Triangling in help

You’re an entrepreneur. Yes, you. Every homeschooling parent is. You create an entire program of education for your children from scratch, ordering your days to achieve goals that live in front of you. You manage curricula, you make decisions about purchases, you budget time and money, you measure successes and shore up deficits. It’s no wonder that homeschooling mothers, in particular, are energized and enthusiastic, particularly in the early years of schooling. They’re caught by a vision every bit as compelling and inspiring as the pair of middle-aged women who pool all their resources to set up a coffee house in the cool part of town!

Being an entrepreneur requires an extraordinary amount of self-confidence (your personal doubts, notwithstanding). You wouldn’t do it if you didn’t feel you could. Every entrepreneur has moments of, “I wonder if I’m doing a good job.” The non-entrepreneur says, “There’s no WAY I could do a good job.”

So as you trundle down the path marked “home education,” the duties pile up. Teaching phonics to one child while breast-feeding the second is an adventure. Teaching phonics to the youngest while the middle kids are learning fractions and the older kids are preparing for the SATs is a marathon! Similar to a business, what started as a chance to exercise your practical gifts (reading to your children, playing games, baking muffins, skip counting to jump rope, field trips to nature centers) quickly becomes a complicated ledger of expected outcomes versus real profits.

Sometimes the shortfall in terms of how you expected education to look when your children outgrew the “fun stuff” is daunting. Entrepreneurs bear a unique burden in business. They only earn what they literally earn. In other words, there are no paychecks for the business owner. Her income is based on what she successfully markets and sells. The feeling of never being finished, of always seeking new customers, of managing the ever-expanding group of employees, benefits, tax requirements and more can lead some formerly happy entrepreneurs to close shop and take a job with a reliable paycheck and fewer responsibilities. Either they fold, or they get help!

Similarly, home educators face the same kind of invisible brick wall of failed enthusiasm, commitment and energy. The big difference between homeschoolers and entrepreneurs is that business owners know they are running businesses! Homeschoolers don’t. They feel like they’re caring for families, and providing education. They see themselves more as teachers, than running mini corporations. As a result, when things get difficult (like, facing one more day of books and equations is identical to signing up to have your teeth drilled without Novocaine), they tend to take one of two paths: They quit (and put their little rug rats in school) or they allow quality of education to plummet (and then indulge in heavy doses of guilt alternating with self-justification because it’s too horrible to bear responsibility for the shoddy day-to-day work that has to pass for education).

Bookkeepers, accountants, shippers, and employees can be outsourced to help flailing businesses.

Teachers, tutors, online programs, and co-ops can be employed to help flailing home educator entrepreneurs!

There is NO shame in letting someone else put in the precious energy to create enjoyable educational experiences for your children. When you set out to home educate, you didn’t plan to leave unattended children at a kitchen table with text books, lined paper and zero interaction. If this is the state of your homeschool, you’re dangerously near burn-out. It’s not fair to your kids (just like it’s not fair to customers in a coffee house to expect them to use dirty bathrooms and to bring their own cream and sugar).

Compared to private school, any outsourcing option is less expensive. Most of us happily spend money on multiple gaming systems, sports teams, music lessons, dance, fast food, cell phones, iPods, and refurbished kitchens. How much more important is weekly math instruction or a program that delivers both accountability and feedback for writing? How much more satisfying is it to kids to know that what they’re doing is real and matters, just like they felt when you first started the homeschooling journey?

If you’re at that burnout point, do something different. Triangle in help! The financial investment is about your children’s future success (in college, in business, in adult life), not about their temporary entertainment (though I understand completely the impulse to satisfy their entertainment demands as it makes them so happy!). I used to exchange writing instruction with a friend who offered math tutoring to my kids when I couldn’t afford straight up tutoring. Best exchange ever! For both of us!

Figure it out. But don’t do it alone. You run a little company. You need some “employees.” Perhaps you have friends with skills you can swap (make them a meal a week while they help you with science experiments), perhaps there are classes at the local JC, perhaps you can purchase materials and online courses from Brave Writer. Do what it takes to ensure that your homeschool stays vital and earning profits for everyone. You’re in charge! Remember: Don’t get trapped into working “in the business.” You can work “on the business” by scaling back and hiring to your weaknesses.

8 Responses to “Triangling in help”

  1. Christine says:

    Love this perspective, Julie! You grabbed me by the bootstraps and pulled me up with a start. Entrepreneurs are near and dear to my heart — thanks for the wise words of inspiration!

  2. GinnyRae says:

    Thank you, Julie, for your inspiring words! You truly know how to put homeschooling/mothering into perspective! Thank you!

    I will be taking this blog entry to heart and thinking on it for sometime. Thank you so much for your willingness to encourage homeschooling moms like me along this beautiful, but often troubling journey. God bless you and know that your words of love are touching others! :-)

  3. harrygirl says:

    When I read this blog, it prompted an array of emotions. I felt a little caught out, when I read the part: “When you set out to home educate, you didn’t plan to leave unattended children at a kitchen table with text books, lined paper and zero interaction.” This was exactly what was happening at our house at that moment. I had glimpses of my past inspiration in regards to my children’s home education. Mostly though, although I wholeheartedly agree with what you are saying, I felt a little hopeless. I can feel my exhaustion. Most days I can’t wait to get schoolwork out of the way so I don’t have to think about it anymore until the next day. Most days it is a chore and I swing between feeling guilty and ashamed that I feel this way and frustrated that it is such hard work and that it is not like my vision at all.

    I saw a story on “Oprah” the other day where the financial guru suggested three things to do to help realise that you can rein in your spending. We were already doing everyone of the things as we have no other choice. I felt very much like I live in a whole different world to everyone else watching. I feel a little similar reading your blog today. I can’t afford a tutor. We no longer attend any homeschooling co-ops, as we have had to cut all of our driving down to absolute basics, because we can’t afford the diesel. Much to our children’s disgust, they never had a playstation until a family member upgraded and handed theirs on.

    Although I’m ashamed to admit it – I can’t keep on like this, but I feel absolutely stuck. What can I possibly do to regain the vitality and joy in our homeschooling, for me and my children? Right now, the only relief in sight is that it is only one week until Summer holidays. I’ve actually asked them if they will go to school next year – but they don’t want to. I really feel isolated right now.

    Thank you for the things you share – it has certainly got me thinking.

  4. Julie Bogart says:

    So glad you shared! Your burn out and financial struggles are familiar to me. When my kids were younger and my husband was the only wage earner (and a pretty low income at the time, too), I remember going to a home organizing event where the solution was to buy boxes to house your “stuff” and I couldn’t afford even one $6.00 box! It was then that I felt that hopelessness of not being able to do it, to do the things I felt I wanted to do/needed to do.

    Money is only one commodity. There are free ways to enhance your homeschool right now. Here are a few I can think of and perhaps others will help you.

    1) Make Tuesday Teatimes a priority. Really do them. Set a nice table, make muffins or toast and jam or scones, drink tea, read good poems. It’s doubly important to make home a place that’s pleasing to be. Make a fire if you have a fire place.

    2) Get outside as often as possible (a daily walk, a trip to the local nature center or park, bird watching, any natural water source – ocean, river, creek, pond).

    3) Take school work to a new location (library – even weekly is nice, Barnes and Noble, a friend’s house – you do homeschool together for a morning).

    4) Watch TV/movies. This really helps to relieve pressure and to create a feeling of fun midweek. That’s why we put movie day on Wednesdays.

    5) Swap with someone who has a skill you want. I bartered for math tutoring (swapped writing instruction), art lessons (babysitting), vintage dance (for this one, we literally stuffed fliers in mailboxes once per week).

    6) Get your kids to earn money. Two of the five of ours had cookie businesses (while they were under working age) and they earned money for trips to Space Camp, church retreats, sports equipment, all their electronics, and a computer.

    7) Play music. It helps.

    8) Listen to books on CD so that you rest your voice and can enjoy the story as well.

    9) Find a friend you can call and talk to. You need support. Get it. Don’t try to do this alone. It’s really tough when you’re financially pinched and your tired out.

    If it’s really true that your homeschool is not producing a quality education, school is a genuine option. Your kids’ feelings matter, but they don’t have the ultimate say. You do. Because you are the responsible parent, you must determine if your energy can be better spent educating and budgeting or working and supporting school. Both options produce healthy kids and happy families. The goal is to be an invested, optimistic, energetic parent no matter what you do!

    I hope you can give yourself a break (it’s so demanding to take on this challenging task for 15-20 years!). Your heart is in the right place. Love yourself.

    And just so you know: I have the same tendencies. In hard times, educational inspiration is low. Hang tough.

    Julie

  5. harrygirl says:

    I so very much appreciate the gift you have given me by “seeing” me and hearing me. Thankyou also for sharing your ideas and part of yourself. It is like having a warm blanket put around my shoulders on a chilly evening. Thanks.

  6. Janelle says:

    Julie,

    Thank you for your comforting words…In a world where negative energy is seething, you are a beautiful, inspiring pillar of light for us homeschool Moms :) I love reading your blogs…thank you.

    I too can relate to harrygirls’ predicament of lack of funds which can lead to feeling isolated, which can then lead to feeling like you are on a homeschool hamster wheel, the same thing, day in and day out, with no way out. It can feel pretty bleak…I too have searched my heart to see if this is still working for us, have looked at finding a “job” to help out with finances, asked my son if he wants to go to school. Then I realize that all this is a choice. It doesn’t matter if we “fit in” to the norm. Celebtrate that you are not caught up in the rat race that everone else is. Pat yourself on the back for ALL you have done and all you have given your kids! Our kids will be better off from NOT having spent hours and hours on end infront of a game station, mindlessly desensitizing themselves. Instead we are giving them something they will never be able to get back…our time. Our love and our time…priceless commodities.

    With hugs for all of us Moms that are struggling. Love to you all 3>

  7. Julie,
    I LOVE the parallels between homeschooling and entrepreneurship. After all, entrepreneur means, “one who undertakes,” and starting a business and homeschooling are definitely undertakings!

    As a homeschooling CPA I met a lot of homeschool families that also run their own businesses, including teenagers. Your reply to harrygirl about getting the kids to earn money was right on the spot. I started a website, http://MicroBusinessForTeens.com that should get them started with some ideas.

    And I whole heartedly agree that we should “outsource” when needed. I have loved my homeschool co-op and all that other homeschool moms have contributed to my daughters’ education. To encourage others to join or start a homeschool co-op, I wrote, Homeschool Co-ops: How to Start Them, Run Them and Not Burn Out. Details on my website HomeschoolCPA.com

    P.S. I live in West Chester. I think I met you a long time ago. Can’t believe we haven’t crossed paths more often!

  8. Kelly says:

    This is for harrygirl—

    How are you now? Been awake since 01:00, it’s now 5:04 a.m. I just read this wonderful blog and am deeply touched by both your comment and Julie’s response, and now I’m wondering, ‘what happened?’. How are you and your family now? Please post if you can. Just know that I’m thinking of you and sending lots of good vibes your way.

    It’s Tuesday, so hopefully you can manage a “tea time” this afternoon. We’ll be thinking of you!

    fondly,

    Kelly

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