YES you can handle working and homeschooling! Especially high school! As long as you are careful about a few things, and you keep the big picture perspective in mind.
Ann is here to fill you in on what’s important based on her own experience as a homeschool mom working outside the home for two different periods while homeschooling high school.
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Episode 71: Working and Homeschooling High School
Ann Karako: Hi. I’m Ann Karako, and you’re listening to Episode 71 of the It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School podcast.
Welcome to another episode of It’s Not That Hard to Homeschool High School, the podcast for real people, so that you can confidently, competently, and yes, even contentedly provide the high school education that is best for your teen and your family. I’m your host, Ann Karako, from notthathardtohomeschool.com.
Welcome everyone, back to another episode of the podcast here in Missouri. It is a very snowy day today. Very, very snowy, been coming down for hours, still coming down. I have not ventured outside. If I did, with a ruler, I’m thinking six to eight inches at this point and who knows how much more we’re going to get. There are things to like about snowy days and there are things not to like about snowy days. I guess that’s a pretty stupid segue into our topic [chuckles], which is, today I want to talk about lessons that I learned as a working homeschool mom, specifically working and homeschooling high school.
Yes. Obviously, it’s easier to work outside the home when you have teens inside the home, who are homeschooling high school. Obviously, they are going to be more responsible, one would hope, more able to take care of themselves — but there are still some things to consider. I’m going to speak from my own experience today mostly, and then at the end, we’ll wrap it up with some big picture ideas. Let’s get started.
I’m not talking today about working inside the home, which I’ve also obviously been doing for a few years. Today, I’m talking specifically about working outside the home. Maybe we’ll have an episode about working inside the home at some later point.
My experience working and homeschooling high school
The first time I worked outside of the home while we were homeschooling was when my oldest was a sophomore in high school. The two years that she was a sophomore and a junior, I worked outside the home about 25 minutes away for anywhere from 20-ish to 32 to 33 hours a week.
I kept adding hours to my weekly schedule in hopes of making more money. At that point, I don’t know what it’s like now, but at that point, 32 or 33 hours was considered full time. There was a time in there that I was working full time outside of the home.
I’m going to admit this right from the beginning of this conversation: that time of working outside the home is one of the biggest regrets of my homeschooling career. Just going to say that.
Am I saying that to make anybody feel guilty or bad about what they’re doing? Absolutely not. Everybody’s situation is completely and utterly different. What happened to me or the things that we dealt with may completely not be things that you’re dealing with, and we’re going to talk a little bit more about guilt later in the episode. I am not trying to make anybody feel bad, but from my own experience, that is one of my biggest regrets, and here are the reasons why.
First of all, we put too much responsibility on my oldest daughter. As I said, she was a sophomore and a junior, so 15, 16, maybe going on 17. Yes, sure that makes her old enough to take care of the younger kids, but does it make her old enough to take care of the younger kids for that long period of time every week during homeschool hours? We should not have done that.
Did she handle it well? Yes. Was it good overall for the family? No. The younger children needed their mom. They didn’t need their older sister, and yet, she was responsible basically for making sure everybody got their homeschooling done, chores, lunch. Granted, I didn’t work every shift during homeschool hours, but even the ones that weren’t homeschool hours ended up dealing with homeschool in some way or another as usually there was somebody who was behind and had to be getting school done.
And don’t forget that my husband is a pilot, so he was not around a lot, so it’s not like she had another parent to fall back on. There was no parent in the home, and she was responsible for four younger siblings — homeschooling, and, in general, making sure no limbs were severed.
I still remember the phone calls that I would get from my daughter while I was at work. Actually, she couldn’t call me at any time. I was working in a phone call center. I could not be on my own phone because I was on the phone calling to the people that I was supposed to be talking to. We were not allowed to receive phone calls. Only on break could I call home, and then my daughter would have a laundry list of things to tell me about. Every break was spent on the phone talking to one kid after another to deal with the issues that had come up while I was at work.
Not a good thing, y’all. It still gives me PTSD to think about it. I’m sure my daughter feels the same way.
We felt like the money was important. At the time, perhaps it was, but it was not a good idea. I throw that out there as a caution, that if you are working outside the home, but that is placing a large burden of responsibility on one of your older children to be responsible and to take care of the younger children, that is something to make sure you deal with very, very carefully.
The second problem during that session of my working outside the home was I didn’t know anything about self-care. This is going to sound self-centered, I suppose. I’ve learned since, that we cannot keep burning the candle at both ends without there being some fallout from that. As homeschool moms, especially, since homeschooling is a lifestyle. Basically, 24/7 it feels like we are giving of ourselves for our kids. That can be a problem when we don’t take the time to make sure we are meeting our own emotional and physical needs. When you’re working outside the home that just compounds this problem.
I’m going to recommend, whether you feel like you have time for it or not, that you find time for some kind of self-care. I’ve got some podcast episodes about that. In fact, if you are going to see me at Great Homeschool Conventions this year — I’ll be going to Missouri, Texas, and Ohio, not in that order — I have a session that I’ll be doing at some of the locations this year about the care and feeding of homeschool moms. We’re going to talk a little bit about self-care.
Is it important? Yes. Why is it important, how to accomplish it, and what is our overall mindset about self-care? It’s not about being self-centered. It’s not about being selfish. It is about filling up your tank so that you have the energy and the stamina to serve your family. When you’re working outside the home, you definitely need to have that skill down, the skill of giving yourself reasonable self-care so that you are not burnt out and taking it out on the family.
Do you know what happens when you don’t do self-care? You get cranky. You get angry. Ask me how I know.
The way I overcompensated was I became overly structured, like we were structured down to the minute practically, and there was very little grace. Everything had to go just so. It had to go the way I had planned it to go, otherwise, I was afraid things were going to fall apart. Why? Because I didn’t have the bandwidth to be able to handle any kind of changes in plan or any kind of unforeseen circumstances, because I had not been taking care of my own emotional and physical needs.
You know what, I ended up getting laid off from that job. It was literally one of those things where we celebrated that I got laid off [chuckles]. Because rather than quitting, when you get laid off, then you get unemployment compensation, and so then I was able to be at home for a little while, while still getting paid. That was a reason to celebrate. Then my daughter was let off the hook of the responsibility, and I had a little more time to relax. I wasn’t stressed quite as much. There was a couple of years there then that I was able to stay home and do our homeschool that way.
The second time I worked outside of the home was when my youngest was a freshman, sophomore, and junior. You can tell by the length of time that — although I’m going to cut to the chase on that; I got fired from that job. Different situation altogether. No, I haven’t gotten back to work since, but I am now working very strongly from the home itself. I still have a job. I’m just not working outside the home anymore.
Anyway, those three years went much better. You can tell by the fact that it was three years rather than two, or one and a half, or whatever that first time was. Why was it better? Mostly because my daughter didn’t have anybody else to take care of. She was the youngest. She was the only one left at home homeschooling, so she was only responsible for herself. In that sense, it went much smoother. There were still a couple of things that I would caution about.
Number one was she spent a lot of time alone. Again, I was working anywhere from 20 to 30 hours a week, depending upon the season of the year. I was in the hospitality industry, and here in Branson during the summer, you work long hours. During the winter, you don’t work that many. She was alone a lot. I also became a supervisor and so that took more hours. Then, there were also the calls that I had to take at home and the things that I had to do at home that were part of the job that I had. Anyway, she was alone a lot.
Especially when she had grown up as the youngest in a very busy household with lots of people, and then they’d all gradually moved away or gone to college, or moved out as adults, or what have you, she got lonely, and granted, I probably wasn’t the company that she wanted, but it still might have been better if I had been home more for her during those years.
Then, the other thing was my problem: I didn’t keep up with her work well. Working outside the home can be very distracting. It can be very all-encompassing. It can take your concentration, and then when you get home, you don’t want to have to concentrate anymore. You don’t want to have to work anymore. You just want to do something mindless.
That means that the school part can get lost as you don’t want to have to mess with it. “Did you do your math?” “Yes.” “Okay, great.” You know what, they might not really be doing their math, or they might not be understanding their math, but they don’t even realize that they don’t understand it. Then, three months later, when you finally get around to checking up on them, you find out that they either weren’t doing it or never understood it.
I’ve been there a couple of times, y’all. I’ve written about that before. [chuckles] It’s no fun. Yes, it was my fault for the most part because I was consumed with the other job. It was more interesting. It was something that took my brainpower so that when I came home, I didn’t have the mental energy to mess with school.
These are things that I just am cautioning about. Maybe if you are a working homeschool mom, you’re already, “Yes, [chuckles] I get all that, I’ve been there, I feel that.” In that sense, how is this podcast helping you? [laughs] You’re like, “These things happen to me too, duh.”
First of all, if you are considering working outside the home and homeschooling just be aware that these are cautions. Can you work and homeschool? Of course, you can. I should have said that at the very beginning. I meant to, and I didn’t. Yes, of course, you can do it.
Take my experience as cautionary tales. Obviously, I fail more than I succeed, it seems like, but hey, you can learn from my mistakes. I’m sure that other people have found a way around these things. As a matter of fact, there is a great Facebook group. I was going to tell you about it later, but I’ll tell you about it now. There’s a great Facebook group called the Working Homeschool Mom Club with Jen Mackinnon. Go look that up. She’s even been a guest on the podcast before so I will link to those episodes.
I’m almost at my time limit, but I want to take just another minute or two to give you a big picture perspective so that you walk away from this encouraged.
Big picture thoughts about working and homeschooling high school
First of all, I want any working homeschool mom to be realistic about what you can accomplish. Realize that during the teen years, specifically, homeschool is going to become more independent study. You’re going to be doing a lot more with online curriculum that does it all for you. You’re going to be doing a lot more with workbooks or textbooks that are easy to grade for your kid to work through themselves. This is totally okay.
A lot of people talk about homeschooling as, “Oh, we can’t do school at home. It’s got to be all exploratory. It’s got to be an adventure. We’re going to sit down and do a bunch of read alouds.” You know what, homeschool does not have to be that way.
I’m going to link to an article that I wrote as a guest post on the iHomeschool Network blog, which talks about doing school at home, and defending however you need to do homeschool. If your kids are at home doing school, then in a sense, you are homeschooling. Don’t worry about how you get the schooling done.
Frankly, I think independent study in the high school years is the best way to prepare your teen for college and real life. Don’t feel bad about that at all. Be realistic. This is the most effective, efficient way to get this done when you have to be working outside of the home and that is totally fine.
Second, remember that the relationship is the most important thing. If that means that you’re not necessarily keeping up with all the grading, all the lesson planning, and all of that — if your teen is able to figure some of that stuff out for themselves, great — but do take the time to dialogue. Do take the time to spend time finding about their heart, finding out about how they feel about this, that and the other thing; sit down chat as much as you can.
[chuckles] Silly story. I’m actually reading a fan fiction right now. It’s my very first fan fiction I’ve ever read. It’s about Spider-Man and Tony Stark. The thing about it that’s really fun is that Tony and Petey have tons of great dialogue, where Tony is checking up on Peter to make sure he’s doing okay. It’s a great example of checking in with our own kids. Even if it’s not necessarily about school but making sure we take the time to dialogue with them and have meaningful conversations.
Guilt is a wasted emotion. Y’all, let’s not be guilty. If you’re starting to feel guilty, take that energy and put it into some self-care instead. Get yourself as best as you can be so that you can handle this very stressful situation that you’re in. It is stressful. Let’s not deny it, but prepare yourself. Get yourself energied up, if you will. Do what it takes so that you can handle it the best way possible, and then maybe you won’t feel quite so guilty about it.
We feel guilty when we’re failing. We feel guilty when we feel like we’re not providing what we should be providing. Well, let’s not worry about that so much. If we are feeling good, then we will be providing what we need to provide.
Always be reminding yourself of your WHY. Why are you homeschooling instead of sending your kid to public school? Specifically, why are you homeschooling high school instead of sending your kid to public school? If you haven’t thought that through yet, I’ve got an article I’ll link to about it. As far as developing your own particular WHY, it’s not going to be the same as anybody else’s. When you have that developed, then you can refer back to it at any time you’re feeling uncertain. You can say, are we accomplishing this, because that is the determiner of your homeschool success — not the grades, not the time, none of that.
The determiner is are you accomplishing your WHY? Refer back to that and be evaluating fairly consistently, fairly constantly. When you’re not fulfilling your WHY, that’s the time to make changes necessary to get that WHY back to its priority level.
Quick conversation about working in homeschooling high school. I hope it’s been at least a little bit helpful to you. The podcast now is going to be me more sharing from the heart, trying to help you over some of these humps, some of these challenges that we face. I’d love to get any topic ideas from you.
Next time, my plan is to talk about getting dad involved in homeschooling high school. That should be a good one, too. Remember, it may not always be easy to homeschool high school, but it doesn’t have to be that hard.
Thanks for being here. I’ll see you next time.
- Episode 93: How to Transition to High School — by Alyssa Woolf - December 16, 2022
- Episode 92: Is Your Teen Showing Consideration for Others? - December 2, 2022
- Episode 91: Unschooling Teens — My Experience and Advice (with Julie Polanco) - November 18, 2022