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Homeschool and Home Business: Practically Impossible?

“Oh, I’d love to homeschool, but how could I possibly run my home-based business and homeschool, too? I simply won’t have the time!”

“Oh, I’d love to have a home-based business, but how could I possibly homeschool and run a home-based business, too? I simply won’t have the time!”

Well, you’re right. And you’re wrong.

In 1995, only six months after jumping into the homeschooling arena, I began my second home-based business, Bright Spark Press. (My first had been an electronic publishing business in Utah called FastLane Technology.) BSP was a mail-order educational business for home educators, marketed through a print catalog and a web site (back in the internet dinosaur days).

As the business grew, so did my family and so did the number of children who were actively being “schooled.” When we began homeschooling we had one school-age daughter and two preschoolers. By the time I sold the business in early 1998, I had two school-age daughters and two preschoolers.

When I sold Bright Spark Press (to a Maryland corporation) I was already actively involved as the chief financial officer for our engineering firm, Adept Systems Inc. Currently in that same position, we now have three school-age children, one preschooler, and a three-month-old baby.

So let me tell you what I do:

I homeschool my four daughters and one son. From my home office I coordinate all of the financial and personnel aspects of a growing company that currently has five full-time engineers and three part-time employees who are not at my home office! I keep a nearly immaculate house and am always caught up on the laundry and ironing. I do social studies unit studies with all my children and we do weekly science experiments. I read the scriptures every morning and our family reads the scriptures together later. I volunteer at my church (teaching a class each Sunday for older teenage girls). I read aloud to my children every morning after breakfast. I make-up my face and fix my hair daily. I write in my journal nearly every week. I finish most of the wood furniture that we purchase. I exercise every day except Sunday. I read a non-fiction book or two each week.

Now that, hopefully, I have sufficiently impressed you with my super-woman abilities, let me tell you what I don’t do:

I don’t have a lovely, inexpensive, nutritious, home-cooked meal every night. I don’t launder/iron any dress shirts (the dry cleaner does). I don’t do all the housework myself (the kids do a lot and a cleaning service chimes in once a week). I don’t have a beautiful garden. I don’t maintain my own lawn. I don’t watch TV. I don’t do crafts. I don’t repair our appliances. I don’t read a newspaper. I don’t sew anything (unless Halloween is approaching or I’m pregnant and that nasty “nesting hormone” sets in). I haven’t carefully decorated my house. I don’t do lots of experiments or units or elaborate projects with my kids. I don’t tolerate many messy projects educational or not. I don’t go outside and enjoy the beautiful winter weather or the beach very regularly. I don’t volunteer for March of Dimes. I don’t keep up on my scrapbooks. OK, I don’t do scrapbooks at all. I don’t ever get a full night’s sleep.

I’m guessing you’re feeling a little better now. Do you notice how, when we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing so very much, we tend only to notice their list of “do’s” and ignore their equally long list of “don’ts”?

Back to our question. Let me give it to you straight. You absolutely, certainly, positively can homeschool and run a home-based business. But you absolutely, certainly, positively cannot homeschool and run a home-based business and keep doing everything else you are currently doing.

If you really want to homeschool and have a home business (my personal dream) and you want to do a good job you need to look at your life and your lifestyle. “Something’s gotta give,” as they say, and you need to see what, if anything, you are willing to give up. In business they call it “opportunity cost.” When you use your time or resources for one thing you are deciding not to use those resources for anything else.

Now it may well be that some of your time is spent doing low-priority, low-benefit activities. These should be easy to eliminate. Unfortunately, some of these activities are high on our list of “fun things to do.”

Look hard at your schedule and your life. Ask yourself some tough questions: Do I really need to watch “E.R.” every week? Does “Days of Our Lives” really improve my quality of life? Is having my acrylic nails filled every two weeks really so crucial? Do romance novels make me happier in my marriage? Is chronicling every moment of my children’s lives on elaborate, acid-free paper really the best use of my time and resources?

Perhaps there are things in your life that you realize aren’t as important as the education of your children and you don’t mind giving them up. Perhaps you see a real need to contribute financially to your household. But if giving up some activities even leisure ones would leave you resentful and angry, then perhaps you need to keep looking for where homeschooling or a home business will better fit in, if at all.

I hate crafts. I can’t do them. Those who know my abilities have even called me “president of the craft retard club”. “Giving up” crafts to do homeschooling wasn’t much of a sacrifice for me, but I would grow into an angry, bitter old woman if I had to completely give up my computer.

The things that I gave up in order to homeschool and run my various businesses were things that:

  1. I didn’t value much anyway
  2. I valued but weren’t a priority
  3. I valued a great deal but could postpone or rearrange or even sacrifice for something I found to be more important

The last two are tougher to do, but not impossible if you focus on two things:

  • How much more you value your children and the way they are raised than what you are “missing” by overseeing their educations
  • How much the financial contribution will mean to your family and will teach your children

As I have said, I gave up one business. I enjoyed running it and found a sense of satisfaction from starting it and turning it into a profitable venture all on my own. But my kids were more important. I gave up being a staff member on America Online. It was fun, but my days were so full that I needed to get that time back for my family. I stopped teaching voice lessons because it made my schedule much less flexible. There are many other things that I stopped doing. Sometimes I miss parts of them, but I don’t regret the decisions because I see such a great benefit from homeschooling my children.

Not long ago the local newspaper ran an article about a woman running a business from home. She loved it because, “I get to be with my children.” The story went on to describe her office, which was entirely isolated from the family so she could work in peace and then detailed how she found such a great full-time nanny. She clarified by saying that even though she didn’t see her children all day, she was still, “there and very present.” What a relief.

Many LDS women begin a home-based business thinking that they can be Holly Homemaker and run a business on the side without any impact on the home and family life. I thought that myself long ago. But it’s not true. Often we can make the impact acceptable or tolerable or, sometimes, even preferable, but it’s always there. You must be aware of the impact so you can manage it and make it positive.

I sold BSP precisely because it had gotten too big and was beginning to take over my life. I could see my kids aging much too quickly while I was busy opening vendor accounts and shipping books and supplies. The couple who bought the business from me found the same thing to be true and actually ended up sending their children back to school in order to continue to run the homeschooling business!

The business I’m currently working in is not nearly so demanding on my time now, but is requiring more and more work as it grows. Last year I hired a very capable woman to take over the bulk of my day-to-day duties in order to keep the home impact at an acceptable level.

“Quality time” as presented in our culture is a myth. Real quality time with children only exists in the presence of quantity time. And quality homeschooling won’t happen if it is squeezed in around the other activities in your life if it is not a priority.

Making homeschooling a priority does not mean that you can’t be flexible. Neither does it mean that you can’t form a unique style that fits your family and your circumstances. It simply means that homeschooling is one of the first considerations when organizing you life, rather than one of the last.

Quality homeschooling takes time, no matter what philosophy you espouse to. Children do not raise themselves in the same way a nurturing and attentive parent does. Running a home business can be an amazing family learning experience and training ground, as well as bring amazing financial benefits that working for someone else cannot. If you can look at your life and your family and make ample room for home education and a business, being realistic about your abilities and your limits, you can make the wonderful dream of bringing it all home a reality.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • heather July 23, 2007, 12:03 am

    Alison,

    Oh how I loved, loved, loved this article!!! I came to this website looking for mothers and women and how they balance their days, their children, the gospel, their business’ etc. I want to save myself from trying to “reinvent the wheel” when others have the answers through their experiences. I’ve read Raising a family to the Lord by Gene Cook and currently reading Divine Center . Great readings and help but It was wonderful to examine how you (Alison) can be upfront about the structure and schedule of your own household. Above all, I am gaining insight on how to form a structure in my home based on the mechanics of prioritizing. I appreciated the honesty in how you DO have limitations and minimal incapabilities. I also was very impressed by what you CAN do as well. I validate your quote in “being realistic about your own abilities and limitations”. I know this will be the key to building a successful and happy home!

    One question I have though (anyone reply) : In being honest : What is the best way to have your children do chores. Ages vs. jobs etc. I really really am trying to see what my little six year old can do. He makes his bed, get’s himslef ready, cleans the table each night and takes out garbage. What is too much? Is he not doing enough? Do you teach chores to be fun or is it “just expected and get er done or else” Do your children EVER argue about their chores, if so – what do you do? Now mind you – I was a school teacher and I really didn’t experience too many kids arguing with me about jobs per say because…well…. I WASN’T their mother!!!! Infact, mother’s use to ask me how I got their kids to do things they could not. I would tell them it’s because I’m NOT their mother!!! Any response is welcomed!!!

  • Oregonian July 29, 2007, 10:03 am

    I liked this too. It has some practical stuff I hadn’t thought about. I have been wanting to do something as the boys are getting older, but I don’t want to leave home since my daughter is not a teen yet. We could use the extra income with missions coming up and orthodontics and stuff. I wish I had done something before now to give us more cushion. I’ve been thinking about joining the BookWise that Allison talked about. So thanks for some points to think about and prioritize.

  • mollymormon August 4, 2007, 10:15 pm

    This was a great article. I still have a lot of priorities to get straight, but I’ve come a long way! And I still am trying to run several businesses in the meantime (whilst I get prioritized, lol!)

  • Lesley from Lesley Writes May 31, 2011, 11:02 am

    I loved this article, thank you so much for writing it. Like you I homeschool (though only two children) and run more than one business from home, and like you I do a lot, by not doing a lot.
    I think one of the things I really like about my life is that I feel there are good reasons for the way I live, and I have been able to jetison a lot of the activities I didn’t enjoy or didn’t think were important in the first place. However, I havent mastered the art of getting the kids to help with the cleaning up. Any advice on that thorny problem would be gratefully received.
    Lesley from Lesley Writes recently posted…How to Avoid PlagueMy Profile

  • jane from faux floral arrangements May 31, 2011, 12:02 pm

    That was an excellent post. I havent been home educating for long, but I ahve discovered that many things have to change, I wondered if it was just me, and other women just went on as before. Thanks so much – now I know I’m not alone.
    jane from faux floral arrangements recently posted…Easter Basket IdeasMy Profile

  • Shari August 23, 2011, 10:47 am

    This article is what I’ve been looking for on-line. I have a home-based business, but my business takes me out side the home quite a bit. I am really feeling stressed, and don’t feel as though I there for my family as I ought to be. I know God is speaking to me to change, but didn’t know where to start giving up things so that I can be home more often and focus on family! Because my hubby is disabled and on disability, we NEED my extra income. But, I often feel that I shouldn’t be doing it right now in this season of our lives. We have debt, eat out too much, etc…things I am working on changing too! I have not trained my children to help (ages 15 and 11), so keeping up the house is a struggle for me all the time! I feel as though I am always cleaning, organizing, decluttering, and then there’s not energy left for my hubby, children and business. I am also quite involved in our church. I am going to re-evaluate what I am doing and what can go. But, how do you get over the ‘guilt’ of saying ‘no’ to things…especially when they are church related? How do you know if this ‘job’, which I enjoy (I’m a ventriloquist!) is something that should be put on ‘hold’, or at least not do as much per month, finding ways to save money by staying HOME? Sorry for being so long…this has been my heart beat for many weeks now. School should be starting soon, and I don’t have a clue as to what we will be doing! Help!

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