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7 childcare ideas for working and homeschooling - get creative

The most challenging issue for most parents who want to work and homeschool is finding options for childcare while they are working. It is the one hurdle that can hold everything else back, so it is worth spending time to get this issue worked out before moving on with your homeschool plans.

However, let me offer another perspective. As time management expert Laura Vanderkam explains in this blog post, school is not childcare; childcare is an issue for every working mom. Homeschooling parents just have longer and more frequent hours to cover than parents who use an institutional school for education. In both situations, we end up doing what it takes to make it happen. Sometimes we just have to get creative.

Remember, school can happen any time of day or any day of the week, and it can be done with a combination of independent work and parental instruction. If you look at the total hours in your week and work with all of it, you will find that you actually have plenty of time to fit in work and school. Any parent who regularly spends 3-5 hours at night helping with homework quickly realizes that they are actually homeschooling without control of the curriculum. Homeschooling gives you more flexibility with that time and more authority over how to spend it.

Family (or Friends)

Not everyone has the option to use family for regular childcare; but if you do, this is an ideal option. If you have parents, other family members, or even close friends who can help with childcare even on a part time basis, this provides a strong and supportive environment for your kids. If mom lives close by and is supportive of homeschooling, I would start with asking her for help.

Staggering Shifts

If you are married, you and your spouse might be able to stagger work times or even work days to cover the majority of your childcare needs. Or, if you are single, working non-traditional shifts can open up childcare options for you as more friends and family may be available in the evenings or on weekends. You might still need some part time childcare, but this reduces the amount of coverage that you need.  This also makes it easier for both parents to be involved in teaching. Of course, you will have to be very intentional about finding time to spend together if you choose this option. It can be done - even before I started homeschooling, my husband and I had to work opposite shifts often. It's challenging, but we made it work.

Homeschool Families

Homeschool families are usually very passionate about homeschooling. Most of us would love to help a family out who is trying to make this work. If you can find more than one family who is willing to share in childcare or transportation to classes and activities, this can be a perfect combination.  This is an area where you might be able to find creative ways of compensating families for childcare. Maybe you can teach a subject or teach a practical skill to the families of other children, essentially creating a small co-op. Some families might not need high monetary compensation, but if your income allows you to purchase more expensive curriculum options that a stay-at-home mom can't afford, you have a good trade-out opportunity. 

High School-Aged Homeschooled Students

This is a common option for working parents. Homeschooled students who are in high school have flexible schedules, they understand homeschooling well, and they usually have a lot more time in their week than traditional school students. They also tend to be more affordable than a full-time adult nanny.  While you probably can't utilize a singe homeschool student for 40 hours of childcare, a couple of students can probably cover your schedule well.  

College Students/Graduate Students

College students can offer a lot of the same benefits that homeschooled students do. This is another option where having a couple of students on rotation probably works best, and graduate students most likely have more availability during daytime work hours. However, it's a great job for someone who has studying and assignments of their own to complete. They can work side by side with your young student. If you find a student who is specializing in early childhood education, it can be an internship-like opportunity for them.

In-Home Childcare Centers

The growing number of in-home childcare centers, where a small number of children are cared for in the owner's residence, could be an opportunity for working parents who want to homeschool. This is the only option that I haven't officially seen or heard of in use yet (that doesn't necessarily meant it's not being done), but I do see it as an option with great potential. If the other ideas listed here are not working out, I suggest making a list of local childcare homes and contacting them. Some might welcome the new opportunity.

Hire a Full Time Sitter

I saved this option for last, as I know that a full time nanny is not affordable for many families.  However, it is a realistic option for many as well. If your job allows you the financial margin to hire a caregiver, then this piece of the puzzle is easy to solve. Chances are that your "time off" is what is lacking, so having someone who can work with your child one-on-one under your direction can be helpful.

What About Older Children Staying Home?

If your children are old enough to stay home, they might be able to work independently during the day. I did this, and it worked well for us. This will not work for everyone, so you have to evaluate your individual situation. This includes things like your child's maturity, how far help is if needed, and how safe your neighborhood is. We were blessed with a tight community that included multiple stay-at-home moms that we knew very well, so we were confident in the support we would receive. I have also talked with a mom who works in an office but keeps Skype open all day while she is working so that she is virtually connected with her teenage son. 

Putting in the Work

Some of these ideas might require you to step outside your comfort zone a little, such as contacting homeschooling families or childcare providers. It's not easy, but if you approach this task with the same sense of purpose that you would for after-school care or another situation where you HAVE to find a solution, you will find more resolve to solve the problem. And above all else, pray for wisdom and guidance as you work to find the best option for your family.