I am a mom of three boys, I work full-time and also homeschool….pre-COVID-19. In 2019, my husband and I made the decision to homeschool our Autistic son, who was 8 years old at the time. You can read about why we made that decision here. This decision was not made lightly as we were faced with some challenges. Along with our 9-year-old son, we also have two younger boys aged 4 and 5 years old. I was working full-time and working towards earning my licensure to become a licensed therapist. Although we are a two-parent home, my husband works out of state and visits every three weeks. So what we were balancing was the decision to leave our son in school, without the needed support or homeschool while working a full-time job and running a household alone.
The journey was difficult, to say the least, and I currently have a love/hate relationship with homeschooling. However, my son has enjoyed his journey. I have had the pure joy of watching him grow intellectual and thrive emotionally. I have been able to witness confidence blooming as he was able to learn his way, which in fact was not very traditional. Throughout my journey, I had a lot of trials and errors trying to find what works for my family. We are still on the discovery and learning path, but we have found many successes along the way. Here are five things that I did throughout the year to help with my work/life balance and successful homeschool.
One of my biggest struggles in life is that I am a procrastinator. It definitely made homeschooling and working very hard. To counteract my procrastination I invested in calendars and planners for myself, the family, and my son. I synced all of our calendars so that we would all know what to expect in the day. My son has his own planner and calendar, this has allowed him to exercise his autonomy and take accountability for his education. Not having to be the one to remind everyone of their appointments and activities really decreased some of the stressors of being in charge. It also improved my feelings of being pulled in so many directions.
Maximizing Errand Time
In an effort to make time to do ALL the things, I began merging life and education. This was definitely not a new concept but it was something that really helped along with time management. My son became my errand buddy. I would take him with me to go to grocery stores, post office, banks, sometimes even the office if necessary.
At the post office, my son was able to partake in shipping and mailing out packages and understanding how the post office works. When we would go to the bank, he engaged in social skills, speaking with the teller, writing out a deposit or withdrawal slip, using appropriate tone and appropriate body space. While at the store we did a lot of math, reading, and life skills. My son engaged in writing out a list, reading from the list, reading labels, price comparisons, estimating the cost of the fruit that had to be weighed, money management, and budgeting. At home he would help me cook which required him to read directions, measure, learning cooking skills, and tips to make different meals.
Although this was not in our homeschooling plans, it became a necessary edition. In my mind, I was beginning to doubt our decision and would think that I was failing my son as he was not getting 8 hours of traditional education. Even my husband was wavering in his support as he feared my son was missing out on key learning time.
Then I began to notice that our son was thriving. I noticed his joy in being able to spend time with me, living life. He found excitement in getting to do so many different things that were mundane, but to him, were amazing. I began to notice that he was more engaging and developing key social skills. This was working for him and that is what mattered.
I could not put into words the amount of stressful, agonizing, and joyful it is to homeschool and work a full-time job. It was so overwhelming most of the time and rewarding in spurts of moments. I had days when I felt like a fraud and failure. There were really bad days when I was ready to enroll my kid back into school. I was drowning in responsibilities, having difficulty sleeping, and wasn’t sure that I could make it another day.
Eventually, I found hope in being able to outsource some of my responsibilities to help balance my life. I hired a house cleaner to come in once every three weeks to help with cleaning. My mother in law helped to watch and supervise my son while I worked out of the home. My siblings helped with transporting my son to appointments and activities. When he was home, my husband took over some of the homeschooling responsibilities. I enrolled my son in Kumon Math and Reading Center to help with his Reading and Math. I also purchased no-planning curriculums to eliminate the work in planning. These few things allowed me to focus more on homeschooling and job responsibilities.
Outsourcing may not always be a possibility for one reason or another. Some other options are bartering services or co-teach with another homeschooling family. Whatever you do, don’t be afraid to reach out to your village and outsource what you can.
The idea that I somehow had the audacity to think that I had time for myself was laughable. I barely had time to wipe my nose. There were times that I only slept for three hours because I went to bed at 3 am and needed to wake up at 6 am for work. I was so busy running around doing ALL the things for my family and trying to keep up with my job responsibilities that I was neglecting myself. Then I was reminded, that I couldn’t fill from an empty cup. I wanted to do ALL the things but I had no energy and really no motivation to do them.
My self-care started by carving out time for myself. I pushed up my kids’ bedtime up an hour early. This gave me more time to do what I needed without constant interruptions. I bought my kids’ headsets and implemented quiet time. They were able to have their electronic time but it had to be done quietly or else they would not be able to use their electronics. I took part in a girls’ night at least once a month. I started taking naps in the middle of the day. And if my kids bothered me, they were taking forced naps with me. All these things helped to rejuvenate me and made life just a little bit easier.
My homeschooling journey is far from over, but these five things have made homeschooling while working a full-time job more manageable.
Are you a homeschooling mom that works full-time? What other tips can you suggest?