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.