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.
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!)
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).