Homeschooling parents are often stay-at-home parents.
But even homeschooling parents need occasional childcare. Those child-free errands, such as doctor or dentist appointments, are often held during the day. And because typical babysitters are often in school or at work during the day, homeschooling parents can be stuck! Finding childcare as a homeschooler is sometimes a bit tricky.
But there are options for even homeschooling parents who need occasional childcare. While working parents will need to make their own permanent arrangements, some of these tips may give you a place to start as well.
First, connect with your local homeschool community.
Homeschooling is a growing movement around the world. And that means there are more and more of us around. So finding other homeschool families isn’t as hard as it used to be! And that’s the first place to start when you need help occasionally finding childcare.
Connect with your local support group, and trade off childcare with other homeschooling parents. This is a win-win for both you and other parents, because it doesn’t mean cash needs to be exchanged. And it’s an opportunity for kids to play together and make friends. If you get enough people involved, you may want to create a chart to make sure it stays fair, so no one gets taken advantage of. But otherwise, just knowing you can ask someone to watch your kids for an afternoon playdate can be helpful.
Second, hire a homeschooled teen.
Finding childcare as a homeschooler might just mean all you need is a homeschooling teen or preteen. While homeschooling teens tend to be fewer than homeschooling preschoolers, there still are some around. And it’s also a growing segment! Homeschooled teens can be available during the day, since often their schedules are more flexible. So if you need a few hours to run errands, see a health care professional, or just to work on a project at home, a teen or responsible preteen might be your solution. Make sure you pay them well, so they’ll continue to be there for you!
Third, check out what’s available in the community.
In most larger communities, drop-in childcare programs may be an option as well. Community centres, libraries, churches and YMCAs often offer drop-off, drop-in programming that doesn’t require a weekly commitment. Sometimes, they will require a monthly membership to use the service, but you’ll usually get other benefits as well.
For example, our local YMCA offers a drop-off childcare program as part of the monthly membership, and we also get swimming lessons for the kids, use of the gym, use of community rooms, access to personal trainers and nutritionists, and other community classes.
Sometimes these programs will require you to be in the building (so they won’t work for medical appointments) but if you need a break, or have a virtual appointment you can’t be interrupted for, sometimes these programs work really well.
Or start your own!
If the type of program or child care doesn’t exist in your community, it might be an opportunity to create one! A child-care co-op doesn’t have to be restricted to homeschooling parents, since many stay-at-home parents might appreciate it for younger children. You can set up a child-care exchange, a weekly volunteer-led group program, a monthly “mom’s day out” event, or some other equally convenient option.
Fourth, pay attention to the school calendar and PD Days.
It might feel odd as a homeschooler to pay attention to the public school calendar, but I promise you there’s a good reason: the PD or PA days. These official, non-holiday-related days off the school boards arrange so that teachers can do training or grading and preparation are planned well in advance — and the local community knows it.
And they offer supports for those days.
So if you need a child free day, check out your local community’s PD day camps and offerings. The library, museums, gyms & arenas, dance studios, craft studios, and city-run camps tend to offer single-day drop off “PD Day” Camps for the public schooled kids — because parents generally still have to work, even if school is off for the day.
And if you put the registration deadlines on your calendar, you can get your kids in for a fun day out, while you get a PD Day of your own.
After all, you’re a teacher too.
Fifth, reach out to your local community college and young adult groups.
When you need child care during the day, a typical high school teen usually doesn’t work, unless they’re homeschooled too. But college kids might have more free time available for occasional care.
So post an ad or flyer on a college dorm bulletin board. Or type up something in the community college newsletters & student life emails. You might want to sweeten the deal with more than just cash. Try mentioning “home cooked meals” and “free wifi” to get more interest.
And other places that might help you in finding childcare include: swimming pool lifeguards (talk to management about recommendations & putting the offers out there), library volunteers (supervisors might have good recommendations), and church groups. If they rely on teens and young adults to run their childrens’ programming, they’ll have a pool of people that you can reach out to for occasional childcare.
Sixth, think older, not younger.
Most people think of teenagers when they think of babysitters, but what about retired folk? If your children’s grandparents aren’t around or don’t live close, you might want to see if you can “adopt” some local grandparents.
While you can search for a senior babysitter the same way you can for a teen babysitter, it might be more valuable to develop relationships with the older generation. Seniors have a lot to offer young families. And younger families can help seniors too! Building community connections is never a wasted effort.
Young families can provide a connection for older folk whose families have moved away. And seniors can share living history with stories and recipes from the past, and more. Like maybe an occasional morning of movies with the kids while you run errands?
Invite older folk home for the holidays. You never know what kind of relationships will develop.
Lastly, connect with a neighbourhood auntie.
In this age of increasing disconnectedness with our local neighbourhoods, it’s worth your while to connect with your neighbours. An active retiree might be the perfect support for you — and they often appreciate feeling needed! Again, while of course you’ll want to make sure your arrangements are fair to them, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to exchange money. Help with gardening or yard maintenance, running errands, cleaning house, or other chores that may be beyond your senior neighbour can be a fair exchange for being the adult in the house while your older children work on school projects.
It’s also a good idea to connect with trustworthy neighbours so that when your kids are old enough to be on their own, they have an emergency contact that isn’t necessarily family. If something happens, they’ll know a safe place to go, and you’ll know where they’ll be!
So get to know your neighbours. And bring your kids!
Finding childcare as a homeschooler is about who you know.
For homeschoolers — and parents of all kinds — finding childcare can be challenging. Often it comes down to your community. As you build your community, and get to know more people, you find more support. And that support helps when you need a night out or a day off.
So reach out and make a friend!