Homeschooling, with a Full-Time Job
Today's Wall Street Journal has a fascinating piece from Sue Shellenbarger on parents who homeschool their children while holding down full-time jobs. While homeschooling and gifted education aren't related per se, my experience is that a number of parents of highly gifted children wind up giving it a go at some point. Perhaps the child is asynchronous, so whole grade acceleration isn't a great option, or the school doesn't allow subject matter acceleration, or the high school is great but the middle school isn't, so the family tries homeschooling for two years....
One of the barriers to parents making such a decision is that it's usually perceived as difficult to homeschool a child and make a living at the same time. Homeschooling has religious roots, and many of the families who choose it for those reasons believe in having one parent at home. But those who choose it for secular reasons may not -- or they may not have the resources to live on one income -- or both parents may love their work. So what do you do?
According to Sue Shellenbarger, you make it work. An entire academic day can be compressed into 2-4 hours (given all the down time kids have in school). So parents stagger shifts -- one homeschools from 8am to noon, for instance, then reports to work while the kids stay with a sitter. The other parent gets home at 5 or 6 and finishes up the lessons. Or homeschooling can be done in the evening (there is the question of what to do with the kids during the day -- some families hire a sitter/nanny who drives the kids to college classes or supervises online learning). A number of people who work full-time work at home to make it work. Shellenbarger profiles a woman named Shari Smith, who works 60 hours per week as a moderator for the website iVillage.com. She homeschools her daughter as she works at home, putting young Rebekah on assignments, working for 30 minutes, checking in with Rebekah, going back to work, etc. (Rebekah notes that homeschooling "is pretty cool, because I can be in my pajamas at school.")
Online curricula make this all easier, as the parent doesn't have to be "on" quite as much while homeschooling. Shellenbarger even found one single mom, Amy Garber of Mechanicsville, VA, who makes it work. She goes to her employer's office in the morning while a sitter cares for her two kids. In the afternoon, she homeschools. After the kids go to bed, she works at her home office from 7:30pm until midnight.
Obviously, Garber's schedule doesn't leave her a lot of room for hobbies and such. It also requires an employer who's willing to commit to a flexible schedule as long as the work gets done. But her story shows that even being a single parent doesn't have to be a barrier, if the parent decides homeschooling is the best educational option.