How to Homeschool as a Single Parent

Actual picture of me and my two oldest kids just before we embarked on homeschooling

Once upon a time, I was a single mom to 2 beautifully bright and energetic children. My oldest had a lot of struggles in the public school system. For one, he’s a boy and the classroom is just not designed for their success. After a year of being on a first name basis with the principal and a whole lot of IEP meetings, I started to seriously consider homeschooling as a single parent. At my core, I knew that no one else would care for my wild child or try to understand why he was struggling so badly as much as I would. I figured I’d let him finish that 6th grade year before making any big decisions.

When I saw on his final report card showing he had failed every class except PE, I called the school. They said, “He’s incredibly smart and knows the material. He’s just a distraction in class and doesn’t turn in his work.” Their solution: pass him on to the next grade and send him to the special education middle school where there would be smaller classrooms. At that moment, my decision was made. I decided to homeschool my kids no matter what. No, I didn’t know how I would financially support our little family while also taking on their education. And I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to “do it all.” Even though I didn’t have all the pieces figured out, I was determined to make it work.

Rubber meets the road

I’ve walked a mile in your shoes. I was a single parent for the better part of 13 years. My son had extra needs that the public school system couldn’t meet. I wasn’t independently wealthy. In fact, I was barely getting by on a shoestring budget. Today I’m going to share the very practical ways I overcame some of the most common obstacles for single parents wanting to homeschool. 

Financial Concerns

The first major hurdle is how to financially provide for your little family while also being available to educate your kids. I’ve always had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit. Even when I was a little girl, playing imagination games, I often pretended I was a real estate mogul or wealthy business owner. In real life, I came from a long line of entrepreneurs, ranchers and self-starters. So to me, the easiest way to solve the financial component of the equation was to start a small business out of my apartment. It also needed to be something that would pay out relatively quickly as I didn’t have 2-3 years to build something on the side that would eventually make a profit. I needed something that could pay the bills as soon as the following month. And I needed something somewhat steady and dependable, no straight commission sales. 

I looked at my skills and abilities as well as passions and interests (I want to enjoy what I do to earn income). What I landed on had been sitting in my hands for 2 decades… literally. I started teaching piano lessons out of my apartment. After I put a simple announcement on Facebook to my friends, within a couple of weeks I had 11 students. I officially launched my little music studio in March (with website and accounting). By May, when I pulled my kids out of the public school system, I was solely supporting our family on piano lessons (with a couple of voice students too). I crafted my work schedule so that we would do school work in the mornings and work in the afternoon. I would teach from 1-5pm M-F and a few students on Saturdays. When I started offering group lessons, I was able to leverage my income even more. Full disclosure, I did get a little bit of child support, but we’re talking about enough to cover a utility bill or two, not enough to run the house or live on. 

Disclaimer

I do not have some crazy success story where I made tons of money hand over fist or rose to piano teaching fame (whatever that is). God always provided just enough for us. There were just enough students to bring in just enough income to pay our bills and put food on the table. We didn’t travel the world or go on crazy vacations. But I was able to be home with my kids and give them the education & time they needed. Honestly, we had above just our basic needs so we could have a modest Christmas and a little extra fun money here and there. 

I should also note that I do not have a music degree. For years prior, I had thought of teaching piano, but disqualified myself because I didn’t have a Bachelor’s in Music Pedagogy. But it turns out most parents (and students) really don’t care. They just want to learn to play the instrument and have fun doing it. I found a niche: teaching creative expression and worship. And the phone kept ringing! 

You may be wondering how this idea translates to you. Think creatively. What skill do you already have that you could teach? Maybe it’s teaching a music instrument like I did or perhaps you are fluent in a foreign language, art or chemistry and could offer a class to the local homeschool community. 

I started my music studio in 2017, before a little pandemic changed the way the world did business. Now there are tons of options like creating a class online, or offering a Zoom class depending on the type of material. I prefer teaching as a viable stream of income because you can depend on it and create a budget based on how many students you have enrolled. Something like Teachable is a little less predictable, but requires little time and maintenance once you get it set up. 

Other Work from home ideas

There are all sorts of ways to monetize your skills besides simply teaching. If you’re a graphic designer or just creative with a good eye, you could start a web design, printables or tee shirt design business. What is your current career field? There may be a way for you to shift that to a work from home business or maybe your employer would consider letting you work remotely. 

If you’re not the entrepreneurial sort and need the reliability of an employer, there are plenty  of work from home options that aren’t a total scam! Since 2020, many call centers and employers have cut their overhead costs by hiring remote workers. 20 years ago, I worked in customer service and tech support. We all had to go to a big building with cubicles and computer stations, wearing headsets and taking phone calls for 8 hours, telling little old ladies how to use their TV remotes. A few weeks ago, I ran into a friend who still works for the same company. Call centers are a thing of the past. All the employees use a personal laptop and call in to a special number from home to turn their cell phone into a forward for customer calls. 

If your kids are a bit older or if you have a trusted friend or grandparent who can hang out with them a few evenings a week, you could start a cleaning business, pick up a waitressing job or do night cleaning for office buildings. Honestly, if your kids are older or you have support person, you have all sorts of creative options.

Avoid the Traps

There are tons of truly work from home opportunities without touching the pie in the sky promises of MLM’s or Real Estate Investment. Those types of businesses require a lot of time and energy and financial investment before they pay off… IF they ever pay off. 

Non-negotiables

Three  things I looked for in an income source and highly recommend you make non-negotiables are: 

  1. Quick and consistent income. If it would take longer than a normal pay period to start making a profit, I wasn’t wasting my time. I’ve tried more MLM’s and “opportunities” than I can count. Perhaps more cynical than most, I didn’t have the luxury of time or a spouse’s income to carry us while the business slowly built. I needed something I could feasibly count on in a short amount of time. Also, if I couldn’t reasonably make a baseline income that would cover my bills comfortably, I wasn’t interested.
  2. Truly work at home. My kids were 12 and 5 at the time, so I couldn’t leave them home alone or in the next room unattended for extended periods of time. I’d already worked in real estate at this point and I knew showing houses and office time would not be my friend. Many work from home “opportunities” actually require a lot of time away from home. 
  3. No SALES! Lots of so-called “opportunities” are commission based sales. Those sort of payouts do not meet either of the previous requirements, but just to be sure, I don’t want my income to be tied to a high pressure sales quota or any sort of gimmick. As a single parent, stability is key!   

Increased expenses 

Another misconception in terms of finances is that homeschooling is expensive. It’s not free like public school. One quick search of homeschool curricula leaves you feeling like all the books are going to cost an arm and a leg! The truth is you actually don’t need any of those textbooks. In fact, when you first start homeschooling, I strongly recommend avoiding those altogether, regardless of your budget. When I started homeschooling, I came across Easy Peasy Homeschool which is completely free. I started there for my 12 year old and then searched Pinterest for games and activities to occupy my 5 year old. I’ve since found other FREE or low cost curricula. 

How to Find the Best Homeschool Curriculum

The one expense that will increase, however, is food! The kids are home all day and guess what, they think they need to be fed morning, noon and night! Lol Ask any seasoned homeschool mom and they will tell you all about “second breakfast.” Be warned, they will use snacks to avoid school and chores. Plan for an increase in food expense simply due to the addition of lunches to the home menu. 

Budget

Determine your realistic budget first. What are your current outgoing expenses? Where can you “trim the fat?” Could you shrink down your “spending money” categories? Cut the lash extensions and other frivolous spending. Once you’ve gone over and cut down your expenses, decide what your absolute minimum income needs to be. Monthly expenses plus 20% should be your goal. Once you can realistically produce that income from home, make the leap!

How to “Do it All”-Sort of– as a Homeschool Single Parent

First of all, one of the biggest lessons in adulthood is that NO ONE actually “does it all.” And certainly not well. Instagram and Facebook are a lie. So put whatever perfectionistic idea is coming to mind out of your head. You have to pick your majors and minors. What is most important to you in this season? Be realistic about your time commitments and needs of your children. Set some realistic expectations based on what you have going on.

Since I had students coming over every day, we would get school done in the morning and scurry around to get chores done and the common areas picked up before people showed up. But I was okay with shutting the bedroom doors and having the kids continue school at the kitchen table while I taught piano if need be. Sometimes we would just hit the 3 R’s and call it “good enough.” We also weren’t doing a lot of field trips and play dates in that season. It’s a bit of a balancing act, but totally doable when you keep your expectations realistic. It’s not fair to yourself to expect that your house will look like something from Better Homes & Gardens while also teaching your kids Latin while simultaneously running a Fortune 500 business. That’s just not real life. So delete Pinterest and Instagram if you must. 

In addition to balancing expectations for housekeeping, homeschool, social and business life, I also got focused on time management. I got really good at saying “no” to things that didn’t fit inside our timeframe or budget. More on homeschool time management here.

Community 

Starting down the journey of homeschooling (or shifting into singleness) requires a bit of a learning curve, so be kind to yourself. Some days you’ll knock it out of the park. Other days, you’ll ask yourself why you thought this would be a good idea. The best advice I can give you is to find a positive community. Get involved in your local homeschool group whether that’s joining a co-op or field trip group or even just the local homeschool Facebook group so you can plan play dates or grab a coffee with a seasoned homeschool mom. Find a mentor who can help you problem solve or just give you a shoulder to cry on. 

Kim at notconsumed.com was a lifeline for me in navigating that season!

Put on Your Oxygen Mask

One of the challenges I didn’t expect to face as a single parent homeschool mom was finding ways to make time for myself. When you don’t have a spouse to take the kids, you have to be a little more intentional. Get a sitter so you can have coffee with a friend or go dancing. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to do something kind for yourself that doesn’t involve (or revolve around) kids. I recommend it once a week. It doesn’t have to break the bank. This could be treating yourself to a fancy coffee with the whip cream on top or tucking the kids in early and curling up with a good book. 

I also find it helpful to have a little personal quiet time in the morning before the kids get up. I am a better mom and teacher when I spend some quiet time with Jesus before the kids wake up. If you can discipline yourself to get up an hour before them, you’ll find yourself more equipped for whatever the day brings.

For more on this topic, click here: 7 Ways to Not Lose Yourself as a Homeschool Mom

Make the Decision

When I decided I was going to homeschool my kids, I really wasn’t sure how I would manage it. I wasn’t even sure of my decision until a lady at the school district said something that stuck with me. After I told the special ed director that I would not be sending my son to their program as they’d suggested and instead would be homeschooling, she said in a hostile tone, “You’ll ruin your relationship with your child and you’re not qualified to educate him anyway. Trust me, you’ll be begging to enroll him before Christmas.” That was just what I needed to hear. I determined right then that I would prove her wrong. Single parent or not, I would find a way, make a way to homeschool my kids. My son never returned to public school. He graduated from our homeschool and had a completely customized education experience. Our relationship grew in closeness and we were able to discover the root cause of his behaviors and bring some healing to it. I believe he is healthier, more confident and more adjusted because of homeschooling than if he had continued to struggle through the system. 

Homeschooling as a single parent is challenging. It requires sacrifice, personal growth, juggling and creative problem solving. But your children, their futures and education are so very worth it! You can do this! Your relationship with your kids will be stronger for it; contrary to what that awful woman said to me over the phone. 

What unique challenges do you face to transition into homeschooling? Comment below and let’s find solutions together!

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