By Leo Babauta
Eva was a teacher when we decided to homeschool our kids, but we made the conscious decision to scale back our lifestyles so that she could quit and focus on homeschooling. It was something we both wanted, and so we figured out a way to do live on one income.
We are lucky, I'll admit. But lots of other families could probably do this if they wanted. Others can't. So in this post, I thought I'd start a discussion of some of the options.
Here are some possibilities (not exhaustive obviously):
- Scale back your life and live on one income. This is possible for many people. It means giving up a car, and a bunch of luxuries, and maybe moving to a smaller home, and getting out of debt, and eating out less. But it's totally worth it.
- Scale back your life and have both parents be home part-time. It doesn't just have to be one parent who stays home. What if both could work part-time from home, or work less and be home more, and both parents split the homeshcooling duties?
- Work from home. This is more and more common, and even if you don't work from home now, you could possibly negotiate for this with your employer. If you work from home, you can unschool -- it just takes some flexibility. More on this below.
- Have the kids stay with relatives during work hours. There's no rule that says the kids have to be with parents all day long to unschool. They could be doing their own thing during work hours, at grandma's house, and then do fun things together with parents when the parents come home. This could work for a single parent too.
- Split time with a homeschooling relative or friend. If you know someone else who is homeschooling, what if the kids went to their house some days of the week, and their kids came to your house other days? This means you can go to work on the days the kids are at the other house. If you have three homeschooling families sharing time, this would be even more ideal.
- Hire a nanny/babysitter. Lots of people do this anyway, but if you had someone to watch the kids while you are at work, you could have them doing unschooling-like things during this time, or just playing, and then do fun things together when you come home.
- Let the kids go to school (traditional, or maybe even an alternative school), then unschool after school. There's nothing that says you can't combine regular school with unschooling. I guess this is what most people do anyway. But you could do it more explicitly, exploring unschooling ideas at home and even working with teachers to have them manifest your unschooling philosophy during school hours. This is a good way to transition as well, if you aren't sure about unschooling and want to give it a try.
So yes, you can unschool even if you're not able to stay home with the kids.
It's important to note that unschooling, theoretically, could take less of a parent's time than you might think. Now, this doesn't always work out in practice, but you could do it if you really wanted. Here's why.
Unschooling is about self-sufficiency. At least, that's one of the main things I like about it. It's about the kid taking control of his learning, and deciding what to do and how to do it, and letting the parent be a participant and facilitator when appropriate, but also letting the parent step back and just let the kid do his thing.
So, in practice, that often means the parent has to guide the child a lot at first, but try to let the child do stuff on his own as much as possible. Don't take over, don't direct, but instead prompt with questions, explore things together but encourage the child to lead the exploration. Challenge the child to do things on his own -- can he write a blog post alone (and then you can read and give feedback), can he create his own Youtube channel, can he watch videos to figure out how to do things?
In the beginning, this is a lot of work, encouraging self-sufficiency. But in the end, it saves a ton of time, because the child does things more and more on his own, and the parent can step back and do his own thing too. And more importantly, self-sufficiency is something everyone should learn, and the earlier the better.