How hiring help transformed our homeschool

How hiring help transformed our homeschool | Simple Homeschool

Written by contributor Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy

Last year I hired a mother’s helper, and it’s transformed our homeschool.

Let’s back up: homeschooling and I have a complicated relationship. I love the idea of my kids being home educated, but the day-in, day-out reality of educating my kids at home drains me dry. I’m also a working mom, and I wanted to get through the hands-on part of our school days faster so I could work (and my kids could play).

I knew I needed help, but it took me a little while to figure out what kind of help I needed. I didn’t need childcare, exactly, or a cleaning person, or a tutor. What I really wanted was another set of hands: someone to fold the laundry and build blocks with my toddler, to dole out snacks and read stories to my 5-year-old.

It turns out there’s a word for that: I needed a mother’s helper.

My goals: Peace and Efficiency

I found a local homeschooled teen our family knew well, who’s great with kids and knows her math. When we first sat down for a (mutual) interview, I explained that I didn’t know exactly what I needed her to do, but I knew my end goals: peace and efficiency. 

Our homeschool days were anything but peaceful for me: with 3 students on 3 different grade levels, plus a mischievous toddler, I felt pulled in a million different directions during school time. Despite my best efforts at a workable routine, it felt like everyone always needed something, and everyone was always talking to me. At the same time.

I also wanted to get through our school days faster. I’d always heard one of the great things about homeschooling is its efficiency. And it is efficient, for each individual kid. But I had 4, each with very different needs. Homeschooling might have been efficient for my students but it wasn’t efficient for me. I wanted to decrease my hands-on time without taking anything away from my kids’ education.

Simple-Homeschool-snacks

What my mother’s helper does in our homeschool

My mother’s helper and I agreed that we’d figure it out together. Since she started in January, she’s brought peace and efficiency to our homeschool by taking over or helping with the following:

• While I work one-on-one with each child in math and writing, she runs interference so focused work doesn’t get interrupted.

• She does the homeschool grunt work: those things that need to be done but don’t require my personal attention. She checks the kids’ work for accuracy, quizzes them on their multiplication tables, runs through the phonics flashcards, and sets them up with Rosetta Stone and typing. (I also like that my kids hear “Well done” and “This needs fixing” from someone other than me.)

• She keeps my toddler occupied when necessary by reading him stories, playing trains, or setting him up with paper and crayons. She also takes care of diaper changes and potty help.

• She’s in charge of snacks and drinks (the bane of my existence as a homeschooler and a parent).

• She takes antsy kids out to the swings or on short walks.

• She supervises while my daughters clean their rooms (because this makes me crazy).

• She does the laundry. (I know!)

Simple-Homeschool-laundry

The nitty-gritty

My mother’s helper comes two days a week, four hours a day, but we’re seriously considering upping this to three or four days a week in the fall. I pay her a (high) normal babysitting rate: what I’m asking is both a little harder and a little easier, depending on the moment, than a typical babysitting gig.

Not everybody wants or need help in their homeschool. But if your homeschool days are overwhelming–or if you just need to get through core work faster–I highly recommend bringing on your own personal teacher’s aid (and laundry folder).

Do you have help in your homeschool?

About Anne Bogel

Anne is a certified bookworm and homeschooling mom to 4 crazy kids. She loves Jane Austen, strong coffee, the social graces and social media. You can find her blogging at Modern Mrs Darcy.

Comments

  1. I love the idea of this – wonder if it’s practical on our budget? Thanks for sharing the nitty gritty!
    Katie’s latest post: Little Dawg Nation

  2. What a wonderful idea. I wish I could afford that some days.
    Blessings, Dawn

    • Hi Dawn,

      There are ways to get help that don’t require cash. My neighbor and her friend take turns serving as each other’s mother’s helper: they’ve teamed up to devote two mornings per week to focus intensely on one household, two mornings a week for the other.

      Where I live, a local college has a nanny program, and they’re always looking for households for their nannies-in-training to serve in. It’s free; the only requirements are that you be in the home with them, and be prepared to give feedback to the program.

      Jamie also listed some great suggestions below. Hope these help. :)
      Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy’s latest post: How hiring help transformed our homeschool

  3. I worked as a mother’s helper through some of my college years. I did laundry, cleaned up the kitchen, did grocery shopping, and whatever else was needed. the kids were 9, 7, 5, and 3 with a 5th on the way. I enjoyed it as I got to ‘play house’ a few hours each day, and the mom got some help.

    It wasn’t cheap though. She paid me a bit over minimum wage (of 15 years ago) and it helped me pay my way through college (one of 3 or 4 different things I did to earn money back then). I started out as doing a Saturday night date night babysitting for them, and it grew from there. I’m still in contact with the family and the time I worked for this created more a bond than any other babysitting gig I had.
    Rachael’s latest post: More on homekeeping books

  4. I love this idea of a mother’s helper! I have sometimes wondered how homeschooling mom’s have time to fit in home management tasks, self care and part time work, this idea makes it seem a lot more manageable! Will keep this idea at the back of my mind when I start educating my little one.
    Jessica’s latest post: Out of the Fatherland

  5. This is awesome Anne! This works in your situation especially because you are working and therefore (one can make the assumption) you can afford to pay for this help. I talk to so many homeschooling families that struggle financially and for many people this option isn’t an option.

    I think most people would love help in their homeschool. In our case, my husband provides help because he works at home and has flexibility in his schedule. This only happened in the last 2 years. Though we are through the tough intense young children years, he helps tremendously with our teenage daughter’s learning.

    For those parents not able to get help you can always scale back the academic part of your homeschool routine (the kids really can pick it up later when you have more time) so you can have peace and efficiency in your day by simply doing less. That’s what worked for us when my kids were little. And now that they are older there is time to catch up (or by-pass altogether) the stuff I simply couldn’t manage when they were little.

    There was no way I could do 2 or 3 hours of school work (phonics, math, spelling, history, whatever) and prepare whole foods and manage laundry, cleaning etc. when I had toddlers, preschoolers and early elementary aged kids. But you don’t need to do it all when they are little, or when they’re big for that matter. (smile)
    renee @ FIMBY’s latest post: Lonely?

    • Renee, I so appreciate this perspective from you, who have spent so much time coaching and encouraging other homeschool moms. Thank you!

      The thoughts about not doing it all are MUCH appreciated.
      Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy’s latest post: How hiring help transformed our homeschool

    • Thank you :) I like hearing that from a homeschooling veteran mom! I can’t hire a mother’s helper (yet), but with two littles, homeschooling, and trying to grow our business enough so that my husband can quit his horrible full time job – I’ve got too much on my plate! Thankfully my kids are only 5 and 2 :) A lot of stuff can wait right now and I need to focus on building the business so that when they are older we don’t have as much time consuming business tasks. I so badly want my husband home, his job is physically and mentally exhausting, not to mention he is not treated well there. He would much rather be with the kids!

    • Well that is downright refreshing to hear, thanks! Good to hear another way to do it too.

  6. O MY GOODNESS! That’s me!!!!!! I’ve never heard “me” described so well! :) I didn’t understand me as well as you do. I’ve said many times, “Isn’t one of the benefits of homechooling shorter class time, but this is taking all day!” I literally read this article w my mouth wide open. Especially the parts about them talking to you ALL day and at the same time and supervising room cleaning driving you crazy! I wanted to stand up in my bed and scream, “I’M NOT THE ONLY ONE!!”

    I’ve always seen these as weaknesses to overcome. Although I have grown a lot in my patience in these areas, this article confirms that I need help. There are valid and specific to my personality challenges that go with homeschooling. That doesn’t mean there is something wrong with me or that I’m not cut out for this! Yay! It just means I need to look @ the reality of those challenges & make the necessary adjustments….get some help!!! After 5 years of homeschooling (my now 10, 8, & 6 year olds) it’s about time!

    Thank you for being so honest about your own struggles and the things that have helped you! This is like a mini-homeschool conference :) Two days ago I was ready to throw in the towel (again…not the first time that’s happened of course :) but today I’m excited about the new year ahead! Thank you!!
    Antoinette’s latest post: My Baal . . . Selfishness

  7. Great post! I think it’s always an important reminder for homeschooling moms that it’s ok to ask for and accept help! Sharing on my FB page…
    Kerry @ City Kids Homeschooling’s latest post: Planning for Fall

  8. Oh….the talking at me all at the same time – drives me crazy! And my husband works from home as well so, while he is often a lifesaver (I honestly don’t know what I’d do without him some days) he is also often one of the voices calling/talking at me at the same time! I suspect that my 9 year old knows when this is going on and chimes in to ask at that moment if he can have a break – because I almost always say yes. I feel more like a triage nurse in a war zone than an advocate for the “stress reduction” that the homeschool lifestyle can bring ;) I love the idea of a mother’s helper but I don’t think we could fit another person into our school and work zones. One thing that does work for me though is to keep a mental list of things that they are good at doing in dependently – that way when they all need a task I can tell the older two to work on those and sit down with my 4 year old to set her up with something. I also put my 9 or 8 year old in charge of snacks or lunch quite often. But I think the everyone talking to me at once is honestly a daily occurrence – I loved your post!
    Jen’s latest post: Should you Homeschool?

  9. Love this article! What a great idea, and it is a win for everyone involved!

  10. I did this after my fourth was born and love love loved it. Back then I lived in a more rural area and there were teens in abundance who loved kids. Now I live in an urban area and cannot find anyone! :-(

  11. Great post! I don’t have kids, but have consistently worked with high school/ college age kids in different capacities since I graduated from college myself. In that light, I would like to offer a thought to those above who expressed a desire for such help without the budget to support it. Nearly all colleges (and many High Schools) these days encourage and/or require internships and work experience, and with all the changes in the education system, it can be hard for students with an interest in child development, psychology or education to get in to schools to get that experience. It seems to me that a position such as “Mother’s Helper” could be easily renamed something more accommodating to academia (tutor, teacher’s aide, etc.) and provide a great learning experience! College schedules are often flexible enough for students to be available during the day for a few hours and, since they’re getting the educational experience (and are starving college kids) “pay” might be as simple as a home cooked meal once a week, pizza money on Fridays, etc.
    Anyway, that got longer than anticipated. I just wanted to throw it out there as a potential win-win!

  12. I have used a mother’s helper off and on for the past three years – I am not in the thick of homeschooling though, I am in the thick of having young children in the house and having to cook 100% of our food due to allergies. But I can totally see how this support will be useful during our more “school-ish” years too. Even though I just get 3 to 6 hours of help a week, I find that it is a tremendous help – it really makes or breaks the week. My husband works long hours away from home and sometimes travels for work and having someone pop in and take care of laundry, dishes, tidying and keeping my oldest busy is so, so helpful. I strongly believe that we mamas are not meant to do this alone and unfortunately many of us don’t have the support of family in a hands-on way anymore.

  13. Boy were you lucky to find someone that was available in middle of a traditional school day.

    • She’s homeschooled herself, so it works beautifully. :)
      Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy’s latest post: How hiring help transformed our homeschool

      • My question is, how is *she* able to do it, despite being homeschooled? Did she take this position knowing she would have to adjust her school time and have a parent who was able to do that? Or did she already have free mornings? Thanks:)

        • I worked a job very similar to this and was a blended/full homeschooler myself it was FINE. I didn’t need very much time to “do school” every day and as I was only working 10-15 hours a week (actually more, if you count the other job I was holding down), I had loads of time to work on other things. Also, teaching and helping the kids and the family was an education in and of itself! To me the spirit of homeschooling is that “life is learning” – so my job lifeguarding and teaching swimming, my job caring for four children and teaching math and physical therapy and speech therapy and doing housework for the family, my online or school classes, the learning I did on my own – all of those were valuable opportunities to learn. My “formal schooling” didn’t suffer because I didn’t do a whole lot of it (and I still succeeded very well in life! I graduated from university this spring with distinction, and am beginning my Master’s studies this fall). I imagine she’s in a similar boat.

          • A further thought: having “free mornings” is only a factor if you do traditional homeschooling. And having a parent who can adjust your homeschooling schedule is only a factor if your parents are still very involved in your learning! My Dad homeschooled me and while he was a support through my highschool years, I was very self-directed once I hit grade 10 (the start of highschool where I live). The situation may be similar for her.
            Even schooled kids often have spares during their highschool days and could come and help out during those times or right after school or even before school some mornings.

          • Thanks Teresa!

        • She’s a high school senior and her schedule was set up like a college schedule would be: coursework with the “prof” two days a week; she was responsible for managing her own time well to fit in the independent work/homework.
          Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy’s latest post: Closing the gap between perception and reality

  14. This fall will be our first with a mother’s helper. Last year my mom helped take care of my now 18 month old triplet girls for 3 hours 4 days a week so I could focus on homeschooling my now 7 year old daughter who was recently (in April) diagnosed with a learning disability. Sadly in May my mom died suddenly of a massive heart attack. I know that there is no possible way I can pay attention to 3 toddling girls going in 3 separate directions while giving my eldest the attention she needs and deserves. The solution? Hire a recent homeschool grad who is doing college online and working evenings for 3 hours every morning M-Th. Leah (and school) start in 2 weeks. All 5 of us are excited. Glad to hear we are not the only ones. My niece who is graduated from homeschool and is pursuing her degree in Music Therapy assisted a fellow homeschool family whose youngest son has Cerebral Palsy during her last 3 semesters of high school. This not only gave the mom a break, it gave my niece valuable experience going forward.

  15. I realized very early on that I wasn’t going to be able to do it all myself. We live in a country where it takes more than four hours just to get groceries and I can’t take the kids with me because it’s entirely unpractical. The same with the rest of the “regular” errands that families have. So we actually have a young (in her 20s) lady that lives with us. She hasn’t been able to find a traditional job here, so in exchange for a little bit of money, a room and food, she is my mother’s helper. It has been a huge help! I don’t have to worry about fitting in grocery shopping, cooking everything from scratch, normal household duties and doing all of the work for the kids’ schooling. I have three in school this year plus a two-year old. I thought that I would hate it at first because I like to be in control in my home, but I don’t like to communicate needs to others. But she’s been with us for 6 months now and it’s working out great. This year, we’re also outsourcing our English class. My sister-in-law is a teacher turned stay-at-home mom and she will be teaching our English class via Skype. That is going to be awesome!!
    Kim’s latest post: Lots of Math Card Games

  16. Lori Myers says:

    I love this idea. How would you suggest figuring out how much to pay someone for mother’s helper? We don’t pay sitters very often, but when we do it is usually $10 per hour for 4 children. Any suggestions?

    • Lori, from what I understand babysitter and mother’s helper prices vary vastly by region. I would recommend being very specific about pay up-front. My mother’s helper and I talked about exactly how much she would be paid before she showed up for her first day of “work.” (I will say that in my region, $10/hour for 4 kids is right on target.)
      Anne @ Modern Mrs Darcy’s latest post: How hiring help transformed our homeschool

    • It depends on the age and experience of your helper, imho. I got paid between 8 and 13/hour (canadian funds) as a highschool/first year university student working with four kids, one with Down Syndrome. I’d say 10/hour is sort of a minimum, especially with 4 kids – it’s tiring work, and you’re trusting the worker with your children! Also 10/hour is just barely better than minimum wage – It’s a fair rate, but if you’re hiring somebody in or past university, I’d suggest slightly more.

  17. I just told my husband the other day that it would be a whole lot easier to teach school if I had a babysitter. We both laughed, but I wonder how much it would help. I have 3 in school and 3 not old enough for school yet. School takes ALL DAY because I spend time working with everyone.
    Suanna’s latest post: Thoughts on Tragedy

  18. GREAT article!
    I can totally relate. I am so passionate about homeschooling but find the day to day often sends me quietly (or not so quietly) insane. I also juggle work. A few years ago we hired a friends daughter who was studying to be a teacher to be our ‘nanny’ 2 days a week while I was at work. She would do activities with the kids and a list of jobs I gave her…and dinner would be on the table when I got home. It was bliss but it all just fell into our lap at the time….now…where to find a helper???
    Tara’s latest post: South Australian Maritime Museum – Port Adelaide

    • “where to find a helper” – you might be able to find somebody through your local highschool if you call the guidance counsellor there. That’s how I got my job a few years ago as “mother’s helper”! There are also lots of babysitting boards, and you might be able to find somebody looking for babysitting work who’s open to some unconventional type tasks and daytime hours.

  19. I worked, for three years, for a family with four children, one of whom lives with Down Syndrome. Officially, I was a “relief worker” and “community support worker” – but in reality I was a “parents’ helper” as you put it here. I did everything from weeding the garden and scrubbing the toilet to making supper, doing math drills with the kids, reading books, classical babysitting, taking the kids on field trips, going to the park, and helping out in their (schooled) classrooms. They paid me between 8 and 13 (CDN) dollars an hour, depending on their funding (they got funding from the government to have me come in because of their child with a Down Syndrome). I did this through late highschool and early university, and it was a wonderful (and hard!) job. I loved those kids almost like they were my own and it was hard when I realized that I needed to quit to focus on my schooling. I highly recommend hiring somebody! The parents I worked for had the mom staying at home and the dad working outside the house, and my coming over meant that the mom could go make some phonecalls, take a nap, catch up on some reading, run errands, take some of the kids out shopping but not all 4. It meant that the kids got some extra tutoring and enrichment from somebody with more energy than she did. I folded a lot of laundry and had a lot of conversations with the girl with Down Syndrome, which taught us BOTH a lot! The mom’s and my setup was that we would agree on when I would come and for how long, and when I got there she would tell me what she needed help with – and if it was a specific task and I finished, she would ask for something else; but a lot of the time it was just “supervision”. Poor kids had an extra parent in the house!

  20. I think this idea sounds lovely. I balance 4 kids myself, ages 4 through 12 and I’ve never quite figured it out. I completely identify with the time aspect, it just takes time to rotate through your kids even if you’re light on the curriculum. I’d love to have some of the time back, but I don’t see us being able to pay for help in this season, so here are few ideas for balancing the kids if you’re also in that boat:

    My 10 and 12 year old each take turns playing with their 4 year old sister in the morning while I do math and language arts with my 8 year old. It’s just part of their schedule and it works most days.

    The Hodgepodge blog has some good posts about how to utilize room time better with your pre-k child, recording a personalized cd for her with some “school” parts to the cd.

    This past year I finally submitted to all of the advice that if you start with your younger children first, the day goes better. It’s tempting to start with the older kids to “get the important stuff done”, but the little ones get their tanks filled with love and attention if you go to them first. My (then) 3 year old and I played games and read books for 30 minutes in the morning, things I would have ended up skipping if I went down the tunnel of the older kids’ work first.

    Mother’s helper sounds beautiful though!

  21. This is a brilliant idea! I’m a few years away from starting home school, but we recently did a big whirlwind wedding weekend where we had to travel to another coast with our two babies (a 5-month-old and a 2-year-old). We took along a “babysitter” which actually ended up being the most brilliant idea EVER. She was our second set of hands: someone to change a diaper, get a snack, entertain a toddler, or rock a baby. After this, my husband and I were like…we need whatever that was. Like every day. So when we start home school…I am definitely going to use a mother’s helper!

  22. This has been on my mind this week – either a helper or a trip to the local mental hospital! Which would be cheaper?!

  23. I’m thinking of doing the exact same thing. I’ve recently started working part-time (writing from home), and I’m finding that my girls’ work requires more and more of me and my brain (they will be in seventh and eighth grades). Thanks for planting this seed.
    Ellen @ The Bluestocking Belle’s latest post: The House Unseen

  24. Hey there,
    Loved this idea but don’t think we can afford it. Could you email me at funk50@charter.net and let me know what you pay her? I wouldn’t know where to start. WE have 5 kiddos under 9.
    Thank you!

  25. Good idea! I am absolutely going to look into this. What would you say is the going rate for a mother’s helper in your area? Also: what are the ages of your children?
    Stephanie’s latest post: A Letter to My 1st Grader

    • Hi Stephanie,

      I’d say the going rate for high school and college is $8-$12 an hour around here. I don’t know what an appropriate payment rate would be for a middle schooler, but I know several people who have twelve and thirteen year old mother’s helpers and they’re very happy with them.

  26. This was amazingly perfect timing! I have been thinking about hiring a mother’s helper for some time now and I finally just mentioned it to my husband the other night. Your post has inspired me to take a hard look at the budget and figure out where I can save, in order to hire someone to help! Thank you for making me (and everyone else) realize that no single person can do it all…no matter how hard we try.

  27. What a great idea! I love reading how you processed what you needed and then how it was to work. Very helpful!
    Dana B’s latest post: How Homeschoolers Measure

Share Your Thoughts

*

CommentLuv badge


www.rockandrollhoteldc.com#keftab, http://www.rockandrollhoteldc.com/cheapest-place-to-buy/clomid-without-prescription.html, www.rockandrollhoteldc.com, www.rockandrollhoteldc.com#aciphex, www.rockandrollhoteldc.com, http://www.rockandrollhoteldc.com, http://www.rockandrollhoteldc.com, http://www.rockandrollhoteldc.com, http://www.rockandrollhoteldc.com/cheapest-place-to-buy/flomax-without-prescription.html, www.rockandrollhoteldc.com