Home Educator's Family Times - Home Education & Family Services - Homeschool Support Network
April 2001
Volume 9, No. 2
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Single and Homeschooling

by Teri Brown

"Ibegan homeschooling with my husband, and expected to have his support, his ideas, etc. so that it would not be such a big undertaking. I counted on him to homeschool the kids in areas that I am not proficient in and to be the one to take them to scouting, fishing, etc. Needless to say, the reality has become much different from the dreams we had." Leslie Hill, single homeschooling mom.

When people think of homeschoolers they tend to think of the typical American family, only with more kids. As homeschooling becomes more and more mainstream we will start to see as many diverse homeschooling families as we see in the public or private school sector.

Many single parents, who might otherwise consider homeschooling, believe their marital status excludes them from this wonderful educational option. But with perseverance, flexibility and a strong network of support, single parent homeschooling can be done, and done well.

Leslie Hill of Oregon agrees. Hill, a widow, has been homeschooling alone for the past two and a half years and knows from experience the dedication it takes. ?It definitely can be done, but it takes a great deal of creativity, flexibility and commitment from all of the family members,? says the mother of four. ?It cannot simply be the single parent who wants this to happen – the entire family must be involved and committed to homeschooling.?

Commitment is important to any homeschooler, but maybe doubly so for those parents who are doing everything alone. The rigors of single parent homeschooling can be daunting for those flying solo.

"The biggest challenges about being a single parent and homeschooler, are not having the financial resources, time and energy to do everything we would like to do," says Hill. "It is very difficult for me, as the sole parent, to be actively involved in all the various activities my kids would like to undertake. Just the physical act of driving them to and fro is exhausting and overwhelming.?

One single parent homeschooler interviewed finds the challenges to be mostly emotional. "I’d say the biggest challenge would be that I don’t have anyone to discuss everything with, no one to work everything out with. No one to boost my confidence when I need it, or bounce ideas off of when I feel stuck."

Most single parent homeschoolers find that supportive friends or family are instrumental in helping them cope with the challenges they face, be it emotional or financial.

Jeanne Musfeldt hasn’t been a single mother for very long and is grateful for the help she has received. The Iowan mother of three has found that having a strong network of caring people has kept her sane during this period of transition.

"People at church and friends in general have been such a great help to us. This Christmas, we got so many things from so many people! The children were thrilled, and I was left feeling very loved," says Musfeldt.

Having your children home 7 days a week is wonderful, but for many of us, time spent alone is a refreshing period that leaves us with more patience for our families. This is even more of a challenge for single homeschoolers than it is for two parent families. Though Musfeldt says she doesn’t need her 'alone' time very often, it is still an important need that has to be met in order for her to be all the things she needs to be. Friends often help out in that way as well.

"I have to be more creative in how I get that time alone. Friends from church have been great about helping me with this dilemma, too," says Musfeldt. "There are times that I will send the kids to their rooms or outside for the afternoon, just to give me some alone time!"

"How do you get along financially?" is perhaps the most often asked question of single homeschoolers and certainly one of the most important. There is no denying that this is probably the toughest aspect of tackling homeschooling (or even single-parenting) on your own. But like everything else about homeschooling, it boils down to commitment.

"It is harder for me to find gainful employment, as I am not willing to put the children into the system. In my heart of hearts, I know that my children do not belong in the public schools," says Musfeldt. "And I am looking into doing some tutoring in my home. There are things that can be done, either from the home or with the children in tow. It just takes looking and wanting to do this."

Many of the single homeschooling parents interviewed received government assistance at some point when their children were younger - while they needed their parent full time. However, once the children were old enough to leave for any length of time most of the parents obtained part time jobs.

"Currently, we are receiving some government assistance. I would very much like to get to the point that we need no help. I hope that comes soon," says Musfeldt. "We also get child support, and we have a paper route that we run once a week. It takes us about 3 hours to do it, and the children and I all chip in on this job."

Leslie Hill also finds the financial challenge to be the most difficult. "I struggle with this issue every day because I would probably be in a better financial position if I would just put my kids into public school and get a full-time job. I am currently living on social security from my husband’s death and it is difficult.?

If it’s so difficult to be a single homeschooling parent why do these dedicated parents keep at it?

"I haven’t surrendered to the 'get-a-job-put-em-in-school' mentality because the longer I homeschool the more I realize the necessity of homeschooling in order to raise decent kids who feel safe, nurtured, loved and who enjoy learning." Hill says. "I take each day as it comes, knowing that there may come a time when I will be forced to put my kids into school for financial reasons. At least they will have had the foundation of several years of homeschooling. I will also have the comfort of knowing (in later years) that I did the best I could to grow good kids."

As one mother put it, "If you believe that homeschooling is best for your child(ren), then you owe it to yourself and them to try to find a way. A home business - even a family business, that the kids can help with - may provide the financial opportunity and an educational experience at the same time. There are some good resources available to get you started. You can do it!"

Hill has several tips on surviving on a small income.

- DON’T buy a curriculum.
- Take advantage of the library! Go to the library’s website, browse the books there and then put them on hold--great time saver. o If you have many kids (as I do), buy family memberships to the zoo, museums, etc. Initially, it seems expensive, but it is less expensive in the long run and allows you to see these places at a leisurely pace and often.
-Take advantage of every 'ordinary moment' to homeschool--learning math takes place at the gas station and in Costco, biology and botany happen at the park and while camping, etc. So much of our learning is done in the car on our way to and fro.

Hill confesses that she has definitely NOT mastered homeschooling on a budget, and I am often dismayed by the great many fun activities/classes that are available that we are not able to participate in. But I truly believe that most of the valuable moments in homeschooling happen while doing very ordinary things.?

Editor’s Note:
All homeschooling families can benefit from money-saving tips like those in the book by Melissa Morgan and Judith Allee, "Homeschooling on a Shoe String". This great book offers a wealth of ideas from starting home businesses to obtaining free curriculum. Also, many community centers and organizations like the YMCA or YWCA offer memberships regardless of the ability to pay especially to families with children. These are well worth looking into even for a few months out of the year as most offer many free classes for children and even use of pools and swimming lessons. A supportive, loving homeschool group is invaluable to single homeschooling parents and it is my hope that homeschool support groups reach out to these families and children in very practical ways.

Teri Brown is a homeschooling Mom/writer who lives with her husband and two children in Portland Oregon. She has written for Home Education Magazine, Electic Homeschooling Online and Home Education Learning Magazine. She has also co-authored the book, Christian Unschooling: Growing Your Child in the Freedom of Christ, available from Champion Press. www.championpress.com You can reach Teri at unschoolr2@aol.com.

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