Homeschooling When You’re a Single Parent
Homeschooling is a choice, and one I am passionate about. I guess I didn’t realize how passionate, though, until my husband and I separated a few years ago and I had to decide whether to put my girls back in school or begin a whole new chapter: single mom homeschooling. Surprisingly–most of all to me–I never flinched. Being able to customize an education for each of my children was just too important to me.
I had no idea at the time, of course, what single parent homeschooling would look like for us. It was the beginning of a challenging but empowering journey. After a long and winding path of discovering everything from time management to how to homeschool on a budget to being willing to ask for help, I am ready to share some of what I’ve learned.
If you have thought to yourself, “I could never homeschool as a single parent” this post is for you. I’ve been in that place of uncertainty, and I’ve come out on the other side a believer! With determination, planning, organization, and a lot of help, you CAN homeschool as a single parent.
How I Make Single Parent Homeschooling Work
If the reality of taking on the lion’s share of homeschooling comes on you suddenly, (as it did for me) then it’s likely you’re already under enormous emotional strain. My first and most crucial advice to anyone in that headspace is to: SIMPLIFY. If you’ve been using a do-it-yourself style curriculum that requires lots of lesson planning and preparation, put that baby on the shelf for a while. Move to an online homeschool curriculum that lets your kids work more independently and gives you time and space to regroup until things stabilize.
Another thing that has been fundamental to my single-parent homeschool survival is a willingness to ASK FOR HELP. This was enormously hard. Admitting that I can’t do it all felt like stamping a giant “L” on my forehead at first. The only thing that pushed me over the hurdle of bravado was the desire to put my children’s education first–even before my own ego. Keeping that perspective has opened the door for me to ask my family for occasional child care, ask fellow homeschoolers to help me with transportation to/from extracurricular activities, and definitely ask for advice from those who are traveling this single-parent-homeschool journey alongside me.
I also can’t emphasize enough how important TIME MANAGEMENT has been to my new role as a single mom and homeschooler. Time is probably the most precious commodity to me right now, so I guard it like a bulldog. If an errand, activity, or event isn’t essential, it’s probably not going to get done. Knowing that homeschool success is my primary priority, I organize everything else accordingly. I’ve learned that sometimes I have to say “no” to good things in order to save my “yes” for even better ones. And setting both short-term and long-term homeschooling goals ahead of time often helps me figure out the difference.
Tips and Life Hacks for Single Parent Homeschooling
Sure, there are sacrifices that have to be made to homeschool with only one parent in the picture, but the very flexibility of homeschooling can often make up for them. Here are some of the strategies that have smoothed the path for our family.
- Find your tribe. Homeschooling as a single parent is not for lone rangers. I’ve had to create a “support circle,” and I’ve had to humbly depend on them many times. A support circle doesn’t have to be just family; it can be a motley crew of fellow homeschoolers, friends, people you go to church with, etc. When you need a respite day, an extra set of hands, a field trip buddy, or just someone to vent to, having a “tribe” of cheerleaders and supporters is absolutely invaluable.
- Learn to homeschool on a budget. In addition to moving to an online homeschool curriculum that doesn’t require tons of supplies and materials, I have also learned to take advantage of educator discounts on everything from homeschool field trips to craft supplies. We’ve also recently discovered how incredible 4-H is for homeschoolers; it has become our source for both extracurriculars and homeschool community thanks to its low cost structure.
- Be realistic with your expectations. I’ve completely given up the idea of winning some kind of superlative for my homeschooling. In fact, I’ve decided that if we’re learning together, have food on the table, and the house hasn’t collapsed in on itself, we’ve been successful! For me, true success looks like children who enjoy learning and know how to figure out things for themselves. If I can instill those qualities into my girls, then my homeschool experience will be triumphant.
- Embrace togetherness. Not only has homeschooling brought myself and my children closer together emotionally, it has literally brought us closer together in proximity, too! Homeschooling multiple children as a single parent means finding ways of combining our curriculum so that I can teach both children at once. For us, that means that each child works independently while using their online homeschool curriculum, and then we come together for things like science projects, physical education, unit studies, and arts and crafts.
FAQ by Those Considering Homeschooling as a Single Parent
- Can a single mom or dad homeschool?
I’m living proof that it can be done, but if you don’t want to take my word for it, do some web research. You’ll find hundreds upon hundreds of articles, blog posts, infographics, and even whole websites written by families who are successfully homeschooling in a single-parent household!
- Can a parent work from home and homeschool?
There are so many homeschool options for working parents! The key to success as a work-at-home homeschooling parent is to turn what you love (or what you naturally excel at) into income. The world we now live in is a smorgasbord of remote work opportunities–don’t be afraid to get creative with work-from-home options. The other essential piece of the puzzle is to choose the best homeschool curriculum for working parents. Ideally, this would be a program that lets your children work independently at least part of the day so that you can share important one-to-one time with each of your children.
- Can you homeschool at night?
Homeschooling offers the flexibility to design a schedule that works best for your particular family and situation. If your work-from-home position requires primarily daytime hours, then it’s perfectly fine to do homeschool in the evenings and even on weekends. In fact, it’s vital for kids to recognize that learning can happen at any time of day or night.
- How can you afford to homeschool as a single parent?
The cardinal rule for affording anything is organizing your priorities. To embrace homeschooling on a budget may mean letting go of many other things. Dining out, travel, gift-giving, and new household items may have to fall off the radar for a time while you focus on your child’s education.
- Does a parent have to be present for homeschooling?
This question is tricky, because different states have different laws concerning who is eligible to be considered the teacher-of-record for a homeschooling child. It’s certainly true that many single-parent homeschoolers work outside the home at least part of the time. If your state doesn’t have specific regulations regarding who teaches your child, then you may be able to trade off homeschooling duties with another family, have a family member handle part or all of the homeschooling, or even hire out tutoring. Consult your state homeschool laws for more specifics.