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Single Parent Homeschooling

Some parents will suddenly become single. Others could see it coming for a while, yet it's still shocking when it happens. Death, divorce, disability, and deployment can happen. It may happen suddenly and unexpectedly. Even a long-anticipated deployment can seem sudden when the day actually arrives, and while temporary, it can still be difficult. When you are faced with single parenting, know that you are NOT alone! Difficult and hard things can happen to good homeschoolers. Homeschooling is not a guarantee of a trauma-free, drama-free life.

Mary Jo Tate, author of Flourish at Home, explained what happened to her. "I never expected to be a single mother. When my husband left me for another woman, I was shocked, angry, and scared. I was embarrassed to be divorced; for a while I felt as though I wore a scarlet D emblazoned on my dress. Our four sons were bewildered, and their world was turned upside down. I was deeply committed to remaining at home with my children and continuing to homeschool them, yet I wondered how I could support us all financially."

When a parent becomes suddenly single, homeschooling may seem an even more daunting task. Now what? How can you continue in this challenging lifestyle you love? The trick is to adapt, and find a new "normal" for your family. Find resources and achieve a balance that works for you.

Income and Support 

The problem is two-fold. As Mary Jo explains, "In many two-parent homeschooling families, the dad takes primary responsibility for earning the living, and the mom takes primary responsibility for educating the children. The labor is divided, and the support is multiplied. Although there are also many two-parent families where both parents contribute to the education and the finances—often through a family business—a single parent is often solely responsible for both. The labor is multiplied and the support is subtracted." The single parent must find the solution to two problems: financial income and emotional support.

When I was homeschooling, our group had two suddenly single parents who joined forces. Sally and Kate each continued to homeschool, and both had to work to support their single-parent households. They each had two children. They decided to share the load. Sally worked as an office assistant three days a week while her friend homeschooled the four children. Kate worked as a dental assistant three days a week while Sally homeschooled the four children. Together they functioned as a co-op. Each one would create assignments for their own children, but their friend would supervise when they had to go to work. It was a great arrangement that was unique and worked for them. Each family will find a path that will work in their own situation.

If you have been homeschooling, you can continue to homeschool your children. If you are single, you can begin homeschooling your children. Whether faced with death, divorce or deployment, there are resources available to assist you.

Handling Pressure 

Homeschooling single parent Alice Birchfield in Virginia was eager to share her experience so others could be encouraged. "Single moms get pressure from every side, that is for sure. Single parents have many challenges, and compassionate, no-nonsense help is what we need. People will put pressure on a single parent in all sorts of ways. They will pick at many different areas, and a homeschooling single parent has to know and believe in their heart that they are doing what God has directed them to do. I have many years under my belt as a single parent, and there were many times when I would cry over my budget and feel so alone wondering how I was going to raise my children. God never left me. We never went hungry, and I always paid my mortgage on time. Having a support system helps, but it takes time to build that too. Talk to people and ask for help."

Alice found that she had to change her strategies over time. She said, "Praying and seeking God is the first thing to do. I do whatever I need to do to survive financially. I have had jobs where I have taken my son when he was small. Right now, I clean houses. I have tried working part-time and full-time jobs and that works too, if you can find a schedule that is flexible. Trading with other single moms/dads can work. Even bartering services can fill in areas. I have done so many different things at different times. God has always provided for my children and myself. Part of the key is to keep faith and only listen to sources that edify and enforce what God says. Guard your heart and your mind from naysayers! Even the ones that mean well."

Plan Prior to Crisis 

I know lots of parents will face a major crisis in the coming years: fire, death, disability, divorce. Planning prior to crisis is the key that will help you through problems you don't even know you will be facing in the future. Let's talk about how to plan classes no matter what.

Before a crisis, maintain a flexible big-picture plan for all of high school classes. Review your plan yearly. Before a crisis, cover core classes every year. 

  • English – 4 years of reading and writing at your child's level.
  • Math – 4 years is always recommended. Not necessarily calculus, but covering one math level every year.
  • Social Studies – 3 to 4 years including Amer Hist., World Hist., Econ., and Government.
  • Science – 3 years with 1 lab science, at their level, and physics is NOT a requirement for everyone.

Before a crisis, cover non-core classes every year. These are classes that colleges require and children love, so they are also important.

  • Foreign Language – 2 to 3 years of a single language – some colleges even expect 4 years.
  • Physical Education – 2 years, and that can include health, nutrition, or anything that breaks a sweat.
  • Fine Arts – at least 1-2 years of music, art, theater, or dance (or more if they love it).
  • Electives – enough for a total of 24 or more transcript credits. NOT 24 electives. 24 total transcript credits.

Then during the crisis period, when the entire family is faced with major adjustments, you will have flexibility. You will be able to limit the fluff classes, while focusing on just core classes that can't be skipped or sped up.

Plan During the Crisis 

Only drop classes when it is a true emergency. That's why we need to be so consistent before an emergency should happen. Once the year of crisis is over, return to covering both the core and non-core subjects.

Cover the core if possible: math, English, social studies, and science. If that is not possible, try to complete the core classes with natural learning. For English, read novels for fun, and write in a journal every day. While educational, it's also therapeutic during difficulty. For social studies, watch documentaries or movies that are historical in nature. See if students could willingly read biographies or autobiographies. Add math as soon as possible. If it's the only "real school" you do during a crisis, it's enough so you don't lose ground. Make sure the student can do math independently without needing you as the teacher. It's often too difficult to be the math teacher in times of crisis. Add science once the family can cope again. If you are able to successfully cover the core, that's the best possible scenario, even if that's all you can do for an entire year.

Aside from the homeschool issues, be kind to yourself. Limit the amount of change as much as you can. Something very dramatic has happened in your children's lives. Try to prevent any other change from happening if you can. Keep their school the same, their home the same, and their schedule the same, as much as possible. Experts say that limiting the stresses you CAN control, at least for the first year, is very important. Obviously something will have to change, and you can't control those things. But if you can limit the other changes as much as possible, that can help. If housing and child support is not provided, visit your church (or a large church in your area) and ask to speak to the pastor for advice and community resources.

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Thursday, 18 July 2024

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