Becoming a working homeschool mom: a few last hurdles

Don't count my chickens

I had an additional hurdle to clear on my path to becoming a working homeschool mom that has nothing to do with working or homeschooling: surgery.

Extreme decluttering: simplifying my digestive system

My start date for my new job was supposed to be mid-October (which turned into mid-November in reality). I saw the surgeon for my gallbladder on September 27. He recommended surgery and, because of my extensive family history of gallbladder problems and the real possibility of having it turn into an emergency, I accepted.

The next surgery date was October 4, seven days later. I’d have a week and a half to recover before my job started. Perfect! Cue the rush to get everything done that I couldn’t do after surgery, on top of looking for a nanny to get the kids out of school asap. (I found the school schedule intolerable.) Jeff was only a few weeks out from hip surgery, so I couldn’t leave a lot for him to do while I recovered.

Rashes from steri-strips itch really bad
I’d had problems with rashes from medical adhesives before, but not this bad!

A tip from the experienced: if you butcher anything right before surgery, do not leave it in a cooler full of ice. Put it in the freezer right away. You likely won’t remember or feel up to dealing with it post surgery.

Surgery went smoothly. I’ve had no side effects from my lack of gallbladder, and I’ve had fewer problems with bloating and no abdominal or upper back pain (both symptoms of gallbladder dysfunction). I did, however, have problems with the steri-strips. They gave me horrible, itchy rashes all around my incision site. Jeff said some irritation is normal, but mine was much worse. Have you had a bad reaction to steri-strips? Let me know in the comments.

Childcare for a working homeschool mom

Finding a nanny for seven children, all of them eight years old and younger, is no small feat. Most nannies aren’t prepared to take on that many kids and most of those who will don’t live near our rural homestead or are too expensive for our budget. Remember, I’m getting a job to shore up our finances. Paying a large portion of my paycheck for a nanny defeats the purpose of working.

By some miracle, I found two good candidates–a younger woman right out of high school and an older woman with years of childcare experience. Would youthful energy or the wisdom of experience keep my kids corralled and on top of their minimal morning schoolwork? As a working homeschool mom, I need someone who can keep the kids out of my office (or my husband’s office since he works from home too) and helps them stay on top of their task list for the day so I can manage the rest in the afternoon.

It was very difficult to decide between them, so we let Benny decide. We chose the younger woman, the nanny that he ran up to without prompting. She started her week of training on October 9, the Monday after my surgery. I notified the school that my kids’ last day would be October 6, though I left my youngest twins in half-time 4K to give them time away from their siblings.

The transition back to homeschooling was not exactly smooth–we’re still working out some kinks–but it was a heck of a lot smoother than the transition to public school.

Where we stand now, in December of 2023

My selfie for work
My selfie for work, because everyone is their own photographer when you work from home.

I’m fully a working homeschool mom. My job has started, I spend way too much time sitting at a desk, and I finish schoolwork with my kids after work. I’m also working on reintroducing self care and simplifying to a more manageable workload. It’s the only way to make this situation work long term–and I need it to work.

What about the homestead and livestock?

Thankfully, we’re heading into winter–aka the no-garden season. The perennials are largely dormant and the annual garden is dead. I have nothing to do but plan and dream until I start onion seeds in February.

Livestock are a different matter. They require care year round. With an extra eight hours of work on my schedule every weekday, I need to cut back.

What goes

Goats are always in the way
The goats were friendly… too friendly. They got into everything and were always underfoot!

I don’t like goats, I’ve found. I sold the last little… um… annoying critter… shortly after my surgery. The cows, while well behaved and friendly, are big, eat a lot, drink a lot, and poo a lot. I will not be able to keep up with them alongside a full-time job and homeschooling, especially through a Wisconsin winter. Our drylot has no electricity to run a heater to keep gallons and gallons of water from freezing.

I posted Cali for sale, admitting reluctantly to myself that now is not the right time for a milk cow. She’s such a sweet girl that I really hoped she’d go to a good home. A friend of a friend bought her. They have a whole small herd of cattle, so they know what they’re doing (more than I do, certainly). I trust my friend’s judgment that Cali will be well cared for in her new home.

The jury is still out on Beefy. Since he’s younger, he eats, drinks, and poos less. He’s also not slated to be a long-term occupant of our pastures. I don’t know yet if we’ll grow him out or sell him.

What stays

Don't count my chickens
This is a small portion of my chicken population. I don’t know how many I have, but I’m not getting nearly enough eggs to justify the population. Come on, chickens, quit being freeloaders!

The sheep are staying. My mom and I drove to Minnesota in the spring specifically to get three Finnsheep ewes and an unrelated Finnsheep ram from lines that are bred to produce meat. (Most Finns seem to be bred for fiber.) Finns are not one of the usual meat breeds, but they won me over with their temperament. They’re standoffish without being skittish (unlike those pesky, pushy goats). When it comes time to trim or treat them, I plop one on its butt and I can do it all singlehandedly (unlike those pesky, pushy goats).

We’re keeping chickens for mass amounts of eggs (if they ever start laying this fall) and ducks for eggs that make great baked goods. As far as geese go, they’re not for us. They ate our duck’s eggs. Also, do you remember when I said don’t butcher anything the day before surgery? Yeah, that was the geese. Homestead fail and no Christmas goose.

Reigning in the chaos

As I settle into my new job, we are working on simplifying everything—cut the fat, keep the meat, as it were. We’re streamlining the homestead and smoothing out homeschooling with a nanny. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how to organize my schedule around work requirements, homeschooling, kids’ activities, and the homestead. I’m going to try a planner for that. The 6am start time is also a struggle. I’m not naturally a morning person, at all.

I freely admit it’s a lot. I don’t think it’s too much, though, as long as I can cut out things that don’t serve us in this season. That’s easier said than done, I know. It certainly means getting rid of all the extra junk in our house and funneling the kids into a few activities. We’re offering Irish dance, gymnastics, music lessons, and swim lessons. Any kids who want to participate in any of those may do so, but we’re not offering anything else right now. We can’t. I’m also testing out organization methods and incentives with the kids for their schoolwork and chores. This working homeschool mom isn’t averse to a little light bribery.

If I had to set a goal for 2024 right now, it would be to find a maintainable routine. We need a quiet year with no major changes. We also need to refocus on fulfilling our needs and then—only after our needs are addressed—work on wants.

Is that possible? Probably not entirely, but I think these last few years of complete, overwhelming chaos have at least helped us refine our priorities.

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