Working from Home: An Interview with Mike Smith

August 17–21, 2015   |   Vol. 124, Week 5

Are you considering a career as a work-at-home parent? This week on Home School Heartbeat, Mike Smith helps you find the home job or home business that fits your family’s needs.

“Parents with a yen for entrepreneurship have taken the risk of launching a home business—and discovered it to be more fulfilling than the 9-to-5 grind ever was.”—Mike Smith

This Week’s Offer

Looking for a way to work from home while you homeschool? This booklet asks key questions, provides basic information, and tells inspiring success stories. Click on the link to request your free copy.

Do you picture someone who works from home as either a computer wizard running an online business or a high-powered executive in his custom-designed home office? Well, think again! On today’s Home School Heartbeat with host Mike Smith, discover what working from home might look like for you.

Mike Smith: Not everyone who has the desire to homeschool also has the means. For single parents, households in which both parents must work, or families with tight finances, homeschooling is almost a luxury. Parents are faced with a stark choice: staying at home to teach their children, or going to work to provide for them.

As with most dilemmas, there is a third option—you may be able to work from home. If you haven’t considered it before, it may be because you imagine that working from home is only for people with MBAs and cushy home offices. In reality, working from home is as different as each person’s unique circumstances.

There are stay-at-home moms who run part-time sales businesses, bringing in extra money to cover extras like curriculum or a vacation. Some parents work out telecommuting arrangements with their companies—this allows them to keep their regular job, but perform it at home. Parents with a yen for entrepreneurship have taken the risk of launching a home business—and discovered it to be more fulfilling than the 9-to-5 grind ever was.

Working at home can be full- or part-time; it can mean starting your own business, working for someone else, or all of the above. It requires boldness, diligence, and creativity. There’s no magic formula for success, but if you are willing to work hard, working at home can work for you.

Mike: You may not fit your image of someone who works from home, but that doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for the job. With further investigation, you may discover that working from home is just right for your personality and situation.

One expectant mother realized that her job as a legal assistant could be done from a home office. She researched other companies’ flexible work policies and presented her own company with a proposal for allowing her to work from home. She is now able to stay at home with her young son while also working part-time at a job she enjoys.

Another young mother wanted to stay home with her newborn. After trying out two different home businesses, she discovered she had an aptitude for sales and became an Avon representative. It took a lot of hard work, but the income she earned allowed her to be a stay-at-home mom to her son and daughter.

A single mother needed extra income to supplement the child support she was receiving. She started her own business offering writing classes to homeschoolers. In turn, this has enabled her to continue homeschooling her children during the most expensive high school years.

If you think God might be providing a way for you through working from home, then pray for creativity to shape a job that fits you just right.

Mike: As with any major decision, start considering the option to work from home by honestly evaluating your situation. Ask yourself what goals you want to accomplish by working from home, what your qualifications might be, and what challenges you are likely to encounter.

Then, do your research! Take the time now to explore your options in depth. This will give you a much firmer footing when you begin working from home.

Your best source of information is the library. You’ll find plenty of reliable books to consult, as well as guidance for complying with local codes and making local business connections. Also, get advice from friends who either work from home or are experienced in business themselves.

A word to the wise: work-at-home scams are everywhere. Be very wary of job opportunities that you run across on the internet or in the classifieds. An ad that promises you can earn thousands of dollars a day is a ruse, pure and simple. To learn how you can protect yourself against scams, visit the websites of the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau.

Don’t rush the research stage. If you feel that your situation is an emergency, then seek a temporary solution for your family that allows you the time to make a wise decision about working from home. Looking for a quick fix can cause you to overlook important considerations, make poor decisions, and be more vulnerable to scams. Instead, trust the Lord will lead you to the right opportunity in His perfect timing.

Mike: Family involvement can be a positive or negative when working from home. Instead of exchanging your parenting hat for your office hat during the morning commute, you get to wear both at the same time. But work-at-home parents have developed many creative ways to balance work with family. For instance, one mother who holds writing classes in her home gives special prizes to her children if they quietly do their schoolwork while she teaches. Her business is a family affair!

Your spouse and children’s cooperation is integral to your success as a work-at-home parent. Chores, childcare, and schoolwork simply won’t get done if your family isn’t willing to exercise some responsibility. By delegating some of these tasks, you make it possible for your family to join with you in working toward a common goal.

Depending on the type of work you do, you may even be able to add your kids to the payroll! Most children love to help out with their parent’s work. Depending on their age, they can help stuff envelopes or develop marketing ideas. Just remember to investigate the legal and tax issues involved.

By setting clear boundaries and respecting them, you can successfully balance work and family. Your children need to know exactly when and how they can interrupt you while you’re working. And when your work hours are over, discipline yourself to shut down the computer, turn off your work phone, and give your full attention to your family.

Mike: Raising children is more than a full-time job, and working at home can be too. How do you add homeschooling to the mix?

Take advantage of the flexibility inherent in your work and in homeschooling. If you homeschool during the morning, work in the afternoon. You might schedule four long schooldays each week and work on Friday. Or work swing shifts with your spouse, sharing the teaching responsibilities. You could even team up with another work-at-home parent and take turns supervising each other’s children.

Your children—especially older ones—should be able to do some of their schoolwork without supervision. During your work hours, you may be able to set aside 10 minutes every hour or so to help out with study glitches.

Be sure to connect with your local homeschool community. Co-ops and group classes can lighten your teaching load, while relationships with fellow homeschooling parents can provide encouragement and fresh perspectives. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. No parent should homeschool alone!

As any work-at-home parent will tell you, staying on top of work and homeschooling is far from picture perfect. You’ll probably sacrifice some things—like your squeaky-clean home and extra activities—in order to do both effectively. But if this is what God has called you to do, the rewards are well worth it.

Remind yourself of why you decided to homeschool in the first place. Are your reasons still clear and valid? Stay focused on the goal, and you’ll find the motivation to persevere. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike SmithMike Smith

Michael Smith and his wife Elizabeth, along with Michael Farris and his wife, Vickie, incorporated Home School Legal Defense Association in 1983 and were the original board members. The Smith family’s lives changed dramatically when Mike heard a radio program in 1981 that introduced him to the idea of homeschooling. He and Elizabeth started homeschooling—taking it just one year at a time—to meet the academic and social needs of their children.

Mike came to HSLDA full-time in 1987 and has served as president of the organization since the year 2001. In addition to serving as president, he also is a contact lawyer for California, Nevada and Puerto Rico. All of Mike’s children are now grown, and three of the four were homeschooled. The most enjoyable part of Mike’s job is when he is able to go to homeschool conferences and meet what he calls America’s greatest heroes, homeschooling moms.

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