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Single-Parent Homeschooling

May 20–24, 2013   |   Vol. 115, Programs 66–70
Originally Aired: October 19–23, 2009 | Vol. 93, Programs 1–5

When you’re single with children, homeschooling can appear daunting. Single homeschooling mom Mary Jo Tate shares practical tips and advice to make home education a possibility for your family.

“If God has called you to homeschool your children, He will provide the strength, patience, grace, resources, and time to do it. Let your family and your life be a testimony of God’s faithfulness.” — Mary Jo Tate

This Week’s Offer

Are you a mom who feels overwhelmed? Be sure to get a free copy of Mary Jo’s e-book, From Frazzled to Focused: 7 Planning Tools for Busy Moms, by visiting her website.

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Do you have to be a supermom to homeschool as a single parent? If you’ve ever wondered whether it’s possible to do it all, Mary Jo Tate, this week’s guest, has some encouragement for you! Join Mary Jo and host Mike Smith on Home School Heartbeat.

Mike Smith: This week, author and homeschooling mom Mary Jo Tate joins me. Mary Jo, welcome to the program!

Mary Jo Tate: Thanks, Mike! I’m delighted to be here!

Mike: Mary Jo, being a single parent is hard enough, but homeschooling as a single parent seems like an overwhelming challenge. Is it possible?

Mary Jo: Absolutely, Mike. In fact, the growing number of single-parent homeschoolers testifies that it really can be done!

Though it may feel like you’re alone, but don’t try to be a lone ranger. Every homeschooler needs a support network, but it’s especially crucial for single parents, because we don’t have the help and the sounding board of a spouse. Get involved in a local church, in a homeschool support group, make friends with like-minded families, and seek out wise counsel from godly advisors.

Even more important, remember that God’s grace is sufficient. He promises to be a father of the fatherless and a defender of widows. If God has called you to homeschool your children, He will provide the strength, patience, grace, resources, and time to do it. Let your family and your life be a testimony of God’s faithfulness.

Mike: Mary Jo, I know this program will be an encouragement to a lot of single parents who have been wondering whether they can really homeschool. Thanks for joining us this week! And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: This week, author and homeschooling mom Mary Jo Tate joins me to talk about homeschooling as a single parent. Mary Jo, when you’re the primary provider and the homeschooling parent, how do you balance work with actually being there for your child?

Mary Jo Tate: Well, Mike, when there are so many responsibilities to juggle, it’s really easy to slip into crisis management mode—to just push yourself until you can make it past one more commitment, or one more deadline. But you can’t live that way forever—you just can’t sprint through a marathon. You’ve got to find a pace that you can maintain for the long haul.

In order to do that, you have to eliminate as much as possible, and prioritize the rest. Learn to say no to the good in order to say yes to the best. Be intentional and very selective about outside commitments, such as extracurricular activities. And even though it’s hard, don’t let the necessity of working crowd out precious family time.

I’ve found that the best tool for balancing a busy life is setting yearly and weekly goals in three categories: personal, family, and business. Dividing commitments into those areas—literally writing them down in three columns on a page—helps you see whether things are in balance. Just half an hour of planning every week will multiply your productivity and relieve stress and frustration.

Mike: Mary Jo, thanks for joining us today! And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Mary Jo, on our last program, we talked about balancing work and family. Let’s talk specifically about homeschooling today. How do you set reasonable expectations for your family’s homeschool program, as a single parent?

Mary Jo Tate: Mike, it’s really important to design a realistic educational plan that you can actually implement, rather than wasting precious time fretting over the gap between theory and practice. It’s great to teach your children together whenever possible, especially for history, literature, and science. Encourage independent learning when your children become competent readers. Taking responsibility for their own education teaches important skills and offers the opportunity for each child to pursue his own special interest.

Don’t try to do everything yourself, either. Delegate some instruction to older children, which reinforces their learning as well. Educational videos and software can be helpful in moderation. Audio tapes or CDs can be great for reviewing math facts, history dates, and so on. And recorded books can supplement live read-aloud time. Participating in a homeschool co-op can multiply your own efforts. Set up systems and routines to keep things running smoothly.

It’s really important to find peace in the space between the ideal and reality. Your homeschool may not match your highest goals, but you can still make it work and give your children an excellent education.

Mike: Mary Jo, that’s very wise advice. And thanks for sharing with us again today! And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: Mary Jo Tate is with me again today. Mary Jo, single parents face so many demands on their time and attention. In your experience, what should they most be aware of neglecting?

Mary Jo Tate: The single parents I’ve talked with almost always neglect taking care of themselves. Of course, parenting does involve sacrifice, but you simply can’t nurture, provide for, and educate your children well, if you’re always living on the edge of burnout. Nobody blames a pregnant woman for taking care of herself—her child’s very life depends on her health. But once the child is born, the connection isn’t quite as direct and obvious.

To be able to handle all your responsibilities, you absolutely must make time for personal rest, renewal, relaxation, and even recreation. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, exercising, eating right, and drinking plenty of water.

So many of the single parents I talk with seem to need somebody’s permission to take care of themselves. If that describes you listening today, I want to officially give you permission right now: it’s not only ok, it’s essential. Don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need, and don’t feel guilty for taking care of yourself. Take the flight attendant’s advice: put on your own oxygen mask before helping others.

Mike: Mary Jo, that’s very helpful insight, and thanks for joining us again! And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mike Smith: This week, Mary Jo Tate has joined me to talk about homeschooling as a single parent. Mary Jo, you’ve given a lot of encouragement to the single parents listening. What about those around them? How can others in the church, community, or family come alongside single parents?

Mary Jo Tate: Remember EMT: encouragement, material help, and time. First, encouragement: pray faithfully for single parent families and offer godly, wise counsel. Praise the positive things you see in their lives, and encourage them not to become weary in doing good.

Second, offer material help. Single-parent families often struggle financially, and homeschooling limits the time they can devote to earning a living. Donating cash or gift cards can make a tremendous difference, and really help relieve the burden. You can also help by sharing material things such as clothing, household items, curriculum and other books, Christmas gifts, or even firewood.

Third, give the gift of your time. Help with home repairs or car maintenance. Babysit, tutor, or mentor the children. Show hospitality by including single parents and their children in special events and holiday celebrations.

James 1:27 includes looking after widows and orphans in the definition of pure and faultless religion. Ask yourself how you can show God’s love to a single-parent family today.

Mike: Mary Jo, this truly has been encouraging this week. Thanks for joining us! And until next time, I’m Mike Smith.

Mary Jo Tate

Mary Jo Tate, author of Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms (coming from Apologia in 2013), is blessed with four wonderful sons and has been educating them at home since 1997. An international editor and book coach for over 25 years, she teaches homeschoolers, single moms, and work-at-home moms how to balance family life and home business and how to find peace in the space between the ideal and reality.

Mary Jo has a heart to help, encourage, and inspire other homeschoolers—especially single moms. She reminds them, “If God has called you to homeschool your children, He will provide the strength, patience, grace, resources, and time to do it.” For resources and encouragement for single parents, visit her website. You can get Mary Jo’s e-book, From Frazzled to Focused: 7 Planning Tools for Busy Moms, free here.

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