Homeschooling as a Single Parent: How You Can Make It Work {Guest Post}

how to simplify your homeschool

Recently, I’ve had several homeschoolers wondering about homeschooling as a single parent.  I knew exactly who to ask this question, my very good friend Mary Jo Tate.  Mary Jo is a single, homeschool mom that I’ve known Mary Jo about 8 years.  One of her sons attended my workshop about kids starting a business several years ago.

Whether you are single or married, I promise you will find strategies to help in your homeschool in this 4 part series.

Let’s face it . . .

. . .being a single parent intensifies the challenges of homeschooling.

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.

Homeschooling as Single Parent mom-sonBut, the increasing number of single parents choosing to educate their children at home testifies that it can work. Brian Ray of the National Home Education Research Institute says his studies show that about two percent of homeschooling families are headed by single parents, but it is his opinion that this figure probably under-represents the true number.

I have been homeschooling for eight years—four of them as a single mom. The number-one question people ask me (usually with a breathless air of amazement) is “How do you do it all?”

My answer comes in two parts:

(1) I don’t and
(2) I redefine it all.

Don't Be a Lone Ranger

None of us—single or married—can homeschool relying on our own power.

But God’s grace is sufficient for us, for His strength is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Homeschooling as Single Mom mom-frustratedI wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t confess that some days I really don’t know how I can make it. There’s just not enough of me to go around. Sometimes I wrestle with exhaustion, discouragement, loneliness, and frustration.

I have discovered, though, that the struggle is hardest when I focus on my situation and my inadequacies rather than on the love and providence of God. Turning my eyes to Him helps me remember to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10, NKJV).

God has indeed proven faithful!

A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, Is God in His holy habitation (Psalm 68:5, NKJV).

He has provided for all our needs through work I can do at home, help from my parents, supportive friends, and the loving ministry of a godly church.

A support network is helpful for any homeschooler, but particularly crucial for single parents, who lack the help and sounding board of a spouse. Be involved in a local church, and ask folks there to pray for you. Seek out a homeschooling support group in your area. Nurture godly friendships.

I frequently consult a few close friends about choices in training and educating my children, and seek advice about business matters from fellow Christian entrepreneurs who share my family-based priorities.

You Have Only 24 Hours in Each Day

Homeschooling as Single Parent clockTime is your most precious commodity. You can earn more money, but you can never have more than twenty-four hours in a day, so time management is a critical skill for single-parent homeschoolers.

Just as the three most important factors in real estate are Location, Location, Location, the three most important tasks for single parents are:

Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize

Learn to say “no” to the good, in order to say “yes” to the best. Limit outside commitments. Too many extracurricular activities can crash a crowded schedule and steal precious family time. You don’t have to forego such opportunities entirely; just be intentional and very selective.

Homeschooling as a single parent mom-shoppingRoutine tasks such as grocery shopping, going to the bank or post office, and medical appointments can consume far too much time if you’re not careful. I’ve noticed that I feel most overwhelmed when I’m on the go too much. Try to consolidate all errands that require leaving the house into one day a week.

Opportunity Cost for Single & Married Moms

The concept of “opportunity cost” revolutionized my thinking about prioritizing. Every choice you make has a potential opportunity cost. Although this may seem counter-intuitive to frugal homeschoolers, spending an extra hour driving to several different stores to save $5.00 on groceries may not necessarily mean you saved $5.00.

If by working that hour you could have earned $20.00, you actually lost $15.00 by “saving” $5.00. I reluctantly realized that the time I spent running around to yard sales every Saturday morning would be much better used earning income.

Multi-Tasking for Homeschoolers

Multi-tasking is one of my top survival secrets. This strategy works well for parents and children. I start a load of laundry or dust a bookcase when I’m on the phone, and pay bills or file papers during longer teleconferences.

Homeschooling as Single Mom - laundry-girlsI have taught phonics lessons in doctors’ waiting rooms, explained basic business concepts in the emergency room, and discussed history and current events in the check-out line at the grocery store. My boys listen to tapes or watch educational videos while they fold laundry. We redeem time in the car by listening to books on tape or reviewing math facts, spelling, or grammar rules.

In our next post, Mary Jo will discuss how to make homeschooling work for YOU.

© Mary Jo Tate

Mary Jo Tate educates her four sons at home in Mississippi, where she has a home business as a writer, editor, and book coach ( Her home study course on powerful strategies for balancing family life and home business is available at

For an additional bonus valued at $5.00, tell Mary Jo I sent you! All you have to do is add a message during Paypal checkout by clicking on “Add special instructions to the seller” below your shipping address and typing “Kerry Beck sent me!” You’ll receive “How To Create Credibility as a Freelancer: 70 Tips from a Collection of Experts” e-book filled with practical tips on building a successful freelance business.


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how to simplify your homeschool
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