I’ve reached out to moms around the world to ask them what it’s like to work and homeschool, how they juggle their duties, their days and still find time to pursue their passions. Finding a good curriculum that fits your kiddo’s learning style and your lifestyle is key to a smooth schedule.
Heidi Totten is the best-selling author of Homeschool on Fire: Be the CEO of Your Business and Homeschool, and creator of The Homeschool System. She manages three personal businesses and has homeschooled on and off for the past 8 years. Totten also created the non-profit 100 Humanitarians International and has taken 18 expeditions to Kenya, Africa to help families leverage their resources through economic development and self-reliance. Her online platform with 100+ courses connects entrepreneurs and small businesses and she has helped more than 300 people expand their online businesses.
She wrote the best-selling Homeschool on Fire in 2015 and has created a streamlined system to help busy parents navigate homeschool, which works well with any homeschool or learning style.
What was the inspiration behind Homeschool on Fire?
When my kids were just about to head into 1st and 3rd grade, I felt inspired to homeschool them. I was just about to get them into all-day school, and at the time I was running a business from home, so I was really excited to have more time during the day to get things done. Nope, the inspiration hit and it nudged me constantly until I pulled them out. I was in a business training program at the time, so I started by creating a system that would help me to manage both running a business and homeschooling at the same time. It worked. A few years later, I turned the system into a mini-course for other families who were managing a home-based business and homeschooling, and then finally I wrote a book about the systems that worked for me.
Today, my son is heading into his Junior year of high school doing distance learning, and will actually only have electives to take his Senior year. He’s straight A. My daughter is starting distance learning for high school. I still use the system. I still use the principles in my book, and I have added to them over the years.
What have been the benefits of homeschooling?
Now I run THREE businesses from home, so it’s more important than ever that I feel organized. One of the coolest things that came from all of this was the opportunity to take my kids to Kenya, Africa. I run a humanitarian organization that helps families in Kenya with economic development and self-reliance. My daughter, who is now 14, has come with me to Kenya seven times! She’s had the chance to teach feminine hygiene workshops to girls in schools, help build gardens, and knows way more about goats and chickens than she would probably admit.
I’ve been able to take 30 kids with me to Kenya, mostly homeschooling families, and now we are building a guest house in the heart of the Maasai Mara, where families from around the world will be able to go and have a cultural immersion experience, provide service to families, and go on safari in the #1 safari destination in the world with Maasai warriors.
How does “Homeschool on Fire” help a working parent?
- It gives them a structure to focus on when things feel like they are getting out of control. I’m really a spontaneous person most of the time, but I have trained my brain to need structure, and I believe that it is possible for anyone to do so. You can download my book for free at www.homeschoolonfire.com and then check out the system to see if it will help you.
- The mentoring and accountability area is huge. When people give me feedback on Homeschool on Fire, that is what they love the most.
- It is super flexible, allows a working parent to change the deadlines easily, and tracks your success.
What has been the reaction from parents?
One parent said, “I didn’t realize how much easier this could be for us. It’s like we have been throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks, and now? No guesswork, and it’s planned and managed in 15 minutes or less per day.”
What basic tips can you give parents who have been on the fence and are now deciding to homeschool?
First, you absolutely do not have to do this for 7 hours a day. With little kids, I started reading and going through things for about 90 minutes in the morning as a group. I utilized a lot of different resources to teach concepts, but I made it more organic than specific.
There are books that tell you everything your kids need to learn for their particular grade, so I started there. As a homeschool or distance learning family, you aren’t “teaching to the test” so you can explore a bit more. I also relaxed about how fast/slow my kids needed to learn something. If it took them longer to learn fractions, so be it.
We course-corrected, we tried new things. It’s really hard to “fail” at this as long as you are interacting with your kids and giving them resources. Every family does homeschooling a bit differently, so you find what works best for you and let the rest go.
The greatest gift I gave myself was to not panic about silly things like, “What if they don’t learn math?!” Even as an adult, if I need to learn something, I just go Google it and do it. We live in a world with information that is very accessible. I spent a lot of time telling me kids to “Go look it up” and then tell me what they find. This notion that we need to feed our kids information to memorize so they can regurgitate it on a test is just silly. That’s not real life, and it doesn’t prepare them for real life.
I also love that my kids have had the opportunity to be around a wide variety of ages of people, and have learned from all of them. They are teenagers, so occasionally there is some entitlement that shows up, but for the most part, they haven’t been influenced by their peers in negative ways. They have had the time to try out what they like and find what they are passionate about, because they aren’t just sitting and doing homework a few hours a night (after being in school all day.) And the best part? I have my kids around, and get to hang out with them.
What are some tips for parents on how to best use your system?
Just start. The training is all there, and it’s not challenging to use. It’s like anything else, you just need to make it a habit. Set an alarm on your phone that says, “Update The Homeschool System” and then go in and do it. It’s easy!
Why is a plan necessary to homeschool and work well?
We can go into the psychology of goal setting all day long, but the reality is that most people do better when they have a plan to follow, including your kids. It doesn’t mean you need to structure every 15 minutes of their day, but if your kids are anything like mine, they like to have an idea of what they are doing and what is expected of them. For me, having a plan means a more peaceful home. We don’t do it perfectly, but we do it, and so far we’ve raised pretty good kids who are independent and know how to communicate. I’ll take it!