In my last post on what we’re doing for school these days I mentioned that our homeschooling schedule is unorthodox. This is true. If you are one of those people who believes school can only happen between the hours of 8 and 3, please avert your eyes.
This summer I started working on a contract through an IT consulting company. The work is interesting and involves a lot of problem solving and writing and working with people, which I enjoy and had missed greatly in the years I had been home full time. Plus it allows us to afford homeschooling materials and take occasional trips and not have to stress out all the time about our budget. That feels good.
But, as August approached and my contract was extended, I wondered how I would balance working and homeschooling, which I’m also passionate about and committed to. Can it be done, I wondered, working full time and homeschooling in a somewhat rigorous fashion?
If you’ve read this blog for long you probably know that when questions like “Can it be done?” are asked, I usually take it as a challenge.
So I worked out a flexible schedule at work, and compressed my week. I am still billing 40 hours, but I am only in the office for 26 of them and work the rest from home. Sometimes I work an hour or two in the morning. If I’m working from home, I often pause homeschooling to take a conference call or call into a meeting. I work all during quiet time (and I’m very glad that when my kids gave up naps I told them they still had to have quiet time!). I often work in the evenings and on Saturdays. I go in to the office on Mondays from noon to five, and Wednesdays and Thursdays are my epic long days. I get into the office at 7am and leave at 6:30 or 7pm on Wednesdays and 5 or 5:30pm on Thursdays.
It sounds like a lot, but what’s awesome about it is that by having a weird schedule, I get a lot done AND I’m available when my kids are awake. I track my time on a 24 hour spreadsheet I print out and fill in with half hour increments (more on the great book where I got that idea next week), which helps me know how to bill my work time and also reassures me that I’m putting in enough time teaching, enough time with my husband, enough time exercising, and, believe it or not, enough time sleeping.
So when do we do school? Well, we usually start first thing in the morning, listening to our history songs or catechism songs or addition songs during breakfast. If I’m at home that day, we jump right into school work and take it one thing at a time in short chunks, maybe 10-20 minutes per thing, varying the type of thinking or writing we’re doing as we go. If I have to stop to take a phone call, I do that and the kids play. If they are set up with a piece of school work and don’t need my direct attention, I have my laptop booted up and quickly get in a chunk of work. I try to keep my work tasks sorted by type into things that require lots of uninterrupted quiet and things that can be done in short bursts. I’m getting more efficient at that.
We get through what we can before I have to go to work if it’s a Monday, or before lunch if I’m home in the afternoon. On Tuesdays we’re at Classical Conversations all morning and we eat lunch there, so when we get home it’s quiet time and I start working. Fortunately the kids want to take a great long nap on Classical Conversations day.
Whenever we are in the car we are listening to our history and geography songs, or to addition facts songs, or Latin songs, or catechism songs. The kids like the music and I like that they are learning stuff. They are like sponges for information. And then later they will talk about it in casual conversation and apply it in a really insightful way and I’ll think wow, this is really working!
On days when I get home around 5:30 or so, I start dinner (more on how I streamlined that process later) and snuggle and read with the kids. We really like reading. It’s a good stress reliever for me too. Sometimes if we didn’t finish up school during the morning, we do some math or something in the evenings. And we read more before bed time.
But we do take off Wednesday and Thursday from school since I leave before the kids get up and get home just in time for dinner and bedtime reading. We do school on Saturday and Sunday instead. Yeah, we really do. But since we try to make school fun and a part of the way we do life, the kids don’t seem to mind.
So it’s unorthodox, and it’s a juggle, and sometimes I wonder what in the world I was thinking trying to balance all this, but overall I have to say I’m really, really happy with how it’s working out. I love that I can have a fulfilling job AND educate my kids excellently AND still have some time for my own interests. I’m much happier, which is a good thing for our family. I don’t know how long we’ll continue this way, but for now it’s working.
Next week I’ll spend more time on the breakthrough I had about time management and the book that really helped me out in striking a balance in this phase of my life.