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Can You Homeschool with a Home-Business?

Homeschool Home Business“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!”

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 called FastLane Technology.) BSP was a mail-order educational business for home educators, marketed by catalog and web site.

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 I was already actively involved as the chief financial officer of our LonTalk router business. Currently in that same position, we now have four school-age children and two college students.

What I Do

  • Homeschool my two sons and two daughters who are still home
  • Coordinate all of the financial and personnel aspects of three companies (a LonTalk router company, an engineering consulting company, and a blog setup company)
  • Keep a nearly immaculate house (without outside help!)
  • Am always caught up on the laundry and ironing
  • Read the Bible most mornings
  • Read family scriptures later
  • Volunteer at my church (teaching music to the elementary aged kids)
  • Make-up my face and fix my hair daily
  • Prepare an inexpensive, nutritious, home-cooked meal every night
  • Finish most of the furniture that we purchase
  • Exercise every day except Sunday
  • Read two or three non-fiction books each month
  • Drive incessantly to and fro
  • Perform once in a while
  • Speak at conventions and conference a number of times a year
  • Write — finishing my first book for publication
  • Blog as the sole contributor on two active blogs and as a perma-blogger at two large group blogs

Now that, hopefully, I have sufficiently impressed you with my super-woman abilities…

What I Don’t Do

  • Crafts — ever — at all
  • Repair our appliances
  • Photograph every waking moment of our children’s lives
  • Can fruits or vegetables
  • Watch much TV (exceptions: The O’Reilly Factor; Glenn Beck; Leverage; Blue Collar — all DVRed for minimum time consumption)
  • Sew anything (unless Halloween is approaching)
  • Decorate elaborately
  • Lots of experiments or units or elaborate projects with my kids
  • Tolerate many messy projects — educational or not
  • Read aloud to my children as often as I should
  • Go outside and enjoy the beautiful winter weather very regularly
  • Volunteer for March of Dimes
  • Keep up on my scrapbooks — or have any scrapbooks at all
  • Do genealogy
  • Write in my journal regularly
  • Get a full night’s sleep — ever

When we compare ourselves to others, who seem to be doing so very much, we tend only to notice their list of dos and ignore their equally long list of don’ts. But the don’ts are equally important. Time is a limited resource.

Is Homeschool Doable?

So 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 keep doing everything else you are currently doing.

If you really want to homeschool — 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 have decided not to use those resources for anything else.

Now it may well be that some of you time is spent doing low-priority, low-benefit activities. 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 Lost 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. 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 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.” (Recognizing that this labeling was 20 years ago — and before anyone knew that “retard” would be so objectionable in the next century.) “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 were things that:

  1. I didn’t value much anyway
  2. I valued but weren’t a priority, or
  3. I valued a great deal but could postpone or rearrange.

The last two are tougher to do, but not impossible if you focus on how much more you value your children and the way they are raised than what you are missing by overseeing their educations.

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.

I think many people, particularly 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.

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. 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 the business!

“Quality time” is a myth. 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. If you can look at your life and your family and make ample room for home education, 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 }
  • SueBee June 16, 2010, 2:02 am

    Sound, honest advice. No glossing over the issues. Good info.

  • Hallie May 12, 2011, 4:13 pm

    I know so many mothers who work from home and educate their children with homeschooling. It looks stressful, and don’t think I’ll be able to do that, but it IS possible. I like how you have assured a potential mother or father who is looking into this. Kids learn by example, and what better way of showing them how hard working their parent is jumbling life with ease 🙂

  • Jen November 9, 2011, 5:48 pm

    Wow, you are an amazing woman. It’s incredible that you have been able to be a successful businesswoman AND homeschool! Your tips here are so good, I don’t have children yet but plan on it in the not so distant future and my fiancee and I often wonder if homeschooling would be a good option or if I should send them to regular school…this gives me some good things to ponder and potentially help with my decision.

  • Alison Moore Smith November 9, 2011, 9:08 pm

    Thanks, Jen. But, like I said, only amazing on paper. There are way more things I do NOT do — and those are the things that must be carefully weighed.

  • Kim October 16, 2013, 11:21 am

    I knew before you wrote everything out that you were amazing! I wish many could remember to not compare their behind the scenes work with everyone else’s highlight reel. Those people who are taking the baby steps or even the giant steps moving forward are better than no steps at all. That is all that matters.
    Kim recently posted…Things I wish I would have knownMy Profile

  • Alison Moore Smith October 16, 2013, 11:33 am

    Haha. I hope you read the DON’Ts! Notice, Ms. Garden Produce, I don’t can, at all!
    Alison Moore Smith recently posted…Obamacare and the Decline of Basic Arithmetic SkillsMy Profile

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