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Parenting | 23 Minutes

Working Moms & Homeschooling

Molly Nickles Written by Molly Nickles
Working Moms & Homeschooling

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How do working homeschooling moms do it all? Are they just a rare breed of super mom?! Of course not! But there’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to creating a unique rhythm that works for every family when mom is both working and homeschooling.

If you’re a mom currently working, or if you’re considering working while your kids are still in school, you’ll want to listen to this episode with three seasoned working homeschooling moms: Laurie Detweiler, Lexi Detwiler, writer for Veritas Press, and Molly Nickles, Marketing Manager for Veritas Press. They give their practical advice on getting started and keeping up with the demands of work and home life.


Episode Transcription

Note: This transcription may vary from the words used in the original episode.

Laurie Detweiler:

Welcome to Veritas Vox the voice of classical Christian education. I'm Laurie Detweiler. And today I have with me Lexi Detweiler, who many of you all have heard on this podcast before, and Molly Nickles, who happens to be the Marketing Manager for Veritas Press. But we have her here because she's a working mom. And today, that's what we're going to be discussing, is how do you homeschool and work at the same time as a mother? So welcome, Molly. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you ended up as Marketing Manager, and how you ended up homeschooling?

Molly Nickles:

Hi. Yes, I started homeschooling our kids right off the very first day. My husband was homeschooled K - 12, and it was always a requirement that we were going to homeschool K-12. So before we started dating, he said, “You're going to homeschool my kids or we're not going to date.” So I know it's never been an option otherwise.

I've always been a hard worker, always had a lot of jobs growing up, and I went to photography college and started a commercial and wedding photography business, and so I was already a commercial photographer when I met Ben. And when it was time to homeschool, I wasn't necessarily ready to put down the camera just yet. But I decided instead of doing so much commercial work, I would do wedding photography because it allowed me weekends where I'd just work on the weekend, and the rest was at home all week.

So anyways, I switched and did wedding photography and I did that for a total of I guess to be 14 years, and I did that until just two years ago in the Lord's great timing. He placed it on my heart to quit wedding photography just a couple months before the pandemic came out. And so, thankfully, I didn't have a load of weddings that I had to reschedule.

The Lord had provided that in advance for me to decide to quit. So it's just been a couple of years that I haven't done weddings, and it feels funny now not to shoot all the time, but because of that, all those years of experience, I decided to work from home. And now, here I am at Veritas Press as the Marketing Manager.

It's been great. And I really love being at home. So the whole time I have worked, and home schooled and we have used Veritas over the years, as with self-paced courses and with the history when the kids were younger and now the kids, thankfully, are going into the live courses, they're doing a live course actually right now as we speak in the summer class.

Lexi Detweiler:

How old are your kids?

Molly Nickles:

My kids are 15 and 13 now, so things have changed. So yeah, we've been doing it all the way through a little bit of both. Homeschool and work.

Laurie Detweiler:

Lexi tell us a little bit about your work and children for those who haven't listened to the podcast before.

Lexi Detweiler:

Sure. Yeah. I have three kids, ages four, six and eight. I actually started working at Veritas right out of college, I guess. Right when I got I graduated, got married to Travis, who's the third son of the Detweilers, and started working at Veritas in the diploma program. That was back in 2011. I figured I was talking to homeschool moms all the time, and I was like, “Oh, this seems like a lot of work. I don't think I ever want to do this, but I'll help them do it. But I'm never going to do it myself.” And then, when I had Ava, I put her into Montessori, which I loved. But then, when it came time to put her into kindergarten, I couldn't find a school that I really wanted. So I decided to try out homeschooling with Veritas.

And I mean, it's a lot of work. But I did really love it, and I love what it does for my kids. I love the flexibility. And I did continue to work with Veritas. I dropped the academic advising because it was a lot of phone calls, and I had little kids who would just be needing me all the time. But then I started to do more writing-type things, so I wrote some curriculum and some books and then started helping out my husband, who owns Opus, which is a video production company. With him, I was able to go out on shoots and write the scripts for him on my own time, and I still did some things for Veritas through Opus, so I work on the Phonics app for kids, which for me is really cool because my kids are reading age now, so I got to test all the stuff on them. They were my test dummies, and I had an idea I would run it by them, or like if I wanted I had an idea for a book. I would run it by my daughter and say, “Is this a good book?” And she gives me feedback. So it's been fun getting them involved. But yeah, it is a lot of work.

Laurie Detweiler:

Molly, I was a working mom. I worked the whole time that my children were growing up and we were schooling. What advice do you have when you have a new homeschool mom come to you and say, “I'm thinking about either going back to work, or I want to homeschool, but we really can't afford for me to quit work.” What do you tell them in the midst of your journey?

Molly Nickles:

I would say that there are a million different ways that you can get to the point of homeschooling and working, and it looks different for every single mom and family and husband and wife scenario. It depends on what kind of training you have– if you want. You know, if you took nursing school and then you didn't do nursing anymore, now you can work on a Saturday, you know, one Saturday a week or something, or someone like me who did photography and I could create my own schedule only work on the weekends.

I would say that you first just have to take stock of what you're interested in and actually what your main skills are, and then go from there to figure out what kind of job you would like to look for that would work within also the homeschooling methodology that you choose. You know, because depending on the type of method of homeschooling you want to do will depend on your work as well.

Laurie Detweiler:

Yeah, I had a mom not too long ago come to me, and she was really, really struggling because she needed to go back to work. It wasn't something that she really wanted to do. She was a mom that had been homeschooling for a while, and she was struggling with letting somebody else help her or how was she going to get this all done because she said, you know, “I'm teaching my kids all day. I've got six children, but my husband was laid off. And we just feel like there's, you know, I've got a better chance of getting a job.”

What? You know, I'll let Molly and then Lexi go here after that. But what do you tell the mom that's just really struggling with the fact of needing to work?

Molly Nickles:

Well, I say you have to go ahead and allow other subjects to be taught by other people. At the end of the day is that you can't– you cannot do it all. You can't have a clean house and work and homeschool all your children and do every science experiment, and every cooking experiment like it just doesn't happen as well as, you know, have family time and do all the things.

And so I say figure out the one subject– it's not necessarily even if you're good at a subject, it's really about like, what's the one school subject that just drags you down like that. You just really don't like teaching. It doesn't even necessarily have to be something that you're not good at because I think sometimes, like for me, sometimes I do get tired of talking about photography all the time. It was my whole life for like 20 years. Like, I mean, I shot my first wedding when I was 18 years old, and now I'm almost 40. So like 20 years of my life has been spent talking about photography. If my daughter wants to take a photo class for me, I might actually have– I might actually have someone else do it only because even though I'm such an expert in it, I'm tired of talking about it every once in a while.

And so, like for a mom, it's like figure out that subject that just really just sucks your soul dry, you know, and parse that one out, whether you're good at it or not. Usually, it's one that you're not good at that you tend to give to someone else, but still, it doesn't necessarily have to be. So do that to free up your time to clean the house that you want to clean or to work more is what I would say.

Laurie Detweiler:

Lexi, Ava's starting on live classes this year. Well, if you thought about that, like, what is that done to your thinking about homeschooling?

Lexi Detweiler:

Yeah, I wanted to say on the flip side, and what Molly said is that I, I love, for example, both Ava and I love reading, but I don't think I can give her as much as somebody else could give her with the discussions in the live course with the other kids and the teacher. And I feel like that would really push her. So that's the course that I've chosen to do online. And then I would love to just get rid of math because that's just not a subject that our family loves to do. But I also feel like because we're on the same page about it, that I can talk to her about math in a way that a teacher teaching multiple kids might not be able to communicate with her in the same way. I know that we have great teachers, of course, but Ava and I feel the same way about math. So we're just going to get through it together.

Molly Nickles:

Yeah, totally!

Lexi Detweiler:

So it just depends. And I guess, and you have older kids, and I have younger kids, and it might change, you know, as they get older. But I am excited for her to be in an online class to take that off my plate. I think I've signed up for two classes. She also does the self-paced classes, and that's really helpful for me because I also homeschool Oliver, who is six. He'll be in first grade. So while she's doing those classes, then I can teach him his classes.

Laurie Detweiler:

And by the way, they're working because this morning, Marlin and I, for those of you who don't know, I'm married to Marlin, we own Veritas together. But yeah, and my grandchildren were at my house last night, and this morning, we were doing our Bible reading. Ava happened to be up, and we were reading about Solomon, and her grandfather starts asking her all these questions because, of course, he wants to see if our curriculum is working because of this Bible.

And she's going on about Solomon and answered every question, and then she answered about David and who he was. And I mean, it was like he looked over at me, said, “Okay! It's still working!” Sometimes when we let go, we wonder these things, right? But I think this all comes back to you said something like see about you chose to do math because you thought it would be best for your child. Right? And so whenever I look at the I try to look at the big picture and anybody that knows me knows that I'm very into individualizing things for children. Right. And so it comes back to, and I'm going to let each of you answer this. What was your goal, Molly, for homeschooling like? I know you said your husband said you had to do it for a reason, right?

Not just because.

Molly Nickles:

Yeah. Yeah, my goal is to stay married! Ha!

Laurie Detweiler:

So what was the reason for choosing to homeschool for your family?

Molly Nickles:

The pivotal moment for me- well, like I knew, I knew I wanted to marry Ben. And so I said, “Okay, Lord, you got to change my heart. Between now, and when my kid turns five,” pretty much is literally. And I was pregnant with Harrison, my oldest, and I was actually working at a gym at the time as a side job, like whatever. Anyway, so I was working in the gym for a couple days a week for fun, and I overheard a bunch of public school teachers talking, and they would come into the gym every day and just like pretty much vent about life in the public school system and the long the short story of it was, is I realized that here were these women who were incredibly passionate about educating these kids in the public school system. But their hands were tied. Like it doesn't matter how passionate of a teacher they can have and how wonderful of a woman or man that he is, she is. It doesn't matter. Their hands are tied. And that's what turned the corner for me is that not only do I, as a mom, get to be passionate about homeschooling, there was no one tying my hands as to what my kids can and can't learn, right?

And so for me, my whole goal for homeschooling is to be ever-changing, to really allow my kids to pursue what they wanted to pursue. You know, looking back now as a mom of teens, now from my parents, I can't imagine if I was like, “Yeah! Mom and Dad, I want to go to photography college.” Like, looking back at that, I'm like, “Wow, my parents were super great for allowing me to pursue my interest all the way through high school.” I was the high school yearbook photo person. I was all that photo stuff. And then to be able to shoot my first wedding at 18 because my parents allowed those interests right off the bat and let me go to Photo College.

So my goal for my kids is to be ever aware of what their God-given abilities and desires are and facilitate the ability for them to learn those things in whatever way that is, And and for me, it's shown up here at Veritas because my son goes back and forth between wanting to be a nonfiction writer. He wants to be the next J.K. Rowling or a lawyer. And I'm like, well, you know, classical education can do that, either of those. And so it's been so great for that, you know. And so yeah, that's just my goal is to facilitate the learning– however that looks.



Laurie Detweiler:

Lexi, what about you?

Lexi Detweiler:

Yeah, I definitely agree with that. And I also when I started, I said I started in Montessori, which is what started me thinking differently about school, because when I went to school, I was, you know, a great student. I did everything I was supposed to do. And I went through all the steps. I went to college, and then. Then what? Like, I just felt like I was just climbing a ladder, and I wasn't really being fulfilled. And so when I sent Ava to Montessori, I realized there's a different way to do it, and then talking about homeschooling as the next step. I realized that I could give them so much more than, you know, checking the boxes in a school.

Not to say there's not great schools because there are. But I really wanted to focus on allowing my kids to have a childhood kind of similar to one that I had growing up, except that I went to school. I just feel like a lot of kids these days don't get to have that childhood, and just, you know, we're done at school at like noon. Then we can go outside and play for a while. We can go explore, we can read books, we can be in nature. And I really think they need to use their imaginations a lot more. And I don’t want people telling them like, “This is how you do something.” I want them to figure it out. I mean, obviously, with guidance, but I like thinking outside the box, and I want my kids to think that way. Just think differently than they're told to think. I guess. Yeah. I was going to say.

Laurie Detweiler:

When I look at this, you know, Molly, we all we normally talk before a podcast, and we were talking and, you know, one of the things Molly said was one of the reasons it's easier for her to let go of some of this teaching is when she looks at what the goal is, what is her goal, and how does the family get there? And I, I think for me, that was the realization too as a working mom was, okay, what I'm trying to do is let my children, like you said, Lexi and Molly, using their God-given talent, smiling, calls it greasing the skids. Anybody who knows our family literally shakes their head and says, How do you have four sons less than five years apart that are so different?

So my oldest is an engineer and has started multiple companies. My second son was a golfer, played professionally, now is working on starting companies and in marketing. My third son, her husband, is the most creative person I know. He owns Opus and, you know, makes movies, does incredibly creative things. My youngest son is an entrepreneur like nobody can understand. Even he owns a company called Yieldings.com at the moment, which is, believe it or not, a women's clothing company. Anyway, we just wanted to grease the skids. And to be honest with you, I knew that like you talked about literature, Lexi there was no way I could teach Omnibus and have the kind of discussions that I felt like my sons needed and do it myself. And I've even read all the books. So it's not that I haven't, you know, when we wrote the Omnibus curriculum and we're working with the authors, I was reading every single one of those books. So I read them all, but I still knew I just didn't have the breadth of knowledge that somebody did. And then, I also wanted them to be exposed to other ideas.

And so as a working mom having to let go, it actually was a pretty easy thing for me to look at options and say, “Who can teach this better than I can.” and I'm going to go back to this. We can't do it all. I mean, I know there have been many nights when I was you know, when I had little ones at home or even teenagers, 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning, I was up, you know, doing laundry or whatever. And guys that only last so long, right? You can keep that up, and something has to give. So, Molly, I know you get asked this question. I saw you answer somebody on Facebook yesterday. What kind of jobs, you know, do you suggest to moms when they say, “Hey, I want to go back to work, but I need to stay home? Do you have any suggestions for me?” And by the way, guys, for somebody that's in her sixties, this is a whole lot easier in 2022 than it was even five years ago. Like five years ago we were not in the same place. You know, if you wanted to work as in the service department at Veritas Press five years ago, you had to be in Lancaster, sitting in a department answering the phone. COVID changed things!

Molly Nickles:

Yes.

Laurie Detweiler:

Yes. Some things. I mean, COVID is not good. There's not a whole lot of nice to say about it. But I will say, as far as working mothers, it has made for a better world for them.

Molly Nickles:

Yes, totally. To normalize being able to work from home has been totally life-changing for I think a lot of people to be able to work from home. And I would say the biggest thing that I say is you do need to figure out what your skills are. If you want to start a business, I say you really need to make sure that you spend so much time on your business or if you do a, if you sell essential oils or if you're trying to make money with some of those other type of programs like that. I say this all the time, as someone who owned my own business for over a decade is that you will get out of it what you put into it.

If you spend one hour a day on your business, you will get one hour of return investment on it. And one thing I had always said– and I'll speak to this because I think a lot of moms out there are trying to start their own business at home in whatever capacity that looks like, whether that's sewing diapers on Etsy to selling their art to whatever. I just feel like there's a lot of moms who ask this question based off of how they can be an entrepreneur. And the thing is, is that you get what you put into it, but also you really do have to treat it like a business. And one thing I always said is like, “Okay, I’m not going to market myself as the best photographer out there.”

I am going to say that I have the best customer service, that I'll answer the phone when you call. I will show up to your wedding on time. I will look professional, which, believe it or not, as a wedding photographer is hard to find. A lot of photographers show up looking very disheveled in jeans, you know, anyways. And so these things I can control, you know, anyways. And so we became very well known for that. And so that's kind of the thing is if you want to own your own business, there's a hill that you die on and you and you say, this is how I'm going to run this business. And for every hour you put in, that's what your return is. So you need to determine that.

So if you don't want to own your own business, then you can create a resume. Put it up on LinkedIn. And also, there's a place called Upwork where you can upload your skills and everything, and people can hire you from around the world as a virtual assistant, which is very a great job for a mom to have really.

Laurie Detweiler:

Was popular right now.

Molly Nickles:

Because so many people only need 10 hours a week of work like they don't need like the business only needs a virtual assistant 10 hours a week. You only want to work 10 hours a week, you know. So yeah, that's what I would say are the biggest things to do that and to know if you start your own business, usually you don't make money in the first three years, you know. So be prepared.

Lexi Detweiler:

Yeah I would say related to that you should choose something that fits the lifestyle that you've also created with homeschooling. So I have a friend who has kids who are, I think, six and eight. So they're about the same age as my kids. So she used to work as a nuclear engineer, and she and her husband both worked as nuclear engineers and she decided that she was going to quit working, she was going to homeschool, but obviously, she missed something in her life. So she wanted to start a flower farm, and I should also say a big part of succeeding in working as a working mom and homeschool mom is having the support of your spouse, and I see that her husband supports her fully. So she so they even moved they sold their house. They moved they bought a house with a lot of land.

She started a flower farm, and he helps her. He builds things. They just built a greenhouse together. They do things together on the weekends. And after she does the schooling with the kids, they all go out to the flower farm. If she has to get weeding done and she has to plant like hundreds of bulbs that day, the kids can either help or they can play outside. And she's and it's good for the kids, too, to see their mom working to see her, you know, pursuing her dreams and realizing that this can be done. That's another thing that I wanted to say about working moms is that you can show your kids that you can still do what you want to do like you can be anything you want to be. We tell our kids that all the time and that just shows them that, yeah, it's going to be hard. If they want to struggle, then they'll be prepared for, you know, what is it going to be like in the real world instead of dropping them off at school. “What did mom do all day? Why isn't the house clean?” That kind of thing. I think it's great for the kids to see their moms working and pursuing their dreams as well.

Laurie Detweiler:

And people ask us all the time, “All four of your sons are entrepreneurial. They've all started their own businesses. They've all done things. How in the world did you do that?”

Well, guess what? They were answering phones and packing boxes in our garage when they were knee-high to a grasshopper. I mean, sometimes I would remember it would take two of them to move a box of books. We paid them! We always picked them, but they all worked. And, you know, even through high school our boys all worked in our warehouse or on the phones or whatever they were doing. And, you know, sometimes I would go, “Oh, is this an awful thing we're doing to our sons?” And I look at it now and I can tell you I don't regret it at all.

Every one of them, they saw the good times, the bad times, the easy times, the hard times. They saw what it provided for us when we worked hard. Like you said, Molly, what you put in is what you get out. And, you know, they saw mom and dad working really, really, really hard. And at the same time, we made it fun.

When they were packing boxes, Marlin would always be, you know, at the end of the night, “Light up the car, we're going to get ice cream!” So, you know, you want to make it fun for them. But having a working mom, you know, doesn't mean that your children are doing without. Right. I think you just have to make sure that you use resources and don't try to do it all yourself because, you know, being a super mom only works for a little while, and something's going to give, whether it's your children or your marriage.

You know, so many times I see that where marriage is because it's just a lot to take on. But it's also Proverbs 31. You know, I think the Lord wants us to be industrious, and he wants to prosper our household.

Well, thank you all for coming in and talking about this today, we try to talk about things that we think moms in particular when I'm doing the podcast, will be interested in listening to. And Lexi if you want to close us?

Lexi Detweiler:

If you like what you hear, you can drop us a comment or if there's something else you'd like to hear us discuss, you can leave us a comment at Veritaspress.com/vox.