Should My Homeschooled Teen Get a Part Time Job?

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Blog, She Wrote Should My Homeschooled Teen Get a Part Time Job?

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!
  • Independence
  • 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.

Should My Homeschooled Teen Get a Part Time Job?

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?

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  1. It still makes me shake my head that people questioned him working. I think it’s so great when teens work! You said that one of the reasons is the focus on academics which I agree with. I also think it has to do with the over scheduled child turning into the over scheduled teen with the outrageous amount of homework and the added team sports and extra curricular activities. Club sports is huge in my circle of PS friends and it really takes over not only the teen’s life but the whole family. I also know a bunch of kids in high school band and they practice so much they truly don’t have time for anything else. I understand if sports or band is your passion and “thing” but I think there should be some moderation so youth can have a more well rounded experience. It seems like each activity has the mindset of being the most important and all else should bow down to it.
    One more comment. In our state, teens need to have a work permit if they are under 18 or not a high school graduate. One friend of mine was having a hard time getting the work permit from the local school district because it was a school break. It continued to be a pain so my friend went ahead and “graduated” her daughter. She was already taking a full load at the community college at 16 yo. Since most of the homeschooled teens around here take college classes they are able to transfer to their school of choice as sophomores or even with an AA degree so high school isn’t really needed.

    1. Yes- that’s what our working papers are which I mentioned Shonda. You do have to have permission to work if you are under 18. And I agree with your assessment on activities outside academic work. Whatever the activity/academic is, it seems to have way more importance than just working at the store. Like we are cheating our teen of better experiences. I think it really depends on the kid because Ethan really needed the opportunity to exercise more responsibility in his life. It was far more valuable to him and his future than any academic or extracurricular offering at this particular time. Thanks for the comment, Shonda!

  2. thanks for writing this – my 12 yr old wants to start a dog walking business in our neighborhood. I’ve been so unsure if it’s the right time – if he’ll continue, etc. this article reassured some of those feelings. THANKS!

    1. My 13and 10yo sons have done this in our neighboorhood. I am so proud of them! They have been doing it for over a yr now! I have let them handle it all! Schedule, price negotiations, advertising with very little help from me. They even designed their own business card. This year they even have a neighboring homeschooler as an “employee” to help out! Of course they have to tell me where they are,take a walkie-talkie with them. I have talked to all their “clients” since the phone calls are to my cell phone. It is teaching them so much!

  3. I’d suggest a teenager consider starting a micro business over getting a job. Micro businesses can be more flexible and if it’s home-based, the transportation is not a problem. Running a micro business helps a teenager learn many of the things you pointed out in your blog post.
    Here’s a video featuring 6 students (all homeschooled) and their micro businesses.

  4. Both of my graduated homeschoolers held part time jobs in high school. At 16, my son began working as a busboy/dishwasher at a local restaurant and my daughter began working as a sales clerk at the local bookstore at 16. In RI you can start working at 14 but need a Special Limited Permit to Work form until 16. Then you may need a Certificate of age form until 18 but neither of my kids did. I feel working is a good experience but my kids have to wait until 16.

    1. Thanks for sharing- yes, as a parent you have to set the tone for their working experience. We had to work on making sure our son wasn’t working too many hours. You definitely have to push back sometimes and that can be intimidating when you are just starting out.

  5. My immediate response when I saw the title was “Of course!” There is no better training for life than being involved in it.

    I hope he is better soon.

  6. My 15 year old daughter has been babysitting fairly regularly for about 8 months. While she enjoys having spending money, some days it is hard to juggle the schedule since I have to drive her to her various jobs and she still has to get her school work done. We homeschool, and that actually makes it a little too easy to say, ok, put your foreign language lesson aside today so you can help Mrs. so-and-so. We’re still working on how to fit stuff in, along with her fencing lessons 3x week. Overall, however, I think it’s great for teens to have the responsibility of working outside their home. I think it’s only recent that society that thinks it’s bad…which is probably a large part of what’s wrong with modern society. 😉

    1. Lynn, I get it. It is a tough thing to learn to balance the workload with school. That’s actually been a good thing too. And yes, when I was a teen, everyone had a job. I think there are some other factors which I’m going to share in a second post on the topic. Soon!

  7. For years, I shied away from letting my teens work because most of the teens I know quit school when they began working. My daughter is interning as part of her college experience and it has been great. I still want to avoid sending the others to work for as long as possible, but I realize that it can be a great experience, as my daughter is setting in her internship.

    1. Stephanie, I go with the opposite for my teen. He has to control the number of hours he is willing to work. The legal limit is far more than a 16yo should be working and I am very upfront about the fact that only kids who are not interested in school would work that much. So, we do set limits which then he has to take up with is managers. It worked very well. Working at a grocery is not his end game and being there and experiencing it helps to keep him studying. Because if he does not, then minimum wage jobs will be his norm. I’ve also learned from employers that so many kids are arriving having never worked before that it is actually a problem. Very interesting to think about! There’s value in all kinds of work for teens. As they get older, they can look for worked related to their interests as well. I’m glad to hear your daughter’s internship is going well.

  8. I have allowed my teens to work, encouraged it at times. I have 1 I sorta regret but realy if I could do it again differently I dont think it would be any different. That timein our life and circumstances kind of made it a need, while it was not a True need. I know that makes no sense. I have 3 adult children that all worked part time to full time when able. I do not want everything they do to be paid for by me. I have 4 children at home still, the oldest of them just turned 16. We have talked job, we are unsure if she will or not. She has serious anxiety that has not made it easy for her to go out and interact. Hopefully we can make progress so she will be able to. Ontop of that We live in a small town with not much for a teen to do. The few jobs there are will be filled by family before they hire outside help. Plus we moved here only a year ago so we are outsiders big time, finding work will be hard. That being said if a job that we can transport to and from without to much chaos, and the teen pays for gas a job may be held. We take it as it comes. If they can keep up with school and health allows, and nothing negative comes of a job go for it. If it interferres with school thats where I say nomore, if things come up I do not like Im willing to allow time for change but if change dont come the job ends. I have had people react for and against my teens working. I ignore others, they are not me, my child or livingmour life. I alwo pray about these things and go with my answers. I wont go against that because the neighbor thinks Im wrong.
    Iam sorry to hear about your sons health. Limes disease can make things such a mess, recovery is hard and long. Have you used or considered trying a Holistic or Natural approach? Iam an Herbalist, Nutritional Health consultant working on a degree as an N.D. if you would like to pick my brain for ideas email me at the above email. I would love to help.

    1. Jaelene, thanks for your reply. I do agree that the circumstances need to be right for a teen to work and there are lots of things that change whether or not they work- school being on the top (or health). We have sought some holistic approaches, but if I have questions, thanks for letting me know!

  9. I and my husband both worked as teenagers. My son, age 16, works and pays taxes. My daughter, age 13, babysits. I think that having a strong work ethic is vital for teenagers. So, why would working a part-time job matter depending on where they are educated? We are active in travel sport teams, our church and community. We know many well-adjusted homeschooling families, and they too have working kids. Why do homeschoolers, for the most part, feel that it is necessary to “reinvent the wheel”. I am really not trying to offend, but so many homeschoolers ARE wierd…the rest of us are just tired of being categorized. Kids should be free to work and be responsible for their own wants and desires.

    1. Danielle, Why does it matter? In my experience, the trend for homeschoolers to keep their kids from certain experiences extends to getting a job. Many parents prefer that their kids don’t work. This post was to address that issue specifically. Should you let your kid get a job? My answer is yes and I listed some reasons why it’s a good thing. Not every family feels that way. I was surprised by the reaction I got to my son seeking and working at a job. That’s what prompted my post. I’m not reinventing a wheel as much as helping people to rediscover it. Actually, I don’t see many teens with jobs these days regardless of how they are educated. Perhaps that is just my community which is an extremely academic one. Kids are more prone to pursuing whatever will get them to the next level academically and teen jobs are seen as a waste of time. I don’t see teens in the workplaces here. It’s not that common. My target for this post is the homeschooling parent who might have questions about the topic. It is an interesting opinion to consider a homeschooler weird on the basis of not having a job- which is what you seem to suggest. Thanks for being part of the discussion.

  10. Good idea about checking local laws; I had not thought of that. My son wants to work in the family business part time during high school and I’m thinking the laws might not apply since it is a family business but we should definitely start looking into that now before we need to know so we can plan accordingly.

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