Can you homeschool if you work full time? Part time? In an office? At home? Yes, yes, yes, and yes!
While there are multiple topics on my blog about various aspects of homeschooling as a working parent, and I have written an ebook about my own experience as well as the statistics about working homeschoolers, many readers want the basics on how to start, what is required, and how to make homeschooling fit in their schedule.
There is a set of basics that you need to know in order to just get started working and homeschooling. Those basics are: legal notification, creating the schedule, choosing content or curriculum, and cultivating an educational mindset.
Once you have these things in place, it's important to find ongoing support to be successful; however, it helps to have these pieces laid out so that you can start making sense of everything.
Homeschool laws vary greatly by state, and they change often. Some states require no more than notification of what you are doing, some require reporting of attendance and curriculum, and some are highly regulated with a very bureaucratic process. Many states offer more than one option for homeschooling. My advice is to consult the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) before you begin so that you can clarify what your state options and requirements are.
For a very small monthly subscription (at the time of writing it’s $11 per month), you have unlimited access to educational counselors, legal advice, and legal representation if needed. HSLDA representatives will walk you through your state’s requirements and help you make sure you file everything properly while keeping proper records. They will also provide you with teacher ID’s and member discounts.
I should note that the reason you are able to homeschool so freely is largely due to this organization’s work over the past few decades. Even if you never have to use their services, you will be supporting an organization that has worked hard to give you this opportunity and continues to work hard to protect that opportunity. In my opinion, this is a must-have resource.
The schedule is the piece that working parents have to add to the homeschool puzzle. However, it is a very do-able piece for most families. Depending on your kids' ages and your work schedule, you will probably need to arrange for some type of childcare for the times when you are working. This can be done by professional caregivers, family and friends, other homeschooling families, homeschooling teenagers, or college students. You can learn more about your options in this post about childcare ideas.
The primary thing to remember when creating your family’s homeschooling schedule is that kids can do a lot independently and that school can happen any hour of the day or day of the week, and it can be integrated into family time activities like dinner discussion, game time, reading together, and more.
When your kids are younger, there will be more one-on-one time needed, but significantly less work needs to be done. An hour is usually plenty for those first few years, and upper elementary grades might gradually work in another hour.
Yes, you might need to log four hours a day of schooling, but that is not four hours of sitting at a desk doing traditional school work or 4 hours of teaching time. School can include a lot of life integration and play time (which is considered by experts to be a very important piece of early childhood education). It can include field trip activities and nature walks outside and family discussion about faith or current events. Those upper elementary students can spend a lot of their independent time reading, reading, and reading - or working on projects that interest them.
When your kids are older, they have a heavier workload but a greater ability to work independently. They might spend a couple of hours on independent work during the day, and a couple of hours of one-on-one time with you in the evening, either reviewing what they have done or learning concepts for the next day's work.
In the end, parent-child teaching time is often equal to or less than what you end up spending on homework. The added benefit is that you are in charge of the content, the schedule, and the pacing.
The other thing you have to consider is all of the stress and chaos that is reduced when you start homeschooling. When you have control of the content, schedule, and pace, life - even a busy life as a working parent - can become more manageable.
Homeschool curriculum has become a huge market. You now have choices for just about any kind of configuration you are looking for in content - traditional textbooks, literature-based curriculum, online programs, project-based programs, and more. Many have options that come with video instruction or self-grading. A working parent who wants to homeschool can find plenty of curriculum that will help with planning - even "done-for-you" schedules and plans.
The problem with curriculum is not finding it, but rather keeping from being overwhelmed by too many choices. There is also a great range of pricing - the more "done for you" it is, the more money. But you are in charge. So you can choose formal curriculum for some things and use the library/online resources for other things. Cathy Duffy Reviews is a great resource to learn about curriculum for various ages and various subjects; Cathy gives very thorough reviews of each product and publishes her most preferred on a top 102 picks list.
Many working parents make the mistake of assuming that because they work, they must choose an online program. This isn't necessary, while you might find that online programs work well for you, they can also make school longer and more difficult - it all depends on the curriculum and the individual student. Make sure you understand all of your options before choosing an online program by default.
Finally - and here is where I spend most of my time helping my audience, homeschool parents (especially those working) are most successful when they think of homeschooling as a change in mindset rather than just a change in the location of the books and worksheets.
The standardized school system is designed to be efficient for mass-schooling, but it's not necessarily the best for education, and learning the difference is important so that you are not always trying to replicate was schools are doing. You'll see a lot of this in my blog and my Facebook page content, but here are some select posts dealing with this topic:
Stop Stealing Dreams Ted Talk by Seth Godin
Do Schools Kill Creativity Ted Talk by Sir Ken Robinson
My free ebook:
From by blog:
Finally, community and support is important to stay on track, so I have written about the various online resources available for working homeschoolers to connect with others who are on the same journey.