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How do homeschooling and working fit?

A quick Google search will show you that families where both parents work and homeschool are not uncommon.

Add ours to the mix.

I have been working at the same ER in our small town as a nurse for the last 13 years. I work "per diem," which means that I am not a "full time" employee with paid time off and health insurance. I'm like a substitute nurse who fills in the gaps in the schedule. Luckily for me, there's almost always a need for nurses so I've been able to have shifts whenever I want them.

When my oldest was born, I didn't work for about three months. Then, I gradually started to pick up a shift here and there. On a teacher's salary, any amount of extra is a blessing. My mom and siblings were all right across the street and, as Ben was the first grandchild, I always had someone ready to keep him. Also during this time, I agreed to babysit my cousin's child for her to work a couple of mornings a week.

When my second was born, I took six months off. Then, when it was time to get back to it, my mother graciously agreed to watch the boys in the morning for me to sleep (I have almost always worked night shift). Ben started at a preschool around that time, and I was only working one night per week, occasionally two, so it wasn't a big deal. Plus, there are summers. Mac is a teacher, so summers allowed me to work extra without inconveniencing anyone else. With each child, when they began to eat solid foods, and weren't so reliant on breastfeeding, working became easier.

When number three came along, we were actually homeschooling. I took nine months off, and boy, were we ready for some extra money when I finally started picking up shifts again. By this time, one of my sisters was married and living very close. She had children and was staying at home, so I paid her to keep the kids on the mornings when I needed to sleep. I would send Ben's schoolwork with him to her house and she would help him with that. We continued to utilize a morning preschool that was around the corner for Sam and then Jude when the time came.

Two years ago, I had dug myself in to two shifts pretty much every week. My sister started working full-time, so we had to come up with something else. By this time Ben was 11 years old. Already very proficient in the kitchen, we decided to pay him extra allowance on those days when I was sleeping to "watch" the other two and make sure they got breakfast and lunch. My door was open, and strict instructions were given for keeping the house locked, and that's the pattern we have been in ever since.

Has it worked? Does it work?


Sometimes. I do think that ideally I would not be working at all. Or, I would only work on the weekends when Mac is home (but then, Mac and I would hardly ever see each other). Or only during Mac's holidays from school. And if we were smarter with our money, or didn't care about ever leaving the house to go out or on trips that might be feasible. But we like to travel and we like to be "comfortable." We like to put money in retirement accounts. We have a 15 year mortgage. That is all possible because I work.

And I like my job (some days). It is nice to get out of the house. To be good at something. I've pretty much worked myself up to full-time. Two, sometimes three, shifts per week. And I know that I am privileged to have this as an option. To just pick up an extra shift when we need some extra money.

But, you may ask, what about homeschooling?

Ok, ok...sometimes it works well. Sometimes I feel like I'm doing a good job. The boys have weeks when they are getting their work done even while I'm sleeping. Ben, as a 7th grader this year, is going to HAVE to work independently. I can't keep up with him and work and sleep.

The other two...I haven't done as much of this in the past, but this year, they are going to be doing work on the weekends. We are going to have to treat the days I work as the weekend, and Saturdays and Sundays will have to be part of our school week. It's an adjustment.

Two things I've learned (well, hopefully I've learned a lot more than that, but I'll mention two here):

1: Each week, month, year is different. What works this year may not work next year. And that's one of the great things about homeschooling. We adapt schooling to our situation. Schooling fits INTO family life. Not family life into school. I love that!

2: They are learning more than you think. I got a glimpse of this when my second learned to read, and I'm seeing this again as Ben starts public online school this year.

We are available to our children. We have been reading to them since they were born, almost every night. We have a house filled with books. They are involved in all kinds of activities. They are sponges. Humans are MADE TO LEARN. Homeschooling at its best fosters the LOVE OF LEARNING that is the key for all of us to continue to learn and grow as long as we live. School doesn't stop at 18 or 22.

I will always be anxious about how good a job I'm doing. But as my boys grow and change, we will continue to evaluate how working and learning fit into our lives.

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