Every truth has four corners: as a teacher I give you one corner, and it is for you to find the other three. Confucius

21 May 2017

Working and Homeschooling

Hello Everyone,

Today I'm talking about my experiences as a working (outside of the home) and a work at home homeschooling parent. It's a bit of a loaded topic but as I have done both I'm comfortable commenting on the subject for the sake of sharing my experiences :)

When Alexandra (now 20) was young I was a sole parent and lucky enough to work in an industry that supported me taking her to work with me from the age of 9 months, once I felt able and impoverished enough to return to the workforce. I also worked fairly late into my pregnancy so the physical/mental transition back to work wasn't a huge wrench.

Taking Alex to work with me went relatively smoothly until she started school, when I just altered my work hours to accommodate her school day. I remarried not long after this and arrangements went fairly smoothly until problems at school started and worsened over the course of several years, putting a strain on us all emotionally and until we decided to school Alexandra at home.

In the meantime, we welcomed Jay into the family unit, and he was a toddler by the time we withdrew Alex from school.  I was mainly at home, doing occasional relief days at work when my husband was available to look after the kids.  I left work within the first few months of homeschooling Alex, where I remained for nearly ten years, until Freida was six and Jay was nine.

I'm telling all of this to illustrate the diverse nature of homeschooling families, we're not all two parent married forever units with a massive single income. There are plenty of those, as are there plenty of awesome single mums and dads, blended families, and low income couples meandering the homeschooling path these days.

I returned to work a couple of years ago, to do the kind of work I felt driven to do, in child protection. The intensity of this work really stretched me emotionally and physically and I'm not sure how I managed to do it for over two years and continue with homeschooling outside of an amazing support network and equally amazing, humble, compassionate kids at home who got my intentions and understood my fatigue and stayed on task as learners. I think the outsourcing of dance, drama, scouts and science facilitated our natural learning style.  It also meant that the demands of my work schedule didn't impact too heavily on the children's ability to learn from people more knowledgeable and talented than me in their areas of expertise, and allowed them to have fun with other kids.

I have since stepped back from work and will take time to focus on homeschooling while my kids are young, but they don't see my years at work as damaging or torturous as my guilt at being an 'absent' parent would trick me into believing. When I mentioned my tiredness, thinking I was the most impatient, negligent homeschooling parent ever they would look at me quizzically and say "it's fine Mum" and as they appear happy and content I just have to believe them.

Fortunately, I had the option to alter our lifestyle to accommodate being at home with our kids, and most homeschoolers I know are proficient at adapting their outgoings to suit a one income wage bracket. However, not everyone has the option to homeschool without working, nor do they necessarily want to. The camaraderie, feeling of achievement and  joy of working keeps many people in the workforce by choice.

Working as a parent (especially a primary carer) can be guilt inducing though. Especially working as a homeschool parent, in my experience, can leave you feeling as if you are in a definite minority group.  I think this will lessen generally over time as more people choose to homeschool and society caters more for homeschooled kids and their families who need/choose to work.

I know of several workplaces where companies have a kids room set up for employees where there is a lounge, computer, air hockey, pool table etc where older kids can spend a few hours to a day a week hanging out and allowing both parents to work guilt free for a limited time. This is still definitely rare but is becoming more common all the time.

As for being a stay at home parent again, I am loving the natural rhythm of our days. We are generally more relaxed and are finding time between activities to chat about what is going on in ours and the wider world. We are able to decide each day what we feel drawn to do, and after several years of a fairly closely timetabled life, my appreciation for free time as a family unit is massive.

I have a renewed respect for those courageous souls who continue to homeschool while working outside of the home as well as those committed stay at home parents who face the question 'so what do you do?'  on a regular basis. I have an appreciation for the many different forms that homeschooling families take and a renewed desire to not judge anyone's journey. I have hope for a future more accommodating to working families and their children as homeschooling continues to grow in popularity.

Right now though, I'm off for a hike at our local conservation park with my beautiful children, just because we feel like it :)

Talk Soon, Cynthia x