Homeschooling When Both Parents Have to Work

When Plans Change - By DaLynn McCoy

How to keep homeschooling when both parents need to work outside the home

For a homeschooling mom, the need to take a job outside the home might seem like a devastating perspective. She’ll have to put the kids back in school and the family’s entire lifestyle is in danger… isn’t it? Or might it be possible to continue homeschooling even if both parents need to work outside the home? Be encouraged in knowing that not only is it possible to homeschool this way, but it can be a blessing in disguise!

The first thing to remember when considering how homeschooling might work when both parents have a job outside of the home is that homeschooling doesn’t have to fit inside anybody’s box. That most especially includes the schedule! Who ever said that homeschooling must be done between the hours of 8am and 4pm, Monday through Friday, from September through May? The public school system did, that’s who - the very same system that if you’re even considering your options in this situation, it must be very important to you to avoid.

So how much time does a student actually need to spend on homeschooling?

Consider a high school student’s full course load of 7 classes, and the recommended 130 hours for the year for each course - even with a “normal” 36-week school year a student will spend less than 45 minutes per day, per subject. 5 hours a day, 25 hours a week, is enough for a high school student to complete their year’s coursework in a 36 week time frame. For a younger student, obviously the requirement would be much less.

Go read the last article I wrote about homeschooling with health concerns to see my recommendations about homeschooling year-round. Those recommendations apply to this situation as well. I’m a big advocate of the year-round schedule for any homeschool which needs to operate outside of the norm. It gives much more wiggle room and is forgiving if hours are required to be reported every year.

A working parent homeschools the kids on the days they are home from work. (We will address getting a “day off” later!) Working part-time hours, only a couple of days each week, suddenly makes it feasible to do both, but this can be done even with a full time schedule. If the work schedule requires normal office hours of around 9-5, M-F, then school time is on weekends. The kids will have more free time during the week, so don’t worry about taking the weekends away from them.

Assuming that sort of schedule, school can be done for 4 hours, twice a day, on both weekend days. That’s 16 hours worth of homeschooling every week, right out of the hat. That also allows a full afternoon or evening on both days for the kids to be social, have free time, participate in extra activities, or whatever. When you then compare that time to the 25 hours each week that a high school student should spend homeschooling, they’ll only need 9 hours throughout the rest of the week to fully make up for that - and that’s without doing the year-round schedule.

If 8 hours on Saturdays and Sundays is too much for the student - and it well might be - then try doing 2 sessions of 6 hours on those days and then working for an hour or so each day when the main homeschooling parent arrives home from work. Utilizing the year-round method suggested would allow you to cut back even further on weekend commitment.

Even an hour a day every weekday after work spent with a kindergarten student will further that student’s education. Spending a little extra time on the weekends (or whenever the work schedule allows) is just gravy for that age group. Here’s a little secret - I wouldn’t spend more than about an hour a day for kindergarten anyway, job or not!

Utilize those days off to write out the week’s assignments and talk to your students about the plan. Take time on days that you do work to talk to the student about any trouble they had while working today. If the kids are too young to stay alone while both parents are gone, then hire a sitter (you’d need to anyway). Sitters can keep kids accountable to a list, or the work can be done after parents arrive home.

It really doesn’t take as much time to homeschool as we like to pretend that it does. Find a curriculum that works with your lifestyle, and do it when the opportunity presents itself. I promised you that I’d address getting a day of rest, so here’s my secret on that - when you need a day off, take the day off. Don’t stress about it. If homeschooling on the weekends is the rule, then it’s the rule, and when you take the day off it’s no different than calling in sick or keeping your child home from the public school system that day. Pick it back up next weekend. It’s all good, Mama, and you’ve got this!

Life Lesson G-27: If both parents need jobs outside the home, there’s still plenty of time to homeschool the kids!

I learned this lesson when I had to return to school in March of 2013, and then after I got a job in that field in May of 2014. School took me away from the home for 4 days a week from 8am to 4pm. Then I took a job outside the home for the first time in over a decade, working a few hours a day on several days every week. For the summer, my husband stayed home with the kids. I did the lesson plans on the weekends, and hubby just kept the kids accountable to the list. When he also obtained a job, his sister helped us watch the kids, and I just kept doing the lesson plans and she just kept keeping the kids accountable. Eventually, we only needed her to babysit on 2 days each week, and the kids coursework was mostly online at that point. Sometimes it’s just about checking the list and getting it done. The kids got more work done during this time in our lives than they ever did before, or since! The system works, and it was a blessing to us in the midst of a very difficult season of life.

When did you learn this lesson and how did you get through it?

More Life Lessons Learned by DaLynn:

This special series is presented by DaLynn McCoy - life's lessons learned as a homeschooler!

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mary h says

We homeschooled our children through high school and I am now in the eight year of teaching college prep classes at a one day a week co-op. I read this article because I do have some families who have some combination of both parents working. I do see your ideas as totally realistic and helpful, but my mind was sad about the obvious omission: remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy…. I suppose this could easily be accommodated within the suggestions, but the advice felt sadly secular. Yes, I know some people do not have religion, but the vast majority of homeschooling families do have a Sabboth within their belief system.

    Jen says

    I absolutely agree. Personally, I have made religion a major part of our homeschool. With the exception of math, there are ways to integrate religion, faith, and reverence into learning opportunities. Reading scriptures, writing spiritual journal entries, studying history, etc.. I have found that by placing God first, provides an even better path to providing excellent education. Thinking outside the curriculum box is key. Tell your families, there is hope. 🙂

Karen says

Thank you for this article. Both my husband & I need to work, but I can’t find anyone to watch our daughter during the day to homeschool her. This area brings me hope, but also sadness since I want my daughter to be homeschooled.

    Jen says

    There is always hope. Sometimes circumstances bind our hands, but keep looking for opportunities. I have seen many families slowly transition into homeschooling from situations where they felt they could not. It may take time and persistence, but don’t lose hope.

      Maria says

      Try hiring an au pair if you work during the week. It is expensive, but may be worth it.

Kim P says

Great article. I have had to return to work after 15 years as a stay-at-home(schooling) mom. My DD has autism and would fail in public school. We begin high school next year so your article was wonderful in providing me helpful direction and encouragement. Thank you!

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