Dear friends, I have job. My kids do too. It’s a self employed job. Talking with other writers, artists, or even my husband who farms, I think there’s this strain on relationships when you are self employed.
I’m a homeschool teacher.
This job comes with a lot of freedoms, especially in the younger years. Kindergarteners and 1st graders take only an hour or so to teach a day because a large portion of their learning at that age is in their play. As they get older, the play time shifts to more academic work as their brains are developing and they are grasping bigger and bigger concepts. My 6th grader now, has heaped so much on her plate (she has some big goals) that she struggles to be done at 3:30 each day, and often has still more work to do in the evening from time to time. It’s just her job right now.
We do have freedoms, though, especially as this year I pieced together our curriculum. I made the master list of what needs to be completed from various bought curricula I have chosen, and some I made myself. When I first started homeschooling I really needed the hand holding of a printed out list that professionals provided me, and I followed it very imperfectly. I have taken seminars, studied what other professional teachers to, read countless books, and dedicated myself to figuring out what this should look like for our home. I have prayed over these plans. This is not just my job, this is my life.
There are reasons we leave our plans all the time, but those reasons always fit our overall goals for our children’s educations. Field trips to museums, or the zoos. Then there’s activities, especially music related, that we just incorporate into our day as though they are as important as math or science, because in my mind…music is as important.
As my kids grow older, and our freedom of open hours dwindles, as my kids’ work of learning grows more intense, I find this pushback.
It’s very subtle, but everyone who is self-employed has felt it.
“Yeah, I know you have to work, but couldn’t you just do it later today?”
Well, yes, except later today we are doing different stuff. The trick to successful self-employment is to not get distracted by every butterfly the flies your way. Our days are full, and I have not figured out how to invent time yet. I’ve looked into it. I’m thinking about making it next semester’s science project. But as of now, we don’t have the power to invent time.
“But I thought they were homeschooled. I don’t understand why they can’t come during this time. It’s not like they have to listen to any schedule. Homeschooling is freedom, right?”
Actually they do. They have to listen to the one I lay out for them. And with much freedom comes much responsibility. During that time time, maybe they’re normally doing their math. Homeschooled doesn’t mean they don’t have things to do. It means they do them at home, using different methods. It doesn’t look like a traditional school in our home at all. One of my students likes to take a 15-30 minute recess after each subject. It helps him focus. It means I consider open play a subject, because if you look at the science of learning, it kind of is. Another one of my students likes to be in her room where it’s quiet, and just push hard. I only spend a max of about 2-3 hours a day actually instructing the kids, and the rest of the time I’m coaching them, holding them accountable, grading them, and teaching them how to have a strong character through it all. You know, general parenting/stay-at-home-mom stuff.
“It feels a bit like you’re making them do this because you just say so, like a power thing. It’s not like the school district is making you give them this assignment on this day. You aren’t reporting to anyone.”
I wonder, just a bit, if we would ask the same thing of our traditional school teachers. “It feels, teacher, that you’re making him do this assignment just to make you feel like you’re doing something and you have the power, and he could actually skip it if you let him.” We don’t (or at least shouldn’t) because that is the teacher’s job: to help the student learn. To give them jobs and inspire them, and set boundaries, and expectations.
I don’t work under the school district in this state. I don’t need my curriculum approved by anyone. In this state my kids just have to take a standardized test each year, and I don’t even have to turn in the results to anyone. (But if you want to know, my kids rock the standardized tests. I’m not worried.)
I do work under authority, though, and honestly, sometimes a bit more intimidating than our local government. I report to God, as all parents do. I have to give an account to him, someday, on how I raised my children. He calls each parent to a path he has laid out before them, and the path he laid out before us is homeschooling. If I don’t teach my kids, I am not walking in obedience. I can’t just skip it. It’s a job God gave me. I may not get paid, but it doesn’t make it any less my job. It’s my profession.
When I first started homeschooling, I was obsessed with keeping up with whatever the public school kids did, and making sure we not just met it, but surpassed it. I thought school had to look like that. But the more training I attend, the more I read on the subject, the more I see that I should not hold my school standard to the world’s standard, but to God’s. God’s standard is by no means lower than the world’s. But it does look different. I spend more time on spiritual things. We spend more time in the Word. Not only a religion class, but I study my kids, and see what their gifts are and pray about what God wants to prepare them for. Then I dedicate more time to developing their gifts, and not spend their whole day working on what they are not suited for, to try to bring them up to some standard.
Granted, one of my kids hates reading, but I feel reading is important in the Christian life. If you don’t love to read, you won’t love God’s Word. If you don’t love God’s Word, you have to get your truth filtered through other people. You can’t read it yourself. I will push a subject that isn’t their favorite, if it’s one I feel is required for their future. They may hate math, but they need to know how to manage their finances, and at least have a respect of all math can do. Sometimes I push them because I do see their potential, when they don’t see it in themselves.
I am a teacher. I have a job. This means I have to set expectations, boundaries, and inspire my students. That means I rarely pick up the phone during the school hours, so I can be available to them. If I finally get my highly distractible kid working on a math equation, and I just stop and chat for a few minutes, I could possibly lose his attention for 2 hours. I don’t pick up my phone when I’m at work. I sometimes have pockets of time here and there, and if you hit the pocket, it’s your lucky day. I can talk.
But I have a job. I’m a self-employed teacher in my own school. It’s nothing against anyone. I don’t avoid people. I’m sorry I don’t always pick up my phone. We can’t go to everything. I just have a job. My kids do too. (They don’t get paid either, but they find it equally as rewarding.)