Homeschooling and working are typically believed to be mutually exclusive. In most homeschooling families, at least one of the parents doesn’t work. On the other hand, most families where both parents work don’t homeschool. My family’s experience shows that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing – there is a way to do both.
It all comes down to one’s values and vision. My life would have been a lot easier if I did not work and dedicated all my time to homemaking and raising the kids. If I worked full-time and sent the kids to school, it would have been much easier, as well. However, both homeschooling and entrepreneurship are a part of my value system, and I didn’t want to sacrifice one for the sake of the other. I believe that homeschooling is best for the children. I also feel that my work is essential for my personal and professional growth, that it sets a good example for my children, and that it is not fair to put all the stress of breadwinning on my husband (more on that here). So, Kon and I decided that we could each run our separate businesses, and at the same time raise our four children at home.
However, there are certain conditions that make it possible for us to achieve both goals. Without meeting these prerequisites and making appropriate lifestyle and philosophical adjustments, it would have been very difficult or even impossible for us – at least for me personally – to make it happen.
The “un” in “unschooling”
There are different approaches to homeschooling. Many homeschoolers practice top-down teaching with a structured curriculum. We, on the other hand, believe in the unschooling approach and encourage our children to engage in learning that is entirely self-directed. To put it simply, we don’t hover over our children, we don’t do any structured teaching, and we don’t supervise our children’s learning. All we do is provide materials and opportunities for inspiration, and occasionally facilitate their learning activities – if they specifically ask us to do so.
Such approach not only gives my children the freedom to learn on their own, but also gives me the time to work. If I had to formally teach my children, I would have never had enough time to run a business.
Kon and I are not in the business for making quick money (such as sales or start-ups). Both our companies provide professional services, and our business models are based on a long-term strategy. For businesses like that, it takes a long time to get traction and grow revenue.
Being debt-free helped us stay afloat during the early years of our businesses. Kon and I have long paid out our student and car loans. We didn’t need to take loans to start our businesses. Also, because we rent, we don’t need to pay mortgage and other regular property expenses such as taxes or home maintenance and repairs. For us, renting is a much more flexible and cost-effective arrangement. Being free of debt and burdensome financial commitments gave us a lot more flexibility with our career choices. When we started our companies, we could live on lower income and allow ourselves more time to grow our businesses and become profitable. If we had debts, we would not have been so robust and we would not have been able to afford parting with our day jobs and regular paychecks.
Besides, we both have virtual offices and work from home, which minimizes overhead and allows us to become profitable quicker.
When my oldest children were babies, I worked by myself and could not get much done. Over time, I have assembled a team of skilled professionals (and wonderful people!) to help me handle the work. This allows me to work smarter and more efficiently. I can now take on more projects, without having to spend significantly more time on them.
With my children at home with me, I don’t have the luxury to spend long hours working by myself – nor do I have the expertise necessary for providing comprehensive professional services. If my company wasn’t scalable, I would not have been able to run a serious business operation. I would not have accomplished anything significant without hiring help.
Kon and I work as a tag team. We take turns with working and watching the kids. We also help each other with businesses. I have built Kon’s company website and do graphic design for all his paperwork and marketing collateral. He helps me with marketing and accounting, and gives me tremendously useful business advice. Besides, he cooks and does most of the grocery shopping. I admit that if I had to do all the cooking and homemaking myself, I would not have been able to work at all.