Working from home & homeschooling: The hardest part of Kara’s homeschool year

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Written by Kara Anderson

I was laid off from my job as a newspaper editor the day I turned nine months pregnant with my first child.

I remember trying to carry my box of desk-junk and pilfered Swingline stapler out to my car. What the heck am I going to do now, I wondered.

Months before, I had worked out a sweet deal with my boss for a 12-week maternity leave, followed by working from home, then going back just a day or two a week.

But our company was purchased and I was let go, told I was welcome to submit a resume again after my baby was born.

(I like to think that that’s why I took the stapler.)

I freaked out a little, but when my son was born I realized just how lucky I was. I had an opportunity to reinvent myself.

I started to consider freelancing. I applied a few places and got some writing work.

I’ve been working in some form or fashion ever since (taking a short break when my daughter was born three years later).

Freelance writing was a great fit for a mom of littles. I would get a job, followed by a month or so of silence. Just when I was convinced my phone would never ring again, I’d get another assignment.

It was very manageable. Until last year.

Last year, things began to shift. I found myself head-under-water, trying to figure out how parents manage to work and homeschool.

The hardest part of my homeschool year

You see, a lot of little work seeds I had been planting for years started blooming into big rose bushes, twisting into each other, climbing the walls, desperate for pruning and attention. Companies that had previously offered me work once or twice a year started calling me monthly or even more often.

It became normal for my phone to ring mid-lesson, and for my kids to groan.

I started to hate that stupid phone, constantly interrupting what I wanted most — my time with my kids.

After all, weren’t they the reason I was doing this?

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If I didn’t want to homeschool I could go work at a desk like a normal person, instead of in my yoga pants, hair piled at the back of my head, glasses askew, gulping too much tea.

It wasn’t hard for me to identify the root problem: an attitude of scarcity had permeated our home during a difficult financial season.

Even though the immediate crisis was past, we hadn’t been able to shake the feeling. So I found myself saying yes to assignments, when frequently I wanted to say “no thank you.”

I felt like I was working constantly, while homeschooling slipped more and more out of my grasp. My kids’ screen time was growing out of control and one day, my sweet son said,

“Mom, I love homeschooling, but honestly, if you have to work this much, it’s probably a better environment for us in school.”

I choked back tears as I typed out an email, saying no to a potential assignment that had been sitting in my inbox, causing me a lot of anxiety.

It was a lucrative piece. I could have done it. The money would have no doubt helped.

But at what cost?

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Maybe you know my wonderful friend Jamie, and that she has a gift for words.

She said something wonderful to me recently. I wrote it down and have been carrying it around in my bullet journal ever since:

“Sometimes we have to walk away from what we know isn’t US and leave an empty vacuum – trusting in faith that God can fill it, and reminding ourselves that it’s kind of His deal anyway to provide for us and our family.”

Every time I re-read it, I get chills.

Because that’s exactly what has been happening.

As I have slowly started pulling away from freelance writing, other work that IS me, that DOES feel right, that allows me to put my family first, has begun filling in the empty spots left open when I started saying no.

At one point, I sat down and looked at my schedule and thought about what would really work for my family.

I realized that if I could get just five more hours of steady work each week, I would be able to completely replace the average monthly income I made from freelancing last year.

I wondered if I should put some feelers out. Should I make some calls, send some emails, hit-up some contacts?

Instead, I slept on it.

The next day, I wondered again how to make those five hours appear. But instead of doing anything, I waited.

The next day, I kid you not, I had an email in my inbox from a wonderful blogger wondering if I was interested in contracting five hours a week with her.

Um … YES!!!

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It wasn’t easy for me last year, trying to work and homeschool. I felt like I was drowning all the time, and I wasn’t fulfilling any of my roles particularly well.

I considered giving up.

I had bitten off too much, and only when I realized that it was okay to let some of it go, did things start falling into place.

I am so excited about this coming homeschool year.

I know that there will be time, one day, to work seriously as a freelancer again.

But I will never again have a chance to spend these days learning with my kids.

So I am grateful for last year. I am grateful for the struggles that made things clear.

And mostly I am grateful for another year to try again; a chance to do a little better now that I know a little more.

Are you a working homeschool parent too? What ways have you found to balance your roles and make things work?

This post is part of our Hardest Part of my Homeschool Year series.

About Kara Anderson

Kara is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom, with a goal of encouraging fellow mamas in real-life homeschooling. She also's the happy co-host of The Homeschool Sisters podcast.

Comments

  1. I am glad you did not give up. I also work from home and it is really difficult not to work too much. 🙁

  2. Your story is inspiring. Though I’m not currently working from home or homeschooling, I’m considering both. Currently, I work as an editor at a publishing company and my kids attend a less-than-ideal school. Last year, I took on too many volunteer roles, thinking I was going to help change the system in which my kids are educated. Between full-time work, full-time mom, and practically full-time volunteer and education advocate, I burnt out. This year, I quit everything except my job and my family. And in that space, I realized that all my volunteer efforts weren’t going to change the system. I had room to see that my kids needed more than the system could offer them. And I discovered that I very well could be the one to give it to them. I am now faced with the decision to do what’s right for only my two children. But to do that, I will have to move from full-time employment to freelancing, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but it scares me because I’m afraid I won’t be able to give enough of my time to my children when it is for them that I’m considering this. Your article will be my inspiration as I move closer to that decision. I will keep it handy for those times when I don’t think I can say ‘no’ to a freelance job and for those times when I feel like I’m drowning. Thank you.
    Nancy’s latest post: Division in School

  3. Jessica says:

    Thank you for posting this! It really ministered to me and I can relate to all you shared.

  4. Happy I get to share those 5 hours ; )
    Kortney’s latest post: Homeschooling Planning: 3rd Grade, 1st Grade, + a Toddler

  5. Thank you for the inspiration this morning (and for taking home that stapler). I am in a similar place with a job I don’t feel right in and your words are exactly what I needed to hear today.
    Kayla Nor’s latest post: Trading Crafts for Creativity

  6. Kara, I relate to your struggle so much! Most of my work has been leading volunteer teams at my church, but now I’m starting a business, too. I wonder if I’m leaving my kids in the dust without even realizing it. I’m thinking of adopting the practice of Bob Goff and quitting something new every Thursday. After all, I only do great work on the things that I throw myself into without reservation.
    Anthea’s latest post: Homeschool My Way – How I’m Overcoming School One Day at a Time – Part Two

    • Kara Anderson says:

      YES! My friend and I were just discussing that yesterday — how we can really accomplish cool, big things if we are excited about them, but how even the smallest things can be hard when they don’t feel like a good fit.

  7. Thanks so much for sharing and for prioritizing what’s truly important. That can inspire us all. I sold on Ebay for about three years. It was fun, and I made some extra income. Now I am trying writing.
    Leslie DeJarnette’s latest post: Let all that you do be done in love

  8. Thank you for sharing this. I’m a freelance copyeditor/proofreader, and for this past school year (which was also our first year homeschooling, as my oldest was in kindergarten) I ended up doing most of my work after the kids went to bed. It worked in the sense that I had the quiet to concentrate, but it was exhausting and stressful. I eventually was able to have some time to work when the kids would play together after school was done, and I admit that I enlisted the help of Mr. Rogers episodes on Amazon more than I’d like. But we got through it. Currently evaluating what needs to change for the upcoming school year–I don’t want to decrease my work, but at the same time I’m not sure what school is going to look like for us so it’s hard to plan. Thanks for the food for thought.

    • Kara Anderson says:

      Sometimes I think we need to get through it to figure out what to do next, you know? 🙂 Good luck with the year ahead 🙂

  9. I’m so, so happy to read this.
    Hannah’s latest post: An Addendum

  10. This post was such a blessing to me today–I feel stuck in a part-time job that I need in order to homeschool my kids. In addition to that, I’ve been trying to build a business that would allow me to be at home full time. However, in all that busyness I’ve been realizing in the last couple weeks that I’m moving away from the original intent which is to raise my children! So now I’m in the process of circling back around, looking for new ideas, and most importantly, praying, listening, and waiting. Thank you for sharing your heart and experience!
    Wendy’s latest post: sew a boy’s guayabera from the Oliver and S Sketchbook Shirt ~ Part 2

  11. There is so much wisdom in this piece, Kara. I especially appreciate your reference to the scarcity mentality and how that tends to take over. I struggle with that same feeling as well – even though we are doing just fine, coming out of a time of financial stress and scarcity has made it difficult to put the right things in the right priority. I needed the reminder and the knowledge that I am not alone. Thank you!
    Shawna@nottheformerthings’s latest post: Less Decisions, Less Stress

    • Kara Anderson says:

      Yup! It sneaks in, doesn’t it? And if you’re like me, you don’t even notice for a while. And then one day you realize that while you are making all your decisions from a place of caring for your children (they need to eat!), it’s all fear-based and yucky and no longer true. It can be really hard to shake for a while, I think. 🙂

  12. I am so glad I read this post. I am entering the world of homeschooling and working at home as a health coach. Ther are so much I could do to develop my business, but I am choosing to focus on relationship with my girls. My mother recently told me that no matter how little I can do for my business, as long as I do consistently, it will all work out. wise words I live by, especially when I feel overwhelmed and doubt my ability to do both.
    Tomoko’s latest post: Roasting and Shredding Vegetables: 2 easy ways to add more veggies in your diet

  13. It’s the heart break and tearing that always nurtures the soil for fresh growth. I hear your son’s words in my own world – similar circumstances – and I’m grateful for the way these words serve as a guide post to lean on for a moment and catch my breath.
    Thank you for the closing sentence. Just a little better is all I’m aiming for too. Baby steps.
    Cara Thompson’s latest post: 10 Tips for Choosing the Best Curriculum (& 6 Encouragements)

  14. Kara, what a hard and wonderful spot you find yourself in! After homeschooling and freelancing for 20+ years I just graduated my last and became an empty nester with all sorts of time to write. It goes by in a flash. Enjoy the kids, but don’t feel guilty about keeping up on your craft. Blessings!
    Traci Matt’s latest post: Twenty field trips for KC home- schoolers

  15. This year I decided to close down my home based child care business after 12 years so that I can focus on homeschooling my children and running my home more efficiently. I allowed for a period of not working to see what options came my way. Within days I stumbled into a very lucrative online business selling homeschooling supplies however that is now taking up extreme amounts of time and it is impacting family life just as much as my child care business had! I now need to restructure and if I can do that successfully I am contemplating going back to university full time.

  16. I send my kids to another homeschool family’s house one day a week so I can work. They love going to play with friends! Also my husband works nights, so I can escape into my office while he’s home and work then too. It’s tricky and tiring sometimes but it can be done!
    Mel Smith’s latest post: How I use MBTI in Everyday Life

  17. It’s almost eerie how closely I relate to this. I’m a photographer working from home, and this was our first year homeschooling. I also reached a place in my work where I was getting more inquiries than ever, and I was so used to saying yes to it all because we needed the income. But I was frazzled and felt so unbalanced, so often taking jobs that weren’t really a good fit for me and didn’t feed my soul or work well for my family. I’ve been saying no more and more often, and like you that has opened up so many better options. Thank you so much for sharing- this was such an encouraging read!

  18. I LOVE this post. I can so identify, and I’m so grateful you shared this whole story and let us in on the process. I’m taking a month of rest (an annual thing, Lord willing) and it does the same thing for my soul. Let’s me step back and see more clearly. Thanks so much for sharing!
    Kari Patterson’s latest post: Planning Purposeful Rest

  19. Yes! Thank-you for writing this. Both myself and my husband are self-employed and we homeschool. My husband is self-employed full-time and I am part-time (although in certain seasons it’s nearly full-time work). Last year was extremely challenging, so we had many hard conversations about our vision for our family life. Changes have been made, perhaps more need to be made. We’re hoping for a more positive homeschooling experience in Sept. Thank-you for sharing your experiences. I’m so grateful I get to homeschool and do work that I love, but it is certainly challenging. Thank-you for your encouragement to let some work go in order to make room for more important things.

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