The Home Educator as Entrepreneur

Hardly a week goes by that a friend or acquaintance says “Oh, I couldn’t homeschool my kid. I just couldn’t. I’ve gotta work to stay sane.”

There was a time that I thought that, too. There was also a time that I thought I was wholly incapable of caring for a squirming, screaming infant. He’s almost 5, so we both managed to survive five months of colic.

Yeah, we’re lucky enough that I don’t “have” to work, not for financial reasons or to get health insurance. I freelance a little and keep this site up in order to keep my brain stimulated. I’m lucky, and I don’t take this opportunity for granted.

Even though some homeschoolers take a strident tone and bellow that everyone “should” homeschool, I wholeheartedly disagree. Sure, I wish that more people could homeschool, yeah, but, no, I don’t think everyone should. Mostly that’s because not everyone really wants to do it.

And to succeed in homeschooling, as in life, you have to want it.

Similarly, I don’t think everyone is cut out to run his or her own business. Because that’s what I’ve come to see homeschooling as being: a form of entrepreneurship. The kind of work that never stops. There are no sick days, no vacations. And you gotta have a clear vision and manage all the moving parts. It also helps tremendously to have a partner with good insurance and a stable income.

I’d say the same thing, though, for starting a yarn shop. Or running an ice cream parlor. Entrepreneurship is challenging. Of course, being a female entrepreneur is even harder—especially when you’re doing something that works against cultural norms.

Which is what homeschooling will do as long as we insist upon defining it against public schooling—and people who stick with public schools—rather than seeing what it really is and articulating it as such. It’s educational entrepreneurship–and just one exciting option among many more likely to come in the next generation of education.

Homeschooling is right for lots of folks, but it won’t work for everyone–at least not right away and without a major overhaul of our economic system, workplaces, and expectations. Imagine that you’re in the ER at 5AM in dire need of a cardiologist. Do you want to hear this from your nurse?: “We used to have a great young doctor readily available at this hour, but she gave it all up to teach her kids at home full-time. The top brass wouldn’t pay for a comparable doctor to share her schedule. She’s a divorced parent, and she couldn’t find a good sitter who would keep the children at odd hours and when the kids were sleeping. The doc finally decided her kids were more important. It’s too bad, but you will have to wait for the second-rate doc you’re getting.”

If we really want to see more people homeschool, then we–and by that I mean secular homeschoolers–need to do a much better job of articulating how to do it. I’m not talking about making curriculum choices. That’s small potatoes. I’m talking about how we approach homeschooling philosophically and how it fits in the bigger picture of our work/live/play experience. And we need a variety of women and men in many fields sharing their experiences. (There seem to be a whole lot of writers, artists and social media people doing it, but then they’re prone to experimentation. We need more butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers making a go of it and chatting it all up.)

Along these lines–and acknowledging that I’m one of those writer/social media types, I regard our whole tumultuous, amorphous experiment at writing while teaching and caregiving for my frail mother as the family business. To succeed, I mix equal parts creativity with discipline. By nature, I question the status quo and look for new technologies and techniques to help me reach my goal of nurturing independent lifelong learners (the kid and me, together). I read, research, and try to understand things like when kids learn what they learn and why. I outsource things like Tae Kwon Do and music. Later, I may outsource even more to an online program. Figuring out all of this is time consuming but also weirdly energizing and intellectually satisfying.

Of course, there are days when the homeschool work all collides with my deadline for the little local newspaper.

And that’s how I wound up on a deadline day at the Chick-Fil-A, writing stories while watching my kid through the play space glass after having spent an hour supervising his reading, spelling, and math exercises. Because, see, some days even management needs a change of scenery and a chance to catch up on paper work.

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  1. Hmmm…food for thought…I usually don’t find that. 🙂 As a secular homeschooler and someone who gave up a very lucrative career, I can see your point. How do we do it? How did we get here? How can others get here? Hmmm…I do new homeschooler talks and cover the many, many, many resources available to families in our area, but maybe I should be talking more about our own journey. Thank you for your post.

    • I have been slow to respond, George, because I’ve been mulling over your comment.

      Yes, I think it would be great if you would talk more about your family’s experience. I also think that we need some sort of mechanism where people can share their stories.

      Off and on this week, I’ve been researching existing resources for parents exploring the intersection of work and homeschool. Alas, much of the dialogue seems to take place within email lists and Yahoo groups. That’s fine–and I understand the impulse to explore the topic in some measure of privacy. Yet, I also think that if we’re going to articulate the how-to aspect of working and homeschooling, then we also must have the conversations more “out in the open.”

      So I’m going to keep thinking about it some more and perhaps report back here. I have a couple of ideas brewing.

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