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Can I Homeschool & Work Too?

Guest Blogger

Texas Home School Coalition Association REVIEW © February 2008

by: Holly Williams Urbach

When I started teaching my children at home in 1993, it was rare for me to meet a home schooling mother who worked outside the home. We home educators met at our local park and commiserated on the challenges of tackling lesson plans and getting dinner on the table each night. Our husbands worked full-time, or more, to support the school lunch program, and we wives worked hard to stretch the income as far as possible. We swapped curriculum and clothes with each other, along with recipes designed to make the most use of the available items in our pantries.

Contrast the above scenario with 2007, when quite a few of my home educating friends and acquaintances work either from home or outside the home. While there are many families living on one income, increasing numbers of households are finding it more and more difficult to do so for a variety of reasons. When I counsel new home schoolers these days, many ask me if it is possible to work and homeschool.

My family and I are part of the growing trend of home educating families in which both parents are working. When we realized that I would have to begin working, my husband and I determined to continue home educating our children. We did not want to shortchange our children as a result of the difficulties we were having financially.

I am extremely fortunate to work part-time for a company that allows me flexible hours. I know of families with home-based businesses who face the same time crunch that I have working outside my home. I believe it is likely that we will find home schooling families where both parents work more common in the coming years. Whether working outside the home or from home, combining work and school is a task that requires creativity, energy, and determination.

Even with all the perks of my situation, I find it challenging to combine work and schooling.  Following are some ideas and strategies I use to manage home, school, and extra-curricular activities while holding a job.

One of the first things to do is develop a workable schedule. Obviously, a lot depends on the age and activities of your children. My four children still at home range in age from thirteen to nineteen. Since they are teenagers who require and desire a lot of sleep, I work mornings while they are still sleeping. When I arrive home around 1 p.m., they have gotten out of bed, eaten and dressed, and they are already working on independent assignments. We then have between 1:30 and 6 p.m. to complete their studies for the day. I have students who are well-rested and ready to learn.

When I worked two afternoons a week, I struggled to accomplish schoolwork in the mornings prior to leaving for work. The children were sleepy and sluggish. I was frustrated and felt that everything was rushed and seldom accomplished to my satisfaction. Our new schedule works much better for all of us. Determining your most productive work and school hours is the first step in making school and work successful.

The next thing to consider is what curriculum to use. A teacher who is also working may not have the preparation time available that she would like to have. Many employed home schooling parents find that computer or video curricula fill the need nicely for their students. I would caution parents not to use such curricula for all subjects, because students need variety and adult feedback to help them learn effectively. Others hire tutors or send their children to outside classes for some of their instruction.

At times, I have utilized outside classes and co-ops to help meet the needs of my students in science and math, freeing me to delve more deeply into history, literature, Bible, and foreign languages. These classes make my available time with my students more productive. The point is, take a deep look into your family’s needs and develop a plan that helps you not only to survive but also to thrive in your situation. Any frustration you encounter in your schedule is a natural alarm, telling you that something still needs adjusting. Pray about it and seek God’s direction on how to resolve the situation.

With the work/school schedule planned and the curriculum squared, the next big consideration is how to deal with housework, meals, and outside commitments such as Boy Scouts, 4-H, kids work, etc. My family and I take time to discuss housework issues, and the children and I divide the responsibilities between us. The great thing about this plan is that my sons are learning to launder clothes, cook, and keep house just as well as my daughter. We all pitch in to get the work done so no one has to spend a lot of time doing housework.

Meal preparation is time consuming enough for parents at home full-time, so having less time due to working outside the home can cause a lot of stress. I try to make things ahead of time over the weekend, so getting a meal on the table during the school week is easier. I use my crock pot as much as I can. I have many cookbooks that contain recipes for cooking in quantity and freezing meals ahead of time, to best utilize the time I have available.(Once a Month Cooking by Mary Beth Lagerborg and Mimi Wilson and Jill Bond’s Dinner’s in the Freezer are two favorites.) I also solicit my children’s help in preparing meals. I reap the benefits of more time with my children and reduced time in the kitchen. Planning and executing a menu is essential to streamlining meal preparation as well as keeping expenses down by avoiding the fast-food trap.

My daughter has a part-time job, and she and my youngest son are active in 4-H. Such additional activities are worthwhile enough to our family to factor into our schedule the time they take. We have found 4-H to be a great program for our family, because each child can participate in an area of their own interest as we take monthly trips together to the meetings.  Another great thing about 4-H is that it helps our home schooling so that we work smarter rather than harder. Finding an activity that the whole family enjoys together is a great way to manage the time spent out of the home. Each family can find activities that add enough to the family that they also justify the time taken to participate in them.

Do I long for the days when I was home all day with my children? I certainly do. I have actually started a home-based business for just that reason. Once my business replaces the income from my part-time job, I will once again be at home all day with my children. I will still face that juggling act that comes with working and homeschooling, but I think that my children and I will all have gained a greater understanding of what it means to work together as a team and of how to adapt to changing situations. In the world we face today, those will be valuable and useful abilities for all of us.

Meet Holly Urbach


Learning to Let Go

teen daughter & mom talking

We have always home schooled.  I do not know what it is like for my kids to be gone from me on a regular basis.  It is kind of like a safety net for me.  I’m very comfortable with this way of life, yet I feel myself moving into a new stage of life.

This afternoon I was taking my oldest daughter to meet one of her friends for dinner.  My daughter is a few weeks away from turning 17.  While she was chattering away about something that she saw on TV, my mind began to wander and I realized that a year ago, I never would have let her go have dinner with a friend with out me there.  Obviously I was not listening to her (my bad!), but rather I was thinking about how my daughter’s life is changing and how it is affecting me…her ever so protective mom, who wants her children by her always. 

My boundaries for her are growing outward.  This is happening because I see in her a maturity and sense of responsibility that deserves new privileges.

 I think part of me never thought I would actually make it to this day when my daughter was more of a friend than a child.  Don’t get me wrong, I still have to get in her face everynow & then to help her deal with wrong attitudes or actions, but those times are getting less & less. 

Next year is supposed to be her last year of High School.  It doesn’t matter that I have 9 more kids after her that will also have a last year, but this one will always mean more I think because it means a passing into a new season for me.  I have completed raising a child.  She will be an adult.  This huge for me.

So, I’m learning to let go of my need to have her here all the time.  I’m learning to walk along side her and listen to her.  Most of the time, she doesn’t need me telling her what to do…she already knows, she just wants to tell me and I cherish that!

It’s a Party!

There is a tremendously huge blog party going on all over the world, so I couldn’t miss out!  There are over 1300 moms throwing a party on their blogs and you are invited! 

 The party is at 5 Minutes for Mom

The Ultimate Blog Party at 5 Minutes for Mom

This is a great opportunity to meet new moms from all over the world through their blogs.  What did we do 10 years ago with out blogs? 

Here are a few of my favorite blogging friends…

Robyn @ Home Sweet Home

Robin Sampson @ Heart of Wisdom

Susan @ Kerugma

Growing in Grace

Kristine @ Mama Archer

Penney @ Becoming Real

These are just a few of my blogging friends that I gain wisdom & encouragement from. 

Homeschooling is hard enough by itself and then we at times go through seasons when we don’t get much adult interaction.  That is when blogging comes in handy.  I can visit these other sites and learn what these moms struggle with and how the Lord is working in their lives.  What a blessing!

If you are participating in this party, leave me a comment so I can celebrate with you!

I’ve been Tagged!

I”ve been tagged twice now by 2 different friends of mine.  The funny thing is that even though I have 3 different blogs, I really don’t go to other blogs.  Who has the time?  I barely have time to write on my own.  So, when I get tagged and am to pass these on I have no idea who to pass it on to who hasn’t already had it. 

Here goes anyway:

1.  What is your school name?

That is an easy one.  We are Olive Branch Christian Academy.  I love the verse in Ps 128 that describes the woman and her many sons around her table like the olive shoots of an olive tree.  Olive Shoot didn’t sound good to me so I changed it to Olive Branch.  OBCA for short.

2.  What steals my joy?

I do.  When I take my eyes off of my Lord and onto me my joy turns to weakness and frustration.  My day never goes the way I want it to or think it should, but I can still find joy in my Jesus anyway.  When I let my own pride take over my day is worthless.  I lay down at night wondering if I did anything that honored my Lord & showed my children more of Jesus in me.

3.  Name 5 blessings you recieved this week.

  1. I had Thanksgiving with my  husband, 10 kids, 2 parents, 2 siblings, 2 In-laws & 1 very old & feeble Grandfather.
  2. My husband got paid!
  3. My 3 yr old daughter recovered from the flu in time to go to my parents for thanksgiving…(yeah Thieves Oil!)
  4. My 14 year old son admitted to lying – Yeah Holy Spirit!!
  5. There is a christian man in Saudia Arabia who is separated from his family who is praying for me & my ministry & has received my encouragement from my writings.  Yeah GOD!!!

4.  What is my favorite scripture?

That one is harder because there are so many.  I am studying in Psalm 119 right now so I would say that I have received the most encouragement from there.

5.  Who in the Bible do you think you are most like?

This is hard for me.  Many times I have seen many similarities in me and Mary.  Not because she was the mother of Jesus, but because of how she got there.  I know that she had plans of how she thought her life would be and then all of that was turned up side down.  I too had plans, but God had other plans.  Of course his plans were so much better than mine.  I’m so glad I said “yes” to God’s plans for my life.

6.  What is the last passage of scripture you  read?

Ephesians 6:10-11, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of HIs MIght.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may stand against the wiles of the devil.”

7.  If you were making a greeting card for God, what would you say?

I don’t know if I could say anything that I feel would be worthwile.  Maybe it would be very simple like; “Thank you for loving me and forgiving me.”  I don’t deserve any of it and honestly don’t know how he can love me so deeply, but that is why he is God & I’m not.

8.  Have you ever praised God for something weird?

Yes I have…twice lately actually.  The first one was when the people across the street moved.  The influence that her kids had on mine was cutting deep and I was about at my wits end.  Then the Lord made them move.  The owner of their house suddenly decided that she wanted to live in her house in 2 months. 

The other time I praised God for something weird was when I found a pumpkin on my front porch & found out that my neighbor next door had put it there.  We have lived here for about 18 months.  She has spoken to me once and that was when I took banana bread to her last Christmas.  She said hi through her glass door.  I don’t know why she gave us the pumpkin, but I saw it as a very nice gesture, something no one on our street has ever experienced.  Praising God for a pumpkin!!!

9.  What is the best miracle God has performed in your life or what is your favorite answered prayer?

Wow! I have a lot of both.  To pick just one is hard.  My favorite answered prayer is the latest one.  God provided for us in just the nick of time as always.

10. What is today’s weather like?

I forgot this one was supposed to be #2.  Today’s weather was cold & rainy.  Perfect for staying in after a hectic weekend with family.

I know I supposed to pass this on, but I have no idea who to send this on to.  If I think of someone I will add them in.

Blessed Again

My last entry was about how we have learned to homeschool with out buying much curriculum if any at all.  some of you sent me some great links.  Thanks so much!!!

I wanted to share with you how God has blessed our school this year.  I sat one morning for my morning devotions.  I asked the Lord to show me how to utilize the materials I already had for school.  I knew that we would not be able to buy books again so I wanted to make sure I was well planned out.  I was a bit nervous though because my daughters are in high school & I really needed some good math & science for them.  I was hoping to piece together something from the internet, but wasn’t sure if I could do an adequate job.

Well, I was invited to dinner by a sweet friend from church.  She is one of my mentors & I looked forward to our dinner together.  She didn’t know any of our past financial struggles specifically.  She knew we had occasional times of hardship though.  At the end of our dinner she told me that she & her husband felt hte Holy Spirit prompting them to give us some money to buy our school books.  I was totally thrown back.  I couldn’t believe it.  A few weeks later I hel in my hand a check for an amount that was another shock.  I didn’t expect this much money.  I knew though that as much as it was it still wouldn’t cover the books that I had researched & chosen.  But still we were so thankful for it. 

I prayed once again and asked the Lord to help me to use this money wisely.  Show me what they really needed for this eyar & what we could do without.  I began marking things off of my list and I still needed about $300 more dollars.  I began shopping on ebay & amazon and found a few things.  Small victories, but still a victory.  Then we went to a store with used & new homschool supplies & I thought I had hit the jackpot.  I found most of what we were looking for, but still needed the HS math & Science.  I didn’t know how, but I knew we would get it somehow.  My daughter Sarah really wanted to do Biology this year & after looking many curriculum over we decided to stick with Apologia.  She said that she didn’t have to do biology she could do Physical Science instead. 

Here comes the fun part.  I was “catching up” with a friend and telling her about the money we were given & how cool I thought it was.  She asked if we had all we needed.  I told her no, & told her what we still needed.  She replied with “Oh, we have the math you need & we won’t need to use it for about 10 years so you can borrow it until then.”  WOOHOO!!

Then, the next day I stopped by a past homeschool moms house for something & she hands me 2 big boxes with biology & chemistry equipment in it, microscope & all!  WOOOHOOO  again!  So, I was sharing my good news with another email friend.  I told her that I guess God wants Sarah to do Biology, now I can’t wait to see how he provides the books.  She replies with, “I have them, don’t need them, send me your address, I’ll ship them to you.”  WOOOHOOO!!

So, we had just enough money left over to order the lab kits for the science.

All of this reminds me of Jesus feeding the 5,000.  So little food & so many to share it. 

“I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart; I will tell of all Your marvelous works.  I will be glad and rejoice in You; I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High. 

Psalm 9:1-2