Working & Single Parents
Whether you are a single or two-parent family, the most frequent question on the minds of working parents is, “can I work and home educate my child?” The short answer is “YES”, and the good news is that there are a variety of ways that parents can work and home educate.
Whilst working and juggling home education with one or more children can be challenging, it can also be a rewarding journey. The key thing to remember is that home-educating does not need to be done between the traditional school hours of 9 and 3. Home educating and working tends to be less about having enough time and more about putting support structure in place for your child whilst you are working.
Factors influencing your work options include how much income you need, the age and individual needs of your children, the support network you have available, and your personal circumstances.
Support Structures While You’re Working
Relatives and friends
Relatives and close friends can play an important role in caring for and helping educate students while parents are working. If a relative such as a grandparent is willing to care for your child for a certain time each week, keep in mind that they do not have to be a teacher or do formal learning work with your child. Going places, practical and daily life activities, and including your child in things they enjoy doing all contribute to a student’s education.
Other Home-educating Families
Some parents find another family that they can do time-swaps with – you have their child at your place on a day when you’re not working, and they have your child on another day.
Another option is to ask another family that you’re friends with to include your child in their home education activities for a day – without an arrangement to have their children in return. If you’re doing this, it’s a good idea to pay them a fee to cover materials, food and transport (if relevant) that it is reasonable and equitable.
In any situation where someone else takes care of your child or you take care of theirs, good communication, boundaries, clear expectations and procedures need to be in place.
There are also drop-and-leave home school programs such as HEWA’s LEAP program and other home-educating hubs that you can access. Some home education classes, workshops or incursions require parents to stay, however parents are not usually required to be in the same room as the students, and some people like to find a quiet place in a nearby room or area that they can do some work on a laptop or device while their child is involved in organised activities.
If you have older children or teens and an accommodating workplace, taking your child to work with you may be possible if there is a spare room or area they can do work online or otherwise occupy themselves without distracting you or other employees.
Some people pay a tutor/mentor, nanny, or au pair. The cost is often quite prohibitive, but for some people, the opportunity to work and home educate is worth the expense. Nannies can be live-in or live-out and tend to be qualified child-carers. Au Pairs are live-in child-carers, usually traveling or students and on short stays. If you choose to have a nanny, you can expect that to be more expensive than an au pair but they will typically have childcare training, first aid qualifications, have a Working With Children Check, and usually have their own car to transport your children in.
Make sure you do your research on au pairs or nannies carefully. Talk to people with experience and agencies who can help set up arrangements and provide reliable advice.
Some family daycare centres will accept students up to the age of 12. Legally, this is permitted provided students aren’t using the family daycare centre as part of their educational program. Naturally, children are learning all the time in whatever they do, but you may need to provide a plan that shows how your child is covering the curriculum requirements during times when they are not at family daycare.
Working from Home
With the arrival of COVID in 2020, many workplaces became more flexible and most professional jobs these days can be modified to accommodate at least part-time hours worked from home. In addition to the ideas mentioned previously, here are some ideas that may be useful if you’re working from home.
When working from home, although you are there to provide a duty of care to your child, you will need to consider if you can focus enough on your work with children there – will they impact on work with clients if you’re inviting people into your home or engaged in teleconference meetings? If your children are of an age where they can easily occupy themselves, or you can do the work when they in bed and asleep, then this will likely work well.
A creative option that may work for you if you are working from home is to hire a home-educating teen to play with or work on projects of mutual interest with your younger child while you are still in the house. You are not expecting them to tutor or teach your child, but simply to engage with them doing activities of interest. This allows you to get things done and your child will learn a lot informally from spending time with a teen. The teen does not have to have full responsibility for your child as you will be at home, but just be a capable young person with good common sense—and there are plenty of highly responsible home-educating teens with lots of initiative.
Independent Activity Agreements
As your child/ren become more independent, you will also be able to plan and negotiate activities with them that they can do without your help. This may include working through online programs, working on projects, pursuing their interests, online classes with live instructors in real time, reading, watching documentaries, Youtube videos, courses or a movie as part of their educational program.
Some parents find that it works to have a list of activities or tasks students need to complete before more recreational pursuits, where others find that their children are happy to engage in activities of their choice but turn to a list of options if they find themselves stuck for ideas.
Parents and Centrelink Payments
Parents who are eligible for Centrelink payments should be able to continue receiving them. Home-educating parents are usually exempt from looking for work. One of the problems in dealing with Centrelink regarding payments is that many of the employees do not know how to manage situations where a parent is home educating. It is advisable to speak to other employees or managers until you find someone who knows how to handle your case. Asking for advice on some of the home education social media groups can also be useful in finding information about how to get your case resolved.
Creating a Support Network
For single parents especially, it is very important to create a support network and to ensure that you plan times when you and your child/ren can be away from each other. Check out our Getting Started and Groups pages for more information on building a support network and connecting with other home-educating families.
If you have alternative arrangements during school hours and your child is just being cared for but not doing anything that you would consider meets your curriculum requirements – that is fine. There is no legal requirement to be home-educating only during school hours. At the end of the day, working and home-educating are not necessarily easy, but with some creative thinking and tapping into support networks, it can be done.