Working Parent Homeschooling | When Taking the Pickles off a Hamburger Counts as Cooking

Working Parent Homeschooling

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Working while homeschooling means that your time will be spread thin. So thin, in fact, that I warn all my homeschool friends to avoid combining work and homeschooling if they can.

You may have lots of reasons for wanting to work while homeschooling, of course. Maybe you hate having even a minute of free time, so you’d like to reduce it to zero. Or maybe you hate to cook, so you want to have to feed your family a regular rotation of take-out, drive-thru, and re-heatable meals.

I’m pretty sure I’ve convinced my kids that taking the pickles off a McDouble counts as me cooking.

Do you have a love of large piles of laundry stacked all around your bedroom? I hear they make great sleeping areas if you’ve got a cat. Of course, you’ll need to re-wash the pile, but it’s good to do that every once in a while, regardless, because you never know what the kids might have dropped in the pile when it’s been there for a month.

Pro tip: If your kids wear sandals all summer, and Ugg boots all winter, you won’t have to worry about socks.

The Mom Responsibilities Triangle

Moms Responsibilities Triangle

I believe all moms have a triangle that we can physically, mentally, and emotionally care for:

One side is child rearing.

One side is work.

One side is food.

If you homeschool, you add another side for education. (As a former public-school teacher, and having had my child in public school at one time, I’d argue that you have this responsibility even if your kids are in public school.)

One side is housekeeping.

One side is all your kids’ extracurricular activities.

Oh wait, did I run out of sides?

That’s because no one person could do all this.

I have been a law student mom. (I pushed the baby out and took law school finals the next week, then went back to class. And, let’s take a moment of silence for my tailbone, because I broke it giving birth and it took two years to feel reasonably OK again.) I have been a stay at home mom with no job or school (that was a glorious two months), a full time working mom (thanks moms for watching my babies when I had to work full time), a part time working mom with no kids in school, a part time working mom with a child in public school, and a part time working mom who homeschools.

At no time, and in none of those situations, could I have taken care of everything perfectly.

What You Can Drop While Working and Homeschooling

You can drop some responsibilities entirely if you want to – like work, extracurricular activities, or homeschool. But you can’t drop the others, so you have to choose where you will either slack, or get help.

Where You Can’t Slack While Working and Homeschooling

You can’t slack on work. You can find a less demanding job, or cut down on your hours, or quit, but you can’t slack. If you do, not only are you doing a complete disservice to your employer (or your clients), but you’re hurting the reputation of all working moms.

Don’t do it. Don’t slack.

You can’t slack on homeschool. You can drop it, but you can’t slack. You can switch to an independent style of homeschooling, and you can work on setting up a system that allows children to teach themselves. There are ways of doing this that can be extremely effective, but all require your presence, preparation and general involvement. My kids go to a Chinese school for two hours a week where someone else is teaching them, but it takes three hours of my time to take them there, wait, and bring them home. Plus, I supervise study time.

If you can’t do a good job homeschooling your child, that’s why we have public school. However, if your child is behind their peers in public school, I advise doing whatever you can on your own to get him caught up with peers. When I taught public school there were homeschool parents who gave up and put their child in public school, years below grade level. Public school is not designed to fix this kind of situation. Public school is a solution for some people, but it’s not always an easy solution.

Cooking While Homeschooling

The Time When I Start De-Pickling McDoubles

I’m in my fifth year of homeschooling and working, and I was a full time working mom for five years before that. We’ve been in the place where we’re having fast food, pizza, and frozen waffles for dinner.

Not at the same time.

In all seriousness, I try hard to provide healthy meals for my family, but I have to plan and shop very well to keep this working. There are times when I just didn’t get a chance to do up my weekly menu, shop, and prep. My kids have extra-curricular activities during after-school hours, which makes it hard to prepare dinner on time. My Instant Pot has been revolutionary for me. It’s so revolutionary that I own two of them, a big and a regular.

The Instant Pot can heat frozen meatballs from solid in about 20 minutes total, then keep them hot (but not overcooked) while you’re gone for a while. It can cook dried beans without soaking. It can cook frozen shrimp, in their shells, in two minutes (not counting some heat-up time). There’s a recipe where you can dump uncooked noodles, sauce, and meat all into the Instant Pot at the SAME TIME, and come back 20 minutes later to a pot full of deliciousness. I’ve even tried it with these Carba-Nada Low-Carb Noodles, and it worked great.

I also have my mental magic bag of super quick recipes. Did you know you can make chili tacos in two minutes flat? Nuke chili, nuke tortilla, dump chili and cheese into tortilla. Two minutes. I timed myself. It takes longer to get a McDouble and de-pickle it.

Costco has a lot of “heat and eat” stuff that I try to keep on hand, too.

Housekeeping While Homeschooling

When It’s Time to Play on Sock Mountain

Housekeeping is the area that I let go the most. I don’t see any harm in beds not being made. It’s important for my children to have a clean home, and a tidy home, and they experience that . . . sometimes. We clean every day, but with small children, two dogs, a very fluffy cat, and too much stuff, we are not tidy enough to be Pinterest-worthy very often. Sock Mountain stays hidden in my bedroom, and the cat thoroughly enjoys it as her throne.

Homeschool Support System

Family: A Six Letter Word Meaning “Those People Who Pick Up My Slack”

The only thing that could be worse than trying to do all of this is trying to do all of this without a supportive husband. Single moms, I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know how I’d manage without an entire team of people who help me here and there. My husband, parents, in-laws, aunts, uncles, nieces, and friends. I’ve needed all of these people at one time or another to keep everything from crashing down.


When you tackle child-rearing and your triangle is full, it will help you out a lot if you’ve got some family and friends to call on. I know some people are homeschooling and their family is not supportive. You’ve got it rough. Build your support system through other avenues.

Honey, Can You Pick Up Jr. From Sportsball Practice?

Ahhh . . . extracurricular activities. I had a Facebook memory post that cropped up from my first year of homeschooling. I said that I’d signed up for an extracurricular activity six days a week, but I was sure that in future years I’d be able to cut that down to something reasonably.

It’s five years later and we still have an extracurricular activity six days a week. Sometimes, we have two in one day. I spend about twenty hours per week taking my kids to these. I don’t think this is unusual. I know a lot of other homeschool families who have similar schedules.

The kids are happy, so we keep on with it. I drew the line at taking on any more. If they want to add something, they’ve got to give something up.

Homeschool Super Mom

I’m Not Superwoman, and That’s Ok.

If you’re considering working while homeschooling, but you don’t need to work, for your sake I hope I’ve scared you away from working.

If you’re working, or you need to start working, I hope you feel OK about not having everything perfect all the time. There’s no need to post photos of Sock Mountain or Rancho Towelo, but there’s no need to feel bad about them, either. The towels will always be there, but your kids’ childhoods will be fleeting.

They might grow up and blog about how their mom fed them spaghetti for two weeks’ straight (I swear I remember my own mom doing this once, I marked it on a calendar, I hated spaghetti for years afterwards), but you have this time to show them how much you love them.

You’ll show them that despite the million things you have to do, you take time out to see to their education and spend time with them. They will grow up to love you fiercely . . . even if there was that one time you forgot to de-pickle their McDouble.


Lisa Yankey is a regular contributing writer for and the author of the upcoming book, “The Homeschool Path to Foreign Language.” You can find her at, on Facebook, on Pinterest, and on YouTube.


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