You Can’t Work and Homeschool . . . Can You?


“You can’t work and homeschool, can you?” I’ve heard this question so many times.

I’m a homeschooling mom (as I’ve talked about before), but that wasn’t the plan. If you had asked me even six months before we started homeschooling if I thought it was an option, I would have literally laughed. As someone with a full-time career as a professor, homeschooling seemed completely impossible . . . until it was the only feasible option (for reasons I won’t get into here).

Then, a year later, I found myself unexpectedly laid off.  Suddenly, I could reinvent my work-life balance with homeschooling as a central pillar rather than a tacked-on extra.

I’ve had the opportunity to homeschool while working full-time, part-time out of the home, and part-time in the home. I’ve also had the wonderful opportunity to share tips with a host of other working homeschool parents.

Here’s what I have learned.

Homeschool Doesn’t (Have to) Look Like “School”

One of the first things to know about homeschooling as a working parent is that most homeschool doesn’t look like traditional school. In our home, we homeschool year-round, and a lot of our work takes place on evenings and weekends.

People usually balk at that revelation, picturing my children missing out on fun times because they’re trapped at a desk when everyone else is out playing. But that’s not the case at all.

Having a flexible homeschool schedule means that we can fit in fun as our moods dictate and opportunities arise rather than when the calendar or the clock tells us to do it.

Sometimes Work and School Happen Simultaneously

When you have such a small class size (in my case, usually one student), you don’t have to spend a lot of time on “instruction” for most tasks. I can often set my daughter (who just started third grade) up with a task to do. While she’s working on her assignment, I can work on mine right next to her. If she needs help, I can stop what I’m doing and give her some assistance.

young child sitting in a bucket pouring water from a cup
And sometimes work gets done while you let the kids make a mess nearby! Photo by Lubomirkin on Unsplash

Homeschool Doesn’t Always Take Place at Home

Another misconception I had about homeschool is that it would take place, well, at home.

In actuality, there are a ton of resources for homeschoolers that get kids out and about with other learners.

Homeschool co-ops, external classes at places like art centers and the YMCA, independent sports clubs, and special homeschool and after-school offerings through libraries, the zoo, and other museums means that a homeschooled student may be spending several hours a week somewhere else. This is time that a homeschooling parent can use to get some work done.

Thinking Outside the Box Offers Opportunities

I was really set in a standard Monday-Friday 9-5 mindset for both work and school, so I hadn’t really considered unique child care arrangements. Most working homeschool parents I know have found creative ways to get some much-needed quiet time or to work outside of the home. Here are some of the arrangements I’ve used or seen used:

  • Parents working opposite schedules
  • Trading childcare with another homeschooling family so that each parent gets some child-free days
  • Hiring a “mother’s helper” (usually a younger teenager who is also homeschooled) to come entertain and supervise younger children while the parent works from home
  • Finding another homeschooling family or an in-home daycare where the parent provides paid childcare from their home (often with much more flexible schedules than traditional daycare providers)

Flip the Script on Workday Priorities

In the past, I prioritized my tasks based on deadlines. I worked on whatever was due first and finished them in order based on that schedule. Now, however, I categorize my tasks into those that require uninterrupted concentration and those that do not.

Creative work, phone calls, and video conferences have to take place on my days without kids at home. That means that tasks that require less concentration or that can take place with some background noise get set aside and picked up on the other days.

I never thought that homeschooling was in my future because I knew that working was a priority for me. My work fills me with energy and excitement (and the paycheck isn’t exactly an afterthought, either). Finding a way to keep doing what I love while also being able to provide my kids with the educational experience that fits them best has been a tricky balance (that’s sure to keep evolving), but it’s a journey that has been worthwhile and rewarding.