options. And let me say right now, I like the third one best. I was a single parent myself, that was my approach.

1. Work from home. This is obvious but difficult solution. If it were so easy to support a family from home and take care of your kid, pretty much every woman do it.

So just know that it’s extremely difficult to make money from home. Ramit Sethi has this crazy-big, successful course about how to make $1,000 a month from home. Notice that it’s only $1000 a month. And notice how much Ramit loves making money. If he thought he could teach you how to make more than that, he’d have a course for it.

Making $1000 from home is feasible. Making more is really really hard. Especially if you need more than that each month. So if this is your plan, you need to have patience with yourself. It takes years to be able to support a family from home. And you need a backup plan for the months when you don’t make enough money: I sold my great-grandma’s jewelry, one string of pearls at a time.

2. Use welfare. I am going to say that this is definitely ethical. I’m going to tell you right now so we are not arguing about it in the comments. The government sets up rules, and we all follow them. If you qualify for welfare you should take the money, just like Warren Buffet qualifies for huge tax breaks so he takes them.

It is not against the law to be on welfare. So take what is rightfully yours. JK Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter book when she was a single mom on welfare. I don’t see anyone having a fit about that. She used welfare like a grant for writing a book. You can use welfare as a grant for homeschooling your kid.

3. Get married. Why don’t single parents get married? I don’t understand. Of course it’s easier to raise kids with a partner. The minute I realized my husband absolutely wanted a divorce, I started looking for a new partner.

I am very goal-oriented. I knew I wanted someone who made enough money to support himself and contribute to a family. He had to be reliable and honest, with no kids of his own. So I only dated men who fit that criteria.  I was too old to have more kids, so any guy who was dating me knew we weren’t having more kids. I focused on finding a partner to combine resources to raise my kids.

You can find your pool of people to choose from by going on a dating site and seeing who is in your area who meets your qualifications. Then you date everyone who is on the list and pick someone. If there are no people who qualify then your list of qualifications is too picky. If you don’t like my advice, then here’s some other dating advice , but notice: you can think of it as a job to get married if you want to get married. That’s what I did. It works.

Why can’t every single parent do that? I don’t understand. There are tons of financially and emotionally stable men who don’t have kids who will get married. Remember: if you are a single parent, realistically, you don’t have time to be in a big romantic fling because you are supporting your kid and you are raising your kid—and that is the same as two full-time jobs. So if you choose a match that is practical with a partner who will help you raise your kid, it’s not like you gave up on some fairy tale romance: you never had a chance at that anyway.

(For all you idealists: don’t even think about marrying someone who does not have middle-class money. Because marriage with two people in poverty is no better than single parenting.)

Let me tell you something about picking someone to be your partner to raise your kids. You will love that person so much because that person loves your kids, and loves you, and makes your life a thousand times easier. That’s what a great marriage is about. So go get that.

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31 replies
  1. Jim Grey
    Jim Grey says:

    Ok, so. If you’re really going to remarry so that you can homeschool your kids, first be sure You. Get. Your. Shit. Together.

    Because my ex didn’t, apparently, and she chose badly (fellow had tons of money but couldn’t avoid getting drunk every night) and that marriage failed too. And she’s now on her *next* marriage after that one.

    And my kids hated the upheaval and it was obviously very, very hard on them.

  2. Laura
    Laura says:

    I’m not a single parent, but my husband can’t work outside the home due to disability. He takes care of our 3 year old, but for the reasons he can’t work, he has trouble being as active a parent as I had growing up. I have a 5 year plan for option #1 and maybe a little of option #2 combined with his disability payments and maybe some help from my parents. Kid #2 is also imminent. Hopefully it all works according to plan. It will no doubt be exciting to see what we can pull off.

  3. MichaelG
    MichaelG says:

    I don’t understand why more single mothers don’t double up. You could at least save on rent that way, and share day care when there are errands to do. But I don’t hear about that arrangement too often.

  4. Susan
    Susan says:

    I don’t remember your old posts aligning with this. I seem to recall you were totally in love with the farmer, that you were shocked how little he and his family made (or maybe it was more about how assets were divided, I’m not sure) and that you had to pay your ex alimony.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      The farmer doesn’t have cash. He has land and a house. And no debt. (At least until I came along.) I don’t think I’d be with him if he didn’t bring financial stability to the equation.


  5. Anita
    Anita says:

    I lived in government subsidized housing and was on welfare for years. I had occasional part time jobs but my main priority was being there for my son. I was a single parent at the age of 20. It sucked being poor and I was lucky to live close to my parents. They were a huge help. My older sister was embarrassed I was on welfare. She gave me a hard time about it for years.
    He’s 24 years old now. An amazing grown up. Looking back it was some of the hardest years of my life so far however I don’t regret a moment of it.
    I didn’t homeschool. It didn’t occur to me at the time that it was an option. However I believe the stability of having a mom that was available all the time and not distracted by working full time made a huge difference. Government social programs shouldn’t be attached to such shame. The stereotypical ‘welfare mom’ is not some chainsmoking baby machine. She’s a mom trying to raise her kids just like everyone else.

  6. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Wow, I can’t get past the picture – it’s so captivating, clouds and all. Though it does remind me of the blog post you had with the picture of the lady doing yoga on a hay bale; you called it out as unrealistic lies of the yoga community.

    • Amy
      Amy says:

      I was also reminded of the “yoga lady”! That picture still seems disproportional or something to me. This one looks like the “big bales” I remember from my friends’ farm.

  7. John
    John says:

    I generally lean toward the right politically but I agree with you 1000% on point #2. Hey it’s a democracy and people have decided that there should be resources out there and it’d be foolish not to make use of them! I don’t agree with your views always but I like your practical (objectivist?) approach to things.

  8. Teach By Type
    Teach By Type says:

    Many of us lack the self awareness required to make better choices when partnering up. I grew up with abandonment issues. Before becoming aware of this, I kept pairing up with men that wouldn’t allow me to get close to them, or ones that would leave if I did.

    Eventually, I realized I my abandonment issues drove me to be attracted to the wrong men. With that knowledge I consciously chose a man who is at sea half the year. It’s perfect. I can’t become too dependent on him, because I’m left to take care of myself half the time. Yet, I get the intimacy and support I crave from our relationship.

    I’m also a custodial stepmom, and it’s hard as hell. My guess is the divorce rate is lower when the stepparent is a male, instead of a female.

  9. Teach By Type
    Teach By Type says:

    Relying on welfare when you have the ability to produce income is not equivalent to one taking advantage of huge tax breaks.

    The one taking advantage of tax breaks is financially contributing (perhaps not enough). The one collecting welfare can only do what they’re doing because the rest of us are contributing.

    If we all collected welfare, simply because it’s legal, our society would collapse.

  10. Casey
    Casey says:

    As a single mother by choice of two boys (4 yrs and 2 mo) who plans to homeschool, I do choice #1 and find it by far the easiest. But then, I’ve always been self employed as a musician and music teacher. I work out of my house and a babysitter comes here, and my parents are close as well. Saying to just get married as the easiest choice seems ridiculous. Who has time?? Every second of my time is spent either with the kids or working. Where is the time to meet and date? You can get married at any age. Why take time away from your kids when they are little trying to make another major life change, as if having kids wasn’t change enough?

  11. Maya S
    Maya S says:

    >realistically, you don’t have time to be in a big romantic fling because you are supporting your kid and you are raising your kid

    As a dating single mom, I thought The Onion’s take was perfect:

    Actually, if you share custody, there’s plenty of time for romance. It’s oddly guilt-free, because while you’re off on an all-day date like a twenty-something, your kids are bonding with their other parent, exactly as they should be.

    I’m surprised there’s been so little thoughtful writing on the topic of moms dating, which offers a rich intersection of themes (that whole “madonna/whore” thing, for one).

    A few years back, I started an essay about being a mother of young kids in the infatuation stage of a new relationship. Short version: You feel like a bad mom because you’re distracted all the time, but you know that a committed relationship with the right man would be the best thing for both you and your kids in the long term. So you keep juggling roles (plus work, plus housework), hoping for the best.

    Finishing that essay is on my long to-do list. When I’m married to my wonderful fiance, I expect I’ll finally have the time!

  12. Leonie
    Leonie says:

    I’m surprised that you think welfare is an option in the United States. Note that JK Rowling is British and lives in England where there is a social safety net.

    In the U.S. you can be homeless and still not qualify for welfare. (And if you do get any government assistance it will only be a few hundred dollars which isn’t enough to buy food let a alone cover rent and other necessities.) Also, that money will come with steep strings attached, namely strict job search requirements.

  13. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    Hi, Penelope! In a country with limited to no welfare, single parents here have to rely on their families. About a tenth of our population, or around 10 million people, work overseas. Single parents who can work abroad leave their children with their own parents, siblings, or other relatives. They only return home after they have saved enough money to build a home, pay for college, or start a business. Sometimes, the money they send home is not enough so they stay overseas for ten years or more.

    Of course, the child’s primary caretaker, whether the parent, grandparent, aunt, or uncle, can always homeschool the child.

    “Because marriage with two people in poverty is no better than single parenting.” I agree, although if I say it out loud here, I will sound heartless. It’s ironic that people in poverty tend to have more children at a younger age.

  14. aquinas heard
    aquinas heard says:

    If part of your motivation to hurry up and find a spouse is because you want financial support in order to be able to homeschool then I recommend you share this information with your potential partner (at the right time). That would be fair. I would also recommend you find out exactly how supportive (financially and emotionally) this potential spouse will be when you are homeschooling.

    This is coming from a 42 year-old never been married guy who has been in a total of 5 short and long-term relationships with single moms. These happened when I was 21-36.

  15. Cindy Allen
    Cindy Allen says:

    I agree with Jim, get your shit together first.
    “There are tons of financially and emotionally stable men who don’t have kids who will get married.” Really? I never noticed or even looked at it in that way I suppose… I find that hard to believe, but, okay….

    What I did know, after my divorce, was that I was a broken mess. And, I didn’t want to attract some man attracted to my brokenness. I knew I needed to become healthy and strong on my own first so I could attract another healthy person – eventually, if that’s what I wanted.

    And, maybe, if you are a single parent who needs to get on your feet financially, putting your child in school is the lesser of two evils for awhile if your plan A is finding someone to marry you so you can stay home with your kids. That seems like a vulnerable position to continue to put yourself in. I’d feel taken advantage of, if I were the guy too. But, that’s just me.

    Figure out a way to support yourself and still be there for the kids. It’s hard and takes trial and error. But, it can be done. In the process you can become the strong, capable, confident, healthy person you need to be for your kids; single or not, homeschooled or not.

  16. John Hager
    John Hager says:

    This is a good post
    I generally lean toward the right politically but I agree with you 1000% on point #2. Hey it’s a democracy and people have decided that there should be resources out there and it’d be foolish not to make use of them! I don’t agree with your views always but I like your practical (objectivist?) approach to things.

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