“Wait… You work full-time and homeschool? Is that even possible?” That’s the question I used to hear most when I met other parents. Now, in the virtual-learning era many of us are living in, I’ve realized that what parents really want to know is how the heck we make that work.
The truth is, homeschooling is not the right fit for all families, and it isn’t always easy. But for us—even as busy executives—homeschool has been a dream come true. We love it and our children are thriving.
Here’s a glimpse into how we make it happen.
1. We get a head start.
My husband and I both get up early. We take a quick walk and grab some coffee. Then we’re at our desks by 5:30 a.m. (We both work from home.) Before our teams or bosses are online—and before our kids (the real bosses) are up—we tackle our most important projects.
2. We divide and conquer.
Our girls get up between 7 and 8 and my husband takes the first shift. He helps them make beds, dresses them, brushes their teeth, styles their hair, and gets breakfast started. During that time, I get ready and knock out some morning projects. Then I jump in for morning lessons with the girls while he has morning meetings. We trade-off like this all week long, sharing parenting, schooling and household responsibilities. Committing to those swaps (and clearly communicating about them) has become a critical part of our balancing act.
3. We get the kids moving before lessons.
We also get the kids moving first thing in the morning. It’s a huge help to the rest of our day. When it’s warm, we send them out to jump on the trampoline or run around the garden. In the winter, we have them do a kid’s dance or yoga video or even let them kick a ball around the house! That activity boosts their moods, creates better behavior and helps them focus when it’s time for school. Plus, supervising them from the porch while plowing through emails has become a favorite work ritual of mine.
4. We batch parent-led learning and independent learning.
The next couple hours of our morning, we knock out our parent-led learning (subjects where the kids need me to teach them directly). I do this most days because it’s a passion of mine, but my husband and mom will fill in when needed. We start with a morning basket where we rotate through subjects like poetry, science, reading, classical composer and artist studies, Bible study, and social/history studies. We then complete math and language arts lessons. Since there’s no filler (or large crowds of kids to care for like when I was previously a teacher), this usually only takes a couple hours.
Then it’s time for independent learning activities (handwriting practice, music practice, art projects, independent reading, life-skills practice, and online classes for things like science or foreign language). For these activities, the kids are in a good routine and don’t need hands-on supervision (though we arrange childcare help for these hours on busy meeting days). It varies by day, but most days we are able to complete all formal lessons by lunchtime. We then leave the afternoons flexible for appointments, household or homeschool catch-up, and more outside time.
5. We get creative about finding help.
Almost all homeschool families I know rely on some type of support system. That’s especially true in families where both parents work or in single-parent households. That help can be paid or free, but the journey is always more successful with a strong support system. For us, that looks like grandparents who help with childcare, homeschooling and taking the kids to activities. We also enroll our children in lessons outside of the house to create a few (blissful!) hours of uninterrupted work. Those currently include occupational therapy, horseback riding, swim lessons and gymnastics—in addition to playdates with friends and neighbors.
We’re also privileged to be able to hire out lawn care and house cleaning services a couple times per month. I also don’t cook very often during the week, making extra on the weekends or sharing the load with my husband. (Or, let’s be honest, ordering takeout!) We also do some creative resourcing by having our kids take a few online classes, using subscription boxes for art, science or S.T.E.M projects, and selecting academically strong curriculums that don’t require a ton of prep from us.
Homeschooling isn’t the right path for every family, but, especially in a year like 2020, many families are finding that it’s a wonderful solution—even working families like ours. While we do invest in our children’s education, homeschooling has proven to be significantly less expensive than private school and affords us the ability to travel as a family when we want. (Remember travel?) It also lets us provide individualized education plans tailored to our children’s needs. We love having more time with them and being involved in their learning.
Suzie Barbour is a full-time COO and entrepreneur. She’s the founder of Homeschool Vibes, a company that provides resources and real-talk for working parents who homeschool. She resides in the Nashville, Tennessee, area with her husband and two daughters. To learn more about Suzie and the resources she has available, visit her website or Instagram account.