Last year our oldest wanted to get his first job so he could earn the money for a writing conference he wanted to attend. NY is a long way from Kansas, so even outside of the conference cost, transportation in getting there was not insignificant. My husband made a deal with Ethan. He said if Ethan could earn the money for the workshop itself, including room and board for the week, he would make sure Ethan got to Kansas.
Ethan accepted the challenge and began his search for paid work. He reached out to a family friend for continued yard work. He offered his services to a local MOPS group for their paid childcare. And he applied to a local grocery store about a mile away from our home. All three contacted him at once and he took them all on. Aside from the two smaller jobs, he began working as a cashier at a grocery store.
He had to learn quickly how to balance three jobs and his school work! But, in the end, he earned the money he needed (along with a gift from his grandparents which he was allowed to accept after earning a certain amount on his own) with in a few months- in time to sign up for the workshop. In turn, Dan took the week off from work, rented a car, and drove Ethan out to Kansas for a great week.
How do you answer the question, Should My Homeschooled Teen Get a Part Time Job?
Benefits of a Part Time Job
There are so many benefits to a teen having a part time job. Some of them are obvious like having the opportunity to make money! Some may not be so obvious or some may not see them as benefits. With a job, a teen can learn:
- Skills of a part time job
- How to work with the public- this is a skill which goes a long way. I could do a whole post just on the stories he brings home. It was quite entertaining those first few months. He even had a marriage proposal in his checkout line!
- Work with others who are not like you- the homeschooling community can be fairly homogenous. He’s met all kinds of people both as coworkers and customers.
- How to work with all kinds of bosses
- Practices interview skills- we made Ethan practice counting back change to prepare for his interview at the grocery store!
- Work with personal finances- let’s face it, they will earn a lot of money! (for a teen with no other real expenses)
- Balance work with academics and fun
- Allows teens to make a goal and meet it
- Gives work experience in general- which looks great on college applications, particularly from a homeschooler
Challenges of a Part Time Job
There are some challenges which come with a teen having a regular job. Make sure to consider his situation before deciding together whether or not it’s a good idea at any particular time. For example,
- Everyone isn’t like you and learning to work together can be difficult.
- Bosses are not always easy to work for…or nice
- Adjusting to a work schedule
- Balancing other pursuits with a work schedule- learning when to ask off and when to know not to
- Building physical stamina for the job- being on your feet all day or for several hours takes time to get used to. Even as a teacher, I was always so tired the first week back to school.
- Transportation- which needs to be a factor in choosing where you will apply for a job. We chose a store about a mile away in a small strip mall so that getting him there and back would not always need to be done by us.
How Do I Know If It’s The Right Thing for My Teen?
A job isn’t right for every teen and not every job is right for every teen. You have to know your teen and have a decent guess that the job they would do. Does your teen fit any of these descriptions?
- Does your teen want to meet a financial goal?
- Ready for a step up in independence
- Could use some practice at fulfilling responsibility– Our son could use some tightening up of his schedule in order to help use his time better.
- Has an interest in a field where there is an opportunity to work- even volunteer work at a place of interest can lead to employment later on.
Our Experience with The Part Time Job
So, once Ethan was working for a time and he began meeting his goals how was it going?
- Reached his financial goal– He wanted to earn money for a writing workshop many miles away and the job helped him to meet the goal quickly.
- Achieved his academic goal– Being successful with the financial goal meant reaching his academic goal and he attended the summer writing workshop.
- Learned to work for difficult people– There’s a lot of turnover in this store and it’s not always easy, but he stuck with it.
- Experience first hand that people aren’t always the same as you are– he knew this in his head, but it’s been a good experience for him to see that not everyone is like us and our family. It’s given him a whole new appreciation for us!
- Given him independence– this job is his thing. Based on his proximity to the store, he can walk, ride a bike, or take the bus. All of these mean he doesn’t have to rely on us (though he does like door to door service).
- Taught some good financial lessons– He’s able to make his own decisions regarding spending as we help him to practice saving, tithing, and spending. However, outside of engaging/purchasing something off limits, we let him choose how he spends it. Lots of lessons here!
- Practiced responsibility and maturity– He’s stepped it up to be at work and to keep track of his schedule. He’s grown a lot from having the job.
What Have We Learned As Parents of a Teen with a Job?
We learned a lot from this experience as parents. Some of them took me by surprise.
- This job is our son’s– It’s not ours. It’s his gig and his responsibility.
- We helped him to navigate difficult situations– From home. Since it is his job, it is important not to run interference which is a new thing for us as parents of teens, right?
- Make sure you know the labor laws for teens– Does your state require “working papers”? In the 80s, working papers were not a thing. Find out how often and how many hours they can work at 15-17 years old. In NY, one set of laws covers 14-15 year olds and there’s another for 16-17 year olds. We had to provide a physical form from our doctor and other proof of age and register him as a working teen with the school nurse at our local high school. Once your teen turns 16, they get a new form and that very day must report for a new set of working papers before they can work another shift at work.
- Homeschooled teens can only work when public schooled teens can work– Resist the urge to have them work during school hours because it’s against the law. This was actually one issue we worked very closely with Ethan on because he was being scheduled during school hours. He was successful in making sure he was schedule during non-school hours, but just remember, the employer will not always pay attention to this piece of the law.
- Not everyone thought it was a good idea– to have our son work. This is the one that surprised me. We actually got a lot of comments from our peers questioning us on the decision to allow him to work. When we were teens, many of us had jobs. Have you noticed that not as many teens work in high school? Academic pursuits have favor over part time work and I had so many people ask me why he was working. Because he likes money was my regular answer, but I often want to ask back, “Why not?” And, as one commenter pointed out, activities are an issue as well. But, I’ll save that discussion for another post!
In the end, Ethan was proud to have met his goal last year and we were proud of him as well. He worked at the store until mid-September, when I did break the interference rule and took his series of medical leave papers to his bosses. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed with Lyme Disease which he’d had for six months before a diagnosis. He spent several months this fall as a very sick teen, unable to work.
He is excited for the chance to return, but he is still recovering and is experiencing significant Post Treatment Lyme Syndrome. Perhaps I will blog about it one day, but for now just know that it is a long road back to feeling normal. He’s a good sport and we are still very proud of him!
So, do your homeschool teens work at part time jobs?