Friday, March 12, 2021

Working Full Time AND Homeschooling


[Maxwell Sheaffer, age 12 1/2, working on a painting on a day off from school. Choosing to do schoolwork on a day off is a common scene these days.]

This is not a joke. It can be done. We're doing it. But it's not easy in the least! Wow, is it not easy. This homeschool journey has been unique. Unlike so many others, it's not a path we willingly chose. It's one that we decided on after much debate. After homeschooling the last two and a half months of last school year, I declared that I could NEVER homeschool, run my daycare business, write, and be me. Oddly enough, that's exactly what I'm doing now. 

I'm incredibly lucky because I work at home and my work IS kids. I've had to work on daycare schedules and getting the littles into a routine, but I am now able to homeschool mostly during our daycare day. I am very much aware that this wouldn't be possible without the daycare kids I do have: kids who are older and who have been with me for years. Overall, homeschooling my three minis has been an incredibly positive experience for everyone in our family.

However, as with anything, there's pros and cons to working full time and homeschooling. It's not for everyone and it's not something that we'll continue long term (although, we are planning to homeschool for one more year).

Con: You're exhausted. Mentally and physically exhausted from going from work mode to school mode to parent mode. I clearly don't remember or understand seventh grade science the way I once did and our days are long. Really long. My husband wakes up for work at 3 a.m. daily, works a twelve hour day (usually), and then comes home to help with schoolwork, household chores, and cooking. We're in bed, asleep by 10:00 p.m. nearly every night.

Pro: You're re-learning important material and have a greater appreciation for it. At least I do. This week we learned about fungi in science class. Last night, I pulled flowers from a vase and found a fungus growing on them. We studied that fungus for an hour and determined what it would be classified under. Pre-homeschool me wouldn't have done that, let alone known the classifications of fungi.

Pro: You can homeschool at any time. You, and only you, and your children/family determine the schedule and what is being learned. Have a really busy day and can't fit in homeschooling? Great, do it later that day, on the weekend, in the evening. You make it fit your schedule. 

Con: Because we can homeschool at any time, and often do homeschool lessons in the evenings or on the weekend, it can feel like we never get a break. I feel like I'm ALWAYS doing something related to school work or lesson planning. That then runs over into my daycare things, because I often lesson plan both at same time. At the end of the day, I really hadn't had any sort of a break. One or two nights a week, we tend to have a lesson that needs done. One that I wanted to spend extra time on or didn't want any distractions while teaching it (this week, that was WW1 - WW2). My husband and I have to figure out how to end our work days, get dinner on the table, teach the kids, and get everyone into bed at a decent hour, including ourselves. It's a delicate balancing act. One we haven't mastered yet. 

Con: We don't get the advantage of homeschool groups and socialization. Due to our full time work scheudles, we don't get to meet with a homeschool group for a mid-day hike. All "field trips" are taken on the weekends or our days off. It's definitely not the typical homeschool experience that many other homeschool kids receive.

Pro: It's Covid times, so they're aren't many homeschool groups meeting in person. The minis have been able to attend a few online homeschool groups where they take a specialized class once a week. The youngest finished up a five week long creative writing class she took with other kids in her age group. This school year wasn't going to be a typical homeschool year to begin with, so I don't feel like they've missed out on much. Also, because of daycare and virtual learning, my minis have been able to socialize with kids their own ages safely. 

Pro: Going back to schedules, I can do homeschool at any time of the day as my schedule allows due to working from home. This is a pro for me, but I'm well aware not everyone has this option. 

Con: Not everyone has the flexibility to work AND homeschool at the same time during the day. In order to homeschool while working full time, homeschooling families would potentially have to find a caregiver during the day and be okay with having very little extra time on their days off.

Con: Homeschool is an added expense. Pre-pandemic we sent our children to a great public school. It was one where costs were covered, lunches were free, and snacks were provided. Our grocery bills went down significantly during the school year. Not to mention, our children had free access to websites, curriculums, and many other learning resources. When we chose to homeschool, we lost a good amount of that. Our grocery bills are crazy high since the minis are home morning, noon, and night. We've also had to invest in new Chromebooks, laptops, school supplies, and websites for learning. Quickly doing the math, we've spent over $3,000 since April 2020 in supplies for homeschooling alone.

Pro: We chose to homeschool through our school district with their Homeschool Assistance Program. We have access to a teache, who is able to help us, give, and share ideas, makes sure our homeschoolers are "on track," and gives our children grades on their transcripts. Yes, our children will  have transcripts just as if they were in an actual school. We also have access to the same curriculum our district uses and a few others, as well as access to extra learning resources. All at no extra cost to us. We still have added expenses and costs due to homeschooling, but being a part of this program greatly reduces it. For example, I pay to have access to worksheets, lesson plans, and online learning games to a few different learning sites. Through our program, I'm eligable to receive codes to reduce the costs of such sites.

Pro: My children are able to choose what they learn, how they learn, and have excitedly taken the reigns of their own education. This has worked beautifully for my creative, energetic minis. I have kept them "on track" per the curriculum we're using through our school district, but they have much more time to pursue their interests and other avenues of learning. For example: the minis have used every snowfall to learn how to snowboard, the youngest has learned yoga, all three are cooking and baking on a regular basis, the third grader decided she wanted to learn fifth grade social studies along her with brother, and all three are using May as a "choose what you learn month." The chosen topics so far: the Harlem Renaissance, being able to label every country on a world map (without looking at another map), the bombing of Hiroshima, amphibians and reptiles, planting/growing a garden, and poetry.

Con: Is there a con to the pro above? Not really, other than it creates more work and planning for me (the teacher).

Con: There's always going to be those people who have thoughts about how someone chooses to raise their children. There are many negative thoughts about homeschooling, I honestly used to have some, but those can't be turned into cons unless you choose to let them.

Homeschooling has been all the things: wonderful, hard, eye-opening, liberating, easily the greatest endeavor of our lives. As with everything in life, there's pros and cons to it all. I will not be the one to try to convince someone they should homeschool nor will I be the person to speak negatively about homeschooling. I fully realize we are not the typical homeschool family and I also realize there are many families like us, either already homeschooling or who have many questions about it. The working full time thing gets parents and makes them feel like it can't be done. It can. It's hard, but it can be done.