Hi, everyone! I am a single working parent and a homeschool mom. That’s right! I work full-time as a registered nurse in an oncology ICU. I am also a mother to the sweetest 4th grader in the world, and I homeschool him. Last year if someone told me I was going to be a homeschool mom, I would’ve told them they had the wrong person. Well, here we are, 2021, and homeschooling is happening in my home!
During my homeschool research, I didn’t come across any articles or blogs about homeschooling as a single parent. I am sure there are many single parents who are a part of the homeschool community. However, I just didn’t find resources. Now I have been homeschooling for about 7 months, and I have to be honest—it’s going pretty well! Here are some tips that have helped me manage parent-led homeschool along with working and raising a 9-year-old.
Avoid the Comparison Trap
Sometimes you may think your homeschool isn’t living up to the standards you see on social media or what you hear in your homeschool community. Do not fall into this thought process. Family situations are different. Some homes have two parents, some may be led by grandparents, or some may have another type of family makeup. If you know that you are doing your very best to cover what your children need for their education, you can have peace knowing that what you are doing works for your family. In my observation of homeschool families, I’ve noticed that one parent usually manages the bulk of the homeschooling anyway. This is true for single parents as well, but we also manage everything else—all the housework, all the bills, all the shopping, all the work. Everything that involves managing a home and a family, we do it. And we do all the homeschooling, too. If you have been successful as a single parent, homeschool can be something that is manageable too, and your family can excel.
As an ICU nurse, I work three 12-hour shifts per week. We school 4 days a week on my days off. As I mentioned before, we are currently covering 8 subjects. In order to complete 5 lessons per week for all subjects we “double up.” My consultant introduced me to the concept where we complete 2 lessons of one subject every day. For now, that is what is working for us. I am fully aware that things may change, and I might have to adjust our schedule. I am OK with that. Follow what works for your family and know that things may change. Having a starting point works, but being flexible is a huge part of what makes the schedule or routine workable.
We also don’t follow strict time rules that mimic a school schedule. My only requirement is that my son be dressed by 9:30 a.m. and be done with chores by 10:00 a.m. We start at 10:00 or 10:30. We end between 2:00 and 3:00 p.m. That includes a few 5- to 10-minute breaks and a 30-minute lunch. The freedom of homeschooling allows us to have impromptu outings if needed. If I notice my son isn’t quite ready to work, we ride bikes before we start or during a break.
Plan and Organize
Many times in single parenting, things come up that are out of your control. What helps me is to plan for the things I can control. Things like grocery shopping, cooking, and simply knowing where things are (organization) have saved me a lot of time. When it comes to grocery shopping, I use either a curbside pickup (often free) or grocery delivery service. Either of these can save an abundance of time which provides more time to spend with your children in general. For cooking, I am not a big meal planner, but I do plan dinner for a couple of days. I use my crockpot at least twice a week. Cooking one dish and using leftovers for 2 to 3 nights can be a huge timesaver.
Organization is a large part of my success as well. We have a place for everything we use in our homeschool. Craft carts have been a lifesaver, and we keep most of our schooling items on the cart. We don’t use a homeschool room, but we have an area designated as such. Every item has a place which saves time and prevents frustration.
Choose a Curriculum That Works for You
Another large part of the reason for our homeschool success is the curriculum we chose. While there are many homeschool curriculum options available that work for different people, BJU Press is what has worked for us because of the open and go format. The lessons are prepared and the days are planned. We use BJU Press for math, science, reading, and grammar. What has worked so well with BJU Press is that everything is right at your fingertips.
We use the parent-led option, which allows me to have more instruction time with my son and to go at the pace that works for us. The teaching materials provided, such as the teacher edition and the lesson plans, take a lot of the guesswork out of what we should be covering. The most I have to do in regard to planning is plan the days we will do school and how many lessons we will cover. I do not have to figure out what my fourth grader should be learning. BJU Press has done the work for me. Again, it’s not effortless. We still have to plan and have a routine, but having part of the routine laid out for you can lead to successful homeschool days.
Our family has been one of the greatest blessings for us. My parents are always available to support us when I am working. They also respect my decision to homeschool and support my son with his review work when he is visiting them. I also have a village of family and friends who are supportive to what may have once been an unconventional style of school. We also joined a homeschool group that organizes field trips. This enables us to socialize and learn in a different setting. Basically, if possible, have people around who you can bounce ideas off or trust to support you on difficult days.
Keep God First
Lastly, but most importantly, keep God first and stay prayerful. Like many people, we started homeschooling due to Covid. However, before Covid I was praying about my son’s education and alternative education avenues, like selling my house and moving so he could attend another school. The pandemic led us to homeschool, and it was the answer to my prayers. We are so grateful to have the opportunity and resources to homeschool. I never doubted that I could homeschool because I am a single parent. God provided for us like He always has. If homeschooling is a desire you have for your children, He’ll help you make a way for that, too.
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NL Simmons is a fulltime registered nurse and mother of one child, who she’s homeschooling for the first time.