In the wake of the pandemic, more families are choosing homeschooling than ever before. As was the case before COVID-19, a good number of parents will likely find a way to homeschool while also maintaining an outside job. But I imagine others may be facing the reality that homeschooling is the only job you can reasonably manage.
If you’re in the latter group, you could be experiencing a range of emotions.
As you can imagine, you make many adjustments when leaving a job to dive into full-time parenting and homeschooling.
In a survey conducted in the 1990's, the authors of Staying Home: From Full-Time Professional to Full-Time Parent asked over 300 women about their experiences leaving the workforce to stay at home with their children. Though the survey was not specifically about homeschooling, the respondents identified the top drawbacks of staying at home, giving us insight into what challenges we “professional” homeschool moms can anticipate and minimize.
The top-ranking problem of stay-at-home moms was feeling isolation. I can attest that being around children far more often than fellow adults can be quite lonely. Unfortunately, this problem is not unique to stay-at-home moms or homeschoolers right now—we are all quite socially restricted. Actually, homeschooling may currently give us an advantage since our more flexible schedules could allow more opportunities for connection. I’ve seen many moms joining homeschool groups on Facebook and looking for people willing to join a “pod” or meet in whatever capacity makes them comfortable under current guidelines. With the rising number of homeschoolers, there is a greater chance of finding and connecting with other homeschool moms within your community.
The second most-cited drawback was “not enough money.” Giving up a second income can certainly be a challenge, but statistics show homeschooling is not just for those wealthy enough to easily forego a second income. A 2016 survey found that homeschool students were slightly more likely than others to live below the poverty line. This fact may not sound encouraging, but I think it shows parents dedicated to homeschooling despite the financial sacrifices. Living on one income may not be the most comfortable, but there are certainly ways to make it work. A couple resources our family has found helpful over the years are financial guru Dave Ramsey and “Money Saving Mom” Crystal Paine.
Lack of Free Time
I'm guessing the next highest complaint on the survey (“no time for myself”) may have been heavily influenced by first-time parents, because I don't know many parents who would say they have much free time, whether they are in the workforce or not. It's probable, however, that moms who stay at home feel this a bit more keenly than others since they are parenting pretty much 24/7.
One idea I found helpful when my kids were little: Set aside a certain time of week for someone else to watch the kids for a few hours, allowing you to do something you enjoy—or just take a nap! Lately, my husband and I have been setting aside home date nights during which the older kids watch the younger ones for a couple hours. Looking forward to this designated time off can be helpful to the overwhelmed mother's psyche.
Here I’m combining two options on the survey: “household chores” and “unable to accomplish anything.” To me, they both express that there is too much to do and never enough time to do it. Though another common problem for all parents, it's exacerbated when most of the family is home all day, every day, and you are perpetually surrounded by things you can't get done.
The authors of Staying Home gave great advice here: Adjust your expectations. As they shared, “Any business manager should remember that one of the best ways to keep employees' morale high is to set realistic, achievable goals. . . . Whatever you think will take you two weeks to do without kids will take you six weeks as a mother. As long as you have realistic expectations, you won't disappoint yourself.”
Loss of Status / Identity / Financial Independence
Finally, I’ve combined the answers “loss of identity and self-esteem,” “no respect,” and “no financial independence.” These express the overall idea that women (like men) often feel that a significant part of their worth is tied to their profession or salary. When we engage in a vocation our culture often views as “lesser,” our work can feel insignificant and under-appreciated, especially since there’s no paycheck.
The seeming insignificance of my work was probably my biggest and most frequent struggle until I finally began to see homeschooling / homemaking as a real and significant job. There is much more to it than keeping the house clean and the kids alive (though these are nothing to sneeze at either!). Many of us have seen the statistics on how much a homemaker’s everyday tasks would cost if we were to pay someone else to do them, demonstrating the financial as well as a practical impact of this work.
And if we’ve learned anything during the upheaval of 2020, it’s that the job of a teacher is extremely important. Though often taken for granted, teachers have an incredible impact in a child's life. I think filling that role is well worth the effort, especially at a time when our kids really need the comfort of a strong parental bond. Leaving an outside job may take some adjustment, but in the end, I think you'll likely find it's one of the best investments you ever made.
Photo credit: iStock.
 https://responsiblehomeschooling.org/research/summaries/homeschool-demographics/. See the graphic on “Parent Participation in the Labor Force,” about ¾ of the way down the page.
 Darcie Sanders and Martha M. Bullen, Staying Home: From Full-Time Professional to Full-Time Parent.
 Sanders and Bullen, 223-224.
 https://responsiblehomeschooling.org/research/summaries/homeschool-demographics/. See the graphic on “School Age Students by Poverty Level,” about halfway down the page.
 Sanders and Bullen, 46.