Seventeen years ago, I left a career as a research analyst at a local public policy think tank to stay home with my first child. Our plan was that I would return to work once our youngest child was in school. When we started homeschooling, this plan fell by the wayside. Since my children are getting more independent in their schooling, I would like to get back into policy research part time from home. However, my time at home with them left me with a tremendous gap in my resume. This summer I had the opportunity to bridge that gap.
I worked as a Research Fellow at the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania’s free-market think tank. This involved moving across the state for the summer, which I was able to do since my husband works from home and my oldest daughter has her license. It is a very strange experience to go from being a homeschooling mother of four to being single and childless and working full time. As you can imagine, it was a learning experience for us all.
For my part, I had a chance to immerse myself in research and writing, which I love to do. I also learned about various public policies, networking, social media, and more. Most participants in the program were recent graduates, so it was interesting to see their perspective on different topics. Much of what I learned will help my kids, too, as they prepare for college and beyond. In the coming months, I’ll share on this blog some of the resources that I discovered.
My summer away was also a great learning experience for my children, who range in age from 11 – 17. They were responsible for their own laundry and were largely in charge of meals and grocery shopping. They coordinated their own schedules (with approval from my husband or me) and had to stay on top of their activities and outings. While they enjoyed the Independence at first, by the end of the summer they were ready to have me running the show again. (Although I think I’ll let them continue doing their own laundry. I’ve enjoyed laundry for one instead of six this summer!)
While the practical lessons we learned this summer were important, the biggest benefits were perhaps less tangible. I gained a new appreciation for being able to stay home and raise my children. It wasn’t the best financial move, but the time I’ve had with them has been worth the struggles. My Research Fellow participation also set a good example for them. It can be scary to try something new, such as moving away for the summer and being the only “old” person in the program. It was beneficial for my kids to see me overcome my trepidation and successfully complete the program.
A common theme among most homeschoolers is that education isn’t confined to what our society thinks of as “school.” Last summer was certainly evidence of that for my family.
Colleen Hroncich loves that homeschooling allows her to learn right alongside her children. A published author and former policy analyst, Colleen’s favorite subjects are economics/public policy and history. She has been active in several homeschool co-ops and is a speech and debate coach.