by Joann Burnside Hoyt, Indiana Association of Home Educators
Parenting is all the “things”—hard, wonderful, hilarious, scary, challenging and rewarding. That’s when you have help! When you are a single parent, the workload doesn’t seem to double, it seems to magnify times ten! Even with that seemingly impossible mathematical concept in play, there is still plenty of laughter, love, and learning to be shared.
Now, let’s add educating your kids at home. Impossible? By no means!
It’s not easy; I will grant you that. However, take it from someone who is on the other side of the journey now that it is not just doable, it is very much worth the effort. The benefits for your kids and your family as a whole just can not be measured—benefits that will never show up on a report card or transcript like perseverance, responsibility, a sense of purpose, freedom, and working as a team.
If those all sound worth attaining, then let’s address some of the mechanics of single-parent homeschooling that may arise.
Do you have to work outside of the home? The great thing about home education is that it can be done almost any time and almost anywhere. If you work 9-5, then school may happen for an hour in the morning before you leave and finish for a couple of hours every evening. If your student is older, there is a lot they can do on their own, and then you can meet with them later in the day and tie up loose ends and answer questions. If a child is younger, a couple of hours spent on schoolwork each day is ample.
Don’t forget weekends! There is no reason why Saturdays or Sunday afternoons can’t be school days. If you work part time, perhaps you can school 3-4 days a week and go year round, adjusting breaks and weekends to make sure you have the required days in. Flexibility is the key and homeschooling offers just that! You may have to adjust your mindset, and maybe that of people close to you, but that can be the easiest part of the equation once they see that it is working well for your family.
Choosing curricula for your kids can actually be fun as you begin to see all the cool things they will learn. All parents have to consider cost, but as a single parent, you also need to consider time. So many self-guided options are available, some in workbook form and some textbooks; be sure to look carefully at how much teacher prep is involved and compare that to your available time. Workbooks can seem like boring busy work, but they also make it very easy to track progress.
Personally, I was never a fan of video or computer based curriculum until my last three children. Not only was I homeschooling as a single (widowed) mom, but I also had two severely dyslexic kids. There are several really great curriculum choices that include video/audio lessons or computer-based lessons. The benefit of this is that your student can work through lessons when you are not able to be as hands-on as you would prefer. This does not mean your child has to stare at a screen all day. It means they can follow the prepared lessons, and then you can discuss it all with them when you are available.
Pray about your curriculum decision, asking God to help you choose. It’s tough when you don’t have someone to bounce ideas off of, but God will show you what he wants you to use; we just so often forget to ask. If your child’s other parent is still in the picture, try to be respectful of their thoughts and concerns, and if you can’t agree, keep looking. There are many, many options out there.
Let’s face it, you are going to be tired at times; you already know that as a single parent. This is where I put my serious “Mom Face” on—you have to get enough sleep and you have to take care of yourself! I know you have been told that 100 times. I am saying it again, but… I know the code to the secret weapon—your kids.
Kids can help with everything around the house. Yes, I said everything! Kids have so much energy, potential, and compassion that often goes untapped. It’s time to put your kids on your team! Sit down and have a heart-to-heart talk with them and tell them you need them. Everyone is important in the family dynamic. There is no household chore that can’t be done or partly done by a child. A very wise mom once told me, “An adult should not do what a child can do, and an older child should not do what a younger child is capable of doing.”
It takes some planning. At one point I rearranged my kitchen storage so my dishes would be on the lower shelves so that my younger kids could safely unload the dishwasher. Help them participate in the chores so that you will have the time you need to teach. You are not punishing them; you are creating an amazing work ethic in your kids that will help them the rest of their lives! When you have them help around the house, and you get yourself to bed at a reasonable time, you can in turn take better care of your family.
I want to share a little something with you that has been long buried in this society but was recently rediscovered by some during the pandemic shut downs. Your kids don’t have to be in every activity all the time! For some of us, that is easier to agree with verbally, but harder to live out in a practical way. You want your children to have every opportunity possible, but you may actually be doing them a disservice by having them in too many activities. You are homeschooling and that is not just a side line activity, it is a lifestyle. Try to leave room for it in your schedule.
Honestly there are so many opportunities for homeschool kids these days, it’s tough for any parent to say no, but it is even more important when there is only one of you. In addition to teaching and maybe working, you also have to get groceries, mow the grass, cook, etc. You may just not have time to run to three sports practices and two clubs each week. It is actually so liberating to say no, to say we are putting family time first. When I had all six kids at home, each one was allowed two activities for the year. (That did not include 4H or church because those were big family things.) I had one daughter that chose three sports and one daughter that chose nothing, so clearly we had some fine tuning to do, but you get the idea.
All homeschool parents need support and encouragement, especially those that are parenting and teaching alone. It’s hard to reach out to others for help, but you won’t regret it. Homeschoolers are fantastic at supporting each other. We all need friends who we can share our struggles with and rejoice in our successes. [Editor’s Note: Families in California can find local groups in CHEA’s online Homeschool Directory. You can also find support from our Educational Consultant. You can reach her at 562-544-7875, Monday through Thursday 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. and Saturday 1:00 to 3:00 p.m.]
If you are a single parent trying to homeschool your children, these are just a few of the areas that are important to look at. There will be hard days, and there will be heavenly days. I can tell you without a doubt, homeschooling my kids is one of the decisions I have made in my life that I have never regretted. I hope this realistic snapshot of life is encouraging to you. You can do this! It does not have to be pretty every day, and it certainly does not have to be perfect. Life is messy, but often the true beauty comes out of that mess.
This article was originally published on January 20, 2022 on IAHE.org’s blog. Reprinted with permission.