Written by contributor Heather Bruggeman of beauty that moves
The last few months have been wild and crazy for our family. We’re selling one house and moved to another during the height of the holiday season, my work has picked up almost overnight to a beyond full time pace, my father is in the fight of his life health-wise and he happens to be (sort of stuck) more than 1,800 miles from his home. Oh yeah, and we homeschool.
I nodded all the way through Hillary’s post last week about collaborative homeschooling, as this is the very topic I was hoping to write about this month too. It’s really all I could share with you because without it, I don’t think we’d have a homeschool right now!
Feeling the shock and stress of my father’s illness combined with a wonderful but high volume of work, homeschool, and domestic responsibilities, I wanted to throw in all towels. Things seemed to blow up overnight! Life was nothing like this just a few months ago, but that’s how it goes and we need to roll with it.
On all fronts it was clear that these new time constraints weren’t going away anytime soon, be it the worried heart or the very full work calendar. I looked at my husband one day about six weeks ago and basically said “I can’t do it anymore!” Without taking a single breath he replied, “Okay, I’m in. I’ll take over everything you don’t want or have time to do. Give me a list.”
And just like that, our mom and dad homeschool team was born.
This is what we do for our kids, right? For our spouses too? We pitch in, pick each other up when needed. Life hands us hectic seasons and heartache and sometimes more questions than answers. Often these trials and busy moments can be used as life-learning tools (always happy to blur the line between “school” and “life learning”).
But ultimately, a commitment was made by us to take on the responsibility of educating our daughter, which means we always have to be ready with a Plan B when life unexpectedly changes course.
My husband and I are both self-employed so our schedules are ultimately in our own hands. That may sound nice and easy on the surface but it takes incredible discipline to be self-employed and the work can sometimes feel never ending.
Splitting the homeschool responsibilities helps involve the entire family and plays to the strengths of each member of the team. When implemented correctly, everyone benefits. Easily said, but what is the best way to do it?
The solution is planning and teamwork.
1. Communicate schedule needs well in advance.
We both agree the one constant is our daughter’s routine. We commit to this because it best suits her which is one of our reasons for homeschooling in the first place. She needs to know when the school day begins and ends so she can plan accordingly. We also like to start later so the school day is extended into the afternoon, eliminating the midday boredom we found when starting very early in the day.
Some adult work responsibilities cannot be moved or delegated, and they may fall during the math lesson. If you can, let your partner know in advance and both prepare so the day is seamless for the kid(s). You want to avoid disruption to the school day and maintain that schedule.
There will be moments of no flexibility for either parent and as a last resort our daughter needs to be self-sufficient. This happens about twice a month, ideal it is not, but we make it work.
2. Defined duties and responsibilities.
This means knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Decide who works best with the student. Don’t be upset if it is not you, and understand this does not exclude you from the process. On the contrary, you have other things to do.
Who is better organized? They should handle the details of record keeping, curriculum ordering, supplies, schedules, etc. They will also keep the main educator from coming up with too many ”creative” assignments and generally keeps plans on track, if that is how you like it.
3. Effort from all to pick up the slack as necessary.
We each have our strengths, but neither parent can have tunnel vision. One may teach math better than the other, but be prepared to pick up on Shakespeare once in a while. Or track the day’s progress, update the record keeping, etc. Both parents should know how to do everything with some capability, just in case.
Having a system in place that each person can use improves the chances of this working out. Central location of books and supplies reduces confusion and search time for materials.
One thing we do is maintain a private blog that serves as our homeschool journal. I record my thoughts by keystroke more quickly than by pen so this works for me. It’s also a great way to add a daily photo or two, a short video of Emily giving a powerpoint presentation or speech. We can each log in to the journal whenever, and from wherever (via phone) to add to the days log.
Currently we follow a routine where my husband takes the homeschool lead three days a week and I pick up the remaining two. This is so helpful to my work day, and his work follows a somewhat seasonal rhythm in which he can find more down time and flexibility right now. In the summer he will be much busier and I will be more available.
Though if things need to change one way or the other before then, we will make that work too. We’re all in this together and have one common family goal in mind – keeping everyone as happy, supported, thriving, and together as possible.
Do you homeschool with a partner? How do you share the tasks of the day? What are some tools you use to stay in communication with one another?