This is the third article in a series, answering hard questions dealing with homeschooling. In article one, we made a brief list of major concerns and objections one might encounter to homeschooling. Let’s take up the third point on that list now.
– Many families are single-parent households, and mom or dad must work to make a living.
This situation can present a real set of difficulties, and it is obviously far more common today than at any time in the past. The divorce rate has soared to a rate embarrassing to what we sometimes laughingly call “civilization”. It is now simply a fact of life. The majority of couples who marry will at sometime divorce, and if they’ve had children (as is often the case), the children will suffer along with their parents as the family is split apart. I know several families in this situation. I know of numerous single parents who are raising children. They nearly all have to work to support themselves and their children, as their family now must support two separate households. Some of them also homeschool.
There are other situations, of course, more like my own. I was married with two children when my wife became suddenly ill, and then passed away of cancer in 2001. Suddenly I was a single dad with two children to raise, a daughter aged 13 and a son aged 9. They had gone to private schools up to that time, a situation I paid for by teaching at those schools, and which I was rather painfully able to continue for one more year before pulling them from school and starting homeschooling…which was far easier than sending them to school.
What, you say? I pulled them from school because it was EASIER to homeschool them? How can that be? Well, in my case, I’m a writer for the most part, and a teacher. I often teach in my own house, private students and workshops for singers, actors and writers. In other words I, like so many others today, work at home. This is a clear and obvious trend, and one that favors the idea of a single parent being able to homeschool his or her children. I was already at home, pretty much 24/7. And being a writer, I largely established my own schedule. I also had some success, and at that time owned a house and some money set aside (both things of the past, I’m afraid, as I’ve invested the past 10 years of my life to creating a homeschool curricula).
I pulled my children out of school and into a homeschool situation because I was home, and could create the time to develop their curricula and work with them. The reasons behind the decision were more complex, and included the failure of the school they were in, their methods, and the curricula they used to educate my children in any sort of acceptable manner. Again, my situation was unusual, starting with the fact that I had taught for decades. (I’ve already discussed the fact that YOU ARE qualified to teach, whether you’ve taught or not, in earlier articles in this series.) Being a writer and a good student myself, I felt I could generate a curricula my children could truly benefit from, something I’d already started working successfully on a few years earlier to teach creative writing in their school.
My chances of succeeding at homeschooling improved when two other parents – both trained teachers – read some of the curricula and loved it. They started bringing their children to my house every day, to homeschool and use Steps, my curricula. After around a month, I had two teachers in my house working with about 10 children, using the courses and methods I directed them to use, which freed my time to write the curricula faster, and to see it being used by students so as to be able to judge its effectiveness and make corrections. This story leads to the existence of the complete curricula now available for ages 5-adult, so my story is not common, but it is a success story for homeschooling. My daughter is now a writer, my son a successful actor who completed his schooling at age 16. They are doing what they wished to do, and living lives along the lines they wished to live, mission accomplished.
Single parents who work at home, and I know several, are more easily able to homeschool than parents who must work in jobs outside the home. This seems pretty much true on a one-to-one basis. Home workers seem generally able to divide up their time to good effect, providing their homeschoolers enough of their attention to be able to assist them enough to keep them moving in their studies, while completing their own work. The parent sometimes does this at the expense of elongated workdays, but they do it out of necessity and from a sense of responsibility for their children. This was true for me, and I’ve seen it be true for others.
Some guidance (perhaps unnecessary) for parents both working at home and homeschooling their children: Try to organize your time so that your children can predict when you’ll be able to help them each day. And organize to be able to deliver tests and to score them, as well as to take needed “field trips”. If you’re a home working parent and you’re obligated to work a certain number of hours, attempt to arrange with your employer(s) to make the choice of those hours either flexible, or to make them work around the few hours your children will need your assistance for their school work. This may mean starting work early or ending late, but the rewards are evident to a homeschool family. If you are your own boss, then so much the better – though those of us who are self-employed often work far more hours than others who receive a regular paycheck. That said, we can at least control our own time to some extent.
Also, if you work at home and teach your kids there, try to take a few minutes between work and your teaching activities to bridge over, and collect yourself. The hectic, demanding and sometimes frustrating efforts one makes on behalf of work should not be permitted to intrude into the teacher/student relationship, one with its own demands. And make no mistake, you will need to some extent compartmentalize yourself. While assisting your children with homeschool, you cannot be on your other job, and you cannot bring its trials in the door with you. You will need to be the “teacher” or “supervisor” or “facilitator”, or whatever it is that you, your children, the methods and curricula you use designate that you must be. That’s a real job, too, and one you’ll need to be good at.
By the way, you are homeschooling and as mentioned in earlier articles, that also means that you may very well be able to adjust hours designated for homeschool to accommodate your work schedule. We’ve discussed this, but briefly, if you work in the mornings and this is unavoidable, start “school” at 1 pm or something like that. Some children do very poorly in the morning at learning, anyway. Every child and every situation is unique, and you may need to experiment a bit to find the best time of day to homeschool, one that works around your work and your child’s best interest. (I always learn best at night. Go figure.) In short, you will need to turn your time constraints into pluses that benefit your homeschool efforts. This can be done, sometimes with ease. And make no mistake, unless you are really struggling financially, the largest obstacle to successfully helping your child homeschool will usually be time.
Some single parents must work outside the house – but have a fair amount of money and can employ a tutor. The hiring of a patient and perhaps trained (not always a plus) educator can obviously take the strain out of homeschooling for a single parent. Money can help in this regard. (Maybe grandma will subsidize the hiring of a tutor so you can work? Extending your family a bit might help with this one.)
If you hire a tutor, what is it you should look for (besides affordability and ready and appropriate availability)? These might be important considerations:
– Does the tutor really get along with your children, and can the tutor sufficiently control the child(ren) to get a good result? Friendship’s nice, but you want a teacher/student relationship that will be productive. Does the tutor develop ‘altitude” with your student(s)? If not, they won’t be able to control the educational processes or the student’s wanderlust.
– Is the tutor literate enough to serve the child and execute the curricula and methodology employed? If not, if they really do struggle beyond a nominal; “learning curve”, get rid of them. You’re not trying to educate a tutor, you’re trying to educate your children – and you are too busy to take on another problem. Unless you really want another problem.
– Does the tutor have some covert or overt disagreement with homeschooling, with your approach, with your overall practices and beliefs as they affect your homeschooling? If so, don’t try to persuade or convince them – just get rid of them. This isn’t debate team, it’s homeschool.
– Does your tutor feel a need to employ the “standard” educational tools used in schools today and for the past 150 years, those methods (like grades and grading, grade levels, testing, evaluation) which have destroyed education? If so, get rid of them. They’re “trained” to fail, and to fail your children.
There are some families who can afford a tutor and others who cannot, even though the single parent must work outside the home. For those who cannot afford a tutor, there are options. One option, employed by many families, is to reach into your own extended family. Older children may be able to teach younger ones. Grandma or grandpa may be able to help, or perhaps some aunt or uncle. There was a time in history, not long ago and stretching over thousands of years, when such family involvement in schooling was the norm. And after all, who should have a greater interest in the well-being of a child than his family?
If family is not an option, you might want to consider joining, or even forming, a homeschool group. What is a homeschool group? It is a small gathering of homeschooling families who decide to share resources, as well as the burdens, responsibilities and joys of homeschooling. This can be an extremely beneficial move for a single parent who is homeschooling. The work is divided between a group of parents and occasionally others with the idea of unburdening each individual parent for periods of time. I like homeschool groups a lot, and I do believe that they are the best answer for many homeschoolers, including single parent homeschool families. (I discuss this at great length in our parent/teacher training course on homeschool groups. If this seems like a path you’d like to walk, I’d recommend strongly doing that course.) If you work five days a week, make one of them Saturday, and then set aside one day to devote to the homeschool group, as your day to take over. (This is an example. There are many ways this can be made to work.)
Let’s sum this up. You have to work, and you’re single – but you still want to homeschool. IT CAN BE DONE. The suggestions above are just a start at a real investigation into the ways and means that might be employed to successfully homeschool under the difficult conditions which sometimes develop in single parent families. Homeschooling is a fluid and creative activity, one not written in stone. It has the purpose of keeping our children safe, while providing them an exceptional education, one which the parents and child have a great deal of control over. There are many ways to make such a responsive and fluid activity work well and successfully. Single parent, get creative – and get going! I did it, and you can, too.
As you probably know, I am an advocate for homeschooling. It’s my belief that homeschooling potentially provides a student with a vastly superior education than schooling in any form. This is backed up by a lot of numbers and research. I’ve taught for public and private schools, at the University level, as a private instructor in thousands of workshops, and as a homeschool dad running a homeschool group. Homeschooling by far works best for most students- and most families.
But I understand that many parents do not believe they can effectively homeschool. They’ve been told that they “don’t have degrees,” and that they “aren’t qualified.” This is all nonsense, of course. You’re legally not required to have any kind of a degree to homeschool your kids anywhere in the U.S. A lot of people who have degrees and who call themselves “professional teachers” are simply awful, and even destructive at what they do. A lot of parents…hundreds that I know of…have homeschooled their kids right into universities and careers.
In a serious effort to make homeschooling easier to do, and more commonly successful in terms of education received, I’ve authored my own curriculum. It took some 15,000 hours to write, over more than a decade of work, and is intended to replace the need for schooling a student from age 5-Adult Continuing Education. The curriculum is called Steps (or “CTT”). It has been used by over 20,000 students worldwide over the past 10 years. Hundreds of “success stories” attest to how well CTT works.
CTT courses are written in a way that gradually allows the student to take over his own education. Each course itself largely does the teaching, relieving mom and dad of that duty unless they wish to use our daily lesson plans in various subjects as springboards for family discussion and discovery – as many families do, every day. The parent has the job of making certain the student is working and has what they need to study. (And you’ll need to find a good math program for homeschooling as we don’t provide one. There are many.)
Below are links to our site discussing each level of curriculum, and every subject at that level that we offer. (You can start any level at any time. We don’t have “semesters” that start at a certain time, and each course stands alone well.) You’ll find free videos describing how every subject and each level works. You’ll discover free samples of every course we offer. Our site offers many other services and surprises, including numerous free courses you can download and try out.
Starter is for ages 5-6, and for preliterate students of any age. It focuses on starting to develop literacy skills, while teaching about various subjects. Starter includes full two-year programs in Reading, History, Science, Creative Writing, and Living Your Life, courses that develop life and study skills for the youngest students. Every lesson plan at the Starter level works to develop literacy.
Elementary is for ages 7-8, and for students who are developing literacy. It includes two-year programs in Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing (which also teaches the parts of language at this level), and Living Your Life courses which develop life and study skills in preparation for more advanced studies to come.
Lower School (ages 9-10) offers two-year programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, P.E. Electives, and in various arts such as Animation, Music Theory, and Acting. At this level, students must read fairly well, and studies are progressively turned over to the student.
Upper School (ages 11-High School, and Adult Continuing Education) provides programs in Study Essentials, Reading and Spelling, History, Science, Creative Writing, Current Events, Literature Guides, P.E. Electives, and in arts such as Animation, Acting, Music Theory, and Music History.
For parents who wish to teach at home, but are intimidated at the thought, and for parents who just wish to improve the homeschool experience, we offer a ten course homeschool program for homeschool teachers, as well as several books about education and homeschooling today.
We want you and your children to win with homeschooling!