Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. Sometimes things are going along just fine and then without warning, you are faced with big changes, big decisions.
After being home with my kids for 30 years and homeschooling for 22 of those years, I was faced with the need to go back to work. I’d been self-employed as an educational consultant for 6 years when the state changed the homeschool laws and the need for my services diminished. It was the perfect job, requiring a predictable time commitment that was flexible enough to allow me to teach my own boys and still earn some money. When that opportunity disappeared we thought we could manage without that income.
It didn’t take long to realize that circumstances were not working in our favor financially and I would need to find a job. Fortunately my youngest sons are now in high school and can manage most of their school work on their own. But my decision to go to work meant changes for the whole family.
So can you combine work and homeschooling successfully? Even just a part-time commitment requires some adjustments but it can be done and can have some surprising results. Here are some of the things that help make it work.
Present changes in a positive way. If you have been home with your children and are faced with going back to work you will need your family’s cooperation. When discussing the changes make it as positive as you can. Talk about the changes honestly, but also try to get your family on board from the start with a positive spin. Help them to see it as a new adventure, an opportunity to pull together and make something good happen. Let them brainstorm with you about how they can be a part of making it all work. Try not to complain but instead find ways to show enthusiasm for what lies ahead.
Establish new responsibilities for each family member. The reality is, you aren’t going to be able to do all the things you’ve been doing and work too. There just isn’t enough time or energy to do that well. This means you must enlist the help of your family. No child is too young to participate in some way and everyone will grow through the experience. If you have older children, they can take on many of the responsibilities that you have been doing. They can do laundry, cooking and cleaning. They may even be able to run errands if they are old enough. Younger children can learn to do smaller jobs like folding laundry, sweeping, and putting away groceries. You may need older children to help the younger ones with their schoolwork as well. Whatever you do, make sure that everyone knows what’s expected of them.
Expect your kids to rise to the challenge. It feels good to know others think they can depend on us. Help your children take ownership of their new responsibilities and be sure to thank them in advance for how much help they are going to be to you. If you expect the best from them they will be more likely to rise to the challenge and take on more responsibility. When you talk to them about doing their part tell them how glad you are that they are mature enough to step in and help out.
Have clear boundaries for yourself. It will help you a lot to decide right from the start that you are not super woman and you cannot do it all yourself. You need time to rest and time to take care of your own health. If you don’t, you and your family will all suffer. You may have to relax the standards you’ve used as a guideline for your household. Focus on what’s really important and let the rest go for now. You will find a rhythm that works as you give it some time.
When you need help, say so. Now is not the time to play that guessing game that moms sometimes play. It’s not the time to work yourself to the bone and wait to see if anyone notices. Now is the time to speak up and ask for help when you need it. You will do no one any good if you are resentful and irritable because of unmet expectations. You can’t expect your family to read your mind and anticipate your needs. You need to be assertive and ask for help.
Life will be different than it was when you were home all day. The changes that come with this new lifestyle can be good for everyone involved. It will take more planning than it used to and you will need to be more organized but you will all grow from the experience. You will also need to get creative. You don’t have to do your schooling from 8-3 just because that’s when the schools are in session. Work your homeschooling around a schedule that works best for your family.
So now, at my house, I have boys who are doing nearly all the housecleaning. They also do the laundry and they each take a turn making a meal each week. The older boys help the younger one with his school work if he needs it and they all are taking more responsibility for their own belongings. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a perfect system. We are in no way the perfect family, but we are trying to make the best of a less than optimal situation and we are doing it together, as a family. We are growing together and learning together, just like we’ve always been doing, but with new challenges that stretch us to grow even more.