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“I Can’t Homeschool – I Have to Work!”


Recently, a visitor commented on a post on TheHomeSchoolMom about educating at home. The visitor expressed sentiments that homeschoolers often hear, including the idea that homeschooling is only for privileged families that can afford for at least one parent to stay home. This Ask Jeanne column is a response to the general notion that homeschooling is out of reach for many families because of finances.

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I would love to homeschool, but I have to work. It’s great that you can stay home, but that isn’t realistic for most families.

Woman thinking "I can't homeschool - I have to work!"

Jeanne’s Response:

Homeschooling families work out the balance of earning and providing education for their children in many ways, just as families with children in public school do.

Among both homeschool and public school parents, there are at-home parents (the majority are indeed mothers, but there are also dads who are the primary at-home parent), parents who both work, and single parents who are working.

Having an at-home parent is not in reach for all families; that’s for sure. That said, I’ve seen families sell their larger homes, SUVs, and minivans and move to less expensive places and drive Griswald station wagons in order to make their priorities happen – whether that be homeschooling or college savings for kids or starting a business.

And yes – in some cases, parents can’t shrink their expenses into the possibility of one parent staying home with kids. Absolutely. Those parents are fighting to put food on the table every day and pay the electric bill.

But you know what? Some of them still do indeed work for pay and homeschool. If you google “work+homeschool,” you’ll find a lot of information on how families make this work. Yes! As you can see from googling, some people are even finding a way to blog about it! There are even single parents who are homeschooling.

Child care can work in conjunction with home education, just as child care works in conjunction with preschool or school. Parents plan the child care, and then add their approach to homeschooling: some parents use online programs; others homeschool at night after work; others tag team the homeschooling by having each parent work a different shift and homeschooling when they’re off; some people team up with other families, trading kids on different days or for different subjects; some families use homeschool cooperatives (“co-ops”) or university model homeschool academies; some families have one parent work part-time; some families are fortunate to have the support of a grandparent who helps with homeschooling (some do it all!) or helps with housing, creating a two generation homeschool family. Still other families manage to homeschool by taking their kids to work with them!

And yes, some people do use blogs or Etsy sales as hobby income, but I also know some at-home moms who have been able to parlay their skills into serious cash. For others, sewing is actually a way to save money on kids’ clothes or make furnishings for a cozy home. Still others find crafting and blogging to be part of self-care, time out from being a 24-hour parent or from combining work – paid or unpaid – and raising a family.

None of these possibilities is right for everyone, of course! But my hat is off to the parents I’ve met who have had the ingenuity to work out how homeschooling, or having an at-home parent, or sending their kids to school, will work best for their family.

Raising kids is tough these days, and homeschooling can feel like it is for the elite. However, homeschoolers do represent a wide range of income levels, including families whose kids would be eligible for free and reduced price lunch programs if they otherwise attended school. That’s according to the latest income statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics (the feds who bring us the U.S. Census).

And one last thing about this? Homeschooling is not “school at home.” Many people who are sure that homeschooling can’t be achieved without an at-home parent may be unfamiliar with the potential efficiency of homeschooling. They are picturing having to move children through curriculum during a six- or eight-hour day at the pace of a school classroom. But helping fewer children learn, in ways that are well suited for them, without the institutional interferences of school (lining up for the bathroom, frequent test prep, children at many levels in one class, etc.), is something that can be accomplished in much less time than non-homeschooling parents sometimes imagine. Of course, child care beyond those hours is still something that has to be covered.

Working for pay and homeschooling is not for everyone. It’s not easy. But it’s definitely happening.

Some families are also able to find ways to have an at-home parent, whether their kids go to school or homeschool. Some families making this happen are cutting every economic corner they can to make this a priority; others are affluent.

Sometimes an “it-must-be-nice” disdainful attitude is what at-home parents and homeschooling parents are greeted with from people who have no idea what goes into making things work.

I promise: it’s complicated, just like the lives of parents whose kids go to public school and who work for pay.

Submit a question for Jeanne

Jeanne Faulconer

A popular speaker at homeschooling conferences, business groups, and parents’ groups, Jeanne Potts Faulconer homeschooled her three sons in North Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia for twenty years. Jeanne is director of Brave Writer's Homeschool Alliance, which provides homeschool coaching, community, and "grad school for homeschool" for parents. She is the contributing editor for TheHomeSchoolMom newsletter and writes the popular Ask Jeanne column, addressing homeschool parents' questions here at TheHomeSchoolMom. She is a former college faculty member, former editor and book reviewer for Home Education Magazine, a long-time editor for VaHomeschoolers Voice, and a news correspondent for WCVE, an NPR-member station. Holding her Master of Arts degree in Communication, Jeanne has conducted portfolio evaluations for Virginia homeschoolers for evidence of progress for many years.

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  1. Homeschoolmatriarch

    Yes while it is difficult at times it most certainly can be done says this single parent of (5) however HS (2). I resigned from a lucrative corporate position to now homeschooling daily, working at a local youth center where I work 6 hour days and take my children with me to work. We shop at thrift stores and live lean (food and amenities) and we are all happy for it! Oh and I work weekends delivering food where they are in tow as well (homeschooling opportunity galore with flash cards, Kindles, spelling and reading a loud).

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      Thanks for giving us an example of how homeschooling parents do make things work, and not necessarily because they are married and affluent. Homeschooling families come in many shapes and sizes, though certainly there are easier or harder situations for some families. We appreciate your comment and wish you well in your homeschooling!

  2. Jeanne Faulconer

    Hi Evelyn,

    People have a lot of pre-conceived notions about homeschooling and the people who do it. It’s a great feeling to find websites, articles, and groups which validate our own experience. I’m glad you were able to do that here.

    Homeschooling is a challenge in many different circumstances, but people manage to work it out.

    And there are those big upsides!

    We moved frequently as well, and not having to be in and out of different schools was a big bonus of homeschooling.

    Good luck on your continuing homeschool journey with that social butterfly!


  3. Evelyn

    I was very much appreciative of this article. I have been judged, asked if I am qualified, and simply viewed as crazy to homeschool as you say, it is not easy. I am a full time college student and getting ready to possibly work part time and still homeschool. You are right to say it’s nit a privilege but a choice. We have paid bills off, bought a lower priced home and we do see the benefit of homeschooling. Like anything else in life, if you want it , you can make it happen but sometimes that means giving up certain things. We gain family w travel and homeschooling since we are military. It keeps her from being pulled all the time and she has great social skills. Most never guess she is home schooled because she is such a social butterfly.
    Again thanks for letting me know I am not the only one who work and homeschool. I am sure it will be a challenge but we will get through.

  4. Patricia Allen

    I am having issues with juvenile court over truancy and yes my child is enrolled in homeschool program so a judge in Shreveport La. has me scheduled for court again 5/10/18 to force me because of socialization reasons to put my son back in public school even though he was bullied verbally and threatened sexually I need some guidance here!!

    • Jeanne Faulconer

      Hi Patricia,

      Sorry to hear of your challenges.

      The homeschooling laws are different in all fifty states, and truancy laws can also vary from state-to-state.

      Because of that, your best bet is to connect with your state homeschool organization for information.

      Truancy is a legal situation, and you should seek legal counsel. Provide your lawyer with information about how to homeschool legally in your state.

      If your state requires paperwork, notification, or documentation of homeschooling, be sure you have fulfilled all the requirements and submitted everything – and that you have proof that you have submitted everything. (In some states this might mean a sent email or a delivery receipt through the post office).

      In some states, “enrollment in a program” is not sufficient proof of homeschooling by itself, and there are other or additional steps you must take to legally homeschool. We here at TheHomeSchoolMom do not have expertise in each state, which is why we suggest you contact homeschool advocates in your state.

      In many states, being a homeschooler with all your paperwork in order is a protection from truancy charges.

      However, individual homeschoolers could be in circumstances where this is not the case.

      These circumstances include previously existing truancy charges (before a child was withdrawn to homeschool), custody issues, and other situations.

      Homeschooling does not necessarily provide a cover or exemption from truancy charges in these situations.

      I hope you are able to get everything sorted out successfully.

    • Jayne

      I am not a legal representative of any sort but I do know you have rights to choose.

      If socialization is a concern do you have him in any programs like after school.

      Karate, Lifetime Athletic, dance, etc.

      These instill the social aspect but in a different and smaller atmosphere than the public school.

      Stand up for what you believe while addressing the concerns.

      This meets what is best.

      That’s just my opinion.

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