Heather’s Secret to Homeschooling While Working Full-Time

Heather Christ has been using Homeschool Tracker since 2007. Her daughter, Margie, recently graduated and is now in her first year at university. In this Q&A we learn about Heather's homeschooling journey and how she managed it all while working full-time.

Relinquish control of the education to the child as soon as they are able to take on the responsibility. Once they own it, it's theirs - and that is something of true value.

1. Tell us about your Homeschool. How many kids, ages, and how long have you been doing it.

Our homeschool called Christ Academy (as Margie says, "that's Christ with a short 'i', not like Jesus"), began with kindergarten in the fall of 2002, with its one and only student, Margaret, or Margie for short. We had actually started the year before, when Margie was 3, as she asked to be taught how to read. Actually, homeschooling starts at birth! Christ Academy closed in May, 2015 when Margie graduated.

Margie working at school

2. What was your primary reason for homeschooling?

Such an interesting question. I think it started with us thinking she was too young to send away to school, along with loving the homeschooled kids we knew, and having a desire to use curriculum that we really liked. I remember being so bored when I first started school and I didn't want that for her. We also have family far away and wanted to be able to fit short term missions into our lives, so homeschooling would allow us much more flexibility to travel.

3. How long have you been using Homeschool Tracker? 

I started using HST Basic for when Margie was in 5th grade. We then went to HST+, and later HSTOnline. The hardest part for me was just at the beginning. I found inputting all my resources, and just getting things set up, was a front-end-heavy process. But as I always told friends who asked about using Homeschool Tracker, those front end hours are totally worth it. With each passing year, the set up time for the upcoming year became less and less.

When we went to the online version, I LOVED being able to use the ISBN numbers to capture resource information automatically. It meant I didn't have to really "input" as before, I was SO happy.

4. Are you a planner? Or do you like to go off the cuff?

Margie violin 2I'm definitely a planner and schemer as I want all my ducks in a row. Homeschool Tracker helped facilitate so much for me. The added challenge for me was that I have always worked full-time as a pharmacist while homeschooling. Being able to load up the lesson plans for the week on Sunday night, schedule assignments, print them off, and have them at Margie's seat on Monday morning was such a huge help for me.

As a bit of a box-checker herself, Margie enjoyed having the list of things to work through. As she got older and took more responsibility for her own education, she loved knowing what she had to do for the week. She was able to arrange her week as she pleased and as long as all the work was done, having the "bones" of it on her schedule let her be in control.

5. How did you prepare for a school year?

Every August, I would sit down with the stack of books and other resources, input those into Homeschool Tracker, and start putting together the basic lesson plans. I would set up semesters, look at my calendar, number of days in the school year, loosely plan time off, etc. When Margie approached high school, the grading changed, and I was happy to have the chance to weight, or NOT weight her grades. After the first couple years, everything became an easier and easier process.

For grades 5 to 8 we used Sonlight, and it was so easy to type their schedules into Homeschool Tracker at the beginning of the year.

6. Walk us through a typical week in your homeschool. How did Homeschool Tracker fit into your workflow? 

The majority of my interaction with Homeschool Tracker would happen on Sunday night. If I had any leftover grading from the previous week, I would input those results, and based on what had been completed from that week, I would choose the lesson plans for the next five days. One thing I LOVED about Homeschool Tracker was the fact that the lesson plans were not linked to a date, so if we missed a day, for whatever reason, I could just pick it all up and shift it over. While we were "ducks in a row" people, and usually stuck to a schedule, life happened and Homeschool Tracker made it easier to do record keeping in those situations.

So, after choosing the lesson plans, and they were lined up for the week, I would print them off for Margie, and put them at her place for Monday morning. As she completed her tasks, if there were grades to correspond to them, I would do the grading, and input them into Homeschool Tracker. I loved that the system kept track of the grades for me.

7. What has been your primary benefit of using Homeschool Tracker?

Since I was working 36 hours each week in the pharmacy, time was extremely valuable to me. Any tools that allowed me to spend more time with family, while still meeting all my obligations, were a huge benefit to me. Homeschool Tracker literally gave me time... and helped me keep my ducks in a row.

Homeschool Tracker literally gave me time... and helped me keep my ducks in a row.

8. In your experience, how important is it to have records in your homeschool?

For me, having records was very important. Grades 5 and 6 were "practice" for official record-keeping. Since she was working above grade level, some of the courses she took before actual high school were put on her final transcript. 

We had started creating a book list in about grade 6 or 7. Whenever Margie finished reading a book, whether for school or just for pleasure, she would put it in the book pile beside my computer, and I would input those at the time. Years later, the book list was huge, and if a university wanted that, I could quickly bring it up.

I also used Homeschool Tracker to input standardized testing results. I created a special awards/activities file as well. Using Homeschool Tracker to keep everything in one place made pulling all the resources together for university applications so much easier.

Margie graduation

9. Now that you're done homeschooling, would you have done anything different? Do you have any advice for folks just starting out? 

I hope it doesn't sound boastful, but I would not do anything different. Well, maybe I would be a bit less stressed in the early years as I was way too hard on myself. But when I see my girl, well launched, doing great in her first year of university, I have to say, no... I don't regret a thing.

Advice for folks starting out? Relax. Enjoy every moment. Keep good records (it relieves later stress), but don't be upset when plans go awry. Grab those chances to create great memories, read together, and play together. Be the parents. Relinquish control of the education to the child as soon as they are able to take on the responsibility. Once they own it, it's theirs - and that is something of true value.

10. Anything else you wish to add?

Thank you. Just that. Thank you for being with us on this journey.

If you're looking for a solid tool to help with your organization, record-keeping and lesson planning, why not give Homeschool Tracker a try? We've helped over 150,000 homeschooling families since 2002.

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