If you need to or want to work, but still want quality time with your children and a stellar education, you can do it. Whether you want to homeschool them full-time or supplement the brick-and-mortar school they get during the day, working and teaching are not mutually exclusive. You probably can find the time to homeschool or afterschool even if you work. You will have to stay flexible and change your way of thinking, though.
Laura Vanderkam, in 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, talks about the (often faulty) perception people have that there is no time. She points out that the 168 hours in a week is a tremendous amount of time. You can sleep 8 hours a night, work a full 40 hours, and still have 72 hours left in your week—time for almost two additional full-time jobs.
So where does all that time go?
Tracking Your Time and Then Using it Wisely
Vanderkam recommends that you track your time for a week in half-hour increments (or 15 minutes, if you have a lot of quick changes) to see how you actually spend your time. Are you using those 72 unaccounted-for hours in a way that is in line with your core values?
For those who choose to work and homeschool, this can be especially helpful. Instead of feeling chronically short, you might find that you do have time to help provide for your family, spend meaningful time with your children, and if you use a well-laid out curriculum like Sonlight, you’ll also get to spend some time for yourself.
Although brick-and-mortar school takes all day, homeschooling doesn't take that long, especially at lower levels. For example, in the younger years with Sonlight, the recommended schedule takes about an hour. Even by upper elementary school, the schedule takes only a few hours a day. Choose a 4-day homeschool schedule, and you'll free up an entire day each week!
If you view your week through the 168-hour lens, do you think you can find five or ten hours a week to devote to educating your child? There are ways to sneak in the learning:
- Listen to audio books as you drive.
- Use Sonlight Readers and Read-Alouds as bedtime reading.
- Fit History reading between your weekend activities.
- Use errand time in the car as book discussion time.
- Spend dinner on round-table narration, when each child summarizes what he has learned.
Once you get beyond the mindset that "school must happen between 8 am and 3 pm, and children should be in bed by 8 pm," there's space for creative scheduling. Nights and weekends are gifts of time. Use them well, and you will find that you really do have more time than you think.
Rethinking Housework to Make Time to Homeschool and Work
One of the other helpful things that Vanderkam emphasizes is that you get to choose your priorities. While a bored homemaker in the 1960s might have made a raspberry cake with 16 steps, you choose to do other things with your time now. That's great! What amazing options are open to you!
So it's okay to let your ideas shift a little. For example, changing sheets once a week is a holdover from farming days, when people would often get a lot more dirty—and bathe a lot less—than modern office workers. If your sheets get changed every few weeks, who cares?
Obviously some things, like car maintenance, shouldn’t be ignored. Dishes and laundry should be maintained, to keep the house running smoothly. But dusting and window-washing? Less important. Going to bed with a spotless house every night? Depending on your personality, this will be more or less important to you, but the reality of homeschooling is that you and your children are home a lot of the time, making messes and exploring the world. Maybe a once-a-week general put-away is sufficient. A fifteen-minute daily clean adds up to almost two hours a week. That might be more than you want to spend, or a reasonable amount. But you get to choose.
Adjusting Food Prep to Make Time to Homeschool and Work
In the realm of food preparation, you can also look for time savings. This is probably not the season to start whipping up crepes and galettes. Can you find meals your family generally enjoys, and rotate through them on a regular basis?
For example, one working, homeschooling mom went to all her children’s sporting events and ran the typical mom shuttle service. To stay afloat during her busiest years, her dinners looked like this:
- popcorn and milkshakes on Sunday
- spaghetti on Monday
- Chinese food on Wednesday
- pizza on Friday
- hot dogs, beans, and macaroni on Saturday
She had a small range of dinners she rotated through on the other nights.
That isn’t necessarily the most healthy diet, but she saved her sanity. And the point is: you can rotate through meals once a week, according to your family’s food preferences. If a rotisserie chicken (or a chicken cooked in an Instant-Pot) makes your life run more smoothly, or pre-cut, frozen butternut squash saves you ten minutes, that might be worth it. There’s no award for “I riced my own cauliflower instead of using the frozen stuff,” or “I grated my own mozzarella by hand rather than using the food processor or buying shredded cheese.” Be grateful for the time savings.
Delegating and (Not) Multi-tasking So You Can Homeschool While Working
Depending on the age of your children, and the helpfulness of your spouse, you can also delegate. Or, if it’s in the budget, hire out for certain tasks you dislike. Cinderella didn’t also homeschool and work outside the home, so if you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, get some help. Or lower your expectations.
There’s no such thing as a good multi-tasker. There are people who shift their attention between tasks rapidly, but that is not efficient and helpful. It’s like sitting in a theater and having your phone ring every 15 seconds. Don’t do that to yourself. (The exception is, of course, for mindless tasks that you know how to do. A beginning driver needs to focus, but an experienced driver can listen to an audiobook. You can talk on the phone while doing the dishes. That isn’t actual multi-tasking, though, as those processes use different parts of the brain.)
Keeping Perspective as You Work and Homeschool
Young children grow up. This isn’t meant to be a truism, but in the early years of parenting, children need so much help in every area. Getting four children into four car seats and boosters can take a while. But getting into the car with four ambulatory, tall children takes about ten seconds for everyone to pile in. If you’re in a season of intense parenting, realize that this season will shift at some point, and your children will not need you as much.
Which is, I suppose, both a blessing and a warning.