Jen Mackinnon homeschool conversations interview

Successfully working while homeschooling (with Jen Mackinnon)

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Jen Mackinnon helps working moms balance their career and homeschool their kids by providing practical solutions that help them cut through the noise and overwhelm and focus on their family’s unique needs. Today she joins us on the podcast to share her perspective as a working homeschool mom of 2. This conversation is sure to be an encouragement to many of us as we seek to homeschool well while also working inside or outside the home!

In season 2 of Homeschool Conversations, I’m including several interviews with working homeschool moms, moms who work part time or full time while also homeschooling and caring for their children. I hope this working homeschool mom mini-series is an encouragement. You’ll see that there’s plenty of variety even among working homeschool moms!

Be sure to check out all the other interviews in our Homeschool Conversations series!

Watch the video. Listen to the podcast. Read the show notes. Share with your friends!

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Jen Mackinnon working while homeschooling interview

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Who is Jen Mackinnon?

Jen Mackinnon helps working moms balance their career and homeschool their kids by providing practical solutions that help them cut through the noise and overwhelm and focus on their family’s unique needs. Jen has experience working outside the home in retail and also working inside the home while homeschooling her 2 children! You can find more of her resources at Practical by Default.

Jen Mackinnon

Watch my interview with Jen Mackinnon

Show Notes {with video time stamps}

Intro {0:32}

Jen works both inside and outside the home while homeschooling. Her oldest child graduated in June 2020 and she has one child still at home who will graduate this year.

“All the feelings,” Jen smiled.

Changing seasons of homeschooling {1:58}

Homeschooling was not Jen’s original plan. When she started homeschooling, she had 2 local friends who had homeschooled, but neither of them really was able to provide mentoring. She ended up just trying to replicate public school at home.

“Please don’t replicate school at home…Trust me, I know,” Jen laughed.

It took Jen a while to let go of the textbook approach and embrace the freedom we have to learn in the times when our kids aren’t sitting down.

When she returned to work early on, it was another challenging adjustment to the homeschool routine.

Jen’s children actually really like worksheets, checklists, and routine. Of course, there was a lot of learning that happened off the books, and Jen just never made a big deal out of that being “school.”

Adjusting to working while homeschooling {4:50}

When you’re a stay-at-home mom, often you tend to take on most of the cooking/cleaning/errand-running/etc duties around the home. When Jen first started working, she tried to keep doing all those things while homeschooling while also working 30 to 40 hours a week outside the home. It just didn’t work.

“It led to burnout,” Jen admitted.

“The first thing I had to do was figure out what was essential to our home,” Jen said. She and her husband also figured out how to split up the cooking and grocery shopping and other duties. Meal planning together even became date night!

“You learn to make adjustments.”

Jen found that moving online for some subjects worked really well. Her daughter, for example, thrived with CTCMath online.

They also found that a rotating schedule (Day 1, 2, etc) worked better for them than a Monday-Friday schedule. They would often homeschool on weekends and holidays, so the rotating schedule worked better for them.

Jen Mackinnon Working homeschool mom coffee club

Favorite parts of working while homeschooling {8:50}

One of the things Jen really appreciates about working while homeschooling is that it gives Mom an opportunity to work on outside projects and have conversations outside of what the kids are working on. She has seen a lot of homeschool moms get to the end of homeschooling and feel suddenly lost, like they don’t have anything outside of homeschooling.

“It gives you the ability to leave home and have that distance to yourself,” Jen said.

Jen also brought up a really good point. Sometimes working homeschool moms aren’t doing things they just love. Our kids see us sometimes needing to do a job we don’t like in order to pay the bills and put food on the table. They’re watching and learning from our example. How will we respond to those hard days or unpleasant situations?

Challenges as a working homeschool mom {11:27}

Jen admitted, “I would say the biggest challenge is trying to figure out how to do it all. That’s the question I get the most…The easy answer is, ‘You don’t,’ but that doesn’t really help you. It’s a lot about priorities…It’s individual, just like our homeschool.

Figuring out what your own priorities are, and being intentional with your limited time, is imperative!

“If you say yes to something, you have to realize you’re saying no to something else,” Jen reminded. Working moms often have to deal with mom guilt, Jen said, and that can be tricky to deal with.

One way to navigate that is to make sure you’re all there with your family when you’re with them, and to make sure you’re able to be all there for your work when you’re there.

“Once you get into a rhythm it gets much easier,” Jen encouraged.

WAHM Jen Mackinnon Homeschool Conversations interview

Keeping track of All The Things {14:03}

Jen recommends having a simple schedule. “Have a planner and use it…Any planner will do, as long as you use it.” It’s too stressful to try to keep all the details in our brain!

Knowing when to outsource is also important. That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be paid. Sometimes this looks as simple as bringing our children along and getting them involved in work around the home. “They’re part of the team,” Jen said.

“Keep it simple. Don’t say yes to all the things.”

Jen also reminded us it’s important to accept help when it’s offered.

(Side note: one of my secret weapons is Google Calendar! I love being able to set up repeating reminders! Because decision fatigue is the worst…)

Questions for each Homeschool Conversations Guest {19:05}

What are you reading lately?

Jen loves reading, and has a bad habit of disappearing into a book when she starts it. Knowing that about herself, she saves her reading for times when she’s not doing things she needs to pay attention to.

Up From Slavery is the next book on her reading list that she plans to read.

What is one thing you would say to a new homeschool parent?

“My first piece of advice would be to not do all the things…Don’t buy anything at first. You’ve got to make that connection with your kids.”

Jen also recommends deschooling before you jump into your homeschool year.

“Ease into the homeschool journey because this is new. It’s new for you. It’s new for your children. It’s a big change.” Jen reminded us that some days are going to go well and some are going to be horrible. Some days you’re going to look longingly at the yellow school bus. It’s ok, and it doesn’t make you a bad homeschool parent!

“Take it slow. It’s not a race. It’s a marathon.”

We don’t have to have all the answers for our children, Jen reminded. We get to tell them, “I don’t know. Let’s find out together.” What a wonderful gift we can give them! “If they can research, they can learn anything,” Jen smiled.

Find Jen Mackinnon online

Check out all the other interviews in my Homeschool Conversations series!

Homeschool Conversations Video Interviews


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