We went to the bank on Tuesday, at 11 am. On Monday we had broken our piggy bank open after a couple years of saving. We brought all $180 worth of change to the bank and poured it down the coin counter in the lobby. When we took our ticket up to the teller, I ran into a physician I work with. We started talking and then she said “Hey, what are you doing here in the middle of the day with kids anyway?” I looked at her for a second, blinked, and spit it all out:
She looked confused, disoriented actually.
“Wha…you….Who homeschools your kids?”
“Um, well….we do?” sheepish smile.
At least that’s how I remember the conversation. Between my kids dancing around, the teller counting out all the bills and my anxiety about someone at work finding out that we homeschool, I think I may have blacked out there for a minute. At any rate, I was inspired to write about being a working professional and homeschooling parent. (And for the record, this particular physician is a lovely, thoughtful and kind person. I don’t want to imply otherwise.)
While homeschooling itself is not that common (about 3.3% of all students), among students who are homeschooled, it is not unusual for both parents to be in the workforce. According to data from the National Household Education Survey Program, about a third of homeschooled kids live in two parent homes where both parents work outside the home. Contrast this with 44% of students in traditional school.
I think the confusion comes in when you imagine homeschool being the same as a traditional classroom but located in a living room. This would require the homeschool parent to be giving lessons to kids sitting in desks for at least 6 hours a day, and then grading homework and tests in the evening. If that were the case, it would be pretty hard to have another career on the side. However, that is not how we approach learning. If we wanted our kids to have that type of education, we wouldn’t have decided to homeschool.
One of the big advantages of homeschooling is the flexibility, both in the way to plan your day and in the curriculum used. There are so many resources and different technologies available. You can design your own curriculum, use homeschool texts with pre-set lesson plans, watch videos, enroll in online classes, or use a combination of these. In our case, we read a lot, write a lot, use online classes, videos, and some lessons from textbooks. I sit with and teach the kids for some of this, just as I used to help them with homework when they were in traditional school. I spend a lot more time with Benny than I do with Miriam and Juanito, due to his age and ability to concentrate and
work independently. I have a friend who is a well respected, hard working healthcare executive. Her high school daughter is “homeschooled” and does public school online. Another family we know uses different texts, online classes and private tutors. Still another family we know exclusively uses homeschool text with pre-set lesson plans. You will find as many variations as there are homeschooled kids.
Probably the best example of a working homeschooling parent is the homeschool hero Marie Curie. Marie Curie was a Polish born scientist who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 and the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1911. She was the first person to ever win the prize twice. She famously homeschooled her two daughters, one of whom, Irene Curie, later went on to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935.
Homeschooling isn’t easy and neither is being a doctor, but somehow doing them at the same time has made our lives better. It seems that we are in good company.