Usually, the parent who does the homeschooling is the mom and the one who gets to be the breadwinner is the dad. But not always. Sometimes parents even manage to split the homeschooling with both parents working in shifts or odd schedules. They find a way that works for them. But despite all this, homeschooling families often have an old-fashioned break down of roles. Mom is in charge of the kids and dad goes to work.
And if you are that dad, there are some things you need to know about your wife’s job.
1. Homeschooling is a full-time job.
If you have more than one child, your child is young, or one of your children is special needs, your wife is working ALL DAY LONG in a thankless job that never ends. I’ve been a stay-at-home/homeschooling mom and gone to work outside the home and let me tell you, going to work elsewhere is WAY easier!
In my paid jobs I could go to the bathroom alone. I could take a lunch break and not have someone ask me to literally take the food off my plate and give it to them. At my paid job, I usually had clear goals, doable tasks to check off and a boss to ask for support if I needed it.
Staying home, the job literally never ends. There is always more the kids need to learn, more things to clean up and often someone crying for attention. Literally. Actual crying. Almost constantly.
Being a homeschool mom is highly rewarding, especially on a good day. But it also can be the most challenging work on the bad days. And great days don’t always look like great days to someone else. A great day might mean a day at the park where all the kids were socially appropriate, caught a frog and listened to a book on tape on the way there. On that day, the kids learned more and did more than it sounds like. Those days are hard to bench-mark.
What you can do?
As the homeschool partner what you need to do is tell your homeschool teacher they are doing a great job. Even when it is going rough. Kids at school don’t learn instantly and the work of teaching is challenging. It requires patience and planning. Some days, everything goes wrong and the only success is that at the end of the day, the kids are still alive. Sometimes that needs to be enough. Thank your partner for working hard even in the face of exploding diapers, pre-teen sass, and a dog that won’t paper train.
2. Homeschooling requires prioritizing the kids and their needs over the needs of the household.
Every day your partner makes choices about how to spend her time based on what the kids need. She spends most of her time moving quickly from task to task, responding to the children and her own care and the care of basic household chores often fall further down the priority list. Your partner has to feed your kids several times a day, clean up the mess of teaching as she goes, and deal with lots of random crises that happen with children. She has to spend hours teaching and setting up projects. And she doesn’t necessarily have much time left to catch up on the mass amounts of housework that a family needs.
What you can do to help?
Make a plan to split household chores, and stick to it. Do the dishes or cook dinner. Put away laundry or give the kids a bath. Think about what it would be like if both of you worked outside the home. You would both have to work together to get the housework done on a day-to-day basis. Act just like your wife has a “real job” because she does and remember that you are a team.
3. You might be the only adult your wife sees today.
Remember, she doesn’t even get to ride in the car alone on the way home from work, the way you do. She might not have been able to go to the bathroom alone today. Although she wants to talk with you and hear about your day, she may need some transition time to be able to engage with you. She might need time to just be alone to find her own bearings.
What you can do?
Give your partner a transition time just like you get with your commute. Encourage her to take a walk or read in a quiet space for 20 minutes while you play with the kids. Take the kids to scouts so your wife can have an hour to regroup. She’ll be a better adult after getting a few minutes to be with herself.
4. She’s always second-guessing herself.
As a homeschooling parent, you are never really sure that you are doing the right thing. Are they learning enough? Did he really understand it? When is she going to learn to read? Why is teaching division so hard? Is this curriculum working? It is so easy to get overwhelmed with the choices and details and it can be hard to judge progress. Your partner needs someone to bounce ideas off of and to help her see the forest through the trees.
What you can do?
Listen. Listen when she needs to talk through which curriculum to use. Listen when she needs to tell you how “your son” peed in the science experiment. Listen when she needs to complain she has the hardest job she has ever had. Tell her you support her. Tell her you trust her. You don’t have to know any answers to be engaged and supportive. Just listen and try to ask relevant questions to help her think through what she needs to talk through.
5. The school week is hectic and stressful.
It may seem like your partner and the kids have it easy. The kids may still be in pajamas or even asleep when you leave for work in the morning. But most homeschool families supplement with a lot of activities, play dates, classes, and outings. It is a busy schedule when taking into consideration meal times, nap times, and driving back and forth.
You may have a hard commute during rush hour, but your partner may have driven to the co-op across town and a play date, stopping at the grocery store afterward (taking all the kids with her). She may have spent hours in a car with all the kids today. And if she didn’t, she probably focused on getting a lot of lessons done to make up for all the time she spends driving around town on other days.
What you can do?
Take the kids away for a few hours on the weekend and let her have a break. Seriously, she needs it. Take them out to the park, or drive them to Sonic and let them eat ice cream in your car. Just let her have a break.
6. Homeschooling is a gift, one you both work hard to give your family.
You and your partner are working together to make this life what you want for your family. Homeschooling can feel crazy at times, but it also gives your family freedom and joy that you wouldn’t otherwise have. You can take vacations when everyone else is tied to the school calendar. You can see how your kids thrive when they are given this personalized education. You get to see your kids growing up on their own terms, and that is pretty amazing.
What you can do?
Take time to appreciate your life. Be sure you tell your partner how amazing it is.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.