This is the first of a series of posts I call, “We Homeschool, Too,” written for those families who might be considering homeschooling, but sitting on the proverbial fence because they don’t see familial situations that match their own. Additionally, though many would-be homeschoolers face similar dilemmas, I believe that because of the history of African Americans and the public educational system, we fight a different kind of battle with those who believe that traditional school systems are the cure for many societal ills.
During the summer, I will introduce families who successfully homeschool in non-traditional scenarios–single parents, dads as primary educators, home educators who are also in school, etc. In this post, we meet Keisha, who (along with hubby) educates her sons during the day and works at night.
1) First, please introduce yourself to my readers—– a bit about you, your family, and how long you have homeschooled.
We are a family of four. My husband and I are both working parents with two sons, 22 months apart. One is of middle school age, and the other is upper elementary. We have been homeschooling for 7 years. Our family enjoys just being together, whether going somewhere fun or just sitting at home completing a puzzle or eating pizza and watching a sporting event on TV.
2) Why do you homeschool? What was the catalyst that made you shift (if there was one)?
We decided to homeschool after doing research on U.S. education compared to other countries, how schools are teaching children to learn, and how children are treated in schools (primarily African American males). Also we looked at how much time and influence we would have on our children in school vs. homeschool. After much prayer, discussion, and speaking with others who have homeschooled, we decided homeschooling was the best choice for us. We have no regrets.
3) You work at night. Can you explain how working the night shift impacts your homeschool environment?
I work the overnight shift 4 consecutive nights per week. My hours are from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. on a rotating schedule, which means it is not the same days every week. Because of this, our homeschool is structured. It must start and end at a particular time. In most cases this happens because the boys are fully aware that my time is limited to those hours. But there are those occasions that it doesn’t. During those times, I make sure to do what I need to do with each of them, then they work independently while I get some rest.
My school preparation is also affected by my night shift schedule. I prep the whole school year during the spring and partially in the summer. Everything is prepped: curriculum, field trips, community service, extra curricular activities, and days off. Everything is scheduled and in place before the school year begins. This allows for minimal weekly prep, with slight tweaking if needed.
4) Can you tell us what a particular day looks like for you, including rest, chores, and your many “hats” during the day?
It varies depending on whether I’m off or working. On working days I come in by 8:30 am, with the boys already up and eating at the table. I shower and try to be in our school space by 9 a.m. If I’m late, the boys know to get started working independently. We work for 2 hours then take an hour break. We then resume for another 2-3 hours. I work with one student before lunch, while the other one works independently. Then we switch after the break. By 2 or 3 pm, my husband is home and I am in the bed to rest for work that night. After school, the boys handle their chores before they can have their free time. My husband and I are big believers in children doing chores. So the boys have daily chores, as well as weekly chores that are done based on the day of the week. In the evening, my husband takes the boys to their various practices. My chores are done on the last morning I get off work, typically after school, if it’s a school day.
5) How do you balance work (especially working at night), family, and other aspects of home life?
I must say that my husband is a treasure in more ways than one. There is no way I could even think about homeschooling without him. He is physically there for me because of his flexible schedule. He is mentally there for me because I tend to over-analyze everything. I’m a type A personality, so he talks me off the ledge quite a bit, especially in the earlier years. He’s also spiritually there for me, praying with me when I’m tired or just having a hard day. Thankfully, my work does not require me to bring it home. So when I am home, I can focus on home.
My exercise routine is built into my life. On my days off, I wake up before school to get it done. When I work, it gets done during our hour break. With my shift, you have to take care of yourself for longevity.
My prayer life and Bible study is key to my mental state and my overall well-being. If I am feeling off, I know it is because I haven’t been connecting with my Creator on a regular basis. Worship and prayer is my mental regulator.
6) Are there particular homeschooling approaches or curriculum that you find more useful given your schedule?
Yes, our approach is a Classical one with a Charlotte Mason feel. I believe in enriching our education with living books. But I also look for curriculum that is streamlined, meaning it that can offer a dual purpose. As one example, a vocabulary program doubles as a spelling program. We can’t take rabbit trails in our schedule, even though now and then we do. So I look for curriculum that is interesting and appeals to all their senses–curriculum that will build clear skills and help them to gain independence over time.
7) Finally, what tips would you share for someone who might work at night, but is also considering homeschooling as an option?
Yes! You can homeschool! You do need some sort of support at home–someone who believes in homeschooling as much as you do. You must be organized, focused, and purposeful in your home. Understand that you cannot do what everyone else is doing on YouTube and elsewhere. You have to do what works for you and your children. Make sure to plan ahead. That way during the school year there is minimal prep and slight tweaking, if needed. Enlist your kids in household chores, indoor and outdoor. And let the chore list grow as they grow. Make sure you write down and post a list of expectations for your students so everyone is aware of their responsibilities. Also consider your style of homeschooling; some homeschool approaches just won’t work, if you’re working. Lastly, make sure you schedule time for yourself. Homeschooling is a journey, not a race. So you need to take care of yourself in all aspects in order to continue to give your students your best.