How can you successfully homeschool your kids and work at the same time? Is that
even possible? Tune in to this week’s Homeschool Heartbeat as Pamela
Price—a blogger, author, and homeschooling mom—offers tips and guidance
for working homeschool parents.
Mike Smith: I’m joined today by Pamela Price. She’s a
homeschooling mom who’s also a journalist, a blogger, and the author of How
to Work and Homeschool. Pamela, welcome to our program today!
Pamela Price: Thank you so much, Mike, for the invitation.
Homeschool entrepreneurs [0:31]
Mike: Pamela, in your book, you describe homeschooling
parents—specifically those who also work—as homeschooling entrepreneurs.
What do you mean by that?
Pamela: Well, in my work as a journalist, I have interviewed and
talked with successful entrepreneurs. And they’ve all told me that their
independent businesses are really rooted in both a passion for their work and a
willingness to take risks and innovate. And as I began to look at homeschooling for
us, and then later as I looked at working while homeschooling, I began to see those
Entrepreneurs, just like homeschoolers, often will run against traditional advice
and get a lot of blowback from the choices that they make. But then they dig in and
they find ways to make it work. And I see that same pattern happening within the
homeschool [community]—and again, particularly within the working homeschool
community as well.
Mike: Well Pamela, what can our listeners do to become successful
Pamela: Well, the most important thing that I see when working
with parents and workshops is that taking the time up front to really inventory
strengths and weaknesses—both as a family unit and as individuals—and
finding out ways to promote growth for the whole “learning
laboratory”—what I call the home. Giving people a chance to find ways to
make the whole experience enjoyable, rather than feeling like it’s a burden.
And so that’s important to note: [having] clarity about why you’re making
the choice to homeschool can really keep you on track when life happens, things come
up that can push back on our commitment. But if we’re firmly rooted, and we
understand what we’re working toward, and where our individual challenges are,
we can become much, much more successful.
The diversity of homeschooling [2:22]
Mike: Pamela, what are some of the most common misconceptions
about families who homeschool?
Pamela: Well, Mike, I’ll be really honest. Before we became
a homeschooling family, I had fallen into having stereotypes about homeschoolers.
They were all from a particular faith-based perspective. They all dressed similarly.
They were all from two-parent families—one parent worked outside of the home,
[they were] usually from a fairly affluent background or had a vocation that paid
And as I lived as a homeschooler for several years and also worked with this
population and interviewed these parents, I’ve really come to just marvel at
the diversity which is even growing. In the time that we started homeschooling, I
encountered more and more single parents. I see more and more parents from different
I see a real surging interest in two demographics. One is in the African-American
community, where a lot of those families are feeling like their students aren’t
being served well and are embracing homeschooling as an alternative. And then
I’m also an ambassador for the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum, and a lot of the
families that come to us for assistance and guidance or are choosing to help their
gifted or twice exceptional child who maybe, for example, has a learning disability
or another sort of diagnosis that makes a traditional setting challenging for
them—they’re choosing to homeschool, some of them for many years, as it
looks like our journey is going to be all the way through. But then some of them are
short-term homeschoolers who are really dedicated for a couple of years until, say,
another educational opportunity opens up that’s a better fit, or placement in
another program can happen. But the diversity and the richness and texture is there.
I’m just not sure that the media has really fully caught on to it, although
they’re starting to, for sure.
Caring for yourself [4:21]
Mike: Pamela, what are the biggest challenges of homeschooling
and working at the same time?
Pamela: Well, obviously the challenges are going to vary pretty
widely by household and also by the line of work that the parent is trained in. So
there are certainly more occupations that are more conducive to working while
homeschooling. But across the board, factoring those differences in, the challenge
that I see come up the most is handling day care for those situations when the parent
has to have backup. And obviously [for] single parents, that’s going to be
their biggest challenge. But the more flexible a family’s schedule can become,
And one of the other challenges is [that] a lot of times parents think that they
have to work a traditional 8–5 school day. And anybody that’s been
homeschooling for a while will tell you, even if they choose to do it, everybody does
it a little differently. In the book I actually give some examples of schedules.
So getting people to break outside of those traditional ideas about when work has
to take place or who has to supervise it when, and how, can free up some of those
obstacles often, although the reality is sometimes people have to stick with another
alternative because they can’t get that daycare situation to work out. So
I’m real sensitive to that challenge.
Mike: Well Pamela, what are the characteristics of a successful
working homeschool parent that you’ve seen?
Pamela: You know, they’re very inquisitive. They’re
curious, they’re always looking for fresh ideas, fresh approaches.
They’re open-minded. One of the big things—and this is true of any
homeschooler, but I think it’s particularly true of working homeschool
parents—is once you’ve decided to do it, resisting that impulse to go buy
the “perfect curriculum,” and hand it out.
But the successful working homeschool parent [is one] who sits down and figures
out “What way does my child learn best? Which sort of method is going to help
him or her succeed in this, and how do I best teach and learn myself?” Having
those conversations in a de-schooling period where you back off the traditional model
for a little while and get to know one another again, and then making
choices—maybe unschooling is a better fit for you, maybe more of a traditional
model is a good fit for you and your kid—and then making a choice from there
And then the other thing is [that] working homeschool parents have to engage in
self-care. And that’s not just getting a pedicure, although that’s fun.
But [it’s] finding ways to reconnect with the part of you that makes you
you—whether it’s creating something, or engaging in a mindfulness
practice, or prayer—whatever centers you and anchors yourself as a person, can
really strengthen all the other work that you have to do.
Mike: Very good. So how many children do you have?
Pamela: I have one, who we started homeschooling—he has a
peanut allergy that is pretty significant. And then later as we got into it we found
all of the other reasons why we wanted to do it. And he’s very happy with
Mike: How old is he?
Pamela: He’s 10.
Mike: Oh, good. When did you start? What year was he?
Pamela: Well, we were going to send him to
kindergarten—they call it “roundup” because it’s
Texas—we were going to send him to kindergarten roundup, and the week before he
had a skin contact reaction with peanuts, and we pulled the plug.
So he’s inadvertently homeschooled since birth. But now there are so many
other reasons that we do it that have nothing to do with that at all.
The balancing act [7:49]
Mike: Pamela, working and homeschooling takes a lot of
coordination and effort from both parents. Do you have any specific strategies for
maintaining balance (and, of course, sanity) in a two-parent family home?
Pamela: You know, balance I think is the great elusive holy grail
of mid-life and raising children. I think balance is more apt to come in a household
where the adult or the adults have clarity and good communication about what they
need and what they want. And I think that negotiation is between the
two—between wants and needs. And continuing to make choices that reflect those
wants and needs is how balance eventually begins to come closer to reality.
One of the things I talk about in the book is a woman who shared with me how she
got all caught up in working and homeschooling and she lost her passion project and
drifted away from, again, what makes her feel meaningful and what makes her feel
connected. And when the parents do it, they model it for their children, and then the
children carry that forth in the world. And I think that in the end, the family unit
has that harmony that I think is what people want.
Single-parent homeschooling [9:08]
Mike: Well, that’s outstanding. Now, we’ve talked
about single parents and homeschooling. Is that really possible?
Pamela: It is. You know, that’s one of my favorite
demographics to work with and talk to: single moms and dads who are committed to
homeschooling while working and are able to put into place mechanisms for giving them
support when they need it: if they need somebody to watch the children when they go
to work, or if they go to pursue a project that’s meaningful to them
personally. Assuming you can get to that phase, those parents seem to have a real
clear connection with their kids that is nurturing and builds a sense of family that
can really help offset any hardship that may come about from being a single
We tend to think of single parents strictly in terms of people who are divorced or
widowed. But some of the people that I talk to are actually moms whose spouses are
deployed abroad, [who are] military. And what I see them doing—all of those
groups doing—is getting a schedule, getting a flow to their week that they
really set and they take care of, and also nurturing support, be it in the community
if they can get it, or also online, so that there’s somebody else to have that
rapport with to get clarity on what’s going to be meaningful for them and how
they can refine their skills.
The homeschool paradox [10:32]
Mike: Pamela, it’s no secret that families who homeschool
can’t do it alone, and working homeschool parents are no exception. Do you have
any tips for getting connected and finding support out there?
Pamela: Well, there is a How to Work and Homeschool Facebook page
that I run that has a few thousand people that come and you can ask questions or just
share resources, and of course I send information out.
That said, if I look at it from my own experience, I’ve really found that
it’s the individual relationships—and this can be in person or online, if
maybe you’re isolated in a community where there’s not a lot of
homeschoolers—but finding someone who will mentor you or, if they’re
starting the same time with you, really walk that journey with you, because
there’s just certain questions that no one else can answer. And so I’ve
found people through GHF, people can find groups through HSLDA, and eventually
you’ll start to know that you’re talking to one or two people often. And
then just make the extra effort to reach out to them.
What I’m seeing a lot lately is small groups forming on Facebook. So maybe
it’s in a particular part of a state, and maybe they’re not next-door
neighbors, but they’re 50–60 minutes away and can get together
occasionally—they might have a small Facebook group that they start, just to be
able to talk regionally. And then there’s always conventions that people can go
to, to look for other individuals. But I find with working homeschool parents, they
don’t get to go to the conventions as much, because of the time
conflicts—they’re sort of full. So online is really the way to go. Blogs,
too—blogs are another way to tune in to the community.
Mike: So Pamela, if there’s one thing that working
homeschool parents really need to remember, what would it be?
Pamela: It’s a paradox, because we have to work keeping the
end in mind while also living in the present. And our time with our children
ultimately is so brief and precious, and we know what kind of adults we’d like
for them to become, and we try to set into motion all of these enriching activities,
educational activities—we find the right model, the right curriculum.
But the reality is that a lot of times, taking a hike together, taking time to
welcome and nurture maybe a newborn child and teach older children how to take care
of that child. I had a friend that did that. She took five months off to really talk
[to her kids] about nurturing a child, a human being. Sometimes those lessons, those
life lessons, are the most critical and important educational contributions we can
make that grow adults that we want to see leave our house and start a house of their
Mike: Pamela, thank you so much for joining us this week, and for
offering the tremendous encouragement to parents who work and homeschool at the same
time. And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.