Catholic Homeschool Articles, Advice & Resources

Homeschooling & the Working Mom – Life Hacks that Make it Work


For many different reasons, some parents must work outside the home while homeschooling. How do they make that work? We ask four working moms for answers.

It’s May, and you race home from a day of teaching homeschool seminars in Asheville to whisk two sons off to soccer practice—or somewhere.

Later you won’t remember that detail. You go upstairs to tell your wife you’ll take the boys to practice, and you find her collapsed on the bedroom floor, unconscious but still breathing.

Then come the ambulances, hospitals, doctors, nurses, your other children driving home all night from college, the neurosurgeon’s verdict, and a bishop’s advice about Church teaching on care for the dying, and five days later your wife is dead. The funeral, the burial, and the summer remain only as a blur of memory.

And now it’s fall and your sixteen-year-old and nine-year-old, who have homeschooled their entire lives, require your help.

Keeping the Balance Straight

How do you keep homeschooling and still earn a living?

The scenario above is not fictional. I wish more than anything else in this world it was.

My wife died of a brain aneurysm in 2004. My two sons, like their older siblings, were always educated at home. And I was determined to keep homeschooling them, because I believed in home education—I had done much of the teaching—and because my wife would have wanted it that way.

I was blessed with help: a sister living in nearby Asheville, the donations of food, money, and childcare from the homeschooling community, the co-ops and other educational opportunities available to my boys outside of the home.

Because I needed to make money as well as teach my sons, I closed my bookstore, sold my house, moved into an apartment, and expanded my seminars for homeschoolers. In this way, I could earn a living wage as a teacher and bring my youngest son to my classes, an arrangement that allowed him to make many friends and to take most of my courses.

Like me, albeit for many different reasons, some homeschooling parents must both teach at home and work a job. How do they make that work?

Let’s find out.

How Working Mom’s Make it Work

Many moms who work seek help from grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even older siblings. With today’s technology, even distance learning with relatives is a possibility. Grandkids can learn history or math via Skype from their grandparents, an arrangement that not only helps with the academics, but also strengthens the bonds of an extended family.

When an option, home education co-ops also offer assistance to working mothers.

In Front Royal, Virginia, for example, the Padre Pio Academy operates Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays during the academic year at the local Catholic church. The K-12 students enrolled at Padre Pio use books and supplies from Seton Home Study School, and do additional schoolwork at home on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Now let’s visit four Front Royal moms who use the Seton curriculum for their children while working outside the home.

All four working moms cited finances as the primary reason for working outside of the home: unexpected medical costs, the need to repair a house, the costs of college education.

“Ideally,” says Elizabeth H., “I don’t think women should be working out of the home. But our house needed major repairs, and we were struggling to help our older kids with college.” To this same question, Anne S., a mother of ten with four children still in the home, says, “Necessity, purely. I would never do it if I didn’t have to help support my family.” Catherine T.A , a mother of six homeschooling children, simply said, “We needed the money.”

Mary B., a single mother of six, responds with one word as to why she is working: “Survival.” She laughs, and then adds, “Food and electricity.” Without the support of a husband, Mary has no choice other than to work full-time.

So how do these working moms juggle the obligations of a job with their homeschooling?

Two of them depend first and foremost on relatives and older children for support. Elizabeth has the help of her daughter, Katie, who lives in the house with her husband, a graduate student, and her small children. Katie drives her younger siblings to activities like soccer and helps them with their schoolwork.

Anne likewise has help from an older daughter and has also enrolled her children at the Padre Pio co-op. She stresses the importance of organization and keeping a balance between work and family.

She encourages other working moms to seek out relatives, friends, or older homeschoolers who might help with the children’s homeschooling. “Look around for help. Be creative.” Catherine’s teenagers pitch in and help teach their younger siblings.

Mary’s son, a high school senior, still homeschools, but lacking help outside the home, she was forced to enroll her younger children in Catholic and public schools.

Not Ideal, but Real

All four women mentioned that both a schedule and flexibility within that schedule are important in juggling their obligations at work and in the home. Mary’s son, for example, must sometimes leave school and go to a local coffee shop to read or study until his mom can pick him up. Anne and Catherine work part-time and in jobs with flexible hours. Both women can do some of their work at home.

All of these moms agreed that their situation is not ideal. All regret the time given to work and taken from their families. Mary found that one huge drawback to working full-time and raising children is missing out on certain occasions like school parties or sports events. In an email, Anne wrote some advice that applies to all homeschooling moms:

“Accept the inevitable sacrifices of your personal time and preferences with grace and good cheer. However, you can’t give what you don’t have, so every mom needs to find some time somewhere each week to recharge batteries and stay healthy….exercise, alone time, friends time, music, good reading, quiet prayer….think carefully about your routine and how you can change it to fit in time for these things too. You want to avoid being an unhappy, frazzled mom (and wife).”

Finally, all these women stressed the importance of prayer and faith in their busy days. As Anne says, “Finally, I would say, work always on beefing up your prayer life. Entrust your family to the Lord, with confidence in His love and care.”

(The women in this article and their comments are real. For a variety of reasons, I have changed their names.)

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