Did you know that more homeschool families have both parents in the work force than have a stay-at-home parent? Neither did I until I read about it in the comments on this post at Wandering Scientist, but it’s true. According to Census Bureau data from 2007 (and I confirmed this with a friend who is a mathematician at Census):
- 808,000 families homeschool with both parents in the work force,
- 509,000 families homeschool with one parent in the work force and one at home,
- 127,000 families homeschool with a single parent who works, and
- 64,000 families homeschool without a parent in the work force.
I was a little surprised that the majority of homeschool families have two working parents, but upon further consideration I wonder if the number is actually higher. The statistics cited in the Census report are from 2007 data, and more women have probably gone back to work in some fashion since then because of the economy. Moreover I think lots of women who homeschool probably self-report as being SAHMs when really they work part-time or from home (that’s what I did for several years).
What does this really mean? Who cares if people are working and homeschooling?
- It reinforces a new norm of flexibility. I think more and more people are figuring out ways to work flexibly, and are unwilling to take an all or nothing view toward work or parenting. Whether you’re juggling work with homeschooling, juggling work with parenting, or juggling two other totally unrelated commitments, it’s great to see evidence that others are doing this too. It also helps to change the work, parenting, and education cultures around us, and that is a good thing.
- It challenges popular stereotypes. Homeschooling is kind of a second front in the mommy wars. As in the working mom versus SAHM debates, when it comes to homeschooling people have a lot of misconceptions, base their opinion on one-off random horrible people they knew once, and take it as a personal judgment when someone makes a different choice than they have. I won’t go into the tired cliches about homeschooling because you already know them. But I love that this data challenges a number of the stereotypes. A family with two parents in the workforce is probably not hyper-helicopter parenting, only wearing ankle-length denim skirts, or opposed to interaction with the outside world.
- It puts “I don’t have time” into perspective. I would say that nearly half the homeschool moms I know work in some way. They are writers and midwives, entrepreneurs and computer scientists, nurses, farmers, dentists, librarians, and freelancers. They make it happen and they do a great job. I’m not saying that people who “just” homeschool or who “just” work are slackers. We all spend our 168 hours differently according to what’s important to us. But as Laura Vanderkam pointed out in her book, it’s much more honest to say “That’s not a priority” rather than “I don’t have time.” Work and/or homeschooling may not be a priority (or a necessity) for you right now. And either or both may not be for me in the future. But in any case, I think we do ourselves a favor when we’re honest about our choices and take responsibility for the decisions we make.
Are you surprised by the Census statistics?