by Lee Binz
Find a New Normal
Are you suddenly single? Death, divorce, and even deployment can happen. Even to homeschool parents. It may happen suddenly, and unexpectedly. Even a long-anticipated deployment can seem sudden when they day actually arrives, and while temporary it can still be difficult. When you are faced with single parenting, know that you are NOT alone!
Mary Jo Tate of SingleParentsAtHome.com 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.
Find Financial Income and Emotional 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 homeschool your children. Whether faced with death, divorce or deployment, there are resources available to assist you.
Deal with pressureHomeschooling single parent Alice Birchfield in Virginia was eager to share her experience so others could be encouraged. She said, "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."
She had to find a way that worked for her family. She 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 to 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."
Resources for the Single Homeschool Parent
I’ve compiled a list of resources to help you face homeschooling with confidence. Start with this short article: Homeschooling as a Single Parent
Single Parent Homeschool is a ministry equipping and encouraging single parents to homeschool. Visit http://singleparenthomeschool.christianhomeeducation.org/
Mark Gregston of Heartlight Ministries has an article for single parents. It’s not specific for homeschoolers, but it’s very good: Help For Single Parents With Teenagers
There are over 100 resources for Christian single moms here : http://singleparenthomeschool.christianhomeeducation.org/resources.html
Ann Zeise of A to Z Home’s Cool Homeschooling has a section on Working and Single Parents http://homeschooling.gomilpitas.com/weblinks/working.htm
Janet’s Country Home has a section of her blog called: Single Parent Homeschooling that includes even more “I did that” first-person encouragement
Barb Shelton has a section on her website for single parent homeschooling. She shares the lives of three homeschooling moms who are single, who homeschool, and who are not only living to tell about it, but are doing it WELL. http://www.homeschooloasis.com/art_single_mom_hs.htm.
Teri Brown has an article about Single and Homeschooling in the Home Educator’s Family Times: http://www.homeeducator.com/familytimes/articles/9-2article15.htm
Vegsource has a discussion board just for single parents that are homeschooling. It could be a great anonymous source for emotional support http://www.vegsource.com/homeschool/singleparent/index.html
The Homeschool Diner has an article titled, “What if Both Parents Work or I Am a Single Parent? Can We Still Homeschool?” Rather than personal stories, this article provides lists additional resources. http://www.homeschooldiner.com/basics/teaching/working_parents.html
Single Parents At Home is a blog by Mary Jo Tate, who shared her story with me. Her mission is “Encouragement and resources for single parents, especially those who homeschool or who would like to.” Her website provides a wealth of information and resources. Make sure you see her resources for Working at Home. http://singleparentsathome.com/blog/2010/08/15/resources-for-working-at-home/
My article on homeschooling through trauma may help. Remember that your difficulties and family trauma will still be present even if you make a change, and public school will not solve those things. Read “What If? Homeschool High School Without Fear”
It’s important to remember that God’s promises have not changed, even if your situation has changed. Watch my Scripturally based YouTube called How you know you can homeschool high school?
Aside from the homeschool issues, I can suggest one other thing. 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 suggest limiting the stresses you can control, especially during the first year. You may not have control over some things, but you will be in charge of other things. Obviously something will have to change, but if housing and child support are provided, then perhaps some of the other changes can wait. Visit your church (or a large church in your area) and ask to speak to the pastor for advice and resources.
Finally, if you have a friend who is a single parent, particularly if they are homeschooling, there are specific ways you can help. Mary Jo says “If you are a single parent, don’t be afraid or too proud to ask for the help you need. Others are blessed by ministering to you. If you want to help single parents, however, don’t wait for them to ask. Volunteer your assistance, or ask what they need.” Read her wonderful article Looking after Widows and Orphans: How You Can Help Single-Parent Families
Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee's Free Resource Guide, "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School." You can find her at www.HomeHighSchoolHelp.com
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